Our pre-breakfast walk at Villa Lapas was another resounding success and I
suspect that you could walk just this short stretch every day and see different
things. Puffbirds, Antbirds and Antthrushes were very showy with the latter
throwing leaves hither and dither but the prize for ‘Most Obvious Forest Floor
Disturber’ went to a Scaly-throated Leaftosser – quite literally. We got lucky and it came closer and even
perched up and sang for us. Not the most
attractive bird we had seen but very full of character nonetheless. The
Waterthrushes, Buff-rumped and Kentucky Warblers were all seen again along with
both Doves and two White Shouldered Tanagers found their way onto everyone else’s
list. Two Red-eyed Vireos fed in the canopy above breakfast with a smart male
Summer and Golden Hooded Tanagers.
Orange Billed Sparrow
Orange Billed Sparrow
After breakfast we drove up the road above our valley where
a roadside stop proved most productive. Both Vultures greeted us on a tree by
the bus and seemed reluctant to leave although we could smell nothing
deceased.A couple of male Long-tailed
Manakins fortuitously came up the slope and into the tree we were shading
under, one without tail streamers and Rufous and White and Rufous Backed Wrens
sung below us while a pair of Rose-throated Becards and Brown Crested
Flycatcher hunted up the slope. In the skies above there were Plumbeous Kites
with the Vultures and our first Frigatebird and a new song below us revealed a
pair of very funky Chestnut-capped Warblers bouncing around in the undergrowth.
A couple of Crested Guans honked from a fruiting tree across the valley and
Scarlet Macaws and Mealy Parrots crisscrossed the canopy. And all of this was
from the roadside.
We pulled up at the next bend for a listen and were invited into the property by a chap on a moped.He said we could go for a walk around and as it happened it was the same place that we visited in 2020 but via the official front gates. We even met the American lady taking her dog for a walk and she was most welcoming. The views down towards Tarcoles and the sweep of the Pacific and bay were stunning and the birds we saw were pretty good too with Hoffmann’s and Pale-billed Woodpecker, an invisible singing Bentbill, Brown Jays and even a booming Curassow and ‘pooping’ Ferruginous Pygmy Owl!
Piratic Flycatchers were nesting and Yellow-throated Euphonias and a showy Chestnut-backed Wren were seen while in the skies there were plenty of big birds with some almost at eye level and we had a Bat Falcon, six Plumbeous Kites, Broad-winged Hawks, a Double Toothed Kite (with Goshawk like undertail coverts), Vultures and Wood Storks.We could even see Frigatebirds and Royal Terns way down along the coast.
We continued up hill and stopped again at the waterfall
viewpoint (where you can’t see the waterfall) and found a flock of feeding
passerines in the roadside trees. There were at least six Philadelphia Vireos
and three Red-eyeds feeding avidly along with a pair of Blue Dacnis and several
Swainson’s Thrushes. A male Slaty-tailed
Trogon sat impassively in the next tree and a female Blue-throated Sapphire was
identified by its largely red bill.
Blue Dacnis - Jim Willett
Ramon spied a King Vulture circling high above and a single
Grey Hawk flew through with a flock of White-collared Swifts while a
Yellow-throated Toucan stopped just long enough to say hello to the cameras.
The taverna further up seems to be permanently closed now so
we retreated back down the hill and went to do the touristy Tarcoles River
Bridge. We parked one side and walked across to the other but it was actually
very quiet with just a few Black-necked Stilts and an Osprey as well as the
monster Central American Crocodiles lurking below. For those of you who have
not been before this is the one place that you do not leave anything in the car
on show or otherwise.
Central American Crocodiles l
Back to Villa Lapas for lunch but no time for a lengthy
escape but I did manage to wander through the gardens and back but even that
gave me a close view of a male Black-headed Trogon with his blue eye rings and
a proper pied Variable Seedeater that looked like an odd Collared Flycatcher!
A little Anole pretended to be a stick and the big Brown Basilisk did the full running on its hind legs thing as it scampered from outside the gift shop to a less populous spot!There were a few more butterflies and what I think is a female Tropical Woodskimmer. Cherrie’s Scarlet Rumped Tanagers were nesting in the gardens and the females are so bright compared to the Passerini’s we see to the north of San Jose.
Not sure - possibly a female Ruby Spot species?
Cherrie’s Scarlet Rumped Tanagers
This Blue or Hairstreak joined us for lunch and waggled
its tails in a distracting and hypnotic way
It was soon time to head out for our boat trip on the
Tarcoles but first we headed down to Playa Azul for a walk along the shining
silver sand beach.The sky was full of
Frigatebird with drifting squadrons approaching from the river mouth area and
at one stage we counted over 200 in the air like some scene from a prehistoric
age. Brown Pelicans glided the other way and down along the deserted beach we
found a small group of 11 Sanderling with a single Grey Plover (both CR
ticks).I was hoping for more beach
waders but apparently not that many come this far down the coast.
A heap of Pelicans were roosting out on a spit near the river
mouth with a few Neotropic Cormorants, an Osprey and at least 30 American Royal
Terns. Scanning the sea also produced two Laughing Gulls and a flock of 15 Sandwich
Terns which on the Pacific coast means Cabot’s Tern. Even if they had been
closer we would have struggled to tell otherwise!
Sanderlings andGrey Plover
Frigatebirds around the distant fishing boats
Looking up the Tarcoles river
Brown Pelicans for the most part
The sand itself was host to industrious little Hermit Crabs and a superfast Sand Crab with eyes on big stalks that scurried away if you got too close while higher up the beach Tiger Beetles dashed around before blending in with the sandy background.On closer inspection they had shiny green leg joints!
Sifted crab sand pellets
Steve had mentioned about seeing Lesser Nighthawks in the
vegetated top part and so I walked back that way (and managed to keep one or
two or the others with me) which was fortunate as I found one perched up just in front of me but no amount of waving could attract the rest of the group
just a hundred yards ahead.It sat
there, pretending to be invisible and so we just watched it, took some pics
and left it to snooze again.At least I
was confident that we would all be seeing this species before sundown.
the waterfall we were at the top of that morning
It was not long before boarding our boat and after ensuring
that Ken was not left behind in the banos we set out for our final river trip
of the holiday.It began well with a Green Kingfisher and two Hudsonian Whimbrel by the jetty and Mangrove Swallows
were seemingly waiting for the boat to head out too.
Our guide took us up river to start with and we very quickly
picked up the expected assortment of Herons along the banked margins with
Yellow-crowned Night Herons, Little Blue and Snowy Egrets and two posturing Bare-throated
Tiger-Herons who were engaging in a full on slow moving ballet of moves that
felt more like threat than display.
Neotropic Cormorant with a huge catfish
Great White Egret
Yellow-crowned Night Heron and Green Iguana
Yellow-crowned Night Heron
Green, Amazon and Ringed Kingfishers watched us as we bobbed
by and a smart Belted Kingfisher sat up for a good look. A couple of Ospreys watched
the river from elevated snags and these birds seem much more monochrome that our
European birds being simply white and chocolate brown with no patchiness in
A Peregrine did likewise and surveyed from on high while
Crested and Yellow-headed Caracaras and Turkey and Black Vultures patrolled the
sandbanks looking for things that had died.
Turquoise Browed Motmots hid in dappled overhangs with Brown
Basilisks and Green Iguanas for company and a male Blue Ground Dove whizzed
past the boat giving brief but good views to those who got on it quick enough.
A little pied bird with a rusty back popped up in a small
bush before flying off but I had no idea what it was until we found a party of
them a little further on and discovered that they were naturalised Chestnut-backed
Munias (from Asia) but they are highly mobile and Steve had never seen them in
Costa Rica before so was equally happy at the addition.They were feeding with Morelet’s and Variable
Seedeaters in the tall grasses with Red-winged Blackbirds and Great Tailed
Grackles for company. The latter like to use the boats and snaggy river island as song perches.
Great Tailed Grackle
Great Tailed Grackle
Great Tailed Grackle
One of our prime targets was Collared Plover – a species we
missed last time – but we had no problem on this occasion and saw at least
eight on the muddy shore where they ran around like long, pink legged chunky
Kentish Plovers.We watched one come
down to the waters edge and dip its belly feather in for a good soak, presumably
to take a drink back to the already mobile young or perhaps even to cool the
eggs down? Least, Solitary and Spotted Sandpipers were seen on the same stretch
along with a few Southern Lapwings.
We turned around at this point but no before an amazing
encounter with a monstrous Croc. He had been up on the bank before we got there
but the boat in front with ‘tourists’ had driven up the beach and the guide had
leapt out and touched it before leaping back on and backing the boat off.
Our boat stopped and he slid back in and drifted like a knobbly tree trunk towards us before turning side on. We all agreed that he was
at least five metres long and it made most of us strangely nervous to be so
close to a seemingly docile reptilian monster that could in a moment explode
We let him be and
continued back down river passing our first Roseate Spoonbills of the day and a
Battle to the Death between four Mangrove Swallows one of which was determinedly
trying to drown another. Barn and
Northern Rough Winged Swallows flicked around us and a flock of Muscovy Ducks
was engaged in The Chase with smaller more agile females keeping ahead of the
Roseate Spoonbill & Tricoloured Heron
Would it rain?
Mangrove Swallows - Jim Willett
Barn Swallows & possibly a Rough-winged (mid upper) and a female Seedeater? top left
Northern Rough-winged Swallow
The mangroves beckoned and we started to see more ‘Herons’
in the edges with all three Night Herons, Snowy Egrets and Tricoloured Herons,
White Ibis and Little Blues.Some
Frigatebirds came in behind the boat and played around before dipping down for
a splash bath and drink.
Yellow-crowned Night Heron
Yellow-crowned Night Heron & Snowy Egret
Black-crowned Night Heron - almost greeny black
Hudsonian Whimbrels and a Turnstone were roosting up on a partially submerged dead tree but the only other wader was Spotted Sandpiper but there hundreds! At one point I counted nearly eighty on one small bit of mangrove bank where they were probably looking to roost. One or two were already spotty but most were not.
From the top: Turnstone, Hudsonian Whimbrels & Anhinga
The Mangroves themselves were dark and sultry but our guide
and boatman were top notch and stealthily nudged us in and out of the best
spots where with a bit of patience and luck were got excellent views of the darting
green and white bellied Mangrove Hummingbirds along with chestnut headed Mangrove
Yellow Warblers, glowing Prothonotary Warblers and at last for the others –
several American Redstarts.
Mangrove Yellow Warbler
Mangrove Yellow Warbler
A pair of Rufous Browed Peppershrikes ensured that they were
no longer on the heard only list and it was one of those birds that I knew when
I saw it. There was a good selection of Flycatchers with Streaked,
Yellow-bellied and Dusky Capped and a new one in the shape of the basically
greyish-brown and white Panama along with a pair of Cinnamon Becards.
Panama Flycatcher - a scarce and tricky species to see
Scarlet Macaws could be heard but were usually just out of view
and the distinctive ‘enck enck’ of Yellow-naped Parrots (thanks for the clue
from the guide) echoed through the trees before a party would cross the river.
We drifted back under a White Ibis and Roseate Spoonbill colony
and a furry ball in a tree resolved itself into my very first Common Racoon who
opened an eye to give us a cursory glance as we passed by.
Common Racoon - pale hands
The sun was setting as we emerged back onto the wider river
and the Lesser Nighthawks were starting to hunt and my peak count on a scan
around was 37 as they glided after several stiff mechanical beats.
They were a fine way to end another exhilarating day.
New Birds: * = life tick ** = new to
Costa Rica but previously seen elsewhere
Post a Comment