Thursday, January 17, 2019

Costa Rica - Week 2, The Central Highlands and Caribbean Lowlands

Arenal Volcano
From Cano Negro we moved to the central highland mountains at Arenal Observation Lodge and Arenal Volcano National Park. The grounds and surrounding forest are just spectacular, and the beautiful volcano views just add to the magic. The volcano has quit flowing lava from the summit since our last visit in 2002 but it is just as impressive. 

Arenal bird list

Waterfall near the lodge
Arenal Reservoir from the observation deck
Coatimundi were easily seen on the grounds

Central American Spider Monkey

White Hawk
Montezuma Oropendula
Laughing Falcon
Male Great Currasow

Female Great Currasow
A night outing produced a Black-and-White Owl
And a Kinkajou
We headed due east from Arenal for the Carribean lowlands of La Selva Biological Station. Our first stop was at Bogarin Trails, a private nature preserve near the town of La Fortuna. The fruit feeders and trails provided many great birds.

Bogarin bird list

A stop along the way at Rio Fortuna Waterfall for a chance at Lanceolated Monklet didn't produce that bird, but a consolation White-whiskered Puffbird did put in an appearance.

La Fortuna Waterfall

White-whiskered Puffbird

The tropical lowlands extend for miles at close to sea level from the base of the mountains to the coast. La Selva is an important research station adjacent to Central Volcanic Conservation Area and Braulio Carrillo National Park in this area. Susan reached 3000 world life birds here with a beautiful Snowy Cotinga. Yipee!

La Selva bird list

Birding the trails at La Selva
A river runs through it
Semiplumbeous Hawk
Black-throated Trogon

Male White-whiskered Puffbird
Rufous Motmot
Green Honeycreeper
Endangered Great Green Macaw
Great Green Macaw
Spectacled Owl
Dusky-faced Tanager
We finally picked up a few Nicaraguan Seed-Finches here
Nicaraguan Seed-Finch

A quick stop at the El Tapir Reserve on the way back into the mountains netted a Black-crested Coquette, among other hummers.

El Tapir bird list

Black-crested Coquette
Moving back into the highlands, this time on the Pacific side of the mountains, we spent a day plus at the high mountain area of Savegre River Valley (San Gerardo) and the Paraiso Quetzal Lodge. The down jackets we carried in our suitcases for days were busted out for the near freezing temperatures at dusk and dawn. As expected, the birding and scenery were exceptional.

Mountain view from the lodge
And the sunset was amazing
Rio Savegre
Dusky Nightjar
Golden-browed Cholorophonia
Female White-throated Mountain-gem
Flame-colored Tanager
Black-cheeked Warbler
Lesser Violetear
Collared Trogon

Ruddy-capped Nightengale-Thrush

Even though we've been birding hard from dawn to dusk for two weeks, we were up for a night excursion to see one of the toughest owls there is - the Unspotted Saw-Whet. We were out until 1:30 am after a semi-successful outing where we heard three saw-whets and saw a pair of Bare-shanked Screech-Owls.

Bare-shanked Screech-Owl

We awoke bleary-eyed the next morning, and before leaving the central highlands we made one more stop at the high point of the Inter-American Highway - Cerro de la Muerte - at 11,400 feet elevation. Here the target was Volcano Junco, only found in this high altitude Paramo habitat.

Cerro de la Muerte bird list

Volcano Junco
One week to go, the south.

Saturday, January 12, 2019

Costa Rica - Week 1, The Lowlands

Sunrise at Cerro Lodge
It's adventure time again and as usual I'm way behind in updating this blog. When the activities go dawn to dusk and beyond... We're in Costa Rica for three weeks with many of our friends. Good friend Bob Barnes organizes CR trips annually and we're taking advantage. 

We left a few days before the official trip start to get some extra days around San Jose with the chance for a few extra species. The first day was an outing to the Pacific slope lowlands dry tropical forest. On day two we went east to the wet side of the country for some rain forest birding near Rio San Jose. By evening the rest of the group was in and we were ready for the big adventure. Bird lists linked in this account are only a representative sample. 

Pacific Ocean birding
Guacimo Road list
Rio San Jose list

Double-striped Thick-knee
Fasciated Tiger Heron

Cinnamon Woodpecker

Turquoise-browed Motmot

With the group assembled we met our guide Mario Cordoba from Crescentia Expeditions and our expert drivers Alberto (owner) and Rodrigo from Transportes Vitratur were ready to make it all happen. We met Alberto on our 2002 trip to CR and it was great to see him and his family again after so many years.

Our first day was easy, birding around Heredia before heading off to a hotel in San Jose. The specialty here is the locally uncommon Cabanis's Ground-Sparrow.

Cabanis's Ground-Sparrow

Yellow-headed Caracara

We had an early arrival the next morning at Carara National Park, again in the dry Pacific lowlands. The birding was excellent on the park trails all day. As we wrapped up our day on the way in to Cerro Lodge, a Ferruginous Pygmy-Owl sang away in a tree by the road.

Carara bird list

Birding Carara NP. Guide Mario is closest
Northern Schiffornis
Streak-chested Antpitta
Ferruginous Pygmy Owl

The following morning we were off to Rio Tarcoles for a boat trip up river from the mouth, especially for mangrove specialties like Mangrove Hummingbird, Mangrove Vireo and Panama Flycatcher.

Rio Tarcoles boat trip list

White-faced Capuchin Monkey at the lodge
White-throated Magpie-Jay

River boat

View from near river mouth
Wood Stork
Yellow-crowned Night-Heron

American Pygmy Kingfisher

Panama Flycatcher
Lots of Magnificent Frigatebirds cruised over our heads
And plenty of Crocodiles on the bank
A 20+ footer
By evening we were at La Ensenada on the Gulf of Nicoya for a short boat ride again into a mangrove forest the next morning.

Gulf of Nicoya bird list

A  Pacific Screech-Owl at the lodge
Sunset over the Gulf of Nicoya
After the boat ride and breakfast we were heading inland for a visit to Solimar, a private cattle ranch with lots of protected wetlands. The main target here was Jabiru.

Solimar bird list

Solimar Ranch wetlands
We continued inland and northeast, over the divide and into the Carribean lowlands near the Nicaraguan border area of Cano Negro. Morning and evening boat rides on the Rio Frio and into the Cano Negro wetlands were spectacular. An evening outing netted us a Great Potoo.

Cano Negro boat trip list

Rio Frio
Cano Negro Wetlands
Amazon Kingfisher with fish breakfast
Agami Heron. A shy and secretive bird that is difficult to see
Boat-billed Heron
Green Ibis
Green Heron
Green-and-Rufous Kingfisher
Ringed Kingfisher
Russet-naped Wood-Rail
Black-headed Trogon
Lineated Woodpecker
Slaty-tailed Trogon

Great Potoo

On the way out of Cano Negro we stopped near the Nicaraguan border town of Los Chiles and the Medio Quesa marsh. Targets included Pinnated Bittern, Nicaraguan Seed-Finch (missed here but seen later in the trip) and Nicaraguan Grackle.

Medio Queso Marsh list

Nicaraguan Grackle
Buff-throated Saltator

Golden-olive Woodpecker

Green Iguana
Next up, the Caribbean tropical forests of Arenal, La Selva and more!