Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Who's Your Psycho Daddy?

He's not our Psycho Daddy, but we have one in our yard. He's a Hepatic Tanager who earned his nickname by attacking his own evil image wherever he could find it "in" our house. This all began in May with his attacks on the mirror we put up over the outdoor laundry sink. We covered the mirror. So he went to the front windows. We tried opening the sheer curtains, closing the sheer curtains, but of course neither strategy worked. It was the reflection on the outside of the window where he could still see that bad guy. Unsightly as it was, we taped a black plastic garbage bag over the outside of the window. (Can anybody tell me why not a single one of our visitors ever asked us why we had a garbage bag taped over our front window?) He went to the other front window, but I didn't care so much if he bashed his head against that one, since he was no longer perching on and soiling terrace furniture nor making a mess on the terrace floor. After a few weeks, we noticed a chick following him and his mate around at the banana feeders. We took the garbage bag down - he seemed cool, so we took the covering off the mirror. All was calm for a couple of weeks, but then he resumed his efforts with gusto: come in for a snack at the feeders, go to the laundry sink and perch there in between fluttering jumps a couple of feet up to the mirror, peck the hell out of his reflection, have a few more bites of bananas, go to the front window and mount another assault.

He had his routine and so did we. We covered the mirror and window for a second and then a third time and waited for him and his mate to raise another chick, which they did. We uncovered things during the calm periods. There has been a lot of construction activity on the front and side terrace lately, and now there is a roof over the side terrace where the laundry sink is located. We wondered if he would be intimidated by the new structure, but we need not have worried. He continues to feel completely at home here, roof or no roof, and has found opportunities for occasional attacks between disruptions by the crew.

To his credit (and with the help of his level-headed and hard-working mate; she's the one who usually feeds the begging chicks, although we have seen P. Daddy pitch in occasionally) he has been a highly successful father over the past 4 months. And he has kept all other male Hepatic intruders out of the yard. But he just can't seem to get rid of the one who lives inside the house.

If you would like to see the well-honed technique, here is Marco's footage of P. Daddy in action. Note that only a corner of the mirror is exposed, but that's all he needs.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Tino Sanchez: Bird Guide & Bird Artist Extraordinaire

Paintings by Tino Sanchez
While we were at the Canopy Lodge, we were fortunate to be guided on two of the mornings by Tino Sanchez.

We have known Tino since August of 2009. We were initially impressed by his knowledge and abilities with the birds, but now there's more. He is also a talented artist. He gave us a look at some of his work, and we think he should have a gallery of his own. Most of what we saw was bird art. He uses watercolors, then finishes with colored pencils.

Some of his paintings are displayed in the common area of the Lodge, and he created the Tody Motmot image on the t-shirts sold there. Next time you are at the Lodge, ask to see his work - you will be glad you did. Or, you can contact him through the general e-mail address at the Canopy Lodge.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Protection for the Hilux


The truckport has a roof! It's not completed yet, but it provides shelter from the rain. It's a lot more than we expected, unlike the terrace roof, which is exactly as we envisioned. Adam, the contractor, decided to make the truckport with the same type of peaked roof as on the casita. It has style and we like it. It also has mucho headroom.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Raising the Roof

Side Terrace
When the crew put the first sheets of zinc roofing on the side terrace, their timing could not have been more perfect - they screwed them in at the end of their workday, just as a moderate rain began to fall. It was heaven to walk out from the kitchen during a steady rain and not get drenched. This is what we've been waiting for!

Underside with carriolas

Monday, September 6, 2010

Another Canopy Lodge Adventure

Canopy Lodge
While returning home from Costa Rica, we decided to treat ourselves to three nights at the Canopy Lodge.

It was our third stay at this marvelous establishment. Our first visit was in December 2008, the second was in late August 2009. Each visit is different in some ways, such as meeting and going out with a new (to us) guide, seeing some different birds even if it is about the same time of year, and experiencing the always-variable weather. But one thing is exactly the same every time - the continuing excellence throughout the operation. From the talents of the guides to the unobtrusive attentiveness of everybody on the staff to the delicious and beautifully-presented food and well-appointed rooms, the Lodge is a class act.

The first morning we went into the field with guide Tino Sanchez. We met Tino last year, and he's better than ever. First he took us on a walk along the road outside the Lodge gate, where some of the highlights were a cute male Green Thorntail, a molting Violet-crowned Woodnymph, and a Sepia-capped Flycatcher. Then we walked up above the Canopy Adventure, where we found two cooperative Tody Motmots; we heard two others nearby. We also enjoyed great cooperation from a Scaly-breasted Wren, not a common occurrence.

In the afternoon we went out with Danilo Rodriguez, a pal since 2008 and another superb guide. Danilo has been associated with Raul since the Lodge's inception. The weather was soupy, but we walked around enjoying the tropical clime, renewing our friendship with Danilo, and seeing some birds, including a soggy Tropical Screech-Owl and a drippy Ruddy Quail-Dove on a nest.

The following day, we went out with Eliacer, Danilo's younger brother. It was our first time in the field with him and a complete pleasure - he is another of the impressively talented guides at the Lodge. Like Tino and Danilo, he recognizes all the calls and songs of the local birds and can imitate them perfectly. In the morning we went up to La Mesa and found a Black-headed Saltator as well as the beginning of what turned out to be quite a bonanza of Blue-throated Toucanets. Throughout the day, we continued to see more toucanets at several locations, with a final total of 8, all at close range for careful observation and enjoyment. Mid-afternoon we walked a trail partway up one flank of Cerro Gaital. Near the start, we encountered a Green-crowned Brilliant, another lifer for us. But the "best" bird of the trip was yet to come. By about 4:30 PM, we had been walking for over an hour in drizzle and rain, with not very much light in the sky - conditions were challenging. We admit to wondering why Eliacer had kept going up the mountain. Then he spotted something moving in the trail ahead. We slowly crept up on it, and discovered that it was a Scaled Antpitta! Eliacer, a little breathless from the excitement of such a find, deemed it a Rad Bird, which we took to mean it's a kick-ass bird. Marco is not pleased with the video he shot, but considering the conditions, I think it will do just fine:

After descending Cerro Gaital to the vehicle, we made one last stop before returning to the Lodge for cocktails and a hot meal. On the first morning of our visit, Tino had told us about a night roost of a White-tipped Sicklebill. Eliacer took us to the spot, below the El Macho waterfall, and Marco spotted the little bird sitting on a twig just a few feet in front of us. It was a very satisfying way to end a great day of birding.

On our final morning, Tino took us out again, to a nice trail along a watercress "farm" in a rushing creek. Tino found some White-thighed Swallows for our life list, we watched a family of Long-tailed Tyrants, and enjoyed the many other birds and butterflies, themselves out enjoying the sunny morning.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Sparrow Lovers Listen Up!

During our visit at the Canopy Lodge last month, Marco was fortunate to have an extended connection with a Black-striped Sparrow (Arremonops conirostris.) I convinced him that this fellow was worthy of a blog post all his own.

Sparrows are difficult to come by down here. Near our former home in California (U.S.A.), we had many species and big mixed flocks of them to sort through in the winter. Here, although we have a number of finches, grassquits, seedeaters, seed-finches, and brush-finches, the field guide lists only seven birds with the word "Sparrow" in their names. Two of those are accidental and one is casual. The Black-striped Sparrow is the only one we regularly see.

As is so often the case, Robert Ridgely's appreciation for the avifauna shines through in his species account of this sparrow: "Though not brightly colored, this neat dapper bird can be easily recognized by its black-striped gray head with contrasting olive back." (A Guide to the Birds of Panama by Ridgely & Gwynn)

Marco let the camera roll for an extended take and that is what we see here: one shot that allows us to delve into the simple vocalization and hear how it changes in time. With three notes, the Black-striped Sparrow varies the song and does morph into the phrase that sounds like a "bouncing ball."

The inspiration for this example comes from Music of Nature, a site chanced upon while surfing the internet. This is a nature-driven presentation from the real world, not a fast-cut hyper narrative to fill the minutes until the next titillating exploitation.

Enjoy the music for both eyes and ears: