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A few Highlights from Costa Rica Birding at Ujarras

Ujarras, Costa Rica is a small settlement situated near the Cachi Dam. This structure is in turn located in the Orosi Valley and is meant to hold back the water of the Reventazon River so it can be used to generate electricity. A side effect was the creation of a lake that produced Costa Rica’s first Canvasback in 2011. Sadly (and stupidly) I didn’t manage to make it over to Ujarras to look for that country first. I went there yesterday and the bird has of course not made it back to such a southerly location (yet) but there were a few other ducks around. In fact, there were a good number of ducks and although Lesser Scaup, Ring-necked Duck, and American Wigeon won’t tickle the fancy of most visiting birders, I and my birding friend Susan were pleased to scope them because they are kind of uncommon in Costa Rica and reminded me of birding in western New York.

The lower temps than normal and windy weather also brought back oddly fond memories of much worse weather conditions while scanning for ducks on Lake Ontario. Fortunately, in Costa Rica, it never gets so cold that you feel as if the wind is going to waltz away with your very being so we had nothing to worry about. That was one of the day’s highlights for us and here were a few others:

1. Prevost’s Ground Sparrow: I think Ujarras and surroundings might actually be the most reliable site for this species. Forget about wandering the gardens of the Bougainvillea, not seeing it and wondering if you might connect on the next trip. Instead, Go to Ujarras and scan the dirt road behind the ruins. If that doesn’t work, walk up to where you can see into the Chayote cultivation (looks a bit like a vineyard) and watch there until one comes into view. We saw 4 to 5 birds without even trying and I came pretty close to getting a photo but they appear to be a camera shy species. We also saw a few more next to the coffee plantations at the Casona del Cafetal.

birding Costa Rica

This is a cool looking bird but is the much more common White-eared Ground-Sparrow. They also occur around Ujarras and the Orosi valley.

birding Costa Rica

The Casona del Cafetal is worth a visit- nice restaurant, good food, and good birding (don’t worry, it isn’t tilted in reality).

2. Hummingbirds: When the Chayote is in bloom, this area offers up some of the best hummingbirding anywhere. I don’t just mean for Costa Rica either, I am talking really anywhere. “Not so!” you say? I beg to differ based on reports of literally several hundred hummingbirds of 17 or so species  seen in one day (including both coquettes!). Mind you, the chayote fields have to be in full bloom and they weren’t on November 25th, so our sightings of these glittering sprites numbered in the dozens instead of hundreds. Nevertheless, we still saw a fair number of Rufous-taileds, Ruby-throateds, Violet Sabrewings, Violet-headeds, and Green-breasted Mangos and would have probably found more if we had just focused on searching for hummingbirds.

birding Costa Rica

Violet-headed Hummingbirds were feeding on flowering Ingas.

birding Costa Rica

Green-breasted Mangos were buzzing the orange flowers of Poro trees.

3. Wintering warblers: Recent reports of rarities from Ernesto Carman (such as Cape May and Nashville Warblers) had us spishing until our lips ached. Although we didn’t come across any serious rarities, the warbler scene was still pretty good with fair numbers of resident Rufous-cappeds and Tropical Parulas, and 11 migrant species including Golden-winged, Worm-eating, and Bay-breasted Warblers.

birding Costa Rica

We also had several Mourning Warblers. It was interesting to note that their call sounds somewhat like that of the Plain Wren (or vice versa).

4. Other birds typically seen in the area: The Orosi Valley is always a birdy place so even if you don’t find something rare, you may be entertained by three saltator species, White-crowned Parrots, Crimson-fronted Parakeet, Gray-headed Chachalaca, Least Grebe, Orange-billed Nightingale-Thrush, Passerini’s, Silver-throated, White-lined, and Bay-headed Tanagers, Slaty Spinetail, and on and on. Being close to good forest at Tapanti and other nearby sites also ups the birdiness of the Orosi Valley..

Good birding and wish me luck on my next venture to Ujarras and surroundings!

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