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biodiversity Birding Costa Rica birding lodges caribbean foothills

A Few Gems from Birding in Costa Rica at Heliconias Lodge

This past weekend, I co-guided the Birding Club of Costa Rica trip to a site that never fails in dealing out a wild card of high quality species. Birding at Heliconias Lodge is akin to shopping at an international antique bazaar where treasure awaits for those who know how to find it. Walk carefully and patiently watch on those trails through beautiful primary forest and ye shall find any number of avian rarities! Heliconias and other sites on the flanks of Tenorio Volcano are so darn good for birds mostly because there is a lot of high quality habitat. Bird large areas of extensive, protected forest and you are going to find species that have disappeared from other, more fragmented sites. It can’t just be large areas of old second growth either. Species like Yellow-eared Toucanet, Strong-billed Woodcreeper, Gray-throated Leaftosser, Song Wren, and Rufous-vented Ground-Cuckoo appear to require (or are at least more common in) the type of old, intact primary forest that occurs at Heliconias.

People in our group had all of the above species except for the ground-cuckoo. Since we didn’t come across any army ants, that was no big surprise as at Heliconias, they are usually seen at anstwarms. Nevertheless, we saw a bunch of other excellent species, including a lifer for your’s truly. I knew this bird had been sighted at Heliconias in the past so I admit that it was my main personal goal for visiting the place. The ground-cuckoo would have also been nice but I knew that the other target bird would be much more reliable, especially since a friend of mine told me where he had found a pair the previous year.

My bird of the weekend and latest lifer was…

Keel-billed Motmot!


We got a pair right at the largest of the canopy bridges and they allowed us to study them at our leisure. Talk about soul satisfying looks, these birds perched at eye level directly in front of us like they were in some kind of zoo. There was always the possibility that they might be immature Broad-billed Motmots, but since they looked like images of other Keel-billeds and acted like a pair of adult birds, I’m counting this as my latest lifer. It was long overdue, so now I can move on and search for the nefarious Masked Duck, the elusive Ochraceous Pewee, and several skulking marsh birds.

Other quality species that gave us killer looks were:

Crested Owl and

Black-crested Coquette.

The owl is widespread in Costa Rica but can be a real pain to see even when they are calling. One of the guys at Heliconias often knows where a pair are perched and is happy to show them to visiting birders. The coquette is also commonly seen throughout the year right near the entrance to the lodge. We had at least two, and the local birding guide, Jorge, says that he sometimes sees four in the area.

For whatever reason, Heliconias is also one of the most reliable sites in the country for Song Wren.

Here’s one doing its usual skulking thing in the understory vegetation.

Although the weather can be trying, head to Heliconias and bird the road to the Rio Celeste and you are going to see a bunch of high quality birds. I hope I can get back up that way sometime soon!

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Birding Costa Rica birding lodges caribbean foothills Hummingbirds middle elevations

Birding El Copal Biological Reserve, Costa Rica in August

El Copal is this rather remote, community owned and run reserve situated between Tapanti National Park and Amistad International Park. Biogeographically speaking, it is located on the Caribbean slope of the Talamancan Mountains in the foothill/middle elevation zone. Birdingly speaking, this means that you are always in for one heck of an avian ride when visiting El Copal.

I guided a recent Birding Club of Costa Rica trip to El Copal this past weekend and although the ever elusive Lovely Cotinga failed to show, we still had some pretty awesome birding. Yes, our goal was actually Lovely Cotinga as mid-August is when a few have historically showed up at El Copal to feed on fruiting Melastomes in front of the lodge. I suspect that diligent birding could turn them up at other times of the year as well but despite scanning the forest canopy several times a day, we didn’t see any cotingas.  Since this species appears to be genuinely rare in Costa Rica (and should be considered locally endangered in my opinion) , that was no big surprise.

We were, however, intrigued by the shortage of hummingbird species. Quality was there in the form of ever present Snowcaps and Violet-headed Hummingbirds, but where were the other 10 species that buzzed the Porterweed in May, 2010? At that time, Green Thorntail was the most common hummingbird. On this trip, it didn’t even make the list.  The dearth of hummingbirds was testament to the fact that many hummingbird species in Costa Rica (and elsewhere) make lots of movements or short migrations in search of their favorite  flowers.

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Male Snowcap (now that’s some serious quality).

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Male Violet-headed Hummingbird (it gets a quality sticker too).

While the cotingas didn’t show up to feast on Melastome fruits, the tanagers sure did. Among the 18 species that highlighted the trees in front of the lodge with their glittering plumage were such highlights as Blue and Gold, Emerald, Black and Yellow, and Speckled Tanagers. Scarlet-thighed Dacnis were pretty common and I have never been any place in Costa Rica where it was so easy to see White-vented Euphonia. We must have had six of this uncommon species hanging out right at the lodge.

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A bad picture of two White-vented Euphonias. Find them if you can!

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A back view of a male Scarlet-thighed Dacnis.

Accompanying the tanagers were Scarlet-rumped Caciques, Black-faced Grosbeaks, Olivaceous Woodcreeper, Spotted Woodcreeper, several Tropical Parulas and Bananaquits, and Band-backed Wrens. The forest edge near the lodge was also good for Golden-olive Woodpecker, both oropendolas, Keel-billed Toucan and Collared Aracari, and held a pair of Spectacled Owls at night. Beto, one of the gracious owners of the lodge, also told us about the Mottled Owls that make regular appearances at the lodge.

The birds mentioned above made for some fantastic, busy birding from the balcony. It was also a great place to watch the huge flocks of White-collared Swifts the flew over in the evening and to watch for raptors. Regarding hawks and other sharply clawed birds, we were surprised to see so few raptors when so many showed up on our previous trip to this site. The only raptors we had other than vultures were one Short-tailed Hawk, a few Swallow-tailed Kites, a couple of heard only Barred Forest-Falcons, Bat Falcon, and one distant, immature Ornate Hawk-Eagle.

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The balcony at El Copal.

Inside the forest, the cloudy, partly rainy weather boosted the bird activity to new heights. Saturday had a good number of mixed flocks, Immaculate and Dull-mantled Antbirds, and calling Tawny-chested Flycatcher, but Sunday was downright amazing. We took the upper trail and the bird activity was just about non-stop from 6 to 8am. Big mixed flocks accompanied us along the trail that were dominated by Carmiol’s Tanagers and held rarities such as Rufous-browed Tyrannulets, Black and White Becard, and even one Sharpbill (seen by just one person in the group). We also got onto a few Ashy-throated Bush-Tanagers, Slaty-capped and Olive-striped Flycatchers, Russet Antshrike, White-winged Tanager, and Plain Xenops in addition to most of the tanager species seen at the lodge. I suppose our other best forest birds were singing Black-headed Antthrush and one flushed Chiriqui Quail-Dove.

Not counting the Torrent Tyrannulet, Tawny-crested Tanagers, and Sunbittern and dozen or so open country species seen on the way to and from the lodge, we got 125 species in total. This was a pretty good total considering that most were forest birds. Making arrangements to stay at El Copal was a bit confusing at times, and the directions to the place posted at the ACTUAR site should be more specific but the rest of the trip went  as smooth as chocolate silk pie. Our hosts from the community were friendly, gracious, and very accommodating (5 am coffee). The lodge is still quite rustic with basic beds and cold showers (yikes!) but they may have solar water heaters for our next visit. The community is looking for and open to accepting funds to put in a solar water heater (all electricity there is solar in nature) and could also use other things like extra binoculars, field guides, and a green laser pointer (works wonders for pointing out birds in the forest). If interested in making a donation to El Copal, please contact me at information@birdingcraft.com to put you in touch with the owners.

Also, here are more specific directions to the place:

When you get to Paraiso, stay on the main road past the park and go straight rather than following signs to Turrialba. You will descend through coffee plantations down to Cachi dam. From there, follow signs to Tuccurrique and Pejibaye. In Pejibaye, go around the soccer field (football pitch) and head to the right. Stay on that road and watch for a sign to El Copal that tells you to make a sharp left over a bridge that crosses a small river. Follow that road and stay to the left where the road forks. Keep following it (fair birding along the way) and watch for a sign that shows the entrance to El Copal on the left.

Keep in mind that you can’t just show up to go birding because the place isn’t always open. Also, make reservations through Actuar to stay overnight because day trips seem to only be possible by taking a super expensive birding tour. Even if you don’t go to El Copal, though, you could still see a lot of good birds in forest patches along the road (rocky but doable even without four-wheel drive until just past El Copal).

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Birding Costa Rica birding lodges caribbean foothills caribbean slope lowlands

Good Costa Rica Birding at the Finca Luna Nueva Lodge

What makes a hotel truly worthy of the “eco-lodge” title? How about one that is also an organic farm, protects primary rainforest, provides employment to locals, prefers guests who dig the natural world, and strives to be sustainable. In all of the above respects, the Finca Luna Nueva Lodge fits the bill perfectly. I was fortunate to be able to visit this gem of a spot with my wife and daughter over the past weekend and look forward to doing a lot more birding at this site in the future.

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They also have a nice ozonated pool.

I heard about and was invited to the Finca Luna Nueva Lodge by fellow guide and birding friend of mine, Juan Diego Vargas. Juan Diego spends much of his time looking for birds in Liberia but also guides in many areas of the country and helps out with a number of ornithological projects. One of these has been inventories of the birds at Luna Nueva (check out this link for the details). A few of the more interesting finds were White-fronted Nunbird, Green Thorntail, Black-crested Coquette, and even Great Green Macaw. The nunbirds appear to have a healthy resident population and are readily seen along a trail that accesses primary forest. The hummingbirds are probably seasonal but we had one female Black-crested Coquette over the weekend. The macaw is a very rare, seasonal visitor during October but the fact that it does show up reflects the healthy bird habitat on the farm.

Yes, the fact that the place is a working farm makes it all the more interesting and acts as a ray of sustainable hope in a world whose ecosystems are stressed by the needs of several billion people. Farm workers arrive in the morning and you will probably see a few while birding, but unlike farms that raise monocultures, you will also see lots of birds. At least I did while walking past a mix of cacao, ginger, medicinal herbs, chile peppers, scattered trees, and areas that were allowed to naturally recover. White-crowned Parrots were very common and filled the air with their screeching calls. Bright-rumped Attilas, three species of toucans, Black-throated Wrens, Barred Antshrikes, and other species of the humid Caribbean slope flitted through bushes and treetops while a pair of Gray-necked Wood-Rails ran along paths through the organic crops. The birding was definitely good in the farmed area of the lodge but I think the food was even better.

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I finally got a good shot of an atilla!

The Luna Nueva is a proponent of what they call, “slow food”. The apparent antithesis of hamburgers, fries, milkshakes, and other quickly made, over-sugared, and fatty foods, slow food is all about the good taste that comes from using carefully groomed, high quality products. At least this was the impression I got after having eaten slow food at Luna Nueva over the course of the weekend. Everything they served was not only damn good, but it also left me feeling super healthy. Really, if you want to eat some of the healthiest, tastiest food in the country, eat at Luna Nueva.

Now back to the birds! Mornings started off with a fine dawn chorus of humid lowland edge and forest species. This means a medley of sound that included Laughing Falcons, Gray Hawk, toucans, the bouncing ball song of Black-striped Sparrow, Black-throated Wrens, Long-billed Gnatwrens, Dusky Antbirds, Barred Antshrikes, Cinnamon and White-winged Becard, Long-tailed Tyrant, Blue-black Grosbeak, and others.

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We also enjoyed a pair of Lineated Woodpeckers that worked a snag in front of our family bungalow.

A few flocks of Olive-throated and Crimson-fronted Parakeets sped overhead and Red-billed Pigeons flapped their way around scattered trees. As morning progressed, hummingbirds became more obvious as they zipped and chipped between patches of heliconias and Porterweed planted to attract them. Speaking of hummingbirds, Luna Nueva is an especially good site for those glittering avian delights. I had at least 8 species during my stay and I’m sure you could see more.

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A male Violet-headed Hummingbird was one of the eight species.

In the primary forest, Western Slaty-Antshrikes, Golden-crowned Spadebills, Great Tinamou, and Chestnut-backed Antbirds called from the understory while Chestnut-mandibled Toucan and a few Black-headed Tody-Flycatchers vocalized from the canopy. That latter species is not all that common in Costa Rica so it was good to record it (my first for 2011). Although some of the deep forest species are unfortunately lacking or rare because of poor connectivity with other, more extensive forest, you could use the lodge as a base to bird more intact forests around Arenal or the Manuel Brenes Reserve (both 20 minute drives).

I didn’t do any nocturnal birding but was awakened by the calls of  a Black and White Owl on my first night. The habitat is perfect for this species so you should probably see it without too much effort around the lodge buildings.

This was what the habitat looked like around the lodge buildings,

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this was what the primary rainforest looked like,

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and this was a view from the canopy tower.

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Oops, did I say canopy tower? It turns out that the Luna Nueva has had a canopy tower for years but the birding community didn’t know anything about it! The lodge has gone unnoticed and rather undiscovered because it was marketed to student groups and botanically slanted tours for most of its history. Birders, herpitologists, and other aficionados of our natural world should start showing up on a more regular basis once the word gets out about this place.

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Hognose Viper- one of the many reasons why herpitologists will like this place. Others are frog ponds that attract Red-eyed Tree Frogs and Cat-eyed Snakes, and a healthy herp population inside the forest.

From the tower, I mostly had common edge species but the looks were sweet as candied mangos and it should turn up some uncommon raptors, good views of parrots, and maybe even a cotinga or two at the right time of the year.

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A Blue-Gray Tanager from the tower.

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A Squirrel Cuckoo from the tower.

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A Yellow-crowned Euphonia in a fruiting Melastome at the base of the tower.

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A Common Tody-Flycatcher on the side of the road (they were pretty common and confiding- my kind of bird!).

The following is my bird list from our stay (115 species):

Great Tinamou

Gray-headed Chachalaca

Black Vulture

Turkey Vulture

Gray Hawk

Gray-headed Kite

Laughing Falcon

Gray-necked Wood-Rail

Red-billed Pigeon

Ruddy Ground-Dove

White-tipped Dove

Gray-chested Dove

Crimson-fronted Parakeet

Olive-throated Parakeet

Orange-chinned Parakeet

White-crowned Parrot

Red-lored Parrot

Squirrel Cuckoo

Groove-billed Ani

Black and white Owl

White-collared Swift

Long-billed Hermit

Purple-crowned Fairy

White-necked Jacobin

Steely-vented Hummingbird

Bronze-tailed Plumeleteer

Rufous-tailed Hummingbird

Green-breasted Mango

Violet-headed Hummingbird

Black-crested Coquette

Violaceous (Gartered) Trogon

Chestnut-mandibled Toucan

Keel-billed Toucan

Collared Aracari

Black-cheeked Woodpecker

Smoky-brown Woodpecker

Rufous-winged Woodpecker

Pale-billed Woodpecker

Lineated Woodpecker

Plain Xenops

Northern barred Woodcreeper

Wedge-billed Woodcreeper

Cocoa Woodcreeper

Black-striped Woodcreeper

Streak-headed Woodcreeper

Barred Antshrike

Western Slaty Antshrike

Dusky Antbird

Chestnut-backed Antbird

Dull-mantled Antbird

Yellow Tyrannulet

Golden-crowned Spadebill

Paltry Tyrannulet

Yellow-bellied Ealenia

Piratic Flycatcher

Yellow-olive Flycatcher

Black-headed Tody-Flycatcher

Common Tody-Flycatcher

Northern Bentbill

Ochre-bellied Flycatcher

Bright-rumped Atilla

Long-tailed Tyrant

Tropical Pewee

Dusky-capped Flycatcher

Boat-billed Flycatcher

Great Kiskadee

Social Flycatcher

Sulphur-bellied Flycatcher

Tropical Kingbird

Cinnamon Becard

White-winged Becard

Masked Tityra

White-collared Manakin

Lesser Greenlet

Brown Jay

Gray-breasted Martin

Long-billed Gnatwren

Tawny-faced Gnatwren

Tropical Gnatcatcher

Stripe-breasted Wren

Bay Wren

Black-throated Wren

House Wren

White-breasted Wood Wren

Clay-colored Robin

Buff-rumped Warbler

Bananaquit

Red-throated Ant-Tanager

Olive (Carmiol’s) Tanager

Passerini’s Tanager

Golden-hooded Tanager

Blue-gray Tanager

Palm Tanager

Blue Dacnis

Green Honeycreeper

Red-legged Honeycreeper

Thick-billed Seed-Finch

Variable Seedeater

Yellow-faced Grassquit

Blue-black Grassquit

Orange-billed Sparrow

Black-striped Sparrow

Buff-throated Saltator

Slate-colored Grosbeak

Black-faced Grosbeak

Blue-black Grosbeak

Melodious Blackbird

Bronzed Cowbird

Yellow-billed Cacique

Montezuma Oropendola

Yellow-crowned Euphonia

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biodiversity Birding Costa Rica caribbean foothills

Good Mixed Flocks during Recent Birding at Quebrada Gonzalez

The trails at Quebrada Gonzalez march through beautiful primary rainforests. It’s quality habitat for sure but that doesn’t make it easy to see birds. In fact, the sky high canopy and dense riot of foliage make the birding pretty darn challenging. Nevertheless, if it weren’t for the quality of the forest, Quebrada Gonzalez wouldn’t offer the chance of seeing birds like Tiny Hawk, all three hawk-eagles, Barred Forest-Falcon, Black-eared Wood-Quail, Purplish-backed Quail-Dove, Black-crowned Antpitta, and a colorful host of tanagers.

I wish I could say that I saw all of these birds on every visit but the quirks of birding in tropical forest make that an impossibility. I bet I would have a fair chance of seeing all of the above and much more during a week of intensive birding (and I would love to try just that), but even one morning is bound to turn up species that are tough to see elsewhere in Costa Rica. For example, here is a run down of what the birding was like during a recent morning of guiding in the wet, foothill forests of Quebrada Gonzalez:

Arrived at 6 a.m. to meet with clients. Went on in to OK our early visit with the rangers (you must contact them in advance to enter before 8). A quick check around the parking lot turned up close looks at Dusky-faced Tanagers. Scanned the forest canopy and distant trees but nothing perched up on them today (Tiny Hawk can sometimes be found this way). A fair amount of birdsong though- Carmiol’s Tanagers, Bay and Stripe-breasted Wrens, Broad-billed and Rufous Motmots, Buff-rumped Warbler, Striped Woodhaunter, Black-headed Nightingale-Thrush, and Orange-billed Sparrow to name those that I recall.

We entered the forest but despite carefully watching and listening, saw rather few birds at first. At least we got the chance to watch more Dusky-faced Tanagers, Carmiol’s and Tawny-crested Tanagers, Orange-billed Sparrow, and a cooperative Spectacled Antpitta! I heard at least 3 different Spectacled Antpittas over the course of the morning and this one popped into view because I whistled like one where we good view into the undergrowth. Always a good bird to see, and especially so for the clients because the antpittas at Carara had refused to show themselves.

Further on, we came across activity in the canopy that eventually turned into a full fledged mixed flock! It was just as I had hoped, and especially so when White-throated Shrike-Tanager began to call and then perched for prolonged views. We were kept busy for more than an hour as tanagers and other small birds flitted through the tall canopy. Views were tough but we managed to glimpse a good number of species. The one that we didn’t see, however, caused us some painful frustration. This anguishing heard only bird was a Sharpbill that just wouldn’t reveal itself despite singing on three occasions. The experience mirrors other encounters I have had with this weird species at Quebrada Gonzalez and thus makes me suspect that the bird (or birds) keep still as they sing from some hidden perch way high up in the canopy.

So, no Sharpbill seen, but we still had a pretty good tally for the flock:

Striped Woodhaunter

Plain Xenops

Wedge-billed Woodcreeper

Spotted Woodcreeper

Russet Antshrike

Rufous Mourner

Paltry Tyrannulet

Yellow-margined Flycatcher

Eastern Wood-Pewee

Lesser Greenlet

Red-eyed Vireo

Canada Warbler

Tropical Parula

Bananaquit

Ashy-throated Bush-Tanager

Carmiol’s Tanager

Tawny-crested Tanager

White-throated Shrike-Tanager

White-shouldered Tanager

Speckled Tanager

Emerald Tanager

Silver-throated Tanager

Black and yellow Tanager

Blue and gold Tanager

Bay-headed Tanager

Rufous-winged Tanager

Scarlet-thighed Dacnis

Green Honeycreeper

Tawny-capped Euponia

White-vented Euphonia

Black-faced Grosbeak

Thirty-two species (if counting the Sharpbill) and I am sure that we missed a few birds! While we were scanning the vaulted roof of the forest to identify the birds in the flock, we also had a separate, understory mixed flock move through the area that included Sulphur-rumped Flycatcher, Checker-throated Antwren, and Streak-crowned Antvireo. Other bird species identified (most by their vocalizations) during the flock activity and shortly thereafter were:

Great Tinamou

Lattice-tailed Trogon

Black-throated Trogon

Rufous Motmot

Cinnamon and Rufous-winged Woodpeckers

Buff-throated Foliage-gleaner

Green Shrike Vireo

White-ruffed Manakin

Scarlet-rumped Cacique

Brown-hooded Parrot

Violet-crowned Woodnymph

Bronze-tailed Plumeleteer

White-necked Jacobin

Ruddy-tailed Flycatcher

Chestnut-backed Antbird

Dull-mantled Antbird

Chestnut-mandibled Toucan

Gray-rumped and Chimney Swifts

Short-billed Pigeom

Purplish-backed Quail-Dove

American Swallow-tailed Kite

We exited the forest by 9:30 a.m. and by then, things were typically quiet. Scanning the skies for around 15 minutes revealed a few swifts, brief American Swallow-tailed Kite, and high-flying Black Vultures, but no hoped for King or Black Hawk-Eagle. We probably would have gotten more raptors if we had looked for an hour or so but since we only had until 11, we did the trail once more to improve our chances of running into Sharpbill, Yellow-eared Toucanet, or some other rarity. Our mid-morning walk turned up a blank on those and other birds but at least we gave it a try!

Soon after, we parted ways and the rain began to fall. As I crossed the bridge over the Rio Sucio, I noticed my last bird for the day- a Bat Falcon perched high up on a snag overlooking the river. I wished I could have stayed there and watched the forested hillsides like that falcon was doing, but it was time to go back home on the other side of the mountains.

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Birding Costa Rica caribbean foothills caribbean slope Hummingbirds

Visit The New Cinchona Hummingbird Cafe when Birding Costa Rica

Cinchona is known in Costa Rica as the town that was destroyed by a 6.1 magnitude earthquake on January 9th, 2009. Most structures in that quaint town and the surrounding area collapsed, landslides wiped out large sections of route 126, and more than 30 people lost their lives. Birders were especially familiar with the area around Cinchona because of several birding sites situated along route 126. Virgen del Socorro was one of the most famous sites as it was an excellent area for middle elevation birds of the Caribbean Slope and the most reliable place in Costa Rica for seeing Lanceolated Monklet.

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Virgen del Socorro before the earthquake.

The La Paz Waterfall Gardens were another site that was frequented by birders and many tourists, but the crown jewel for birding were two cafes with serious hummingbird action and fruit feeders that attracted both species of barbets, tanagers, Emerald (Blue-throated) Toucanet, and others. The abundance of birds, friendly owners, and lack of an entrance fee made those cafes a welcome, requisite stop when taking this scenic route to the Sarapiqui area.

All of these places were unfortunately very close to the epicenter of the quake and were severely damaged or seemed to have just disappeared. The road also vanished in places (it ran along the fault line that caused the quake) and it looked as if those classic birding sites were gone for good. More than two years later, I am happy to report that this is not the case. The Waterfall Gardens were back up and running a matter of months after the earthquake, and major improvements have been made to route 126. On a trip to the area last weekend, we were surprised to see how much work had been done on the road. Although it still lacks pavement, it has been widened and graded for at least half of its length and it looked like road crews were fixing up the other half as well. Although the upper section wasn’t officially open, many cars (including two wheel drive vehicles) and public buses are using it.

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Wide, graded road.

Habitat isn’t as good as it used to be along the lower parts of the road but there are some promising areas on the upper section that produced birds such as Dark Pewee, Tufted Flycatcher, a flyby Chiriqui Quail-Dove (!), Barred Becard, Red-faced Spinetail, Scarlet-thighed Dacnis, and other expected middle elevation species during visits in February. You can also visit the La Paz Waterfall Gardens to watch an abundance of hummingbirds and see their “zoo” of rescued animals but to be honest, the $35 per person entrance is too steep of a price to pay for birding in my opinion, and especially so because you can see the same species at other sites in the area.

One of these is the new Hummingbird Cafe. It appears to be located on or near the same spot as the former and might be run by the same people. It is much smaller and a shadow of its former birding glory but it’s still worth a stop. On a visit last weekend, the following hummingbird species came to their three feeders: Violet Sabrewing, Green Violetear, Green Thorntail, Green-crowned Brilliant, and White-bellied Mountain-Gem. Most of these were single birds and there wasn’t a huge amount of action but I still got some ok shots and other species probably show up from time to time.

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Green Thorntail

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Green Violetear

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Green-crowned Brilliant (female)

We also had a White-crowned Parrot that perched on a snag and showed off its colors.

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Virgen del Socorro was visible down below and a road could be discerned that descended into the gorge but as far as we could tell, it was only accessible from the other side of the river. Despite being very familiar with the entrance road to Virgen del Socorro, I failed to find it. I still hope it’s there but strongly suspect that it was more or less destroyed. Perhaps the forested gorge at Virgen del Socorro can still be visited from the village of the same name on the other side of the river? I fear that much habitat was destroyed by earthquake spawned landslides and floods but it would be nice to see if the monklet is still around as well as Bare-necked Umbrellabird (I have heard them there in the past and they were also seen on rare occasions).

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Birding Costa Rica caribbean foothills caribbean slope Introduction

Unpredictable Birding in Costa Rica at Quebrada Gonzalez

Costa Rica is in the tropics and every time I go birding I am reminded of this fact. Sure the rays of the sun are more intense than in western New York, winter just doesn’t exist (yay!), and there are a heck of a lot of bird species flitting around this place but that’s not what I am referring to. I know I am birding in the tropics because it’s just so darn unpredictable and this is especially the case for birding in complex habitats such as the foothill forests at Quebrada Gonzalez.

You can go birding in the primary forests of this site one day, come back the next and see a whole different set of bird species. It can be a bit frustrating if you only have one day to work with and want to see a Yellow-eared Toucanet, Sharpill, and Lattice-tailed Trogon but it ensures that when you go birding at Quebrada Gonzalez, you are bound to see something good. And if you go to the place two or three days in a row, you can bet that you will be in for some seriously exciting birding. For example, if you miss Emerald Tanager or only see some small green thing way up in the canopy on the first day, there is a pretty good chance that it will be inspecting the underside of mossy twigs at eye level height the following day.  Or if the rains keep the hawk-eagles from flying on Sunday, they might show with sunny weather on Monday.

The fact that you just never know what’s going to show up at Quebrada Gonzalez was emphasized once again this past weekend. To give you an idea of how different things can be from one day to the next, here are some similarities and contrasts between a full day of guiding with rain in the afternoon on Sunday and a sunny Monday morning of birding with Michael Retter, a friend of mine who just finished guiding a couple of excellent tours in Costa Rica for Tropical Birding:

Short-tailed Hawk– It didn’t show on rainy Sunday but made a brief appearance on sunny Monday.

Ornate Hawk-Eagle– It just couldn’t resist that sunny weather on Monday to soar high above the forest and give its distinctive call. A good bird for 2011!

Barred Forest-Falcon- While watching birds at a fruiting tree on the ridge part of the Las Palmas trail on Monday, a juvenile of this secretive species suddenly appeared and departed just as quickly. Although it didn’t catch anything, the small birds in the fruiting tree were pretty freaked out and gave alarm calls for the next ten minutes. An even greater bird for 2011!

Brown-hooded Parrots – I record this species in flight on every visit. On Monday, it was the usual flyovers but on Sunday, we started off the day by getting nice views of this rainforest species as they perched in the tops of some dead branches just behind the ranger station.

birding Costa Rica

This Brown-hooded Parrot was at Laguna del Lagarto but they look the same at Quebrada Gonzalez.

Trogons- Lattice-tailed Trogon was calling on both days but we only saw it on Monday. We also heard Black-throated and saw Slaty-tailed on Sunday.

Motmots- Broad-billed called and showed well on Sunday but was “replaced” on Sunday by a Rufous!

birding Costa Rica

Broad-billed Motmots sometimes let you get pretty close.

Woodpeckers- Rufous-winged called on Sunday but was hidden by the dense canopy foliage. On Monday, the same thing happened with a Cinnamon. On a side note, any use of the word “Cinnamon” on this website could refer to a becard or woodpecker but will have no connection whatsoever to rolls or pastries.

Striped (Western) Woodhaunter– Heard but not seen on both days. Laughing at us birders from the shadows of the forest?

Woodcreepers– The most common woodcreepers at this site, Spotted and Wedge-billed, were seen on both days while Northern Barred made an appearance on Sunday and Brown-billed Scythebill was heard but not seen on Monday.

Russet Antshrike– Seen on both days. If you find a mixed flock, this common species is more or less guaranteed at Quebrada.

Streak-crowned Antvireo– Briefly seen on both days but they were as quiet as an art gallery at 2 in the morning.

Dull-mantled Antbird– Not seen on either day but frequently encountered on other occasions.

Black and white Becard– A first record for me on Monday of this uncommon species at Quebrada Gonzalez! One female was hanging out with a motley crew of tanagers and Baltimore Orioles in the canopy. Super good year bird!

White-ruffed Manakin– Dapper males seen on both days.

Eye-ringed Flatbill–  Bespectacled and wide-billed, this is one of the nerdier looking flycatchers. I usually don’t see it at this site so it was interesting to get it on both days.

Nightingale Wren– Several serenaded us on Sunday but they must have taken the day off from singing on Monday.

Brown-capped Vireo– My first record for this cloud forest species at Quebrada Gonzalez on Sunday. Maybe it went back upslope on Monday because it hates sunny weather.

Tropical Parula– A few heard on both days. I don’t get this species very often at Quebrada as it seems to prefer forests at slightly higher elevations.

birding Costa Rica

Tiny Tropical Parulas get dwarfed by large tropical leaves.

Tanagers– Pretty good mixed flocks on both days although most birds were way up in the canopy. White-throated Shrike, Emerald, Black and yellow, and Speckled all showed well but the Silver-throateds seem to have moved back upslope. Blue and gold only appeared on Monday but Ashy-throated Bush, Common Bush, and Bay-headed only turned up on Sunday.

Black-faced Grosbeak– Lots of these livened up the forest on both days!

In conclusion, if you are headed to Quebrada Gonzalez, it’s kind of hard to say what you will run into. I have tried to make sense of this forest for years but have found that there are just too many variables involved to make many predictions about what you are going to see. I suppose the most accurate birding forecast I could give for the place is just that no matter what time of year you go, you are bound to see something good!

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Birding Costa Rica caribbean foothills caribbean slope high elevations

More Updates on Birding Costa Rica: Irazu and Quebrada Gonzalez

Once again, this post will be an imageless one as I am still awaiting a replacement part for my tripod (I need it for digiscoping). Nevertheless, I hope that readers will still find this fresh out of the field information of use. Since my last post, I have done a few trips to Irazu and Quebrada Gonzalez. Windy and misty weather has made the birding challenging but good stuff was still espied through our trusty binoculars.

Some Irazu National Park birding updates: This continues to be a reliable site for Buffy-crowned Wood-Partridge. On Friday, we had one right on the dusty road between Rancho Redondo and LLano Grande. Looking like an exotic, lost chicken, upon our approach, it leaped off the road and into the underbrush. Using the car as a hide, we pulled up and quietly watched it fidget around the ground beneath a roadside hedge for several minutes. We were even close enough to see the red skin around its light colored eye! More were heard on the way up to the park and even calling from the paramo near the crater. The following day, birds were heard at close quarters on the road up to the national park but remained unseen.

A pleasant surprise along the road up to the park not long after Llano Grande were two Tropical Mockingbirds that gave us flyby looks. I was under the inpression that we could only find this recent invader at golf courses so was happy to get this for my year list (already well past 400 species).

Long-tailed Silkies and Black and Yellow Silky Flycatchers seem to be uncommon at the moment. Just a few were heard and seen over the course of two days.

Resplendent Quetzal is present a the stream just south of the Volcano Museum. There are a few wild avocado trees there and at least one has fruit. Although we waited for at least an hour in vain at those trees on Friday, four or five birds were seen at the exact same time and spot on Saturday!

Scintillant Hummingbird was present in flowering hedges between Rancho Redondo and Llano Grande on Friday.

It almost goes without saying but Volcano Juncos are still easy to see up around the crater.

There are also some local guides who can be hired for early morning birding and hiking in the paramo. They give short tours of the crater and can be contracted for this at the information booth near the crater but need to be contacted in advance for early morning birding. Here is their website.

Quebrada Gonzalez updates:  As we left the Central Valley on Sunday, misty weather in the mountains made me wonder if we would have to cancel due to constant, birdless rain. Luckilly, though, the sun was shining in the foothills and it was a fantastic morning. The rain did catch up with us by 10 a.m. but until then, the birding was VERY GOOD. After watching a sloth in the parking lot, it wasnt long before we were watching a group of busy Tawny-crested and Carmiols Tanagers as they foraged in the undergrowth. A dozen of so Emerald Tanagers quickly followed and provided us with excellent looks just as activity started to pick up. Tawny-capped Euphonia, Wedge-billed Wodcreepers, Buff-throated Foliage-Gleaner, and Black-faced Grosbeaks were seen but a nice sounding mixed flock led by White-throated Shrike-Tanager was just a bit too far off into the forest to see wel. 

Since Nightingale Wrens were singing nearby, I decided to make an attempt at an imitation and lo and behold, one of those extra drab, tiny-tailed birds popped up on a low branch and let us watch him from ten feet away for about ten minutes! Definitely the best looks I have ever had at this major forest skulker. As it sang, it quivered its little tail a mile a minute (a video of that performance might have been a contendor for some obscure film prize)!

Not long after the performance of the Nightingale Wren, I heard an exciting sound: the song of Northern Barred Woodcreeper and calls of Bicolored Antbirds. This could only mean one thing: ANTSWARM! We couldnt see the birds from the trail so we crept about 12 feet into the forest to where they were shaking the vegetation and our patience was rewarded with beautiful views of Bicolored, Spotted, and Ocellated Antbirds, several Plain-brown Woodcreepers, and…Black-crowned Antpitta! Despite its larger size, the antpitta was remarkably inconspicuous and only gave us a few good, prolonged looks. The ground-cuckoo didnt show while we watched but I wouldnt be surprised if one made an appearance at some future antswarm occasion. Strangly enough, although we heard Northern Barred Woodcreeper, this antswarm lover remained unseen.

Of course, while we were watching the answarm, all the other birds in the forest seemed to become active as well. Lattice-tailed Trogon, Streak-chested Antpitta, and Black-headed Nightingale-Thrush sang nearby and a huge canopy flock moved through the crowns of the trees. At one point, I decided that we should leave the swarm to try for the canopy flock but they turned out to be too high up in the trees to see well so we watched more 0f the antswarm until raindrops started to fall. A break in the rain gave us beautiful looks at White-ruffed Manakin but then it poured for the rest of the day. Well, I assume it rained the rest of the time because after leaving to eat lunch at a nearby restaurant in the lowlands, we decided to take advantage of the drier weather and had good birding in the Rio Blanco area. Oddly enough, best bird there was a toss-up between Yellow-bellied Sapsucker (rare winter resident) and Fasciated Tiger-Heron.

A short stop at El Tapir on the way back turned up Green Thorntail, Violet-headed Hummingbirds, and brief looks at a male Snowcap to give us around 120 species identified for a darn good day of birding in Costa Rica.

I am headed back to Quebrada Gonzalez on Sunday. I hope the rains stay away and that the birds cooperate!

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Birding Costa Rica caribbean foothills middle elevations

A Day of Birding at Arenal, Costa Rica

Last week, while winter storms were wreaking havoc in northern climes, I had the great fortune to spend a day of guiding in much warmer, snow-less weather in and around Arenal Observatory Lodge, Costa Rica. Although lower temperatures than normal and saturating morning mist were a reminder that the frigid fingers of those northern blizzards can tendril their way south to Costa Rica, we still had a pretty productive day with over 130 bird species identified.

Starting out at the Miradas de Arenal Cabins, a number of common, edge species were identified as they came to fruiting trees, best birds probably being Black-cowled Oriole and Black-headed Saltator. Foggy weather didn’t let the birds show much color but at least boosted their activity. As the mist gradually lifted and visibility increased, we drove to our main birding destination, the entrance road for Arenal National Park and Arenal Observatory Lodge. The stony entrance road cuts through pasture, guava orchards, patches of old second growth forest, crosses rivers, and eventually reaches older forest to provide a variety of habitats that can turn up a large number of bird species. It’s the type of place where fruiting trees could potentially host cotingas, where crakes may lurk in marshy grass, and where uncommon raptors might fly past. One of our first birds of the day was in the latter category although instead of quickly winging its way through our field of view, it perched in a bare tree long enough to take  its picture (and some of my only shots for the day due to the inclement weather).

Bicolored Hawk!

birding Costa Rica

birding Costa Rica

This medium sized Accipiter is widespread in the neotropics but always tough to see and nearly impossible to predict when and where it will show up. A most welcome addition to my year list!

Pigeons were also plentiful along the road with Band-tailed and Pale-vented being the most common. Both species occurred in flocks of 15 to 60 individuals and were feeding in fruiting trees or hanging out in tree tops.

birding Costa Rica

birding Costa Rica

There are a few side roads that can also be productive. On one of these, while getting close looks at a Chestnut-mandibled Toucan, a male Great Curassow flew down from the trees to strut along the shoulder of the road! This was a nice surprise and a probable sign that the general area sees very little hunting pressure.

No image of the curassow but at least the toucan sat long enough for a photo.

birding Costa Rica

Continuing on, we added species such as Long-tailed Tyrant, Bay Wren, and other expected birds but those were nothing compared to one of our best finds of the day, Fasciated Tiger-Heron! Always a tough bird to come across, ours was an adult that gave us perfect, close looks at the river just before the entrance to the Observatory Lodge. I regret not taking photos but it was getting a bit too rainy to risk short-circuiting my camera.

After studying the tiger-heron, we paid our $4 entrance fee to use the trails of the Observatory Lodge (open 8:30 a.m. until 4 p.m.) and ticked off a soggy Broad-billed Motmot perched in the rain as we drove up to the restaurant and viewing platform. The looming volcanic cone known as Volcan Arenal is what is supposed to be viewed from this point but even better for birders are the fruit feeders that attract oropendolas, orioles, and tanagers. On sunnier days,  this is a perfect spot for bird photography but because the soaking rain only made mental images possible, you will just have to believe me when I say that we had eye popping views of Montezuma Oropendolas, Buff-throated Saltators, Clay-colored Thrushes, Olive-backed Euphonias, and Blue-gray, Palm, Passerini’s, Silver-throated, and Crimson-collared Tanagers. Emerald Tanager also sometimes shows up at their feeders although they didn’t make an appearance while we watched.

Despite the windy and rainy weather, we were determined to make the most of our day at this birdy site and therefore walked a short loop trail near the cabins that can be good for Thicket Antpitta. There are also Porterweed bushes near there that can attract Black-crested Coquette, Violet-headed Hummingbird, and other hummingbird species of the Caribbean foothills. If our visit was any indication, though, none of these birds come out in the rain! While on other visits, I have heard and seen the antpitta fairly easily on this trail and have seen several coquettes buzzing around like insects in those same flowering bushes, we hardly saw or heard anything. As it was mid-morning, time of day may have also been a factor but I suspect that the weather was the main culprit.

Upon exiting the trail and getting looks at Hepatic Tanager (fairly common here), it was time for lunch and I am pleased to say that their restaurant has improved! It’s still over-priced but the service was good and the food drastically better than any of my past gastronomic experiences at the Arenal Observatory Lodge.

By the end of our meal, amazingly, it had stopped raining and we could even see the top of the volcano! After a quick check of the flowering bushes and only espying Rufous-tailed Hummingbirds and one or two Violet-crowned Woodnymphs, it was off to the Waterfall Trail for middle elevation forest birding. Perhaps because the rain had just ended, bird activity was pretty good and constant with several mixed flocks making their way through the forest. Golden-crowned Warblers and Slaty-capped Flycatchers seemed to lead the way while Wedge-billed and Spotted Woodcreepers, Sulphur-rumped Flycatchers, Olive Tanagers, and the occasional Spotted Barbtail followed. In the canopy, Russet Antshrikes, and Black and Yellow and other tanager species rustled the vegetation while Montezuma Oropendolas displayed. A quick walk down to the waterfall didn’t turn up hoped for Torrent Tyrannulet or Green-fronted Lancebill but both should be possible there (as well as Sunbittern).

We didn’t hit any antswarms inside the forest but got lucky anyways in seeing a lone Spotted Antbird. Outside the forest, before leaving the grounds of the Observatory Lodge, we made one last stop at the “Casona” to check fruiting trees and were rewarded with close looks at Short-billed Pigeons, White-crowned Parrots, Emerald Tanager (!), and Yellow-throated Euphonia. No luck with cotingas but I wouldn’t be surprised if they turned up in that area (Lovely Cotinga is occasionally seen around Arenal Observatory Lodge).

After our visit to the lodge and getting another look at the tiger-heron, we birded along the road that leads to the Arenal Sky Tram and Neopenthes. A few spots along this road pass near marshes that probably hold some rare, skulking waterbirds. We didn’t see these of course (because they were skulking) but did get good looks at Olive-crowned Yellowthroat. Near there, along the roadside, we also got our only antswarm of the day. As luck would have it, the ants were moving through an open area and therefore no antbirds were present but we still got to see a bunch of thrushes that were taking advantage of the easy pickings. Clay-coloreds were the most common but there were also one or two Swainson’s, and several White-throated.

By this time, the day was coming to an end and birds were heading to their roosts for the night. As Red-lored Parrots flew past, we were treated to a beautiful view of the volcano lit up by the red rays of the setting sun; a memorable way to finish a great day of birding around Arenal.

Here is a list of all birds seen or heard from our day:

Great Curassow
Anhinga
Pied-billed Grebe
Great Egret
Cattle Egret
Green Heron
Fasciated Tiger-Heron
Black Vulture
Turkey Vulture
Gray Hawk
Broad-winged Hawk
Bicolored Hawk
Double-toothed Kite
Laughing Falcon heard
White-throated Crake heard
Spotted Sandpiper
Pale-vented Pigeon
Band-tailed Pigeon
Red-billed Pigeon
Short-billed Pigeon
White-tipped Dove
Red-lored Parrot
White-crowned Parrot
Orange-chinned Parakeet
Squirrel Cuckoo
White-collared Swift
Lesser Swallow-tailed Swift
Green Hermit
Stripe-throated Hermit
Violet-headed Hummingbird
Purple-crowned Fairy
Violet-crowned Woodnymph
Rufous-tailed Hummingbird
Orange-bellied Trogon
Broad-billed Motmot
Ringed Kingfisher
Green Kingfisher
Rufoustailed Jacamar heard
Chestnut-mandibled Toucan
Hoffmanns Woodpecker
Black-cheeked Woodpecker
Smoky-brown Woodpecker
Spotted Barbtail
Wedge-billed Woodcreeper
Spotted Woodcreeper
Streak-headed Woodcreeper
Great Antshrike heard
Barred Antshrike
Russet Antshrike
Spotted Antbird
Thicket Antpitta
Yellow Tyrannulet heard
Yellow-bellied Elaenia
Slaty-capped Flycatcher
Paltry Tyrannulet
Common Tody-Flycatcher
Yellow-olive Flycatcher
Sulphur-rumped Flycatcher
Yellow-bellied Flycatcher
Black Phoebe
Long-tailed Tyrant
Bright-rumped Attila heard
Dusky-capped Flycatcher heard
Great-crested Flycatcher
Great Kiskadee
Social Flycatcher
Gray-capped Flycatcher
Tropical Kingbird
Tropical Pewee
Masked Tityra
White-ruffed Manakin
Yellow-throated Vireo
Lesser Greenlet
White-throated Magpie-Jay
Brown Jay
Northern Roughwinged Swallow
Southern Roughwinged Swallow
Band-backed Wren heard
Stripe-breasted Wren
Bay Wren
Black-throated Wren heard
White-breasted Wood-Wren heard
House Wren
Long-billed Gnatwren heard
Black-faced Solitaire
Black-headed Nightingale-Thrush
Clay-colored Thrush
White-throated Thrush
Swainson’s Thrush
Wood Thrush heard
Tennessee Warbler
Tropical Parula
Yellow Warbler
Chestnut-sided Warbler
Black and white Warbler
Louisiana Waterthrush
Olive-crowned Yellowthroat
Gray-crowned Yellowthroat heard
Wilson’s Warbler
Slate-throated Redstart
Golden-crowned Warbler
Buff-rumped Warbler
Bananaquit
Common Bush-Tanager
Black-and-yellow Tanager
Olive Tanager
Hepatic Tanager
Summer Tanager
Crimson-collared Tanager
Passerini´s Tanager
Blue-gray Tanager
Palm Tanager
Olive-backed Euphonia
Tawny-capped Euphonia
Golden-browed Chlorophonia heard
Emerald Tanager
Silver-throated Tanager
Bay-headed Tanager
Golden-hooded Tanager
Red-legged Honeycreeper
Variable Seedeater
White-collared Seedeater
Yellow-faced Grassquit
Orange-billed Sparrow
Black-striped Sparrow
Buff-throated Saltator
Black-headed Saltator
Rose-breasted Grosbeak
Blue-black Grosbeak heard
Melodious Blackbird
Great-tailed Grackle
Black-cowled Oriole
Baltimore Oriole
Montezuma Oropendola
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Birding Costa Rica caribbean foothills caribbean slope Introduction preparing for your trip

Updates on birding at the Quebrada Gonzalez ranger station, Costa Rica

I had the fortune of birding Quebrada Gonzalez for two consecutive Saturdays after a three or four month hiatus.

birding Costa Rica

The entrance to Quebrada Gonzalez.

It was good to be back, especially so because it wasn’t pouring down monstrous sheets of rain. Yes, the area does get its fair share of precipitation. The heavy load of epiphytes and moss growing on everything from metal railings to understory leaves hints at the 6 or meters (18 feet) of rain that soaks the area on an annual basis. What’s even crazier is that locals claim that the northern Caribbean lowlands and foothills used to be deluged with even more falling water in the past.

Therefore, I always appreciate sunny weather at Quebrada Gonzalez despite the fact that it tends to make the forest quieter than the steps of a dormouse ninja.  While I relish the fact that my  umbrella (a poncho is too hot) can remain rolled up and tucked out of sight in my day pack, I wonder why the darn birds can’t also enjoy the absence of rain by becoming more active. Maybe they’re sun bathing up in the canopy? Whatever the antbirds, tanagers, toucans, and trogons are up to, they sure don’t shake the foliage and sing to their hearts content like they do on cloudy days.

So things were pretty quiet on Saturday but as with every visit to Quebrada Gonzalez, we still saw birds, including several species that are tough to see elsewhere in Costa Rica. One of our best sightings was Dull-mantled Antbird. This ravine-inhabiting, understory bird is regular at Quebrada (and at most Caribbean slope foothill sites) but it’s always a pleasure to watch them sing and show off the white patch on their backs.

Where we saw the Dull-mantled Antbirds.

Other bird species from the morning included a Sulphur-rumped Flycatcher flitting around the undergrowth, Emerald and Black and Yellow Tanagers feeding on berries in the subcanopy, and Buff-rumped Warblers hanging out on the trails.

Buff-rumped Warbler birding Costa Rica

A blurry, Buff-rumped Warbler that was foraging in the parking lot on different, rainy day.

With the hope that the sunny weather would encourage raptors such as Barred Hawk and hawk-eagles to show themselves, we made our way back to the parking lot by 10 am.

Where we watched the skies for raptors.

It took awhile for anything to show itself but eventually we were rewarded with 2 King Vultures. We also saw the other two commonly occurring vultures but no other raptors whatsoever! This was rather surprising to me because I usually see one or two other species of soaring raptor from the parking lot on every visit. Did they take to the air earlier than expected? Were they pretending to be antbirds? We will never know but I suspect it had more to do with the fact that one of our group was hoping to see his first hawk-eagle. No doubt, all three hawk-eagles showed up on Sunday or as soon as we left the area.

Still hoping for soaring raptors, we took the trail on the other side of the road to an overlook with a broad view of a forested ridge. We watched and watched and heard some Dusky-faced Tanagers in the nearby undergrowth and scoped a nearby Broad-billed Motmot but saw nary a vulture! Out on a river island, however, we noticed over 100 Band-tailed Pigeons hanging out in the crowns of a few trees!

birding Costa Rica

The gray things are distant Band-tailed Pigeons.

I have seen these elevational migrants on several occasions at Quebrada Gonzalez but never at this time of year and never in such large numbers. This sort of unpredictable occurrence is one of the reasons why I always love birding at this site- no matter how often I visit, I never really know what I am going to see. There are several species that I encounter on a regular basis but the vagaries of fruiting trees and other not so obvious factors that influence bird distribution in tropical forests always keeps me wondering what will turn up as I walk down the trail.

The trail of surprises.

The solitaires and White-crowned Manakins of the previous week had mostly returned upslope to their usual middle elevation haunts but we still managed to get looks at one female White-crowned Manakin. Hyperactivity on the manakin’s part conspired with vines and leaves to keep us from getting a clear look at her head (and thus identifying her) but perseverance eventually paid off with prolonged views of two diagnostic field marks- a mostly gray noggin and reddish eyes.

Around this time, the vocalizations of one or two Bicolored Antbirds had nearly convinced me that an antswarm was in the works but neither ants nor antbirds showed themselves. However, at least some of us got looks at a Black-headed Nightingale-Thrush and Pale-vented Thrush before we headed back to the parking area for lunch.

short billed pigeon birding costa rica

We watched the antics of these three Short-billed Pigeons during lunch.

In the afternoon, back into the forest we went and a mere ten minutes later I heard the telltale signs of a mixed flock as  a White-throated Shrike-Tanager called. We barely had time to prepare ourselves before we were overrun by a horde of small birds that flitted, crept, and hopped through the surrounding vegetation. As is typical of mixed flocks at Quebrada, Olive (now Carmiol’s) Tanagers were the most abundant member of the flock and their chunky, green forms manifested again and again in our binoculars. Other birds showed up too including Emerald Tanagers, Ashy-throated Bush-Tanager, Russet Antshrike, a sneaky Plain Xenops that refused to give an encore, Wedge-billed Woodcreepers, Streak-crowned Antvireo, Red-eyed Vireo, and the flock leader, a nice oriole-like White-throated Shrike-Tanager.

Aside from a beautiful, male White-ruffed Manakin that briefly displayed on a mossy log, that mixed flock was our last hurrah for birding on Saturday before the rains came back to push us out of the forest.

Back out in the parking lot, I met the new manager of the station, Rodolfo Tenorio. Jovial, upbeat, and friendly, Rodolfo seemed eager to support birding at the site. We will probably set up a sightings log so visiting birders will know where Bare-necked Umbrellabirds have been seen, where antswarms have terrorized communities of arthropods, or where the Tiny Hawk has been perching. He also wanted me to get the word out about rules for visiting the place before 8am:

Although the station doesn’t officially open until 8am, birders can enter as early as they want as long as they let him know in advance. He asks to be contacted at rtenorio45@hotmail.com or and can also be reached at 8823-7678.

Since he can’t check his email on a daily basis, make sure to email him at least a week before your visit to tell Rodolfo the date and time of your visit.

This is excellent news because it leaves open the possibility of looking for owls at the station-something I will certainly be doing sometime soon!