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Nice August Birding (and Butterflies) on the Bijagual Road

Carara National Park is such a fantastic area for birds. Beautiful old growth rainforest harbors healthy populations of various antbirds, wrens, a fantastic bunch of flycatchers, manakins, trogons, and so on, etc, and lots more. If the park has any drawbacks (other than the fracking hot weather), those would be the opening time of 7 or 8 AM, and no trails that head up into the never birded. hilly areas of the park.

However, despite the dearth of trails that head up into them thar hills, some of that habitat is still accessible on the road that leads to Bijagual. This is the dirt road that goes past the entrance to Villa Lapas, accesses the trailhead to the Bijagual waterfall, and goes by the entrance to the Pura Vida gardens. In addition to those sites, it also passes through habitats ranging from second growth to humid ravines, and the edge of humid rainforest. In other words, it’s a darn birdy byway and that’s why my birding friend Susan and I went there shortly after dawn on Sunday morning. You see, I have had this notion that it might be a good starting point for a Big Day so I have wanted to do some trial runs. Although this isn’t the best time of the year for vocalizations, any morning in such birdy habitat is going to be a good one so we mosied on down the Caldera highway, went over the crocodile bridge, and didn’t stop until we got to the entrance to the Bijagual waterfall.

Looking down at the canopy on a misty morning.

I see this area as having promise for a Big Day because it looks down into the canopy of forest on both sides and offers an equally good view of distant forested hills. The idea is that we can scope the treetops for various canopy birds while also knocking off species as they call from the forest below. Our Sunday results weren’t as promising as I had hoped but I think it will still be worth it to see how it performs during the dry season when more birds are singing in that area. Nevertheless, we still had a great morning of birding while checking out sites further up the road.

Once you get past the Pura Vida gardens, the landscape becomes much more deforested and doesn’t look nearly as humid as the forests in Carara.

Yellow-faced Grassquita were fairly common up there.

Back in the humid areas, we had some nice activity, including such species as Slaty-tailed and Gartered Trogons, Rufous-tailed Jacamar, tityras, woodcreepers, Black-hooded Antshrike, Dusky Antbird, and a good number of other expected species.

Male Slaty-tailed Trogon.
My first fall Olive-sided Flycatcher.
The distinct and beautiful song of the Rufous and white Wren was a common sound on the road.

Our best spot, though, was a tree with small, dull red fruits. It looked ideal for cotingas so we parked ourselves near that avian hotspot and watched birds come and go for an hour and a half. Four or so Black-mandibled Toucans were sort of dominating the tree but it also ended up being a manakin magnet.

Black-mandibled Toucans are a common sight on the Bijagual Road.

As Ochre-bellied Flycatchers zipped back and forth and feasted on fruits in the dim recesses of the tree, we also got looks at a couple of male and female Red-capped Manakins, one or two Long-tailed Manakins, a few Blue-crowned Manakins, and at least one male White-ruffed Manakin. Oddly enough, we didn’t see any Orange-collared Manakins coming to the tree (but did see a few along the road for a sweet five manakin species day).

Can you see the Ochre-bellied Flycatcher?

When we weren’t watching the birds coming to the fruiting tree, we were being simply amazed by the hundreds of insects that were taking advantage of an adjacent flowering tree. This tree was just filled with buzzing bees, various other insects, and at least 15 species of butterflies and moths (probably more).

Uraniid moths were the most common species and dotted the tree with emerald and shining bluish-green on velvet black.

A couple of Uraniid moths fighting over nectar.
A better look at a Uraniid moth.
This was a typical, colorful view in that magical tree.
There were several of these black and red beauties in the tree.
There were a few of these.
Several Heliconid species butterflies were in attendance.
I had never seen this one before! Don't know what it's name is though.
This was just one of the other cool looking bugs in that amazing tree.

I hope to get out this weekend. Don’t know where but just about everywhere is good when birding in Costa Rica!

5 replies on “Nice August Birding (and Butterflies) on the Bijagual Road”

My husband and I love watching butterflies. We were wondering how to find the magic butterfly tree you described. Is it before or after Pura Vida Gardens? How far from the entrance to Villa Lapas Hotel is it? Are there any landmarks that could help us find it? Is the tree far from the road side (an easy distance to photograph)?
Thanks for your help!

@Sabrina- Off hand, I am afraid that I don’t recall exactly where it is except that if heading uphill, it is probably after the waterfall trail and definitely before the Pura Vida gardens. It’s on the left side of the road if heading up hill and not long before the road turns to the right. It might not be blooming as much as it was a week ago but who knows?

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