Sunday, March 11, 2012

Costa Rica 2012 - Trip Report Part 2

WORLDWIDE BIRDING TOURS: Costa Rica 2012

February 2nd to 16th 2012

Brief Daily Account

Tour Leader: Peter Jones
Tour Guide: Steven Easley
Author: Peter Jones

A bird species list will appear as an appendix to the main tour trip reports, please see Trip Report Part 3.
The tour trip report is posted in three parts, this the second part deals with our excursions in and around La Selva, Arenal and Punta leone. Here we visited Lake Arenal, the famous Hanging Bridges, Guacimo Road, Carara National Park and of the Tarcoles River.


Day Eight 9th February

We had a relaxed morning and a latish breakfast before we packed and headed for the track that took us through the wetland area known as Pangola Marsh. White-throated and Grey-breasted Crakes were seen and heard, whilst Purple Swamphen was skirting the fringes of the reedbeds. Lineated Woodpecker was hammering hard on the trunk of a nearby dead tree with Snowy and Great Egrets both wading in the open waters of the marsh. Overhead Double-tooth Kite were displaying and a Hook-billed Kite drifted by wondering what the other kites were getting so excited about. Olive-throated Parakeet skipped around in the nearby treetops and Ringed and Green Kingfisher dived from their overhanging perches to feed on an abundance of fishes. It was around here and La Selva where we saw Shiny Cowbird, a recent arrival to Costa Rica from southern parts of the continent. We eventually arrived at our lunch stop and shop around in La Fortuna, adding a few raptor and river birds to our tour list. The drive to our lodge was fruitful seeing Great Curassow, which we saw later under the feeders at the lodge, with an encounter of a very large flock of mixed warblers and tanagers, including Rufous-tailed Jacamar, Blue Dacnis and Silver-throated Tanager.

Day Nine 10th February

Early morning birding concentrated on the area immediately around our lodge, extensive forest and gardens with open areas made for some great bird sightings. Larger birds were putting in appearances such as Grey-headed Chachalaca (always sounds to me like a hot chocolate drink), Crested Guan and Great Curassow, with Swallow-tailed Kite and White Hawk overhead in good numbers. The undoubted star of the show for our morning’s effort was Black Hawk-Eagle, great views and caused a deal of excitement for all. Later we ventured down to the shores of Arenal Lake and with surrounding forest our species list was soon growing apace. Our visit to the shores began accompanied by the squawks and general racket of several parrot species, they always seem to sound angry, among these were Orange-chinned Parakeet, Brown-hooded, White-crowned, White-fronted and Red-lored Parrot. Violaceous Trogon showed well and didn’t really register to the group why it should now be called Gartered Trogon, but there you go, who knows why folk have to change familiar names? Most exciting for us all was to track down Keel-billed and Broad-billed Motmot, although a displaying Pale-billed Woodpecker also gave stunning views!

Day Ten 11th February

Our day began with a short amble around the gardens of the lodge before taking an early breakfast in preparation for our visit to the famous Arenal Hanging Bridges. Your man here did the inexplicable thing of leaving his walking boots back in Spain, so the pathways proved particularly unforgiving on the soles of my feet, but the birdlife made-up for any discomfort. On our approach to the hanging bridges we managed King Vulture and a reasonable view of Laughing Falcon, whilst White-collared and Vaux’s Swift wheeled overhead, but we also managed our first sighting of Lesser Swallow-tailed Swift. Around the walkways we saw Dusky Antbird, Spotted Antbird and again Broad-billed Motmot. It is always good to visit this area as it normally produces single records of birds we might otherwise miss and so it was on this occasion with sightings of Slate-coloured Grosbeak and we also saw the elusive Northern-barred Woodpecker. Visiting the forest near to our lodgings and seeking an ant swarm we were lucky to happen on the feeding frenzy of antbirds as they accompanied the horde of army ants, these birds become totally obsessed with feeding and allowed excellent close viewing, we saw Immaculate, Spotted, bicoloured, Dusky and Ocellated Antbird, all at very close quarters, what a day!

Day Eleven 12th February

After a quick spot of birding around the grounds of the lodge, it was time for breakfast and prepare for our journey to Punta Leone on the Pacific Coast. I guess the last part of birding in the area was punctuated by a Slaty Spinetail plus the journey produced some interesting species such as Northern Beardless Tyrannulet, Great-crested Flycatcher and the beautiful Cinnamon Becard. Satiated by a bit of a slap-up lunch we headed to the coastal area and first port of call was around the tracks near to Orotina, here we saw several species and amongst our highlights were Scarlet-thighed Dacnis, Scissor-tailed Flycatcher, Scaly-breasted Hummingbird, also we saw lots of water birds in the area and on our journey to the area with Fasciated Tiger Heron being especially obliging. Our most productive time was spent driving along the Guacimo Road and stopping at various strategic places, here we managed superb views of so many species. Yes! I managed another lifer, the superb and beautiful Long-tailed Manakin, yet another that I would have expected to have seen on previous visits, but it had always eluded me. Zone-tailed Hawk cruised above us and Ferruginous Pygmy Owl gave great views near the roadside. For many of us seeing the wonderful Turquoise-browed Motmot was a real highlight of our day. So many more species, too many to mention! Another fantastic day.

Day Twelve 13th February

Before our breakfast we took a stroll along the avenues of our superb resort accommodation and were quickly rewarded by finding Pale-billed Woodpecker, Streak-chested Antpitta and the superb Orange-collared Manakin, in fact it was to be a bit of a Manakin day, but more about that later. No visit to this part of Costa Rica is complete without walking in the National Park of Carara, we planned 2 visits, one in the morning and then the figure of 8 circuit in the afternoon. The morning, a bit cooler although still very hot, produced some notable birds for our group and we soon had Costa Rican Swift, Blue-throated Goldentail, Slaty-tailed Trogon, White-whiskered Puffbird, Golden-naped Woodpecker, Tawny-winged Woodcreeper, Dot-winged and Chestnut-backed Antbird, so a very productive morning. The afternoon session was very hot under the high canopy of the virgin forest, but we had birds to see, places to visit, so the hardy group ventured on! It wasn’t long before we reached our preferred area, a drinking place for many prime species, to joy of one and all Red-capped and Blue-crowned Manakin were visiting to bath and also the snapping of the males punctuated their presence, wow what great birds. Again so many species on the day, what a country, what birds!

Day Thirteen 14th February

It was a slow start to our day, also quiet around the resort, although we did manage great views of both Baird’s and Black-throated Trogon, always super birds to see and such a wonderfully colourful family. I was particularly looking forward to the day as I enjoy a spot of seabird watching and seeing a few waders, something we had been missing with our visits to various forest and upland sites. An area always worth a visit is Guacalillo, both the approaches and the tidal basin. Here we were able to enjoy several gulls, terns and waders, with the surprise being Marbled Godwit and the Black Skimmer providing value to the scene. Grey Hawk and the common Black Hawk gave very close views, whilst a domestic dog chasing an Anteater down the road added a certain humour to the morning. The journey back produced another lifer and another which has eluded me on previous visits, the White-lored Gnatcatcher! The afternoon was the way all birding should be done when you reach as many years as me, a boat ride on the Tarcoles River, relaxed, balmy and a way to get up close to birds. Of course we added a host of species to our list, but seeing a Peregrine take a Hoffmann’s Woodpecker as it attempted to cross the river gave spectacle and drama to the occasion!

Day Fourteen 15th February

Umm, another boat ride or go in search of some last many species? We decided to plum for the heights around Lajas for better views of King Vulture and perhaps other raptors. We only really had the morning to do birding as we were heading back to San Jose after lunch, so we took a relaxed morning viewing the valleys from the high mirador overlooking Cerros del Chiquero. It wasn’t long to wait before we were enjoying a few raptor species including Double-toothed Kite, White Hawk, Grey Hawk and of course the very common Black and Turkey Vultures, but no sign of our target the King Vulture. Packing away the scopes and somewhat deflated we made a slow decent and we had only gone a short distance when there high and directly above us was 2 King Vulture, they drifted closer and one bird gave super views, at last and feeling good about ourselves, we returned to the resort for lunch. Scarlet Macaw was around the lunch area and we watched White-faced Monkey and White-nosed Coati scrounge food from diners. Despite that empty feeling you get when the holiday draws to a close, our spirits were lifted by some excellent birds on our way to San Jose, these included Plain-capped Starthroat, Chestnut-backed Antbird, Yellow-crowned Euphonia and close views of Crimson-fronted Parakeet. However, it was the end of our holiday, the hotel beckoned and it was time to wind down.

Day Fifteen 16th February

Our entire tour group had booked the optional extra night as a way of relaxing at the end of our journey around Costa Rica. The hotel we choose in San Jose is just perfect, super bedrooms, good food, friendly staff and wonderfully large and landscaped gardens, which of course attracts some good birds too! So all of us wound down from our tour, time to reflect on what a great birding tour it had been as you wandered around the leafy pathways in the gardens, spotting a White-eared Ground Sparrow or seeing the gloriously coloured Blue-crowned Motmot as you also pondered the flight home. A few of us managed a tour tick when we saw Rufous-capped Warbler flitting around in the tangle of climbing plants covering the garden boundary, so we may have been relaxing, but once a birder always a birder! I am looking forward to visiting this great destination again and can’t wait for February 2013.


Part 3 (species listing) to follow. See here for Tour Details

3 comments:

Mary Howell Cromer said...

Brilliant, brilliant, brilliant, such beautiful vivid colours all captured magnificently! Have a grand week Peter~

Peter Jones said...

Wow thanks Mary, so pleased you enjoyed the blog and photographs. You have yourself a great week. I am working with a couple of groups from the States this week and showing them around 'my backyard' here in the Serrania de Ronda. Peter

Costa Rica Condos said...

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