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Travel to any new place is a step into the unknown. No matter how many images, videos, or blog posts we read, we really don’t know what the full experience will entail until we arrive and even then, not until we exit the airport because the waiting places for plane travel are pretty much in their own, separate universe; one replete with lines, over-priced meals, and fair deals on booze. Walk through those exit doors, though, and you begin to get the real country deal. I still recall the first time I walked onto Costa Rican soil, my first “real deal” of Tiquica. It was the early 90s, and tourism was just getting started. The airport was older, hotter, and felt like a trip back into the 70s, back in the days when rough carpets ruled. When we walked to the exit doors, the dozens of waiting relatives with faces against the glass made us feel uncomfortably famous, a sudden unwanted fame that was quickly ratcheted up a notch when we were met by a milling and stewing of porters and taxi drivers, all chattering at us in Spanish, all at once.

“This is different” I thought, while then also realizing that the air was much more humid and smelled different than home. Not bad, just different scents, tropical ones that hinted at a greater abundance of life. Upon leaving the airport in one of those taxis, the new sights and sounds continued by way of what seemed to be madhouse driving, yellowish street lamps, semi-suicidal motorcycles, and a great desire to get off the road and to our destination ASAP! Since it was night, the birds would have to wait but only until the following morning, and when that sun came up, it was indeed glorious! Common backyard birds were all lifers and included Rufous-tailed Hummingbird, screeching flocks of Crimson-fronted Parakeets, Great Kiskadees, Grayish Saltator, Rufous-collared Sparrow, and more!

Crimson-fronted Parakeets are urban birds in many parts of Costa Rica.

It was all new. It was fantastic. Although I had studied that Stiles and Skutch book like one of life’s required manuals, the real experience was of course much broader and overwhelming. Until we work with custom generated, virtual reality hallucinations, it always will be, and even then, I bet it would take a while before the simulation matched the real thing (Will we experience holodeck birding someday? Do we even want to?). Even if or when holodeck travel is available, those of us in the travel and tourism thing will surely continue to write about and share media associated with our favorite destinations. We want others to know what it’s like because we loved the experience, we want our friends and like-minded people to have those same feelings of excitement, happiness, and fulfillment. Nor do we want people to get into any unexpected, awful situations. Travel writers hope that visitors to Costa Rica, Bali, or the modern version of Nikaia will weed out the misconceptions and that’s pretty much why I am writing this particular blog. These are some of the misconceptions about Costa Rica applicable to a birding trip:

You can’t bird during the low season

Ha! As every enlightened birder knows, we can damn well bird wherever and whenever we please! Although I imagine a barbarian birder from ancient Gaul saying something along those lines, it’s something that every modern day birder should also take to heart. Walking through a big city? As the Urban Birder says, “Look up!” Watching a baseball game? Yes, you indeed can watch those gulls fly overhead. Inauguration? Wedding? Funeral? Who says you can’t mentally note the mechanical trill of a Chipping Sparrow or imagine flying up there with the nighthawks?

Sometimes, when you look up in Costa Rica, that “Black Vulture” turns into a Barred Hawk.

The same goes for birding in Costa Rica during the green season. Yeah, it’s more green and the birds love it, you will too! I am reminded of this daily when the Piratic Flycatchers and Yellow-green Vireos compete with each other over who can sing the most. When a Short-tailed Hawk calls high overhead as I walk into the backyard, when a mixed flock of tanagers, woodcreepers, and other birdies blast through the rainforest. You can indeed bird in Costa Rica during the low season and you will love it. I know I do.

It rains all the time

Um, no it does not. Despite now being the official rainy season, it didn’t today. It was cloudy and it rained in some places at different times but since that’s just the type of weather that brings out the birds, yeah, now might be when you want to be here!

There are too many bugs

Once again, nope! While there are some mosquitoes here and there and more in wetlands, it is not even close to the summer mosquito madness up north. Nothing like it, don’t worry, just use some repellent. There are more of other types of insects though and since they make it possible to see more birds and also look cool, that is a good thing.

The Helicopter Damselfly is one of those cool bugs.

Woodcreepers are impossible to identify

If they were, we would just have one of them and it would be called, “The Woodcreeper”. But, since we have a bunch that can all be readily identified, and we don’t live in Great Britain, we have several woodcreeper species, each with its own rightful name. And, yes you can identify them as long as you get a good look at the head and bill. In some parts of the Amazon, well, then you can pull your hair out, but in Costa Rica, with a bit of study and practice, or of course your own experienced birding guide, all of them can be identified.

Bird lists show which species will be seen

Well….yes and no. The problem with some bird lists is when they show species that used to occur, have mistakes, or don’t mention that the Crested Eagle on the list won’t be likely to make an appearance. Some lists are much more accurate but even then, you have to realize that some of those birds might be seasonal, they might be elsewhere at the moment, might only occur in one or two parts of the reserve, and that many are naturally rare species and thus easily missed during a few hours or even two days of intense birding. Yet another good reason for hiring an experienced local guide.

There is a good chance that you will see the beautiful Violet-headed Hummingbird.

You will see every bird

Experienced birders know that this is very rarely the case but no matter how long one has been peering at birds, it’s still a good thing to keep in mind. While Costa Rica does host a huge number of bird species, the price we pay for that biodiversity is lower numbers of individuals per species. In other words, a fair percentage of birds occur at naturally low densities and to make things that much more tricky, most are not uniformly distributed. Add lack of habitat resulting in even lower numbers of some species to the mix along with a dash of limited time and you have to take what you can get. But, that doesn’t mean you won’t see lots of new birds. Quite contrary! Focus on birding with a guide and you will see a lot, just probably not every single species.

You might see a Prong-billed Barbet.

eBird Hotspots

Always remember that there are no real criteria for naming eBird hotspots in Costa Rica. Since almost the whole country is sort of a birding hotspot, it kind of doesn’t matter but I have to mention it so you don’t think that you have to limit birding to so-called hotspots. Any site with quality habitat is going to be good, the more mature forest, the better.

Short Distances=Quick Travel

I have seen several people plan trips in Costa Rica that include far too much driving. The distances beguile. We look at an online map and think, “Hey, that’s pretty close, I can do that!” The only problem is that while crossing the mountains would be super close and fast if we could just soar right on over there in a straight line like a frigatebird, cars don’t have that capability. Instead, you will always be in for slow, curvy roads shared with even slower boxy trucks that can easily drive you mad and almost make you wish you had a disintegration ray. Oh yeah and then there are the Central Valley traffic jams during the dreaded hours of 6 to 9 and again from around 3 to 6. Keep that in mind when making plans for a birding trip in Costa Rica!

The whole country is a paradise for birds

Not exactly. There are a lot of fantastic birding sites within a small area but those open fields with ruminating cows, rows of bananas, and poisoned lands covered in pineapples….not so much. Find the forest, though, and that’s where most will be.

Are you coming to Costa Rica? I hope so, the birding really is wonderful, it’s easy to do even on your own, and the place is much closer and accessible to Canada and much of the USA than a lot of folks realize. Contact me at information@birdingcraft.com to help plan you trip. I hope to see you here!

Support this blog and give yourself a wealth of birding information for Costa Rica by purchasing my 700 plus page e-book, How to See, Find, and Identify Birds in Costa Rica. 

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admin on May 30th, 2018

The high season for birding in Costa Rica has definitely come to its end. As with every year, it’s as if the birds track the people who come to see them when they fly back north to breed in the same woodlands and wild areas where those same people go birding. Bird a stream in the eastern USA and that Louisiana Waterthrush may have shared waters with an American Dipper during winter in the Dota Valley. Hear the “sweet, sweet, sweet” song of the golden swamp warbler and that Prothonotary may have been watched by birders peering into mangroves on the Tarcoles River.

For the most part, the multitudes of Baltimore Orioles, Golden-winged Warblers (not a glitch, a lot winter in Costa Rica), Black-throated Greens, and other birds that nest far to the north head back to the breeding grounds in April. No doubt, some of those beauties photographed on the Texas coast and then on the southern shores of Lake Erie were wintering it up in Tiquicia. But they have gone back now and so have most birders. It’s because of the rains but to be honest, it’s not that bad and really, if you visit now, it might be easier to see the cool resident species you come here for because they are singing more and more active in the frequently cloudy weather. Since it’s the off season, you also have a good chance of finding good deals on hotels and more. Have some free time? Want to get busy with views of Red-headed Barbets, a couple dozen hummingbirds, macaws, and more? It’s a great time to visit Costa Rica! Email me at information@birdingcraft.com, I’ll set up the perfect trip.

With that in mind, until more birders can be convinced to come on down for awesome birding in Costa Rica these months, I will have a lot more time to do other things, especially writing. I am thinking of updating my bird finding e-book (if I do and you bought the first version, email me at information@birdingcraft.com, I will sell you the updated version at half price), and will be writing more about birds and travel in Costa Rica and elsewhere.

But now, how about some birding news for May and June:

Tadoussac– It’s a place in Quebec and if you are a birder, you likely already know about this news bite! If not, well, let’s just say that some very lucky birders had what just might be the best birding day that anyone could imagine.

Seriously, this one is going down in birding history.

Unless someone documents the continued existence of Ivory-billed Woodpecker and Bachman’s Warbler in the same day, seeing more than 700,000 warblers flying overhead, behind, and right past the noses in a single day is a tough one to beat. Yeah, that’s right, that many. Really. A few thousand would still be amazing but 700,000? I’m not sure what to call that except absolute pandemonium cerebral birding overload. I mean holy bird count Batman! That’s waaaay out of control!!! The connection to Costa Rica with this one is that some of those birds probably wintered or at least migrated through these parts. Then, they went north and somehow ended up joining thousands of other warblers for a crazy warbler convoy/fest in Tadoussac. Check out the list, the numbers are real and the comments are inspiration for the best of birding dreams.

Thousands of Cape-mays were seen. We are lucky to get a few in Costa Rica each winter. I was happy to see this one at the Arenal Observatory Lodge.

The petrel– Just to add a little more improbability to the mix, around the same date, one of Brian Patteson’s famed pelagic trips out of North Carolina found and photographed what appears to be a Tahiti Petrel. Not only new for that area, how about new for the whole damn Atlantic Ocean!!! I still need this cool wave wanderer. If I took a pelagic far off shore in Costa Rica, I might see one. Friends of mine have and during the month of May too.

But how about some news a bit more local in nature?

Bare-necked Umbrellabird and Oilbird around Monteverde– A male was seen displaying at Curi-Cancha recently. Will it stay? Hopefully, and hopefully with more of its wonderful, endangered kin. As for the Oilbird, it’s early for one to show but that’s alright, we will take it! Hopefully, this is a sign that more Oilbirds will be coming to the montane forests of Costa Rica the next couple of months.

Unspotted Saw-whet Owl tracked, seen, and videoed– Thanks to the good, hard-working folks of Get Your Birds!, not only are they heading up a project to assess the endemic Cabanis’s Ground-Sparrow and doing 300 species plus big days. They are also running around with Unspotted Saw-whets at night! These guys are hard core. I mean, it’s cold up there in the middle of the high elevation night, and they have managed to put a locator on one of these much wanted cute montane owls and have been following it. And, for all of our entertainment, a video was also made by birding guide Jose Pablo Castillo of one eating a small rodent. Enjoy!:

More bird counts– It’s really cool to see more local bird counts taking place. Not only are these events a fun way to share birds with other like-minded binocular wielding folks, but they also provide valuable data about local bird populations. This weekend, one will be taking place at Esquinas Lodge. I was going to attend but much to my dismay, had to drop out at the last moment because of sudden changes in my work situation that couldn’t be altered. I felt terrible to email that notification to the organizer and can only hope to make it up to him some day.

In June, a count at an excellent site in Coronado known as “Locos por el Bosque” will be taking place. I plan on attending and sure hope so because it coincides with my birthday. No better way to celebrate it than watching birds, especially with the best of people.

Will we see a quetzal? I hope one like this.

Bogarin Trail is Rocking– This home grown site is always good but lately, it’s been rocking the birding house. One day, someone posted a video of a Uniform Crake right out in the open. You know, just waltzing around like a mini wood-rail. Um, that’s insane. As many who have tried can attest, this is one of those “special” little birds that are easy to hear but mostly invisible. If you get lucky with the crake, you might also get lucky with roosting Black-and-white Owl, and these days, watch an Agami Heron that has been hanging there! Yes, one of the world’s original skulking herons has been joining the bird gang at Bogarin’s. Thank you Geovanni for making this avian oasis happen!!!

Birds at the Fortuna Nature Trail.

Updates to the Costa Rica Birds Field Guide app– Back on the home front, new images have been included in a recent update to this digital field guide. One of the apps I work on, this update includes images of tough birds like Blue Seedeater, Ruddy Foliage-gleaner, and the elusive Silvery-throated Jay among other additions. There are also additional images from one of the country’s top bird photographers, Randall Ortega Chaves.

That’s it for now, I hope to see you in Costa Rica!

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admin on May 22nd, 2018

Not all birds are common. It’s not long after opening our first field guide that we discover this punch in the gut fact (Ivory-billed Woodpecker! Wow, what a…bird…that I can’t see.) In North America, the elevator/bipolar feelings of up and down can also occur after become aware of the majestic Whooping Crane, or maybe the way too range restricted Kirtland’s Warbler, or that smart beauty of the Texas hill country, the Golden-cheeked Warbler. In Europe, it depends on where you plan on birding but the feelings of discovery and angst tend to happen after reading about the Aquatic Warbler, or maybe gazing at illustrations of the White-backed Woodpecker. Be prepared to scream and/or cry after reading about the Slender-billed Curlew though. Or, just smashing something, you might opt for killing your television.

In Costa Rica, we also have our share of rare birds. I guess that would be a given for any country with a list of over 900 species. Some just gotta be rare, I mean, there’s only so much room for so many birds, right? Yeah, that is part of the equation and with drier conditions resulting in decreased productivity in forest ecosystems where everything seems to compete with everything else for food, sadly, many a bird seems to be even rarer than just ten years ago. Time to smash yet another appliance or instrument or whatever in frustration.

However, some species have always been on the uncommon side of the birding coin even in the best of habitats. Whether because they are too picky, require equally rare ecological circumstances, or are no longer privy to the types of habitat they require, those choice, less adapted species are far and few between. Each bioregion in this small country has its short list of rare birds, it’s no coincidence that they tend to be the ones that get missed during short visits to Costa Rica. Although most highland species are fairly common, there are a handful of cool birds that can be a true, honest pain to see. These come to mind:

Maroon-chested Ground-Dove

Also known as “the ground-dove” because it’s the one that so many world birders always hope to see and never do. Also one of the closest things we have in Costa Rica to a bleeding-heart (if you don’t know, just search for “bleeding heart dove” but be aware that you may need some self restraint so as not to buy plane tickets to the Philippines). It might not actually be as fancy as one of those amazing bleeding heart doves but our’s is special nonetheless. In fact, so special and tough to see that it might be the official antithesis to the Rock Pigeon. The birds are up there, somewhere in the mountains, but they don’t seem to be common and may prefer hiding in dense cover most of the time. The best way to see this widely distributed mega is to watch for it at bamboo seeding events (I got my lifer this way on Chirripo Mountain, and saw a bunch!), or, better yet, learn the vocalization and listen and watch for it at the edges of forest and riparian zones above 2,000 meters on the way up to Irazu Volcano.

Man were we pleased to see this one!

Unspotted Saw-whet Owl

Thanks to the efforts of Ernesto Carman, we know much more about the habits of this elusive bird of the night but seeing it continues to be a perennial challenge. Unlike its northern cousin, this equally adorable owl doesn’t migrate and thus can’t be found with painstaking searches in coconut palms. Pairs occur here and there at high elevations but you have to venture into the cold dark night to maybe, just maybe find one. Like so many other owls, this small species is likewise unreliable. In other words, just because it is calling and easy to see one night doesn’t translate to a repeat performance the following eight o’clock dark. All you can do is try but at least the more time you spend listening and looking, the better your chances. Because of that test of patience and ability to withstand the cold, if you really need to see this one, you might want to dedicate an entire night to looking for it. Bring the flashlights/torches, warm clothing, and spirits to sites above 2,200 meters on Irazu, Turrialba (when it’s not erupting), and the high elevations of the Talamancas. It’s up to you if you want to enjoy your drink before or after seeing this minute mega. Don’t feel bad about opting for before, it might stave off the cold and make up for hours of not hearing a peep.

Look in places like this.

Ochraceous Pewee

This flycatcher is sort of enigmatic because unlike so many other regional endemics, it’s not common and is a real royal pain to lay eyes on. It masquerades as a hefty Tufted Flycatcher and since they can be seen in the same areas, you have to be careful with identification. It really likes the high spots, like 2,500 meters of higher, and can show up in many a high elevation forested site, it’s just rare! It might not vocalize so much either, maybe because it’s always hunched down and feeling cold, who knows. Watch for it at sites like Paraiso de Quetzales and the upper Dota Valley.

Silvery-throated Jay

Ooh, as senor Mars might say, “A straight up masterpiece”…well, of a jay that is. Smallish, dressed in the dark shades of a deep night, and preferring gnarled, mature oak forests that eat the light of the sun, this choice bird is nothing but Gothic. Tropical Gothic I suppose. As in Sisters of Mercy Gothic…maybe. The pale throat and eyebrow are its mother of pearl and silver jewelry, the feathers a dark, deep midnight blue cloak. Watch for it in large tracts of mature high elevation forest in the Talamancas. Like the Roble Trail at Savegre, or the trails at Georgina, or roads that lead to Providencia. But, don’t be surprised if you don’t find them during a day of birding. They seem to be genuinely scarce and may require several days of searching, or maybe reading some Edgar Allen Poe or the Dark Tower series on a misty day while seated under a massive old growth oak. If that strategy doesn’t happen to bring in the jays, the day is always magic when a good read is accompanied by the beautiful natural flutes of Black-faced Solitaires, nightingale-thrushes, and ancient oaks caressed by cold mist. Rare magic, especially when those jays finally do appear.

Tropical Gothic Corvid Magic. 

Slaty Finch

Not all finches are created equal. In the case of the Slaty Finch, it sits down there on the lower end of the dull spectrum. But, instead of looking like a techinicolor Gouldian Finch, it garners appeal by just being plain rare. Or not, I mean let’s face it, the bird sort of looks like an extra dull junco. Maybe that’s why it doesn’t want to be seen? Well, you might be better off not wanting to see it because, unfortunately, there’s not a whole lot you can do to find it other than listening for its seriously high-pitched song at bamboo seeding events. Whether around bamboo or not, keep an eye out for any dull plumaged birds foraging on the ground. They might be this one. Hope to get lucky with this finch at any high elevation site. If not, just smile at the beauty of Flame-throated Warblers and Long-tailed Silky-Flycatchers.

This, believe it or not, is a Slaty Finch.

This, is a Flame-throated Warbler. Take your pick.

Blue Seedeater

Vying with the Slaty for the “dullest rare finch in Costa Rica” prize, the Blue Seedeater is another bird more frequently seen at seeding bamboo and hardly ever encountered otherwise. Usually in pairs, listen for its Passerina bunting-like vocalizations (as in the Indigo variety) in cloud forest, even riparian zones on the upper slopes of the Central Valley. Lately, one reliable spot has been sites with bamboo up above Coronado.

But what about quail-doves, Highland Tinamou, some of the other birds less frequently encountered? Although those choice gems also present frequent challenges to being found in your focused field of view, they still aren’t as tough as the aforementioned species. To learn about the best places to see birds and Costa Rica along with 700 pages of tips for finding and identifying them, support this blog by purchasing my e-book, How to See, Find, and Identify Birds in Costa Rica.

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The big day has come and gone. The preparations were many, the anticipation higher than the heights of Mount Chirripo, and the camaraderie exemplary. And, best of all, it didn’t pour down rain the entire time. Much better than any wedding, I’m talking about Global Big Day, 2018. Known as “GBD” in these here parts, birders in Costa Rica got seriously on board with this worldwide birding event and ended up rocking the birding house. Through weeks of planning, organization, and focused birding, we collectively identified more than 680 species; a new record for Costa Rica!

Although stories are still coming in, these were some of the other highlights:

Tee-shirts– One or more teams actually had tee-shirts made for their team! I love this because I love birding tee-shirts. Next time, I’m getting a tee-shirt too, maybe one that shows a GBD trifecta of organic chocolate, pizza, and a Yellow-billed Cotinga. Well, on second thought, no, I’m pretty sure any other team mates would not really go for that, I’ll have to discuss the design with whomever does GBD 2019 with me.

Yellow-billed Cotinga, the ones we saw were white specks in the distance that eventually took flight.

The Whatsapp group The communication among birders via telephone messaging was vital for the organization and promotion of this wonderful day of birding. Honestly, without it, I don’t think we would have done nearly as well. Nor could people have shared images of their teams, birds, or sightings in real time. The only downside was having to turn down the notification thing on my phone so I could get in a few hours of necessary sleep before commencing GBD 2018.

Lots of rare birds– So many people in the field, all out there looking for certain birds, paid off with the likes of elusive species like Black-and-white Hawk-Eagle, Lanceolated Monklet, Sharpbill, Bare-necked Umbrellabird, our Yellow-billed Cotinga, crakes, rails, Long-tailed Woodcreeper, and more! It shows what you can find when you have so many people out there looking for birds, all on the same day. Hopefully, next year, we can get even more people watching and improve the organization to see if we can even locate the likes of mega tough ones like Rufous-vented Ground-Cuckoo, Speckled Mourner, and Tawny-faced Quail.

Carara and Cerro Lodge– After many calculations concerning logistics and birding possibilities, it seemed like starting in this area would result in the greatest number of species. I have come to that conclusion before and have started Big Days there in the past but I was never able to maximize the number of species by 11 or noon and thus never came out of there with as many birds as I had expected. This time, though, instead of beginning the birding at the edge of Carara, I opted to greet dawn on the Cerro Lodge road, continue around Tarcoles, enter the forests of the national park at 8, and follow that up with birding near the Pura Vida Gardens. This route gives access to a wicked birdy combination of habitats including dry forest, high quality lowland forest, a riparian zone, wetlands, coastal habitats, mangroves, and open areas. Most of all, it allows for quick coverage of dry forest species at an optimal time without sacrificing rainforest species. The strategy worked out because without actually going crazy in looking for every bird, and sans scouting, we still managed 187 species before noon. With scouting, better strategies, and better timing, we might have hit 200. That would probably be a given when winter birds are present.

Carara- the bird zone.

Constant bird song– This was of great help throughout the day. Perhaps also because of cloudy weather, birds were singing all day long and this of course greatly facilitated the count, especially inside the forests of Carara as species like Eye-ringed Flatbill, Rufous Piha, Streak-chested Antpitta, and other birds of the shaded woods vocalized one after another to make it onto our GBD list.

A tame Great Tinamou– It’s always nice to run into one of those ultra tame tinamous at Carara. This happened a couple of times during GBD, one of them almost refusing to walk off the trail!

It was hard to resist the urge to try and pet this one on its funny head.

Beautiful Baird’s Trogon– After doing most of the back trail, I wondered if we would miss this key species. Shortly after that thought, one began to call, and not longer after, we were admiring a pair at close range!

Beautiful!

That Lesser Nighthawk that flew around in the morning– I like this memory because since we arrived after dawn, I thought we had missed this nightjar. Fortunately, while scanning for shorebirds at the beach, my team mate noticed a Lesser Nighthawk zipping around the dunes, and there it was, in perfect light, fluttering around in plain sight as waves crashed behind it, and much better looks than of the ones that fly into the dusky reaches of the evening sky.

It was GBD. It was good. It was an incredible bird-filled day because despite starting later than expected, and leaving out the bird-rich middle and foothill elevations of Socorro (after cold rains on Poas Volcano convinced us to end it earlier than expected), we still managed to identify 225 species. That’s without going crazy and more or less sleeping in until 3:30 a.m.! How was your GBD? Did you start at midnight? How much coffee did you drink? What was your favorite bird? Tell us in the comments.

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Just a few days left until a fair percentage of the birding public participates in Global Big Day. It’s easy enough to do, you just need to watch birds on May 5th for any amount of time, count those birds, and submit the information to eBird. In these days of instant social media, you can also post your successes, failures, or pictures of your favorite birding snacks in real time. Did you admire a Scarlet Tanager or two in breeding plumage? Hear the winnowing of a snipe in the cold of the dawn? Compare the virtues of high-quality organic chocolate to crumbly, sugar infused doughnuts? And, most of all, have any run-ins with interesting non-birders? Post it on Facebook to make the day that much more memorable!

A tree decorated with Scarlet Macaws would be memorable.

Here in C0sta Rica, we seriously got our birding game on. At least it seems that way at our Whatsapp group for GBD (that’s what we call it around here). Lots of people have signed on and we will have birders in most corners of the country, many of which will be focusing on key species. For example, a few Tico birders will be looking for the elusive Red-throated Carara in the Osa, others will be slinging the bins at El Copal and Tapanti in search of specialties of that birdy zone, and some of us will be hoping to add tough species like Blue Seedeater, and Unspotted Saw-whet Owl to the results. There’s lots of good vibes going on, it’s going to be interesting to see what we all find.

During these final last hours of preparation, although I’m not sure what others are doing, this is what I will be up to:

Checking eBird: One last check to see if and where certain target species have been seen. I also checked the bar charts today to see which migrants can be expected. Most warblers and viroes are gone, but flycatchers are still in the house as well as shorebirds.

Making the coffee: I really should mention that no one has to do GBD like a birding machine whereby you start at midnight and focus on birds for the next 24 hours. In fact, you probably shouldn’t. But, you might want to start earlier than usual, or at least be out right before dawn. Whether you go that midnight route or start the madness after the rise of the sun, just make sure to brew more than enough coffee the night before because the last thing you want is to be lacking on the caffeine when the birding gets fierce. Just in case I need an extra influx of natural stimulants, I’ll be rolling and ready with my coffee and chocolate covered coffee beans.

Making a pizza: Yeah, you read that right. I often make a pizza before a bird count because what can I say, I love good pizza and I love birding; it makes for a perfect combination! So, I plan on making one or two, I’m not quite sure about the toppings but it’s still gonna be good! Cold slices of course but when the pizza is fresh, the flavors are always fantastic. Hopefully, I will be enjoying a slice as I see a Solitary Eagle! Well, actually, no because then I would end up wasting the pizza slice after spitting it out in shock, or choking on it, or accidentally throwing the pizza on the windshield of the car in my race for the camera, or sauce up the camera lens or something. It would be tough for it not to be a bit of momentary birding pandemonium. Hopefully, the eagle will show at a more opportune time…

Not a Solitary Eagle but Hook-billed Kite would still be a great find for the day! Not enough to drop the pizza but still good.

Studying obscure bird sounds: To maximize results, we gotta be ready for the calls of flyover Upland Sandpipers, a super rare singing Black-whiskered Vireo, vocalizations of rare Black and white Becards, and whatever else might fly our way on GBD. The vireo probably won’t show but it’s all about being ready for anything, so now is the time for a last minute check of possibilities and making sure you know their respective calls.

Getting stuff ready on May 4th: Do this to avoid any nasty last minute surprises like no gas in the car, a lack of gourmet snacks, forgetting the sunblock (although to avoid wasting time, I suggest putting it on before you leave the house), charging whatever batteries are needed, or putting on the wrong shoes. Trust me, these and other SNAFUs can happen in the dark of the blurry-eyed night, especially when you got the focus on birds and are straining the ears for the faint bubbling call of an Upland Sandpiper.

Checking yourself before you wreck yourself: Um, what I mean by this in my personal birding terms is to curb the enthusiasm, and be honest with yourself. For example, don’t mark down an Upland Sandpiper if you may have actually heard some odd sounding, distant motorcyle (likely in Costa Rica). Are you sure that distant hawk-eagle was an Ornate and not a Black? Sorry, but if the doubt is there, just leave it off the list. I know, it hurts but we gotta keep things real on GBD! If Ice Cube were a birder (I would love if he were), I think he would be checking himself.

Black Hawk-Eagle silhouette.

Don’t forget the Jedi Zen state of being!: In other words, focus on seeing and hearing birds in the present, challenge yourself but do enjoy the experience (because, like, if you don’t enjoy something, why do it?). Stay focused and the birds will show! Don’t worry about the ones that refuse to play, try and refrain from referring to them as “asshats”, they got their own agendas and plenty other birds will be seen. Who knows,  maybe they’ll make an appearance later on, and you would have to take back that you called the previously absent Barred Hawk “eco figlio della puttana”, “sargeant major f$%kf#ce” or (gasp!) a glorified Black Vulture. Keep the peace with the birds and lots will show!  If it makes you feel better, keep in mind that thousands of other birders are also watching birds pretty much around the world as part of Global Big Day.

Ok, I think I’m ready, I’ll be rocking the birds in Costa Rica as part of Team Tyto! Based on our name, our main goal is putting Barn Owl on the list but we also hope to add a few others here and there as we bird through lowlands, highlands, and coastal habitats. Not sure if I can update from the field but if it doesn’t get in the way of my attempts to maintain a Zen-Jedi birding thing, you might see a post or two on Facebook, most definitely if we see a Solitary Eagle. Hope to see you out there with the birds! If I have any cold, left over pizza, I just might share a slice.

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Costa Rica might be small in size but it’s big on biodiversity. Like jam-packed with life, actually. Leave the perimeter of the airport in the Central Valley and it doesn’t take more than an hour’s drive to reach cloud forest, or rainforest, or dry forest, or a combination of habitats with literally hundreds of bird species therein. The best junction of life-zones in this birdy country is directly south of San Jose, on the other side of the mountains, and offers everything from Great Tinamou to Roseate Spoonbill, five species of trogons, and more. Situated where rainforest meets dry forests that are divided by a river and adjacent seasonal wetlands, Carara National Park and vicinity is a goldmine for birds. Honestly one of the best sites for birding in Central America, this hotspot is a must for any birding or natural history visit to Costa Rica, a first time visitor will be in for some seriously mind-blowing birding (unless you don’t really care for a hundred of more lifers in a day), and there is no better place to base oneself than Cerro Lodge.

Scarlet Macaws frequently perch in trees at Cerro Lodge.

Located just west of the Tarcoles River and around seven kilometers from the national park entrance, Cerro is close enough to the park for quick access yet far enough to also offer a different suite of birds. Whereas much of the national park protects humid rainforest that provides a home for such key species as Black-hooded Antshrike, Baird’s Trogon, Red-capped Manakin, Riverside Wren, Scarlet Macaws, and much more, the lands around Cerro Lodge are a mix of tropical dry forest, pastures, second growth, and seasonal wetlands. Combine these two sites and the bird list grows to more than 400 species.

The view along the entrance road of the Tarcoles River and the rainforests of Carara National Park in the background. This is a good spot to see Scarlet Macaws and parrots in flight.

To give an idea of the major sort of birding involved around Cerro Lodge and Carara, during a typical day of guiding that starts at Cerro, follows with a a visit to the national park, and takes in a few other nearby sites, we often finish with 140 to 150 species. Sometimes more, and that includes a leisurely stop for lunch where we scan for a few seabirds!

Starting the birding at Cerro is a good way to enjoy breakfast while enjoying flybys of various parrots, parakeets, and Scarlet Macaws, occasional raptors that may include Crane Hawk and Gray-headed Kite, distant (sometimes closer) looks at the mega Yellow-billed Cotinga, Striped Cuckoo, Gartered and Black-headed Trogons, and many other birds. Bird your way up the entrance road and a good variety of edge and dry forest species make it onto the list. Once you reach the national park, dozens of humid forest species are in store for the rest of the morning, and the more you bird the patches of forest, second growth, mangroves, and wetlands around Tarcoles and nearby, the more birds make it into your field of view. Although there are too many to mention, some of the choice species can include Olivaceous Piculet, mangrove birds, King Vulture, White Hawk, Yellow-naped Parrot, Fiery-billed Aracari, and Charming Hummingbird. It’s one of those areas where the more you bird, the more you really see because such a large number of species are possible.

Gartered Trogon

Even better, with reforestation efforts, the birding is also good enough right at Cerro Lodge to see a very good variety of species on the grounds and on the road in front of the lodge. Spend a day there and don’t be surprised to see Collared Forest-Falcon, White-necked Puffbird, Turquoise-browed Motmot, and Blue-throated Goldentail just outside your room.

Turquoise-browed Motmot

White-throated Magpie-Jay at the feeder. Feeder action varies throughout the year but sometimes sees visits by this species and Fiery-billed Aracari.

In addition to fine birding and photo opportunities at the lodge, other benefits of staying at this excellent birding lodge include:

  • Great service– Staff listens to guests and strives to meet their needs. Need breakfast early? Want to know when the owls are showing? ASk the staff.
  • Great meals– More than plenty of good food.
  • Air-conditioned rooms– Needed as Cerro Lodge is situated in one of the hotter parts of Costa Rica. 
  • Tour arrangements– The desk can arrange boat tours and other activities.
  • Pool– Nice to have when visiting with non-birding family or partners. This also shows the birding view from the restaurant.
  • Owls on site– Sometimes, Black-and-white Owls forage around the restaurant and near the cabins. They typically come out after eight p.m. Pacific Screech-Owl is also resident and Spectacled, Mottled, and Striped Owls also live nearby.

Having seen what Cerro has become since it opened, as with many a successful tourism venture, I can honestly say that the owner has taken the time to listen to the wants and needs of guests and has made substantial investments in changes accordingly. So far, the result has been a win for both the comfort of guests and the health of the ecosystem at the lodge.

Want to go birding at Cerro Lodge? Have any questions about target species and photo opportunities? Send me an email at information@birdingcraft.com, or leave a comment. I can answer your questions and set up your trip.

 

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The golden birding month of May is just about here and I know of more than a few birders up north who must be giving a collective sigh of anticipated relief. April wanes and yet the snow keeps coming back, and as much as folks in upstate New York are accustomed to the cold white stuff, eventually, enough is enough. It might even snow up there in early May but birders know that by the 10th, the birds should be migrating through local patches throughout the eastern USA and southern Canada, accentuating the fresh green of new foliage with equally bright feathers and eager song.

In Costa Rica, we are also looking forward to May but not for migration. Some birds like Red-eyed Vireo and Eastern Kingbird will still be on the move but most will have already passed through the country by then. No, we are looking forward to one day in particular, that of May 5th, the official date when thousands of birders across the globe will be celebrating Global Big Day by counting birds and putting those data into eBird.

I have been pleased to see that a lot of birders in Costa Rica are eager and ready to bird in most parts of the country. Many posted their routes more than a month ago and organizers are still working to get more birders on board to see if we can record every possible species, and hopefully a few more! Although I haven’t worked out an exact route, I do plan on participating and will once again see if I can break 300 for the day. While working out the logistics, I thought of a few suggestions and tips for Global Big Day in Costa Rica. These might also be applicable to GBD everywhere or when birding in Costa Rica any time of the year:

Don’t feel obligated to bird for 24 hours

You can if you want but you don’t have to because there won’t be any secret birding police knocking on your door if you don’t begin the count at the stroke of midnight. Just bird as much or as little as you want but please put the data into eBird. However, if you do want to go nuts and lose yourself with birds beyond normal hours, there are one or two tips below that might help.

Scout if you can!

If you have time to scout your route, do so and as often as possible. Although those Golden-bellied Flycatchers that were always present for the past year can certainly take a silent vacation on count day, you will see more key birds if you scout for them. It’s also best to scout as close to count day as possible to know where fruiting and flowering trees are attracting hummingbirds, tanagers, and other count day delights. Not to mention, there might be some hidden wetland, roosting owl, or other chance at more birds that would otherwise be overlooked.

I want to get a Great Potoo for the day.

Make a plan and stick to it

If you plan on doing a serious Big Day or to shoot for a certain number of species, you really do need to carefully plan out the mad endeavor in advance. Take things like traffic, different habitats, and expected species into account, but most of all, be careful with the timing at each site and for driving between stops, and stick to those times on count day. If you stay longer for even ten minutes at a few sites, you won’t get those thirty or more minutes back. Allocate the appropriate amount of time for each stop as a function of the likelihood of identifying numbers of new species for the day and keep to the schedule whether the birds show or not!

Don’t fret the monklet

The Lanceolated Monklet is not exactly reliable. Even if you see one the day before the count, don’t expect the anti-social featherball hermit to come out and play when you need it. Just stick to a well planned schedule, don’t worry, enough birds will show. Other birds not to fret because they are either few in number and/or are seriously unfriendly include various raptors, antpittas, Yellow-eared Toucanet, owls, and Great Jacamar. Give the unseen birds the one finger salute if it makes you feel better but don’t waiver from the schedule.

Will anyone identify a monklet in Costa Rica this May 5th, 2018?

Practice Tai Chi birding

This doesn’t mean that you need to practice the Chen Canon Fist form or get meditative with Yang 108  while also watching birds. Although that would make for quite the interesting video, and I would be seriously impressed to see someone carry out the “Teal Dragon Emerges from Water” movement while also calling out a vocalizing Scarlet Tanager, “Tai Chi birding” just means putting the focus on listening and watching for birds in as relaxed a manner as possible. Maintaining a high degree of concentration in a relaxed state during an exciting, bird filled day could indeed be a challenge but I guarantee that the birders who manage to do this will notice that hidden potoo, pick out the Barred Hawk conspiring to be a standard Black Vulture, and get more birds. If it makes you feel better, or cooler (as in Fonzi cool), you can also refer to this as “Jedi birding”.

Coffee, chocolate, and champagne

Yeah, pretty much in that order. Make enough coffee for the day and some. Coca-Cola can also work but I prefer the java because it can be made as strong as one likes, and, based on all those Coca-Cola dissolving videos, must be better for you. Also, use quality coffee because this is a special occasion! Speaking of very special times, this is also why we want to celebrate throughout the GBD with serious chocolate. This means spending some extra Colones for extra dark chocolate bars that put the percentage of cocoa right on the front of the package, and staying away from the cheap, sugary perversions of the holy Mayan bean. Get the good stuff! It might help you see a monklet! Oh, and of course, once the counting is done, get out the bubbly stuff! That or some fine craft beers or whatever floats your boat as a celebratory drink, snack, or dance.

Enjoy it!

Most of all, enjoy GBD. Do it however you want and whatever way makes you most happy. The part I like the most is knowing that I am sharing the collective experience with thousands of other birders. I fricking love that.

 

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Just as with every place on the planet, this Mother Earth, Costa Rica has its own list of bird species endangered with extinction. On that list, we find such birds as the Yellow-naped Parrot (threatened by a nasty combination of habitat loss and capture for the pet bird trade), Yellow-billed Cotinga (habitat loss for that surreal beauty), and the Bare-necked Umbrellabird (yep, the big black bird with the pompadour also needs more habitat). Much of that list coincides with assessments made by BirdLife International however, there is one “new” bird that needs a new assessment by the world leader in bird conservation, and it needs it now.

Yellow-naped Parrot

The bird in question is the Cabanis’s Ground-Sparrow. Formerly known as the Prevost’s Ground-Sparrow, this small brown bird with a fun, fancy face shares a common ancestor with the familiar Canyon and California Towhees of the western USA. In other words, it’s basically a tropical towhee. Given its evolutionary history and occurrence on coffee farms, I personally like the sound of “Coffee Towhee” for this striking sparrow. Not only does that place the bird where one often sees it, but it also invokes delicious thoughts of high quality volcanic brews, not to mention, the two words also just sound good together. Coffee Towhee also gives it more marketing potential, something that this bird really, truly needs. Perhaps that could be used in conjunction with “Comemaiz Rey” (King Sparrow), the local name for this species and one that also works to get people’s attention. Over at Birdlife, more good news in terms of marketing suitable names comes in the form of Costa Rican Ground-Sparrow, a moniker that might work best to help acquire funding to study and protect this endemic species.

Coffee Towhee

Yes, thanks to being split from the White-faced Ground-Sparrow of northern Central America, the towhee of the cafetales is our “newest” endemic, and although it doesn’t require mature forest, it nevertheless has a serious problem. Despite being a bird of scrubby vegetation, the ground-sparrow just happens to live exactly where most people in Costa Rica also reside. Always a bird of the Central Valley, it likely thrived in the combination of low woodlands and marshy, scrubby vegetation that covered much of the valley way back before the latter era of the Anthropocene. It showed its resilience as woodlands were replaced with rows of coffee plants, and continues to hang on in riparian zones, even in places where the sounds of traffic and presence of parking lots have become part of the natural scene. But, it hangs on in such places likely because it has nowhere else to go, and the bird isn’t exactly abundant there either. In fact, on another worrisome note, they are far from abundant anywhere.

As anyone who has birded any amount of time in Costa Rica can attest, this species is typically tricky to find, even in what seems to be appropriate habitat. Even taking skulking behaviors into account, based on years of experience, it appears to be honestly, truly uncommon and local in most of its very small range and has likely been declining for some time, especially with the steady conversion of its habitat into landscapes dominated by concrete and asphalt. Although the present assessment at Birdlife gives it a status of Least Concern, and that the bird is likely increasing, this just doesn’t jive with reality. In fact, the reasons given for the bird to not be included in the Red List don’t reflect what we see on the ground.

According to Birdlife,
“This species has a very large range, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the range size criterion (Extent of Occurrence <20,000 km2 combined with a declining or fluctuating range size, habitat extent/quality, or population size and a small number of locations or severe fragmentation).”

Actually, it has a very small range (just 1,800 square km), its habitat is certainly declining in extent and quality, it has likely declined, and there seems to be severe fragmentation in various parts of an already small range).

“The population trend appears to be increasing, and hence the species does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population trend criterion (>30% decline over ten years or three generations).”

I really don’t think there are any data to support this, and, based on personal experience and in speaking with others, field observations seem to always run contrary to this assessment.

“The population size is very large, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population size criterion (<10,000 mature individuals with a continuing decline estimated to be >10% in ten years or three generations, or with a specified population structure).”

Given the tiny range and paucity of observations in the best of habitats, it seems highly unlikely that the population is very large and more than 10,000 individuals. For example, when I survey an area of coffee fields that have this species, the most I have encountered are 5 individuals on the best of days as opposed to 20 Rufous-collared Sparrows in the same area. Granted, I could only survey along the edge of those fields but even with extrapolation to account for birds in the entire field, it doesn’t seem likely that the area could support more than 30 individuals. Sadly, on a note that further demonstrates the precarious nature of this bird, this population was likely impacted since a fair part of that site was recently burned and might be cleared for other use.

These factors point to the need for a more accurate assessment of this endemic species, and why it is probably Vulnerable or even Endangered:

A very small range heavily impacted by urbanization.

Continued loss of habitat.

Impact by cowbirds, mostly Bronzed but maybe also by increasing numbers of Shiny (according to a study carried out by Stiles, this taxon was a preferred host for the cowbird).

-On the losing side of competition with White-eared Ground-Sparrow. A possible factor since Stiles and Skutch mention the White-eared being uncommon in forested ravines, the endemic ground-sparrow being common in coffee fields. For the past 15 years, White-eareds seem to be much more common in many coffee farms.

Predation by feral cats. Although assessment is needed, given the abundance of cats in areas frequented by this species, this is likely yet another contributing factor that limits population size.

Effects of pesticides. How does heavy pesticide use on coffee farms and other agricultural landscapes affect this species? An unknown but fewer prey items and unhealthy chemicals won’t do them any favors.

Fortunately, there are several people in Costa Rica who know how important it is to assess the status of this bird, including Ernesto Carman and Paz Irola of Get Your Birds! They actually have a Cabanisi project to help this endemic species that includes surveys for it and working with local farmers to educate and protect habitat. Soon, they will also be doing a Big Day to raise funds to help this bird species while also trying to break their own incredible Big Day record of 350 plus species! Click on the link to see how you can help protect Costa Rica’s newest endemic species, a bird that might actually be sliding closer to extinction.

This post is dedicated to Jenny Luffman, someone with whom I grew up with at Sacred Heart grade school in Niagara Falls, NY, and who died in an accident in 1998. She would have celebrated a birthday on April 8. She loved birds, if she had lived longer than her 20s, I dare say she would have become a birder, I think she always was and never knew it. She would have loved to have seen this ground-sparrow and many more. I hope that Jenny has been watching and laughing with the most beautiful of birds since the day of her passing.

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admin on April 6th, 2018

Arenal is the name of a volcano in northern Costa Rica that exploded some decades ago. After that initial fiery, geological shout-out, the inner furnaces of the mountain kept right on burning, and, in doing so, the resultant natural incandescence has acted as a beacon for tourism ever since. Add numerous hot springs, waterfalls, and other natural beauty to the local mix and La Fortuna has become quite the bustling place where people from various countries show off the latest in khaki shorts and sandals as they waltz down the limited thoroughfares of the town. A wide variety of accommodation is available there and nearby, and many have names that pay homage to the conical mountain that punctuates the view.

One such place is also one of the first to have offered rooms to folks looking for volcanic fun. A former Macadamia farm, the Arenal Lodge offers a perfect view of the volcano, nice rooms, and a cozy reception and dining area with beautiful wooden floors. But…birds? No, I have not forgotten that this is a birding blog, there are birds too! In fact, more than enough for this welcoming hotel to act as an excellent base to work from, or just stay at, while birding in Costa Rica around Arenal.

I had heard about some of the birds at the Arenal Lodge from friends who had done Christmas Counts there. The most interesting one was a possible Great Jacamar, in Costa Rica, a very rare bird of the Caribbean lowlands and foothills. Since this iridescent beast of a bird also requires plenty of high quality habitat, its presence is a sign that lots of other feathered ones are also there (an umbrella species if you will). Although I didn’t hear or see one during a recent morning of guiding at the Arenal Lodge, we still had fun birding and I left the area feeling that it certainly has birding potential. That means that it’s worth visiting to look for the jacamar as well as lots of other uncommon and rare species. Many are likely present, these are some of my highlights and impressions:

Fine roadside birding– Upon entering the lodge grounds, guests then make their way up a lengthy road until they finally reach the rooms and reception. That road goes through old second growth, forested riparian zones, and open areas, all of which have lots of birds. We had more than 100 species during the morning, just along the road.

It was nice to see Olive-crowned Yellowthroat.

The road to Arenal Lodge.

Mixed flocks– As with many a site in Costa Rica, this one has some nice mixed flocks. Although I bet larger assemblages of birds occur on a regular basis, we were still pleased with bird groups that showed the likes of Russet Antshrike, Spotted Woodcreeper, honeycreepers, and tanagers, the best being the uncommon Rufous-winged Tanager.

Quality birdies– That is, birds that maybe aren’t seen as often or just look cool. Some of these were Zone-tailed Hawk, a heard Great Curassow, Crested Guans, Gray-headed Chachalacas, Black-crested Coquette, Spotted Antbird, Song Wren (and other members of the wren family), Olive-crowned Yellowthroat, toucans, and so on.

A good base for birding the Arenal area– If you feel like birding away from the lodge, the Peninsula Road and its Bare-crowned Antbirds and nunbirds are nearby, Fortuna is a short 15-20 minute drive, and other sites are within easy striking distance.

Although the Bare-crowned was too skulky for a shot, Great Antshrikes performed for the camera at a Peninsula Road antswarm.

Given the good birding, scenery, and beauty for a fair price, I would stay there while visiting Arenal. I hope to bird there again some time soon, hopefully to do some bird counts on the grounds and see if we can locate that Great Jacamar.

Support this blog and learn about the best sites are for watching birds in Costa Rica by purchasing the 700 plus page e-book, How to See, Find, and Identify Birds in Costa Rica.

 

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When visiting another country, most of us stick to the same itineraries followed by tour companies and birders doing it on their own. Why not? That way, we already know the logistics, and more or less what to expect. It is the easiest route to take so why not stick to the road well traveled?

While there is nothing wrong with birding in the same places as thousands of other folks with binoculars have done, there are a few good reasons to leave the trodden path for birding in Costa Rica. Some excellent sites are actually not visited by tours and not because they don’t come with suitable accommodation. Such sites are usually left off the itinerary because the distances and travel times just don’t work with the rest of the tour, or the agency doesn’t even know about those places where you can watch birds in primary rainforest, enjoy excellent organic meals, and where the non-birding spouse can do some fish watching while snorkeling.

I visited just such a place last weekend when I guided our local birding club at Saladero Lodge. Situated on the forested shores of the Golfo Dulce, Saladero is run by an American-British couple who always make guests feel at home and strive to give them an unforgettable trip. At least that’s how I felt after two nights at Saladero. The food was excellent as was the service, and the scenery wasn’t so bad either…

But what about the birding? Well, that was pretty nice too…

The best species was Yellow-billed Cotinga, a highly endangered bird that requires lowland rainforest near tall mangroves. That uncommon combination combined with a small range of just southern Costa Rica and Panama makes it a rare bird indeed. But, since Saladero meets those requirements, the cotinga can be seen most mornings as it moves through the area. Thanks to local guide Stacey Hollis, we saw four. Check out Stacie’s well written blog!

Other benefits of birding right from the area around the cabinas were sightings of various tanagers, Baird’s Trogon, Golden-naped Woodpecker, woodcreepers, Black-bellied and Riverside Wrens, White Hawk, and other rainforest species. A tame Great Tinamou was a good sign of a protected forest sans hunting pressure as were the presence of calling Great Curassows and Marbled Wood-Quail in the nearby forest.

Band-tailed Barbthroat was also common near the lodge.

Speaking of the forest, it looked fantastic; immense, old trees were the norm. I would have liked to have birded more inside that beautiful part of Piedras Blancas National Park but will hopefully do so on my next trip there. The little interior forest birding that was done yielded Golden-crowned Spadebill, Black-faced Anthrush, Scaly-throated Leaftosser, trogons, and some other birds. I’m sure there is also a lot more to be had, especially considering that a Crested Eagle was photographed in this area just two years ago!

Add in the good birding in open and edge habitats en route to Golfito and a trip to Saladero can result in a large number of species including an excellent selection of quality species (including birds like Red-rumped Woodpecker and Black-cheeked Ant-Tanager, both of which were seen en route).

Last but not least, I should also mention that the night birding is pretty good. Crested Owls were heard each night and appear to be fairly common there, Mottled was also heard and Black and white is sometimes also present. Tropical Screech-Owl can also be found, and we heard the local variety of Vermiculated Screech-Owl. If we would have done some night birding inside the forest, I dare say we would have probably seen that and more.

The South Pacific form of Vermiculated Screech-Owl, a likely split. This one was from Esquinas Lodge.

Other benefits of staying at Saladero include supporting a sustainable venture that is closely involved with local conservation efforts, watching sea turtles and other occasional aquatic wildlife of the gulf, fishing in pristine waters for your own dinner (we dined on a fantastic Snook!), snorkeling in clear tropical waters with lots of fish, and staying at one of the more remote and wild spots in Costa Rica. If that sounds interesting, let me know, we can plan a trip!

Until next time!

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