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bird finding in Costa Rica Birding Costa Rica

Counting Birds at Cangreja, Cano Negro, and Finca Luna Nueva

The past two weeks have been a whirlwind of birding. Three annual counts and guiding took me to humid forests of the southern Pacific, cool air and hummingbirds of the mountains, and down the other side of the continental divide to the northern wetlands of Cano Negro.

At some point after the final bird count, I tried summing up all species I had identified by sound or sight and came up with 385 or so birds. A good deal of driving was involved but no owling, nor any attempt to bird binge the entire time. It just goes to show that if a birder stay’s out there and gets to a few different sites, in Costa Rica, the birds just keep on showing.

Some reflections from the past two weeks:

It’s all good on the road to Cano Negro

The sign to the reserve is not obvious but that’s par for the course in Costa Rica. It’s also why Waze is the unofficial driving copilot for every vehicle in Costa Rica. Once you get onto that long entrance road to Cano Negro, enjoy the ride because lately, the bumps and road craters have been minimal. It was a quick, easy drive but don’t go too fast, there are birds to see!

The best area is probably the San Emiliano wetlands area. This site can host many waterbirds including Jabiru, and also has Fork-tailed Flycatchers, Ruddy-breasted Seedeaters, and might even have roadside Yellow-breasted Crakes! Although we dipped on the crake, we enjoyed several other birds including the flycatchers, seedeaters, and Nicaraguan Seed Finches.

It can rain a heck of a lot in Cano Negro

We discovered this in true wet fashion during the count day by way of cold blowing rain! Luckily, it didn’t rain the entire time although it seemed to do so at night. The rain beat down on the roof for hour after hour and so much that I was worried that the entrance road might be flooded. But, fortunately, those wetlands can soak up large amounts of water because the way out hardly looked like it had rained at all.

Despite rain on the count day, we still managed lots of birds, a few of the best being Black-collared Hawk, Nicaraguan Grackles, and American Pygmy-kingfisher.

Cano Negro is more than wetlands 

Although our route took in a few large lagoons, other routes also checked more forested sites with excellent results. One long route had all six kingfisher species, Sungrebe, Snowy Cotingas, two puffbird species, and many other birds. It was nice to be able to watch the two Cano Negro specialties, Gray-headed Dove and Spot-breasted Wren, right in the village. Many other forest species are also possible in and near the village including several woodpeckers, parrots and parakeets, even Bare-crowned Antbird.

We had close looks at Crimson-fronted Parakeets among other birds.

Cangreja is a long, dusty drive 

By nature, the trip to Cangreja is indeed a lengthy, dusty endeavor. Don’t do it at night! It might be foggy and it will be one of those special times when you think of better days as you wonder when the present challenging, worrisome times will end.

But the birding is good on that bumpy road!

Much of that road to Cangreja is good birding. Even the brushy areas not far from Puriscal can be good and further on, there are spots to look for Costa Rican Brush-Finch, and so many other species.

Need Sunbittern? Try rivers near Aguas Zarcas!

This key bird seems to be especially reliable on the river at the Cariblanca reforestation project. I’m sure it also occurs on the other rivers along with Fasciated Tiger-Heron.

Fun, easy birding on Poas

Guiding on Poas has been great as per usual with many regional endemics seen along the road to the national park. I have been hearing Barred Parakeets fly over, and have been seeing Black Guan at eye level, Buffy Tuftedcheek, silky-flycatchers, Wrenthrush, and much more.

The Arenal count was excellent

It always is and 2018 was no exception. Participants found several umbrellabirds in expected quality habitats, antbirds, a lingering Yellow-billed Cuckoo, and more than 360 other species. Our team found more than 160 species while birding Finca Luna Nueva and the Soltis Center. Although it was slow at times, we kept adding birds including Snowcap, Black-crested Coquette, King Vulture, Barred Hawk, Ornate Hawk-Eagle, Uniform Crake, White-fronted Nunbirds, and much more.

The view from the Soltis Center- a great site for raptors among many other birds.

We also saw this Jumping Viper. Despite the worrisome name, this snake rarely moves unless you try to grab it.

Finca Luna Nueva– birdy as always

During the count, we kept on seeing and hearing more birds at this excellent organic farm/ecolodge. This site truly shows how we should be using the land in sustainable fashion and it shows with the numbers of birds that live there including many migrants. We added species right to the end of the count, our final ones being Uniform Crake and Russet-naped Wood-Rail.

Birding from the tower at Luna Nueva.

The year is quickly running to its end. During 2018’s final stretch, I have more guiding and birding in store. Although I haven’t been doing any sort of Big Year, I have still managed to tick 640 species for 2018 in Costa Rica. Hopefully I’ll add a few more because if I do, they would have to be rare or decidedly uncommon! I hope to see you birding in Costa Rica in 2019.

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