I posted about birding at Lands in Love a few months ago and just have to do it again. It’s hard not to post about this overlooked birding destination because I am pretty sure that it’s one of the best sites in Costa Rica for birding. A short morning of recent birding there keeps me convinced that it has a lot to offer for both beginning birders, people who have been birding for decades, and even in country guides. I went there the other morning for the most part to record bird sounds, get a picture of a Lanceolated Monklet, and just scout the trails.
I knew that the monklet is there because our group found one in September and on that trip, the high quality of the habitat was also evident. In addition to lots of foothill primary rainforest, Lands in Love is also a great site for birding simply because it’s easy to get there. You don’t have to hike along some slippery trail or bounce along a horrible rough road. All it takes is a drive along the scenic paved road between San Ramon and La Fortuna to get to Lands in Love, tell them you would like to bird on the trails, pay an entrance fee ($5 was the most recent fee), and start birding. Of course you can also stay there and that’s even better because the habitat has grown up around the rooms and attracts a wide variety of edge species along with several forest birds and such wanted species as Snowcap, Crested Guan, and Crimson-collared Tanager.
When I arrived the other day, I first stopped along the road that goes from the highway to the lodge. This road passes through various stages of second growth with older forest in gullies. Although I haven’t birded that area very much (in part because there are very few areas to park- would be much better to walk although you either go uphill or down), it has a lot of promise because the area was filled with birdsong the other morning. Among the several species that were heard were Thicket Antpittas, Black-throated Wren, Bicolored Antbird, Yellow-billed Cacique, Slaty-capped Flycatcher, and several other birds. It’s very birdy and who knows what else might turn up?
Down at the lodge itself, Crested Guans were feeding in trees next to the reception, lots of other birds were active, including a Smoky-brown Woodpecker. However, I wanted to spend most of my time in the forest so quickly made my way to the Ceiba trail to see what I could find.
Once inside the forest, things quieted down but that’s par for the course in primary forest. The birds are there but they quiet down shortly after dawn, are way up there in the canopy, or keeping a low profile in the understory. I did see and hear some nice species but even if I hadn’t seen birds, it was a treasure to walk on trails through beautiful primary rainforest with clear streams and biodiversity all around.
One of the birds I had hoped to assess and find was Keel-billed Motmot. To do so, I used playback just to see if a bird would respond. Birds did respond but every time, it was one or two Broad-billed Motmots, a closely related species with an extremely similar call (I have yet to learn how to separate them). The Broad-billeds were pretty common but I do know that Keel-billed has been recorded there so I wonder if it’s using some slightly different habitat?
While looking for the motmot, I saw several Kentucky Warblers, ran into a few understory flocks with Streak-crowned Antvireos, Checker-throated Antwren, Buff-throated Foliage-gleaner, Ruddy-tailed Flycatcher, Tawny-crowned Greenlet, Sulphur-rumped Flycatcher, and Tawny-faced Gnatwren. Understory flocks like this are a sign of healthy forest and have unfortunately disappeared from much of the forests at the La Selva station. Another species that seemed to be moving with one or two of those flocks was the Song Wren.
In fact, the forest turned out to be very good for this uncommon species as I had at least 3 different groups. Three other quality rainforest species I encountered were Golden-crowned Spadebill (had 3 or 4), Spotted Antbird, and Scaly-throated Leaftosser (2 or 4 birds total). No canopy flocks but I’m sure they occur. As far as canopy birds go, I did see a tree full of quietly feeding toucans and heard Green Shrike Vireo. Oh yeah, and I did find a monklet! It was in a different place than the one from the birding club trip so may have been a different individual altogether. Try as I might, I could not find the thing though! The song was quite ventriloqual and the bird may have been singing from high overhead.
Once the monklet stopped singing, I gave up on seeing it and walked back out of the forest hoping for army ants. I actually found some near the cabins but there weren’t any birds with them! After this, I birded a bit more along the road on the way back up to the highway with nice activity of various edge and some forest species, and ate a pita with falafel and hummus at the great Loveats Cafe.
In that short morning, I had over 100 species. Go there, you will see a lot!