Purple Gallinules are some of the most brightly colored birds that you can see walking in Costa Rica. Indeed while they can also fly, they more commonly wade in shallow waters and in dense grass plains, looking for prey. I have seen them in Palo Verde in big numbers, and spotted individuals in Rio Frio, where they join chickens and forage in the backyards of houses; indeed I was able to see two adults rearing four young hatchlings, which were still covered in black fluffy hairs, getting along with the chickens just fine. The underside and head is entirely purple with a metallic look, showing a small light blue patch on the forehead. The beak is mostly bright red, with a yellow tip. The upperparts show blue to olive green hues, particularly on the wings. The yellow legs are long, letting them to wade in shallow edges of lagoons without having to swim.
The Red-ruffed Fruitcrow is a large bird belonging to the Cotingidae family. It does resemble a crow in overall body form, but it sports a brilliant red-orange throat and an orange chest and belly that’s very distinctive, even inside the darkness of the forest they inhabit. Although arboreal, they do come to the ground to eat fallen fruit. Another endemic bird of Colombia. We saw this bird in Yarumo Blanco SFF, in Pereira, where it is actually abundant and not so afraid of people. It came to ground a few times and seemed to be comfortable with us being around.
The Phelps’ Brush-Finch is part of the Arremon genus, which has a variety of species that distribute through all South America, a few of which occur in Costa Rica. They are small birds that hop in the ground and forage by snatching worms and insects from their hides. Its back and wings are olive in coloration, with gray flanks that join with the supercilliary. It has black cheeks and a black line above the supercilliary, with a gray line that goes through the center of the head, and those features give it a striped look. It has a white throat and chest. Their eyes are reddish-brown.
In Costa Rica, there are three species of Oropendola, which as can be assumed are pretty similar. The biggest one is the Montezuma Oropendola, which is differentiated from the other too by black eyes, distal half of the beak is orange, and white skin on it’s face. The Crested Oropendola is very similar to the Chestnut-headed, however is bigger and has black head instead of chestnut. Both have pale bill and blue eyes, and all three species have yellow feathers on their tail. Another distinguishing characteristics is their range: The Crested has a very limited range near the border with Panama, while the other two can be found in the Caribbean (with the Montezuma being the most abundant). The Chestnut-headed can be found on the southern pacific, while the Montezuma can be found in Central Valley and northern pacific.
The following pictures were taken at Laguna del Lagarto Lodge, Boca Tapada during a Birdwatching tour with Fundación Rapaces de Costa Rica, on November 25th and 26th, 2017. It is more common to see the Montezuma come to the feeders, but this individual did come at least twice.
The bill seems to extend upwards into the nape. It’s pale color contrasts nicely with an otherwise dark looking body
The Scarlet Tanager is a passage migrant with vibrant colors that can be seen virtually all around the country, from September to November when it goes to the south, and then from March to May on its way back to North America. The male in breeding plumage has a red body, while the non-breeding male and the female have yellowish body. In all plumages, this species is differentiated from the Summer Tanager (another migrant) by the black wings, while the Summer Tanager is either entirely red or yellowish depending on sex. Both species are very similar and can be difficult to identify to the untrained eye.
Close up portrait of a female perched on a small branch. The black wings are a definite mark to differentiate against the Summer Tanager
Birds were not high in our agenda during the workshop in 2017, but nevertheless we saw some in the area of Banff. From the very common American Crow, to the iconic Clark’s nutcracker, we had variety to see even during autumn, when most migratory birds have already left. And a true birder will always be on the lookout for birds, even if that’s not the main purpose for the trip. Both Banff River and Vermilion Lakes functioned as the oasis where most of the birds inhabited.
Kananaskis is a great area between Banff and Canmore, full of scenery and wildlife. Originally, we came in search of potential bear and elk sightings, but no one appeared during our stay. We then reached Upper Kananaskis Lake, and set out for a few pictures of the view, which is amazing. Then we drove to see Castle Mountain, again with Bow River at the foreground. Finally we ended the day at Herbert Lake, where we saw a group of Lesser Scaup, a bird species that feeds by diving into the water. The lake is surrounded by pine forest, bushes that turn to red during autumn, and has a lot of dead logs, either partially or completely submerged into the water, which helps to use lines in our compositions.
This fallen tree follows the line of the reflected pine forest on the back. A play by parallel lines.
Change the angle a little bit, and your subject may change entirely. Or at least your perspective regarding that subject.
I am fascinated by the trees reflecting into the lake surface. The water is so calm, that reflections are crystal clear.
Another view of Castle Mountains, with a layer of pine forest in front.
Bare rock that gains a lot of elevation, a familiar sight by then on Banff. The Rocky Mountains are a popular place for climbing sports.
A small stream that feeds into Bow River. The white lines are an effect of the long exposure technique; it is actually foam that moved and marked the current flow.
You can easily imagine why it is called Castle Mountain. The water flowing through Bow River is crystal clear up close, and turquoise from afar.
I am starting to feel the blues of having to leave such a colorful place. So why not stare at it for a moment?
Now this is an even better reflection, featuring the mountains in the back.
I wonder how long this trunk has been there. Oh wait, the moving clouds are interesting as well. Better to take a picture of both with the mountain and the lake.
Now a double line with the trunk shadow. Light was dim already, so shadows were not too sharp.
Some of the bushes are turning the yellow/red color for the autumn season.
A tree trunk marks the highest level of water that his lake has attained in the past few days. It also makes for an interesting subject in this picture.
On this area, Bow River makes a turn that takes it straight into Banff.
Herbert Lake. The trail to this lake is short and near the road that got us there.
I visited a lot of spots along the lake shore to find the most interesting compositions. This one with the pine trunk starting so close to the camera struck me the most.
As darkness approaches, we take the final shots. Scenery to remember for a lifetime.
Now this is a group of fallen trees on the lake.
Two Jack is a small lake, connected with Minnewanka Lake, which is way bigger. Both provide campsites for people to spend the day or night around the lake. The two lakes are situated very close to Banff Town, so our very first sunrise shoot took place in these two lakes.
The clouds help to give a dramatic look to this landscape as they reflect onto the water’s surface.
By this time of the day, the water returned to its normal blue color. It mirrors the blue sky we were witnessing.
Fog continued to cover the forest and Mount Rundle, but as the sun started hitting the other peak, the clouds started to dissipate on this side.
I call this picture: “The right way to do selfie in Canada”
This is a pretty view from the edge of the lake. Impressive scenery to see with your own eyes.
A lot of clouds started to set in as time passed. They would cover most of Mount Rundle’s side by 8:00 am.
Blue hour at Two Jack Lake. The long exposure smooths out the water, with Mount Rundle’s more jagged face on the background.
Now the trees take the center stage. The pine forest in the back goes on almost forever.
The three rocks on the right were overcrowded with photographers that came before us. Wind was blowing strong enough to erase all reflection from the water.
On Wednesday 27th, we headed out to Minnewanka Lake at 9:00 pm to catch the aurora. Its playful colors were indeed captured by our cameras, having Minnewanka Lake as the scenery to compose our pictures. Lots of other photographers and people shared the moment with us.
Wider view of the snowy peak. Climbing that to the summit must be hard business.
Another peak covered by snow, and being swallowed by the dense clouds that descended to Two Jack Lake.
To the other side of Two Jack Lake, there was a little bit more color, both in the sky and the trees. The islet with three small trees seemed an odd subject to take in.
Now that the wind stopped and reflections on the water started to show, the clouds almost obscured completely Mount Rundle.
The pine forest is so dense. In the foreground, fog moved at speed at the waters surface.
Close up of the pine forest, showing a few red trees breaking the pattern, most probably dead trees.
Pine trees grow slowly, but are able to withstand terrible conditions. Half of the year, the rock in that mountain will be covered in snow, yet the trees manage to grow.
As the sun rose above the horizon, the deep blue light gave way to light blue colors.
A few days after the sunrise shoot, we returned to Two Jack Lake for pictures of Mount Rundle reflection on the water.
Close up of one summit, with clouds illuminated by the sun on the back.
Close up view of the peak. The summit is not that high up, but due to recent snowfall, it was entirely covered by snow.
Snow carves the rock and gives rough edges as time passes. Here, the peak is being illuminated by the morning sun.
I’ll say it straight: The smell can be as bad as its name suggests, but that does not deter a true nature photographer from admiring its beauty. I would even say the bad smell is part of the beauty of this place, something we could not find anywhere else. One could even think a volcano is nearby! But again as in Johnston Canyon, this is a place of superlatives, but also of little details that deserve contemplation. And I made sure to put those small things on the forefront.
Now, to get to the viewpoint, we had to take a Gondola that elevated us a further 2900 feet (according to the official page), that’s 884 meters. I have vertigo, so usually I can’t glimpse from buildings taller than 3 stories without feeling that I am on the verge of falling. But I feared not and just jumped on it. Another step towards conquering my fear of heights has been accomplished. Once there… I’ll let the pictures tell the story.
Back in the old days, people would sit down on this bench to contemplate the landscape and not care about anything else in the world. Nowadays, all we want to do is quickly reach that famous spot to take a selfie and brag about it. That reminded me to shut off my camera from time to time, and just gaze at what was upon me.
I can’t get tired of it. It looks so unique to me, coming from a tropical country.
We are still pretty close to Banff. Bow river meanders to the left (see the turquoise again?). Vermillion lakes are seen to the right.
Now the scale of this scenery starts to unfold. Wait for the picture where this rock can be seen along with the restaurant and the trail.
More ice-covered peaks. At a glance, the hard line that separates the forest from the barren rock strikes me.
And those seem to be young pine trees. Their yellow coloration contrasts nicely with the rest of the forest.
I never get tired of “Old meets New” pictures like this one. Earth keeps its pace and continues to build a new earth every day.
I suppose only a Mountain Goat could climb that jagged rock. How on earth this mountain came to have this form?
As we were preparing to go down, I caught the last sun rays on the camera.
This is it. The restaurant is seen at the left, and a pretty wide view of the valley and mountains on every side.
The sun is just about to fall down the horizon, but the warm orange light is still battling with the clouds to go through.
This poor trunk was overlooked by most. I am still not sure why I find this scene fascinating. It has a touch of loneliness and despair, but also of a world that renews itself. The old gives way to the new, yet they somehow coexist.
Remember that I said: wait for this picture? Though in this version, the restaurant is not shown. In a later one, you will see the vastness of this place.
Bow river is everywhere. The Fairmont Banff Springs hotel is located just by its side. Bonus: That golf field is the one where we saw the juvenile Elk fighting each other. DSC_9594 Snow still covered the ground from the previous week’s snowfall. A bit of yellow was emerging from the Aspen. DSC_9597 Same view to the left. DSC_9609 This is the vastness of the Bow River Valley as seen from Sulphur Mountain. DSC_9613 The sun is just about to fall down the horizon, but the warm orange light is still battling with the clouds to go through. DSC_9625 This is it. The restaurant is seen at the left, and a pretty wide view of the valley and mountains on every side. DSC_9627 As we were preparing to go down, I caught the last sun rays on the camera. Share this: Press ThisTwitterFacebook Related El Imperio del Rey, Boca TapadaWith 13 comments Black Vulture (Coragyps atratus)With 1 comment Bahía de los Piratas Uncategorized Post navigation ← Black-headed Trogon (Trogon melanocephalus) Two Jack and Minnewanka Lakes → Leave a Reply
This is the vastness of the Bow River Valley as seen from Sulphur Mountain.
Snow still covered the ground from the previous week’s snowfall. A bit of yellow was emerging from the Aspen.
Same view to the left.
Another trogon species with yellow belly, this is distinguished by the fact that both the male and female have black coloration, although the female is much duller. The tail pattern is helpful to distinguish between this and the similar Gartered Trogon, which may be found in similar areas.
The female has duller chest and head, and a white eye-ring. This one had its beak open, presumably to cool off in the heat