Thursday 26 May 2022

Costa Rica - Day 12 - 24th March 2022

Our final morning at Villa Lapas was not to be wasted and Angie and I were the earlybirds walking up the valley. Once again it proved most worthwhile.

Turquoise Browed Motmots were feeding in the gardens before the light was up and you could see them sitting just under the canopy of the low bushes before dropping to the ground and Northern Waterthrushes and the usual squeaky Orange-billed Sparrows were seen. A Pauraque was heard and then seen on the ground a couple of times but it was unsettled and we just left it to find a quiet spot.

Up the track Great Tinamous were singing and we found one walking through the same area as the Black-faced Antthrushes and then we also heard a Little Tinamou from the left hand side of the path before it ran and fluttered its way across in front of us like a fluffy brown grapefruit with a tiny head!

The river was back to normal

A Ruddy Quail-Dove did likewise a few minutes later and the Grey Chested Doves were to be found in the margins. Two pairs of White-Whiskered Puffbirds were found and Dusky and Chestnut-backed Antbirds gave fantastic views too.  The light was too poor for any pictures that morning but the experience was superb and everything showed so well.

The Scaly Throated Leaftosser was seen briefly in the same spot and Lesson’s Motmots were calling and showed well .  Steve and Gina caught us up and our fortune continued with our first Ovenbird of the trip slowly working the leaf litter with a Kentucky Warbler while Scaly Chested, Rufous-tailed HBs and both Stripe-throated and Long-billed Hermits danced around the dappled patches. A Purple Crowned Fairy was hunting a little higher up with a Royal Flycatcher for company.

Mexican Sister - Adelpha fessonia 

Two Grey Headed Tanagers moved through and were shortly followed by a party of White Shouldered Tanagers again with a Cocoa Woodcreeper in tow.  The Long-tailed Manakins were invisibly making their very odd Star Treky tricorder sounds and a Bentbill croaked somewhere further back.

A Black-faced Trogon and annoyingly some unseen Fiery Billed Aracaris were heard up slope but we still managed to see Scarlet Macaws and Mealy Parrots as they flew through gaps. 

We headed back for breakfast and added two Blue Black Grosbeaks and both Yellow and Chestnut Sided Warblers on the way. The Rose-throated Becards had progressed with their nest.

Rose-throated Becards

With time at a premium there was no delay in escaping early and we were soon on the road south.  I had asked Steve and Gina if we could stop at any bits of coast to have a quick look for any rock loving waders.  They said yes but the chances of finding a Surfbird or Tattler were slim.

Brown Pelicans

Our third such micro stop was actually very productive with distant leaping Dolphins, Marlin and Mobular Rays and the wobbly fins of a couple of Sunfish but birds were few with just slip streaming flocks of wave hugging Brown Pelicans, a Belted Kingfisher, Magnificent Frigatebirds, Royal Terns and a Bare-throated Tiger Heron.  A Spotted Sandpiper raised wader hopes momentarily but it was just as we were about to get back on the bus that Martin casually pointed out a wader and asked if it was a Tattler.

Wandering Tattler - Andy Reid

Scopes were hastily put back up and a wonderfully bar bellied Wandering Tattler sporting vivid yellow legs was in view skipping around the craggy rocks completely unperturbed by the waves crashing all around it.  A second bird then materialised from nowhere and we had some quality time with this most enigmatically named of waders.  I remember reading about them when I was a kid and pictured one in just such a location but possibly a long way out in the Pacific. It was not my first Tattler having been fortunate enough to see the Grey-tailed near Inverness in December 1994. Steve had only seen the species once in CR so was as pleased as we were.

Wandering Tattler 


Onwards and southwards following the coast for many miles save for a brief diversion a few miles inland where an immature Common Potoo was on exactly the post that we had been told to check.  It was scorchingly hot so we simply got out and had a good look at this freakish, Muppet-like bird before moving on but not before Ramon had found a distant circling White Hawk.

Common Potoo

Common Potoo


Back to the coast road and through mile after mile of Palm Oil plantations on both sides of the road before reaching a more open farmland area and another, if somewhat sudden stop for a beautiful Scissor-tailed Flycatcher on a roadside fenceline.  Fortunately it flew to a snag in the field and although it was not fully tailed it was still a gorgeous bird and not one I expected to see.

Scissor-tailed Flycatcher 

A quick comfort stop and then we turned inland and started to climb. Our next short stop was at San Isidro at a sewage treatment works – really English birding! We peered through the gates at the settling pools that were dotted with 22 dinky Least Grebes with their piercing yellow eyes.  Some were nesting on the floating booms but had to share them with large Terrapins.  Blue-winged Teal paddled around amongst them and Snowy Egrets and a pack of Black-bellied Whistling Ducks lined the banks where a Northern Jacana, Spotted and Solitary Sandpipers fed. A Green Heron had a fly round and an Amazon Kingfisher was perched up further back.  And let us not forget the 30 Feral Pigeons that found themselves firmly on the trip list.

Least Grebe

A nice collection

Meso-American slider (Trachemys venusta)

After some wiggling, Ramon took us to look at a fruiting tree in the town where there was a slim hope of one of the blue Cotingas (I can’t remember which) but we had no joy.  There were lots of Orioles in there and a Brown Crested Flycatcher showed nicely as the rain started to fall.  Time was so short that we soon had to move onwards and very much upwards.

Brown Crested Flycatcher

Brown Crested Flycatcher

Big slow lorries ahead did not help our progress and lunch got later and later but eventually we arrived at the Mirador Café with its huge views way down to San Isidro below. Lunch was immediately proffered along with the best green lemonade ever!

Grey Cowled Wood-Rail became the first new bird of the afternoon as it plodded through the gardens below us.  This was the species that Dad saw at Bogarin all those days ago!

Grey Cowled Wood-Rail

Grey Cowled Wood-Rail

A variety of the usual Tanagers came into the feeding station but included two delightful Speckled while the Hummers were attending the feeders near our faces with some gusto.  Most were Green Crowned Brilliants along with madly dashing Violet Sabrewings, Rufous-tailed and singles of Stripe-tailed and White-throated Mountain Gem.  Another small HB came in flashing a white belly but it took until it landed briefly to see the coppery bronze wings and for us to add a bonus Snowy Bellied HB to the HB tally.

Green Crowned Brilliant

Green Crowned Brilliant

Green Crowned Brilliant

Violet Sabrewing

Violet Sabrewing

White-throated Mountain Gem

Baltimore Oriole

Silver Throated Tanager

Some Grey-headed Chachalacas crashed about below us and up above Swallow-tailed Kites glided against the increasingly grey clouds.

Swallow-tailed Kites

More up but only a few miles to Bosque di Tolomuco or the Magic Garden as I came to quickly know it.  We had only been out of the van a couple of minutes when Ramon pointed out a ludicrously bright orange and blue bird in a near tree. Elegant Chlorophonia! Although they are patterned more Euphonia-like they have recently moved families.  

 Elegant Chlorophonia

The gardens are famous for their Hummingbirds and prolific feeding stations and I spent our time there scampering between stations and banks of Verbena trying to see everything and get everyone onto as much as possible.

There were Micro HB aplenty and we had several Scintillant and Volcano, Stripe-tailed, Rufous Tailed, Green Violetear, Violet Sabrewing, White-throated Mountain Gem, Green Crowned Brilliant and another new one with the dinky White-tailed Emerald.  I did not know where to look. 

Scintillant HB - Andy Reid

Scintillant HB - Andy Reid

Volcano HB

Volcano HB

White-throated Mountain Gem

White-throated Mountain Gem - imm male I think

Summer, Flame-coloured and Hepatic Tanagers dropped in along with True Tanagers in the shape of Cherries, Silver-throated, Golden Hooded, Blue Grey and Speckled.

Summer Tanager - I think this one was mooted as Hepatic but there is no bill notch

Summer Tanager 

Summer Tanager 

Cherries & Silver-throated Tanager

Speckled Tanager

Speckled Tanager

The only bird I missed on my last CR trip was Rose-breasted Grosbeak that was seen by the ladies at Savegre and when Gina called one on the lower table I was off! It took a few minutes to find it but suddenly a fine black and white male with that blood stained chest was sitting in front of me. Having never seen one anywhere before (one of my UK most wanted) I was taken aback at just how chunky it was.  He sat there unconcerned slowly eating berries and during the rest of the visit I saw him several more times.

Rose-breasted Grosbeak 

A male Red-headed Barbet was equally appreciated and he looked mighty fine in the Bottlebrush Trees. There were Baltimore Orioles and a Blue-throated Toucanet paying visits and a Hoffmannesque woodpecker that on closer scrutiny became our first Red-crowned.  Both sexes were seen. Tennessee, Wilson’s and Black and White Warblers moved through and Rufous Collared Sparrows fed in the borders with Slaty Flowerpiercers working the flowers above them.  A Grey-cowled Wood-Rail nonchalantly walked across the lawns.

Red-crowned Woodpecker

Red-crowned Woodpecker

Red-headed Barbet

Red-headed Barbet

Red-headed Barbet

 Rufous Collared Sparrow

 Rufous Collared Sparrow

Slaty Flowerpiercer

A Mistletoe Flycatcher hawked from a Ginger leaf in the light rain and thunder could be heard in the distance as the cloud base dropped. A chance glance around the side of the rain shelter saw two plump Quaily things walk across the grass. Wood Quail but I needed Gina to tell me that they were Black-breasted WQ. They were only on show for a few scant seconds but were replaced by a small short eared bunny that hopped of just as quickly.  This used to be Forest Rabbit but had now been split and the ones here are in fact Dice’s Rabbit.

Getting closer


Felt like a Bumblebee

 Mistletoe Flycatcher

I could happily have spent the rest of the day in this magical place. How many more new species could I have seen?

With rain falling we said goodbye to the garden owners and hit the uphill road once again. The weather soon deteriorated as we crawled up through the cloud behind rumbling juggernauts.  We were never going to make Savegre before nightfall but there was still a chance of reaching the Towers further up what is affectionally known as the Cerro de la Muerte due to the large number of people who perished building it and given some of the driving we saw probably still do.

Cars coming down hill flashed us and so Ramon proceeded with caution which was a prudent thing to do as around the next bend there was a car on our side of the road reversing up the hill.  He waved as we went by…

Steve’s altimeter kept climbing as we did and we poked through the worst of the cloud at just the right moment to veer off and onto the track to about 11,500 feet. Sooty Thrushes greeted us along the track and the cloud did not feel too rain-like at the summit but it was very cool and the air was obviously thin. Fortunately the Volcano Juncos were quickly found (complete with project leg jewellery) and showed very well. Those orange-yellow eyes are very ‘Angry Bird’.

Paramo time 

Actually on the track back down...

Volcano Junco - Andy Reid

Volcano Junco

There was no view and very little light and the only other bird we heard was a Black-billed Nightingale-thrush that obligingly popped out to see what we were doing.

With that we bundled back aboard the bus and retraced our steps back down the mountain until we found the Savegre turn off.

It was dark when we got there and settled into our plush rooms and after dinner and the log we had a quick look at Steve’s moth sheet which was already bringing in some amazing looking beasts.

Halysidota underwoodi 
What an astonishing hand drawn moth - We dubbed it the Clarice Cliff

Halysidota underwoodi - Steve Bird

Hopefully Steve will work out what these all are in due course and I can add some more names

Geometer Moth (Pityeja histrionaria) 

And as usual there were plenty of interesting chunky Scarab-type beetles

We had travelled from sea-level on the Pacific coast to about 12,000 feet in a day and were now staying at about 7,500 feet and despite it being probably the most amazing day of the trip everyone was exhausted and in need of rest. 

I was awoke at 2am by the howling of Coyotes just up behind the lodges.

New Birds: * = life tick ** = new to Costa Rica but previously seen elsewhere

66: Wandering Tattler*

67: Scissor-tailed Flycatcher*

68: Least Grebe*

69: Grey Cowled Wood-Rail*

70: Snowy Bellied Hummingbird*

71: Elegant Chlorophonia*

72: White-tailed Emerald*

73: Rose Breasted Grosbeak*

74: Black-breasted Wood-Quail*

75: Red-crowned Woodpecker*

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