Wednesday 25 March 2020

Costa Rica: 3rd March 2020

3rd March: 

With the sound of overnight rain and the barking of Geckos in my head it was unsurprising that dad and I were out early as usual but in the time before the rest of the crew emerged we managed to find a couple of new birds ourselves in the Selva Verde grounds.

Montezuma Oropendolas drifted through in flashes of burgundy and sulphur and a chance look up at them resulted in two large Nightjars circling the canopy.  They were dark underneath and had short tails. Cue a book check... oh. That was easy. Short-tailed Nighthawks!  The Red-throated Ant-Tanagers were singing very early but I had to find one to know who the songster was and the Orange Billed Sparrows were already up and poking around the borders again.

Once assembled, we lingered by the lodges for a while as the fruiting tree was once again proving popular although the Manakins did not reappear.  Short-billed Pigeons and Collared Aracaris crashed about with a couple of Yellow-throated Toucans and a trio of Black-cheeked Woodpeckers.  A male Slaty-tailed Trogon flew in and peered at us in that curious Trogon manner.

Slaty-tailed Trogon

Great Green Macaws could be heard and flocks of Finch’s Parakeets and our first dumpy White-fronted Parrots were seen while Northern Barred and Cocoa Woodcreepers were watched doing what they do best. A Buff-throated Saltator and two Green Honeycreepers came into the tree and the Rufous Mourner was almost where we left it the evening before.

An amble back towards reception led us past a calling Rufous Motmot which Steve expertly found sitting a little way into the forest.  It was so bright that I think Orange would be a better name than the over used Rufous. Whilst at this spot Gina then located our first Hoffmann’s Two Toed Sloth – albeit as a circular ball of greeny fur in a tree cleft but we did not care and then two obliging Stripe-breasted Wrens put on a show just above our heads and this was all before breakfast.

We headed up the Turtle Trail where the Black River Turtles barely obliged but we did see a couple of Red-throated Ant-Tanagers and a nice Chestnut-backed Antbird.

Black River Turtle

Unsurprisingly breakfast was interrupted, this time by a shockingly lime Green Basilisk.  His tail was so long that you just could not get him all in.

Green Basilisk

The road journey was not a long one to the adjacent La Selva biological research station.  As with most places it is very easy to get distracted on leaving the bus and the first half hour was spent scanning the surrounding trees and skies for the multitude of new and wondrous birds lining up to be encountered.  

Crossing the river on the journey to La Selva

Chunky Variable Seed-eaters and Blue Black Grassquits courted in the bushes where Passerini’s Tanagers crashed about and both Great Kiskadees and Boat-billed Flycatchers were collecting nest material too. 

Variable Seed-eater

Boat-billed Flycatcher

Great Kiskadee
Great Kiskadee - Steve Cullum

A Blue-chested Hummingbird shared its blooms with a very reluctant Rufous-tailed and a small party of Grey Rumped Swifts came low enough for a good look while huge White –collared Swifts rocketed over with purpose. 

Blue-chested Hummingbird - Steve Cullum
Turkey Vultures drifted north in huge effortless flocks and we were lucky to have three Grey Headed Kites emerge from the trees in succession and even engage in some shiver wing displaying.  I suspect the third bird had strayed into the pair’s territory.

Turkey Vultures

Grey Headed Kite

Grey Headed Kite

Chestnut-sided Warblers popped into view and what looked like a Bay-breasted to me with much bigger wing bars and a darker head.  A Pauraque was discovered roosting only a few metres away and at the top of the same tree it was under was a splendid Long-tailed Tyrant to give us our daily new flycatcher fix.  This one was a real stunner decked out in black and white with long tail streamers.



Long-tailed Tyrant
Long-tailed Tyrant - Steve Cullum
Long-tailed Tyrant
A very large Shieldbug

Snowy Cotinga was a possibility here and we got lucky with a pair in the distant canopy.  The gleaming male was only there briefly but the subtly grey female posed for a few minutes. Hopefully we would see them again.

Snowy Cotinga- female

It was time to reluctantly move on with our guide Patricia. Our first little circuit offered up a couple of Grey-chested Doves bobbing along the path and a lucky view of an ever watchful Semi-plumbeous Hawk.

Pods - how wondrously odd

Grey Chested Dove - greyer than those seen at Carrara

Semi-plumbeous Hawk
Semi-plumbeous Hawk - Steve Cullum

Collared Aracaris were moving through the trees and we watched a pair of Rufous-tailed Jacamar hunting from a low perch.  ‘Poison Arrow Frogs’ were high on the want list and fortunately a diminutive Strawberry Blue Jeans was discovered and challenged us to take a picture in the ultra low light deep in the trees. Butterflies flicked around but as usual seldom settled but we did see a couple of species of moth and crickets and even a few flies for Phil (and me too).

Collared Aracari - Steve Cullum

Collared Aracari

Moth - look a bit like a Magpie - Steve Cullum


Now, where did I leave my other leg?

Best I could get of Mr Strawberry Blue Jeans
Rufous-tailed Jacamar

Just beyond the Jacamars a Hummingbird dallied with us in the shafts of sunlight. It was a truly shiny green and blue one with the delightful name of Crowned Woodnymph.

Howlers were doing what they do best and at the end of this first loop we actually got to see a couple clambering with prehensile tails through the canopy.  They could see us but were non-plussed.

Mantled Howler

Itchy-bum Howler

We crossed the river on a long bouncy suspension bridge and some buff rumped brown Martins became Southern Rough-winged Swallows and a Bare-throated Tiger Heron was notionally fishing from a log although we could also see the large fish and he had not got a hope!

Bare-throated Tiger Heron

Bare-throated Tiger Heron

Bare-throated Tiger Heron - Steve Cullum

We wandered down through some of the station accommodation and stopped at the edge of the forest. Squirrel Cuckoos crashed about giving everyone a good look at last and Masked Tityra and a Slaty-tailed Trogon perched up for us. A fruiting tree held Palm and Blue Grey Tanagers, a Gartered Trogon, Aracaris and two very yellow Black-faced Grosbeaks and a Purple Crowned Fairy and White-necked Jacobin zipped around. 

The next tree back with some impressive bromeliads also held a Scarlet Rumped Cacique (Ka seek), a smaller Oropendola relative but it was soon gone.  You learnt very quickly that your reaction to anyone finding something was very time critical as often birds were on the move or showing in a gap. It was listen, look where they were pointing and get the bins up. Often looking for movement was key.  Raising the bins too soon would often as not leave you with a wall of green and no bird.

Termite nests like these were a constant feature of the country on fenceposts, trees and in bushes

Mealy Parrots were always audible and the Great Green Macaws did the decent thing and had a fly round and like the Scarlets you could always hear then coming.  A couple more White-fronted parrots were also seen but only briefly settled.  Short-billed Pigeons sang and Patricia told us of the mnemonic of ‘Who cooks for me?’ which apparently works just as well in Spanish as English ¿Quién cocina para ti?

The forest was fairly quiet other than the constant background of insect noise.  Leaf Cutter Ants criss crossed the path and we discovered our first solitary Bullet Ants over an inch long.  A male (umm... no doubt about that) Howler dangled by its tail in a frankly inappropriate manner while a tiny Anole Lizard leapt monkey-like between some vines!

Leaf-cutter Ants

male Howler - you can see the throat sac...

A clearing revealed an almost dry marshy area which immediately became the best place on the planet to be when a huge and graceful Blue-winged Helicopter Damselfly Megaloprepus caerulatus gracefully flew around us in a slo-mo ballet on improbably big black, blue and white tipped wings.  We were almost as quiet watching this silent performance as we were for any bird we were waiting for to appear. The Lemon-tipped we had seen at Carrara was big but this was amazing – the world’s biggest damselfly.

Blue-winged Helicopter Damselfly Megaloprepus caerulatus

Blue-winged Helicopter Damselfly Megaloprepus caerulatus

Blue-winged Helicopter Damselfly Megaloprepus caerulatus - Steve Cullum

With a bit of scrutiny there were quite a few other dragons at low level in the sedges and thanks to Steve we have names for them all.

Band-winged Dragonlet (Erythrodiplax umbrata)

Grey-waisted Skimmer

Pale-banded Darner (Gynacantha gracilis)

Red-mantled Dragonlet (Erythrodiplax fervida)

Red-striped Rubyspot (Hetaerina miniata)

Tropical Woodskimmer (Uracis imbuta)

Two Raft-type spiders lurked under leaves and I found two large groovy Leafhoppers on the way back out. Another look up (David L would be proud) revealed another huge push of Turkey Vultures but a couple of us picked up some Buteo types amongst them which seemed to fit Broad-winged – a fact confirmed later in the week.

Raft-type spider




More Turkey Vultures

Popping back into the open again by the huts added Osprey, Green Honeycreepers, Bananaquit, Yellow-crowned Euphonia, Summer Tanager and Baltimore Oriole to the visit and another pair of Rufous Tailed Jacamars at their root ball nest hole.  Apparently Rufous Motmots were nesting in the other side!  A Collared Peccary with one youngster (not a stripy one) ambled across the lawns!

As hoped - a note from Phil C: Lesser Clubmoss, a Selaginella species. There are 22 in CR but this is probably S. eurynota, one of the commonest

Like a mini Stag

Hummingbird nest - not sure of species

Rufous Tailed Jacamars

Rufous Tailed Jacamar - Steve Cullum

Our first Collared Peccary

Tree top scanning gave us one last bird before heading back for lunch with a striking Pied  Puffbird watching the world go by from a bare branch – no skulking like the White-whiskered from this one!

It was very hot and sultry and the air con on the bus cooled us on the journey back to Selva Verde passing Blue and White Swallows and Grey Breasted Martins on the wires on the way and Cattle Egrets in the paddocks.

Lunch (I think that is when I am meant to stop birding and take on food?) occurred and a small ornithological window appeared before we headed back to the reserve.  The bridge beckoned and a scan about produced a flycatcher on the rocks.  It seemed quite at home down there flicking between them and picking insects from the eddies. It was all dark with a paler belly – a Black Phoebe.

Black Phoebe

A Black Vulture was also hopping between the rocks but its impersonation of the Phoebe was lacklustre.  A singing Wren at face height when Ian and I came back down the bridge (it was still about 30 feet up!) eventually popped out after showing bits and pieces as it rummaged around.  For some reason I had this one in my head and knew it was a Bay Wren; big species with black and white head and plain Rufous back and under parts. This pair was constantly communicating with each other from thick cover and I think we were lucky to see them as well as we did. 

Black Vulture
Green Iguana
The Green Basilisk showed better at lunchtime
Angie and Steve C were at the other end and had been following a few small birds around including a female White-collared Manakin.  The Rufous Mourner was hanging around and showed nicely and a Black and White Warbler (sorry Angie) threw itself down a trunk before flitting off with a Chestnut-sided.

White-collared Manakin - female - Steve Cullum

Back at our fruiting tree the Aracaris were back in mob handed and a Yellow-throated Toucan singing was one of four seen but it was the appearance at last of a pair of Keel Billed Toucans that brought smiles all round flashing that absurd lime, orange, blue and chestnut bill. 

Yellow-throated Toucan

Keel Billed Toucan

Keel Billed Toucan

The Monty Oros were showing better and flying through to the exposed tree up the adjacent hillside and a Black-cheeked Woodpecker at last came down to a lower height as it poked around a palm crown.

Montezuma Oropendola
Black-cheeked Woodpecker

The Orange-billed Sparrows also stopped for a few seconds to let me get a shot. They have amazingly bright canary yellow shoulder patches that are often the first thing you see when they are hopping around in the gloom. The male Black-cowled Oriole was still busy constructing his fibre nest and had progressed somewhat since last night.

Black-cowled Oriole

A consumate weaver
The Slaty-tailed trogon once again appeared to check us out and a Blue-chested Hummingbird was feeding avidly on the same flowers as the Stripe-throated Hermit yesterday evening and a female Olive backed Euphonia was new.

Orange-billed Sparrow

Orange-billed Sparrow

Olive-backed Euphonia

Slaty-tailed Trogon

Golden Amberwing (Perithemis electra)

Golden Amberwing (Perithemis electra)

Brown Setwing - these were on the ornamental pool at the dining area

And so, back to La Selva for a second walk round but not before we noticed that the Great Green Macaws were sitting up on the other side of the road from the main Selva Verde entrance so it was back off the bus and scopes out for a look at these imposing parrots. Another skyline tree hosted a set of dangling Oropendola nests and below them a Macaw nestbox had been attached in the same tree. How they got it as high up as they had, on a slope I can only guess?

Great Green Macaw

Great Green Macaw - Steve Cullum

Oropendola nests

Patricia met us for round two and we almost started out but the Snowy Cotingas had reappeared and the pair was putting on a superb performance against a grey sky. He gleamed and she was playing hard to get.

Snowy Cotingas

We walked back over the bouncy bridge past the pungent smell of an Ocelot latrine (apparently!) before encountering a female Howler with an infant attached lounging on a bough.  We silently entered the forest on the same path as earlier and an immobile White-whiskered Puffbird was soon found sitting at chest height just a few metres away. It felt a little more rufous than the others seen previously.

Black River Turtle

We were told these were a type of Piranha

Mantled Howler and infant

Mantled Howler - Steve Cullum
White-whiskered Puffbird
White-whiskered Puffbird - Steve Cullum

Purple Throated Fruit Crow was one of our targets although seeing this Cotinga is meant to be tricky but we were in luck and soon picked up on a party of at least three birds in the canopy. One caught the light and you could see a red throat (certainly not purple!) and they were joined by Snowy Cotingas in a clash of black and white.  A Capuchin in identical colours also clambered into view.

A great dancing Strangler

Cracking camo

Capuchin - Steve Cullum

The concrete path led us deeper into the trees and it would have been great to do a circuit rather than there and back but i think you would need days to do the site justice. Mealy Parrots were raucously feeding but at a height within trees that allowed us to watch them.  They had found a fruiting tree and both Toucan species and Collared Aracaris joined them. A pair of Pale Billed Woodpeckers were distracted by a dead branch and Wedge-billed Woodcreeper became our third species here alongside Cocoa and Northern Barred.

Mealy Parrot

Mealy Parrot

Pale Billed Woodpecker - a long way up!

A family coming the other way with a guide were shown a tiny yellow Eyelash Viper curled on a leaf. We all took our turns to carefully have a look at this herpetological delight.  Our party were all covered up, walking boots, socks tucked in, long trousers and shirts – the couple and their kids were in sandals and beach wear.  They may have looked at us slightly oddly but with tiny yellow snakes on waist high leaves, invisible Fer de Lances in the leaf litter, Army and Bullet Ants and other miscellaneous biting things we were all happier as we were!

Eyelash Viper

A Black-crowned Antshrike was singing and Steve called it in where it showed very well in the mid-canopy.  It was grey and spotty with only a slight darkening on the crown.  

Black-crowned Antshrike

Black-crowned Antshrike

Collared Peccaries foraged across the floor and seemed quite unconcerned by us and continued on their purposeful hunt for food and all this watching for movement supplied us with our second Great Tinamou of the trip that then used a fallen log to facilitate its get away.   It was while following this that I found a Ruddy Quail-Dove head bobbing through the litter before dropping over a ridge. 
A Lemon Tipped Helicopter Damselfly (Mecistogaster ornatus) made it a two mega-damsel day.

 Some quality Peccary action!

We emerged back onto the green again to be greeted by a red wattled Crested Guan in a small fruiting tree.  It was not alone and we soon picked up White-collared Manakins, Green Honeycreepers, Chestnut-sided Warblers and Summer Tanagers feeding inside and all the while another drove of Peccaries nosed around us like we were not there.  My dad has always loved pigs and was particularly captivated by their porcine snufflings.  

Crested Guan

Collared Peccary

It's behind you Dad!

The Rufous-tailed, Blue Chested Hummers and Crowned Woodnymphs were dazzling around the blooms and a Long-billed Hermit danced for us as he hovered to look for spiders (or perhaps their silk?) from under some low branches.  Olive-backed Euphonias played chase nearby.

groovy fungal growths

Patricia showed us some Sac-winged Bats roosting under the eaves of one of the accommodation blocks before we started across the bridge for one last time.  great Green Macaws headed over and a Bat Falcon made a dizzying stoop but it was the gloriously orange Rufous Motmot that prevented our departure.  This one was full in the open albeit in the gloom and you could see the amazing tail feathers in all their glory. If that was not good enough a Broad-billed Motmot was sitting only a few metres further back giving us our fourth species for the trip.  It was like a smaller version of its orange relative but no less eyecatching. A Gartered Trogon was also perched silently in the same trees. I felt sorry for any large insect or lizard within.

Sac-winged Bats

Rufous Motmot

Rufous Motmot

Rufous Motmot - Steve Cullum

Broad-billed Motmot - the light was terrible but the bird was great - bins first, camera second

Gartered Trogon - Steve Cullum

Our day was over and we thanked Patricia for her help and enthusiasm and headed back for dinner.  I do not actually remember that evening other than sitting outside our room after the log doing my notes and hoping for the return of Mr Dillo only to discover a very large Wolf Spider sitting on the lintel above my head.  He was doing me no harm and I was more worried about how he had lost one of his pedipalps...

Wolf Spider - about as big as showing on screen

A couple of big flying insects got my attention and I soon had my first adult Antlion (remember those pits under the building?) and an alien eyed Praying Mantis to get up close to as well as a chunky Scarab on the decking.  



Praying Mantis

Bed beckoned...

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