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22 February - 8 March 1997

by Denis Lepage

Here is a report of my recent trip to Costa Rica.  One more, you may think, but I hope some of you will find this one useful.  This was my first birding experience south of Texas and Florida.  A very succesful trip!  I had 445 species!  of which 31 were heard only.  We had plenty of rain, I little surprise for the dry season, but I wasn't there for the sun...

My first week was spent with Rancho Naturalista at Tuis, east of Turrialba and their excellent birding guides (Jay and Lisa).  They take care of everything and they are very good and friendly.  The Ranch itself is great and excellent for

birding.  For each day, I noted the number of species seen, the cumulative number of species for my trip, the number of new birds for my life list + the number of new birds that were heard only (some were seen later and then included in the new birds total).

DAY 1 - RANCHO NATURALISTA (91 species, 68 new birds for me + 5 heard only) The first morning, spending an hour birding from the balcony is an exciting initiation to Costa Rican birds.  Both Oropendolas, Blue-crowned Momot, Grey-headed Chachalaca, Scarlet-rumped Cacique, Crimson-collared Tanager, Yellow-throated Brush-Finch, Collared Aracari, Snowcap, Green Thorntail, Green Hermit, Black-crested Coquette, Violet-headed Hummingbird, and the beautiful (and common) White-necked Jacobin (possibly my favorite hummer along with snowcap) is a small sample of birds comming to their feeders.

The first day was spent in the Ranch trails.  Best birds were Collared Trogon, Broad-billed Momot, Rufous Momot (All three momots the first day, not bad!) Dusky Antbird, Russet Antshrike, Rufous-tailed Jacamar, Red-footed Plumeleteer, Purple-crowned Fairy, Smoky-brown Woodpecker, Buff-throated Foliage-gleaner, Long-billed Gnatwren.

DAY 2 - TAPANTI RESERVE (95 species, 134 cumulative, 30 new + 3 heard only)

On the second day, we went to Tapanti Reserve.  A great place!!  Because of pouring rain, birding was a little slower, but we found great birds:  Black Guan, Black-bellied Hummingbird, Emerald Toucanet, Prong-billed Barbet (H 3Dheard only), Ruddy Treerunner, Spot-crowned Woodcreeper, Buffy Tuftedcheek, ZELEDONIA (great views of this hard bird!), Barred Becard, Golden-bellied Flycatcher, Torrent Tyrannulet (from the bridge before the entrance), Dark Pewee, Tufted Flycatcher Ochraceous Wren, Black-and-yellow Silky-flycatcher, Black-faced Solitaire, Long-tailed Silky-flycatcher, Yellow-winged Vireo, Brown-capped Vireo, Three-striped Warbler, Flame-throated Warbler, Collared Redstart, Common Bush-Tanager, Flame-colored Tanager

DAY 3 - RANCHO NATURALISTA (100 species, 161 cumulative, 20 new + 3 heard only)

Second and last day in Rancho's trails.

Some of the new birds I saw: Squirrel Cuckoo, White-fronted Nunbird, Rufous- winged Woodpecker, Plain Xenops, Dull-mantled Antbird, Slaty Spinetail (H), Grey-headed Manakin (H), White-crowned Manakin, Masked Tityra, Sulphur-rumped Flycatcher, Olive-striped Flycatcher, Scale-crested Pygmy-Tyrant, Black-headed Nightingale-Thrush, Slate-throated Redstart, Giant Cowbird, Silver-throated Tanager, Black-and-yellow Tanager

DAY 4 - EARTH (115 species, 227 cumulative, 47 new + 9 heard only)

Probably the best day of my trip!!!  This was also one of the few days of nice weather in more than two weeks.  This may have helped to increase bird activity.

We first stopped near Siquirres, at a bridge on Rio Reventazon (I believe, I would have to check to be sure).  We saw Blue-headed Parrot, Brown-hooded Parrot, Olive-throated Parakeet, Ringed Kingfisher, Green-breasted Mango, Buff-rumped Warbler, PLAIN-COLORED TANAGER.

EARTH is a private station near Siquirres.  I am not sure how one could access it without a contact (such as with Rancho).  The bird of the day was a young male BARE-NECKED UMBRELLABIRD, but the 4 RED-CROWNED PARROTLETS were not far behind.

Other birds seen: Rufescent Tiger-Heron, Grey-breasted Crake (great views!), Laughing Falcon, Roadside Hawk, Least Pygmy-Owl (H), Striped Cuckoo, Bronzy Hermit, Lineated Woodpecker, White-necked Puffbird, Pied Puffbird, Cinnamon Woodpecker (H), Black-striped Woodcreeper, Buff-throated Woodcreeper, Great Antshrike (H), Slaty Antshrike, White-winged Becard, SNOWY COTINGA, Purple-throated Fruitcrow, Bright-rumped Attila, Long-tailed Tyrant, Tropical Pewee, Ochre-bellied Flycatcher (H), Black-capped Pygmy-Tyrant (H), Yellow Tyrannulet, Yellow-margined Flycatcher (H), Yellow-bellied Elaenia, Band-backed Wren (H), Canebrake Wren, Blue-winged Warbler, Olive-crowned Yellowthroat, Olive-backed Euphonia, Blue-black Grosbeak, White-collared Seedeater, Blue-black Grassquit

DAY 5 - IRAZU (92 species, 271 cumulative, 16 new + 5 heard only)

From Rancho, we first stopped near Turrialba at a pond where we had Least Grebe, Blue-winged Teal, Chestnut-collared Swift, Northern Rough-winged Swallow, Piratic Flycatcher, and Orange-billed Nightingale-Thrush (H)

One the way to the summit of Irazu, or directly on the border of the crater (these bird are marked with a *), we had:

Band-tailed Pigeon, Green Violet-ear, Magnificent Hummingbird *, Fiery-throated Hummingbird, Volcano Hummingbird, Resplendent Quetzal (heard and seen by only a few), Acorn Woodpecker (H), Black-capped Flycatcher, Mountain Elaenia Timberline Wren *, Black-billed Nightingale-Thrush, Sooty Robin, Black-cheeked Warbler, Yellow-billed Cacique (H), Sooty-capped Bush-Tanager *, Large-footed Finch, Slaty Flower-piercer, Thick-billed Seed-Finch, Yellow-bellied Siskin, Lesser Goldfinch, Volcano Junco *

DAY 6 - RIO TUIS (119 species, 304 cumulative, 25 new + 11 heard only)

Near Rancho, a trail follows Rio Tuis.  Another great birding day!!

Great tinamou (H), Great Black-Hawk, Swallow-tailed Kite, Double-toothed Kite, Barred Hawk, Ruddy Pigeon, Barred Parakeet (H), Green-fronted Lancebill (near the fall), Violaceous Trogon, Red-headed Barbet (great!), Wedge-billed Woodcreeper, Plain-brown Woodcreeper Brown-billed Scythebill, Spotted Woodcreeper, Red-faced Spinetail (H), Black-faced Antthrush (H), Immaculate Antbird (H), Spotted Antbird (H), Rufous Piha (H), Slaty-capped Flycatcher, Yellow-olive Flycatcher, Slaty-backed Nightingale-Thrush (H), Pale-vented Robin, Rufous-capped Warbler, White-vented Euphonia, Blue-hooded Euphonia, Golden-browed Chlorophonia, Scarlet-thighed Dacnis, Green Honeycreeper (all last five at the same time!), Black-faced Grosbeak

DAY 7 - SAN JOSE/TARCOL (104 species, 358 cumulative, 24 new + 1 heard)

I was in San Jose in the morning.  Best bird was a BAT FALCON flying over me.  I was picked up and brought to TARCOL LODGE, near Carara on the Pacific Slope.  The lodge is owned by the same person who owns Rancho Naturalista.  The lodge is more basic and smaller than Rancho, but I recommand it as well.  Tony, the guide is also a very good birder and friendly.  The lodge is facing the mouth of Rio Tarcoles and is very good for waders, shorebirds, gulls, terns, etc.

In addition, near the lodge, or along the road between Tarcoles and Tarcol Lodge, we had:

BARE-THROATED TIGER-HERON, Black-bellied Whistling-Duck, Wilson's Plover (you should spend some time to look at them when they hunt crabs in front of the lodge!), Mangrove Black-Hawk, Crested Caracara, Yellow-headed Caracara, Inca Dove, Scarlet Macaw, Mealy Parrot, Yellow-naped Parrot, White-fronted Parrot, Orange-fronted Parakeet, Ferruginous Pygmy-Owl, Scaly-breasted Hummingbird, Steely-vented Hummingbird, Ruby-throated Hummingbird, Black-headed Trogon, Turquoise-browed Motmot, Barred Antshrike, Rose-throated Becard, Streaked Flycatcher, Brown-crested Flycatcher, Panama Flycatcher, Rufous-naped Wren, White-throated Magpie-Jay, Prothonotary Warbler, Mangrove Warbler, Northern Waterthrush, Red-winged Blackbird, Scrub Euphonia, Red-legged Honeycreeper

DAY 8 - CARARA AND TARCOL (147 species, 403 cumulative, 37 new + 2 heard only)

Carara is really a great place.  Below is a list of some bird seen:

Boat-billed Heron, Crested Guan, King Vulture, Blue Ground-Dove, Grey-chested Dove, Ruddy Quail-Dove, Lesser Nighthawk (roosting with a Pauraque, a few meters apart!), Band-rumped Swift, Long-tailed Hermit, Violet Sabrewing, Blue-throated Goldentail, Slaty-tailed Trogon, Baird's Trogon, Black-throated Trogon, Pale-billed Woodpecker, Chestnut-mandibled Toucan, White-whiskered Puffbird (H), Golden-naped Woodpecker, Black-hooded Antshrike, Chestnut-backed Antbird, Dot-winged Antwren, Orange-collared Manakin, LONG-TAILED MANAKIN, Red-capped Manakin, Rufous Mourner, Three-wattled Bellbird (H), Royal Flycatcher, Golden-crowned Spadebill, Northern Bentbill, Slate-headed Tody-Flycatcher, Rufous-breasted Wren, Rufous-and-white Wren, Black-bellied Wren, Hooded Warbler Kentucky Warbler, Ovenbird, Yellow-crowned Euphonia, Yellow-throated Euphonia

Around Tarcol Lodge: Anhinga, Wood Stork, Short-billed Dowitcher, Black-necked Stilt, Peregrine Falcon, AMERICAN PYGMY KINGFISHER

And on the bridge over Rio Tarcoles, east of Carara, a Purple Gallinule

DAY 9 - MANGROVE TRAIL AT TARCOL LODGE (134 species, 416 cumulative, 9 new)

In the morning, we walked in the dry mangroves behind Tarcol.  New birds for my trip were Mangrove Hummingbird, Scissor-tailed Flycatcher, Rufous-browed Peppershrike (seen briefly), Scrub Greenlet, Mangrove Vireo, Painted Bunting

Near Tarcol/Tarcoles: Grey-crowned Yellowthroat, Collared Plover

At the end of the day, we made a short visit to the entrance of the Waterfall trail, near Carara.  New birds were Zone-tailed Hawk and Fiery-billed Aracari

DAY 10 - WATERFALL TRAIL/ LA SELVA (93 species, 423 cumulative, 5 new + 1 heard only)

In the morning, we walked the trail down to the waterfall, at the Carara border.  Some of the new birds seen or heard include: Marbled Wood-Quail (H), Grey Hawk (H), Plain-capped Starthroat, Western Tanager, Red-crowned Ant-Tanager

Around noon, Mario drove me to a bus stop in San Jos E9, where I took the bus to La Selva Biological Station, near Puerto Viejo de Sarapiqui.  I stayed 4 nights at the station.  Birding was usually slow and rain abundant, but the mature forest was great!  I arrive shortly before sunset at the station and decide not to stop for birds at that time.  Nonetheless, a Great Tinamou was waiting for me near the station, but I soon learned that they are easy to see there.  I walked many of the trails of the station during my stay.  Bird activity was down as early as 8 am, but this may have been because of the weather.  I would not suggest to someone to spend more than 1-2 days at La Selva.  My goal anyway, as a professional ornithologist was also to see the station itself, so I was really not disappointed.

I'll only mention new bird seen each day

DAY 11 - LA SELVA (45 species, 432 cumulative, 7 new + 2 heard only)

BLACK HAWK-EAGLE (great view, perched just a few meters overhead!), Olive-backed Quail-Dove, Great Potoo (roosting), Mottled Owl (H) Vermiculated Screech-Owl (H), Lattice-tailed Trogon, White-ringed Flycatcher, Shining Honeycreeper, Slate-colored Grosbeak (my 1000th species on my life list)

DAY 12 - LA SELVA (54 species, 442 cumulative, 9 new + 1 heard only)

Good day for hawks: Common Black-Hawk, Crane Hawk, Semiplumbeous Hawk

Also Crested Owl (H), Band-tailed Barbthroat, Blue-chested Hummingbird, Fasciated Antshrike, Eye-ringed Flatbill, Dusky-faced Tanager, Red-throated Ant-Tanager

DAY 13 - LA SELVA (52 species, 442 cumulative, 1 new)

The only new species was a Great Antshrike, that I heard before at EARTH.

DAY 14 - LA SELVA / SAN JOSE (>38 species, 445 cumulative, 3 new)

At la Selva, a pair of CHESNUT-BELLIED HERON was a great sight!  Also a Tawny-crested Tanager.

My last bird was at the Alajuela Airport, a FORK-TAILED FLYCATCHER.

Also many great insects (Rhinoceros Beettle, Helicopter Damselflies, Morphos and other great Butterflies, etc.), and other animals (Two-toed Sloth, Iguanas, Agoutis, Coatis, Howler Monkeys, White-faced Monkeys and Spider Monkeys).

If you wish to have a full list of bird seen, or more details about the place I visited, don't hesitate to contact me.

Denis Denis Lepage (Quebec)
Departement de Biologie,
Pavillon Vachon
Universite Laval (Qc)
(418) 656-2131 ext#6327 / Fax: (418) 656-2043

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