Costa Rica Birding South, Part 1


A year ago, Kathy and I took a Road Scholar birding trip to Ecuador. It was fabulous! So, we decided we should do a similar trip this fall, and chose Road Scholar’s Costa Rica South offering. It was subtitled: Motmots to Quetzals, and it lived up to that billing. The itinerary would take us through the southern parts of Costa Rica, which we had seen little of on prior trips there. Those trips took place in the 1980s and 90s, and were centered on rafting. The one birding foray we made at that time was to Monteverde, in an attempt to see the Resplendent Quetzal – Costa Rica’s most famous bird. And though we tramped around for a good while on muddy trails, no go. The one vivid memory of that outing that sticks with us is the earthquake that shook our hotel one evening. When we saw the lamps suspended over the dining table begin to sway, we got right up and went outside.

Back to this trip, which didn’t begin well. Our afternoon flight from Albuquerque to Dallas was delayed, which blew our connection to San Jose, CR. We were re-routed to Los Angeles, and re-ticketed onto a Delta red-eye flight from there to San Jose. Instead of getting there at 9 PM on Nov. 1, we arrived at 7 AM the next morning, and were, thus,  just able to connect with our group prior to the scheduled departure at 9 AM for our first birding venue. That location was the Hotel Villa Lapas, and Carara National Park and the Rio Tarcoles, on the central Pacific coast. The hotel name – “lapas” – means scarlet macaw, and we were assured that we would have plenty of opportunity to see that bird.

Our group of 9 consisted of older people, which included the 88 year-old Alice. Kathy and I were the only non-retired persons represented. Some in the group were ardent birders, while others were fairly new to the game. By virtue of participating in, now, two dedicated birding trips, Kathy and I must be considered “birders”. While that might be so, however, we both do not keep life lists, which disqualifies us as serious birders, whose aim always is to add “lifers” to their life lists. My primary attraction to birding has lately become a quest to photograph birds, more than merely to check new birds off the list. Our guide, Erich Guzman, was, of course, the single most important individual in the mix. As was the case with our guide in Ecuador, Edwin, he was an exceptional individual. And, in a similar fashion to Edwin, Erich had an “eagle eye” – the ability to spot birds in dense foliage that far exceeded the rest of us; carried a Swarovski spotting scope; and had the means to play bird songs to attract them to us. What Erich added was the invitation to use our iPhones in conjunction with his spotting scope to take “digiscope” photos of birds. Such photos are usually of higher resolution than those taken by all but the most expensive DSLR cameras, equipped with long lens. Kathy took such photos on a number of occasions, and they are included in what follows. The camera I used exclusively is the Nikon Coolpix P900, a superzoom that zooms to 83X. The photographs I present here range from very sharp to considerably less so, but all serve the larger purpose of documenting as fully as possible the birds we saw, which totaled 245 species. The first two photos seen below were taken at the Villa San Ignacio, located in the San Jose suburb of Alajuela (the first night’s lodging that Kathy and I missed), and the second two beside a pond that was located along the road that we followed on our departure from Alajuela.

Clay-coloredThrush(SanJose)DSCN4051

Clay-colored Thrush, photographed at a feeder at the Villa San Ignacio, Alajuela. The National Bird.

Hoffman'sWoodpeckerDSCN4090

Hoffman’s Woodpecker, photographed at the same feeder as above

NorthernJacana(SanJose)DSCN4052

Northern Jacana

Orange-chinnedParakeet(SanJose)DSCN4059

Orange-chinned Parakeet

The Villa Lapas is set in a lush lowland rainforest, bisected by a clear creek. The grounds and the creek upstream of the hotel abounded in birds.

Fiery-billedAracarisDSCN4182

Fiery-billed Aracaris, eating palm fruits, on the hotel grounds.

Fiery-billedAracarisKATH MG_0937

Same as above, but “digiscoped” by Kathy, using Erich’s spotting scope and her iPhone. As can be seen, this method provides better resolution.

Fiery-billedAracarisDSCN4185

Fiery-billed Aracaris

GreatKiskadeeDSCN4239

The Great Kiskadee Flycatcher is seen all over in Costa Rica

IguanaDSCN4079

Iguana

RedFlowerDSCN4261

Ginger family

RiverWavesDSCN4264

The creek, viewed from the foot bridge that connects the two areas of the hotel

SummerTanagerDSCN4232

Summer Tanager

AgoutiDSCN4277

Agouti

ChapelDSCN4276

Chapel, located on the grounds of the hotel

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Palm trunks

White-whiskeredPuffbird(F)DSCN4284

White-whiskered Puffbird (female)

White-whiskeredPuffbirdDSCN4270

White-whiskered Puffbird

White-whiskeredPuffbirdKATH IMG_0972

Same as above, digiscoped

Bare-throatedTiger-HeronDSCN4251

Bare-throated Tiger-Heron, seen along the creek

SteveKATH IMG_0997 (1)

The blogger, iPhone photo by Kathy Miller

What else did we see as we walked the path along the creek? The cryptically-colored snake seen below was passed by seven persons, including guide Erich, before it was noticed. Those seven persons walked within 18″ of the snake. It’s the very poisonous Fer de lance.

FerDeLance(Bothrops asper)DSCN4249

Fer de lance

Our next destination was Carara National Park, located close by to the hotel.

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The park receives much visitation

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Trail sign

Rufous-tailedJacamarDSCN4458

Rufous-tailed Jacamar

Below: 3 second digiscoped movie of the same bird.

TurqBrowedMotmotDSCN4208

Turquoise-browed Motmot

Turquoise-browedMotmotDSCN4210-Edit

Same as above, with caterpillar prey

Turquoise-browedMotmotDSCN4212

Turquoise-browed Motmot

ScarletMacawDSCN4204

Nesting Scarlet Macaw. Two macaws occupied this and another cavity located just above this one.

ScarletMacawKATHIMG_0946

Same as above, digiscoped

GarteredTrogonBZDSCN4255

Gartered Trogon

GarteredTrogonKathIMG_0969 (1)

Same as above, digiscoped

FungiDSCN4189

Fungi. Below: Movie of Leafcutter ants

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Walking stick

Two side-trips provided these owl sightings:

SpectacledOwlDSCN4066

Spectacled owl

ForestTree&TeaksDSCN4060

Old growth, next to plantation of teak trees (right)

FerruginousPygmyOwlDSCN4225

Ferruginous Pygmy Owl

FerruginousPygmyOwlIMG_0953

Same as above, digiscoped

WhiteFlowerDSCN4221.jpg

Ginger family

Our last outing was a boat trip to the estuary and mangrove forest of the the Rio Tarcoles.

RioTarcolesDSCN4102

Rio Tarcoles, upstream view

Black-neckedStiltDSCN4099

Black-necked Stilt

GreatEgretDSCN4154

Great Egret

Boat-billedHeronDSCN4112

Boat-billed Heron

GreenKingfisherDSCN4115

Green Kingfisher on a mangrove root

MangrovesDSCN4127

Mangrove forest

MangroveSwallowDSCN4129

Mangrove Swallow

Osprey&StorkDSCN4101

Osprey on the left, and Wood Stork on the right. Discarded fishing net is seen in the foreground

RoseateSpoonbillDSCN4153

Roseate Spoonbill

RoseateSpoonbillDSCN4158

Same as above

RoseateSpoonbillsDSCN4174

Roseate Spoonbills

ScarletMacawsDSCN4081

Scarlet Macaws

ScarletMacawsDSCN4084

Same as above

GreatEgretsDSCN4145.jpg

Roosting Great Egrets

RioTarcolesDSCN4177

Evening at the Rio Tarcoles estuary

RioTarcolesDSCN4178

Looking out of the estuary to the Pacific Ocean at sunset

We departed the Villa Lapas after two nights, for a drive south along the Pacific coastline to the Esquinas Rainforest Lodge, located at Gamba. On the way, we stopped at the Baru Reserve, where we walked some of the trails and had lunch. See map:

CR#1

 

 

About believesteve

I am a photographer and author. I have published a book of photography and accompanying text on running the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon. The first (print) edition is out of print, but a second edition is available as an iBook (eBook) through the iTunes bookstore. All Grand Canyon, river and nature lovers will enjoy my book: The Grand: https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/the-grand/id672492447?ls=1 I have also published five additional iBooks: 1. The Salt River: https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/the-salt-river/id1244922282?mt=11 2. Coyote Buttes: https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/coyote-buttes/id1271773201?mt=11 3. Four Cornered, the Land https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/four-cornered/id1384038899?mt=11 4. Four Cornered, The Rivers https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/four-cornered-book-two-the-rivers/id1402287568?mt=11 5. Rio Marañon https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/rio-marañon/id1415174046?mt=11
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