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The Hummingbirds of Monteverde

December 31, 2011

When I booked my flights for Costa Rica, I had the intention of volunteering for two months, plus I tacked on an additional week on the end for travelling somewhere else in the country.  However I decided that the thought of travelling on my own was too overwhelming.  Sure, I travelled independently for 3 1/2 months in Australia and New Zealand after volunteering for 3 1/2 months, but everyone there speaks English.  I had gotten by okay my first 3 weeks in Costa Rica before Morgan arrived, but I had gotten used to depending on her to communicate with cab and bus drivers.  Besides, it is lonely travelling by myself.  So for a compromise, instead of taking that last week to travel, we asked for 3 days off in a row, and set off to Monteverde together at the end of November.

Monteverde is best known for the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve, which is where we went on Saturday, our only full day.  We were hoping for a quetzal but the closest we got was an Orange-bellied trogon.  I also finally saw my first white-faced capuchin (a type of monkey.)  We also got some more lifers as well as good looks at several species we had only seen briefly or just in the hand at Madre Selva.

Just outside of the reserve is a place called the Hummingbird Gallery, which has a large number of hummingbird feeders set up and dozens upon dozens of hummingbirds zooming around.  We spent at least two hours there, watching and photographing the hummingbirds.  I could have easily stayed longer, but we starving by then and had a date with a bakery (which turned out to be closed! :( )

Some of the biggest and most striking of the hummingbirds were the male Purple sabrewings

At just the right angle they glittered

both the female and male of the species

Magenta-throated Woodstars were also gorgeous.  (Photo by Morgan)

Of all the hummers, they were the only ones that never seemed to land!

At Madre Selva, we had captured several male White-throated mountain-gems, but had never even seen a male Purple-throated mountain-gem like this one.

a female Purple-throated

and another.

The females of both mountain-gem species supposedly differ by the brightness of their tail colour, but having now seen the purple-throated (who are supposed to have the more brilliant tail) I am skeptical!

Coppery-headed emerald

immature male Green-crowned brilliant

Green violet-ear, which I think may have been one of my favourites that day.

As well tallied up the hummingbird species, Morgan described one I hadn’t seen.  After consulting the field guide we realised it had to have been a Green hermit. Thankfully, the single representative of that species reappeared later and I got some pictures.  Disappointingly the only photograph I have of the final hummer species present, Striped-tailed hummingbird, is too blurry to post (not to say that these photographs are all of stellar quality!)  “Real” hummingbird photographers use multiple flash set-ups and all sorts of crazy tricks.

Green hermit

In addition to the hummingbirds, I was delighted to see another kind of bird squabbling over the feeders– Bananaquits.  Bananaquits are one of those species that makes it into the North American field guide because they are rarities occasionally seen in Florida.  So it was exciting to see something I had known about for a long time but never really thought I’d see.

Bananaquit!

And then there was this cutie, taking a bath in a pool of water in a plant.  It kept going back.

Sunday morning we went to the Santa Elena Reserve, but it was raining harder that day and we had little luck birding (we did managed to see a small group of Prong-billed barbets, which was very cool.)  Other things we did while in Monteverde included eating ice cream produced by the local Quaker cheese factory, drinking chai lattes and eating cake at a nice coffeehouse, eating at a restaurant that had an entire gigantic tree growing up through it (It is called the Treehouse Restaurant, imagine that), and going on a night tour where we saw a two-toed sloth, an orange-kneed tarantula, and a kinkajou.

I still have more Costa Rican photographs to share, and one of my New Year’s resolutions is to stop procrastinating so much, so those posts should come soon!  Happy New Year!

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