Saturday 11 June 2022

Costa Rica - Day 16 - 28th March 2022

I was up before the sun at Quelitales and walked up through the cicada noise to the waterfall.  The usual squeaks and whistles of the pre-dawn chorus greeted me and I did my best to track down one high pitched song as I had a feeling it was Ground Sparrowy-type thing. Two furtive shapes shuffled up the liverwort covered face of the slick rocks above the waterfall and I got enough on them to see olive upperparts, dark underparts, a white face stripe and chestnut cap.  I knew it was a new one but I could not remember which and had to wait till Steve appeared to check his moths to discover it was Sooty Faced Brush Finch. Over the next hour we watched a pair of these short winged, big headed ground lovers hopping around the water's edge where they seemed to be collecting nesting material and retreating under the covered pergola.

Sooty Faced Brush Finch

The Chestnut-caps also came in and the Lancebill returned briefly to his pool perch.   A short walk up the trail produced many of the same species as the evening before with the additions of a showy Bright-rumped Attila, Rufous Mourner, Black-faced Solitaire and a Black Guan.

Green fronted Lancebill

The Barred Parakeets zoomed around in tight knit flocks and the Chestnut-headed Oropendolas moved from one side of the valley to the other.  Although there is the same size disparity between the sexes as the Monty Os, this species is clearly smaller and more compact. Steve picked up a singing Zeledon’s Antbird and with patience, I at least, was able to get a good view of this large, long-tailed black species but still sporting the characteristic blue facial skin.

Barred Parakeets

Back at the pool a flock of birds started to move through and we stuck with them as they came to the edges and saw Bay-headed, Speckled, Emerald and Silver-throated Tanagers, Slate-throated Redstart, Golden Winged, Wilson’s and Chestnut-sided Warblers and several Brown Capped Vireos. The Black-bellied HB and Green Thorntail were seen again and both Cinnamon-bellied and Buff-throated Saltators moved through with several White Vented Euphonias. 

Golden Winged Warbler

Speckled Tanager

Cosmosoma thiacia

Herminodes tessellata 

The Everton Mint

Now known affectionately as the Over Ripe Banana Moth (cheers Annie!)

 Hopefully Steve will add some names to this in due course for me

We were on a tight schedule and walked back for breakfast and as usual I was trying to eke out every minute of time which was good as it meant that I caught up with the ladies who were watching two very strange looking black and white birds with yellow head patches – White-eared Ground Sparrows were now on the list!

White-eared Ground Sparrow

Breakfast was now shared with Montezuma Oropendolas watching on and then we were off to circumnavigate the range behind us to reach El Copal on the other side. This took us back past the lake at Cachi where a plump Pied Billed Grebe was seen with 22 Least Grebes as we conveniently got stuck at the dam lights.

Montezuma Oropendolas

Just how anyone would find the remote fledgling lodge at El Copal is anyone’s guess but the route provided a few typical roadside birds and a brief stop to watch some red-eyed Bronzed Cowbirds in a field with some inquisitive horses. A barbed wire fence had to be moved to access the track and Ramon was very impressed that the bus made it up the hill where it had failed on the previous visit three weeks before.

Bronzed Cowbirds

Now, El Copal was Steve’s opportunity to quash my Snowcap Trauma from all those days ago at the Celeste Mountain Lodge. I was first off the bus and there were shouts from inside of ‘ Snoooowcap!’

‘Yeah right…’ I thought but as I walked around the front of the bus there it was in all its carmine and gleaming white glory before hurtling off into the distance. I was happy and Steve was happy.  I had been very good since the 17th and had not mentioned Snowcap or Steve’s promise of ‘not to worry’.

 Snowcap - tantalising

The next few hours were spent around this lodge up in the jungle staring across the canopy of huge umbrella like trees or peering down into the tree tops below the raised veranda.  Three adult male and a 1w male were seen on the Verbena and somehow I managed to get a shot or two of this most striking of species. It was certainly worth the wait.  

Snowcap - I was very happy with these two shots - I only took six

Other species seen were the Crowned Woodnymph, Purple Crowned Fairy and a couple of Brown Violetear that showed well. I am sure they were insect hunting amongst the leaves. 

Brown Violetear 

Crowned Woodnymph - I think

A gang of Carmiol's and Tawny Crested Tanagers crashed through and sneezing Black Faced Grosbeaks lingered a while.  There were Emerald, Bay-headed, Speckled, Silver-throated, Blue Grey and Passerini’s Tanagers around the whole time and we all had wonderful views of White-ruffed Manakins and had glimpses of Lemon Meringues as they whip cracked in the understorey. Stripe-breasted Wrens caused us a few id issues until we could actually see the little buggers as they tended to stay up in the thick dead tangles of lianas. 

Bay-headed Tanager

Black Faced Grosbeak

Black Faced Grosbeak

Black Faced Grosbeak

Emerald Tanager

Emerald Tanager

Emerald Tanager

Red-thighed Dacnis

White-ruffed Manakin

White-ruffed Manakin - female

A walk down into the woods gave us more Manakin views along with Scale Crested Pygmy Tyrants, Orange Billed Sparrows and a singing Black-headed Nightingale-Thrush.  There were a few inverts around a stream and I found several orthopterans and my first Costa Rican Hoverflies with two similar species picked out.  As for what they are I have no idea although they felt a bit like Sphaerophoria.

Hoverfly #1

Hoverfly #2

Hoverfly #2


Assassin bug I think

Absolutely no idea whatsoever but it was alive!

Jumping Spider

Philodendron verrucosum

Philodendron verrucosum

Possibly non native Rubus roseifolius

Anthurium sp

After lunch there was more Snowcap time (if you were quick enough) and a party of White-throated Thrushes were a new species and we watched them across the valley feeding in a fruiting tree with Tanagers, Grosbeaks and Masked Tityras.  Crested Caracara and an adult King Vulture drifted over and there were parties of White Collared Swifts higher up but it was not the raptor fest we had anticipated.

King Vulture

Goldfish Plant - Columnea hirta


Crusty lichen

Ant-lion pit

Arpophyllum giganteum - a very impressive orchid

Arpophyllum giganteum - a very impressive orchid

A female Tooth-billed (I forget that I should not call them Hepatic now) Tanager was seen at eye level with feeding Tanagers and a Tawny Capped Euphonia and parties of Monty and Chestnut Headed Os, Yellow-throated Toucans and Collared Aracaris moved between Cepcoprias.  The pendulous fruit was attracting the attention of the Tanagers and Os but also rather oddly the Short-billed Pigeons who were equally adept at hanging upside down.  White Tipped Doves strode around the lawn and a Great Tinamou was singing off in the woods.

Speckled Tanager

Chestnut Sided Warbler

Chestnut Headed Oropendolas

White-vented Euphonia - Ken Copleston

Silver-throated Tanager

Tawny Capped Euphonia

Tawny Capped Euphonia

Not great but you can see the bill kink - Tooth-billed Tanager

White Tipped Dove

White Tipped Dove

Yellow-faced Grassquit

Yellow-faced Grassquit

Short-billed Pigeon

My final circuit gave me a couple of seconds of perched male Snowcap along with a ringed Mistletoe Flycatcher and a drab little Least Flycatcher to add to the list.

Hermeuptychia sp

Hermeuptychia sp

Least Flycatcher 

Mistletoe Flycatcher

Mistletoe Flycatcher

Mistletoe Flycatcher

With San Jose to navigate we sadly had to leave and a scan on the way out of all the rivers did not add a Sunbittern and only a Buff Rumped Warbler and White-lined Tanager while the Cabanis’s Ground Sparrow site again drew a blank although the White-crowned Parrots were more obliging than usual.

White-crowned Parrot

The rest of the day was a bit of a blur and we arrived several hours later back at the Robledal Hotel where we started on the 13th March.  A last meal and then the chance to buy some of the amazing artwork of the very talented Tamara Rojas Sibaja.  Check out her Facebook page here.

This one is on my wall at home 

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

90: Sooty-faced Brush-finch*

91: White-eared Ground Sparrow*

92: Zeledon’s Antbird*

93: Snowcap*

94: White-throated Thrush*

95: Pied-billed Grebe** (UK)

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