I had a long, bird-filled day while guiding in and around Carara National Park yesterday and thought that I might share some news, tips, sightings, what have you. In no particular order:
1. Stay on the trails: While looking for birds along the Laguna Meandrica trail (the “river trail” of Carara birding fame), our group saw signs that read, “do not enter” at just about every opening that looked like a secondary trail. Apparently, the policy of only walking on established trails is being enforced as another guide warned me to keep everyone on the trail or we could get kicked out of the park (and we were just ten feet off the trail at a spot that looked like part of the trail and lacked a do not enter sign). So, when birding Carara National Park, stay on the trail or you may be evicted from the park. Not that anyone needs to leave the trails anyways.
2. Do not leave your car in the parking lot after 4 pm.: A couple of guys got their car locked into the park because they left it there after four PM. Why did they do that? Probably because there was no signs indicating that the park closed at that time! At least they didn’t notice any sign, nor did they see anyone at the building in the parking lot, so they walked into the park unawares and were confronted with a locked gate when they came out of the forest. Part of the problem is related to the next point…
3. The HQ is up the dirt road that goes uphill from the parking lot: For whatever reason, park tickets are no longer sold at the main building in the parking lot. It is pretty much abandoned and you have to go up the dirt road near the entrance to the trail to buy tickets. Once again, I don’t think there are any signs indicating this. I’m not sure why the main building appears to be abandoned- perhaps it’s waiting for repairs?
4. Blooming heliconias on the River Trail: Patches of heliconias are in bloom on the river trail and could turn up any number of hummingbird species. I had 2 Violet Sabrewings there on Monday (site bird for me) as well as Scaly-breasted Hummingbirds, Long-billed Hermit, and Stripe-throated Hermit. It might be a nice place to just hang out and see what shows up. Watch those heliconias near the start of the HQ trail too- I have often heard Band-tailed Barbthroat in that area.
5. Yellow-billed Cotinga on the river trail: We didn’t see it but another guide told me he had one just the day before.
6. Antswarm on the river trail: Ok, so this can happen anywhere in the park but I have had antswarms on several occasions on the river trail. Spend a full morning on that trail and you might run into one.
Bicolored Antbirds show up at antswarms in Carara.
7. Rather quiet on the river trail on Monday: We saw several species of birds, including Royal Flycatcher, Bicolored Antbird, Stub-tailed Spadebill, and Long-tailed Woodcreeper, but the trail was probably the deadest I have ever seen it. As with most tropical forests, you never know what you are going to encounter when birding Carara though so it’s always worth a visit!
8. Scaly-breasted Hummingbird on the mangrove birding boat tour: On an afternoon boat tour, we were shown a “Mangrove” Hummingbird that turned out to be a Scaly-breasted Hummingbird. Just keep in mind if the boat driver takes pains to show you a hummingbird, it might not be a Mangrove.
9. Orange-collared Manakins lekking on the river trail: They have been lekking there for as long as I can remember so that isn’t exactly novel information. It is, however, always noteworthy so watch for those little orange-collared sprites when birding the river trail!
One of them there orange-collared sprites.
10. Plumbeous Kite on the river trail: I guess it’s pretty obvious where we went birding. One Plumbeous Kite was seen flying high above the river trail. We had another during the mangrove birding boat tour.
I hope that information will be helpful to anyone visiting Carara National Park in the near future. Good birding!