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March, 2015 Birding News for Costa Rica

It’s March and this being the high season for birding in Costa Rica, I thought that some birding news, tips, and reminders would be pertinent:

  • The main road to Cerro de la Muerte is now open: Yes, it was closed for most of February because part of the road fell away. Yep, it collapsed after heavy rains but according to the news, they have fixed enough of it to not have to detour through the mountains south of San Jose.
  • Good birds in southern Costa Rica: According to eBird (a fantastic resource, please help by contributing your sightings), Savannah Hawk, Sapphire-throated Hummingbird, Veraguan Mango, and Brown-throated Parakeet have all been seen near La Gamba and in wetlands south of Ciudad Neily.
  • Carara is kind of dry: It’s been way too dry around Carara and that’s not so good for birds that are adapted to humid forest. All of the species are still there but you might have to work harder for them than in the past. The park still opens at 7 at this time of year.
Royal Flycatchers are still reliable.
  • Lanceolated Monklet at the La Fortuna Waterfall: A number of local birders have connected with this rare species at the Fortuna Waterfall Trail. Perhaps it’s more vocal at this time of year? Despite the parade of tourists and loud leaf blowing in the parking lot before it opens, the trail can also be good for White-whiskered Puffbird, Ocellated and Spotted Antbirds, tanager flocks, and other species.
  • Prevost’s (Cabanis’) Ground-Sparrow: It was wonderful to see an article on this endemic ain the local newspaper. This species requires a lot more attention than it has been given and is very likely Endangered. Local ornithologist, Luis Sandoval, and other researchers at the Univeristy of Windsor Mennill Lab have published a study arguing for species status and propose White-faced Ground Sparrow as a new name for this country endemic. It’s a relief to see this much needed study, I hope it spurs much needed conservation efforts for this species. Thank you Luis and the Mennill Lab! On another note, the ground-sparrow has also been reliable in a riparian zone next to the big WalMart near the airport to Alajuela. BUT, the security situation looks a bit sketchy so if possible, it would be best to watch from inside the fenced off parking lot. I haven’t heard of any incidents but it looks like a spot where a mugging could happen.
  • There are at least two birding boat tours on the Tarcoles River: There are two and I have heard that some of the crocodile tours are also good for birds. The two birding focused ones are the Mangrove Birding Tour, and the Fantastic Birding Tour. Although I haven’t checked out the “fantastic”, I suspect it’s similar because they both go to the same places. Lately, tours on the river have been good for the thick-knee, Collared Plover, and Southern Lapwing. The pygmy-kingfisher can also show on any boat trip, as can Mangrove Hummingbird (beware confusion with Scaly-breasted). The wood-rail can appear too but it’s always tough.
This Mangrove Hummingbird is actually from Mata de Limon.
  • Raptors, Quetzals, and Cave Swallows: Raptors are scarce as always but the Arenal forests seem good for hawk-eagles, quetzals are nesting at the usual sites and I have seen several on the road to Poas Volcano, including right at the Restaurant Volacan. As for Cave Swallows, myself and a couple friends saw at least 20 along the road to Chomes. New country bird for me, it makes you wonder where they are coming from and how many more are around.
This quetzal is from the Poas area.
  • Migrants: We are starting to see reports of migrants coming through. Please report whatever you see on eBird even if it happens to be a common bird like Least Flycatcher, Black-throated Blue Warbler, or Warbling Vireo because those “common” birds are rare vagrants in Costa Rica.
  • Big Day this weekend: Not really news, but I am doing one this weekend with Robert and Susan. It’s going to be good birding no matter how many species we get. Wish us luck!

6 replies on “March, 2015 Birding News for Costa Rica”

Keep up the great work Patrick! I dug the cotinga post as well. I had no idea LEFL where hecka rare in CR, I’ll have to keep that in mind next time I go…I was happy to get a single BTBW when we were down there, I think it made its way into eBird but I’m not positive.

Thanks Pat, Looks like I dodged a bullet on Cerro de la Muerte without knowing it. Good tips on La Gamba which I plan to focus on in 8 days, on the drive from Puerto Jiminez to San Vito. With your reports from there and some nice stuff on eBird it sounds like a spot not to be missed. Also, big thanks for the tip on the Alajuela Walmart. I’d looked around the area for Prevost’s on eBird and there are no reports for the Walmart; hopefully I can change that. With your comment about security do you think it would be unsafe to walk from the Holiday Inn Express to the Walmart if I stick to the main roads?

When does traffic get bad in San Jose? My last day I’ll be driving from Turrialba through San Jose to get to Alajuela and am trying to decide how early to do this. If I can hang around the Walmart maybe it will give me incentive to go earlier.

Why do birds like hanging around nasty things like sewage ponds, the Salton Sea, Walmarts, the Tijuana River, etc?

@ Steve Parrish- Yes, La Gamba area is well worth your while. Yes, I think it would be alright to walk from that hotel to the Walmart on main roads. Might have to walk along the edge of the highway though. The sketchy looking area was the riparian zone. Just looks like a spot where homeless drug addicts might hang out. Worse times for traffic are 6 to 830 in the morning, and 430 to 630 in the evening. Yeah, good to plan out the best time for that route because that one can definitely be a pain for traffic. Ha ha, good question- just the little bits of habitat they can find in urban surroundings I suppose.

@Seagullsteve- Thanks! Yeah, some of those real common birds up north just don’t normally make it down here. Good one with with BTBW- I still need that one for my country list.

Hey Pat:

I was curious about Fantastic Birding Tour and found a thread on Tripadvisor. Apparently the brother of Frederico from Cerro Lodge bought the boat and land from Mangrove Birding Tour. It looks like somebody with some energy is doing this now. We took the Mangrove Birding Tour just over a year ago, the day before we met you. And we got some pretty good birds (thick-knee, lapwing, pygmy kingfisher, peregrine falcon). But Luis was a good hour late and spent most of the time on his cell phone and was really indifferent to the whole thing. His captain was pretty good though so hopefully he’s with the new company. But in any case it’s past time for some fresh blood to be doing the Tarcoles River birding boat tour.

Thanks for keeping us Costa Rica-philes updated with the latest, Patrick! Rather shocking to hear about the Cerro de la Muerte road, I’m sure it’s a relief to many birders that it’s open again. And fantastic birds around La Gamba–none of which I got when I was in the area for a week in Sept., unfortunately. Good luck with your Big Day (today?)–look forward to hearing about it!

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