I took a VENT trip to Costa Rica on July 7-20, 2004, led by Jeri Langham. If you just want the photos, try this page. Or you can see my triplist. If you have a fast connection, you might want to see the map Jeri Langham provided showing our route (1.1 MB).
Wednesday, July 7, 2004: The trip started with a 30-minute delay in Miami due to a mechanical problem. Not a problem since I had plenty of time in hand. There were two of us doing the tour on the same flight and we were met by a driver at the airport in San José.
We got to the hotel around 2pm. We weren't meeting for dinner until 7, so there was time to do a little birding around the hotel. This also left time for some unpacking, reorganizing, and waiting for the afternoon rain to end in between a little birding.
My first try started slowly with a big kettle of Black Vultures. Then I got several lifers, starting with Blue-and-white Swallow. I heard a bird singing that sounded like a Field Sparrow with an introduction. It was on a wire and turned out to be a Rufous-collared Sparrow. This sparrow has a crest! Near the restaurant, were Clay-colored Robin and several Blue-gray Tanagers. Then rain pushed me inside.
When the rain ended, I figured that some of the birds might come out to dry. Almost immediately I found a Grayish Saltator. This was soon followed by Great Kiskadee and Rufous-naped Wrens. I spent some looking around and getting better looks before finding any new birds. I particularly enjoyed seeing the Blue-gray Tanagers hawk insects. A Rufous-tailed Hummingbird flew around in a fig tree before stopping at a Bottlebrush.
At this point our guide, Jeri Langham, put in an appearance (he had been scouting) and told me that the specialty bird here was the Melodius Blackbird. At this point one appeared on the fence around the tennis court! A Yellow-faced Grassquit brought the day's total to 18, with 9 lifers.
El Rodeo County Inn, San Antonio de Belèn
Thursday, July 8, 2004 Today we got an early start, with breakfast at 4:30. Our driver, Santiago Morales, was there with his bus. It's the same bus we would use with a full tour of 14. Since there are only 5 of us, it's very spacious! We headed toward Carara.
A short roadside stop at an overlook brought me a couple of new birds Rufous-capped Warbler and Yellow-bellied Elaenia. Yellow-green Vireos were present, but I did not get a proper look.
Our next stop was a snack/bathroom break at Orotina, but birds were there too. This Yellow-green Vireo was more cooperative. We also enjoyed cheese empanadas and Red-legged Honeycreeper at this stop.
A short distance away in the Orotina town square, we saw Social Flycatcher, flyover Orange-chinned Parakeets, a staked-out Black-and-white Owl (photo), Cinnamon Hummingbird, Hoffman's Woodpecker, and Rose-throated Becard (photo). Some other parrots also flew over without ID.
We stopped at a marsh near the Rio Tárcoles, where we found Ringed Kingfisher, Wood Stork, various herons and egrets, Purple Gallinule, and both Bare-throated Tiger-Heron and Norther Jacana.
We walked over the Rio Tárcoles bridge, finding many American Crododiles, Scrub Euphonia, Scaly-breasted Hummingbird, Variable Seedeater, Streaked Flycatcher, Cherrie's Tanager, Blue-black Grassquit, Collared Plover (on the flats), Groove-billed Ani, and Scarlet Macaw (flyover). We were not far from the river when Muscovy Ducks were found at some wet spots.
In a matter of minutes, we reached Villa Lapas. After checking in, we went to Reserva Biológica Carara to do the "road trail". The road trail brought me 18 lifers!
- Lesser Greenlet
- Dot-winged Antwren
- Tawny-crowned Greenlet
- Black-hooded Antshrike
- Rufous-and-white Wren
- Rufous-breasted Wren
- Gray-necked Wood-Rail
- Orange-collared Manakin
- Tropical Gnatcatcher
- Tawny-winged Woodcreeper
- Streak-headed Woodcreeper
- Royal Flycatcher (photo)
- Violaceous Trogon
- Thick-billed Seed-Finch
- Buff-throated Saltator
- Chestnut-backed Antbird (photo)
- Orange-billed Sparrow
- White-whiskered Puffbird
Wow! And that doesn't even include the heard birds such as the Collared Forest-Falcon that we couldn't track down.
After all that hard birding, we returned to Villa Lapas for lunch! We then took a break before heading toward the Tarcol Lodge to scan the Rio Tárcoles mudflats. On the way, we found Ruddy Ground-Dove. It started raining once we got to the Tarcol Lodge. No problem, the porch roof protected us while we scoped the flats. Mangrove Warblers (Yellow Warbler unless they split them) were seen flitting around in the nearby low vegetation. The Mangrove Warblers were singing and their song is distinctly different from either the Northern Yellow Warbler or the Cuban (Golden) Yellow Warblers that breed in extreme south Florida.
The various shorebirds we spotted were trip birds but not lifers. Jeri believed some very distant birds at the river mouth were Lesser Nighthawks. Although they did have a nighthawk shape, we all had considerable skepticism due to the extreme distance. As it turned out, we were able to confirm the sighting the next day when we took a boat to the river month.
After dinner, we drove south of Jaco in search of nightbirds. We found 3 Striped Owls, 2 Barn Owls, a Boat-billed Heron, a Common Pauraque, 3 Common Opossums, and a road-kill Fer-de-lance. The owls were well-seen, but the Paraque is definitely a "BVD" bird at this point (that will change!). We got back quite late, I think around 11pm. It was a long, long day with incredible birding! I saw 93 species, including 46 lifers (plus Mangrove Warbler in the split bank), bringing the trip total to 99/55.
Hotel Villa Lapas, near Carara
Birding the Pacific Lowlands near Carara
Friday, July 9, 2004: At dawn, we rode up the hill to the trailhead for the Villa Lapas Skyway Trail. The trail is 1.5 miles long and crosses 5 suspension bridges that get you partway up the canopy. When we got there, the gate was locked! Santiago drove back down to get the key while we birded near the trailhead. I liked this trail, which crosses several ravines on hanging bridges. We got decent looks at a flock of woodcreepers while crossing one of the bridges. I got 10 more lifers on this pre-breakfast excursion
- Black-headed Trogon
- Mealy Parrot
- Dusky Antbird
- Brown Jay
- Northern Bentbill
- Long-tailed Manakin
- Cocoa Woodcreeper
- Northern Barred-Woodcreeper
- Black-tailed Flycatcher
- Blue-crowned Motmot
After the hike, it was time for breakfast. Before heading out for a boat ride, we saw a Short-tailed Nighthawk at Villa Lapas. Then we drove over to the boat for a ride on the Rio Tárcoles.
Mangrove Swallows were often with us on the boat ride. We covered a lot of territory, going to the mouth of the Rio Tárcoles were we got out and walked on the beach. In the main channel we way we spotted Mangrove Black-Hawk and numerous waders and waterbirds including Boat-billed Heron (photo), a couple of young Bare-throated Tiger-Herons (photo #1, photo #2) and Neotropic Cormorant (photo).
As we approached the mouth, we could see the Tarcol Lodge. There was a spit of land on one side that we had scoped from the lodge yesterday. It had a number of Lesser Nighthawks, confirming yesterday's sighting. We got out and crossed the spit. On the other side were Laughing Gulls and Royal, Sandwich, Common, and Elegant Tern.
Next, we poked into several mangrove-lined creeks, finding Cinnamon Becard, Tropical Pewee, Northern Scrub-Flycatcher, and other species. Unfortunately, I was unable to get on the endemic Mangrove Hummingbird that everyone else saw. Before we returned we also spotted Yellow-headed Caracara and White-shouldered Tanager.
We returned to Villa Lapas for lunch and a break. Afterward, we did the figure-eight trail at Carara. We have a really quiet group on the trails. I think I was the only one who got a really good look at a Black-faced Antthrush that was on the trail. We also added Chestnut-mandibled Toucan, Blue-crowned Manakin, Ruddy Quail-Dove, and Riverside Wren. It was interesting to see how similar the behavior of this Quail-Dove was to the Key West Quail-Doves I had seen previously at both Baggs and Birch.
After dinner, we went owling again. We only spent a short time owling, but found a young Spectacled Owl, a Pacific Screech-Owl, and another Black-and-white Owl. Today brought 83 species including 25 lifers, for a trip total of 127/80.
Hotel Villa Lapas, near Carara
Journey to Monteverde
Saturday, July 10, 2004: Today we started later, loading the van at 6:15, followed by breakfast. I finally caught up on the Common Tody-Flycatcher when we finally refound the nesting pair seen a couple of days ago at Villa Lapas. We also added Thick-billed Euphonia before leaving Villa Lapas.
Another stop at the Tárcoles Bridge brought several new species: White-collared Seedeater, Turquoise-browed Motmot, Gray-breasted Martin, and Plain Wren. A little further up the road we found Stripe-headed Sparrow, and flyover Crimson-fronted Parakeets.
We visited Puerto Caldera. Seabirds and shorebirds were few and far between. A short walk in the mangroves brought looks at some now-familiar birds, including Rose-throated and Cinnamon Becards and Black-hooded Antshrike as well as one new one: Gray-crowned Yellowthroat.
We left Pan-Am Highway at Yomale to head uphill to Monteverde. After lengthy search, a calling Lesser Ground-Cuckoo finally showed itself. This bird was worth the wait. It's a shame that such a pretty bird is called "Lesser". On the way up we got a stunning view of the Nicoya Peninsula.
As we neared Monteverde, we saw Keel-billed Toucan, Ruddy Pigeon, and Black-faced Solitaire. The road to Monteverde is quite rough and made the drive seem much longer than it is. We finally arrived at Hotel Fonda Vela near Monteverde (area map). By then, we were ready for lunch. We did some balcony birding before our meal was ready, quickly racking up Three-wattled Bellbird (supposedly tough to find), Elegant Euphonia, Golden-browed Chlorophonia, and Mountain Elaenia.
After lunch and a break, we visited the Hummingbird Gallery at Monteverde. We found six species of hummingbird: Stripe-tailed Hummingbird (photo), Purple-throated Mountain-gem (photo), Coppery-headed Emerald, Green Violet-ear, (photo), Violet Sabrewing, (photo), and Green-crowned Brilliant. Besides photographing the hummers, we also held our hands next to the perches on the feeders. The hummers actually perched on our hands to feed! A Bananaquit was also visiting the feeders.
After dinner, we went owling again. Although the only owls were some heard-only Mottled Owls, we had great luck with the mammals, finding 2 Racoons, 1 Olingo, and 3 Kinkajous.
Today's totals were 78 species, 23 lifers, and trip total of 157/103.
Hotel Fonda Vela, Monteverde
Sunday, July 11, 2004: It rained much of the night and there was still plenty of wind and rain this morning. Rather than go out in the storm, we stayed at Fonda Vela and birded from the balcony. Yes, there were life birds to be had right at our hotel! We got a nice selection of birds including Steely-vented Hummingbird (Rainbow-backed Hummingbird would be a better name), Yellow-crowned Euphonia, Masked Tityra, Resplendent Quetzal (photo #1, photo #2), and Emerald Toucanet. Niño, the bus driver for the Borderlands tour that kept crossing our path, spotted the Quetzal in an aguacatillo (little avocado). We walked out to it during a break in the weather.
The rain cleared some, and we headed down to the cheese factory for ice cream (Jeri is an ice cream fanatic). Just before getting there, we spotted a flock in some bushes which included Red-legged Honeycreepers (photo), Scarlet-thighed Dacnis, and a couple of birds that got away, including a probable Orange-billed Nightingale-Thrush.
After lunch and a short break, it was time for the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve, Reserva Biológica Bosque Monteverde. We took the Sendero Bosque Nuboso trail up, walked upslope from it's intersection with El Camino to the continental divide and then back along El Camino, a total of roughly 3 miles. New birds for me were: Ochraceous Wren, Common Bush-Tanager, Gray-breasted Wood-Wren, Slaty-backed Nightingale-Thrush, Collared Redstart, Spotted Barbtail, Mountain Robin, Yellowish Flycatcher, Black Guan feeding on berries, and Three-striped Warbler. The cloud forest itself was wonderful, with areas of rain and fog adding to the experience.
After dinner, we went owling again. We started with a pair of Hoffman's Two-toed Sloths (photo). We then tracked down a calling Bare-shanked Screech-Owl (photo) at the Hummingbird Gallery. We were amazed by all of the bats using the hummingbird feeders at night. We followed this with Kinkajou, Alston's Mouse Opossum, Central American Wooly Opossum, 4 Racoons, and a Mottled Owl (photo).
Today's totals were 37 species, 20 lifers, and trip total of 177/123.
Hotel Fonda Vela, Monteverde
Cloud Forest and Ecological Farm
Monday, July 12, 2004: The Black-breasted Wood-Quail were calling early. There calls were sooned joined by Charlie Gomez's tape as he enticed them into view for the Borderlands group. We would wait until tomorrow to see them. After breakfast, we went back to the Cloud Forest Reserve and headed up El Camino. Although it was not particularly birdy, I still got 9 lifers: White-throated Robin, Spangle-cheeked Tanager, Ruddy Treerunner, Slate-throated Redstart, Spotted Woodcreeper, Azure-hooded Jay, Red-faced Spinetail, Prong-billed Barbet, and Streak-breasted Treehunter. The Guan was again feeding on the berries!
During another visit to the Hummingbird Gallery we spotted a new woodcreeper in the woods. Jeri was nowhere near, so we had to ID it ourselves! Fortunately, we were up to the task. We collected fieldmarks, consulted the book, and added Olivaceous Woodcreeper to the list.
After lunch, a break during which Ken, Diane, and I had a rather too close encounter with army ants, and an ice cream stop at the Cheese Factory, we visited the Finca Ecologica Monteverde, the Ecological Farm. It's part shade coffee and banana plantation, part forest. New birds for me were White-eared Ground-Sparrow (catching up with the others), Canivet's Emerald, and Green Hermits at a lek. Although the Orange-billed Nightingale-Thrush called, good looks continued to elude us. Unusually, there was no owling tonight.
Today's totals were 48 species, 13 lifers, and trip total of 191/136.
Hotel Fonda Vela, Monteverde
Lake and Vólcan Arenal
Tuesday, July 13, 2004: This morning we left Fonda Vela behind (with regret, it was the nicest place we stayed at). Before we left, we tracked down the Black-breasted Wood-Quail. The birds were extremely uncooperative, refusing to call. Still, we were not deterred and managed to find an adult with a bunch of chicks.
We returned to the Ecological Farm. This time, we got the Orange-billed Nightingale-Thrush right away, even before we were out of the bus! We also found Ruddy Woodcreeper, Smoky-brown Woodpecker, Orange-bellied Trogon, and Gray-headed Chachalaca. Although Jeri and I saw the Chiriqui Quail-Dove on the path, the others were lagging behind and missed it. We tried very hard to refind the bird, but without success.
A ridge stop as we were leaving the Monteverde area produced some Swallow-tailed Kites. As we headed down the hill, we found nesting Yellow-throated Euphonias (photo of male at nest hole). We also turned up our first Montezuma Oropendolas. We drove around Lake Arenal to get to the volcano. Although Arenal and Monteverde are close, there is no direct road. You have to go around the lake, which is time-consuming. I'm told you can get there faster on horseback using the direct route.
We retuned to pavement just before reaching Tilarán. A lunch stop at Tramonti's Pizza at "Nuevo" Arenal added Black-cowled Oriole. We also saw Red-billed Pigeon, Pale-vented Pigeon, Crested Guan, and Boat-billed Flycatcher (a catch-up bird) as we circled the lake. There were also Passerini's Tanagers present, but I didn't see them well until later.
Arriving at Arenal Observatory Lodge, we quickly added Passerini's Tanager, Black-striped Sparrow, Blue Dacnis, Golden-hooded Tanager, and Palm Tanager at the feeders. Based on the sounds, the volcano seemed to be erupting, but the clouds prevented us from seeing it. We never did get a clear view of the volcano.
A short night trip brought us Common Opossum and a Pauraque almost close enough to touch! That gets it off by BVD list!
Today's totals were 63 species, 19 lifers, and trip total of 214/155.
Arenal Observatory Lodge
Birding around the Arenal Observatory Lodge
Wednesday, July 14, 2004: We started early, looking for hummers and other birds from the tower in our part of the lodge. Many of them seem to particularly like the local porterweed (Stachytarpheta franzi, I think). We started out with Violet-headed Hummingbird, Green Thorntail, Violet-crowned Woodnymph, Brown Violet-ear, and Blue-throated Goldentail, as well as Steely-vented and Rufous-tailed Hummingbirds. A Bronzed Cowbird chick was being fed by a Black-striped Sparrow. They also put fruit out at the lodge, which attracted many species including Crimson-collared Tanager and Green Honeycreeper.
After breakfast, we birded down the hill. The main strategy is to walk down the road. It was overcast and rainy, so we sometimes hopped into the bus to get out of the rain. As is often the case, this type of weather led to exceptional birding. I added 14 lifers: Gray-capped Flycatcher, Collared Aracari, Black-throated Wren, Black-throated Trogon, Tropical Parula, Black-headed Saltator, Yellow Tyrannulet, Southern Rough-winged Swallow, Long-billed Starthroat, Pale-vented Thrush, Long-tailed Tyrant, Olive-throated Parakeet, Giant Cowbird, and Chestnut-collared Swift.
We again watched the feeders during lunch. It got really stormy while we were eating. Jeri's timing on the rain has been excellent! We have somehow always been under cover when it gets really stormy. This continued throughout the trip.
After lunch, a Bronze-tailed Plumeleteer was spotted visiting some heliconia near the lodge. We again headed down the hill, stopping at the casona (part of the lodge). We quickly found a White Hawk at the overlook and White-breasted Wood-Wren and Short-billed Pigeon nearby. We then continued down the hill and continued to add new species! It amazed me how many new birds we were getting by just birding along the road. They included: Black-cheeked Woodpecker, Rufous-tailed Jacamar, Tufted Flycatcher, Plain Xenops, Band-backed Wren, White-throated Crake, and White-collared Swift. It took a lot of effort to get even a glimpse of the two White-throated Crakes. Believe it or not, some birds got away!
It was rainy on and off in the evening when we went owling. We found a Crested Owl, more Pauraques (photo), and a Central American Bullfrog during our night birding, before it was curtailed due to heavy rain. The Crested Owl was my 33rd lifer today. It's hard to believe I could see so many lifers after being in the country a week and already seeing over 150 new species before today.
Today's totals were 80 species, 33 lifers, and trip total of 248/188.
Arenal Observatory Lodge
Vista Cinchona and La Paz Waterfall Gardens
Thursday, July 15, 2004: It wasn't raining when we got up, so we loaded the bus first thing. This was a good move since it was pouring during breakfast! We didn't get any new birds at the feeders, although we saw about 25 species before leaving. At a creek down the road we added Buff-rumped Warbler. A little farther down the road we got Great Antshrike and Purple-crowned Fairy. We made a brief stop in La Fortuna for supplies, and stopped at Muelle for the green iguanas. Somewhere along the way we found Red-lored Parrot. Our next stop was Vista Cinchona. They have feeders, and the feeders had birds. We added Silver-throated Tanager (photo), Red-headed Barbet (photo), White-bellied Mountain-gem, and Admirable Hummingbird. While we were there, I also got photos of a variety of birds including Green Violet-ear, Brown Violet-ear, Coppery-headed Emerald, and Blue-gray Tanager.
On the way up to La Paz Waterfall Gardens we found a Torrent Tyrannulet with nest at the bridge by the bottom waterfall. We ate lunch at La Paz. While we were there we saw many of the same birds as at Vista Cinchona, but did manage to add Yellow-thighed Finch. Retracing our path, we again stopped at Vista Cinchona adding Magenta-throated Woodstar, which I managed to recognize as a woodstar while Jeri was puzzling over it (it's similar to a Bahama Woodstar). I also got photos of Purple-throated Mountain-Gem, Green Thorntail, Emerald Toucanet, Montezuma Oropendola, a pet Mealy Parrot, and another Coppery-headed Emerald. The fog was closing in as we left. We attempted to bird the road at La Virgen del Socorro, but rain and fog ended the attempt. We did get White-naped Brush-Finch. Our visit there on the last day of the trip was much more productive!
It was almost dinner time when w got to Selva Verde Lodge. After dinner, we went nightbirding. We found a Great Potoo perched at the top of a tall tree near La Selva Biological Station.
Today's totals were 81 species, 13 lifers, and trip total of 261/201.
Selva Verde Lodge
Friday, July 16, 2004: Before breakfast, we did some birding right outside our rooms at the Selva Verde Lodge. There were a number of birds we had already seen, ranging from Orange-billed Sparrow to Keel-billed Toucan. There were also several new species: Rufous Piha, Gray-rumped Swift, Lesser Swallow-tailed Swift, Olive-backed Euphonia, Black-crowned Tityra, Rufous Mourner, and Squirrel Cuckoo (a catch-up bird for me).
One of our group tripped down the stairs after breakfast. To be on the safe side, Jeri took her to the local hospital while leaving the rest of us at La Selva Biological Station. We had a local guide, Rodolfo Alvarado, who found us some birds while Jeri was taking Lois to the hospital. Rodolfo was incredible at spotting hidden birds in the forest. Before we even got in the forest we added White-necked Jacobin and Blue-chested Hummingbird before crossing the bridge, Scarlet-rumped Cacique from the bridge. In the forest we got Pale-billed Woodpecker, Dusky-faced Tanager, Semiplumbeous Hawk, Ochre-bellied Flycatcher, Slaty-tailed Trogon, Black-capped Pygmy-Tyrant, Broad-billed Motmot, Rufous Motmot. and Paltry Tyrannulet. Returning across the bridge we added White-ringed Flycatcher, White-necked Puffbird, Shining Honeycreeper, and Yellow-billed Cacique. I didn't realize I'd seen the cacique at the time as Scarlet-rumped was also present. Later, when I got a good look at the bluish eye of the Scarlet-rumped, I understood why Darlene had stressed the eye color of some the caciques and added Yellow-billed to my list. We also saw some Honduran White Bats (White Tent Bats) roosting under a heliconia leaf. They chew along the leaf stem to fold the leaf. They looked like little cotton balls underneath the leaf.
After lunch we returned to La Selva in time for a real downpour. Fortunately, we were still under the porch roof! When the rain let up, 30 or so Chestnut-mandibled Toucans gathered in the top of a tree. We tried crossing the bridge, and did see a Crested Guan, but Jeri decided it was a little late to do the forest and we headed back to the bus. We did add Chestnut-headed Oropendola before leaving.
Jeri's plan B involved a stop at a local marsh/pasture. We put on our boots and when in search of an interesting bird. A Pinnated Bittern made a brief appearance, but was not well seen. Santiago managed to work around and put the bittern up again which gave us a better look. We tried to lure out some White-throated Crakes that were calling, but without success. We also dipped on the Red-breasted Blackbirds that appear to have been replaced by Red-winged Blackbirds. As we started back to the car, we spotted a young Roadside Hawk on a fencepost.
After dinner, we went owling. We got much better looks at a Great Potoo and two close-up Pauraques.
Today's totals were 76 species, 26 lifers, and trip total of 288/227.
Selva Verde Lodge
Braulio Carillo and Rio Sarapiqui
Saturday, July 17, 2004: Besides the usual morning parrots, oropendolas, toucans, etc., we found a Bright-rumped Attila near our rooms at Selva Verde. A Northern Barred-Woodcreeper landed on a palm frond right over my head, giving me an outstanding view of the barring on its belly.
After breakfast, we headed to Brulio Carrillo and the aerial tram. Before getting on the tram, we walked about some, finding Stripe-breasted Wren, Scale-crested Pygmy-Tyrant, and Lattice-tailed Trogon as well as a brown Eyelash Viper. A Tawny-capped Euphonia was right by the visitor's center.
We split into two groups for the tram. It was interesting to see the canopy up close, but we saw relatively few birds. We added Black-faced Grosbeak and a flyover King Vulture, but missed the Bat Falcon and Ochre-bellied Flycatcher seen by the other tram. No luck with the umbrellabird for either group. A walk on the trails after the tram ride added Tawny-crested Tanager, White-lined Tanager (another catch-up bird), and Olive Tanager.
After lunch, we backed away from an aggressive tiger rat snake which seemed ready to crawl up our legs. A green Eyelash Viper was seen on a trail. Back at the visitor's center a Piratic Flycatcher flew back and forth. While it was doing this, a Yellow-margined Flycatcher also appeared. Part of the group had seen Red-capped Manakin, so we searched for it. Somehow, I kept missing the adult male and could only see a female and immature male. This happened again the next day. I just could not see the obvious males, only the inconspicuous females and immatures. We also found a couple of Emerald Tanagers. On the way back, we tried a couple of hummingbird spots (lots of porterweed), but couldn't add any new ones.
After lunch, we took a boat ride on the Sarapiqui. Great views of Howler Monkeys (photo), Buff-rumped Warbler, more bats, and a very pretty Bay Wren (photo). We had not planned to owl tonight because Santiago wanted to watch the soccer game. We had barely gotten back when the electricity went off (animal in a substation, apparently) and stayed off for some time. Santiago only got to see the end of the game, which Costa Rica lost.
Today's totals were 68 species, 15 lifers, and trip total of 303/242.
Selva Verde Lodge
La Selva Again
Sunday, July 18, 2004: We returned to La Selva today. We got a much better look at a Piratic Flycatcher right after crossing the bridge. A Slaty-tailed Trogon interrupted Jeri's description of the differences between thorns, spines, and prickles. We headed down the Tres Rios trail. It was short on birds, but high on quality. We found a White-fronted Nunbird, which has been absent in recent year. That was followed by an Olive-backed Quail-Dove (third Quail-Dove of the trip). I again showed a talent for seeing female and immature manakins while everyone else was seeing the male White-collared Manakin. A Stripe-throated (Little) Hermit appeared while trying to see the male manakin.
We then returned to main area and took the trail to the Arboleda, hoping for tinamou. Although some were heard, they were not seen. We did find a female Great Curassow with chick. The Arboleda had a Black-striped Woodcreeper, but not much else birdwise. There were more leaf-cutter ants with their multi-lane superhighways, which we also saw on the Tres Rios trail (leaf-cutters were seen almost every day, these were the only superhighways I noticed). We found army ants, but no bird flock with them, so we called it a morning and headed off for lunch.
After lunch, we returned to La Selva, finding White-crowned Parrots near the entrance. We took a different trail and ran into a flock! It was the first real flock of the trip and we spent quite a lot of time with it. Unfortunately, I was unable to get on the Bare-crowned Antbird. However, I did add Chestnut-colored Woodpecker, Cinnamon Woodpecker, Rufous-winged Woodpecker, Plain-colored Tanager, Laughing Falcon, and Lineated Woodpecker. Before leaving, we also added Fasciated Antshrike. There was no owling today. With only one day left, you would expect the trip to be winding down, but Jeri says that if we are lucky tomorrow at La Virgen del Socorro, and if the weather is good at Poas, we could get another 20 species. Hard to believe.
Today's totals were 73 species, 14 lifers, and trip total of 317/256.
Selva Verde Lodge
La Virgen del Socorro and Vólcan Poás
Monday, July 19, 2004: Before breakfast, we tried another area near the lodge. We found Olive-crowned Yellowthroat and Striped Cuckoo. After breakfast we began the journey back to San José.
Our first stop was a La Virgen del Cocorro. I did a quick scan of the trees and spotted a Barred Forest-Falcon. As we walked down the hill, we encountered a big flock of birds, tanagers, woodcreepers, and others. This let us get good looks at birds that had been poorly seen before and added a number of new ones: White-ruffed Manakin, Buff-throated Foliage-gleaner, Slaty-capped Flycatcher, Wedge-billed Woodcreeper, Russet Antshrike, and Long-tailed Woodcreeper.
Vista Cinchona was closed, but a waterfall stop added American Dipper to the trip list. We ate at La Paz Waterfall Gardens again and saw many of the same birds. However, the Ruddy-capped Nightingale-Thrush was new.
We set off for Vólcan Poás. It was drizzling and foggy, but right away we got Black-and-yellow Silky-flycatcher and Large-footed Finch. I was trying to improve my look at the Silky-flycatcher when I had to dash upslope to see the finch. I was still looking at it when a Black-billed Nightingale-Thrush was spotted. Both Sooty-faced Finch and Sooty Robin followed in quick succession. It took a little searching to find the Fiery-throated Hummingbird. We spotted a Poás Squirrel soon afterward. We played tag with a Sooty-capped Bush-Tanager. I think all of ended up seeing it. I was the only one to really see the Peg-billed Finch which stayed hidden in a shadowy part of a bush. We got Slaty Flowerpiercer at about the same time. The observation area seemed disappointing at first due to the fog. We could smell the volcano (like Yellowstone), but couldn't see anything. Then the fog cleared giving us a good view of the crater lake and fumaroles (the volcano itself is more or less dormant). The trail back yielded one last bird, the Zeledonia (aka Wrenthrush). Right after we spotted it some park rangers appeared to tell us it was closing time. Got that bird just in time!
We tried for the other silky-flycatcher on the way down, but without success. We stopped at a nice overlook of San José, but still no new birds. Santiago and Jeri did spot an Acorn Woodpecker, but the rest of us missed it. Amazingly, I got 20 lifers today! Today's totals were 81 species with 20 lifers. The final trip total is 338 species with 276 lifers. This brings my life list to 930. My first trip to the tropics really boosted my life list!
The final dinner was in the president's room at the El Rodeo Steak House. We were joined by Santiago and his wife Magda, and Efrain Roldan, president of Explore Costa Rica stopped by for a while.
El Rodeo County Inn, San Antonio de Belèn
Return to Miami
Tuesday, July 20, 2004: There was some mix-up concerning airport transporation. No one told Santiago he was taking us to the airport! Jeri arranged a cab for Ken and Diane. I decided to go early with Jeri and Darlene to be on the safe side. By then, Jeri was able to get hold of Santiago and he took us to the airport. While waiting for my flight I spent some time watching the Gray-breasted Martins fly about outside the terminal. I also noticed a light-morph Short-tailed Hawk in the distance. There was another hawk that was probably a dark-morph Short-tailed.
The return to Miami was uneventful, although there was a substantial delay at immigration and an unexpected traffic jam on 836 W of the Palmetto due to a accident (plus the expected traffic jam E of the Palmetto).
Thoughts on the Trip
I expect I'll make another trip to this beautiful country in the future. Although I saw lots of birds, Costa Rica has a lengthy bird list. There were lots I didn't see, including some endemics. Costa Rica is one of the wealthier countries in Latin America, it has good accomendations, and you can (usually) drink the water. This all makes travel so much simpler, even if many of the roads are terrible.
I saw birds from many new families. I also got a little sense of the direction that AOU is going in rearranging families. If you've seen the official AOU list, you've seen the asterisks on many species, especially later in the list. Best I can tell, the Bush-Tanagers, Palm-Tangers and some others including our familiar Western Spindalis (photo) are likely to be grouped together in a separate family or sub-family allied with the warblers. Birds I saw on the trip from this group included Common Bush-Tanager and Sooty-capped Bush-Tanager. It's not too much of a stretch to say there is a family resemblance. Another change may group the "quits" together with Antillean and Cuban Bullfinches, Darwin's Finches, and some other birds as a Tanager subfamily. There the resemblance is not so obvious. Of course our own "tanagers" will likely move to the Cardinal family.
I also got a look at both shade-grown and sun-grown coffee plantations. The yield on the sun coffee is obviously much higher, I later looked it up and found it is typically about 3 times the yield. Put another way, it requires 3 times the land to produce the same amount of coffee. That high land requirement makes me quite skeptical about the claimed benefits of shade-grown coffee. One can make an argument that using shade-grown coffee encourages the destruction of primary forest. In this regard, I think we should recall what happened in the US in the 20th century. Rapid increases in agricultural productivity resulted in a reduction in farmland. Some of that land has been allowed to return to forest or prairie, other has been converted to other uses, which has meant that existing forest and prairie did not need to be converted.