8 - 23 September 1999
Barry Cooper and Gail Mackiernan
We decided to try and use some frequent flyer miles to take a relatively short birding trip to the neotropics. After considering several potential destinations, we decided to keep it simple and go to Costa Rica, and stay at only two sites to maximize birding time and eliminate long drives. Our first trip to CR had been one of those "cover as many places in as short a time as possible" jaunts, and although we saw a lot of birds, we spent too much time on the road! This time we would be concentrating on the more-difficult forest species, many of which we had missed in 1995.
We selected two sites, both on the Caribbean side of the country -- seven days at Rancho Naturalista, an ecolodge in the pre-montaine forests of the Talamanca range, and eight days at La Selva Biological Station, in the Caribbean lowlands. We took advantage of Rancho Naturalista's reduced off-season rates, a significant savings. RN has several miles of trails through private forest, and access to other trails through adjacent land. The owners will also take you to one other birding site as part of the package, and pick you up and return you to the airport. For about half the time, we were the only guests, being joined later in the week by two elderly ladies who spent all their time on the lodge grounds. Thus we were the only people on the trails, which greatly facilitated seeing the shyer forest birds. Although RN normally has a resident guide during the high season, his absence was more than made up for by the expertise of Lisa Erb, the owner's daughter, who resides on site. She took us to Tapanti NP and the Tuis River Valley, both of which have many species not found at RN.
RN has hummingbird and fruit feeders set up around the lodge buildings, as well as a hummingbird feeding station in the forest. It also has famous "hummingbird pools" where the birds come in to bathe in the afternoon. The trails are well-maintained and cover a good variety of habitat and elevations; there are also several overlooks where one can sit and watch for raptors soaring over the canopy. Most of the forest is second-growth but there is also primary forest in a number of areas, as well as pasture and wetland. As an aside, the food is excellent and served family-style -- one has no fear of going hungry here!
When we were returned to the airport, we picked up a Toyota rental car from Hertz and drove via Route 9 to Puerto Viejo, the site of La Selva Biological Station. LS is run by the Organization for Tropical Studies, a consortium of universities and research entities headquartered in Durham, NC, with a Costa Rican office in San Jose.
La Selva OTS is justly famous, one of the largest intact lowland forest in Costa Rica, with almost 40 km of trails. Again, for most of the time we were the only outside guests, although the last three days a large student group came in. Except for the resident researchers, we were almost alone on the trails. LS has guides and a resident naturalist; however we birded on our own except for a day trip to Braulio Carillo NP (about 45 minutes away). Because of the problems associated with this park, and the need for someone who knew where to go (and not go!), we hired Erick Castro, one of LS's guides, to accompany us. He is very knowledgeable about the birds and the best (and safest) trails. Braulio is a brilliant area, we had the largest feeding flock we have ever seen on the La Ceiba trail (below Quebrada Gonzalez) -- just a mind-boggling number and variety of birds rushing past, the three of us estimated that at the most, we saw and identified a mere 25% of the birds present!
We also took a side trip to Volcan Poas and Virgen del Socorro Canyon (about 45 minutes to an hour from LS). Fog prevented our birding the very top of the volcano, but the gravel road to the left of the entrance proved very birdy. The canyon, on the other hand, was hot and very quiet, in stark contrast to our exceptionally productive afternoon spent there in 1995. There is a well-known cafe called La Mirador, a few kms east of La Paz Falls on Rt. 9, which has hummingbird feeders, and where for a very modest contribution of $1.00 one can get a cup of coffee and watch 8-10 species compete for the sugar water!
Accommodations at La Selva are more spartan than at Rancho; we stayed in the Tortuga cottage, and had the only room with en suite bathroom and shower. However, it was perfectly comfortable and extremely birdy right around the cottage. The small trees and bushes in the entrance compound (which also includes the dining hall, laundry and several residential and classroom buildings) support a constant flow of small foliage-gleaning species, which deserve close scrutiny as sometimes a rarity shows up. The entrance road in from the first gate to the guard station is also good for open-country species, flycatchers and so forth. However, once one crosses the Stone Bridge to the research compound (scientists' housing, labs, library), one enters the forest where almost anything is possible! LS adjoins Braulio Carillo at one end so there is contiguous forest for several thousand hectares. Wildlife besides birds is abundant: peccaries, agoutis, coatis and large iguanas wander everywhere, sloths inhabit the research compound, three species of monkey can be found in the forest, and on rare occasions ocelot or puma have been seen.
At La Selva, meals are served cafeteria style at set times -- the fare is tipico Costa Rican, and quite tasty. It is a lot of fun sitting down with the researchers and discussing the day's events. You have access to the free laundromat, and are welcome to browse in the library. Contra some trip reports, there are no restrictions on walking the trails unaccompanied if you are staying at LS. Day visitors, however, are required to use a guide in the forest but can bird the entrance road and compound freely. The only problem we ran into was the rather restrictive gate hours -- the gate is locked after 8:00 pm (although the guard is willing to wait until 8:30 or perhaps a bit later). This limited our plans to drive into Puerto Viejo or over to Selva Verde Lodge at night to look for Black and White Owl -- we were always rushed. One solution would be to take a taxi to Selva Verde and back, as it would be only a matter of a few 100 yards walk from the gate to your cottage.
Trails at La Selva traverse both primary and secondary growth forest, research plantings, abandoned pastures and plantations, and wetlands. Some of the trails are paved, others have stepping stones, many are muddy. Trails far out from the station are not as well-maintained. There is also a long bicycle trail (STR -- Sendero Tres Rios) which is paved throughout. All trails have a distance marker every 50 meters, which greatly facilitates locating bird sites. In almost eight days of constant birding we still only walked about 1/2 of the trails, but of course we covered some of the better areas numerous times. Wellington boots are a necessity at La Selva, and in fact you are required to wear them off the trails, because of the presence of fer-de-lances; they can be borrowed if you don't have your own.
When we planned our trip, we realized that it was the low season
it is also the wet season in many parts of the country. Nevertheless,
was rarely a serious hindrance. At Rancho, it rained about half the
sometimes starting quite late in the day. At Tapanti it started raining
at noon, which Lisa said was typical for that park in any season. Most
days at La Selva ended with rain, and the hotter the morning the
it came. Since we were out in the field at 5:30 am, we still usually
8-10 hours of birding before it began to rain, and some days were
dry. Rain literally dampened owling in the evening, however -- pre-dawn
was the best time for these birds. Temperatures at Rancho were
and sometimes rather cool in the morning. La Selva ranged from warm to
hot, a few days were very hot and humid and rather uncomfortable.
Rancho Naturalista: Arrangements are best made through Costa Rica Gateways, run by Mark Erb, son of RN's current owner. When we were there, RN was in the process of being sold to an individual who will continue to operate it as an ecolodge, and Lisa Erb told us she would stay on as manager. In any case, Mark Erb's phone number is 1-800-593-3305; email email@example.com or www.ranchonaturalista.com
La Selva Biological Station: Reservations should be made through the Organization for Tropical Studies (OTS), easiest through email directly to San Jose, firstname.lastname@example.org. We found the office quite helpful. You will have to fill in a form and return a deposit (they take credit cards). The office at LS itself knows most about space availability, however; for example, San Jose said that we could only stay four days due to groups coming in, but when we got to LS, were told we could stay the full 8 days.
A stay at La Selva includes a half-day guided walk, but we never had one due to some mixup -- be sure to ask when you arrive so that arrangements are clear. Day visitors must use a guide.
We recorded 306 species (8 heard only) in the 16 days. We made no attempt to look for waders, waterfowl, or common open-country species, since we were concentrating on forest birds, so as a consequence this list is rather small for a two-week CR trip. However, we saw most of our targets, including several rarities, and together added about 100 lifers to our CR lists.
Fairly common at RN. Heard daily and single bird seen on 12th. More numerous at LS and seen or heard daily. An adult male with two chicks seen on the 17th on SHO.
Fairly common at both RN & LS with birds heard on seven dates. Despite our efforts we were unable to see one.
Seen along the SUR trail. BC lured pair into view by whistling their call. In fact the male became quite agitated as the female showed more then a passing interest in BC's whistle.
Quite common seen principally while driving between locations in open country.
Single birds seen on two dates.
Little Blue Heron
Single bird seen on one date.
Single birds seen on two dates.
Up to two birds seen on five dates at LS, along river and feeding on wet verges of STR.
Seen daily and very common.
Seen daily and very common.
Immature bird seen at Braulio Carillo on 18th.
A pair in display flight just outside LS on the 18th.
A fine adult watched perched & in flight at RN on the 12th, from the high overlook at the top of the ridge behind the lodge. This is a species not previously recorded at RN.
Great Black Hawk
Single bird at Tuis River on the 11th.
Single bird at Tuis River on the 14th.
Two birds perched and then soaring over Virgen del Socorro on the 20th.
Several birds were seen along the main road between LS and the Gualipes Highway, sitting on fence posts and tops of snags. This species was found only in open agricultural areas.
Ornate Hawk- Eagle
Single bird seen in flight at Tuis River on the 11th.
Single bird seen briefly in flight and another flew in and perched at RN along the lower trail on the 11th [much to BC's chagrin who missed it by being distracted by a Stripe-breasted Wren !!]
Barred Forest Falcon
Single immature bird well seen as it flew through the forest at RN on the 13th and then perched at close range -- Superb.
Single bird scoped from the balcony at RN on the early morning of the 12th, perched at the tip of a snag across the valley.
Common and easy to see at RN and a party of four birds at LS on the 21st.
Heard calling fairly regularly at both RN and LS and up to two birds seen on two dates at RN and a party of three birds seen at LS on the 21st.
A party of four seen briefly but at close range at Tapanti on the 10th, and at least two birds at RN on the 13th.
One of our most wanted species proved to be both very exciting and frustrating. The species was being seen fairly regularly along the bike trail at LS by the non-birding scientists. We staked out this area on several mornings eventually to be rewarded by good view of a superb male starting to walk across the path in front of us. Unfortunately, as it was about 1/4-way across the trail it was disturbed by a group of bikers. We shortly after briefly saw the bird skulking through the dense understory. We were left feeling exhilarated by seeing it but frustrated at the brief view.
Single bird seen briefly at RN along the entrance road near the lodge on the 9th, and heard on four other dates both at RN and LS.
Excellent views of a pair hunting for food in cow pasture along the Tuis River on the 14th.
Suprisingly only one bird seen.
Eight birds seen at Tapanti on the 10th.
Not seen at LS but fairly common elsewhere with maximum of 20 seen at Volcan Poas.
Common at LS and seen daily with maximum of 20 birds; rare at RN.
Ruddy Ground Dove
Four birds seen on the drive from LS to Volcan Poas was the only record.
Up to four birds seen daily at RN.
Single bird only at RN but common at LS with daily maximum count of 15 birds.
Three birds, including one seen very well, on the 12th and a single bird seen on the 13th at RN. Birds were also heard calling suggesting that it is not uncommon at RN.
Single bird flushed and briefly seen perched along the upper trail at RN on the 14th. The orange cheek contrasting with the grey cap is startlingly bright in the dark forest. Others were heard calling.
Excellent views of a pair foraging on the ground at LS along the --- trail on the 17th.
Great Green Macaw
One of our top three target birds of the trip. Good flight views were obtained of a pair flying over the Stone Bridge at LS on the 18th. This was followed by pair and immature bird in flight over the STR trail (bicycle path) at LS on the 19th. Finally, on our last day, as we were driving along the Gualipes Highway through Braulio Carrillo on our way to San Jose Airport, we observed two pairs flying high above the virgin rain forest - we could not have asked for a better finale.
We heard and saw briefly many parrots and parakeets flying over the dense forest at LS which we were unable to identify due to the very brief views and our unfamiliarity with all the calls. Therefore, the following list undoubtably underestimates both the number and species involved.
A flock of about 60 at LS on the 23rd; other large flocks presumed to be this species were seen flying over LS in the early morning.
Small parties seen on three dates at LS with daily maximum of 12 birds, plus other parties flying from roosts in the morning.
An unexpected bonus. A party of four birds of this rather rare species was seen in flight at Tapanti on the 10th.
Seen on four dates at LS with daily maximum of a dozen birds.
Common at LS and seen daily with maximum daily count of 20 birds.
A party of twelve birds seen at RN on the 9th.
Two birds seen at LS on the 21st.
Fairly common at LS and seen almost daily with maximum of 15 birds seen on the 21st.
Common forest bird seen on 12 dates with daily maximum of five birds; often seen accompanying mixed-species flocks.
A common species at RN in the area of the horse pastures, and also seen frequently on our drives.
Vermiculated Screech Owl
Owling proved very difficult due to the predictable evening thunder-storms and heavy rain. Our owling attempts were rained out on several evenings and the limited successful owling done was prior to dawn. With this species one bird seen very close and two heard on two dates at LS, along SUR just before the arboretum.
Single bird heard prior to dawn at LS along SUR; it called in response to the tape but would not come in.
Least Pygmy Owl
Single bird calling repeatedly at about noon on the 21st at LS at about STR 900. Despite our best efforts, we were unable to locate this tiny bird in a large epiphyte-covered forest tree.
Single bird heard calling and subsequently excellent views at RN on the 13th as it responded to the tape.
An unexpected treat at LS, with a single bird observed on two occasions at its daytime roost site high up in a tall gavilan tree in the arboretum.
Fairly common at LS & seen or heard most nights.
Fairly common bird seen on nine dates with daily maximum of 35+.
Lesser Swallow-tailed Swift
Two birds at RN on the 9th.
Vaux's Swift and Gray-rumped Swift.
Small Chaetura swifts were abundant at both RN (especially along the Tuis R. valley) and LS. While we identified both Vaux's and Grey-rumped, no attempt was made to quantify the numbers of each of these similar species.
Two birds seen well on the 17th at LS. Several other possibles seen at LS but we were not positive due to the very brief views and unable to rule out Band-tailed Barbthroat.
Single bird well seen at Braulio Carrillo on the 22nd.
Small numbers seen almost daily at LS with a maximum of five birds seen on the 17th.
Fairly common at RN with up to three birds seen on three dates including a female feeding young in a nest. Also three birds seen at Braulio Carrillo on the 22nd.
The most numerous hermit, seen on nine dates with daily maximum of eight birds. There were several leks of these small hermits in bamboo near the eastern end of the upper trail at RN.
This very impressive hummingbird was common on both our visits to the La Mirador hummingbird feeders with up to 12 birds in view. Aside from this, only a single bird seen on several dates at the feeders at RN.
Common at the feeders at RN with the daily estimate approximating 20 birds.
Fairly common at the feeders at RN with up to four birds seen daily. We also recorded this bird at La Mirador.
Two birds at Tapanti on the 10th and at least two birds at La Mirador.
Uncommon at RN with up to two birds seen on four dates.
This attractive hummingbird was seen daily in small numbers [up to four] at RN, invariably feeding on the blue flowers of the verbena bushes . We also saw two birds at the Kiri Lodge.
Single female/immature seen briefly feeding on verbena in front of the balcony at RN on the 9th.
Single female/immature feeding on flowering shrubs in the forest at RN on the 12th, along the grassy road near its junction with the lower trail. This species has been occasionally recorded at RN, although it is typically a Pacific-slope bird.
Single male seen on three dates at feeders at RN. Up to six birds seen at Virgen del Socorro and La Mirador on the 20th. - A superb bird.
Common at RN with daily maximum of 35+.
At least two birds seen at Volcan Poas on the 21st.
Single bird in the forest at LS on the 18th. We were surprised not to see more of this species, which is recorded with some frequency at LS, at least in spring months.
The most abundant hummer at both RN and LS - probably 50+ seen on most days.
Single bird seen well at the La Mirador feeders on the 20th.
Seen only at the La Mirador hummingbird feeders with four on the 15th and eight on the 20th
One of the trip highlights and quite common at RN with up to ten seen daily - Superb hummer.
Up to two birds seen on three dates at LS; one bird also seen at Selva Verde gardens.
White-bellied Mountain- gem
Two birds seen at La Mirador on the 15th and 20th, and a single bird at Braulio Carillo.
Two birds seen at Tapanti on the 10th and a single bird at Volcan Poas on the 20th.
This striking hummer was quite common at RN with up to fifteen birds seen each day. Up to four also at the La Mirador feeders.
Single bird at Volcan Poas on the 20th.
Single bird seen on two dates at RN along the grassy road and singles seen also at Tuis River, Volcan Poas and Braulio Carillo.
Two male birds seen at Volcan Poas on the 20th.
Seen only at LS where up to four birds were seen daily.
Seen only at RN with up to four birds seen on most days.
Single bird at RN on the 13th and up to two birds on three dates at LS.
Single birds seen on four dates at LS.
Single bird seen from the car on route from LS to Braulio Carillo. We were very surprised not to seen any kingfishers at LS given the presence of the Puerto Viejo River and numerous forest streams.
Probably two pairs at RN and single birds seen also at LS and Braulio Carillo.
The most numerous motmot with up to two birds seen on four dates at RN and three birds seen on one date at LS, with birds heard calling there on two other days.
Up to two birds seen on three dates in the garden at RN.
Up to two birds seen on three dates at LS along STR, and also heard calling at the Tuis River.
We were very pleased to see this large and striking puffbird perched high up in a tree along the bicycle trail (STR) at LS.
Two birds seen on the 16th and a single bird on the 17th at LS.
Undoubtably the biggest surprise of the trip when we had excellent views of this rarity perched at eye level on a branch at the Tuis River. The spot was just after the dam and before path crosses the river [or more correctly the river is crossed on a pipe which spans the river]. Lisa Erb said that this species was known to breed in this area several years ago, and may have reestablished a territory.
Two males at Tapanti on the 10th and single birds at the Tuis River on the 11th and 14th; both occasions with mixed-species flocks.
A party of four seen at Tapanti on the 10th.
Fairly common at both RN and LS with up to eight seen on four dates at RN and seen or heard daily at LS with daily maximum of 12 birds.
Fairly common at RN and LS and seen/heard almost daily with a maximum daily count of five birds at both locations.
Seen only at LS where it was quite common and seen virtually every day. Maximum daily count was ten birds.
The most numerous woodpecker with up to six birds seen on virtually every day.
Common at RN with up to four birds seen daily. Just odd single birds seen at LS.
Three birds seen on one date at RN and just a single bird at LS. These birds were distinctly different being noticably darker and drabber than the Hairy Woodpeckers in the U.S.
Fairly common at RN with up to six birds on a day; often associated with mid-level canopy flocks.
Single birds seen at RN and LS (several dates) and two birds at Braulio Carillo.
This beautiful woodpecker was seen at LS with one on the 17th and Braulio Carillo with two on the 22nd. Both times the birds were accompanying large mixed species flocks.
Up to three birds seen on two dates at LS, in the arboretum and on one occasion, in company of a mixed flock of larger species.
Two birds at RN on the 9th and seen three dates at LS with a maximum of four birds seen on the 16th.
Up to two birds seen on three dates at RN and two birds on a single date at LS.
The most numerous woodcreeper and seen virtually daily throughout the trip with maximum daily count of six birds.
This attractive woodcreeper was recorded on three dates at LS with daily maximum of two birds; it was usually associated with antswarms.
A pair of this strikingly plumaged woodcreeper were seen in a large rapidly moving mixed bird flock at LS on the 17th.
Up to two birds seen daily at RN and four seen at Braulio Carillo on the 22nd,
Daily maximum was four birds at Braulio Carillo on the 22nd. Otherwise single birds seen on five dates between RN and LS.
Single individuals of this amazing species were seen at Tapanti in a large mixed flock of Furnariids and at RN.
A single bird spent most of its time skulking around the garden at RN where we saw it on one day and heard it on other days. Also, a single bird along the entrance road to LS on our final morning.
Two birds seen well at Tapanti.
Two birds were mixed in the Furnarid flock at Tapanti and two other in a large mixed flock at Braulio Carillo.
This species was a major component of the Tapanti bird flock with at least 10 birds. This was our only sighting.
Two birds detected in the large bird flock at Braulio Carillo on the 22nd.
Four birds of this species also in the Braulio Carillo bird flock.
Two birds were in the Furnarid flock at Tapanti on the 10th.
Recorded on two dates at RN with a maximum of three birds on the 9th.
Two birds were in the Furnarid flock at Tapanti on the 10th.
A pair at RN on the 9th, along the eastern end of the upper trail.
Up to three birds recorded on four dates at RN, usually accompanying mixed flocks of small species.
Heard on two occasions along the entrance road to LS.
Western Slaty Antshrike
Single male at LS on the 17th was our only record.
Up to three birds seen on three dates at RN and three more seen at Braulio Carillo.
Up to two birds seen on two dates at RN and two more seen at Braulio Carillo with the large mixed-species flock.
Four birds seen at Braulio Carillo on the 22nd, along the Las Palmas trail.
Single birds seen on two dates at RN and a pair at Braulio Carillo.
Single male at RN on the 14th was the only record.
Single male of this attractive species seen at RN on the 13th.
1-2 birds seen almost daily at RN.
This species was fairly common at LS, although more often heard than seen with up to six birds on a day seen and/or heard.
Single bird seen at RN on the 14th, in the company of a fast-moving mixed flock of mid-level and ground-feeding species.
This was Gail's most wanted target bird and it turned out be the best bird of the trip for both of us. We had excellent views of what appeared to be a family party of two adults and two full grown immatures in attendance at an ant swarm along SUR on our very first hour of forest birding at LS. Additionally, up to two birds were seen on three other dates and heard on one other date at LS suggesting that it is not uncommon there. - A superb antbird.
Single birds seen on two days only at LS and heard on one other day. This species was less common than we expected.
At least two different individuals on territory at RN and birds heard calling in the early morning and late afternoon daily. We could even hear one calling each evening from our bedroom. Despite our best efforts with a tape-recorder we were unable to see this bird.
Up to two birds seen on four dates at RN and four birds on two dates at LS. Four birds also seen on our visit to Braulio Carillo.
Single male bird seen on one date at both RN and LS.
Single birds seen at RN on three dates, up to two birds seen on three dates at LS and four birds at Braulio Carillo on the 22nd.
Single bird seen at RN and up to two birds seen on three dates at LS, around the office compound.
A party of three birds on the 18th along CCL and single bird on the 21st at LS along STR.
Excellent views of a female and immature bird along the bicycle path (STR900) at LS on the 19th was one of the trip highlights; the birds were feeding in a fruiting tree quite low over our heads. Additionally, a single female in flight was also seen along the entrance road to LS on the 18th.
We located two separate leks at LS containing at least five and four birds respectively. The displaying males with their brilliant black, red and yellow plumage put on a good show and was one of our most enjoyable experiences of the trip.
We were disappointed to only see one female of this species at RN.
Two birds, again females, at Braulio Carillo on the 22nd, along the Las Palmas trail. The pale throat of the female is quite obvious and allows separation from the similar female of the preceding species.
The common manakin at both RN, LS and Braulio Carillo. The displaying male's "popcorn popping"wingsnaps were heard much more often than we saw the birds. Our daily maximum count of six birds is, therefore, likely to be a substantial under-estimate.
Prolonged and close looks at a single bird in a mid-canopy bird flock at RN on the 13th was the sole record. A very unmanakin-like bird which we initially thought to be a flycatcher due to a combination of white eye-ring, yellow wing-panel, rather long tail, and flycatcher-like foraging activity.
A single bird seen and heard singing at RN on the 13th; the musical song belies the very plain appearance of this bird, seen well only by BEC.
Two birds at Tapanti on the 10th, at the upper end of the park near the reservoir.
Single bird seen at LS on the 17th.
A very common bird at both RN and LS in the fields and other open areas.
A pair of birds seen fairly regularly in the vicinity of the admin buildings at LS, and others were recorded along the entrance road.
Up to two birds a day seen regularly at both RN and LS.
This skulking flycatcher was seen on three dates at LS with a maximum of two birds. It was also heard calling on two other dates.
Just a single bird seen along the bicycle trail at LS on the 19th.
Two birds seen at Tapanti on the 10th.
Three seen at the Tuis River on the 11th and quite common at LS with daily maximum of eight birds.
Fairly common in open field habitat at both RN and LS.
Common in open field habitat and seen every day.
A single bird seen on the 12th at RN and two birds seen on the 17th at LS.
Single bird on one date at LS.
Seen on most days at RN with a daily maximum of six birds. Single bird on one date at LS.
One bird seen at Tapanti and another single bird at Braulio Carillo.
Eastern Wood Pewee
Single bird seen at LS.
Fairly common at both RN and LS and was seen on most days with a daily maximum of four birds.
Five birds seen at Tapanti and single bird at Braulio Carillo.
Single birds seen at both RN and LS.
Single bird seen on our very last morning at a high-elevation pull-off along the Gualipes Highway through Braulio Carrillo on our way back to San Jose.
Two birds of this very attractive Empidonax were seen on the side road by the entrance to Volcan Poas on the 20th
Suprisingly few birds seen of this attractive flycatcher with two birds seen at Tapanti and singles at RN and Braulio Carillo.
Two individuals of this tiny and extremely appealing flycatcher were seen at Braulio Carillo at close range but in rather poor light.
Single bird on the 15th at the "berry patch" at RN, unfortunately seen well only by GBM; considered local and uncommon.
Single birds seen in the garden at RN on the 13th and another at Braulio Carillo on the 22nd.
A single bird well seen in the bird flock at Braulio Carillo on the 22nd was a very unexpected and pleasant surprise. When it swooped out to catch a large butterfly, it even spread its crest. Erick Castro declared it to be the "best bird" of that remarkable day, being rare on the Caribbean side.
Up to two birds seen on four dates at RN.
A single bird was seen in the bird flock working the small bushes around the reception area of LS.
A single bird seen well at the Tuis River on the 14th.
Black-headed Tody -Flycatcher
At LS a single bird seen foraging in the small trees in the compound area on two dates.
A pair seen regularly in the garden at RN and 1-2 pairs seen daily at LS.
Scale-crested Pygmy -Tyrant
Seen on four dates at RN with daily maximum of four birds, also single birds seen at the Tuis River and Tapanti.
A pair of this minute flycatcher were seen at LS on the 19th, in the "regeneration plot" at STR 900, foraging in a low shrub. Very appealing little birds.
Single birds seen at Tapanti, Tuis River and on two dates at LS.
Up to two birds seen almost daily at RN, also single birds recorded at LS and Braulio Carillo.
Single birds seen on three dates at LS, along the entrance road, and one also at Braulio Carillo.
Up to four birds seen on four dates at RN, often with mixed flocks of small sub-canopy gleaners.
Single birds seen at Tapanti and LS.
Up to two birds seen on four dates at LS and two more at Braulio Carillo.
Two birds on one date and a single bird on another date at LS were the only sightings. Both times the birds were accompanying other hirundines.
Several male birds seen from the car on the last day, perched and soaring over a palm plantation en route from LS to the Gualipes Highway.
Single bird seen with a flock of other hirundines, in open country along Rt. -- on the 22nd.
A few birds seen on most days at LS.
Southern Rough-winged Swallow
Small numbers seen on several dates at both RN and LS.
Small numbers seen on just two dates, both at the higher elevations of Tapanti and Volcan Poas.
Common at RN where noisy parties of these birds were attracted to the feeders. Also quite common at Tapanti.
We were quite pleased to see a pair of these beautiful birds along the river (picnic area) trail at Tapanti.
Two birds seen at Tapanti.
A vocal pair seen quite regularly along the entrance road at LS.
Up to two "Plain-backed" seen in the garden at RN and single "Canebrake" seen along the entrance road at LS.
Quite common at both RN and LS with up to six seen and others heard on most days.
A single bird of this attractive wren [and very beautiful singer] was seen at the Tuis River and up to two birds on two dates at LS.
Southern House Wren
Up to two birds seen around the lodge at RN and occasional single birds around the compound at LS.
A single bird seen at Tapanti.
A common bird at both RN and LS with up to six seen on a day and many others heard singing.
Gray-breasted Wood -Wren
Found at higher elevations than the preceding. Fairly common at Tapanti with at least six birds seen and at Volcan Poas with at least 3 birds seen. Also single birds seen at RN and Braulio Carillo.
Northern Nightingale Wren
Despite taping attempts, this bird was heard only with single birds singing on one date at LS and at Virgin del Socorro.
Again, despite our taping attempts, this bird was heard daily but not seen at RN.
One of the most abundant forest birds at RN and seen daily there with daily maximum numbers estimated in the low hundreds. Much less common elsewhere with daily totals of less than ten birds.
This species replaces the Clay-colored Robin at Tapanti where it was quite common.
About eight birds of this handsome thrush were seen on the side road at Volcan Poas.
Two birds seen and others heard at Tapanti on the 10th.
Single individuals of this handsome nightingale-thrush were well seen on two dates on the lower trail at RN.
Two birds seen well on the side road at Volcan Poas.
Thinly distributed at most sites visited with between one to three birds seen on seven dates. Often with mixed flocks of small gleaners.
A party of three birds on one date at RN with a single bird seen on one other date at this site. Also, a single bird on one date at LS.
Single bird at LS and six birds seen at Braulio Carillo.
Fairly common at both Tapanti with at least eight birds seen and at Volcan Poas with six birds seen.
We were disappointed not to see this aboreal species at LS as it is regular there. However, it is considered difficult to actually view as it is a green bird which typically sits quietly in the top of a tall tree. The closest we came was a single bird heard singing on one date.
Fairly common at RN with a few birds seen on most days. Only single bird on one date at LS and single bird also at Braulio Carillo.
One to two birds seen on most dates at RN and two birds also seen at Braulio Carillo.
A fairly common species at all the sites we visited and seen daily with a maximum of ten birds on a day.
We were quite amazed at the number and diversity of North American breeding warblers that had already arrived in Costa Rica by early to mid-September. This was all the more so as we had not yet seen some these species on their autumn migration through Maryland! The large majority of these neotropical migrants were seen at the moderate elevation RN [about 3,500 feet] rather than the lowlands of LS.
The black-and-white Warbler was one of the more numerous species with up to four on a day and seen virtually daily at RN. Only single birds seen on four dates at LS.
Two birds seen on one date at RN, both with bird flocks.
Up to four birds seen daily at RN and two birds also at Braulio Carillo. The birds appeared to be on territory and were actively singing.
Single bird on one date at RN and two birds on one date at LS.
Seen on four dates at RN with daily maximum of two birds.
One to two birds seen almost daily at RN, also single bird at Braulio Carillo.
Single bird on one day at RN and two birds seen at Braulio Carillo.
Single bird on the 9th at RN.
Single birds were seen on three dates at LS, as well as along the Tuis River and at Braulio Carillo.
One bird seen at a small puddle along the LS entrance road on our last day.
A surprising six birds along the side road at Volcan Poas.
The most numerous of the North American warblers. Up to six birds almost daily at RN and single bird also seen at Braulio Carillo.
Up to two birds seen on just two dates at RN.
A fairly common bird at RN with up to six birds seen daily, also two birds seen at Volcan Poas.
Four birds seen at Tapanti and two at Volcan Poas.
Seen on both our visits to the Tuis River with five birds seen on the 10th and two birds on the 13th, also a single bird seen at Volcan Poas.
Seen almost daily at RN with daily maximum of six birds, also a single bird seen at Volcan Poas.
The least common of the Basileuterus warblers with just single birds seen at the Tuis River and at Volcan Poas.
Up to three birds seen on two dates at RN, mostly along forest edge.
Inevitably in pairs, this bird was quite common at LS with up to six on a day. Also pairs seen at the Tuis River and Braulio Carillo.
Only 2-3 birds heard singing at Tapanti and none was willing to be taped out.
Only seen at RN with a single bird on the 12th and party of four at the top of the upper trail on the 14th.
A common bird at both RN and LS and seen in good numbers daily.
Up to three birds on two dates at RN. More numerous at LS with up to 15 birds recorded on three dates, and ten birds seen at Braulio Carillo.
Less common than Scarlet-rumped Cacique and recorded only at LS on three dates with a daily maximum of six birds.
Two birds recorded on one date along the entrance road at LS.
Not suprisingly, seen only in open country areas adjacent to RN.
A single bird of this handsome Oriole was seen at RN and two along the entrance road at LS on the 18th.
The only sighting was of a single bird on the drive to RN on the first day.
Four birds seen at Tapanti on the 10th were our only sightings of this beautiful tanager.
Up to four birds seen on four dates at RN.
A single bird seen in a mixed flock at Tapanti was our only record.
Just single birds on two dates at RN. Quite common at LS with up to ten birds seen on five dates.
At least eight birds in the large mixed flock at Braulio Carillo otherwise just a single bird seen at the Tuis River on the 11th.
Two birds on three dates at RN and single bird at Braulio Carillo.
This striking tanager was quite common at Tapanti with eight birds seen and Braulio Carillo with six birds seen.
A fairly common bird and seen every day with a daily maximum of 12 birds at RN and six at LS.
A single bird seen in the compound at LS on the 22nd was the only record.
Fairly common at RN with up to six on a day and six in the bird flock at Braulio Carillo.
More characteristic of higher elevation, with four birds seen at Tapanti and six at Volcan Poas.
Seen almost daily with a daily maximum of three birds at RN and ten at LS. Also common at Braulio Carillo with at least eight birds seen.
A single bird at LS on the 17th and two at Braulio Carillo were our only sightings.
Up to three birds seen on two dates at LS and two more seen at Braulio Carillo.
This much anticipated species was seen only at the Tuis River with three birds on the 11th and a single bird on the 14th.
An abundant species both RN and LS in non-forested areas.
A fairly common non-forest tanager and seen virtually daily.
The most common tanager in open and secondary-growth habitat and seen daily in good numbers.
Six birds seen on the 9th and eight on the 14th at RN principally around the garden.
A few individuals of this vocal species was seen at RN, with a maximum of 2 on a day; at Braulio Carillo it was very common with an estimated 35 birds seen, most accompanying the huge mixed flock encountered on the La Ceiba trail.
Single bird seen at RN and family parties of 2-4 birds seen at LS along the entrance road. A rather noisy and un-tanager-like species.
Despite serious searching, this large colorful tanager was not seen until our last full day when a pair was observed closely along the La Ceiba trail at Braulio Carillo, accompanying the large mixed flock.
Up to four birds seen on three dates at RN where they came into the bird-feeders in the garden. Also, two birds seen on one date at LS.
Two birds seen on two dates around the garden at RN, also at least twenty birds in the Braulio Carillo bird flock.
Another bird looked for long and hard at LS without success but quite common in the trees adjacent to the ranger station at Braulio Carillo with an estimated twenty birds seen. Erick Castro told us that this species, once common at LS, is now found at somewhat higher elevations and is only an infrequent visitor to the lowlands, due he feels to global warming.
After diligent searching we finally caught up with this species at LS with a party of five birds seen on the 21st. Our attention to them was initially drawn by their loud calling. The following day, six more were seen at Braulio Carillo. A very un-tanager-like tanager in looks and behavior.
Single birds of this beautiful tanager were seen at the Tuis River on the 11th and 15th. At least ten birds were mixed in the bird flock at Braulio Carillo.
Common Bush Tanager
Common at Tapanti.
Sooty-capped Bush Tanager
Common along the side road at Volcan Poas with an estimated 20 birds seen.
Ashy-throated Bush Tanager
A single bird of this uncommon species was seen at Tapanti on the 10th, in a small feeding flock.
Up to two birds on three dates at Tuis River and/or RN. Fairly common on the entrance road at LS with six birds seen on two dates, Also up to eight birds at Braulio Carillo.
The most common saltator with six or more birds seen on most days.
A single bird seen along the entrance road at LS on the 16th, feeding in palm fronds.
This species was inevitably seen mixed in the roaming bird flocks. Fairly common at LS with up to six birds a day and seen on four dates. At least thirty birds in the large bird flock at Braulio Carillo.
A single bird well seen singing deep in the rain forest at LS; others heard calling in response.
Four birds of this large colorful grosbeak were seen at Tapanti.
Up to three birds seen on three dates at LS. Unlike the following several species, this bird was mainly encountered deep in the forest. A very beautiful songster.
A common species in rough grassy fields and seen virtually daily.
Another very common open-country species and seen virtually daily.
We spent a long time walking the entrance road at LS sorting through all of the seedeaters and grassquits before we finally caught up with this species. Just one bird, a female, well seen on the 13th along the entrance road. It fed quite differently than the smaller seedeaters, clinging to a branch and rather sluggishly working its way along, picking at seeds, buds and (apparent) insects.
Up to four birds seen on three dates along the entrance road at LS. Probably this species is a lot more common than our records would suggest as our efforts to sort-out all of these small finch-like birds diminished once we had seen the Pink-billed Seed-Finch.
Two birds seen along the side road at Volcan Poas on the 20th.
Four birds well seen along the side road at Volcan Poas on the 20th.
Yellow-throated Brush Finch
Four birds seen briefly at Volcan Poas on the 20th.
Chestnut-capped Brush Finch
This secretive species was seen on four dates at RN with daily maximum of three birds.
Small numbers seen fairly regularly at RN and LS with the daily maximum of four birds at both locations.
Single birds seen at the Tuis River and up to two birds on three dates at RN. Slightly more numerous at LS with up to four birds on four dates.
Common in the garden and pastures at RN.
Other Interesting Sightings:
Greater Fishing Bat
A single individual of this large species (which has a 2' wingspan) flew over the Stone Bridge while we were watching the river at LS on our first evening there.
White-lined Sac-winged Bat
A few individuals of this small bat were seen roosting under eaves at LS.
(We saw a number of other bats in flight, but not to identify. In addition, palm-leaf "tents" formed by what we assumed to be Honduran White Bats were encountered with some frequency at Braulio Carillo, but --unfortunately -- none were occupied.)
We saw one of these rabbits along STR and one near the residences at LS; apparently not common, several of the researchers told us they had never seen one.
In contrast to the preceding, these large rodents were omnipresent at LS.
Central American Dwarf Squirrel
A single individual of this minute squirrel was seen along the gravel road near the entrance to Volcan Poas NP.
This was the common squirrel at RN, also seen at LS.
This species was more common at LS.
A small mouse was encountered on the Stone Bridge during a predawn walk. It appeared larger than a House Mouse, but could not be satisfactorily identified.
The only sloths we saw were in the resident's compound at LS.
A single individual was seen along the entrance road to LS, feeding on fallen fruit.
A single Tamandua was seen crossing the trail, near STR 1000. It moved amazingly fast along the ground, quickly disappearing into the undergrowth.
Small bands of this raccoon relative were seen at LS, mostly along SUR. Additionally, a solitary individual (male) frequented the residence compound.
Probably the most abundant large mammal at LS, we encountered small bands and singles of this species every day. Their rank odor was often encountered along the trail.
We saw this small primate only at the upper trail at Braulio Carillo, although it is also found at LS.
Mantled Howler Monkey
A vocal member of the LS fauna, small bands of this large primate were seen most often along SUR, CES and CCC trails.
Several bands of this active primate frequented the forest along the SUR and CCC trails.
Reptiles and Amphibians:
We saw a number of frogs, small snakes and lizards that were unidentified. The following are some of the ones we were able to name.
Far more often heard than seen, this tiny frog is a common species at LS.
Strawberry or Blue-Jeans Poison Arrow Frog
This colorful little frog was commonly seen along the trails at LS
Several individuals of this strikingly-marked toad were seen at LS.
Several medium-sized individuals frequented the mud banks on the El Toro River at LS.
Black River Turtle
Seen in some small streams as well as in the El Toro River
Double-crested Basilisk Lizard
A large green lizard best known for its ability to walk on water (hence the alternate name, “Jesus Christ lizard”) – a feat which is amazing to see. The frilled and crested lizard is common at La Selva, especially along the SAT trail near sunny streams.
The most common large reptile at LS – a very large old male frequented the lawn and guava tree in front of our cottage.
This is only a small percentage of the many insects seen:
Leaf-Cutting Ants (Atta sp.)
These medium-sized ants are ubiquitous – columns are seen every where carrying pieces of foliage to the large underground nests. The ants keep a path or “highway” clear of litter, leading from the collecting site (sometimes 100s of feet up in a tree) to the nest.
Army Ants (Eciton sp.)
We were fortunate to run into an army ant swarm on our first morning at LS. Foraging columns were heading out along SUR trail and into the forest, accompanied by antbirds and other followers. The activity continued most of the day.
Bullet Ant (Paraponera clavata)
These huge ants (up to an inch in length) are unfortunately common at LS, and must be constantly watched for. Their bite and extremely painful and debilitating sting has given them the Spanish name Veinte y Quatro (“24”), from the number of hours it takes to recover from an encounter. They live in small colonies of a few score or hundred individuals. The ants seen at La Selva were, however, smaller than the Paraponera ants of Amazonian Peru, which appeared more solitary in habits (but considered same species).
At least two species were seen, representing two genera. At LS, the form was Magaloprepus coerulatus, the Blue-Banded helicopter, while at RN, it was a yellow-banded Mecistogaster sp. (two occur). These are the most remarkable insects to observe – they have huge wingspans (up to 8 inches), and as the long thin bodies hang downward, each wing beats slowly and in sequence, like a hovering helicopter or a windmill. In this manner they are able to approach their primary prey – orb-weaving spiders – undetected, then making a sudden dash, seizing the spider, snipping off its abdomen, and eating it in flight! They typically fly slowly through the canopy, with only the yellow or blue-tipped wings flickering in the light.
An apartment-dweller’s nightmare, this huge (3.5 inch) cockroach is found at LS. It is primarily nocturnal, but we found an injured individual in the middle of CCC.
Costa Rica has an abundance of butterflies (more species than on the entire continent of Africa) and identification is a real challenge, despite an excellent (two volume!) book. This is complicated by the great deal of mimicry among species. Among the most obvious are Morpho spp., Caligo (Owl Butterfly), various Heliconius spp. and their ithomiid mimics, and glass-winged butterflies of various genera.