It’s April and most of the migrants have left Costa Rica. Not all of them, I saw a Hooded Warbler yesterday along with a few Chestnut-sideds, Yellows, and Philadelphia Vireos but the majority have gone back north. In the meantime, it’s been raining more often and the local birds are out and singing. Stay in the Central Valley right now and you will be made aware of that with a chorus of 4 a.m. Clay-colored Thrushes. Visit now and you also have a better chance of connecting with calling Three-wattled Bellbirds up around Monteverde and in the remote and enticing Las Tablas area near Panama.
You might also benefit from knowing the following information:
Pollo Vaquero restaurant
It takes more than bird finding information for a satisfying stay in Costa Rica. If you happen to find yourself hungry and on the road between Ciudad Quesada and San Miguel (you will be on this route if travelling between the Arenal area and Sarapiqui), the roadside Pollo Vaquero restaurant could be your best bet. Somewhere west of Rio Cuarto, eat at this local diner to experience the type of service, good food, and value that used to be commonplace at most “sodas” in Costa Rica. Nowadays, it’s all too common to come across restaurants that charge too much for too little quantities of average fare. Not so for this nice little place. I recommend it very much!
Casona Cafetal restaurant
Sticking to the restaurant theme, this one in the Orosi Valley might be one to avoid if you don’t want to pay more for average food. It’s not bad, the surroundings are pretty nice, and there are Cabanis’s Ground-Sparrows in the surrounding coffee fields but if you do eat here, know that the cuisine is far from incredible despite being available for gourmet prices.
Poas Volcano National Park closed!
Back to much more pertinent news. Yep, sadly, one of the volcanos visible from my house and from much of the Central Valley became much more active on April 14th. Although the volcano has shown small signs of activity now and then, that was nothing compared to the eruptions of recent days. Since that first day of volcanic action, Poas shot a cloud of ash and gas three kilometers into the sky along with some rocks, and the park has been closed. Very unfortunately for birders and a few businesses up that way, the police also blocked off the access road well before the park entrance. I have heard that they moved the barrier up the road since then, and for the sake of the Volcan Restaurant, I sure hope that’s the case. To sum things up, unfortunately, this means that the most accessible high elevation habitat near the airport is off limits for an indefinite period of time.
You can still visit the Colibri Cafe though.
El Tigre marshes no more
Often mentioned in trip reports, the wet fields at this site in Sarapiqui used to be good for various marsh birds including Nicaraguan Seed-Finch. However, a few years ago, they began to dry out, the owners put in cattle, and also appear to be actively draining what the few remaining wet areas. In all likelihood, it will be converted into a pineapple field doused with poison. So, it’s probably not worth it to include this site in an itinerary because it’s basically finished.
On a much brighter note, the site formerly known as the Nature Pavilion just keeps getting better. The father and son team continue to give natural history and tree planting tours, and have recently set up a feeder situation that brings in toucans and other large frugivores. Macaws (both Great Green and Scarlet) also visit from time to time to feed on seeding and fruiting trees. Although there are fewer birds at the feeders at the moment (typical for April and May), they do have an accessible nest of a Royal Flycatcher, and there’s always a chance at Sunbittern on the river. Hopefully, we will hear about available roosting owls in the near future, they told me they were actively looking for them!
White-necked Jacobin- a typical shot from Dave and Dave’s
Rufous-vented Ground-Cuckoo at Finca Steller
Finca Steller acts as the field headquarters for the Children’s Eternal Rainforest, is accessible from the village of El Tigre, and sounds like it offers some excellent birding opportunities. Open from 8 to 4, there are trails, and a recent video was taken there of a Rufous-vented Ground-Cuckoo! Given that this low density high quality indicator species is present, I would expect a lot more from this “new” site.
That’s all for now, as always, lots of birds to see, places to explore, and plenty of easily accessible, excellent birding. Hope to see you here!