Sapphire-throated Hummingbird in SW Costa Rica! by: Kevin Easley
Near Golfito Costa Rica: Day 4 – I met Dave and Jayne Barnard along with their excellent birder son Harry for a pre-dawn coffee and a spotlighted Bronzy Hermit at the nearby heliconia flowers. We had heard Uniform Crake the day before at dusk and after an initial response this morning the crake went quiet but Harry and I saw one in the middle of a side trail. We decided to give this one another try the next morning. On the trail we had stunning views of Black-cheeked Ant-Tanagers, Gray-headed Kite, Great Tinamou, and other more common species. A calling Brown-billed Scythebill refused to come closer. After breakfast we decided to try the obscure trail we tried the day before. I stopped for about 10 minutes by some flowering Chinese Sword Trees (a type of erythrina) hoping for Long-billed Starthroat but no hummingbirds were present. Further along I heard a Striped Cuckoo and asked the Barnards if they would like to see it even though we saw one on our previous trip. They like seconds on birds and agreed to give it a go. I noticed a few more Chinese Sword Trees in bloom so I decided to stand by those while I called in the Striped Cuckoo. After a few minutes a male Long-billed Starthroat showed very well. The cuckoo was getting closer but in flies a female Mango. I had not seen a Mango sp. in the Southwest and thought to myself that it was probably the rare Veraguan Mango – the females of this and the Green-breasted are quite similar with no definite field marks to separate them. What we needed was a male and we were not disappointed when soon after 2 male Veraguan Mangos appeared showing the throat and breast features separating them from Green-breasted. A lifer for us all, something I don’t get very often in Costa Rica these days. Another smaller hummingbird flew in and did not show very well but enough to puzzle me. After a few minutes I had a thought in the back of my head that it could have been a Sapphire-throated Hummingbird. The cuckoo came in and I shook off that crazy notion about the hummingbird. Minutes later this same hummingbird appeared and this time showed extremely well. I asked Harry if he knew what it was and he said it was a Sapphire-throated Hummingbird to which I replied an enthusiastic YES! Having left my camera gear in the room, as it doesn’t go well with walking up creeks, I went back to fetch it in order to document this species – who would believe me without proof? At the lodge I called Jim Zook and my brother Steven to inform them of this find and to spread the word to any birders coming to this area. I also left a message on the cell phone of Ernesto Carman (CRG bird guide) who was guiding John and Karen Shrader and Tricia Glass for us on the Osa Peninsula at the time. If Ernesto got my message then he could just drop down the next day on his way out and try for these two hummers. Back at the flowers I was able to get definitive photos of the Sapphire-throated Hummingbird which eased my mind a bit – a picture is worth a thousand words and no better example of this is in the identification of birds in my opinion. On that high we headed up the creek again and this time we were successful with a male White-throated Shrike-Tanager and a very cooperative Brown-billed Scythebill. Late afternoon had us again on La Gamba Road watching Ruddy-breasted Seedeater, a pair of Red-rumped Woodpeckers, Yellow-billed Cacique, Blue-headed Parrot, and Thick-billed Euphonia. A late afternoon drive through many fields eventually produced 7 Southern Lapwing. The following day I received a text message from Ernesto…”Nailed both hummers…Muchas Gracias!” 3 days later my brother Steven and his wife Magda made a special trip to the area and were able to get these remarkable photos of the 2 species including both male and female Veraguan Mango. To finish the story on the Uniform Crake above…the following morning we tried again for this mega-skulker and were thrilled to see 3 of them.