Purple Gallinule (Porphyrio martinicus)

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.

Red-ruffed Fruitcrow (Pyroderus-scutatus)

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.

Phelps’ Brush-Finch (Arremon perijanus)

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.

Chestnut-headed Oropendola (Psarocolius wagleri)

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.

Chestnut-headed Oropendola - Psarocoglius wagleri - Oropendola Cabecicastaña (4)

The bill seems to extend upwards into the nape. It’s pale color contrasts nicely with an otherwise dark looking body

Scarlet Tanager (Piranga olivacea)

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.

Scarlet Tanager, Female - Piranga olivacea - Tangara Escarlata, Hembra (1)

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 of Canada

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.

Upper Kananaskis and Herbert Lakes

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.

Two Jack and Minnewanka Lakes

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.

Sulphur Mountain Gondola

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.



Black-headed Trogon (Trogon melanocephalus)

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