Black-and-yellow Silky-flycatcher (Phainoptila melanoxantha)

The Black-and-yellow Silky-flycatcher is one of the four species in a unique family around the world, with the Long-tailed Silky-flycatcher being the only other species to be seen in Costa Rica. The male shows a combination of yellow rump, chest and undersides, with gray belly and vent; its throat and head it black, as well as it tail and wings. The Female has a gray throat with a black cap, olive chest, wings and tail. Their shape is similar to other Costa Rica thrushes, as they look rather plump when compared with the Long-tailed. Although Flycatchers by name, they prefer to eat fruits, specializing in berries that are abundant in the highlands; indeed their range is restricted to Guanacaste, Tilaran, Central and Talamanca Cordilleras. They are endemic to Costa Rica and western Panama, thanks to the fact that the Talamanca Cordillera stretches out into Panama.

This male stood on the branch without moving for quite a while, just like the lethargic state that hummingbirds enter in after vigorously feeding nectar on the flight.

Smooth-skinned Toad (Rhaebo haematiticus)

The Smooth-skinned Toad (or Leaf-Litter Toad as it is called sometimes) is a species of true toad that bears a dead-leaf pattern on its skin, concealing it from most predators when they lie motionless in tree bark or the ground. Furthermore, their lifestyle is nocturnal, so during the day they don’t move much, unless spooked. They rely on that camouflage to be safe, even around streams, where their dull colors can match the colors of some rocks. They are small, around the size of a female Green and Black Poison Dart Frog, but their overall coloration is a dull brown with orange and dark blue patches, making them incospicuous against the brown layer of leaf litter.

Green and Black Poison Dart Frog (Dendrobates auratus)

The Green and Black Poison Dart Frog is one of the species in this family that occurs in Costa Rica, along with the Strawberry Poison Dart Frog and other species, although this species is bigger than the Strawberry. Poison Dart Frogs are diurnal, so it is relatively common to flush them from the floor litter during hiking trips through forested areas. Their contrasting body color is an adaptation meant to signal their poisonous skin to potential predators, helping these frogs escape from danger. Poison Dart Frogs are known because of their ability to withstand ant venom and convert it into their own which means the older the frog, the more poisonous it becomes. Some of these species were used by aboriginal people in South America to kill monkeys and other prey, by rubbing their skin to the arrows that they shoot.

It is normal to see Poison Dart Frogs resting on the leaves of bromeliads, where they usually deposit their larvae, which will develop inside a water pool in the base of a bromeliad leaf. They are more conspicuous when seen on leaf litter, which usually turns brown as the vegetation decays. Also poisonous species like this one are more active during the day. The two times I have had the opportunity to photograph this species, I was careful to keep my distance, as they jumped around quickly and could touch me at any moment. While being touched generally won´t produce any reaction, being careless afterwards and bringing the hands to touch the eyes or the nose after having grabbed one of these can produce significant effects, up to partial blindness.

American Oystercatcher (Haematopus palliatus)

The American Oystercatcher is the only species that reaches Costa Rica, out of 12 species that compose the family Oystercatcher family. They are all very similar, mainly varying in terms of their plumage color. The American species has a brown-gray back, white underparts, pink legs and black head. The eye is yellow with surrounding orange orbital skin, and the bill is large and slim, orange in coloration, which is used to grab and eat shellfish. The inner plumage of the wing is also white, and is shown during flight, or also during displays when wading in the shallow water.

Due to their peculiar look, they are easy to identify among flocks of migratory birds, which normally are composed of gulls, terns, plovers and sandpipers, but are not as abundant during migration and any of those families. They are among the largest of such migratory bird groups. They prefer mud and salt flats that are exposed and shallow, where they can wade to grab prey. They feed by either severing the muscles that enable the mollusks to close tight, hereby getting the meaty interior out, or by grabbing the entire body with the shell, and hitting it against rocks to slam it open.

Velvet-purple Coronet (Boissonneaua jardini)

The Velvet-purple Coronet was one of the most impressing hummingbirds we saw in Colombia. Its plumage is strongly iridescent all around the body, showing marvelous different hues with each movement. At one time it would look almost entirely black, then it flashed green and olive tones on the upper wing and shoulder, along with brown feather tips on the back and head. The head, throat and belly would look almost entirely black, until it turned the head towards me and flashed deep blue and purple colors, with turquoise flanks. White feathers cover the legs and the tail underside. So much change is almost unbelievable until you see it with your own eyes or camera lens, whichever is faster. To top if off, after perching it would hold the wings open for a brief moment, showing a chestnut coloration on the underside of the wings.

Black-capped Tanager (Tangara heinei)

The Black-capped Tanager is a member of the Tangara genus, and as such it is pretty similar in size and shape to other members of this genus that we spotted in Colombia, like the Golden Tanager and the Saffron-crowned Tanager. The adult male has a distinctive blueish plumage, darker on the wings, with a black cap and turquoise throat; the juvenile is similar but with overall duller colors and the head and throat colors not well defined. The female has greenish plumage instead and lacks the black cap. For all the Tangara species we saw at Finca Alejandría, this and the Scrub Tanager were the rarest ones.

Slate-throated Whitestart (Myioborus miniatus)

The Slate-throated Whitestart is part of the Myioborus genus that includes also the Golden-fronted and Collared Whitestart or Redstart, as are called sometimes. It is a varied genus of warblers that are present in all of the American continent, in different species. In Costa Rica, the Slate-throated is also found along with the Collared species, although here they are called Redstarts instead. They forage very actively on the ground or low in the bushes, flashing their tail to frighten insects that are then caught in the air. Their upper parts and throat are dark grey, while their underparts are yellow in the south, and red on the northernmost part of their range. It also shows a dark red crown that’s difficult to see unless in good light.

Rufous-throated Tanager (Tangara rufigula)

The Rufous-throated Tanager is very peculiar, with a mottled body all around, a pattern that is only broken by the black head and rufous throat. The pattern is composed of dark feathers with orange lining on the back and wings, and light yellow feathers with black spots of different shapes on the belly. In terms of body shape, it is very similar to the Silver-throated Tanager, which they shared the feeder at Doña Dora’s restaurant in Cali.

Green-and-black Fruiteater (Pipreola riefferii)

The Green-and-black Fruiteater is a species of the Cotingidae family, despite having a body form similar to a Tanager. The female is entirely green with yellow streaking on the belly, and red bill and legs. The male is similar, but has a black head and a yellow necklace that separates the black head from the green belly. We saw this species as we searched for the Gold-ringed Tanager at Tatama National Park. It was not surprisingly perching on a branch that showed some small fruits, which presumably were being eaten by the bird.

Golden-fronted Whitestart (Myioborus ornatus)

The Golden-fronted Whitestart is part of the Myioborus genus that includes also the Slate-throated and Collared Whitestart or Redstart, as are called sometimes. It is a varied genus of warblers that are present in all of the American continent, in different species. In Costa Rica, the Slate-throated is also found along with the Collared species, although here they are called Redstarts instead. The Golden-fronted is characterized by black upper parts and yellow underparts, with a yellow face. It also has white on the cheeks, shoulders and the lower base of the tail, hence the name.