Friday, 10 April 2020

Costa Rica: 8th March 2020



8th March:

It rained again heavily during our last night at the Celeste Hideaway and it was still precipitating through another grey, close steamy dawn. Only Angie and I ventured down the Armadillo trail before breakfast with brollies to hand.  We did not have long but the Blue Black Grosbeak was still around and the Tawny Crested and Carmiol’s Tanagers showed very nicely with one of the latter repeatedly coming back to a stump to what could loosely be called sing.  The Bay Wrens were being noisy but uncooperative and Yellow-throated Toucans were giving their morning wake up duet.

If I was to take away one thing from this amazing place it would be the smell of a wet jungle. I have a very keen sense of smell and the assault on my senses was intoxicating with the rich earthy loam filled with fragrant notes of ginger and all spice and even a distinctively hemp like aroma. I would bottle it if I could.

Carmiol’s Tanager

Carmiol’s Tanager

We made it back up before the next deluge which happened just after we all got to the breakfast area.  It was another of those indigestion repasts with so much leaping up to take pictures of all the damp birds on the tables that we may as well have all eaten standing up.  The Collared Arcacaris were most entertaining and the Black-cheeked Woodpeckers showed wonderfully and we were graced with a Red-tailed Squirrel and a ginger Agouti who seldom stayed still for long but did like a nice ripe banana.

Collared Arcacaris







Black-cheeked Woodpeckers



Buff-throated Saltator

Buff-throated Saltator

Blue Grey Tanager

Passerini's Tanager

Red-tailed Squirrel

Agouti

Agouti

Essence of Agouti

It was time to pack our bags for collection as we were off once again up to the great 
CaƱo Negro marshes on the Nicaraguan border. A huge moth was rescued as we packed the bus and allowed itself to be moved to a more photogenic and safer location while a Hawkmoth was discovered in smokers corner.



Boiled Sweet eggs left behind like green and white Vapourer moths back home


We wended our way through the minor byways past acres of sterile pineapple field and made a couple of roadside stops mainly to check on raptors with Roadside and Grey Hawks seen well and a smart male Morelet’s Seedeater singing from a wire.   

Roadside Hawk

Morelet’s Seedeater

Kiskadee


Pineapples

There were three trees in bloom - one orange, one yellow and one pink

Huge trains of high Turkey Vultures power glided north and in the second such stream we started to pick up band tailed Broad Winged Hawks amongst them and then a handful of long-winged, dark headed Swainson’s Hawks.

Turkey Vultures

Swainson’s & Broad Winged Hawks and three TVs

Broad Winged Hawk and TV

Swainson’s Hawks

Our route started to pass through areas with wet sloughs and pools and Bare-throated Tiger and Green Herons were seen along with Northern Jacanas and a party of nervous Black-bellied Whistling Ducks that were ever so slightly better than the ones off of the Tarcoles Bridge!  At the same spot our first Rufous-naped Wood Rail pottered round the edges.

Bare-throated Tiger Heron

Black-bellied Whistling Ducks

Rufous-naped Wood Rail
 
Orange Chinned Parakeets

Orange Chinned Parakeets

I do enjoy a good livestock roadblock


Somehow Ramon found this huge Buprestid from the moving bus

After an aborted track and a lengthy (but skilful) reverse we found another seriously bumpy unmade road to take us to our lodge.  Suddenly the track disappeared and we were on tarmac. After over an hour bumping around the whole bus cheered. About 100m later we pulled up at Hotel de Campo – typical.

Hotel de Campo - Peter Vaughan

Bamboo Orchid
There was time for a quick lunch break and freshen up before we were due to head out again but this also gave us time to explore the gardens and view over the shallow lagoon at the bottom.


The middle of the lagoon was full of people wading around at neck height with a huge net strung out between them.  It looked like the whole village was involved and those not in the water were all on the bank.  I did wonder about crocs...
 


There were Northern Jacanas and Green Herons around the margins along with Great White and Great Blue Herons, a Roseate Spoonbill, some Lesser Yellowlegs and Black-necked Stilts and best of all two spotty Limpkins wading through the taller dried vegetation. 

Northern Jacanas

Limpkin

They were so much bigger than I anticipated like some weird cross between a Curlew and an Ibis.  Spotted Sandpipers flicked across and Northern Crested Caracaras, Turkey and at least one Lesser Yellow-headed Vulture drifted through.  A small flock of parakeets dashed over but lacked the red underwing patches of Finsch’s and were therefore Olive-throated.

Northern Crested Caracara
Back into the actual gardens we encountered three Grey-headed Doves plodding around the lawns and a perky Dusky capped Flycatcher drew my attention to a tree that subsequently held a Streak-headed Woodcreeper, Yellow-throated Vireo and the much sought after Spot Breasted Wren.  

Grey-headed Dove

Streak-headed Woodcreeper

Dusky capped Flycatcher

Dusky capped Flycatcher
 
Spot Breasted Wren

Spot Breasted Wren

Bananaquits and Tropical Gnatcatchers were seen as we headed back to the bus along with two Rufous-naped Wood Rails sat up at eye level in a tree!

Bananaquit

Tropical Gnatcatcher

Tropical Gnatcatcher

Rufous-naped Wood Rail

After this four tick twenty minute garden session it was time to brace ourselves for another hour on the next bumpy road as we made our way to our Brucie Bonus Boat Trip at Medio Queso which quite literally translates as Middle Cheese. We asked but no one knows why!

The journey took in some of the usual roadside species but it was a truly enormous tree with the huge high branches and vast bromeliads that we stopped for as conveniently placed at the start of the crown was a big stick nest with a giant of a Jabiru Stork lording it over all he surveyed. 

Jabiru

Jabiru
 
Jabiru - Steve Cullum
In due course we arrived at the river to be greeted by a hand winch single car ‘ferry’ and a small fibre glass open topped boat that was to be our vessel for our journey up and down the unspoilt waterway.  



The next three hours were simply astonishing. We headed down river with the very sluggish current and our boat man knew exactly what species he could find us and more importantly where to locate some of the most difficult to find marshland birds in the whole country.
There were herons and egrets of every hue along the banks and in the flooded marshland alongside with White Ibis, Wood Storks and Roseate Spoonbills amongst them. Hundreds of Black-bellied Whistling Ducks bunched up in the pools with a few moulting Blue Winged Teal amongst them and by checking all the flocks we eventually found a solitary Fulvous Whistling Duck too.




Snowy Egret, BB Whistling Ducks, Roseate Spoonbill, Great White Egret

Great White Egret

Great White Egret

Great White Egret

Great Blue Heron

Great Blue Heron

Great Blue Heron

Cattle Egrets


Cattle Egret

Great Blue Heron & BB Whistling Ducks

Northern Jacana & BB Whistling Ducks

Roseate Spoonbill, Black-necked Stilt & BB Whistling Ducks

White Ibis & BB Whistling Ducks

White Ibis & BB Whistling Ducks

White Ibis & BB Whistling Ducks

Fulvous Whistling Duck (the tan stripy bit at the front!) & BB Whistling Ducks
Blue-winged Teal

Roseate Spoonbill & Snowy Egret


Snowy Egret

Tricoloured Heron

Wood Stork and White Ibis

Dinky Green Herons lined the closest edges and Northern Jacanas skittered away in all directions flying off on vibrant almost day-glo wings.  Family flocks were the norm and groups of pale leggy youngsters would momentarily throw you for a while. 

Green Heron & Northern Jacana

Green Heron

Green Heron

Green Heron

Gleaming American Purple Gallinules appeared in the margins and we very quickly picked up Ringed, Amazon, Green and even a tiny American Pygmy Kingfisher.

American Purple Gallinule

American Purple Gallinule

American Purple Gallinule & Social Flycatcher

American Purple Gallinule

imm American Purple Gallinule
Northern Jacana - look at those toes!

Northern Jacana

Northern Jacana

juvenile Northern Jacanas

Ringed Kingfisher

Ringed Kingfisher

Amazon Kingfisher

Amazon Kingfisher

Green Kingfisher

American Pygmy Kingfisher

A couple of Lesser Yellow-headed Vultures came low enough to see the multihued head and Turkey and Black were also seen and Anhingas and Neotropic Cormorants lumbered up and down the waterways.


Anhinga

Anhinga - Steve Cullum
Anhinga
 
Lesser Yellow-headed Vulture
I had asked Steve about the chances of Snail Kite – he said slim but what did we then go and find perched up nicely? 

Snail Kite

Snail Kite

This immature bird had a preen and stretch and then lifted off on Harrier wings – it even had a barred tail and white rump – and then posed on a perch where that wickedly long decurved bill could be seen as it scoured the ground for Apple Snails with blood red eyes.

Snail Kite

A couple of Ospreys fished successfully in the river and flew off with dinner grasped firmly while Limpkins were dotted around the marsh like giant spotty Curlews and Great Tailed Grackles and Red-winged Blackbirds foraged in the trees and rushes.

Osprey

Osprey

Osprey - Steve Cullum
Limpkin
 
Limpkin - Steve Cullum

Limpkin - Steve Cullum
Red-winged Blackbird


Mangrove Swallow

Mangrove Swallows

Groove Billed Ani

And so to our targets – all of the top three were mythically hard to see and Steve had already told us stories about the challenges he had to see them.
Pinnated Bittern sits somewhere between our Bittern and American Bittern plumage wise, so big, brown and streaky and it lives in reeds.  We did not expect our man to nudge the boat in towards the edge and point at one standing there with bill up and beady eyes bogging us from the open!


Pinnated Bittern

Pinnated Bittern

Pinnated Bittern



It showed outrageously well. My memory tells me that there were two at the first stop but I could be wrong – it is all a bit blurry!

We moved on a short way and headed for the bank again.  Apparently this was a good spot for the incredibly tiny and even more elusive Yellow-breasted Crake and the same thing happened again with two birds coming out and creeping through the floating vegetation. They came together and then split up and one wandered back towards the boat where we were all sitting quietly giving views down to a few feet.  The shallow draught of our little boat really helped with the views we were getting. It was decked out in shades of fawn and buff with stripy rear flanks, red eyes and really orange legs. 

 
Yellow-breasted Crake





A third was seen just a short way further up along with another Pinnated Bittern that poked its head up to have a look at us.  This was getting silly.

Pinnated Bittern


Normality briefly resumed and we saw a flock of Least Sandpipers and then a larger group of Dunlin whizzed by and we started looking at all the ‘normal’ birds laid out before us. That was just before the third super tricky marsh bird decided to show right next to the boat.  I think Dad had already been watching it but could only see the bill and convinced himself that it was a dead reed when in fact it was the bill of a Least Bittern that slowly poked its head out of the verdant grass to check us out and then pretend that it had not seen us and that we could not see it.

Least Bittern

Least Bittern

I seem to remember that we turned around at this point and poodled almost silently back the way we had come. The light was magnificent and everything glowed.  Green Herons clambered up stems and noisily called ‘ack ack ack’ as they flew off with punk crests raised and yet another Pinnated Bittern strode out into the open and two more Least Bitterns showed themselves.

Pinnated Bittern

Pinnated Bittern - Steve Cullum
Least Bittern

Green Heron

I assumed that once back at the ferry, that the trip was done but no, it was time to head the other way. There were two other specialities to locate and the first, a Nicaraguan Grackle was seen almost immediately as he sang from a bush – a more Common Grackle like species with a much shorter tail than the Great Tailed. We saw several more as we moved along and the pre-roost flocks of gleaming Red-winged Blackbirds held a few more. 

Nicaraguan Grackle

Nicaraguan Grackles

female Nicaraguan Grackle



Red-winged Blackbirds


Three locals in a shallow canoe, fishing - they were dotted all along the river and were happy to show us what they had caught

The ferry

Bare-throated Tiger Heron



The second was a very large all black Nicaraguan Seed-finch with a ridiculously outsized pink bill.  We soon found one singing from the top of a dead stem and even from a distance that bill stood right out.  He must have very good neck muscles to carry that around!

Nicaraguan Seed-finch

Nicaraguan Seed-finch

Nicaraguan Seed-finch

The display of herons and allies continued with a couple of close Tricoloureds and even two more Least Bitterns and while we were watching our first Common Gallinules (yes, they do look just like Moorhens) a final Pinnated Bittern popped right out in front. 

Tricoloured Heron
 
Green Heron - Steve Cullum

Great White Egret - Steve Cullum
Pinnated Bittern


Pinnated Bittern

Pale Vented Pigeons clattered around the trees and showed far better than we had ever seen them and a Common Ground Dove did likewise. Glowing orange Baltimore and rich chestnut Orchard Orioles fed on the tree edges with Yellow Warblers and our first Green Breasted Mango hummer while the same trees held roosting Black Crowned Night and Boat Billed Herons which still eluded a decent image.

Pale Vented Pigeons


Common Ground Dove

Green Breasted Mango

Green Breasted Mango

Black Crowned Night Heron

Black Crowned Night Heron

Boat Billed Heron
 
Anhinga Tree - Peter Vaughan
Three of the four Kingfisher species were actively feeding around us and a Rufous-naped Wood Rail was feeding with some White Ibis and Cattle Egrets and a White-throated Crake (remember the ones from Bogarin?) sang close to us.

Ringed Kingfisher - Steve Cullum

Green Kingfisher - Steve Cullum

American Purple Gallinule - Steve Cullum


White Ibis

Wood Stork & White Ibis

A single Southern Lapwing was seen

Snowy Egrets, Roseate Spoonbills & White Ibis

A White-tailed Kite hovered in the distance and flights of Wood Storks and Whistling Ducks headed over as the sun began to drop and an outrageously plumaged Fork-tailed Flycatcher was a most popular find with his flowing tail plumes while a Solitary Sandpiper erupted from a pool.

 
White-tailed Kite

Wood Storks

Fork-tailed Flycatcher

Fork-tailed Flycatcher

Black-bellied Whistling Ducks

 
Black-bellied Whistling Ducks - Steve Cullum


Our guide (I wish I knew his name) managed one final bit of guiding magic. He slowed and bumped the boat over the emergent vegetation. He pointed. We looked. Steve tried not to fall out of the boat in excitement for there, just a few feet away was a female Masked Duck. The other species seen were all incredible difficult to see in Costa Rica but this tiny diving duck was even harder. 

It could have sunk and slunk away but chose to take the ‘if I don’t move, they can’t see me’ approach to camouflage and after ten minutes of staring into its eyes we backed up and left it exactly in the same spot.
 

Masked Duck

Masked Duck

Masked Duck
Understated happiness!

Elated we headed back to meet poor Ramon who had had to stay with the bus for the entire trip but he had seen a few birds from the bank and found us a Canivet’s Emerald sitting on her tiny spiderweb nest in a fork of a bare tree.


The light was fading very fast and the sun was almost down as we headed back to the hotel.  We hung a left back onto the main road, waved at Nicaragua to our right and then moved onto the dirt road once again within a mile or two for the last hour of jiggle and bump.

But the birding was not over.  There was an outside chance of Striped Owl on the wires and we were on the lookout for Potoos too. We drove along with torches illuminating the wires, poles and posts and suddenly Steve had a bird.  Fortunately it was on my side and I looked up to see the glowing orangey eyes and big ear tufts of a Striped Owl looking back at me. Somehow we had to get everyone over to my side of the bus to see it without making too much noise and as fast as possible as it would not stay forever with the light on it.  I wish someone had filmed the comedy sketch that ensued that resulted in me being jammed down between my seat and retaining footwell bar with leaning bodies above craning for a view.  Thankfully everyone succeeded before it took flight.

My very artistic interpretation of 'Striped Owl in motion'

More bouncing around and more torch waving resulted in four Potoos before we got back with two each of Common and Great. They look so different of a night time when they are alert and active.  One of the Greats was particularly so and even flew to another post on huge owl-like wings before resuming its search with massive light sucking eyes. Common Potoo was a new one and seeing both species like this was a highlight for me.

Common Potoo

Great Potoo

Great Potoo - Steve Cullum

Great Potoo

A late dinner was had but I kept it light and bed was beckoning although trying to put the vibrant videos of the boat trip on pause so that I could sleep proved problematical and that and a persistent mosquito gave me my only restless night of the whole trip.

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