Here is a hodgepodge of news items and updates related to birding in Costa Rica from this past month. They include things I have heard through the local birding grapevine, what I have noticed in local newspapers, and my own experiences:
Tapanti National Park birding on Monday– The Orosi Valley and Tapanti National Park were typically good for birding. I always like going to a place where I can get three saltator species in the same tree (what birder doesn’t?), hear the double toot call of Rufous-breasted Antthrush emanating from forested hillsides, and maybe even get a lifer or new addition to my Costa Rica list. You never know what will show up in the biodiverse forests of Tapanti but you always know that you are in for something good. Although I didn’t get my lifer White-fronted/ Zeledon’s/Rough-legged Tyrannulet nor add Lanceolated Monklet to my CR list, while guiding there yesterday, we got nice looks at a male White-winged Tanager, saw more than one Golden-bellied Flycatcher, enjoyed the antics of Scale-crested Pygmy-Tyrants, and admired several Elegant Euphonias. The person I was guiding also caught a glimpse of a male Yellow-eared Toucanet on the Oropendola Trail (I have never seen this uncommon species at Tapanti!).
We also saw a pair of Spangle-cheeked Tanagers coming to the ground to feed a hidden fledgling.
Since Tapanti doesn’t open until 8am (I know- what’s up with that?!?!), we started out around Cachi and made a few stops on the way to pick up brush-finches, saltators, White-lined Tanager, and other coffee plantation birds. Once we got to the park, sunny weather kept things a bit on the down low but we still did alright, and once it clouded over, the mixed flock activity picked up. Notable was the dearth of flowering plants which resulted in no hummingbirds! Well, there were a few, but except for Green Hermit, they were just unidentified flybys. A nice day overall in any case and we still managed 86 species.
On a side note, the marshy habitat around Cachi Lake looks promising. I’m not sure about access but will be investigating it to hopefully get Masked Duck- my neotropical nemesis bird!
Yellow-bellied Seedeater in the Central Valley– Someone found a pair of this south Pacific slope species near a town about 6 miles north of the airport. This might be the first record for the Central Valley and is actually not too far from my house so I might go look for it. Not sure how they ended up there but I wouldn’t be surprised if they were cagebirds that had escaped from their dismal prisons. You never know, they could still be wild birds, but since few to no other Yellow-bellied Seedeaters have been reported between there and areas near the Osa, I am inclined towards the escapee hypothesis. Oh yes there are caged birds in Costa Rica- I routinely hear several seedeaters, grassquits, and even Golden-browed Chlorophonia calling from a house not too far from mine. Every single one was taken from the wild-how I would love to free them. Especially discouraging was recently seeing White-collared Seedeater and two Yellow-bellied Siskins in cages at a house near Cachi on Monday. Here we have a place where there are plenty of wild birds found right around the house and yet they had two species that have disappeared from many areas in Costa Rica due to the cagebird trade.
Better access road to Volcan Tenorio National Park- In today’s “La Nacion”, one of Costa Rica’s national newspapers, there was a brief news item that talked about the inauguration of a new access road to Volcan Tenorio. The road is called “Las Aguellas” and connects Bijagua to the national park. Bijagua already has a couple roads that head up that way so I don’t know if this is an existing road that has been improved, or a brand new one. Whatever it is, this is exciting news because Volcan Tenorio has some of the best birding in Costa Rica (think Heliconias Lodge). I know, you hear that now and then (and I am guilty of making that statement), but I can’t emphasize enough how good the birding is in that area. The recipe of dry, wet, lowland, and middle elevation along with a healthy dash of high quality forest makes Volcan Tenorio and Bijagua one of the most biodiverse areas in the country. Within a half hour drive of Bijagua, you can get all 6 species of motmots, all 5 species of tinamous, at least 10 species of owls (maybe more), and tough birds such as hawk-eagles, Rufous-vented Ground-Cuckoo, Sharpbill, Black-eared Wood-Quail, Scaled Antpitta, Lovely Cotinga, and more. Yep, a good place to base yourself when birding Costa Rica. Needless to say, I am eager to check out the new road.