Sunday 29 March 2020

Costa Rica: 5th March 2020

5th March:

After another good night’s sleep (with no intrusions from the errant Coatis) I was up and heading up to the AOL veranda before first light with a Spectacled Owl singing somewhere off in the distance and the squabbling of the Montezuma Oropendolas that were already trashing the fruit at the feeding station. The female Great Curassows were in as well but most other birds were playing it cool.  


Montezuma Oropendolas like a mob of oversized teenage Starlings
Great Curassow
Arenal came and went and we even got a sneak preview of the summit as it briefly poked through the rushing cloud cap.  The crew headed off towards the gardens and over the bridge like the evening before for a quick hour before breakfast.  Yellow-faced Grassquits were new and the Violet Headed, Rufous tailed and immature male Coquette were still about and it was at this point that Arenal showed through the cloud and allowed for a few shots before being enveloped once again in a blanket of white.

Arenal and a happy troop - I do not think that Dad is yawning - Steve Bird
Our mini circuit took us a little way into the woods but it proved most productive with our first dinky Spotted Antbirds in chestnut, black and white alongside the path and the hypnotic, out of key melody of a Nightingale Wren.  We had been told that this was almost impossible to see so I was delighted when this almost black mouse sized wren with an oversized bill appeared in my bins as I scanned branches just off the ground. He was still singing and tilted his head back as he did so. Frustratingly I could only get Steve onto it which was a pity but at least we all got to hear his haunting melody. 

A glance up by Gina gave us a fat lump at the end of a branch which became a Great Potoo in cryptic shades of grey and brown.  You could just make out the tip of the bill and the slit of an eye.

Great Potoo
Back at our feet the Spotted Antbirds reappeared and whilst looking at them we also saw our first Golden Crowned Warbler and two well marked White-breasted Wood Wrens which also occasionally sang.

Time for breakfast for us with the Monty O’s still tucking into theirs with the Guans, Chachalacas and Curassows for company.  A single Chestnut-headed Oropendola briefly dropped in and would be the last one we saw all trip.

Montezuma Oropendolas

Montezuma Oropendolas and Crested Guans
Chestnut-headed Oropendola

Great Curassow

Great Curassow

Crested Guan
Someone’ had put a branch on the table below to make it more pleasing photographically but an intelligent little Coati was light enough to scale the ginger plants and clamber up the twigs to claim his prize banana which he quite sensibly munched whilst still there rather than retreating!

Commando Coati

Our room down to the left!

Our post-breakfast walk took us back the way we had come to start with, passing both Hepatic and Summer Tanagers near reception and the Hummers in the garden showed exceptionally well with a full adult male Black-crested Coquette in all his wispy finery along with Green Thorntail, Violet-headed, Rufous Tailed and Scaly-breasted. 

Black-crested Coquette

Black-crested Coquette - Steve Cullum
We veered past our earlier path through the edge of the gardens where a pair of imposing Great Antshrikes were crashing about in the low bushes.  The male was black above and white below with beady red eyes and the female was the same but with a rich chestnut replacing the black.  House Wrens and White Breasted Wood Wrens sang and popped out to say hello occasionally. 

Our new path wended its way slightly down slope and another pair of WB Wood Wrens and two Barred Antshrikes appeared and moved along in front of us. Suddenly a Spotted Antbird hopped out and then another.  There was rustling and a commotion in the brush.  There were more birds than we could see at first glance.  We then noticed the Army Ants working in the same direction, just on the cusp of the vegetation and what then ensued was a magical time spent with the swarm and it associated predators. 

Spotted Antbird

Spotted Antbird - female
Spotted Antbirds were joined by tan and white Bicoloured Antbirds and a female Great Antshrike crashed in to snaffle some antsnax.  Steve had mentioned the outside chance of an Ocellated Antbird and a bit like the Nightingale Wren earlier, there was suddenly a spangled back and big blue face patch in my bins.  The difference this time was that everyone managed to get on it as this more thrush-like species leapt down for an ant, tossed some leaves around and hopped back up. Several of all three Antbird species were present and we lapped up the chance to watch these normally reclusive species squabble over who got the best line of ants.  I seem to remember Gina saying that they had only ever encountered a path side antswarm a couple of times in all their forty visits to the country.

Bicoloured Antbird - can you see him?

Bicoloured Antbird

Bicoloured Antbird

Spotted Antbird - Steve Cullum

Spotted Antbird - Steve Cullum

Ocellated Antbird - Steve Cullum
Ocellated Antbird
Eventually we pried Steve B away and ventured onwards buoyed by our success. A Scale Crested Pygmy Tyrant was singing as we passed the Frog Pool where a smart spread winged blue Damsel was seen and shortly after this we found the bird in the trees above us.  This flycatcher is minute being a little bigger than a Goldcrest. In trying to get everyone onto it I managed to slip off of the concrete bridge and somehow do the splits with a leg either side to save myself.  I am still not quite sure how I did not either crack my head, tumble down the slope or tear something nasty in the process but clambered to my feet and even managed to get a couple of shots of our daily flycatcher tick.

Scale Crested Pygmy Tyrant

Scale Crested Pygmy Tyrant

Forest Pond Dasher, (Micrathyria venezuelae)
The next new bird was not much further on with a Black-headed Nightingale-Thrush briefly appearing on a bough and a quick shout from Steve got us all onto a gleaming black and yellow White-throated Shrike-Tanager with a large hooked bill.  He told us to pay attention as it always leads a pack of foraging birds and sure enough they piled in behind it and for a few moments it was shear madness as we tried to get onto and identify the species rushing through the trees in front.   Streak-headed Woodcreeper and Plain Xenops poked in crevices and dark olive Carmiol’s Tanagers along with Cinnamon Becards flashed through. There was undoubtedly more but it was all too quick.  Yellow-throated Toucans fed higher up and a Black-faced Trogon was seen. The next tangle held a Trilling Gnatwren which showed very well – another species with an oversized bill. As you may have noticed there are a paucity of jungle images for this day. The light was challenging and the birds often brief so watching and experiencing became the priority for the most part.

We doubled back at this point and looped back past where the antswarm had been. Amazingly it was still alongside the path and we once again got sucked back into the Antbird melee.  The views were even better the second time around and we confirmed that three Ocellateds were present along with a new species – the Dull Mantled Antbird which is a rather unfair name for a subtly marked bird.   At one stage a male Spotted picked up an additional ant after dropping down but this one was large and had clamped itself to its leg! it took some writhing around and twisting to reach the offending Soldier and despatch it.
Leaving was even trickier this time...

Bicoloured Antbird

Bicoloured Antbird

Spotted Antbird

Spotted Antbird

Spotted Antbird

Ocellated Antbird

Ocellated Antbird

Ocellated Antbird

Ocellated Antbird - Steve Bird

Ocellated Antbird - Steve Bird
We moved on up through the gardens past two Crested Guans in a fruiting tree filled with Tanagers that included Golden Hooded, Silver-throated and Blue Grey.  The lawns were being thoroughly checked out by a big Coati pack consisting of several families.  They are completely unconcerned by our presence which is not to say that they came over to interact; they simply did not stop what they were doing when you walked past or stopped, merely looked up and then carried on looking for food.

The Great Potoo was still there too!

A ‘chip’ got our attention and I was delighted to find that it was fine male Golden Winged Warbler – a smidgen over 31 years since I saw the Kentish bird on that memorable winters day.

We almost made it back for lunch but more activity as we climbed the last few steps back to reception had our eyes up once again to discover a gleaming sulphur and blue Tropical Parula in the pines with Black and White Warbler, Chestnut Sided Warbler and Yellow-throated Vireo for company. Another Cinnamon Becard gave more prolonged views and while trying to refind the B&W I picked up a male Tawny Capped Euphonia in the same tree.

Tawny Capped Euphonia

A Leather-type bug but with rugby players legs!

Time for a brief food intake stop.  Whilst sitting down indoors (yes, I honestly did) I saw two people looking at the decking outside. It was very hot by now and being curious I popped outside and found a frog in need of rescuing before it cooked.  I placed it on a leaf around the ornamental pond and took some shots of this tan coloured creature that has now been identified as a Rosenberg’s Tree Frog.

Rosenberg’s Tree Frog (Hypsiboas rosenbergi).
 A Masked Tityra watched the Oropendolas squabbling and Mr Curassow was back on patch and strutting his stuff.  As usual the four females were unimpressed. Tanagers came and went and a Red-eyed Vireo made a brief appearance. The Woodnymph and Stripe Throated Hermit were back and a White Tipped Dove gave us its best views as it fed on the ground showing the diagnostic pale blue eye ring. 

Golden Hooded Tanager

Emerald Tanager

While Mrs C quite lost her head at the site of his fine coiffe...

Great Curassow
White-tipped Dove

sorry - yet another Monty O

Stripe-throated Hermit

Dad just chilled
Masked Tityra
With a little time to spare I headed back over the bridge for a half hour mooch getting more wonderful views of the hummingbirds and finding a four flycatcher courtyard where Social, Grey Capped, Kiskadee and Tropical Kingbird were all feeding.  Black-striped Sparrows sang alongside House Wrens and Variable Seedeaters were poking about on the lawns.

Grey Capped Flycatcher

Social Flycatcher

Variable Seedeater

Black Striped Sparrow
Violet Headed HB

Rufous-tailed HB

Rufous-tailed HB

Scaly Breasted HB
I got distracted by a very elegant Bamboo Orchid with a single flower atop each eight foot step and as I got back towards our room the Coatis ambled past me on their way somewhere and a smart Middle American Ameiva (Holcosus festivus occidentalis) cautiously watched me from the side wall.

Path to our Lodge

And path Coati

Bamboo Orchid

Long-tailed Skipper sp
Emerald Spotty Skipper sp - I made that one up

        Middle American Ameiva (Holcosus festivus occidentalis) 
We reconvened on time and headed around the top road above the gardens to get us to the River path without too many distractions but snapping Manakins stopped us briefly and at long last everyone got a good view of White Collared males as they bounced around looking like the most sumptuous lemon meringue pie. Mmm...

White Collared Manakin

White Collared Manakin - Steve Cullum
We followed the path down through the trees with the sound of the river increasing off to our right as we did so.  Orange Bellied Trogon was the first new species seen although Steve says that it has been re-lumped with Collared but hey-ho.  It was a cracking bird regardless of taxonomic status! A pair of Slaty Antwren showed very well pathside with a bit of effort and all around we could hear the song of Thicket Antpitta although our chances of seeing this species were basically zero.  Ask Steve for some Thicket AP stories...

Orange Bellied Trogon

Orange Bellied Trogon - Steve Cullum

Amazing orange and lime peeling bark on super smooth trunks

Well... fruits from a vine...
Song Wren was a target here but we only got the briefest of snatches but we fared better further along the trail with a couple of Ochre-bellied Flycatchers and more good views of Dull-mantled Antbird and stripy headed Golden Crowned Warblers. Tropical Parulas and Chestnut-sided Warblers were in the canopy but birding in the afternoon down here was tricky and the woods were quieter than we had hoped.

Some of us popped down to see the waterfall that we could hear  before reaching a clearing with another suspension bridge.  

Once across it opened out into a serious of tree lined paddocks and a fine view but there were no raptors to be seen and the only birds encountered were a group of Red-billed Pigeons that slowly aggregated on a dead snag. Another Orange-bellied Trogon was perched up watching us when we crossed back across but the return leg was now very quiet although Russet Antshrike was a new addition but again was high up.

A Ginger relative?  Not sure...

Red-billed Pigeons

Red-billed Pigeons
Nightingale Wrens and the Thicket Antpittas serenaded us as we walked back before we deviated back through the gardens for one last look.  Despite the late hour the Hummers were still active and two chattering chunky Band Backed Wrens bounded around a palm shouting at each other and spooking both Summer and Passerini’s Tanagers from their perches.

A typical through the canopy view of a singing Yellow-throated Toucan

I was dawdling at the back with Julie and as we crossed the bridge for a final time I spied a small Empidonax flycatcher feeding below. The light was truly appalling but I somehow got a shot at about a 4th of a second that added Least Flycatcher to the trip list.

Least Flycatcher

Time to freshen up before dinner and then be distracted by some inverts around the lights outside and watch nocturnal foraging Leafcutter Ants taking home individual flower blooms.

Leafcutter Ants

I called this one the Strawberry & Cream Ermine
Funky Leafhopper

The sound of Cicadas and images of Ocellated Antbirds rocked me to sleep in no time.

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