Heliconia is named after Mount Helicon, the seat of the Muses, nine goddesses of the arts and sciences in Greek mythology. These are known as lobster-claw, wild plantain, flowering banana, parrot flower, macaw flower and false bird-of-paradise. Heliconiaceae in the order Zingiberales, are among the showiest plants of the Neotropical rainforest and represent a spectacular co-evolutionary adaptive radiation with hummingbirds. Heliconia originated in the Late Eocene (39 million years ago), making it the oldest known clade of hummingbird-pollinated plants. Heliconia, the only genus of the family Heliconiaceae, has approximately 120 species in tropical America and the western Pacific. These large perennial herbs have brightly colored bracts and bear numerous flowers. Heliconia are typically pollinated by hummingbirds. Most of the 194 known species are native to the tropical Americas, but a few are indigenous to certain islands of the western Pacific and Maluku. Several species are widely cultivated as ornamentals, and a few are naturalized in Florida, Gambia, Thailand and Costa Rica. The plants have stout, reed-like stems and are related to Tropical Gingers, Bird of Paradise, Bananas and Canna Lilies, whose leaves are all similar. These are all grouped in the order Zingiberales, which includes many familiar plants, and are used as ornamental plants (Bird of Paradise flower, Heliconias, Prayer-Plant, Tropical Gingers), food crops (bananas, plantains, arrowroot), spices and traditional medicines (ginger, cardamom, turmeric, galangal and myoga). I saw a nice selection of these plants when I visited Costa Rica this year and thought it would make an interesting post.
I can honestly say that the hummingbirds of Costa Rica are the most beautiful birds I have ever seen and I will share them with you in this post. Hummingbirds are from the New World and constitute the family Trochilidae. They are some of the smallest birds in the world and have the greatest metabolism of any animal. To keep energy when food is limited, and nightly when not foraging, they go into dormancy, a state similar to hibernation, slowing metabolic rate to 1/15th of its normal rate. They are known as hummingbirds because of the humming sound generated by their whipping wings which wave at high frequencies audible to humans. They flutter in mid-air at rapid wing-flapping rates, typically around 70 to 80 times per second, allowing them also to fly at speeds exceeding 34 miles per hour. Hummingbirds fall into nine main groups or clades, the Topazes and Jacobians, Hermits, Mangoes, Brilliants, Coquettes, the giant hummingbird Patagona, Mountain Gems, Bees, and Emeralds as established by DNA evidence. These clades also define their relationship to nectar-bearing flowering plants and the birds’ continued spread into new geographic areas. The brilliant, iridescent colors of hummingbird plumage are caused by the refraction of incident light by the structures of certain feathers. Like any diffraction grating or prism, these structures split light into its component colors, and only certain frequencies are then refracted back to your eyes. Thus, you have to be in a particular location with respect to the light and hummingbird to see the bright colors of the head and neck or gorget. I have arranged the hummingbirds in this post roughly by elevation with the highest elevations first and the lowest elevations last.
Situated among the mist-covered peaks of the Talamanca Mountains, Los Quetzales National Park was established in 2006. This park lies 47 miles southeast of San Jose, and you can easily reach this park from Manuel Antonio on the Pacific Ocean. From Jacó it’s about a two-hour trip. The entrance to the park is on Cerro de la Muerte, just before the turnoff for San Gerardo de Dota. Most of the park area is around the both side of the Savegre river that emerges in the Cerro de la Muerte and connects to the Pacific Ocean close to the Manuel Antonio National Park. it is surrounded by natural rainforest, breathtaking waterfalls, and beautiful canyons. This park includes not only rainforests but also cloud forests, formed by the collision of warm, moist Caribbean trade wind with the Talamanca mountain range which stretches from southwest of San José to beyond the border with Panama. When tiny droplets are deposited on surfaces before they collect together and fall as rain it’s called horizontal precipitation and in cloud forests it can be the main source of moisture. Peaks enveloped by trade wind-derived clouds can capture huge amounts of water when they are covered with tropical montane cloud forests. Their sponge-like epiphytes (mosses, ferns and bromeliads) massively increase the surface area for horizontal precipitation. Vibrantly colored, from the miniature to the gigantic, Los Quetzales flora is some of the most beautiful in the world. There seemingly endless tropical flower species and even orchids. Many can be found growing wild on the trunks of giant trees.
Over the years, I have used Panasonic cameras almost exclusively, due to their small size, reasonable cast and good image quality. Since I travel often, lightweight and small gear is a big positive for me. Last year, I decided to venture into wildlife photography, I visited Botswana and Madagascar on a safari and all the other travelers had full frame cameras, the Canon 5D Mark IV. While my Africa photos turned out well, I found myself wondering if I could get better quality with a full sensor camera and I chose the Sony A7RIII probably mostly due to the intense advertising by Sony and the fact that I love my Sony RX100MV. I expected the camera to be expensive but the real sticker shock came when I bought lenses and accessories. I used it for one birding trip to Arizona and returned everything as soon as I returned. The lenses were too big and heavy and surprisingly, with the Sony 100–400mm lens and a 1.4x teleconvertor, the photo quality just was not there. I bought the new Lumix G9 and I have been happy ever since. Consider this post a journal of my foray into the world of Sony full frame cameras, specifically the Sony A7RIII.