Birding Costa Rica 2022. February. Natalie Tanner and family. Part 2 of 3.

La Selva Biological station is run by the Organization for tropical studies, a consortium of about 50 universities from different parts of the world, located in Puerto Viejo de Sarapiqui, this research station is considered one of the must visit birding sites of Costa Rica to anyone who comes to Costa Rica.

We spent 2 nights in La Selva, and during our time here we had an extremely productive time, the open areas near the dinner and facilities offered looks at many birds including Great-green Macaw, Scaled Pigeon (which was quite common for several months there), lesser swallow-tailed Swifts, and the classic Snowwy cotinga which we got on the tall trees near the entrance.

Time spent in the trails was equally good, we got many of the expected birds but highlights included Sunbittern (spotted by Natalie!), Kentucky Warbler, Dusky-faced Tanager, Smoky-brown Woodpecker and others. Our night time outings allowed looks of Mottled Owl and Middle American Screech-Owl. Way to go!

Great Green Macaw, Ocellated Scorpion, Bullet ant, Rufous Motmots and Eyelash Pit-viper.

We did explore some spots outside of La Selva where we got birds such as Keel-billed Motmot at the local skate park, and the grasslands near the police station offered a lot of the typical seed-eaters, but the best birds we got there include Pied Puffbird, White-lined Tanager and Canebrake Wren.

White-nosed Coaties, Black-headed and Cinnamon-bellied Saltators, Crimson-collared Tanager and Green Thorntail.

Our next stope would be Los Chiles, so we could enjoy 2 boat rides with “Chambita”, however, these adventurous ladies decided to squeeze a stop in Mirador Cinchona, and what a great detour we took, here we got birds we never saw again on our trip such as the Green Thorntail, Coppery-headed Emerald, Black-bellied hummingbird, and Red-headed barbet among others.

We spent one night at a simple but convenient Hotel in Los Chiles, Hotel C y C, next to the hospital, the next morning we were ready to See Chambita at 6:15am and off we went on our first boat ride in Medio Queso.

Barnaby or ¨Chambita” as he is well known, is a terrific local guide who got us many of our targets we needed and a bit more, doing 2 boat rides with him in a day is a great idea since we got many of the aquatic species for the trip that we never got else where, Sungrebe, Limpkin, Pinnated Bittern, Jabiru, American Kestrel, Great Potoo, Olivaceous Piculet and just too many good birds! we all loved this trips.

It was time to head to our next destination; Arenal Observatory Lodge in La Fortuna.

Birding Costa Rica 2022. February. Natalie Tanner and family. Part 1.

What an epic trip this was! That’s how I would like to start this entry!

Natalie is a client and friend that I know from previous trips in the past for her and family, most recent at the end of 2021 and start of 2022! This trip was totally not planned for her, but once she learnt there was a cancellation for this time frame she did not hesitate to take the dates! what a brave choice!

Our trip started in the SJO airport, where I met her and her two nieces Claire and Hannah, late in the afternoon, so we essentially drove to San Gerardo, dealing with the heavy traffic of the capital city San Jose.

Next morning our day started at 5:45am! It was Quetzal time! we went to a Friend’s place to search for the resplendent Quetzal which we got immediately as we arrived. This was a very special way for these ladies to start our birding trip through Costa Rica.

In general, birding in San Gerardo de Dota is quite good, the most popular trail accessible to the public is the waterfall trail which we did for the morning, there we got good mixed flocks where we got many of the expected birds in this region, although Buffy Tuftedcheek was our most enjoyed highlight! Still, Streaked Xenops, Golden-browed Chlorophonia, Northern Emerald-toucanet, and many of the highland hummingbirds made it for a great first full-day in Costa Rica.

Male and female Resplendent Quetzal. Bottom Right: Everyone wants to see the Quetzal!
Hannah, Claire, Natalie and me. We soon started to call our team “The northern Nat-catchers”. Center right: Buffy Tuftedcheek.

Our next morning took us to the one of the highest peeks of the Talamanca mountains, the Cerro Buena vista (AKA summit of death), offer good chances to find the Volcano Junco, which we quickly got, then we moved to our next stop, the road that leads to Providencia. Unfortunately this part was very unproductive, and despite the fact we heard the Wrenthrush and Silvery Fronted Tapaculo neither came out for views, so we opted for plan b; go see my friend Cope in Guapiles area as an improvised stop in route to La Selva Biological station.

The stops we did at Braulio Carrillo produced Snowcap, Black-crested Coquette, striped Woodhaunter and others, King vultures were perhaps the bird that got Claire most excited as she spotted that when we were driving a busy road down the hill from Braulio Carrillo.

Cope’s place was so productive, our visit here produced Spectacled and Crested Owls, Bronze-tailed Plumeleteer and American Pygmy Kingfisher and other common species. This was certainly an excellent impression of the caribbean slope birding that was awaiting for them!

Birding in Costa Rica 2022 – January — The “Kempf clan”. Part 2 or 2.

After a long drive we manage to get to our accommodation, a beautiful villa on the southern flank of the Arenal Volcano in the town of El Castillo. Upon our arrival we did a short birding session where we got some common, but still nice to see birds such as Barred Antshrike, Least Grebe, Keel-billed Toucan, and Hepatic Tanager.

Next morning we left at 4:00am to Caño Negro (this group is a trooper!!). After a 2hr40 min drive we made it to Caño Negro where we met our local guide, the famous Chambita (Barnaby), this boat ride is excellent and always gets us great birds, thanks to Chambita’s deep knowledge of the area and its birds.

TOP: MaryAnne always making us laugh. Center Lori and Mark searching for Agami. Bottom: LuAnne photographing our boat.

His little more than 3hrs boat ride got us excellent birds, naturally many of the common/classic species to be expected on this type of habitat where Sungrebe, Jabiru, American Pygmy-Kingfisher, Black-collared Hawk were big highlights to us all. Unfortunately, despite how hard Chambita looked we missed on the Agami Heron.

This is the trip were I have seen the most Jabirues! We counted at least 16 individuals off the lookout tower in Caño Negro, plus this nest.
Top left and Bottom, the “Northern Motmots” a we decided to call the team!
Top right: Mr Jorge at Restaurant Luna Magica, my favorite place in Caño Negro.

Our next outing took us to the hanging bridges at Sky Walk in Fortuna, the trail system here is excellent and although it can get a bit busy at times, birding here still very productive and it is completely worth the visit. The views off the hanging bridges offer great chances to spot raptors such as Ornate Hawk-Eagle. After getting several mixed flock species led by White-shoulder Shrike-Tanager we came across an army Ant swarm, this was a great way to end our birding time here! Bicolored Antbirds, Spotted Antbirds, Zeledon’s Antbird, Ocellated Antbirds everywhere!

This is a fabulous group! I look forward to our next outing and lots of fun!

Birding in Costa Rica 2022 – January — The “Kempf clan”. Part 1.

Lori and Mark and clients and friends from Minnesota, whom I have guided for more than 6 times now and it is always a joy to see again and spend time exploring around every time they come with family and friends! a wonderful group with a great appreciation of the natural world and yes! birds!

Our first outing took us to the popular Manuel Antonio National park, where during a morning we got to watch a lot of the typical wildlife that is found here, including monkeys, sloths etc. A tour to Manuel Antonio national park never disappoints !

Our next outing took us to the famous Carara National park, a must visit for birders

Birding along the Lagoon trail. Orange-chinned Parakeet.

Carara offers a good trail system that allows access to good habitat for many forest-interior species. Our first stop was near the villa Lapas road where we got 44 species in a gap of 35 minutes where Purple-crowned Fairy, Orange-fronted Parakeet, Scarlet Macaw and Olivaceous Piculet were highlights.

Carara is a fabulous location that offers most of the central/south pacific specialties along with some of the northern, drier habitat birds such as Black-headed Trogon, Turquoise-browed Motmot, Long-tailed Manakin and more.

Along the trails here our group got nice birds such as Charming Hummingbird, the very unusual Long-tailed Woodcreeper, Worm-eating Warbler, Pale-billed Woodpecker, and Red-capped Manakin as the highlights of this session.

Biridng Carara is not complete if you do not visit the mangroves near Tarcoles, which we did! and got Ferruginous Pygmy-owl, White-browed Gnatcatcher (Formerly known as Tropical GC) and Common Black Hawk as our highlights.

It was time to more to our next destination, Fortuna/Arenal Volcano area.

Birding in Costa Rica 2022 — January 2022 Collins. Part 3 of 3.

Monteverde is a region well known for its cloud-forest and it’s important conservation efforts. Located on the Tilaran mountain range with elevations of about 1500 meters.
Among the first settlers that came here were Quakers back in the decades of the 50’s. These people have no interest to participate on the war, so they left their farms in areas such Alabama and found a peaceful new home where they could set their new dairy farms and also live their conservationists ideology. Setting one of the first private reserves in Costa Rica; Monteverde Cloudforest reserve, with 4125 hectares approximately.

We spent two nights here at Cala lodge. Small, family run lodge with great rooms and excellent location somewhat near down town and accessible to birding areas.

Our first visit was Curi-cancha reserve, a private reserve that offers excellent birding opportunities, windy conditions made birding a bit challenging but we still manage to get several birds such as Gray-throated Leaftosser, Ruddy Foliage-gleaner, Mottled Owl, Northern Emerald-toucanet and Goden-browed Chlorophonia. Unfortunately it was too early in the year for Bellbirds!

We did spend time in the hummingbird feeders at the entrance of Monteverde reserve, where we got Coppery-headed Emerald and Magenta-throated Woodstar as or highlights! Great photographs were produced here.

The Monteverde cloud-forest reserve was a bit quiet in the begging until we got lucky with a mixed flock (the typical birding pattern here in the cloud-forest) followed by an ant swarm where Dave got fantastic pictures, including Silvery-throated Jay! Zeledons andbird and so much more!

Sunsets in Monteverde can be quite impressive.

Overall, Monteverde was a bit slow in terms of birds, however we got several new species, after some cold days it was time to move to our next destination; Manuel Antonio area, my hometown. We took the San Luis route so we could stop to seek for the Ornate Hawk eagle at its nest, which we got! as well as other birds along the many stops we took.

Lazy man birding tours! where the guide enjoys the a/c, the client works to get the photo!

Once in the area, Dave and Mary spent some leisure time on their own for a couple of days, so they could enjoy the town and beach, no need for early start times! Our last outing included a visit to Esquipulas, a local patch where Dave and Mary had gone birding with me in the past, this time our focus was mostly the photography, and we sure had a great time getting some of the SE endemic species such as Fiery-billed Aracari, Golden-naped Woodpecker, Spot-crowned Euphonia and more!

Our trip came to its end, celebrated with a special dinner my friends treated us, what a nice way to end a trip where we all had a fantastic time, great birds! amazing food, hours of laughter, many lifers and photos, but above all great companion! I cannot wait to see you guys in Canada!

Above: Dave and Mary enjoy a Churchill. Below: My Wife Karina and Son Edrian, enjoying dinner with our friends.

Birding in Costa Rica 2022 — Introduction
Birding in Costa Rica 2022 — January 2022 Collins. Part 1.

Biring Costa Rica 2022 — January Collins. Part 2

Birding in Costa Rica 2022 — January 2022 Collins. Part 2.

Arenal volcano is one of the most touristy regions of Costa Rica, and often not thought as a destination to visit for birders, but, interestingly Birding in La Fortuna is superb, and due to the amount of trails, hotels and reserves La Fortuna and Arenal volcano area offers many great birding possibilities.

Our hotel (Arenal observatory lodge) is amazing, the scenic beauty is just amazing, but, most importantly is the birding here, during our stay here we got several good birds both at the feeders/gardens as well as the trails here.

Got great clear views of Arenal Volcano!

Every morning and afternoon we spent time checking the feeders and gardens where we got Emerald Tanager, Dull-mantled Antbird, Tawny-faced Gnatwren, Kentucky Warbler, Semi-plumbeous Hawk and Band-backed wrens as our highlights.

We took a 1-day visit to Medio Queso Wetlands and Caño Negro with the famous “Chambita” (Barnaby Romero), our early depart was paid with a sighting of an ocelot, a mid to small sized wild cat! after 2hr15min drive our adventure began, our first boat ride with Chambita was at Medio Queso, a large weltand just east of the town of Los Chiles, here we got many of the typical aquatic species you would expect, but our highlights included Yellow-breasted Crake, Pinnated Bittern, American pygmy-kingfisher, Nicaraguan Grackle and ending with a Great Potoo in the town of Los Chiles and a Jabiru nest! This boat ride is perfect not only for birders, but should be a must do to any bird-photographer visiting Costa Rica!

Boat ride in Medio Queso
Great Potoo and Jabiru at their nest.
Glossy Ibis.

After a series of stops along the way, and lunch we took our second boat ride in Caño Negro with Chambita, this was just as amazing as the morning ride, but in addition to all the great new birds for our trip (inlcuding Sungreebe), our best moment was when Chambita got us close to what many would consider the most beautiful heron in the Americas! The Agami Heron!

What a way to end this amazing day! Well worth the driven time!

In La fortuna, one of my favorite birding spots in the trails at Sky Adventures, their hanging bridges allow for great views of the forest Canopy and awesome chances for raptors, and mixed flocks, favorite birds here seen include Ocellated Antbird, Song Wren and Barred Hawk.

We could not leave La Fortuna without visiting the popular Boagarin trail, small patch overrun with tourist, but still is the best place in CR for crakes, where we got both Uniform and White-thorated Crakes.

It was time to move to our next spot, Monteverde Cloudforest.

Birding in Costa Rica 2022 — Introduction
Birding in Costa Rica 2022 — January 2022 Collins. Part 1.

Birding in Costa Rica 2022 — January 2022 Collins. Part 1.

Dave and Mary Collins are friends and clients from Canada. Birders who I have had the opportunity to guide in two separate years in the past, covering a lot of regions on the central and south pacific (near the Panama border) as well as La Selva, Cinchona and the San Gerardo de Dota area.

This time, our trip took us to the Caribbean slope, covering La Selva biological station, Boca Tapada, Arenal/La Fortuna area, Medio Queso and Caño Negro wetlands, Monteverde cloud-forest reserve and finally ending in Manuel Antonio area.

Our trip started off the Juan Santa Maria international airport, and drove intermediately to La Selva, not much birding was done due to the late arrival and airport delays, however, next morning, the sound of birds calling outside our rooms got us up and ready early, getting our first targets including the Blue-chested Hummingbird which is regularly seen on the Firebush (Hamelia patens) just outside Arriera-zompopa rooms. After several good common birds we then moved towards the main gate of the station and we kept looking for snowy Cotinga, unfortunately with no luck.

Chestnut-headed Oropendola. Regular at Cope’s place

After breakfast, we then drove to see Cope, (Jose Perez), his house has an amazing feeder that allows great looks at Bronze-tailed Plumeleteer, Russet-naped Wood-rail, several Tanagers and also Crimson-collared Tanager all which we got along many other great birds!

Cope is well known for finding some great owls species, our walk into the jungle produced Crested Owl, and Spectacled Owls, and American Pygmy-Kingfisher as our highlights!

Cope Never disappoints

Once back to the biological station we spent some time birding in the open area and spent some time over the Stone bridge. Good way to end a productive day!

During our time here in La Selva, we invest plenty of time in the open areas, great birds there include the Snowy Cotinga, a large variety of Tanager that feed on Melastomatacea and ficus trees. Once in the trail we got plenty of good birds, many to list them all but highlights include Semiplumbeous Hawk, Hook-billed Kite, King vulture, long-tailed Tyrant, fasciated and Great Antstrike, Purple-throated Fruitcrow and the only looks of Slaty-breasted Tinamou, we got on the trip were here. It was also nice to hear the calls of the Central American Pygmy-Owl, a pretty uncommon species that is elusive and difficult to find unfortunately we did not manage to see this in the bird despite how hard we tried.

La Selva offers other birding opportunities just outside the station, the short cut that brings to the “Comandancia” (Police station) where we got great looks at Great Green Macaws, Canebrake Wren, White-lined Tanager and then our last spot, the most random place I know where we can reliable get Keel-billed Motmot; the town playground!

Semiplumbeous Hawk, Eyelash Pit-viper and Spotted Antbird
Collared Peccaries are a classic in La Selva.

After our 3 nights here we then moved to Boca Tapada area, we lodged in Maquenque Eco-lodge, a place I knew Dave and Mary would have a fantastic time as Dave also enjoys photography. Along our drive we got birds such as Olivaceous Piculet and Golden Olive Woodpecker ( A bird I did not expect to find at that elevation), and Little Tinamou as our highlights.

Maquenque is a wonderful lodge and caters to bird photographers and Birdwatchers. During our time here we managed to photograph a lot of the classic bird such as Toucans and aracaries, Tanagers, King Vulture and just so much! Good birds seen included Black Hawk-eagle, Black-and-white Owl, and the beautiful Scarlet Macaws (so glad we got them since our trip did not include Carara area).

King Vulture
Pale-vented Pigeon

After some days on the Caribbean lowlands it was time to move to a different life zone, the Caribbean Foothills and mid elevations, specifically La Fortuna/Arenal Volcano area where we would spend 3 nights.

Birding in Costa Rica 2022 — Introduction

Birding in Costa Rica 2022 — Introduction

Hi there dear reader! welcome back!

It has been quite a while since my last post, lock-downs, pandemic, alternative jobs, oh what a roller coaster 2020 and 2021 were!

Late 2021 has certainly been better times and 2022 had brought somewhat a bit of normality vibe to our lives hasn’t it? Tourism is picking up and there has been a large amount of people who were just ready to leave and enjoy our natural world, oh boy does it feel great to be outside again!

The pandemic times meant hard times for all of us who work in the tourism industry, the first to take the first hit back in March 2020. With the vaccination hope came back and with it our tourists, from August 2021 and later tours got better and I found myself busy with many local tours in the Manuel Antonio area, San Gerardo de Dota, Carara and more.

A photo of me during my work in the Supermarket Pura vida, fun times in a whole different industry!

These trips to San Gerardo de Dota and Carara NP were so fun and brought back great memories from the many times I had guided many other visitors and allowed me to re-familiarize with birds and ecosystems that I had not visited during the early stages of the pandemic. Got new costumers and enjoyed seeing familiar faces too!

During the following posts, I will make a short summary of the birding trips I have guided during the Costa Rica’s summer of 2022. Stay tunned!

New York clients and friends Dennis and Kristin.
Habitat up in Cerro de La muerte, searching for Volcano Junco at 3400 meters of elevation.
Acorn Woodpecker

Bird-watching in Esquipulas during lockdown.

It has been hard times for those of us who depend on a fragile industry as tourism is. Borders are closed, and everyone is home (or at least trying to) to avoid this situation that is affecting the entire world, but ‘nough said about the Corona virus topic, let’s rather use that “free time” for positive things. In my case, I am fortunate to live in a rural place where we have space in our property, so we still manage to go outside and enjoy the outdoors safely.

On Easter week my wife and son managed to escape and spend some wonderful time camping in the forest of Esquipulas, a location where I run local birding tours (https://www.manuelantoniobirdwatching.com/esquipulas-birding-tour)  this time deeper into the jungle and joining other family members who live near us.

Manuel Antonio birdwatching

On this trip we spend nearly a week camping, surrounded by vast forest, beautiful moon and stars at night, as well as the cozy sounds of the common Pauraques at night! https://www.xeno-canto.org/545393  I knew I would have plenty of time to spend in the jungle, so I brought my Zennheinser Microphone/recorder as well as camera and of course binoculars. Most mornings I managed to escape and trek into the forest to collect some audio recordings, which produced some good stuff, including White-tipped Sicklebill, Chiriqui Foliage Gleaner, Riverside Wren, Northern Bentbill, White-throated Shrike Tanager and more. But, as usual, forest interior could always be a good place for other non-avian creatures such snakes, lizards and frogs!

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Scarlet-rumped Cacique builds its nest near a forest creek.

At camping ground included an improvised “wood stove” where we cooked our meals, water from a spring up the hill from where we were, we had all we needed! The property is beautiful and it is been prepared for some agriculture, which we enjoyed working and helping, including corn, beans, plantains and taro root.

 

 

 

Above: Me riding a horse with my Son Edrian after cutting some fire wood, below, a huge Turnip-tailed Gecko near our sleeping site, it measured approx 20cm from head to tail. There was a surprise or two every day!

When it comes to snakes, I spotted 2 forms of Eyelash Pit-vipers while hiking with Michael, a little closer than he liked! fortunately no accidents with it, later Jose -my wife’s uncle found a non-venemous Brown Vine snake, how lucky I was!

 

Creepy crawlers? You name it! although not many pictures of them since it wasn’t my focus I did manage to photograph a small (no bigger than a thumb nail) Trapdoor spider which I found while working on the field.

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Following are some of the birds I did manage to photograph:

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White-tipped Sicklebill

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Short-billed Pigeon

gray-crowned-yellowthroat-df-share

Gray-crowned Yellowthroat, a common morning song heard from the tent!

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Smooth-skinned Toad, AKA leaf-litter toad.

Scarlet-Rumped cacique song: https://www.xeno-canto.org/545472 and https://www.xeno-canto.org/545542

Olive-sided Flycatcher’s call: https://www.xeno-canto.org/545524

Scarlet-rumped Tanager’s calls: https://www.xeno-canto.org/545527

Gray-crowned Yellowthroat’s calls: https://www.xeno-canto.org/545533

Blue-black Grosbeak calls: https://www.xeno-canto.org/545537 According Avibase, this is an endemic sub-species shared with Nicaragua and West Panama. A total of 3 subspecies are recorded in Avibase.

Long-billed Gnatwren: https://www.xeno-canto.org/545539

Chiriqui Foliage-Gleaner, an endemic species shared with Panama : https://www.xeno-canto.org/545545 and https://www.xeno-canto.org/545563 and even a more interesting recording, contact calls made by two individuasl who sang, got closer to each other adn began to call like this: https://www.xeno-canto.org/545569

Gray-chested Dove: https://www.xeno-canto.org/545550

White-tipped Sicklebill, Flight call: https://www.xeno-canto.org/545554

Chestnut-backed Antbird: https://www.xeno-canto.org/545567

Below are two eBird lists I made:

https://ebird.org/checklist/S67117034

https://ebird.org/checklist/S67116998

Time flew by so quickly (as usual when you are having fun), it felt so nice to be disconnected from the news and media for a while and being outside, now we are at home and I cannot wait to go back!

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Introduction video to El Rey Marsh

Here is a new video that I made some days ago, this is a promo/intro video of El Rey Marsh, a local birding spot near Manuel Antonio national park where I lead professional bird watching tours locally.

Introduction video to El Rey Marsh

birdwatching manuel antonio

El Rey Marsh

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