Crow mobbing a Bald Eagle – Lopez Island WA. June

Crows and Bald Eagles do not coexist well because eagles have a taste for crow chicks. The traditional “anti-predatory” response is to mob the predator. In this case a single crow conducted a series of almost 20 “dive-bombing” runs which eventually scared the eagle away.

Bird Faces – A new exhibit

I have a new show opening today that can be previewed here.

My primary photographic targets are birds in flight, so I spend a lot of time watching and waiting.  Sometimes, a bird and I look at each other for long periods of time, each wondering when the other is going to move on. This show is a small collection of images from such moments and it is a chance to reflect on the wonderful adaptations the can be seen in the facial features of birds. [Read more…..].

TOCO TOUCAN (Ramphastos toco ). Pantanal, Brazil. June.

TOCO TOUCAN (Ramphastos toco). Pantanal, Brazil. June.

Macaws at the Chuncho Clay Lick

Scarlet Macaws (Ara macao), Red and Green Macaws (Ara chloropterus), Blue and Yellow Macaws (Ara ararauna), Chuncho Clay Lick, Tambopata National Reserve, Madre de Dios, Peru.

Scarlet Macaws (Ara macao), Red and Green Macaws (Ara chloropterus), Blue and Yellow Macaws (Ara ararauna),
Chuncho Clay Lick, Tambopata National Reserve, Madre de Dios, Peru.

Clay licks provide Macaws with minerals that are critical for their nutritional health. In a remarkable spectacle, the birds arrive in pairs over a period of hours and roost high in trees above the clay lick.  Eventually one brave bird lands on the lick – where they are at increased risk from predatory hawks. Suddenly, the entire surface is filled with color from Scarlet Macaws (top), Red and Green Macaws and Blue and Yellow Macaws (everywhere else!).

The Peruvian Pygmy Owl

    Peruvian Pygmy Owl (Glaucidium peruanum). Pomac Forest Historical Sanctuary, Peru. MayPeruvian Pygmy Owl (Glaucidium peruanum). Pomac Forest Historical Sanctuary, Peru. May

The Peruvian Pygmy Owl is a compact 6.5” tall inhabitant of the western slopes of the Andes in southern Ecuador, Peru, and northern Chile.  One fascinating characteristic of this bird is the “decoy” eye spots on the back (nape) of the head and neck (right image above). This presumably makes potential predators believe that the owl is vigilant when, in fact, it is looking the other way.

Central and South American Birds

My travels in search of photogenic birds over the last several months have found me mostly in Central and South America.  Venues have included Costa Rica, Ecuador – including the Galapagos Islands – a transect  of Northern Peru, and an exciting trip to the Tambopata National  Reserve in the Peruvian Amazon Basin. The next series of postings will present some birds that I met along the way.

The Sunbittern: A bird with moth-patterned Wings II

Sunbittern (Eurpyga helias). La Mina, Turrialba, Costa Rica. March.

Sunbittern (Eurpyga helias). La Mina, Turrialba, Costa Rica. March.

This heron-shaped bird blended in well and was sometimes quite hard to spot as it foraged alone in the pools along a stream in La Mina, Costa Rica. Then suddenly, during a brief leg and wing stretch, the magnificent moth-like pattern of the wings electrified the stream bank.

Toucan with half an upper mandible

Black-mandibled Toucan (Ramphastos ambiguus abbreviates). Dominical, Costa Rica. March.

Black-mandibled Toucan (Ramphastos ambiguus abbreviates). Dominical, Costa Rica. March.

A third bird this week with less than a full complement of parts! This Black-mandibled Toucan has lost about half of its upper mandible. This can occur during fighting for territory or over a potential mate and must have consequences for food gathering and effective preening. You can read a remarkable story about  engineering a prosthetic mandible for a toucan here.

Another Quetzal: longer streamers – but not perfect!

Male Resplendant Queztal (Pharomachrus mocinno). Cerro de la Muerta. Costa Rica. March

Male Resplendant Queztal (Pharomachrus mocinno). Cerro de la Muerta. Costa Rica. March

Male Resplendant Queztal (Pharomachrus mocinno). Cerro de la Muerta. Costa Rica. March

Male Resplendant Queztal (Pharomachrus mocinno). Cerro de la Muerta. Costa Rica. March

I was back out in the cloud forest at 6am yesterday morning heading for another Resplendent Quetzal nest. During a 5-hour watch at the nest I had a number of opportunities to photograph both male and female birds as they went foraging food. This male bird has also lost some tail streamers – he now has one long and one short streamer!

In Mayan mythology, it is said that this bird used to sing beautifully before the Spanish Conquest and will do so again once the Mayan lands are free. To hear an example of a rather mournful Resplendent Quetzal vocalization click below.

(Sound from http://www.xeno-canto.org/)

This was my last chance on the trip to find and photograph the perfect bird – perhaps next year!