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bird finding in Costa Rica Birding Costa Rica

Costa Rica Birding Update for Rincon de la Vieja

I haven’t posted in a couple weeks but I have a good excuse. At least I think I do, it involves being busy with birding, Christmas Bird Counts, and general family vacation stuff. I’m still doing some of that from now until the final day of 2017 but tonight, I managed to find time to write a post. In terms of birds and Costa Rica, although there’s a lot I could talk about, I’ll limit this one to Rincon de la Vieja National Park.

Rincon de la Vieja is the most prominent mountain visible from Liberia. Just look to the north and there it is, a big blocky uprising of land topped in green, and, quite often, with clouds. Like most mountains in Costa Rica, it’s actually a volcano, and hosts wonderful tropical forests where lots of nice birds live. Last weekend, the very first CBC was held for the park, and thanks to the count organizers, not only was it a success, I also got a cool tee-shirt emblazoned with a Northern Potoo.

The official count bird and emblem wasn’t some birding pipe dream either. Much to our collective happiness, there actually was a Northern Potoo waiting for us at Rincon de la Vieja! One has apparently been hanging out on a typical potoo perch for the past couple of months and did us a huge favor by showing up on that same spot for the morning of the count.

Yes, potoos are seriously weird. An excellent and much wanted year and country bird.

If you are interested in seeing that potoo, ask the park guards at the new information center, they will probably know if it is on the perch. Information Center? Oh yes! The park has a nice new building with restrooms, potable water, where you can learn about the trails, and so on.

If the potoo is on the same perch, you won’t have to walk far either because it’s only about 100 meters past the entrance to the Las Pailas trail. Whether you look for the bird or not, it’s going to be an easy walk because the trail has been recently paved with cement. It’s easy-going, is handicap accessible, and still has lots of good birds.

Speaking of birds, Rincon always has a lot to offer, some of the typical species being Gray-headed Tanager, Red-crowned Ant-tanager, Golden-crowned Warbler, Long-tailed Manakin, Great Curassow, Crested Guan, and Ivory-billed, Olivaceous, Ruddy, and Northern Barred Woodcreepers. All of these are fairly common along with a good variety of other species. Choice birds like Tody Motmot and uncommon sparrows for Costa Rica are also present and there’s always a chance at rarities like Rufous-vented Ground-Cuckoo and Violaceous Quail-Dove. As an aside, Army Ants also seem to be more common at Rincon de la Vieja.

Given its position on both sides of the continental divide and rain trapping capabilities, if you visit the Santa Maria sector, you might see more species of humid forest. The Pailas sector accesses moist and dry habitats but don’t expect to be able to hike up to the crater any time soon, volcanic activity has kept that trail closed. Both the Pailas and Cangreja trails have good birding, Pailas being better for folks with limited mobility. Since Cangreja covers more ground and passes through quite a bit of mature forest, this trail probably offers better chances at connecting with rare species. Nevertheless, rocky parts of the trail combined with ascents and descents only make it suitable for folks who can handle such situations.

As for getting to Rincon de la Vieja, thanks to most of the road to the park now being paved, expect a quick 30 minute drive from Liberia. However, thanks to Rincon’s geographic situation, we can also expect it to be pretty windy up there from time to time, probably more so during the dry season. Unfortunately, that constant wind was with us during the count and it took a serious toll on hearing birds. Persevere though, and you will still see a lot, especially when the wind dies down, or, best of all, when it’s not windy at all.

To learn more about birding at this and dozens of other sites in Costa Rica, as well as more than 700 pages on how to find and identify birds in Costa Rica, see my e-book, How to See, Find, and Identify Birds in Costa Rica.

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