Saturday 14 May 2022

Costa Rica - Day 8 - 20th March 2022

I arose just before Howler O’clock and went and stood outside and listened to the sound of Clay Coloured Thrushes welcoming in the day with the monkey backdrop. I wandered the ground as the light crept in flushing a Black-faced Antthrush from the path side that flew off low like some weird Rail. Two Chestnut Backed Antbirds called and I saw one fossicking around the base of a tree while the noise of the incessant Cicadas tried to drown out everything else.

As the light improved the Grey Chested Doves started to sing and I saw one briefly and the expected selection of Parrots and Parakeets moved out from their roost for breakfast.

The Grey-capped Flycatchers, Kiskadees and Bright-rumped Attilas were all getting going and an American Redstart dashed about in acrobatic style flashing those yellow tail patches while two Northern Waterthrushes tiptoed around the herb beds.

The bird breakfast bar held yesterday’s compliment of species although one of the male Red-throated Ant Tanagers did come in briefly and the Collared Aracaris made short work of the scraps of fruit left behind. They are surprisingly dextrous with that oversized bill.

Red-throated Ant Tanager

After breakfast we headed straight for La Selva to walk the approach road before the site opened. It started in fine style with two glorious Chestnut Coloured Woodpeckers with their blond crowns and red cheeks high in the canopy. Birding here is never about taking pictures.  The birds move fast and are often high up or obscured. You have to react quick and often piece together what you are seeing to create the whole. That is not saying that some birds didn’t perform for us and it was actually some of the most rewarding and intense birding that we did.

A perched up raptor resolved itself into an immature Double Toothed Kite and the rest of the walk down produced a Scarlet-rumped Cacique leaving its pendulous nest strung on a telephone wire and a female Snowy Cotinga looking grey against the skyline from her bare perch. Red-throated Ant Tanagers crashed about the undergrowth and Black-faced Grosbeaks sneezed like oversized Marsh Tits as they too moved through in a gang.

Scarlet-rumped Cacique nest

Red-throated Ant Tanager

female Snowy Cotinga 

 Black-faced Grosbeak

A Bronzy Hermit was briefly on the gateway Heliconias and we soon heard our first Great Green Macaws and saw them pass over.  The next duo then surprised us by coming down to briefly feed in a fairly low tree that allowed us all to get some close views of this huge parrot. There were smiles all round. A Plain Brown Woodcreeper showed well allowing the rest of the party to add this to their lists and some Mealy Parrots perched up in the adjacent trees.

Great Green Macaw

Great Green Macaws

Another patch of birds just before the security booth added both Toucans and another annoyingly invisible Rufous Browed Pepper-shrike – I had still to ever see one at this point.  After checking in and sanitizing we were about to set off on our first walk when I found a pair of Shining Honeycreepers feeding on tiny berries near the Centre. It had started to rain lightly and the duller light made them even brighter in my eyes. They were to be one of the birds of the trip for me. An Olive-backed Euphonia was feeding in the same bush with a couple of Variable Seedeaters and Rufous Tailed Hummingbirds and Stripe-throated Hermits dashed around us.

Yellow-throated Toucan

Olive-backed Euphonia

Rufous Tailed Hummingbird

Golden Hooded Tanager

Shining Honeycreepers

An obliging Rufous winged Woodpecker poked around the garden trees too and a Rufous Tailed HB nest was found in mid construction – such a tiny creation. Our troop quietly walked the trails and although the birding was difficult it was rewarding with superb views of a troop of Purple-throated Fruitcrows with Rufous Motmots in the foreground, Rufous Tailed Jacamars and a big plump Great Tinamou that simply melded into the background even though it was no more than twenty feet away.  Little Tinamou was also heard in song but we never got anywhere near one and there were quite a few small birds that you could see with patience including Lesser Greenlet (‘chiswick’ like Pied Wagtail) and Mistletoe Flycatchers (‘pluuip’ like a Ringed Plover), whistling Chestnut-backed Antbirds and a dashing Black-faced Antthrush. Wedge Billed Woodcreepers clambered along trunks and a singing Black Crowned Ant-Shrike gave himself up. A boldly marked bird with a big bill.  Bay Wrens warbled and shouted at us and Ochre-bellied Flycatchers were found in a couple of spots.

Sally the Umbrella Pro - Martin the Umbrella Virgin...

Rufous winged Woodpecker

Rufous winged Woodpecker

Rufous-Tailed Hummingbird

Rufous-Tailed Hummingbird - a nest in progress

Purple-throated Fruitcrow

Purple-throated Fruitcrow

Black Crowned Ant-Shrike 

Black Crowned Ant-Shrike 

The little bit of damp brought out the Strawberry Blue Jeans Dart Frogs and you had to watch where you put your feet as they clambered through the leaf litter. Some of the Ants were bigger than they were.

Strawberry Blue Jeans Dart Frog

Strawberry Blue Jeans Dart Frog

Back out in the more managed areas around the research station there were Blue-chested HBs, White-necked Jacobins and Purple Crowned Fairies and by scanning the bare trees we found both White-necked and the much smaller Pied Puffbird in the same tree!  Masked Tityras and Piratic Flycatchers were in the bare canopy too and there were Buff-rumped Warblers and squeaking Orange-billed Sparrows in the margins.  Chestnut-sided Warblers, Blue Dacnis, Red-legged Honeycreeper and Tody Flycatcher fed in a fruiting tree and a Great Curassow could be heard booming in the jungle some way off. 

White-necked Puffbird

A spiral of 20 or so Broad-winged Hawks and a couple of Swainson’s spiralled above and two Pale-billed Woodpeckers showed briefly before we reached a damp clearing. Like last time we soon found one of the Giant Blue-tipped Helicopter Damselflies as it slowly drifted across the sedges. There were a few other Dragonflies here but no birds in the clearing at all.

Broad-winged Hawks

Giant Blue-tipped Helicopter Damselfly - Andy Reid - He apologised that it was not very good! 

Tropical Woodskimmer (Uracis imbuta)

It was one of those ‘not know where to look days’ and I can only imagine what the newbies were experiencing! While they were Puffbirding I followed a small bird behind a bush and nearly trod on a Pauraque.  I backed up and went back for the others but did not tell them what I had found.  They were delighted to say the least.  Why can’t I find a European Nightjar like this at home?


After checking out the roosting Proboscis Bats (they look like Sac-winged) we crossed back over the bouncy bridge (with Kiskadees and Social Flycatchers nesting on it and an Amazon and Green Kingfishers below) and Steve promptly found a Semi-plumbeous Hawk perched motionless in one of the nearest trees.

Semi-plumbeous Hawk 

Proboscis Bats

A small jungle Snail

To say that it showed well is an understatement and the guys with lenses were happy to I think. I could hear some French birders on the other side of the path but out of sight so I popped around to tell them about the Hawk. In return they showed me two Eastern Kingbirds perched at the top of a snag – another new bird for me.  I showed them the Hawk – it was one of their most wanted and took some of the others back for the Kingbirds – smiles all round.

Eastern Kingbirds

I think lunch beckoned at this point – it all started to get a bit blurry to be honest.

We did not travel too far from the reserve to eat and were hosted by an ex La Selva guide of some repute who now has his own reserve out the back of his Taverna.  Ramon’s wife Wilma and his two kids joined us for lunch too which was cool.  The trees above were home to a troop of Mantled Howlers who nonchalantly munched leaves and fruits and dangled about by their tails.

Mantled Howler

A Bright Rumped Attila showed well for a change and I found a Bay-breasted Warbler and Lesser Greenlets out the back. A singing Trogon turned out to be our first Black-faced.  

Black-faced Trogon - Andy Reid

Lesser Greenlet

However all eyes were actually on the ground where there were sparring matches going on between rival Green & Black Dart Frogs.  These are much chunkier than their blue and red cousins and we wondered if their poison exudes from the skin during such wrestling matches and whether it is then on the leaf litter itself?

Green & Black Dart Frogs

There was another Herpetological treat in store here with the rarely seen Casque-Headed Lizard pretending to be invisible just a couple of feet off the ground. Steve was especially pleased.  The brown form that we observed is even rarer than the normal green one.

Casque-Headed Lizard

Replete after lunch we headed back to La Selva for round two.  I had a feeling as we drove out for lunch that there was a lot of bird movement and asked if we could stop and had another go at the drive way.  It was like a different world with a whole selection of species that we never saw in the morning. Two Black-throated Wrens sang and crept around in the tangles half way up a tree and with some time we all got to see them well. They were joined by a beefy pied male Great Antshrike and two needle billed Trilling Gnatwrens. The Ant-Tanagers were still around and Dusky Antbirds were heard and seen briefly while the Great Green Macaws were on the move once again.

An odd looking Yellow-Olive Flatbill became an Eye-ringed Flatbill and Cocoa and Stripe Headed Woodcreepers were seen along with two Plain Xenops and Golden Winged, Black & White and Chestnut-sided Warblers all moved through above us. 

Swamp Lily - Crinum erubescens

 Rufous-tailed Jacamar

We walked back across the bridge and our guide could hear a Scaled Pigeon singing and picked it up on a distant tree.
  We saw one near here in 2020 but it was good to have a prolonged look at this most handsome of birds. Red-billed Pigeons and Squirrel Cuckoos were noted and a Collared Peccary ambled through the gardens before we descended back into the gloom of the jungle. Rufous Mourner and Cinnamon Becard were discovered and the Black-faced Grosbeaks put on another show.

Red-throated Ant-Tanager - Ken Copleston

Black-faced Grosbeaks

Red-lored Parrot

Collared Peccary

A noisy party of birds were moving through low down and we tried to get in front of them but it was hard work and we only got the briefest of views as the Dusky Faced Tanagers crashed by. Definitely one I want to see a lot better!  A stunning Rufous Motmot was ample recompense for the brief Tanagers!

Rufous Motmot

We looped back seeing a Central American Agouti in the garden borders and then a Yellow-marginated Flycatcher (like the Flatbills but with dark eyes) by the bridge just before we crossed with a Great Crested Flycatcher in canopy where the Eastern Kingbirds had been as we reached the other side. A great party of at least 40 Chestnut-headed Oropendolas headed off to roost and Great Green Macaws went in the opposite direction to the 14 seen during the morning.

Central American Agouti 

Chestnut-headed Oropendola

Strangely enough the highlight for many of us was getting up close to a diminutive Honduran Ghost Bat tucked up in his folded palm leaf although getting sticks thrown at you from above by some angry Capuchins for daring to stop on the path was a little over the top on their part.

Honduran Ghost Bat

Another long but rewarding day was over but there was still time for some post dinner frogging and we got some superb views of Cane Toads, Central American Bullfrogs and the captivating Red-eyed Treefrogs.  A unidentified Frog even appeared on the path for a brief performance.

Red-eyed Treefrogs

Central American Bullfrog

Central American Bullfrog

Not sure yet, thought Dink but not a Tree Frog...

Cane Toad

Perhaps the oddest discovery was a Slug that I tried to rescue from the path but it was of a most peculiar texture and absolutely immoveable. It was barely moist and quite leathery – most odd. Given the proclivity of jungle critters to be poisonous, I probably should not really have been touching a vulnerable and innocuous looking mollusc!

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

39: Chestnut-coloured Woodpecker *

40: Double Toothed Kite *

41: Bronzy Hermit*

42: Eastern Kingbird*

43: Black-throated Wren*

44: Eye-ringed Flatbill*

45: yellow-marginated Flycatcher*

46: Dusky Faced Tanager*

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