Saturday, 21 March 2020

Costa Rica: 1st March 2020

1st March:

It was another pre-dawn wake up at Villa Lapas with the Spectacled Owls and Pauraque followed by the Mantled Howlers.  It was dark and still and there was so much cicada noise that you ended up tuning it out a little like the A13 at work.    



Pauraque, Sprinkler and a pair of Spectacled Owls!


Mantled Howlers and that pesky sprinkler !

We started by circling the gardens picking up the Yellow-bellied Elaenia that I found yesterday along with a singing Yellow-throated Toucan way up on a snag above the canopy.  He may have been a long way off but he was our very first and gleamed in the early rays as he threw back his head and sang.

Cherrie’s Tanagers bounced around the Ginger plants and Common Tody Flycatcher and Ruddy Ground Doves were seen around the edges while Northern Waterthrushes tiptoed across the grass.

Ruddy Ground Dove

A small high falcon zoomed over flashing white cheeks – a Bat Falcon and a small party of Costa Rican Swifts were not too far in front of it but were very high and we only picked them up as we were already scanning.
The Pale-billed Woodpeckers came down again to a sensible level and gave a tree a good seeing to and we were also very fortunate to rediscover the pair of Fiery Billed Aracari (pronounced Ara Saree) that Steve and Hazel had seen here the day before.  This is a very tricky to see species and this pair put on a great show and became our second toucan tick of the morning walk.

Pale-billed Woodpecker

Fiery Billed Aracari
Fiery Billed Aracari


Had not realised that it mirrored the cover so well!

More was to come with a double Trogon moment with firstly a pair of red Slaty-tailed and then the same of yellow Gartered. A Short-billed Pigeon sang out of sight and Red-legged Honeycreeper and a tiny flycatcher that Steve identified as a Yellow-crowned Tyrannulet were in the canopy of a bare tree.  Just a few paces on a Greenish Elaenia flicked across the river and sang from the herbage. Buff Rumped Warblers shouted like Wood Warblers with megaphones down in the river bed and a White Ibis was new in and fed alongside the Spotted Sandpipers. 

female Slaty-tailed Trogon


Spotted Sandpiper


Our party headed further up the river path than the day before and we could soon hear Long-tailed Manakins cracking in the bushes. A path took us to a potential viewing spot and after some patience we got some great views of this very mobile, blue, black and red species with incredibly long tail streamers. 

Our silent wait also resulted in a chunky Brown Crested Flycatcher and a Rufous Tailed Jacamar. The latter acting like a New World Bee-eater equivalent. It shone green when it caught the light. Mealy Parrots were a constant noisy background and two Scarlet Macaws watched the world from a lofty perch. 

Scarlet Macaws

The amble back towards breakfast and cofffeeeee added Hoffmann’s Woodpecker, Streak-headed Woodcreeper, Dusky Antbird, Grey Chested Dove and a Masked Tityra.  This species has a big bare pink face patch and is quite strikingly pale otherwise, especially in flight. 
White Shouldered Tanagers were moving through and the Bright Rumped Attila was singing invisibly at us once again. Rufous-tailed Hummingbirds are stroppy little buggers and I was already picking them up on call. Two were battling over a flowering shrub and kept hassling another darker species that revealed itself as a Blue vented HB – FKA Steely Vented.

Bird name changes would become a theme of the trip with even the Log List and the variety of descriptive words and colours would lead to no end of confusion and inevitably some alternative names came in to being but more of that at a later time.

Even breakfast became an exciting affair (and not just because of the coffee and pancakes...) as a pair of Yellow-throated Toucans flopped into view and played in the Tiger Heron’s tree for a while affording us all much better views. That bill is astonishing!


Yellow-throated Toucan



A few minutes spare before leaving for the morning trip saw me following yet another little greeny brown bird.  I reckoned on Empidonax and I tied it down to Yellow-bellied Flycatcher in the end.
A brief dalliance with another toad species – now known as Medium Toad and then it was off up the road for a drive up above Villa Lapas toward Pura Vida where Steve promised us milkshakes...

Medium Toad


A Skipper

A huge Ctenosaur

Phil expertly holding an orthopteran

Our first random roadside stop saw us trying to avoid a ridiculous amount of ‘off road’ traffic but we persevered and got some better views of Long-tailed Manakins and Gartered Trogon while Magnificent Frigatebirds and a Grey Hawk circled high above the ridge with Black and Turkey Vultures. Somehow Gina found a cracking male Orange Collared Manakin which made up for the briefness of the males yesterday afternoon and a Bentbill; another very odd little flycatcher sang but declined to show but the traffic did not help.  However, any stop without a new flycatcher would be just odd so it was a relief to see a Southern Beardless Tyrannulet before we moved on.


Grey Hawk
A little higher up we pulled into a viewpoint with a pair of Macaws lumbering away as we stopped and enjoyed huge views over the forested ridges below.  Distant hawks circled with vultures and White Collared Swifts hurtled across the landscape. The little acacia type tree held two birds – one a Honeycreeper that Ramon confirmed had yellow legs – a Shining HC and the other a Vireo that although I had not seen one before I just knew was a Philadelphia. Most excellent! A shout from Steve had us onto the first of four King Vultures and a Turkey Vulture was being tagged by a superb Zone-tailed Hawk that even mimics the dihedral flight shape of the TV to follow its nose to prey that does not consider the scavenging vulture a threat. It circled around several times and bogged us out on several occasions.



Grey Hawk

King Vulture

King Vulture


Black Vulture

Zone-tailed Hawk

Zone-tailed Hawk

Zone-tailed Hawk - Steve Cullum
A Swallow-tailed Kite caused a bus pile out a little higher up but soon disappeared but not before everyone had been awed by its elegance. The trees along side held Tropical Kingbirds, Scarlet Macaws and singing Yellow-throated Toucans and we were watching these when the American owner of the property came out and said hello. He allowed us in for a look around but primarily for the epic views down toward Jaco and the Pacific Gulf of Nicoya.
A fruiting tree was full of birds and we tried to find a patch of shade to watch them from. A party of Tennessee Warblers were after the small berries with Palm and Blue Grey Tanagers and two Toucans departed upon our arrival. A little Hummingbird gave us a better look at a Blue-throated Sapphire as it busily nectared.



An Eastern Wood Pewee perched up on a dead snag against the Pacific blue behind and an Orange Chinned Parakeet poked its head out of a hole in the same tree before zooming off.  The Macaws looked down on us as we headed back but the promised milkshakes were not to be as the cafe was closed with only some hounds loitering in the car park so we headed back down the hill to Villa Lapas for lunch in the shade.

 
Eastern Wood Pewee

Eastern Wood Pewee

Scarlet Macaw

Scarlet Macaw

And what happens after lunch? Apparently a swim in the pool or a chill in the air conditioned room. Nope – another walk along the river for me.
There was a bit of a flycatcher theme going on with even better views of both the Yellow-bellied Flycatcher and Elaenia along with Grey Capped Flycatcher, Tropical Kingbird and Great Kiskadee.  I tracked the Olive Yellow Flatbill down and that showed well enough to see the pale eyes this time. 

Yellow-bellied Flycatcher

Olive Yellow Flatbill

Brown Jays noisily moved through and Orange Chinned Parakeets were tearing into the foot long bean type pods on a trees sending fluff drifting down like candyfloss.  Waterthrushes and House Wrens were dotted around the lawns as usual with shy Ruddy Ground Doves. 

Orange Chinned Parakeet

Orange Chinned Parakeet

Northern Waterthrush
 
female Cherrie's Tanager - Steve Cullum

House Wrenling - Steve Cullum

Up river I discovered the lek of several male Long-billed Hermits. It was about eighteen inches off the ground in among some banana stems and they zipped and clicked around in a circular dance in the gloom with only the long white central tail feather visible when they flicked them. The Long-tailed Manakins were still displaying further back and I tracked down the male Green Kingfisher that both Dad and Ian had seen the day before. It was probably twice the size of our own Kingfisher but with the Belted type shape and proportions. It gleamed in white and green with a rich chestnut breast and repeatedly cocked its tail.  It was a nice post grub tick to take with me on the imminent evening boat trip on the Croc infested Tarcoles.

Green Kingfisher

Green Kingfisher

A splendid fish!

Brown Basilisk

Another pants picture of another unidentified butterfly

Our excursion on the Tarcoles was due out at 3pm and no one else at all was at the jetty shop to head out which gave the chance to poke around outside beforehand.  A fine male Streak-backed Oriole was loosely feeding with two Rufous-backed Wrens and a Rufous-tailed Hummer allowed a close approach. Melodious Blackbirds were poking around and a pair of Scarlet Macaws were feeding.

Streak-backed Oriole

Rufous-tailed Hummingbird

Rufous-tailed Hummingbird

Rufous-backed Wren

Rufous-backed Wren

Rufous-backed Wren - Steve Cullum

Rufous-backed Wren - Steve Cullum

Scarlet Macaw

Scarlet Macaw

We boarded our vessel and puttered out into the downstream flow with a small party of Least Sandpipers and White Ibis on the tidal mud as we departed. Herons, egrets and cormorants dotted the muddy margins with Tri-coloured, Little Blue, Snowy, Great White, Great Blue and Bare-throated Tiger all seen along with Neotropic Cormorants and our first snaky necked Anhingas.



Least Sandpipers

from left: white Little Blue, YCNH, GWE, Little Blue,
white Little Blue, YCNH, two Snowy, YCNH

Great Blue Heron

Great Blue Heron
Patrols of Brown Pelicans cruised in and out and Magnificent Frigatebirds came in close for a look while Ospreys and Mangrove Black Hawks peered down at us as we floated past.  


Brown Pelican







Neotopic Cormorant

Neotopic Cormorant

Neotopic Cormorant

Anhinga
 
Anhinga
 
Magnificent Frigatebird

Magnificent Frigatebird

Mangrove Black Hawk

Mangrove Black Hawk

Mangrove Black Hawk

Osprey

Osprey - Steve Cullum

There were other waders to be seen with a few Willets, Black-necked Stilts and cinnamon Hudsonian Whimbrels along with Greater Yellowlegs and the regular Spot Sands.
The boat took us up a tributary and in to the mangroves and here the birding changed.  The same herons were now lurking in the overhangs and two new Night Heron species were found there with The long-legged Yellow-crowned and amazingly endowed Boat-billed. Both were tricky to get shots of even from a slow moving boat.  Green Herons ignored us and kept on watching for tiddlers. The light was surprisingly poor in the tangles.

Hudsonian Whimbrel

Black-necked Stilts

Black-necked Stilts - Steve Cullum
Willets


Green Heron
 
Tri-coloured Heron

Little Blue Heron

Boat Billed Heron



Yellow-crowned Night Heron


Gleaming Prothonatory Warblers bounded amongst the mangrove roots like yellow and steel fireflies and the equally bright Mangrove Warbler – the resident form of Yellow Warbler with a vivid chestnut head – was tempted out and showed well but higher above the water line.  Northern Waterthrushes bobbed along in and out of the roots even closer to the water.
Mealy Parrots squawked over and Steve got a shot of two Yellow-naped which confirmed what they were and a Short-billed Dove sung out of view.




Prothonatory Warblers

Prothonatory Warbler
Mangrove Swallows accompanied us at all times and each boat had at least one pair nesting within the roof.  They would pop over and see the neighbours if we passed another boat.

Mangrove Swallow


The first sighting of a Croc from the boat

Kingfishers were target of the trip and they did not disappoint A single Belted was seen out on a snag and giant Ringed and dashing Greens patrolled the channels but we were really hoping for American Pygmy and got lucky when a sudden micro-splash revealed one’s presence.

Ringed Kingfisher



American Pygmy Kingfisher



American Pygmy Kingfisher - Steve Cullum
It flew in front of us and the boatman expertly steered us to within a few feet where it sat and watched us for a while before continuing with its hunting.  A true dinkyfisher with the same colour combination as the Green but jammed into a more compact form.  A similar piece of boat pointing gave us great views of some Long-nosed Bats hung up under a branch.

Long-nosed Bats

Long-nosed Bats
Long-nosed Bats

Mangrove Hummingbird was one of the most sought after species here and we got very lucky and found a male feeding alongside the channel although it was incredibly difficult to pick up an all green Hummer amongst the glossy green leaves.  A Summer Tanager was in the same patch along with Mangrove Warbler and a female American Redstart that appeared in my bins in a splash and flashing yellow patches.

We left the mangroves behind and rejoined the main river once again with our first Peregrine perched up with an Osprey and a delicately marked Plumbeous Kite overhead.  The Frigatebirds were still eyeing us up for scraps and I just wish that we had had some!
Three groups of Muscovy Duck flew through before alighting on the edge where they warily set about feeding. 

Osprey
 
Peregrine - Steve Cullum
Plumbeous Kite

Muscovy Ducks

Muscovy Duck - Steve Cullum

Muscovy Ducks
Magnificentn Frigatebird - Steve Cullum



Upriver the main channel narrowed and we could scan both banks at once. Both Grey and Mangrove Black Hawk watched our passing and Crocodiles started to appear both in the water and hauled out along the edges. One monster passed under the boat and thankfully kept on cruising.   

 
Mangrove Black Hawk

Central American Crocodile
Monster

Track and Slide





White Ibis and Cattle Egrets fed with cows and horses along the edge and flocks of Red-winged Blackbirds and Great Tailed Grackles collected themselves together prior to roost in noisy gatherings.  A Turquoise-browed Motmot glowed from an overhang where it sallied forth for prey. The light was wondrous out here – that golden hour before sundown.

White Ibis

White Ibis & Grackles
 
Cattle Egrets
 
Red-winged Blackbirds
Turquoise-browed Motmot - Steve Cullum



We were looking for a plover but found two Double Striped Thick-knees and a Sandpiper instead.  At the time we nonchalantly said Lesser Yellowlegs but it is definitely a Solitary Sandpiper! 

 
Double Striped Thick-knee

Double Striped Thick-knee

Solitary Sandpiper

Solitary Sandpiper - Steve Cullum

From the river banks it was possible to see that there had, over the years been some truly amazing flood events across the valley floor but the stratified layers were not delineated by a line of darker silt of plant matter but by a layer of plastic bags and bottles that were left behind on the surface after the water dropped.  This was probably the only time on the whole trip where the presence of discarded rubbish was at all noticeable.





A young Yellow-crowned Night Heron posed on a stranded tree mid river and I called a Mangrove Cuckoo as it flew across to the other side.  This was my first American cuckoo so at least I now have an idea what a Yellow-billed will look like when I eventually find one in valley in the south-west one autumn! Ever the optimist!

Yellow-crowned Night Heron

Yellow-crowned Night Heron
A couple of Northern Jacanas trotted out of the reedy fringe and two adult American Purple Gallinules were also seen including one half way up a tree.   We turned around again and slowly meandered back past more awakening Yellow Crowned Night Herons and squadrons of White Ibis and Cattle Egrets were heading off to roost.

Snowy Egret and juv Northern Jacana

American Purple Gallinule and Northern Jacana
 
Cattle Egrets - Steve Cullum

White Ibis - Steve Cullum



As we came in to dock a Bat Falcon headed out to hunt and Scarlet Macaws were drifting north to wherever their favoured roost tree was.  I will always be captivated by the sight of these majestic parrots slow-rowing through the evening sky.
Barn, Mangrove and Northern Rough-winged Swallows gathered over the still waters to catch a last snack before darkness fell.



Scarlet Macaws

A Green Kingfisher watched us from the rope moorings as we disembarked but despite the increase in small insect activity we stayed put on the pontoon to watch the emergence of hungry Lesser Nighthawks heading out to feed in elegant bounce-bounce-glide flight mode across the pink.



Green Kingfisher - Steve Cullum



It was dark all too quickly from this point and we arrived back to be greeted by a Pauraque singing on the path. Time for dinner and little bit of sleep.

Pauraque

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