Categories
central valley common birds Introduction

Subtle birding in Costa Rica

I haven’t had the chance to go birding for the past two or three weeks. As of late, work, family duties, and lack of transportation (a common anti-birding trifecta) have combined their forces to stop any serious birding in its tracks before I even think of retrieving my binoculars. That’s alright though because I will be guiding a great group of people up at the Heliconias Lodge near Bijagua this upcoming weekend and I am always birding anyways in a subtle manner.

What I mean by this is that no matter where I go or what I am doing, I am always listening and looking for birds. I am sure that many birders can relate; especially those who have carried out field surveys that train one to listen for, quickly identify, and gauge the distance to every peep, squawk, and whistle that come a knocking on the ear drums.

Here is a run down of a typical day of subtle birding for me in Costa Rica:

5:00 – 8:00 a.m.: I awake to the dawn songs of Tropical Kingbirds and Social Flycatchers (and sometimes Gray-necked Wood-Rails). Rufous-collared Sparrows also sing their cheery songs from the walls that separate the houses and from the telephone wires and television cables.

Tropical Kingbird Costa Rica birding

Tropical Kingbirds may be the quintessential neotropical trash bird but at least they are nice looking trash.

Through the back door, I watch the neighborhood Blue and White Swallows zipping by and upon opening the front door,  I hear a Plain Wren giving a simple song from a nearby hedgerow. About this time, some poor, captive White-fronted Parrot begins to scream and squawk from its cage in a neighboring house. I haven’t seen it but am pretty sure that it’s imprisoned because the calls only come from one location.

Around this time, wild and free Crimson-fronted Parakeets and White-crowned Parrots come flying overhead. As with most members of their family, I hear them long before seeing them.

Just after Miranda and I walk out the door, a pair of Blue-gray Tanagers give their squeeky calls as they fly overhead and White-winged Doves sing and display from the wires. Another Blue-gray Tanager and Tropical Kingbird perch in the bare tree near the entrance to our neighborhood and a Great-tailed Grackle or two flies by.

Blue Gray Tanager birding Costa Rica

Blue-gray Tanagers are a common sight when birding Costa Rica.

Upon leaving our neighborhood, some Coturnix quail species calls from the house that also keeps canaries, budgies, and Yellow-faced Grassquits (all heard only). Near that house there is also a large garden and this green space provides habitat for Yellow-bellied Elaenia, Rufous-naped Wren, and other birds that I see or hear every time I walk by. More Tropical Kingbirds sally from overhead wires and a Boat-billed Flycatcher gives its complaining sounding call from somewhere in the neighborhood.

Students on their way to school walk by, we smile and wave at the old, smiling, mentally retarded guy who sits outside and listens to his radio all day. I always salute him with a tip of my hat to which he responds in like manner. As we pass through residential areas, we see more of the same birds and I sometimes hear a captive Black-faced Solitaire singing its ethereal song from inside a house. Miranda looks for cats and says, “meow” and sometimes points at birds and says, “peee”! (“bird” in Miranda O’Donnell Paniagua lingo).

Upon reaching the bus stop, Great-tailed Grackles become very evident as they loudly call from four tall palms. Miranda never fails to point up and say, “peeee”! and I likewise never fail to encourage her to call them, “birds”! or “grackles”!

I also look up at the palms and the nearby church with the outside hope of finding a Barn Owl. I suppose that the church bells are too loud to harbor one but judging by the frequency with which I see rats in Santa Barbara, there has got to be a pair living somewhere around here.

From the bus, background birding is poor with a few sightings of Tropical Kingbirds, Great Kiskadee, Hoffmann’s Woodpecker, Clay-colored Robin, and an occasional Blue-crowned Motmot hanging out in the shady riparian growth of a ravine.
Blue-crowned Motmot birding Costa Rica
It’s nice to have Blue-crowned Motmots as a common backyard bird in Costa Rica.

9:00-11:00 a.m.

After dropping Miranda off at the babysitter’s place in Tibas, I walk back to the bus stop to head back to Santa Barbara. Although Tibas is more urbanized, I often hear and see Grayish Saltators, Inca Doves, and get flyovers of Red-billed Pigeons.

By the time I get back to Santa Barbara, bird activity has slowed down and a dozen or so vultures soar around on the thermals rising out of a nearby ravine. Sometimes a Short-tailed Hawk is with them.

11:00-5:00

For the rest of the day, I just hear or see a few of the same birds as I write. Once in a while, a flyover Ringed Kingfisher announces its presence with its “check!” flight call.

Subtle birding is a good way to challenge oneself to find birds in urban environments when birding isn’t really the focus but I’m ready and looking forward to this weekend to get back out in the field for some concentrated Costa Rica birding replete with scope, camera, recording equipment, and a pair of good binoculars.

Categories
Birding Costa Rica common birds Introduction

Costa Rica common birds #1: city birds

Costa Rica really is a birding paradise. At least five distinct bioregions and/or major habitat types are found within 2-3 hours drive of San Jose; all with fairly different sets of birds. It’s a good thing they are close to San Jose too because unfortunately, there’s not a huge number of species around here! Around here means where I live; Tibas. Tibas is like much of the central valley- urbanized, asphalted and missing the exuberant vegetation that used to be here. Lack of green space in the central valley is a topic I hope to cover on another day though because this post is the first of several about the common birds of Costa Rica.

The bird species in Tibas represent many of the first birds I saw in Costa Rica back in 1992 and will probably be some of the first species you see as well. Essentially garden and backyard birds of the central valley, they have adapted to living within a human dominated landscape. Although surely a far cry from the variety and types of species that inhabited the marshes and moist forest of pre-settlement times, there’s still some nice birds around. The common sparrow here is Rufous-collared Sparrow.

My first bird book was the Audubon guide to birds; Eastern Region. The fact that photos were used made amazing things such as Cerulean Warbler, Cedar Waxwing and Rails more credible. I first learned about Blue-Grey Tanagers on the glossy plates of that book; learned that in the U.S. they only occurred as an exotic escape in Florida. Here in Costa Rica, these natives are one of the most common bird species.

Possibly occupying a niche similar to that of Northern Cardinals, Greyish Saltators sing every morning from backyards throughout San Jose.

Doves are especially common. Although Rock Pigeons occur, White-winged and Inca Doves are the most common species.

Red-billed Pigeons can also be seen.

One of the coolest common species is Crimson-fronted Parakeet. Noisy flocks roost in the palms near our place and are often seen in flight within the city.

One of the most abundant birds is Great-tailed Grackle. They make a tremendous amount of noise in town plazas where they go to roost.

Conspicuous Flycatchers are always around such as

Great Kiskadee

Social Flycatcher

and Tropical Kingbird. If there is a neotropical trash bird, the TK is it.

Clay-colored Robin (the national bird of Costa Rica) is very common.

Rufous-tailed Hummingbird is pretty much the de-facto Hummingbird of urban areas.

Some of the other bird species common in urban areas of the central valley for which I still lack images are: Black and Turkey Vultures- always up there soaring around.

Tropical Screech Owl- hope to get shots of the pair that roosts at the nearby Bougainvilla Hotel.

White-colloared and Vaux’s Swifts

Hoffman’s Woodpecker- very common

Yellow-belied Elaenia

Blue and white Swallow- one of the most birds in San Jose

Brown Jay- seems to have declined with urbanized growth.

House Wren

Wintering birds such as Yellow Warbler, Baltimore Oriole and Tennessee Warbler

and Bronzed Cowbird.

Categories
Introduction Panama birding Panama trips

Birding at David and the Lost and Found eco-hostel, Panama

In early August, 2008 I took a short trip from Costa Rica to David and the Lost and Found eco-hostel, both in Chiriqui, Panama. I would have liked to explore more around David but due to time and transportation limitations, wasn’t able to look for Veraguan Mango. Nor was I able to bird the extensive mangroves and nearby forested islands in the Chiriqui gulf. Nevertheless, I hope to give birders an idea of what to expect and at the same time encourage them to explore underbirded, promising areas near David. I certainly hope to do so at some future time.

Birding in David

David, the second largest city in Panama, is pretty birdy as a result of green space in the form of empty lots, gardens and many remnant trees. Found in the Pacific slope lowlands of western Panama, David is hot and humid and located at the junction of drier habitats to the east and wet forests of the Chiriqui Endemic Bird Area to the west. As is the case of most urbanized areas, birding is better outside of the city but if you can’t do that at least you should see a fair number of widespread neotropical species. I visited Pedegral Port one morning hoping to get images of aquatic species. Although I didn’t get lucky with aquatic birds, it sounds like a boat trip through nearby mangroves would be very worthwhile according to Guido Berguido who apparently found Yellow-billed Cotinga!

Pedregal is found at the end of the main road heading south from the airport. There is a small yacht club with small restaurant. Overall, the place was undeveloped; don’t expect that to last for long! This would be an excellent place for mangrove education and tourism. I took a taxi there for about $3-$4. Buses are also available but may be infrequent.

The following is a list of species (most very common) recorded while casually birding around the Parque Cervantes and empty lots and shaded streets near the Purple House Hostel http:// www.purplehousehostel.com as well as a few hours one morning at Port Pedegral. There are certainly many more possibilities including at least a few owl species:

P= only recorded Pedregal

Magnificent Frigatebird (P)

Anhinga (P)

Great Egret (P)

Little Blue Heron (P)

Neotropic Cormorant (P)

Black-bellied Whistling Duck (P)

Spotted Sandpiper (P)

Collared Forest Falcon (P)

Yellow-headed Caracara

Crested Caracara

Black Vulture

Turkey Vulture

Pale-vented Pigeon

White-tipped Dove

Ruddy Ground Dove

Red-lored Parrot

Blue-headed Parrot

Crimson-fronted Parakeet

Orange-chinned Parakeet

Brown-throated Parakeet

Squirrel Cuckoo

Short-tailed Swift

Mangrove Swallow (P)

Grey-breasted Martin

Rufous-tailed Hummingbird

Blue-crowned Motmot

Lineated Woodpecker

Red-crowned Woodpecker

Barred Antshrike

Tropical Kingbird

Piratic Flycatcher

Social Flycatcher

Boat-billed Flycatcher

Great-crested Flycatcher

Dusky-capped Flycatcher

Common Tody Flycatcher

Yellow-crowned Tyrannulet

Southern Beardless Tyrannulet (P)

Yellow-bellied Elaenia

House Wren

Cay-colored Robin

Bananaquit

Baltimore Oriole

Orchard Oriole

Bronzed Cowbird

Great-tailed Grackle

Blue-grey Tanager

Buff-throated Saltator

Black-striped Sparrow

Thick-billed Seed Finch

Blue-black Grassquit

Yellow-faced Grassquit

Yellow-bellied Seedeater (P)

Below are some bird photos from David and Pedregal

Blue-black Grasquit; one of the most common neotropical bird species.

Crimson-fronted Parakeets are especially common in David.

Mangrove Swallows fall into the cute category.


Red-crowned Woodpecker is one of the most common birds in David

Ruddy Ground Doves are also pretty common

Tropical Kingbirds are aggressive!

The Lost and Found Eco-Hostel

The Lost and Found Eco-Hostel is probably one of the only hostels in the world nestled within it’s own cloud forest preserve. After running into several of their pamphlets at other Panamanian hostels, I finally got the chance to visit for a few days in early August, 2008. Located at 1,200 meters on the Pacific slope, aside from some shade coffee and a small orchard, this hostel is surrounded by a large area of old growth moist and cloud forest. Birding was pretty good around the hostel itself with American Swallow-tailed Kite being one of the more common, spectacular species. For most of the day at least a dozen graced the sky with their aerial acrobatics. Mixed flocks and frugivores often came through the trees near the hostel, especially the forest edge at the trailhead.

The few trails that accessed the forest were fairly muddy and rough but offered good birding and extended for a few ks. One trail apparently reaches a river and enters forest with a more Caribbean slope aspect. The upper part of the trail that follows a ridge with stunted trees and bamboo probably has specialties such as Maroon-fronted Ground Dove and Blue Seedeater.

Although one of the owners, Andrew, is there most of the time, it’s probably best to contact them before visiting. Both he and Patrick were very helpful and friendly. They manage the place quite well and even have a feeding platform for nocturnal animals. I look forward to my next visit.

For more information including pricing and directions, see http://birdingcraft.com/wordpress and http://www.moreinpanama.blogspot.com

Lost and Found email: thepanpro@yahoo.com

Phone: 65819223 or 66545961

The following is a list of all species recorded (66 total) during a stay of about three days with notes on abundance. As I was focused on bird photography, birders working the trails should come up with several more species. Regional endemic taxa are highlighted, a few photos at the end.

Little Tinamou

heard below orchard

Black-breasted Wood Quail

few coveys heard

Black Guan

a few seen fruiting trees

Turkey Vulture

a few seen

Short-tailed Hawk

1 seen

White Hawk

1 seen

American Swallow-tailed Kite

very common

Band-tailed Pigeon

a few flyovers

Ruddy Pigeon

1-2 heard

Chiriqui Quail Dove

1 quick flyby in orchard

Sulphur-winged Parakeets

good views of flyby flocks

Mottled Owl

1 heard

Squirrel Cuckoo

1 seen

White-collared Swift

100 or so in flock

Green Hermit

several seen

Green Violetear

several seen

Violet Sabrewing

a few seen

Rufous-tailed Hummingbird

a few seen

Mountain Gem species

a few seen

White-tailed Emerald

several in orchard-quite common

Orange-bellied Trogon

a few seen

Emerald (Blue-throated) Toucanet

several seen

Prong-billed Barbet

a few seen

Golden-olive Woodpecker

a few seen

Red-crowned Woodpecker

a few near road

Spotted Barbtail

pair in forest

Red-faced Spinetail

a few near orchard

Spectacled Foliage-gleaner

several-pretty common

Lineated Foliage-gleaner

one heard forest

Spotted Woodcreeper

1-2 seen

Wedge-billed Woodcreeper

1 seen

Olivaceous Woodcreeper

1 seen

Ruddy Woodcreeper

pair in forest

Rufous-breasted Antthrush

1-2 heard

Immaculate Antbird

a few heard

Slaty Antwren

few in forest

Three-wattled Bellbird

1-2 heard

Dusky-capped Flycatcher

1 pair

Tropical Peewee

1 orchard

Yellowish Flycatcher

common around hostel

Paltry Tyrannulet

several

Mountain Elaenia

a few

House Wren

hostel mascot

Gray-breasted Wood Wren

A few heard

Southern Nightingale Wren

1 heard

Orange-billed Nightingale Thrush

several, common around hostel

White-throated Thrush

1 seen

Mountain Thrush

few seen

Long-billed Gnatwren

fairly common forest

Tawny-crowned Greenlet

A few forest

Lesser Greenlet

Several

Brown-capped Vireo

Several

Three-striped Warbler

A few forest

Golden-crowned Warbler

A few

Bananaquit

A few

Tropical Parula

Several

Slate-throated Redstart

Several

Common Bush Tanager

A few

Scarlet-thighed Dacnis

A few

Silver-throated Tanager

Several

Bay-headed Tanager

A few

Crimson-collared Tanager

A few

Flame-colored Tanager

1

White-winged Tanager

Pair

Yellow-throated (White-naped) Brush Finch

Several

Here are a few bird photos from the Lost and Found eco-hostel

Saw this stunning White Hawk sitting in the pouring rain.

The most common, widespread Myiarchus Flycatcher: Dusky-capped Flycatcher.

Young Trogons are funky looking birds indeed! This is an Orange-bellied.

Here is the dapper adult male.

Orange-billed Nightingale Thrushes were very common.

As were Paltry Tyrannulets

And Spectacled Foliage-gleaners

This White-tailed Emerald is sticking its tongue out.