Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Birds of Costa Rica: All the rest pt. 2

Last week I promised you guys we'd finish with these birds this week. While my heart and my best intentions still tell me that's true, but the facts and evidence tell me it is not. It just turned out to be more birds than I thought you guys,  and identifying all of them proved tricky. Let's take this as good news, as it means we have even more cool birds from Costa Rica to observe. Check out part one of our coverage here! We'll start today with known flappy-bird-resembler Yellow Warbler

Yellow Warbler aka Summer Yellowbird (colloq.) (reinita de manglar)
Guanacaste, Costa Rica
Member of the Wood-Warbler Family
§A Trepidation of Warblers§

~true bird fact~ Yellow Warblers are famous for their 'sweet sweet' song. Males staking out a new territory will often have sing-offs with each other to assert dominance. Generally if one bird 'gets served' then 'it's on'. 

Doesn't like to let things go. Has dramatic opinions about people.

Great Kiskadee (benteveo (lit. I see you well!))

Playa Tamarindo, Guancaste, Costa Rica
Member of the Flycatcher Family
§A Shower of Kiskadees§

~true bird fact~ This guy is described as 'bold' almost every where you look, but there's one thing he's not bold about: Coral Snakes. In what must border on a phobia, Kiskadees will stay away from anything that shares his most feared predator's black-yellow-red color pattern. Really, who can blame him?

A great quote about Kiskadees from naturalist William Henry Hudson "(The Great Kiskadee) seems to have studied to advantage the various habits of the Kestrel, Flycatcher, Kingfisher, Vulture, and fruit-eating Thrush; and when its weapons prove weak it supplements them with its cunning.”

A cool anti-hero bandit type. We all root for him in his struggle against 'The Man'.

Roadside Hawk (gavilán pollero(lit. Chicken Hawk))
Guanacaste, Costa Rica
Member of the Kites, Eagles, and Hawks Family
§A Tower of Hawks§

~true bird fact~ The smallest member of his family. Attacks people more often than most birds, as he does well in urban areas, and becomes aggressive when nesting.

Is the owner of a dive bar, where he is also the bouncer

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Birds of Costa Rica: All the rest pt. 1

Hello blog fans. As some of you know, I went to Costa Rica this past winter and have been blogging my bird finds from there intermittently for the past months. But I never seem to run out, and every time I do the blog I have to think "should I do a Costa Rica bird again?" I'm tired of having all these birds hanging over my head like some kind of squawking sword of Damocles. They are a veritable albatross around my neck (of non albatross birds). Today we say No More. So between this week and next, we will be posting all the remaining birds of Costa Rica.

White-winged Dove (tórtola aliblanca)
Playa Conchal, Costa Rica
Member of the Dove Family
§A Bevy of Doves§

~true bird fact~ This bird feeds its chicks not with regurgitated foods, but with a special substance it produces in a gland in its throat called 'crop milk' (ew). They have to eat snails and bone shards to produce it (double ew). They are also super into cacti and will time their migrations to coincide with their fruiting.

An intrepid bird reporter

Great-tailed Grackle aka Mexican Grackle (zanate mexicano o clarinero)
Playa Tamarindo, Costa Rica
Member of the Blackbird/Oriole Family
Official Bird of Cartagena, Columbia
 §A Cackle of Grackles§ (unverif.)

~real bird myth~ In Mexico there is a legend that it has seven songs. "In the creation, the Zanate having no voice, stole its seven distinct songs from the wise and knowing sea turtle. You can now hear the Zanate's vocals as the Seven Passions (Love, Hate, Fear, Courage, Joy, Sadness, and Anger) of life." Mexican artisans have created icons in clay, sometimes as whistles that portray the sea turtle with the Zanate perched on its back.

  A total goofball who loves messing around

Clay-colored Thrush aka. Clay-colored Robin (yigüirro)
Guanacaste, Costa Rica
Member of the Thrush Family
§A Worm of Robins§
National Bird of Costa Rica

~real bird myth~ The songs of the Yigüirro are said to start the rainy season in Costa Rican folklore, thus his important position in that country.

Inspires dignity in others

Sunday, May 11, 2014

It's a Very Special Mother's day Bird Blog

Happy Mothbirds day! No, not some kind of combination of moths and birds (aka. hummingbirds). Today is mother's day, celebration of all things momish. Human moms, like the one that your amateurnithologist has, and bird moms. Let's take a look at some birdmoms and bird babies in honor of this special day. This one's for you mom (aka. the Momateurnithologist, aka. Amateurnimomlogist, aka. Momateurnimomlogist).
 Baby Canada Goose (aka. Gosling) & Mom (background)
~true mom fact~ Why do Canada Geese love grassy lawns so much? Well, two reasons- number one, they can eat grass (unlike many other birds) and two, they like to build their nests in wide open, unobstructed places. This lets them see threats coming from a long way away. Young goslings often stay with their family for an entire year.

The type of mom who will have a really hard time moving on when the kids are no longer at home
 Baby Seagull (no one knows what kind) & Mom (very unofficial guess is Herring Gull)
~true mom fact~ Feeding a baby gull is exhausting work. Mom and dad alike work in shifts, feeding the baby gull up to half a pound of food a day, day and night for 12 weeks. The mother gull has already lost much calcium and protein by this point, so she must alter her diet by eating a lot of invertebrates and fish.

The type of mom who doesn't let childbearing slow her down. She'll be posting gym selfies within a week of giving birth.
Baby Mallard Duckling & Mom
~true mom fact~ rather than leaving her nest to gather lining material, the malard mom plucks feathers from her own breast to line the nest and cover her eggs. A selfless mom.

A 'cool' mom who wants to do a lot of stuff with her kids

Monday, May 5, 2014

The Life of Birds.gif: Part 1

The Life of Birds is an 8 episode BBC nature documentary series that ran in 1998. It is one of the predecessors to smash nature docs like Planet Earth and Life and for bird people it's a must watch. In fact, if you're reading this and you haven't watched The Life of Birds I highly recommend you stop reading and do it now. It appears to be on youtube, but you could also just, you know, buy it.
Like the other documentary series mentioned above, it is narrated by naturalist and great man David Attentborough. Unlike those, Sir Attenborough wrote and 'starred' in it. You see, The Life of Birds belongs to a somewhat different era of documentary film making- one where the naturalist is front and center.
Watching this show you really get a great sense of the man- his endless wonder at nature, his enthusiasm for science, and his kindness towards the animals are all evident. David Attenborough is not only the pioneer of the modern nature documentary, he's the bridge between the old way of doing things and the new. He might be a giant in the field, but here he's also very much a human. An adorable human.
Even without the presence of D. AttenB, the Life of Birds series would be a delight. To convince you, my viewing audience, I've made some .gifs just from the first few episodes. It really is a remarkable series, especially if you're used to the more slickly produced recent BBC nature offerings. You can see the beginnings of an incredible machine. These shows are notable not only for the high investment of time and effort into getting the best shots, but for their pioneering of new technology, both computer and camera.
For a series nearly 20 years old now, sometimes that ends up looking a little silly, but always in an utterly charming way, interspersed with some still top-notch footage and info about birds. Today's .gifs obviously focused on the man himself, but next time we'll take a look at some of the more impressive specimens on display. Tune in next week for more birds.gif and assorted other amateurnithology.