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Birding Costa Rica middle elevations

Long Awaited Life Bird at Tapanti National Park

Yes! I finally got a new bird for my Costa Rica list! I think the last addition was Blue-headed Vireo at the Children’s Forest Reserve above Grecia (although it was looking kind of like a Cassin’s…) but as rare as that species is for Costa Rica, I have witnessed its spectacled appearance since the 1980s. The bird I saw at Tapanti National Park, however, was a definite, long awaited life bird. Technically, I have seen it in Ecuador, but didn’t feel right about making an addition to my life list based on a brief glimpse of beige movement. I haven’t counted Rufous-vented Ground-Cuckoo nor Red-fronted Parrotlet for similar reasons. The non-countable sighting of the cuckoo was a look at a long tail of a bird that rushed off into the undergrowth at Quebrada Gonzalez while my two sightings of parrotlets were  brief silhouettes- parrotlets obviously deserve better.

Fortunately, the new bird I saw on Sunday couldn’t have given better views and even sat long enough for one picture:

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My lifer Ochre-breasted Antpitta from Tapanti National Park, Costa Rica.

I have visited Tapanti numerous times hoping for this bird and have seen the much larger Scaled Antpitta, uncommon foliage-gleaners, Ornate Hawk-Eagle, and even Rufous-rumped Antwren, but this little antpitta has always eluded me. Others have seen it at La Paz Waterfall Gardens, and (much more so) near the San Gerardo Station at Monteverde, but I always missed the bird at those places too. I don’t know where the Ochre-breasted Antpittas were hiding on my previous visits to Tapanti, but the bird on Sunday wasn’t feeling the least but shy. It got our attention with a raspy, antbird-like call, and shortly thereafter was spotted by Susan Blank. After getting that one shot, it moved to a few other visible perches before fitting too far away from the trail to see.

We saw my first countable Ochre-breasted Antpitta on the Arboles Caido trail about 200-300 meters up from the exit (it’s easier to walk up the trail from there). Walk this fairly steep trail and you might get lucky too! It may or may not respond to playback of recordings from Andean Ochre-breasted Antpittas  because the birds in Costa Rica are said to give a rattling trill. This is particularly intriguing since Grallaricula antpitta species are thought to give either one note songs or trills but not both song types. Maybe some day, someone will show that the birds in Tapanti and elsewhere in Costa Rica merit species status.

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Birding Costa Rica weather

Go Birding in Costa Rica and Escape the Summer Heat

It’s not exactly cold in Costa Rica but it’s never as deathly hot as the summer heat tsunami hitting much of the United States. Honestly, if you flew from that “heat dome” to the tropical latitudes of Costa Rica, you wouldn’t feel as roasted no matter which part of the country you visited. Up in Guanacaste, temps would get up into the 90s, but it wouldn’t be as humid and you might see a large-eyed, Double-striped Thick-Knee or get a chance to study Nutting’s Flycatchers.

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Double-striped Thick-Knee.

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Nutting’s Flycatcher.

Further south on the Pacific coast, it’s definitely hot and humid but the mercury still doesn’t rise more than 92 degrees. Cloudy weather also tends to make it a bit cooler and you will note nicer temps inside heavily shaded primary forest as well. Over in the Caribbean lowlands, the birding takes place in humid, 80 something degree weather but that’s never as bad as a the 100 degree, outdoor humid sauna taking place in the USA.

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On the south Pacific slope, you could run into Fiery-billed Aracaris (above),and then watch their Caribbean slope counterparts Collared Aracari (below) on the other side of the mountains.

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If your desire to escape the heat is enough to forgo birding in the lowlands altogether, then head up into the subtropical zone where temperatures are a pleasant 70 something degrees. Higher still, you can watch the Talamancan endemics and pretend that its Autumn with 65 degree days and 50 degree nights.

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Regionally endemic Prong-billed Barbets are a fairly common sight when birding Costa Rica cloud forests.

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Volcano Hummingbirds are abundant in high elevation habitats.

Weather in the Central Valley is s bit like that of cloud forest but drier. For example, as I write this post, it’s about 78 degrees outside with moderate humidity. Yes, quite close to most people’s idea of “perfect”. Despite it being the rainy season, we are also getting beautiful, sunny weather so don’t think for a second that you can only visit during the dry season, or that Costa Rica is too hot any time of the year. The outdoors are pretty much like this year round with varying amounts of rain. Oh, and the birding is pretty good too! I’m hoping to get out this weekend to look for bellbirds or fruiting trees that may hold uncommon post-breeding frugivores. I might also head over to Cachi Lake and try for my long-awaited Masked Duck. Whatever I end up doing, the birding is guaranteed to be exciting.

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Birding Costa Rica weather

Back From the USA and Recent News from Costa Rica

I apologize for those who have visited this blog and wondered why there wasn’t any new posts. I was visiting family in Niagara Falls, NY for two weeks and just didn’t have enough time to write for the blog. Also, I figured that no one wanted to read about getting a kick out of hearing and seeing common birds of western New York at a blog about Costa Rica. However, now that I’m back in this birdy land, I will start by saying that I hear a Striped Owl calling somewhere in the neighborhood.

I wouldn’t be surprised if this neotropical cousin of the Short-eared Owl was commoner than that other open country species, the Barn Owl. They appear to do alright in just about any open habitat, and at night, you can sometimes see them perched on wires at the edge of parking lots at local big box stores like “Mega Super” or “Hypermas”.

I was also reminded that some birds are getting into post breeding mode when a flock of White-crowned Parrots flew over the house. If you visit at this time of year, you could get some interesting altitudinal migrants that move to lower elevations after breeding. One of these is White-crowned Manakin. Although I have only ever seen females of this species at Quebrada Gonzalez, they count just as much as males and should be there right now. Watch for the grayish head and reddish eyes.

Bellbirds are apparently still calling and easy to see at Monteverde right now, Red-fronted Parrotlet was seen at Tapanti on the Oropendola Trail two weeks ago, and I need to go birding!

On the weather side of things, a week of heavy rains appears to have ended and the forecast is for milder, more predictable weather for the next two weeks. Let’s hope that prediction comes true! Upala and parts of Guanacaste are flooded due to the rains, and there is always the possibility that the residents of Atenas will block the new highway because they are tired of risking their lives in crossing it. They are still awaiting a pedestrian bridge that was promised to them. If it happens to be blocked, just take the old route through San Mateo and Orotina. It will take longer and the road has more curves, but at least it’s scenic!

Oh, and I should also mention that volcanic activity is picking up a bit at Volcan Poas. Geologists have said that people with asthma should avoid visiting the park due to the higher level of gases being emitted by the volcano. The rangers shut down the park if gases get above a certain level in any case. If you can’t go to Poas, there is always Volcan Irazu  with its Volcano Juncos and Timberline Wrens.

So, sorry again for the two week hiatus! Next time, I hope to post some bird photos.