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This past weekend I had the privilege of guiding a client to foothill sites on Saturday and the Poas area the next. I hope to give you an idea of what that’s like in the following report:

Saturday

After a last minute check to make sure I am properly equipped with birding and guiding gear, I hit the road and happily drive through dark, empty streets. The lack of traffic is relaxing and an absolute contrast to most times of the day. I see a shape fly by somewhere between Heredia and Santo Domingo and figure that it was probably a Tropical Screech Owl. I get to the Hotel Bougainvillea just before 5, meet up with my client and off we go.

After slowly descending through the wonderful forests of Braulio Carrillo National Park, we pull in to El Tapir. As expected, a male Snowcap shows shortly thereafter. We see several of these dream-like bird along with such other hummingbird species as Violet-headed Hummingbird, Rufous-tailed Hummingbird, Bronze-tailed Plumeleteer, White-necked Jacobin, and Crowned Woodnymph.

Male Snowcap

A female Crowned Woodnymph.

The nearby rainforest is pretty quiet but we still see a few Black-faced Grosbeaks, Emerald Tanager, flyby Mealy Parrots, scope a few Brown-hooded Parrots, see Cinnamon Becard, and a few other birds. It’s so quiet, though, that when the clock says “7″, I decide that we might as well check a few sites down the road. We drive 5 minutes to a small, birder-friendly diner (known as Chicharroneria Patona) and have a drink while scanning the forest canopy on both sides of the road. That turns up a juvenile Gray Hawk, Black-mandibled Toucan, Collared Aracari, Black-cheeked Woodpecker, and a few other birds including an unexpected flyby Peregrine Falcon. I also notice a flowering Inga and as hoped, a few hummingbirds are coming and going from this tree. Although coquette fails to show, we do see both male and female Green Thorntails. Since it’s quiet there too and knowing that this is my client’s only chance at Caribbean slope birds, I decide to drive down the hill and into the lowlands.

Although we can’t really access any good forest, we can and do scan rainforest canopy a few hundred yards away and bird the open areas. We pick up open country flycatchers like Gray-capped, Social, and Great Kiskadee, see a pair of flyby White-crowned parrots, hear but don’t see Orange-chinned Parakeets, and see some other edge species like Common Tody Flycatcher and Clay-colored Thrush. Just as we are beginning to drive off, serendipity strikes as I spot a trio of large birds flying towards us. A moment later, I realize my hunch was correct and we watch a pair of Great Green Macaws and their offspring fly overhead! They made nary a sound and seemed out of place as they flew over a busy bus station and roadside restaurants (or perhaps those, and not the macaws, were our of place).

We then head back up hill to the Patona Diner to check the flowering Inga once again along with the forest canopy. No such luck with Crimson-collared Tanager or other targets so we head on up to Quebrada Gonzalez Ranger Station now that it’s officially open. After paying the entrance fee, we see a student group head start walking the loop trail so we cross the highway and start walking the Ceiba trail instead. Overall, things are pretty quiet (not too much of a surprise since the most active time in the forest is from 6 to 8 in the morning) but we do see Dull-mantled Antbird, Broad-billed Motmot, and run into a bit of a mixed flock that mostly stays in the canopy. It has Black and Yellow Tanager, Tawny-capped Euphonia, and a few other good birds.

A close look at a Broad-billed Motmot.

Checking the streams doesn’t turn up anything more than Buff-rumped Warbler but as we move on, we get good looks at Streak-crowned Antvireo and Checker-throated Antwren.

A female Streak-crowned Antvireo.

The overlook appears to be promising as always and we actually spot a couple non vulture raptors far off above a ridge but they just don’t come close enough for identification. One of them was either a Short-tailed Hawk or a rare Black and White Hawk Eagle but it never came close enough to say for sure!

Continuing on, we head down the trail all the way to a stream crossing on the lower part. The trail is kind of rocky on the way down but if you hit a mixed flock here, you might get excellent looks at some canopy birds. We didn’t but did see Ochre-bellied Flycatcher, brief looks at Tawny-crested Tanager and a few other species. On the way out, we got looks at one of the many Pale-vented Thrushes in the forest but not much else. We then checked the sky for King Vulture sans success and saw a hawk-eagle species in the process but as soon as I glimpsed the hawk eagle, it went into a long stoop and out of sight! I’m pretty sure it was an Ornate Hawk Eagle but only saw it at a distance for a half of a second (yeah, frustrating).

It was then off to lunch at the Patona. The only downside to that small diner is the near constant sound of blasting air breaks on trucks that rumble on by. The birding can be good though, and they like watching birds so I like to support them. Lunch was good and filling and we may have seen a few other species there at that time but I don’t recall too much from the Patona at mid day. However, as usual, one of the owners told me about the birds he had seen that day. He is a birder sans binos and I need to get him some optics because he sees everything from umbrellabird to White Hawk, Sunbittern, and who knows what else.

After lunch, we headed back to Quebrada Gonzalez to do the loop trail around 1:30 in the afternoon. Yep, that’s a quiet time but we still got great looks at Black-headed Nightingale Thrush, White-bellied Wood Wren, and a few other birds including Tawny-faced Gnatwren. Mostly, we were hoping for mixed flocks and a ground bird or two but we got rained out before we could do much else. Just before the rain, hopes were raised when I heard Bicolored Antbird but it was too far off the trail to see and we didn’t see any ants. The army ants were probably far into the forest (and who knows what else was with them!). Just luck of the draw when it comes to army ants.

Fortunately, the rain didn’t last too long and we were awarded with another male Snowcap at flowering bushes and Speckled Tanager while waiting for it to stop. We ventured back into the forest a bit after three and bird activity was picking up (and got close looks at Carmiol’s Tanager and White-throated Shrike Tanager) but the calling Striped Woodhaunters just wouldn’t come close enough to see them before we had to leave to be out of the forest before closing time at 4! Yep, closed during prime birding hours thanks to bureaucracy typically trumping common sense and good service.

White-throated Shrike Tanager

After checking the stream near the highway once more and seeing nothing, I decided that it would be worthwhile to check the Patona diner again. This turned out to be a good choice because we were awarded with nice looks at Scarlet-rumped Cacique, oropendolas, Green Honeycreeper, Crimson-collared Tanager, and a few other birds. The drive back was uneventful, had little traffic, and we got back to the Bougainvillea around 5. Although we had originally planned on going to Irazu the following day, after talking about it, we figured that Poas would be more productive, so that’s where we went.

Crimson-collared Tanager

To be continued…

Here is our list from the day:

Species seen- 81 Species heard only- 17
Cattle Egret Orange-chinned Parakeet
Black Vulture Short-billed Pigeon
Turkey Vulture Black-throated Trogon
White-tailed Kite Keel-billed Toucan
Gray Hawk Striped Woodhunter
Peregrine Falcon Russet Antshrike
White-tipped Dove Bicolored Antbird
Brown-hooded Parrot Chestnut-backed Antbird
Mealy Parrot Slaty-capped Flycatcher
White-crowned Parrot Black-headed Tody Flycatcher
Great Green Macaw Lesser Greenlet
Groove-billed Ani Stripe-breasted Wren
White-collared Swift Bay Wren
Green Hermit Band-backed Wren
Stripe-throated Hermit Louisiana Waterthrush
Snowcap Silver-throated Tanager
Bronze-tailed Plumeleteer Olive-backed Euphonia
Rufous-tailed Hummingbird
White-necked Jacobin
Violet-headed Hummingbird
Green Thorntail
Violet-crowned Woodnymph
Purple-crowned Fairy
Broad-billed Motmot
Collared Aracari
Chestnut-mandibled Toucan
Black-cheeked Woodpecker
Wedge-billed Woodcreeper
Streak-headed Woodcreeper
Streak-crowned Antvireo
Checker-throated Antwren
Dull-mantled Antbird
Common Tody-Flycatcher
Ochre-bellied Flycatcher
Olive-sided Flycatcher
Rufous Mourner
Tropical Kingbird
Great Kiskadee
Social Flycatcher
Gray-capped Flycatcher
Cinnamon Becard
House Wren
White-breasted Wood-Wren
Pale-vented Robin
Clay-colored Robin
Black-headed Nightingale Thrush
Swainson’s Thrush
Wood Thrush
Tawny-faced Gnatwren
Bananaquit
Golden-winged Warbler
Chestnut-sided Warbler
Black-and-white Warbler
Buff-rumped Warbler
Black-and-yellow Tanager
Speckled Tanager
Emerald Tanager
Plain-colored Tanager
Golden-hooded Tanager
Olive (Carmiol’s) Tanager
White-throated Shrike-Tanager
White-shouldered Tanager
Tawny-crested Tanager
PasseriniĀ“s Tanager
Crimson-collared Tanager
Palm Tanager
Blue-gray Tanager
Green Honeycreeper
Shining Honeycreeper
Summer Tanager
Scarlet Tanager
Golden-hooded Tanager
Variable Seedeater
Orange-billed Sparrow
Black-faced Grosbeak
Black-cowled Oriole
Montezuma Oropendola
Chestnut-headed Oropendola
Scarlet-rumped Cacique
Baltimore Oriole
Tawny-capped Euphonia

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One Response to “A Brief Trip Report from Guiding El Tapir and Quebrada Gonzalez One Day and the Poas Area the Next”

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