Paint billed crake at Coto 47.

    Paint-billed crake is, like most crakes, a secretive bird that dwells on thick grass rarely leaving concealment.

This particular crake has several reports on the Caribbean lowlands, including Sarapiquí area, Medio queso (Los Chiles) Turrialba near Rancho Naturalista, and Coto 47 near Villa Neily on the Pacific side.

Throughout the month of August, a birder friend Daniel Hernandez has reported repetitive sightings near Villa Neily, this located in the south Pacific of Costa Rica, at a site known as La Papayera road (the road that heads south of the hospital).

Thanks to his offers and helpful directions I finally decided to give it a try, this time accompanied by my wife Karina and  our son Edrian.

This map, taken from eBird shows the regions on which it has been reported.

We got to the spot little before 5:00am, what a wonderful moment did we enjoy with the different bird songs triggered by the sunrise! black-striped sparrow, streaked saltator, cherrie’s tanager and pale-breasted spinetail were among the first birds to sing.

After little less two hours finally the first crake responded to play back, this is the first part, the harder part was coming which is to actually get to see it! at about 7:20 I got the first glimpse of its back, although we needed better looks, something hard to achieve when you are holding a baby and trying to see a crake! Fortunately after 15 minutes we both finally got to see the bird much better, including one individual quickly crossing the road.

Paint-billed crake

What a treat to see this beautiful crake!

During our time there we got several birds including streaked saltator, pale-breasted spinetail, several migrating barn, and cliff swallows (accompanied by southern rough-winged swallows and gray-breasted martins) tricolored munias, large flocks of dickcissels, blue-headed parrots, brown-throated parakeets, a Savannah hawk and ruddy-breasted seedeater were among the favorites.

This road is quite birdy, and it should be visited if birding near sites such as Esquinas rainforest lodge, the road is known to produce other southern specialties such as sapphire-throated hummingbird, brown-throated parakeet, savannah and gray-lined hawks, ruddy breasted and yellow bellied seedeaters, and more.

This specie is quite common here.

Isthmian wren, a split from Plain wren.

Later we went to quickly explore the rest of the marshes at Coto 47, the place is huge and we were fortunate to finds a wattled Jacana not too far off the road near Colorado River, I had seen this specie in Panama on my 2 trips there, but only seen it in CR once only almost a year ago here at Coto 47.

Our quick morning visit produced an excellent lifer and some species for the annual list, I wonder now what would take us back to Coto 47, special thanks to Daniel Hernandez who not only knows where the good birds are at but is so kind to share his finds!

Male ruddy breasted seedeater

Following a Proverb: “Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it.” Today I got to show him the way to birds

 

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Birding trip to Cartago Part 2: Rancho Naturalista

Rancho Naturalista is unquestionably one of the best (if not the best) birding lodges in Costa Rica, not only loaded with a large variety of species, many of them specific targets when visiting CR, but also offers the visitors great lodging and top notch service.

After birding Tapanti we went to Rancho and spent the morning there, the gardens here are known to produce snowcap and black-crested coquettes with relative ease, sure enough after we parked our car we got our first 2 targets! While having our improvised breakfast we enjoyed the birds around the gardens such as black-headed saltator, various tanagers, green thorntail, keel-billed toucan, long-billed gnatwren and many more.

Male snowcap

White necked jacobin, a very common hummingbird here.

Black-crested coquette

Time to enter the forest, one of the things you must do here at Rancho is visit the moth light, which above the many birds that attend to feed here the highlight is Tawny-chested Flycatcher, until recently considered endemic to CR and Eastern Nicaragua, now apparently rare in eastern Honduras.

The party starts at down here!

Bright-rumped attila, normally hard to see on forest sub-canopy, here it literally comes to the ground level!

After enjoying some minutes here we started to walk the trails, soon after we entered we were fortunate to find a mixed flock, golden-crowned warblers, tawny-chested flycatcher, slaty antwrens, red-throated antwren, woodcreepers, slaty-capped flycatchers, common Chlorospingus various Tanagers and honeycreepers, but perhaps the best bird was a female Cerulian Warbler which allowed good views for some seconds (it’s been 2 years since my last cerulian!).

Then at the forest hummingbird feeder we got green-crowned brilliant, crowned woodnymph, green, and stripe-throated hermits, along with collared aracary, striped breasted wren and olive-backed euphonia.

Andres and I covered some of the trails here hoping to get some audio and were able to get clear (more and less) audio recording of the scaly-breasted wren (AKA southern nightingale-wren) a specie you hear quite often but to see is a whole different story!

Is not the quality of the picture what matters here, it is the specie in it! Scaly breasted wren

Recording: http://www.xeno-canto.org/385533

The forest hummingbird feeding station.

Rancho Naturalista

After some hours the activity slowed down, it was our time to leave and check other sites before returning back home, a stop at Hotel Casa Turire is a must as it allows access to La Angostura water reservoir, here we got at least 4 snail kites (juveniles and adults) a limpkin, along with the typical birds of this habitat.

At the end of the trip my favorite bird was rufous-rumped antwren, and my favorite phrase from Andres was “How fortunate we are to catch the sunrise birding with friends instead of catching the sunrise drinking at a bar, with no money, and issues”.

Andres and I scanning the water lilies from Casa Turire, photo by Oscar H.

From left to Right: Oscar Herrera, Karen Castillo, Eidel Chaves, Andres Chaves, Johan Chaves.

Birding trip to Cartago. Part 1; Aplomado falcon and Tapanti NP.

Aplomado Falcon (falco femoralis) is a casual to rare raptor that has been reported several times on the last few decades, with most sightings between 2010 to 2017.

Sunrise at 2500+masl

 

An individual has been reported lately in Coris, Cartago and it had been the best report of the month so far with many birders coming to see and many obtaining great shots of this beautiful falcon.

On September I had the chance to join some birding friends Karen Castillo, Andres Chaves (and son Eidel Chaves) and Oscar Herrera to search this species. We left Manuel Antonio at 1:45am and did some stops on the Talamanca/cerro de La Muerte mountain range to search for the rare Unspotted saw-whet owl which we did NOT see unfortunately but got at least one individual respond to our play back.

Once in Cartago we looked for the Falcon, which after 30 minutes or so Andres spotted hunting pigeons on a field right across Kimberly-Clark (see this ebird list for map details). The bird perches on the trees about 100 meters away from the fence, we failed obtaining permission to enter the field so we had to settle with distant (good though) views.

Other birds we did enjoy were some killdeers and mourning doves, which to North Americans might not be that special they sure are to Costa Rican birders!

Mourning dove.

Eastern meadowlark

After the joy of getting a new bird added to the life list we then went to look for sedge wren, a specie with an extremely reduced range, and unfortunately it’s habitat is disappearing rapidly, some say this is perhaps one of the species that might soon disappear if serious conservation efforts are not taken.

Once on site (a place I had seen it before thanks to a friend’s recommendation) we quickly got the bird, but better yet it allowed recordings, pictures etc! best view I had ever had of this wren.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Recording at:            http://www.xeno-canto.org/385130

Celebrating it! I can read the boys thoughts….

After that we left for Tapantí National park where we would spend the rest of the day, activity was a very slow with some of the common birds showing up such as spotted woodcreeper, white bellied emerald, chlorospingus, bay headed tanagers and more, until we were lucky to find a mixed flock! (that is the typical way of birding here on the caribbean middle elevation, you just hope for a mixed flock) of all of the birds we saw on this flock the highlights were white-winged tanager (which I only had seen at Panama), Louisiana waterthrush, black and white warbler (good news, migration is starting!) and the best of the day to me; Rufous-rumped antwren.

Tapanti is certainly a great site, and it can sometimes produce good surprises, often is good to combine with a visit to Rancho Naturalista and explore some of the hotspots nearby….. which we did of course.

Forest at Tapanti NP

 

Birding San Gerardo de Dota.

 

San Gerardo de Dota is nestled in the Savegre Valley, within the Talamanca mountains of Costa Rica. The Small country mountain village that several decades ago began to see the first lumberjack and hunters getting established now flourishes as a wonderful off the beaten track nature destination, specifically a great place for birders.

One of my favorite reasons for which I like birding San Gerardo as part of a one-day trip itinerary from Manuel Antonio is that one gets to cover different habitats and elevations in one day, ranging from 2000masl up to 3,200masl, thus allowing a good combination of species. The high peaks of the Talamanca Mountains it has created an interesting array of endemic species, most which which we share with Panama.

This week I had the opportunity to lead 2 Birding trips here, departing Manuel Antonio at 4:00am as the drive to get there normally takes about 2hr45min to 3hrs. However our first stop was little before reaching San Gerardo at a place called Villa Mills (see here for eBird hotspot), here elevation is little more than 3,000 meters above sea level, this gravel road loops around 1 km back to the main paved road, it is often birdy and produces some of the Highland must sees such as  timberline wren, Silvery-fronted tapaculo, barred becard, fiery throated hummingbird, black capped Flycatcher, and even with some luck Costa Rican pygmy-owl!

One of the treats you get to see when you wake up early!

the endemic (and fairly common) Flame throated warbler – Oreothlypis gutturalis

After some birding here for a short while it’s also good to stop at La Georgina restaurant, it is particularly good for those interested on photography as the hummingbird feeders often produce some nice close-ups to magnificent, fiery throated, volcano, and scintillant hummingbird, and oh don’t forget some hot coffee or chocolate!

Fiery-throated hummingbird – Panterpe insignis A very common CR-PA endemic.

Talamanca hummingbird-Eugenes spectabilis, a recent split from Eugenes fulgens. A new CR-PA endemic.

A convenient place to have breakfast during this trip is Miss Mariam’s restaurant, not only food is tasty, but the feeders can produce some of the common birds such as flame colored tanager, Acorn woodpecker, large-footed Finch, yellow-thighed finch and others, all while you wait for your food.

San Gerardo is known as one of the best places in Costa Rica for resplendent Quetzal, which we did see on both trips. After some good birds we continued to well known Waterfalls Road down the hill from the famous Savegre Lodge, gosh is good here! The trail that leads to the waterfall goes parallel to the Savegre river, which gives opportunities to spot torrent tyrannulet, American depper, as well as those forest species that often  forage with mixed flocks such as streak-breasted tree hunter, spotted Barbtail, spot-crowned with creeper, black cheeked warbler, yellow thighed finch, lineated foliage-gleaner and so much more.

Resplendent Quetzal

 

Most males are “tailless” during this time of the year.

Green-fronted lancebill-Doryfera ludovicae, spotted by Leonardo on the second trip! This is one of my favorite hummingbirds!

 

Tangara dowii — Spangle cheeked tanager

Talamanca Hummingbird, formerly conspecific with Magnificent hummingbird.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Not only the birds are wonderful here.

Needless to say both common and Sooty-capped chlorospingus are quite common and are a good indicative of the presence of a mix flock, often you can walk several minutes and find no bird, but suddenly a passing flock can entertain for minutes, keeping you busy watching either up to the canopy, understory or both! After a good birding session in route back to Manuel Antonio it is good to stop at the telecommunication towers up in Cerro Buena Vista, at 3400masl for volcano junco.

Cerro Asuncion, along with Cerro Buena Vista are among the highest peeks of Cerro De La Muerte. Paramo forest in the back.

If you are birding Manuel Antonio area, despite the fact that you might had already birded Monteverde visiting San Gerardo de Dota is a good idea that can put on some birds you might not get in MV, see a different habitat and enjoy some good cold weather while you are in the tropics!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Taxonomy updates! 2017

As usual, every July, the AOU publishes the AUK magazine, I am always keen to read it as the July supplement often comes loaded with interesting taxonomic changes, this year is not the exception. Below you will find a short summary on the CR species affected by this changes, this includes splits, new common/english names, new families and sub families.

SOURCE: http://www.americanornithologypubs.org/doi/pdf/10.1642/AUK-17-72.1

http://uniondeornitologos.com/?p=10929

Ducks:

Blue-winged and cinnamon teals, as well as northern Shoveler. Formerly in the genus Anas, now Spatula.

American wigeon, formerly in the Genus Anas, now Mareca.

Northern shoveler and blue winged teals, Spatula clypeata and S. discor respectively.

Hummingbirds:

Magnificent hummingbird (Eugenes fulgens) splits in 2, Rivoli’s hummingbird from South Arizona, New Mexico and Texas to North east Nicaragua. For Costa Rica: Talamanca hummingbird  (E. spectabilis) which is endemic to CR and Pa.

Toucans:

Emerald toucanet Aulacorhynchus prasinus: Split in 2, for CR Aulacorhynchus prasinus obtains a new common english name; Northern Emerald-Toucanet.

Northern emerald-toucanet

Sparrows:

Prevost’s ground-sparrow splits in 2; White faced ground-sparrow M.biarcuata from MX, Guatemala, Salvador and Honduras. Costa Rica gets a new endemic Melozone cabanisi; Cabanis’s Ground-Sparrow.

Blackbirds:

Red breasted blackbird AKA red-breasted meadowlark (Sturnella militaris) Changes to genus Leistes. English name is Red-breasted Blackbird. L. militaris

Male Leistes militaris Red-breasted Blackbird.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

New families:

Rhodinocinclidae; Rosy thrush-tanager

Passerellidae: members of the family Emberizidae (which disappears from CR) are now placed here, e.g finches, brush-finches, sparrows etc. Best known as New world sparrows.

Zeledoniidae: Includes one specie, wrenthrush (zeledonia) which was placed in Parulidae)

Icteriidae: this new family includes Yellow breasted chat, which was formerly placed on Parulidae.

Mitrospingidae: This new family includes Dusky-faced tanager which was placed in Thraupidae.

Rosy thrush-tanager gets a new family.

Subfamilies: see page 18 of the AUK supplement.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pictures down.

My apologies for the issue, apparently Photobucket changed their third-party sharing options and no longer allows the pictures hosted there to show here on the blog, that really bugs me as most of the illustrations to the different topics were hosted there. Flickr still allows to do that and that’s is why some few photos still show. I am yet to figure out an alternative site to Photobucket (suggestions are welcome).

 

Untill now, here is a test (hopefully replaces photobucket) from google photos, a Pacific Parakeet during my recent trip to Nicaragua!

Pacific Parakeet

 

Global bal big day 2017

On May 13th was celebrated the 3rd global big day as you all may know. I like to think of it as the Champion’s league or Super bowl of the birding community, a day we some expect eagerly and hope to go out do what we love, have fun and provide data for scientific use.

My friends Karen Castillo, Andres Martin Chaves, Oscar Herrera and I made a team which we called South CR endemics, our plan was get as many south east endemics as we could, as well as those none-endemic south east specialists.

Karen Castillo, Andres Chaves, Oscar Herrera, Johan Chaves, South CR endemics. Global big day,

From Left to Right: Karen Castillo, Andres Chaves, Oscar Herrera, Johan Chaves. Photo By Andres Chaves.

Our plan was to bird Esquinas Rainforest lodge for the morning, as well as the town of La Gamba, then move to Coto 47. To bird Las Pangas sector, the road to La Campiña, coto itself and then La Papayera road AKA Villa Neily Hospital road.

We left Quepos at 2:00am and soon after we picked up Oscar we got our first bird; Striped owl.  Then on route we stopped under the Baru/Dominical bridge as Andrés knew of some Barn owls which we saw, the downpour was so bad it slowed us on the road and we made it to La Gamba by Sunrise so we missed some of the owls we hoped for such as Black and white and spectacled.

We did some stops at La Gamba before reaching Esquinas and from the various birds we got the highlight was boat billed heron as we only saw it here.

Once at Esquinas, we took the river bed trail which is the flatter, easiest doing trail and often the most productive. Here we got black faced antthrush, striped woodhaunter, black striped woodcreeper and 2 of our main targets; black cheeked ant-tanager and baird’s trogon. 
On the gardens we got great curassow which are common and quite tame at the gardens, spot-crowned euphonia, charming hummingbird, bronzy hermit, slaty tailed trogon and rufous tailed jacamar and more.
Back on the trail, this time we did the Ocelot trail and went counterclockwise, black bellied wren, sulphur rumped flycatcher, riverside wren, black hooded antshrike were the good birds of the trail.  This trail was quite slow, and it is quite steep which doesn make birding too easy. Still, by 11:00am our team had registered 112 species! not bad considering the weather was not on our side. A proof of the EXCELLENT birding quality here at Esquinas/La Gamba!

Band-tailed barbthroat was quite common at Esquinas.

 

Lunch time!

After a quick lunch stop we moved to La Gamba, we got some of the needed birds such as Rusty margined Flycatcher which is regular close to Esquinas just 500 meters before on the corral area, scrub greenlet, pale-breasted spinetail, red-breasted blackbird(meadowlark), brown-throated parakeet and more. Then it was time to move to our next site; Coto 47.

Rufous-winged woodpeckerThe first site we covered here at Coto 47 was Las Pangas sector (thanks to Daniel Hernandez for teaching me about this site), where we got sapphire-throated hummingbird, veraguan mango, Savannah hawk (thanks to Oscar’s good eye and persistence!) red-rumped woodpecker, slate colored seedeater, blue headed parrot and some more! boom! time to Move to the road that leads to La Campiña to look for fork tailed flycatcher and wattled jacana, the last one unfortunately was not seen as it seems to appear sporadically any where here at Coto 47 (there are vast wetlands here where it can turn up!).

This is got to be the worst photo of a Savannah hawk

Not 1 or 2 but 4 red rumped woodpeckers!

Now our last targets, our last minutes and our lart energy! lesser yellow headed vulture and grey-lined hawk, we drove to the La Papayera sector AKA the Villa Neily hospital road, we quickly succeeded with the hawk but were not lucky with the vulture. This also produced striped cuckoo and great antshrike which were new for the list.

 

Grey (gray) lined hawk, although this poor picture does not show good detail, the gray lines/barring on its wing,back and head/nape are quite visible and its call is different to what we are use to hear from its recent split Gray hawk.

Considering that the weather was not in our favor, and despite that some of the “easy” endemics such as fiery billed aracary and even some of the easy and common birds such as lesson’s motmot, thick-billed euphonia, slaty spinetail etc were not registered we felt we had an excellent day birding, our team recorded about 179 species which you can see on the list I extracted from eBird (such handy tool!) to that list I need to add barn and striped owls.

Cheers to Patrick O’Donnell and team who got approximately 230 species, the largest number scored for CR during the 2017 GBD!

 

Species Name May 13 May 14 May 15 May 16 May 17 May 18 May 19
Great Tinamou (Tinamus major) 4
(1)
Black-bellied Whistling-Duck (Dendrocygna autumnalis)
Blue-winged Teal (Anas discors) 2
(1)
Crested Guan (Penelope purpurascens) 2
(1)
Great Curassow (Crax rubra) 4
(1)
Marbled Wood-Quail (Odontophorus gujanensis) 2
(1)
Wood Stork (Mycteria americana) 5
(2)
Neotropic Cormorant (Phalacrocorax brasilianus) 1
(1)
Bare-throated Tiger-Heron (Tigrisoma mexicanum) 4
(2)
Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias)
Great Egret (Ardea alba) 25
(2)
Snowy Egret (Egretta thula) 1
(1)
Little Blue Heron (Egretta caerulea) 5
(3)
Tricolored Heron (Egretta tricolor) 1
(1)
Cattle Egret (Bubulcus ibis) 22
(3)
Green Heron (Butorides virescens) 8
(3)
Boat-billed Heron (Cochlearius cochlearius) 4
(2)
White Ibis (Eudocimus albus) 8
(2)
Black Vulture (Coragyps atratus) 33
(4)
Turkey Vulture (Cathartes aura) 14
(4)
Swallow-tailed Kite (Elanoides forficatus) 3
(1)
Savanna Hawk (Buteogallus meridionalis) 1
(1)
Roadside Hawk (Rupornis magnirostris) 5
(3)
Gray-lined Hawk (Buteo nitidus) 2
(1)
White-throated Crake (Laterallus albigularis) 2
(2)
Gray-cowled Wood-Rail (Aramides cajaneus) 3
(1)
Uniform Crake (Amaurolimnas concolor) 1
(1)
Purple Gallinule (Porphyrio martinicus) 2
(2)
Southern Lapwing (Vanellus chilensis) 2
(1)
Northern Jacana (Jacana spinosa) 16
(2)
Wilson’s Phalarope (Phalaropus tricolor) 5
(1)
Spotted Sandpiper (Actitis macularius) 1
(1)
Lesser Yellowlegs (Tringa flavipes) 1
(1)
Pale-vented Pigeon (Patagioenas cayennensis) 27
(2)
Short-billed Pigeon (Patagioenas nigrirostris) 8
(1)
Plain-breasted Ground-Dove (Columbina minuta) 3
(1)
Ruddy Ground-Dove (Columbina talpacoti) 26
(3)
Blue Ground-Dove (Claravis pretiosa) 13
(2)
Ruddy Quail-Dove (Geotrygon montana) 1
(1)
White-tipped Dove (Leptotila verreauxi) 17
(4)
Gray-chested Dove (Leptotila cassinii) 4
(1)
Smooth-billed Ani (Crotophaga ani) 34
(3)
Striped Cuckoo (Tapera naevia) 1
(1)
Squirrel Cuckoo (Piaya cayana) 2
(1)
Barn Owl (Tyto alba) 1
(1)
Common Pauraque (Nyctidromus albicollis) 2
(1)
White-collared Swift (Streptoprocne zonaris) 9
(1)
Costa Rican Swift (Chaetura fumosa) 7
(2)
Bronzy Hermit (Glaucis aeneus) 1
(1)
Band-tailed Barbthroat (Threnetes ruckeri) 4
(2)
Long-billed Hermit (Phaethornis longirostris) 4
(1)
Stripe-throated Hermit (Phaethornis striigularis) 2
(1)
Veraguan Mango (Anthracothorax veraguensis) 5
(1)
Violet-headed Hummingbird (Klais guimeti) 1
(1)
Scaly-breasted Hummingbird (Phaeochroa cuvierii) 11
(3)
Crowned Woodnymph (Thalurania colombica) 5
(1)
Charming Hummingbird (Amazilia decora) 8
(1)
Rufous-tailed Hummingbird (Amazilia tzacatl) 6
(3)
Sapphire-throated Hummingbird (Lepidopyga coeruleogularis) 3
(1)
Blue-throated Goldentail (Hylocharis eliciae) 4
(1)
Slaty-tailed Trogon (Trogon massena) 1
(1)
Baird’s Trogon (Trogon bairdii) 2
(1)
Gartered Trogon (Trogon caligatus) 1
(1)
Black-throated Trogon (Trogon rufus) 2
(1)
Ringed Kingfisher (Megaceryle torquata) 2
(1)
Amazon Kingfisher (Chloroceryle amazona) 1
(1)
Rufous-tailed Jacamar (Galbula ruficauda) 2
(1)
Yellow-throated Toucan (Ramphastos ambiguus) 6
(2)
Golden-naped Woodpecker (Melanerpes chrysauchen) 12
(3)
Red-crowned Woodpecker (Melanerpes rubricapillus) 22
(4)
Red-rumped Woodpecker (Veniliornis kirkii) 4
(1)
Rufous-winged Woodpecker (Piculus simplex) 2
(1)
Lineated Woodpecker (Dryocopus lineatus) 2
(1)
Crested Caracara (Caracara cheriway) 6
(3)
Yellow-headed Caracara (Milvago chimachima) 10
(4)
Laughing Falcon (Herpetotheres cachinnans) 1
(1)
Orange-chinned Parakeet (Brotogeris jugularis) 24
(2)
Brown-hooded Parrot (Pyrilia haematotis) 1
(1)
Blue-headed Parrot (Pionus menstruus) 6
(3)
Red-lored Parrot (Amazona autumnalis) 6
(3)
Brown-throated Parakeet (Eupsittula pertinax) 13
(3)
Crimson-fronted Parakeet (Psittacara finschi) 9
(2)
Great Antshrike (Taraba major) 2
(1)
Black-hooded Antshrike (Thamnophilus bridgesi) 4
(1)
Dot-winged Antwren (Microrhopias quixensis) 6
(1)
Dusky Antbird (Cercomacroides tyrannina) 2
(1)
Chestnut-backed Antbird (Poliocrania exsul) 8
(1)
Bicolored Antbird (Gymnopithys bicolor) 2
(1)
Black-faced Antthrush (Formicarius analis) 3
(1)
Wedge-billed Woodcreeper (Glyphorynchus spirurus) 3
(1)
Cocoa Woodcreeper (Xiphorhynchus susurrans) 9
(3)
Black-striped Woodcreeper (Xiphorhynchus lachrymosus) 7
(1)
Streak-headed Woodcreeper (Lepidocolaptes souleyetii) 6
(2)
Plain Xenops (Xenops minutus) 2
(1)
Buff-throated Foliage-gleaner (Automolus ochrolaemus) 2
(1)
Striped Woodhaunter (Automolus subulatus) 1
(1)
Pale-breasted Spinetail (Synallaxis albescens) 4
(2)
Southern Beardless-Tyrannulet (Camptostoma obsoletum) 2
(1)
Yellow Tyrannulet (Capsiempis flaveola) 6
(2)
Yellow-bellied Elaenia (Elaenia flavogaster) 4
(2)
Ochre-bellied Flycatcher (Mionectes oleagineus) 4
(2)
Paltry Tyrannulet (Zimmerius vilissimus) 5
(2)
Scale-crested Pygmy-Tyrant (Lophotriccus pileatus) 3
(1)
Northern Bentbill (Oncostoma cinereigulare) 2
(1)
Common Tody-Flycatcher (Todirostrum cinereum) 16
(4)
Eye-ringed Flatbill (Rhynchocyclus brevirostris) 2
(1)
Yellow-olive Flycatcher (Tolmomyias sulphurescens) 4
(2)
Sulphur-rumped Flycatcher (Myiobius sulphureipygius) 1
(1)
Eastern Wood-Pewee (Contopus virens) 1
(1)
Alder/Willow Flycatcher (Traill’s Flycatcher) (Empidonax alnorum/traillii) 2
(2)
Bright-rumped Attila (Attila spadiceus) 3
(1)
Rufous Mourner (Rhytipterna holerythra) 1
(1)
Dusky-capped Flycatcher (Myiarchus tuberculifer) 1
(1)
Myiarchus sp. (Myiarchus sp.) 4
(1)
Great Kiskadee (Pitangus sulphuratus) 29
(4)
Boat-billed Flycatcher (Megarynchus pitangua) 11
(4)
Rusty-margined Flycatcher (Myiozetetes cayanensis) 6
(2)
Social Flycatcher (Myiozetetes similis) 11
(4)
Gray-capped Flycatcher (Myiozetetes granadensis) 14
(4)
Streaked Flycatcher (Myiodynastes maculatus) 2
(2)
Piratic Flycatcher (Legatus leucophaius) 15
(4)
Tropical Kingbird (Tyrannus melancholicus) 22
(3)
Fork-tailed Flycatcher (Tyrannus savana) 1
(1)
Rufous Piha (Lipaugus unirufus) 1
(1)
Blue-crowned Manakin (Lepidothrix coronata) 1
(1)
Orange-collared Manakin (Manacus aurantiacus) 4
(1)
Red-capped Manakin (Ceratopipra mentalis) 3
(1)
Black-crowned Tityra (Tityra inquisitor) 1
(1)
Masked Tityra (Tityra semifasciata) 3
(1)
Scrub Greenlet (Hylophilus flavipes) 8
(3)
Green Shrike-Vireo (Vireolanius pulchellus) 1
(1)
Tawny-crowned Greenlet (Tunchiornis ochraceiceps) 4
(1)
Lesser Greenlet (Pachysylvia decurtata) 10
(1)
Southern Rough-winged Swallow (Stelgidopteryx ruficollis) 7
(2)
Gray-breasted Martin (Progne chalybea) 12
(2)
Mangrove Swallow (Tachycineta albilinea) 3
(1)
Scaly-breasted Wren (Microcerculus marginatus) 2
(1)
House Wren (Troglodytes aedon) 14
(4)
Black-bellied Wren (Pheugopedius fasciatoventris) 3
(2)
Isthmian Wren (Cantorchilus elutus) 6
(3)
Riverside Wren (Cantorchilus semibadius) 6
(1)
Long-billed Gnatwren (Ramphocaenus melanurus) 2
(1)
Tropical Gnatcatcher (Polioptila plumbea) 1
(1)
Swainson’s Thrush (Catharus ustulatus) 1
(1)
Clay-colored Thrush (Turdus grayi) 30
(4)
Tropical Mockingbird (Mimus gilvus) 2
(1)
Buff-rumped Warbler (Myiothlypis fulvicauda) 1
(1)
Gray-headed Tanager (Eucometis penicillata) 3
(1)
White-shouldered Tanager (Tachyphonus luctuosus) 2
(1)
White-throated Shrike-Tanager (Lanio leucothorax) 10
(2)
Cherrie’s Tanager (Ramphocelus costaricensis) 34
(4)
Blue-gray Tanager (Thraupis episcopus) 14
(4)
Palm Tanager (Thraupis palmarum) 19
(4)
Golden-hooded Tanager (Tangara larvata) 6
(2)
Red-legged Honeycreeper (Cyanerpes cyaneus) 1
(1)
tanager sp. (Thraupidae sp.) (Thraupidae sp. (tanager sp.)) 1
(1)
Blue-black Grassquit (Volatinia jacarina) 15
(4)
Ruddy-breasted Seedeater (Sporophila minuta) 1
(1)
Thick-billed Seed-Finch (Sporophila funerea) 2
(2)
Variable Seedeater (Sporophila corvina) 12
(3)
White-collared Seedeater (Sporophila torqueola) 21
(4)
Yellow-bellied Seedeater (Sporophila nigricollis) 7
(2)
Bananaquit (Coereba flaveola) 6
(4)
Buff-throated Saltator (Saltator maximus) 10
(3)
Streaked Saltator (Saltator striatipectus) 1
(1)
Black-striped Sparrow (Arremonops conirostris) 14
(4)
Orange-billed Sparrow (Arremon aurantiirostris) 6
(1)
Black-cheeked Ant-Tanager (Habia atrimaxillaris) 8
(1)
Blue-black Grosbeak (Cyanocompsa cyanoides) 6
(2)
Eastern Meadowlark (Sturnella magna) 1
(1)
Red-breasted Meadowlark (Sturnella militaris) 17
(2)
Melodious Blackbird (Dives dives) 3
(2)
Great-tailed Grackle (Quiscalus mexicanus) 24
(3)
Bronzed Cowbird (Molothrus aeneus) 11
(2)
Scarlet-rumped Cacique (Cacicus uropygialis) 10
(1)
Crested Oropendola (Psarocolius decumanus)
Spot-crowned Euphonia (Euphonia imitans)

 

Quick birding at Las Heliconias lodge

The view from the room, notice the Miravalles volcano on the back, picture taken at 5:30am.

Las Heliconias lodge, located on Bijagua de Upala (see map), right at the foothills of Tenorio volcano, between Tenorio and Miravalles volcanoes. This rural lodge is mostly known by birders as one of the best sites in Costa Rica for the rare Rufous-vented ground cuckoo.

During a short vacation trip around the northern half of CR, my wife and I managed to add one night at this site as I had heard so much about it and wanted to experience it myself (and maybe try our luck with the cuckoo right!?) so we spent one night here, we got to the lodge late in the evening and immediately had some rest, notice that their restaurant only cooks dinner if ordered in advance, so we had to have  dinner at the town of Bijagua which is about 3-4 km down the mountain form the lodge on a dirt track in decent (ok, maybe little less than decent) conditions.

Breakfast here is included on the price and it is served at 7:00am, so I was up and ready at 5:30am since I wanted to be in the forest closest to sunrise as possible and bird until breakfast time, however for my surprise it was very, very quiet, perhaps due to the nestling season since most of our resident birds are nesting by now. The first bird to call and appear was Carmiol’s tanager and seconds later a tody motmot! The light did not allow photos but since it was close it allowed excellent views on the binoculars, a bird I have not seen very often as it is located on the very small patch on the middle elevation of the Guanacaste cordillera. What a start!

After some minutes and now with decent light the other common birds started to make their appearance; golden crowned warbler, spotted antbird, scale crested pigmy tyrant, green hermit and more and then bicolored antbird this one really got me excited as it could mean that there could be army ants around (the only way to see the cuckoo) but unfortunately it was a single bird and there were no ants nor other birds with it, a real bummer.

The map at Heliconias, Notice how the suggested route is counter clockwise. There is another trail not shown on the map which is called the “Short loop” located on the right of the buildings/rooms which has no hanging bridges.

Male spotted antbird, a handsome-common antbird here at Heliconias.

After breakfast we walked back and did the main hanging bridge loop going counterclockwise, and then we took the shorter loop on the right side of the cabins, both were good and got some nice birds such as spotted anbirds, nightingale wren (first of the year), another tody motmot, great curassow, long tailed manakin, black-throated trogon and more of the common species. But despite our efforts we saw no army ants nor any cuckoo (but that is what we were prepared for).

The hanging bridges trail

This is part of the short loop trail.

At the end of the day I felt that the place could had produced more but again that could be justified by the nestling season or just our bad luck. Anyhow I hope to be back and get this cuckoo and experience the fame of this site.
The trails at Heliconias are good, relatively easy and nicely maintained, their hanging bridges seemed in good conditions and allows good canopy views. The forest is beautiful and host large mammals such as tapirs (we saw fresh tracks) and jaguars, one of the ladies that work here and live at the lodge told us she saw a jaguar between the rooms and the dinner not long ago, so for your safety do not go owling alone!

Male streak-crowned antvireo. Seen at the short loop trail.

 

Female Streak-crowned antvireo

Streak-crowned antvireo call

Most hanging bridges look like this

Additional notes:

  • The third bridge is down as a large tree fell on it due to the Otto hurricane from last rainy season. No plans for a replacement, or at least in the nearby future but the trail that goes down and up that ravine was quite productive. Here I recorded this Northern nightingale-wren

-Henry is a guide who had led tours at Las Heliconias for  about 12 years, he knows the movements of the army ants and the cuckoo like no one else there at Bijagua, he is your first option if birding Las Heliconias, his cellphone is 8647-5966.

-The phone number of Heliconias +506 2466-8483

-Food available at the lodge.

-Bijagua is a small tow with restaurants and even fast food restaurants, banks and some very few hotels. Nearby is the Volcan Tenorio NP and the famous rio celeste which you should not miss.

The diner

Rio celeste.

Birding Carara National Park / Headquarter trails.

It is finally slow season to us who work in the tourism industry here in CR, it is also the start of the rainy season, and on the bitter side, the end of the NA bird migration.

We constantly joke on how the next few months we are restricted to see toucans, macaws, tanagers, cotingas and trogons, so warblers, waxwings, peeps, orioles, ducks, empids, hawks, buntings etc will be missed greatly, but oh well, I can live with that!

On April 26th, my friends Andres Chaves (socio) and Karen Castillo took the day and went to Carara National park, yes, our local patch where we go very, very often, but this time is different as it s not the same to lead a trip to clients than to do your own personal birding, our main interest was to look for the species we seldom see, but above all to play with our toys, cameras and recorders! In short, do what we love.

We were basically focused on the headquarter trails (Universal, Encuentro de ecosistemas, Quebrada bonita and Araceas) and rather passed on the lagoon trail. We were specifically looking for scaly-throated leaf-tosser,  long tailed woodcreeper, and yellow-billed cotinga.

We got to Carara at 7:15am and spent the entire day (Notice that Carara opens from 7:00am to 4:00pm from December to April and from 8:00am to 4:00pm from May to through November), soon after we entered we were lucky enough to spot a leaftosser, doing ti’s thing; tossing leafs from side to side in search for food, we tried to get some photos but despite our attempts this is the only one I could get, also recordings were ok as this is a bit of an elusive bird.

A bad quality photo but here is the leaftosser. Canon 50D + Canon 100-400 4-5.6 lens. ISO cranked way up to 3200 to at least get documentation photo.

 

One of the best things about birding Carara NP is that unlike other parks like Manuel Antonio this site is not too crowded and particularly now on slow season. The trails here consist on a series of loops, well maintained, with some gravel which allows a silent approach to birds, and are wide enough to allow the free pass to other walkers and use tripods etc but narrow enough to not disturb the habitat.

 

 

A recording I managed to get from the leaftosser. http://www.xeno-canto.org/366674

Green and black poison-dart frogs are very, very common during the transition to wet season. 

As we continued we got basically various mixed flocks where white-shoulder tanager was present, so it produced bay headed tanagers, lesser and tawny crowned greenlets, some woodcreepers, rufous-capped warblers, and more, also, we saw on various occasions small groups of chestnut backed antbirds foraging with river side, rufous breasted wrens, orange billed sparrows and many black-faced antthrushes, the last ones are common, but, today we saw at least 18 individuals (actually seen, plus those we heard) normally on a birding trip and points them 2 to 3 times then you flip the page to the next bird.

 

Call recording I got of Black-faced antthrush. http://www.xeno-canto.org/366685

Northern bentbill, picture taken using an iPhone 7 and a ATX Swarovski telescope #digiscoping. This little one was quite cooperative indeed but normally it is found above eye level and is quite active.

Gray headed tanager carrying food to its nest. Photo Taken using digi-scoping technique using Canon 50D + Swarovski TLS APO + Swarovski ATX 65mm telescope.

After various birds and hours later we were fortunate to find and group of army ants foraging (Eciton burchelli) and then we knew we were going to spend some good time there recording and photographing, however the colony was a bit small and we got basically chestnut backed antbirds, black faced antthrushes, northern barred, cocoa, streak headed and tawny winged woodcreepers, ruddy tailed flycatcher, white whiskered puffbird, lesson’s motmot (former blue crowned) and sulfur-rumped flycatcher.

Bicolored antbird, besst looked for with the ants.

Buff-throated foliage gleanner posed for the picture.

One of the at least 5 Tawny winged woodcreepers that attended the swarm.

White whiskered who?   We continued back and needed one more bird for Karen, streak chested antpitta which fortunately she got to see quite well, although we could not photograph we managed to get a recording, here a short recording of the bird calling naturally: http://www.xeno-canto.org/366688

 

We all had a fun time in the field and truly enjoyed Carara, as I always do no matter how many times I had been here, we now hope our next trip would be May 13th so we can join the global big day, I hope we can work that out.

Slaty tailed trogon excavating a nest inside a termite nest.

Male baird’s trogon. It is simple, Carara is trogon country.

food break!

Posing at the new Carara sign with friends Karen Castillo and Andres Chaves.

 

Birding Bajos del Toro and Boca Tapada areas. Part 2

April 9th, 5:45am up and ready!

Since breakfast was served at 7:30am I decided to bird the loop that goes around the gardens again and checked the lagoons, this time I got lucky with a sungreebe sitting on a log for a few seconds. I basically did the loop around the main pond and got essentially the same birds as yesterday, red-winged blackbird, canebrake wren, tanagers, white riged fc, green ibises, collared aracary, keel billed toucan, nothing I had not seen yesterday except for cinnamon becard and the sungreebe. After breakfast our plan was to bird the forest trail, although our plan was messed by the rain (remember it is quite rainy here) after some minutes the rain stopped and I managed to walk into the forest, it was very slow and all the activity was basically outside in the gardens, I felt there was no point to continue and instead went out to Laguna Lagarto lodge, another site I needed to visit.

Maquenque map

Long tailed tyrant were quite common at the gardens

An important note is that the google marker for laguna is incorrect, there are 3 markers indeed, Laguna is about 4km past Maquenque here is the real marker.

Once we got to Laguna for my surprise I found a friend there leading a trip, Herman Venegas, who after a quick hello pointed a central American pigmy-owl! And bam! Another bird added to the life list!

I was fortunate to see mr Alex Vargas (whom I met the night before at Maquenque) a renowned Costa Rican photographer/photography instructor residing in Indonesia. A special thanks to both Herman and Alex who shared their knowledge and time with me.

Once here basically I checked the feeders, and I now see how the Costa Rican photographer community get those incredible shots of keel billed toucans and brown hooded parrots!

There are boats on site so one can paddle along the lagoons in search for agami heron which is seen here often, as well as for those common species associated to this habitat.

The lodging here is more basic than that of Maquenque lodge, it is also much more affordable than Maquenque, nonetheless the rooms are nice and clean, food is good and reasonably priced, the food at Maquenque is really good but be ready to pay little more too. In terms of birding and photography opportunities Laguna Lagarto is unquestionable the best! birds, feeders, trails, guides, hides etc.

Laguna lagarto map, 10km of trails!

Black-cheeked woodpecker, this beautiful woodpecker is very common on the caribbean slope of CR.

Back in Maquenque, the night was quite active, heard and saw lots of common (super common) pauraques, a distant common potoo and a nearby great potoo about 30-40 yards from our cabin.

The next morning (April 10th) I did manage to bird the trails at Maquenque for an hour before leaving and had fun seeing great tinamous, olive-backed euphonia, crowned woodnymph, a surprise gray catbird which I had not seen in a while and olive crowned yellowthroat (recording below). The trails are nice and clean, and the forest is a bit mature so expect slow birding as it is typical of forest interior, good chances for red-capped manakin, some antbirds, some woodcreepers and more.

http://www.xeno-canto.org/364036/embed?darkbg=1′ scrolling=’no’ frameborder=’0′ width=’340′ height=’220′

white nosed coaties are common here

Striped cuckoo, last bird of the trip.Contacts: https://maquenqueecolodge.com/es/inicio/

http://www.lagarto-lodge-costa-rica.com/

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