Birding in the Tropics


Back in 1998, WC made his first birding trip to the tropics, specifically to Costa Rica. The first night outside of San Jose, the capital, was at a jungle lodge on the Caribbean slope. WC and Mrs. WC were awakened before dawn by an incredible chorus of Montezuma Oropendolas.

Montezuma Oropendolas, Arenal, Costa Rica, 2013

Montezuma Oropendolas, Arenal, Costa Rica, 2013

Oropoendolas are colonial nesters, weaving long, dangling nests. They greet the dawn with very loud, very raucous calls, described as “a conversational bubbling followed by loud gurgles, tic-tic-glik-glak-GLUUuuuuu. You’ll have to imagine a colony of 25-30 birds all making the calls at the same time. You don’t sleep through it.

By Mike's Birds (Oropendola Nest  Uploaded by Magnus Manske) [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

By Mike’s Birds (Oropendola Nest Uploaded by Magnus Manske) [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

A spectacularly colorful cousin to the Red-winged Blackbird and Common Grackle, for WC the Montezuma Oropendola is the very essence of birding in the tropics. It’s birds like this that make all the travel, the steam-house conditions and the long hours in the field worthwhile.

Montezuma Oropendola, Dominant Male, Arenal, Costa Rica

Montezuma Oropendola, Dominant Male, Arenal, Costa Rica

As a bird photographer, WC needs only two things to entertain himself: (birds to photograph, and (2) light to photograph birds. Fairbanks’ winters offer neither. Which is why WC will occasionally sneak away to places like the tropics, where there are both birds and light.

 

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