8 - 28 July 1996
by David B. Collinge
8/7 Volcán Poas, 9 to 11/7 Tortuguero, 12 to 14/7 Manuel Antonio, 14/7 Villa Lapas, Tarcoles. 15-17/7 Monteverde, 17 to 19/7 Playa Hermosa, Guanacaste, 19 to 21/7, Arenal, where we stayed at Tanque, 20/7 Río Frío. Stayed in Sabanilla, San Jose from 21 to 28/7 with excursions to the Aerial Tram, Braulio Carrillo (24/7) and Jardín Lankester and Cachi Dam (25/7) and 28/7 Desamparados. This was our second trip to Costa Rica, the previous trip being for 2 weeks in November 1994. The most striking difference in July is the lack of north American winter visitors, notably Broad-winged Hawks, waders, orioles and warblers. (Capitals denotes species not seen elsewhere). The weather was much the same.
Principal performers: Mikkel (aged 7) and Jakob (aged 5) with their mother Lone Rossen and father. Kenneth Madriz-Ordeñana, his Danish wife Bente Sørensen and their two year old son, Daniel were our hosts in San Jose. We started with a 6am check in at Kastrup (CPH), changed plane at Schippol (AMS) arrived at 12:30 am on the 8th, according to our bodies, although, for some unaccountable reason, it was only 16:30 according to local clocks on the 7th. Jetlag has its advantages in terms of getting up at dawn to birdwatch. But you can't burn the candle at both ends.
Kenneth picked us up at Alajuela and took us home to Sabanilla, a mondane eastern suburb of San Jose, 1Km from Park del Este (See Stiles and Skutch). Most of the cars in that neighbourhood are BMW's and Mercedes. There is a steep-sided forested river valley and extensive coffee plantations. We stayed with Kenneth and Bente in between our other excursions, and for the whole of the last week.
Turkey Vulture, Black Vulture, Band-tailed Pigeon, Red-billed Pigeon, White-Fronted Dove, Crimson-fronted Parakeet, WHITE-CROWNED PARROT, Squirrel Cuckoo, PAURAQUE, Grey-rumped Swift, Rufous-tailed Hummingbird ?, Blue-crowned Motmot, Hoffmann's Woodpecker, Golden-olive Woodpecker, Tropical Kingbird, Great Kiskadee, Slate-headed Tody-Flycatcher, Northern Rough-winged Swallow, Blue-and-White Swallow, Brown Jay, Plain Wren, House Wren, Clay-coloured Robin, Montezuma Oropendola, Great-tailed Grackle, Blue-Grey Tanager, Palm Tanager, Greyish Saltator, Blue-black Grassquit?, Rufous-collared Sparrow
We had extensive use of their car for local trips starting with 8/7 Volcán Poás, via Alajuela, Herediana, San Pedro de Poás, Poásito (where we had lunch), and nearly Grecia (as we took the wrong turning in Alajuela). We actually saw the crater despite arriving after 12.
Turkey Vulture (Volcán Poás), Band-tailed Pigeon (Poásito), Pale-vented Pigeon (Poásito), SCINTILLANT HUMMINGBIRD (Volcán Poas), ACORN WOODPECKER (Volcán Poas), Grey-breasted Wood-Wren?, SOOTY ROBIN, (Poas), BLACK-BILLED NIGHT-THRUSH (Volcán Poas), SLATY FLOWERPIERCER (Volcán Poás), White-eared ground-Sparrow (San Pedro de Poás). Deppes Squirrel (presumably. Very tame, many locals were tempting them with biscuits and chocolate). There is a squirrel called Poas squirel, but as far as I can work out, it is a rare species found only in Talamanca - any comments?
9 to 11/7 Tortuguerowith Cotur.
Their coach stops just before the tunnel in Braulio Carrillo, and crawls over the Río Succio bridge. Breakfast is at Guápiles. The coach stops at a Three Toed Sloth soon after breakfast. We took this tour in November 1994 and the routine, coach driver (Carlos), breakfast and sloth were the same. Commentry was the same though the guide was different. Embarkation is currently at Astua (by Lago Chorejal) near Matina, rather on the Río Parismina at Hamburgo (north of Peje and Siguerres). The tour is much more canal and correspondingly less river. Cotour attracts many Spaniards, a disadvantage for the English speaker since all information is given first in Spanish. None of the (4-5) Cotour guides we have met have been particularly sympathetic birders. They readily point out the Anhingas, Jacanas and Blue Herons, but e.g. not the Green Ibis or Solitary Eagle. Jungle Lodge is on the arm of land between the Río Tortuguero and the main canal. There is a good access to reasonable primary and secondary growth but you are dependant on the lodge's river transportation for seeing anything else. Highlights here included Little Tinamou, a Boa Constrictor, and a troop of Howler Monkeys in the trees above our lodge. In 1994, the package included a 2h 5am jungle waterways tour. This is now a $15 extra, as is the evening turtle tour ($10). (Not to be missed - despite the hype, it really is an experience of a lifetime). At 80,000 for the trip, we found these extras somewhat churlish. The two day package does include a mid morning jungle trek. This entailed climbing the Tortuguerro Hill. Not for small children, and we were not warned. I fell face (and camera, binoculars and telescope) down into the mud. No damage. Lone had, fortunately, chickened out, and was rewarded with a river tour, seeing Spider Monkeys and a King Vulture. I was rewarded with a poison arrow frog, leaches, bats and 2cm ants. The only bird of note was a Slaty-backed Forest-Falcon. Not much chance of anything else when 25 European tourists barge through the jungle. The afternoon tour included the spider monkeys and a trip to the village. We saw a Brown Booby and mating Green Turtles from the beach. The return trip was marked by an Osprey following the boat for 20 minutes and two King Vultures.
LITTLE TINAMOU, Brown Pelican (22 flying north along coast), Brown Booby (way out to sea, flying north), Neotropical Cormorant, Anhinga, Magnificent Frigatebird, Bare-throated Tiger Heron, YELLOW-CROWNED NIGHT HERON (imm.), Boat-billed Heron, Green(-backed) Heron, Little Blue Heron (several in pied 2nd summer plumage), Tricoloured Heron (1), Snowy Egret, Great (White) Egret, GREAT BLUE HERON, GREEN IBIS (1), Roseate Spoonbill (Río Parismina estuary), Turkey Vulture, Black Vulture, KING VULTURE (2), Osprey (3), DOUBLE-TOOTHED KITE (at Matina), Common Black Hawk, BLACK SOLITARY EAGLE, SLATY-BACKED FOREST-FALCON, Bat Falcon, Northern Jacana, Wilson's Plover (Río Parismina estuary), Spotted Sandpiper, Short-billed Pigeon, GREAT GREEN MACAW, Mealy Parrot, BRONZY HERMIT, Rufous-tailed Hummingbird, RED-FOOTED PLUMELETEER, Ringed Kingfisher, Amazon Kingfisher, American Pygmy Kingfisher, Collared Araçari, Keel-billed Toucan, Chestnut-mandibled Toucan, Black-cheeked Woodpecker, CHESTNUT-COLOURED WOODPECKER, Lineated Woodpecker, PURPLE-NECKED FRUITCROW, WHITE-RUFFED MANAKIN, Tropical Kingbird, Great Kiskadee, Social Flycatcher, Common Tody-Flycatcher, Northern Rough-winged Swallow, Mangrove Swallow, BLACK-THROATED WREN?, STRIPE-BREASTED WREN?, Clay-coloured Robin (Thrush), Montezuma Oropendola, Olive-backed Euphonia, Golden-hooded Tanager, Blue-Grey Tanager, Scarlet-rumped Tanager, RED-THROATED ANT-TANAGER, Variable Seedeater, Orange-billed Sparrow.
12 to 14/7 Manuel Antonio.
We took the express bus from the Coco Cola Station. Booking in advance is essential, at least on a Friday. There were many left behind. This takes the fast road via Atenas. Non-stop. We were on the beach at Manuel Antonio at 10am. Stayed at Villas el Parque, recommended for the canopy level views over secondary forest. The restaurant is visited by a troop of 40 Squirrel Monkeys at 4pm if it's not raining. Kenneth and Bente had driven down in the afternoon. It took them 1h longer in their car than it took us by bus. We picked up our Suzuki Sidekick on the Saturday. Elegante
Brown Pelican, Brown Booby (apparently breeds on small offshore islands), Magnificent Frigatebird, White Ibis (apparently breeds on small offshore islands), Black-bellied Whistling Duck, Turkey Vulture, Black Vulture, GRAY-NECKED WOOD-CRAKE, Bridled Tern (up to 40 - apparently breeds on small offshore islands), SCALED PIGEON, Pale-vented Pigeon, Short-billed Pigeon, Ruddy Ground Dove, White-Fronted Dove ?, Mealy Parrot ?, Squirrel Cuckoo, SMOOTH-BILLED ANI (only place where this species positivel identified), CRESTED OWL, Chestnut-collared Swift, White-collared Swift, Band-rumped Swift, Rufous-tailed Hummingbird, Green-crowned Brilliant, Purple-crowned Fairy, Ringed Kingfisher, Amazon Kingfisher, Fiery-billed Araçari, Red-crowned Woodpecker, Lineated Woodpecker?, PALE-BILLED WOODPECKER, Streak-headed Woodcreeper, GREAT ANT-SHRIKE, BLACK-HOODED ANTSHRIKE, Masked Tityra, Tropical Kingbird, Streaked Flycatcher, Great Kiskadee, Social Flycatcher, Mangrove Swallow, Clay-coloured Robin, Tropical Gnatcatcher, GREEN SHRIKE-VIREO, Bananaquit, Great-tailed Grackle, Yellow-crowned Euphonia, Golden-hooded Tanager, Red-legged Honeycreeper, Blue-Grey Tanager, Palm Tanager, Scarlet-rumped Tanager, Olive (Carmiol's) Tanager, GREY-HEADED TANAGER, Buff-throated Saltator, Variable Seedeater
Drove to Carara on 14/7.
Stayed at Villa Lapas, Tárcoles. Spent the afternoon rain at Villa Lapas, and went to the Río Tárcoles bridge at about 16:00. There were a total of 10 crocodiles present, but only 16 macaws flew over. I gathered later that a number had flown over a couple of hours previously when Kenneth and Bente stopped. We took a couple of hours in the early morning on the river trail at Villa Lapas. Unfortunately, the lower bridge had been washed away, so only the lowest part of the trail system was accessible. Du to time constraints, we did not visit Carara Reserve itself. 15/7 Continued to Monteverde, stopping in Punteranas for vital supplies (money, petrol and provisions).
Villa Lapas/Río Tárcolitos
Bare-throated Tiger Heron, White Ibis, Turkey Vulture, Black Vulture, Grey-headed Kite, Laughing Falcon, Grey-fronted Dove, Grey-chested (Cassin's) Dove, Scarlet Macaw, GREEN-BREASTED MANGO, Green Kingfisher, Red-crowned Woodpecker, Tropical Kingbird, Streaked Flycatcher, Great Kiskadee, Social Flycatcher, Common Tody-Flycatcher, YELLOW-BELLIED ELAENIA, House Wren, WHITE-BREASTED WOOD-WREN, Clay-coloured Robin, Yellow-throated Euphonia, Golden-hooded Tanager, Blue-Grey Tanager
Cattle Egret (very common along whole coast), Green(-backed) Heron, Little Blue Heron, Great (White) Egret, Wood Stork, White Ibis, Black-bellied Whistling Duck, Turkey Vulture, Black Vulture, Northern Jacana, Ruddy Ground Dove, Inca Dove, Scarlet Macaw (14 near dusk), Groove-billed Ani, Tropical Kingbird, Grey-breasted Martin, Southern Rough-winged Swallow, Mangrove Swallow, Great-tailed Grackle
Stayed at Hotel El Bosque from 15-17/7 Monteverde (tel 645-5221 fax 645-5129), arriving mid afternoon. Strolled up to the Bosque Eterno de Los Niños "El Tigre" in the last light. Took a whole morning tour with Gary Dillen as guide (and 3 Germans). The first birder I had met, he also helped me with identifying a lot of the noises I had transcribed from previous places. The children visited the cheese factory and the butterfly farm during the morning. We found some Quetzals and a Bellbird in the afternoon, then visited the butterfly farm and Finca Ecologica. The displaying manakins at the latter were one of the highlights of the trip.
Turkey Vulture, Lesser Yellow-headed Vulture (Sardinal), Black Vulture, Swallow-tailed Kite, PLUMBEOUS KITE, WHITE HAWK (Sardinal), Laughing Falcon, PEREGRINE FALCON, GREY-HEADED CHACHALACA, Band-tailed Pigeon, RUDDY PIGEON , Inca Dove, White-Fronted Dove, Brown-hooded Parrot, White-fronted Parrot, Groove-billed Ani, MOTTLED OWL, VAUX'S SWIFT, VIOLET SABREWING, GREEN VIOLET-EAR, STRIPE-TAILED HUMMINGBIRD, COPPERY HEADED EMERALD, PURPLE-THROATED MOUNTAIN-GEM, MAGNIFICENT HUMMINGBIRD, RESPLENDENT QUETZAL, Turquoise-browed Motmot (Sardinal), Blue-crowned Motmot, EMERALD TOUCANET, Keel-billed Toucan, SPOTTED BARBTAIL, Masked Tityra, THREE-WATTLED BELLBIRD, LONG-TAILED MANAKIN, Tropical Kingbird, SULPHUR-BELLIED FLYCATCHER, Great Kiskadee, Social Flycatcher, SLATY-CAPPED FLYCATCHER, OLIVE-STRIPED FLYCATCHER, Southern Rough-winged Swallow, Blue-and-White Swallow, White-throated Magpie Jay (Sardinal), Brown Jay, Rufous-naped Wren (Sardinal), Plain Wren, Rufous-and-White Wren (Sardinal), House Wren, Grey-breasted Wood-Wren, Clay-coloured Robin, MOUNTAIN ROBIN, BLACK-FACED SOLITAIRE, BLACK-HEADED NIGHTINGALE-THRUSH,, YELLOW-GREEN VIREO, LESSER GREENLET, Bananaquit, SLATE-THROATED REDSTART, THREE-STRIPED WARBLER, Bronzed (red-eyed) Cowbird, Great-tailed Grackle, Golden-browed Chlorophonia, Yellow-throated Euphonia, Spangle-cheeked Tanager, Blue-Grey Tanager, Common Bush-Tanager, SOOTY-CAPPED BUSH-TANAGER, Yellow-faced Grassquit, Variable Seedeater, CHESTNUT CAPPED BRUSH FINCH, SOOTY-FACED FINCH
17/7 to 19/7 Guanacaste and Nicoya.
Whereas we drove up to Monteverde via Sardinal, we descended via Sacramento. We stayed at Hotel Cabinas Playa Hermosa. Excellent food, but out room was on the north side, adjacent to a croft (fishing and livestock). The livestock kept us awake. Following Keith Taylor's instructions, I was thwarted in my attempt to get to Lago Mata Redonda by a locked gate at Talolinga. The second time this happened to me in Guanacaste as I also failed to get to Palo Verde in November 1994 using the same guide (1993 edition). The fish ponds/rice paddies south of the road at Communidad were rich. The adjacent lobster ponds were fairly poor. Playa Hermosa is currently being developed extensively, with hotels being built on both sides of the bay, and considerable housing developments on the south side of the river. There is a new international airport at Liberia and this area will probably be fairly awful in high season. Most of the non-water birds were seen at or near Playa Hermosa.
Brown Pelican, Magnificent Frigatebird, Cattle Egret, Green(-backed) Heron, Tricoloured Heron, Snowy Egret, Great (White) Egret, Wood Stork, White Ibis, GLOSSY IBIS, Black-bellied Whistling Duck, Turkey Vulture, Black Vulture, Osprey, Grey Hawk, Crested Caracara, PLAIN CHACHALACA, Northern Jacana, BLACK-NECKED STILT, WILLET, Bridled Tern, Red-billed Pigeon, Short-billed Pigeon, Mourning Dove, White-winged Dove, Common Ground Dove, Ruddy Ground Dove, Inca Dove, ORANGE-FRONTED PARAKEET, WHITE-FRONTED PARROT, YELLOW-NAPED PARROT, Groove-billed Ani, FORK-TAILED EMERALD, VIOLACEOUS TROGON, Ringed Kingfisher, Turquoise-browed Motmot, Hoffmann's Woodpecker, Tropical Kingbird, Great Kiskadee, BROWN-CRESTED FLYCATCHER, Grey-breasted Martin, White-throated Magpie Jay, Rufous-naped Wren, BANDED WREN, WHITE-LORED GNATCATCHER, Great-tailed Grackle, Streak-backed Oriole,White-collared Seedeater, Blue-black Grassquit, Stripe-headed Sparrow, House Sparrow
19 to 21/7 Arenal.
We drove round the south of the lake. The road is much improved, compared to 1994, and should be a good double track road when completed. The hot springs resort at Tabacón is not to be missed - for the experience of soaking in volcanically heated water only disturbed by the errupting volcano. The restaurant was the best we experienced in CR. However, I acquired a gut problem in this area which it took months to get rid of.
Neotropical Cormorant, Snowy Egret, Turkey Vulture, Black Vulture, Swallow-tailed Kite, Grey Hawk, COLLARED FOREST-FALCON, Groove-billed Ani, White-collared Swift, Tropical Kingbird, Southern Rough-winged Swallow, BUFF-RUMPED WARBLER, Red-legged Honeycreeper, Scarlet-rumped Tanager, Variable Seedeater.
We stayed at Hotel Rancho Corcovada at Tanque. Recommended for the restaurant. Not for the food, but it overlooks a backwater of the Río Fortuna. The hotel was noisy on the Saturday night - Motel design, surrounding a pool (good pool-side birding).
Boat-billed Heron, Cattle Egret - roost of about 200 (though not November 1994), Green(-backed) Heron, Black-bellied Whistling Duck, Turkey Vulture, Black Vulture, American Purple Gallinule, Red-billed Pigeon, Common Ground Dove, Ruddy Ground Dove, Crimson-fronted Parakeet, Orange-chinned Parakeet, White-fronted Parrot, Red-lored Parrot, Groove-billed Ani, BLACK-AND-WHITE OWL (these roosted in a tree next to the restaurant in 1994, only heard this time. They have apparently moved to a tree on the other side of the river), LESSER NIGHTHAWK, PLAIN-CAPPED STARTHROAT, Turquoise-browed Motmot, Keel-billed Toucan, Chestnut-mandibled Toucan, Black-cheeked Woodpecker, BUFF-THROATED WOODCREEPER, Masked Tityra, Tropical Kingbird, PIRATIC FLYCATCHER, Boat-billed Flycatcher, Great Kiskadee, Social Flycatcher, Common Tody-Flycatcher, House Wren (found nest), Montezuma Oropendol, Great-tailed Grackle, Red-winged Blackbird, Golden-hooded Tanager, Red-legged Honeycreeper, Blue-Grey Tanager (nest), Palm Tanager, Scarlet-rumped Tanager, Buff-throated Saltator, Variable Seedeater, THICK-BILLED SEEDFINCH
20/7 Río Frío.
Another time, I would seriously consider dropping Tortuguerro for a day trip on the Río Frío to Caño Negro. We saw some really exciting stuff there including both potoos and all the kingfishers (except belted!). Eagle Tours in Fortuna had an excellent guide who really knows his birds.
Least Grebe (south of Los Chiles) , Neotropical Cormorant (11), Anhinga (30), Bare-throated Tiger Heron, Boat-billed Heron, Cattle Egret, Green(-backed) Heron (8), Snowy Egret (5), Great (White) Egret (26), Wood Stork (8), Roseate Spoonbill (3 ad 1 im), Black-bellied Whistling Duck (7), Turkey Vulture, L'r Yellow-headed Vulture?, Black Vulture, Swallow-tailed Kite (on the way), Common Black Hawk (at Caño Negro), Roadside Hawk, Bat Falcon, Sungrebe (5), Northern Jacana, Spotted Sandpiper, Red-billed Pigeon, Ruddy Ground Dove, Crimson-fronted Parakeet (9), AZTEK PARAKEET (OLIVE-THROATED), Groove-billed Ani, Great Potoo, Common Potoo, BLACK-HEADED TROGON, Ringed Kingfisher, Amazon Kingfisher, Green Kingfisher , GREEN-AND-RUFOUS KINGFISHER, American Pygmy Kingfisher, Collared Araçari, Black-cheeked Woodpecker, WHITE-COLLARED MANAKIN, Boat-billed Flycatcher, Great Kiskadee, Social Flycatcher, Tropical Pewee, Common Tody-Flycatcher, Grey-breasted Martin, Mangrove Swallow (19), Clay-coloured Robin, Montezuma Oropendola, Giant Cowbird, Great-tailed Grackle, NICARAGUAN GRACKLE, Red-winged Blackbird, Yellow-crowned Euphonia, Yellow-throated Euphonia, Olive-backed Euphonia, Blue-Grey Tanager, Scarlet-rumped Tanager, Blue-black Grassquit, House Sparrow
We spent the last week in Sabanilla, with day trips. 27/7 was spent at UCR, San Pedro, gave a little time birding on campus. 28/7 visited the market and a private garden at Desamparados. Tried to visit Parque del Este (named in Stiles and Skutch) on 22/7. Twarted by (1) restricted opening hours (2) closedon Mondays.
24/7 Aerial tram (excellent guide but expensive).
Brown-hooded Parrot, LESSER SWALLOW-TAILED SWIFT, Green Hermit, CROWNED WOODNYMPH, Black-cheeked Woodpecker, WEDGE-BILLED WOODCREEPER, BUFF-BREASTED FOLIAGE GLEANER, BARE-NECKED UMBRELLABIRD (3 seconds, but can't imagine what else it could have been), SCALE-CRESTED PYGMY-TYRANT, RIVERSIDE WREN (? - the guide wasn't certain), NIGHTINGALE WREN, CHESTNUT-SIDED WARBLER, Yellow-crowned Euphonia, EMERALD TANAGER, Golden-hooded Tanager, GREEN HONEYCREEPER, Red-legged Honeycreeper, Olive (Carmiol's) Tanager, TAWNY-CRESTED TANAGER, DUSKY-FACED TANAGER, BLACK-AND-YELLOW TANAGER, Orange-billed Sparrow
25/7 Jardín Lankester at Paraiso (Cartago), followed by a drive round the Cachi lake via Orosi. Although most of the 2000 orchids flower in the winter, there was sufficient happening in July to make this botanical trip worthwhile.
Neotropical Cormorant (Cachi), Green(-backed) Heron (Cachi), Turkey Vulture, Black Vulture, White-tailed Kite, White-Fronted Dove, Grey-fronted Dove, Hoffmann's Conure (Sulphur-winged Parakeet) (Cachi), White-collared Swift, Green Hermit, Rufous-tailed Hummingbird, Social Flycatcher, ORANGE-BILLED NIGHTINGALE-THRUSH, Rufous-capped Warbler, Great-tailed Grackle, Blue-Grey Tanager, White-eared ground-Sparrow, Rufous-collared Sparrow
(See Stiles and Skutch (deviations in name largely follow Howard and Moore 2nd Edition). Place names follow Costa Rica 1:200.000, Instituto Geográfico Nacional, San Jose, 1988 edition This is now available as a large green road atlas cum natural history guide. Indespensible, but don't trust it for minor roads. Examples of problems include Guanacaste and Monteverde. I made extensive use of Keith Taylor's instructions and bird lists, (A birder's guide to Costa Rica, 1993 edition, available from NHBS). Mammals: there is a new laminated sheet which illustrates te more conspicuos mammals, though it does not include any bats. I only saw it at the Aerial Tram and Monterverde shops. Eisenberg Mammals of the Neotropics I (Chicago) covers Panama. I referred to it on my return, prefering to prioritse The birds of Panama for my luggage. The latter is an invaluable supplement to Stiles, especially for the hummingbirds.
FG Stiles and Alexander F Skutch (1989) A Guide to the Birds of Costa Rica, Christopher Helm (GBP 35) (is now also available as an updated edition in Spanish with more pictures)
K Taylor (1993) A Birder's Guide to Costa Rica Price: (GBP 21) 3rd Edition
RA Ridgely and JA Gwynne (1989) A Guide to the Birds of Panama with
Costa Rica, Nicaragua and Honduras GBP 39.50 (Price after 31/12/1996:
53.50) 2nd Edition.