19 Highlights of 2019

The year 2019 was yet another year chocked full of action-packed adventures and amazing experiences. I spent half the year in the incredibly beautiful and diverse country of Colombia guiding at Parque Nacional Natural Tatamá (Montezuma Rainforest) and continuing my explorations of other regions. As well, a few weeks were spent in Panama where I had the privilege of visiting two of the country’s premier eco-lodges, Mount Totumas Cloud Forest in the highlands and Tranquilo Bay Eco Adventure Lodge in the Caribbean. As a second-year limited-residency student at Prescott College, I also had the opportunity to participate in amazing and rewarding field classes, Community-Based Conservation in Costa Rica, and a suite of Marine Studies courses at the Prescott College Kino Bay Center in the Gulf of California, Mexico. Though my time at home in Colorado was very limited this year, I had the honor of assisting with American Birding Associations’ Camp Colorado for young birders, guiding for Colorado Birding Adventures, and birding around my hometown of Lyons. Thanks to everyone who helped make 2019 unforgettable!

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A Golden-fronted Redstart forages for insects on Montezuma Road in Parque Nacional Natural Tatamá, Risaralda, Colombia. Twelve-kilometers long, Montezuma Road climbs in elevation through one of the best-protected forests in the world. Over 500 species of birds can be found along this legendary road and one never knows what surprise may lie around the next corner.
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Flitting through an elfin forest laced with colorful moss, a Blue-backed Conebill briefly pauses before disappearing into the dense vegetation. This vibrant bird was moving in a large mixed flock of several high Andean songbird species in Parque Nacional Natural Chingaza above Bogotá, Colombia’s capital city
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Just below treeline on Nevado del Ruiz, an active volcano in Colombia’s Central Andes, a Golden-breasted Puffleg perches on a grass stem.
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After making a food delivery to its young, an American Dipper perches on driftwood in the middle of a mountain stream near Lyons, Colorado.
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In the largest alpine-tundra ecosystem in the world, Páramo de Sumapaz, a Bronze-tailed Thornbill flashes its striking iridescent gorget feathers. This special hummingbird’s distribution is restricted to páramo habitats in Colombia’s Central Andes, barely extending into Venezuela.
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“Wave Rider” – An American White Pelican endures an early spring windstorm in a small pond on Colorado’s Front Range.
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A pair of Spectacled Parrotlets blend in with their environment at Laguna de Sonso, the last intact wetland system in the Valle del Cauca of Colombia.
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An immature Red-tailed Hawk takes flight from a ponderosa pine to ambush a small rodent below. – Boulder County, Colorado.
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A Russet-throated Puffbird silently perches in the dry thorn-forest of Santuario de Flora y Fauna Los Flamencos in La Guajira Desert of Northern Colombia.
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Separated from their mother, two recently hatched Common Merganser ducklings seek shelter on the edge of a swift mountain stream near Lyons, Colorado.
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A Green-crowned Brilliant strikes a gorgeous pose in the spectacular hummingbird gardens of Mount Totumas Cloud Forest Reserve in the highlands of Panama.
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After a spectacular sunrise, the sun peeks through the clouds illuminating a feeding frenzy of Brown Pelicans and Black Terns. This moment was captured while kayaking in the pristine waters of Tranquilo Bay in the Caribbean of Panama.
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One of my all-time favorite experiences of 2019 was watching Red-billed Tropicbirds circle Swan Cay, a tiny, pristine, and magical island in the Caribbean of Panama. While circumnavigating the island, it felt as though I had time traveled to an unblemished, prehistoric world.
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After a long migration from North America, a Northern Waterthrush skulks in the mangrove swamps of a Carribean island in Panama. – Tranquilo Bay, Bocas del Toro, Panama.
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A mother three-toed sloth cradles her sleepy baby, the most precious moment I had the privilege of capturing in 2019. – Tranquilo Bay, Bocas del Toro, Panama.
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Western Sandpipers forage in a hurricane-flooded field in Bahía de Kino, Sonora, Mexico. Like these shorebirds, I too migrated down to the Gulf of California this past fall. Though these birds migrate to escape the harsh winters of the northlands, I arrived to study the fascinating marine and desert environment of the region.
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Off the shores of Isla San Pedro Mártir, an isolated island in the middle of the Gulf of California, a pod of ~600 bottlenose dolphins hunt federally protected waters.
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A big personality of the Sonoran Desert, a Cactus Wren perches atop an organ pipe cactus. – Bahía de Kino, Sonora, Mexico.
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During a flaming sunrise, Brown Pelicans stream across Bahía de Kino, a magical place in the Gulf of California.

Costa Rica: The Whirlwind Tour

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After completing three months of intensive avian fieldwork in the Talamanca Highlands and Caribbean Coast, I have a little over a week to burn before leaving the country and am eager to see new landscapes and their associated birds. Below are some photo highlights from this nine-day circuit, which covered the southern foothills, the Pacific coastline including the the Osa and Nicoya Peninsulas, and lastly, the Volcán Arenal.

Note: The bird in the banner photo is a Silver-throated Tanager (Tangara icterocephala).

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Broad-billed Motmot (Electron platyrhynchum)
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Yellow-throated Toucan (Ramphastos ambiguus)
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Buff-rumped Warbler (Myiothlypis fulvicauda)
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Cherrie’s Tanager (Ramphocelus costaricensis)
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Central American Squirrel Monkey (Saimiri oerstedii)
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Cocoa Woodcreeper (Xiphorhynchus susurrans)
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Speckled Tanager (Ixothraupis guttata)
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Chestnut-sided Warbler (Setophaga pensylvanica)
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Brown Pelicans (Pelecanus occidentalis) from the Nicoya Peninsula ferry.
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Double-striped Thick-knee (Burhinus bistriatus)
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Golden-hooded Tanager (Tangara larvata)

 

 

The Land of Turtles

While our current position with Costa Rica Bird Observatories is primarily based out of the highlands, Steve and I also have the privilege of working on the Caribbean Coast for several days each month. Compared to the cold, wet, and windy highlands, the Caribbean’s warm weather is a nice change, even though tropical rainstorms are prevalent. Even more so, the birds of this region are entirely different. From Madre Selva (our highlands base near San Isidro), we descend the mountain towards the Caribbean coast. After a series of bus rides and a boat trip, we arrive in Tortuguero, a small beach town only accessible by river.

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During the two hour boat ride, one can see crocodiles, caimans, iguanas, and Green Ibis.

Tortuguero means “The Land of Turtles” in Spanish, and the beach here is the Western Hemisphere’s most important nesting site for the endangered Green Turtle. During our first visit to Tortuguero, we were lucky to catch the tail end of turtle nesting season, which ends in November.

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A Green Turtle (Chelonia mydas) hatchling entering the ocean for the first time. If it reaches adulthood, this tiny turtle could live more than 80 years and reach a weight of over 400 lbs (180 kg).

We are here specifically to band birds, so we get to work. Over the course of five days, we band at five different locations. Our sites consist of both primary and secondary forests, some near the beach and some along rivers. During this banding cycle at Tortuguero, we capture a nice variety of birds. For the resident birds, we capture Bronzy Hermit, Stripe-throated Hermit, Long-billed Hermit, Green-breasted Mango, Rufous-tailed Hummingbird, American Pygmy Kingfisher, Streak-headed Woodcreeper, Boat-billed Flycatcher, Yellow-bellied Elaenia, Red-capped Manakin, White-collared Manakin, Checker-throated Antwren, Chestnut-backed Antbird, Western Slaty-Antshrike, Clay-colored Thrush, White-breasted Wood-Wren, and Olive-backed Euphonia. As well, we capture some overwintering migrants from North America. These include, Wood Thrush, Swainson’s Thrush, Gray Catbird, Red-eyed Vireo, Prothonotary Warbler, and Northern Waterthrush.

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Chestnut-backed Antbird (Poliocrania exsul)
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Checker-throated Antwren (Epinecrophylla fulviventris)
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Mantled Howler Monkey (Alouatta palliata)

Great Green Macaws (Ara ambiguus)

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Bare-throated Tiger-Heron (Tigrisoma mexicanum)
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Whimbrel (Numenius phaeopus)

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