Archive for March, 2011

Stunted Sticky Stamens?

Tuesday, March 29th, 2011

The Slaty Flowerpiercer Diglossa plumbea is a common bird at MTCF and can often be observed on flowering shrubs around the homestead and on the trails on edge habitats. The images here were taken through the living room window in late afternoon. The Flowerpiercer has a hooked upper mandible to pierce the base of tubular flowers to get at the nectar. So this bird circumvents the symbiotic evolutionary dance between tubular flowers and their partners; the hummingbird bill and hawkmoth tongue. One can’t help but wonder if given enough time some of these plants will evolve adaptations to their flower structures so that the Flowerpiercer carries their pollen. Some bizarre sticky stunted stamens that produce pollen at the outside base of their tubular flowers .

A new orchid at MTCF

Sunday, March 20th, 2011

On the cascade trail by the upper falls at the base of a big dead tree trunk is a massive orchid with long cane like leaves. I noticed it sent out a flower spike about a month ago and I finally had time to get back there and check it out. It was in full bloom, hundreds of small purple white flowers in clusters at the end of the flower spike. This specimen was growing about 6 feet off the ground and didn’t seem to get much light.

Below is an additional species in bloom at the moment. Very abundant and is often the dominant epiphyte growing on the main trunk and large branches of trees. It can tolerate almost direct sunlight as it continues to thrive in full sun on dead trees.

The photo album of blooming orchids at MTCF is slowly growing. I do not have a reference book on orchids of Costa Rica or Panama and would like to key out some of these species. If anyone knows of a good orchid guide for the region send me an e-mail.

Full Moon

Friday, March 18th, 2011

A wild and windy full moon night with blankets of bajareque clouds draping over the ridge tops and streaming down the Rio Colorado valley. Enjoying it all alone. No guests or construction workers, caretakers have also left for the night. One vast streaming emptiness with Orion standing sentinel.

Highland Tinamou

Sunday, March 13th, 2011

One of our trails named La Amistad NP Trail leads up and into the park. Yesterday the two noted call of the Highland Tinamou was heard just off this trail at around 1900m in mature forest and we were in very close range of the bird but could not spot him. In the local Guayme language this bird is known as Kona. The locals here say the bird is calling in the rains.

Nesting Resplendent Quetzals at MTCF

Thursday, March 10th, 2011


Male Resplendent Quetzal excavating nesting Cavity at MTCF

Click on the following links to see Video coverage of Resplendent Quetzals nesting at MTCF

Resplendent Quetzal at nest site

Male and female Resplendent Quetzal at nest site

Female Resplendent Quetzal excavating nesting cavity

The past two weeks pairs of Resplendent Quetzals have been active moving through the forest here at MTCF, the males frequently calling. Often one female is followed by two males as they move through their habitat. We have been keeping our eyes open for nesting sites and today we were lucky to find a nest only 70 meters from our homestead on the trunk of an old tree about 6 feet off the ground. This pair of Resplendent Quetzals are actively enlarging the cavity they have chosen and we have located these birds at work on one of their first days at their new nest site. The bills of Resplendent Quetzals are weak and they choose nest sites in partially decayed wood so that they can easily excavate the cavity to the dimensions they require. On the video footage you can actually make out both the male and female removing decayed wood from the cavity. Fortunately in montane and cloud forest habitat there is no shortage of large branches and trunks of trees in various stages of decay. This particular nest site is in 2nd growth forest close the stream that feeds our hydro generating plant. The site is on the edge of forest in an open area with a small pasture. Only about 10 meters from a storage shed which may serve as a blind. How about a webcam?? Anyone with a webcam come on down and you get a free stay and a front row seat. We will document their progress and as they are still a ways from the female laying her eggs we’ll keep our fingers crossed that they find this nest site to their liking. This afternoon we got some good footage through the spotting scope hiding behind a stone wall that is the damn of our small pond. The scene was nothing short of breathtaking 


Female Resplendent Quetzal


Female making progress


Male standing guard while female excavates nesting cavity

Herpetology at MTCF

Wednesday, March 9th, 2011


Salamander (lost tail) Bolitoglossa compacta 2624m


Rhadinaea calligaster. 2450m

During a recent ascent to the top of Mount Totumas on February 16 we added two species to the growing herpetology list spotted at MTCF, a salamander and snake shown here.

Katie McDonald, a post doc marine biologist from the Smithsonian and her friend Will joined the ascent to the peak of Mount Totumas when we spotted these two species.

A herpetology slide show of images taken here at Mount Totumas Cloud Forest during the past 18 months.

Crested Guan sighted at Los Pozos Hot Springs

Tuesday, March 8th, 2011

This morning at 7:30AM at the Los Pozos Hot Springs a Crested Guan arrived out of the the forest and landed on a guava tree that grows near the springs. It was frightened off by our presence. This is an incredible sighting for the area. The Black Guan is comparatively quite common at MTCF but the Crested Guan has only been sighted once before.

Chicken Mushroom

Tuesday, March 1st, 2011

We weren’t chicken to eat Laetiporus sulfureus even though none of the locals here know the Chicken Mushroom as a delectable edible. Here is once again a species with a strong affinity with northern temperate forests. This mushroom was growing on a rotted oak log on a recent ascent up to the peak of Mount Totumas. This image could have just as easily been taken in upstate New York.