Meet a Montezuma Oropendola, they are, quite simply, one of the most impressive and incredible birds that I have had the pleasure of spending time with. Not only are they a joy to look at, they are also incredible to watch.
The thing is, you hear them before you tend to spot them. Despite them being quite big birds, it’s not their bulk which attracts your attention in the treetop canopy, it’s their many display sounds which range from the crackling of sheet lightning to the most bizarre gurgling, all of which is designed to attract females. We were fortunate enough to be in Costa Rica during their breeding season and we spent many a happy hour in our treetop cabin watching their elaborate courtship rituals which involve the male swinging forward on the branch to display his beautiful yellow tail feathers whilst gurgling as loud as he can. Heck – even I was attracted – this is seriously attractive stuff! However, I was not the intended audience, and if the display is not up to scratch, females will choose to mate with a superior performer. The stakes are high!
Costa Rica is a truly amazing country, and if you get the chance to visit I urge you to do so. Photos from our trip are available in Taraji Blue’s Costa Rica photo gallery. If you’re planning a visit you might find my trip reports of interest at https://blog.tarajiblue.com/region/travels/costa-rica/
I’ve had a striking realisation today – I have become a twitcher!
How did I come to this conclusion? Well..
1. I adore birds.
2. I take pride in the fact that I have started to recognise and recall the names for both foreign and UK birds.
3. I love seeing and photographing them – even on safari when they big five are present we’ll find ourselves stopping to capture photos of bee-eaters, rollers and birds of prey.
4. Our search for a new house is revolving around the fact that we’d like a garden / woodland nearby so we can spend time with the birds and hopefully invite them into our own back garden.
5. Heck – I even found myself saying that I wanted to take a beautiful picture of a pigeon at the weekend!
6. We own far too many bird-spotting books for non-twitchers.
7. We are proud RSPB members and visit their reserves as often as we can.
8. I love the fact that my daily commute takes me past gaggles of geese everyday.
9. I did not freak out when a goose entered our bedroom at 3am one summer evening
10. On any drives around the UK my eyes are pinned skywards to try and identify kestrels, hawks and eagles.
If that doesn’t mean I’m a twitcher, what does?!
P.S Thankfully my husband has been converted too.
It’s more than worth a hike along the RSPB reserves at Bempton Cliffs towards the end of June and in July because you’re likely to see puffins resting on the cliffs and returning from the sea. You’ll have to look hard though – they are tiny birds and can be difficult to see amongst the colonies of gannets, guillemots and kittiwakes. Make sure you take wind-proof clothing and a good pair of binoculars and you’re likely to be rewarded with some very good sightings. RSPB volunteers also do puffin spotting tours in season, and are incredibly helpful in assisting you to spot various seabirds and birds of prey from the cliff edges.
During puffin season you can also take an RSPB seabird cruise from Bridlington harbour, providing you with an opportunity to view the cliffs from the water and see puffins in and around the sea. It’s excellent value and lasts 3-3.5 hours. The coastal scenery alone is wonderful and a great complement to the sheer bounty of seabirds that nest on the cliffs and fly around the boat. You’re likely to see gulls, kittwakes, gannets, puffins, guillemots, shags, cormorants and even skuas.
If it’s puffins you’re after then keep your eyes peeled for the fastest flying and smallest birds – unless they are taking off from the cliffs they tend to fly quite low to the surface of the water. They are easily spotted when trying to take off because they skip and bounce along the water with little grace, throwing spray high into the air (see below). Their bright orange feet, multi-coloured bills and tiny size easily differentiate them from the razorbills and guillemots also present.
Further images of puffins are available in the Taraji Blue Yorkshire photo gallery.