Saturday, August 19, 2017

Costa Rica: Parque Nacional Carara, the Finale.

Nearing the end of our stay and with only one more full day left to go birding near San Jose, I had decided the Carara National Park would be the best place to go for the more unusual birds that I had not yet seen.  This park is located on the Pacific Coast about 2 hours out of San Jose and was going to be hot, humid, and most likely mosquito infested.  Chris and Michael had decided to spend the day exploring the city of San Jose, so I was on my own.  Thankfully, Serge Arias, was able to assist me in finding a guide that would take me to this location.  He arranged for a great young man and an awesome birder by the name of Abelardo to take me there and help me do some birding.

This park has a wonderful array of birds and the conditions were pretty much what I expected - humid and wet with plenty of mosquitoes that we had to share space with.  We were well prepared as we carried repellent with us and for the most part it worked, but had to re-apply it from time to time.  It is a tropical rain forest with all kind of vegetation which created a lot of low light conditions.  The conditions, plus my camera a bit off on its ISO settings, created a lot of photography challenges.  I just rolled with the flow and tried to make the best of it.  Even resorted to trying to use a flash in a couple instances. 

I added a total of 18 new life birds in that awesome place that pushed me over the 800 mark easily.  My list of lifers at this incredible spot include:  Gray-cowled Wood-Rail, Long-billed Hermit, Slaty-tailed Trogon, Black-throated Trogon, Lesson's Motmot, White-whiskered Puffbird, Rufous-tailed Jacamar, Scarlet Macaw, Black-hooded Antshrike, Bare-crowned Antbird, Chestnut-backed Antbird, Cocoa Woodcreeper, Ochre-bellied Flycatcher, Royal Flycatcher, Bright-rumped Attila, Orange-collared Manakin, Red-capped Manakin, and Rufous-breasted Wren. Below are some of those that I was able to photograph and many of the photos leave lot to be desired.  But just seeing these birds was a thrill and so glad I explored this park with a great guide.  Thanks to Abelardo for helping me find these birds and thanks to Serge for making arrangements for Abelardo to be my guide.  I highly recommend both as future guides for anyone that plans a trip to Costa Rica.

Black-hooded Antshrike

Black-throated Trogon

Chestnut-backed Antbird

Royal Flycatcher

Rufous-tailed Jacamar

Slaty-tailed Trogon

White-whiskered Puffbird - Female

White-whiskered Puffbird - Male

Orange-collared Manakin (About all one can see is the orange collar!)

Within the park, I was also able to photograph an Agouti and an Owl Butterfly.


Owl Butterfly

Just outside the park and down the road from our entrance to the park, Abelardo, took time out to stop at the river so I could view the resident American Crocodiles.  One of them was quite large!

 American Crocodile

So glad I made the decision to visit this spot and add so many new birds, with the assistance of a really great guide!  A bit THANK YOU to Abelardo and also to Serge Arias for working out the details for me.  Even with all the mosquitoes, it was definitely a day to remember.

The next day we headed back to Liberia since we were flying out from there.  We did have a bit of free time in Liberia and of course we did some birding, when it wasn't raining.  While I did miss out on the Yellow-naped Parrot that Chris and Michael saw in San Jose, I got lucky and was able to add that species to my life list in Liberia. Got some photos of a very cooperative Stripe-headed Sparrow as well.

 Yellow-naped Parrot

 Stripe-headed Sparrow

I started this trip with 689 life birds and finished with 814.  An increase of 125 species was an incredible number of new life birds.  Yes, there is a lot more to explore in Costa Rica, and would love to go back.  Also have several other destinations in mind as well.  These trips are not always inexpensive, so budgeting must be thought out well in advance.  


Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Costa Rica: Talamanca Highlands and Beyond

For the next adventure of birding, Serge offered to take us to a place that was definitely not on my radar, but it turned out to be another awesome spot with another round of different birds!  The main stop was the Paraiso Quetzal Lodge where we spent a lot of time with the birds and had a great lunch there as well.  Guess what???  More hummingbirds and different species as well!  It is amazing that many of the spots in Costa Rica, which is a relatively small country, have different species.  It is what makes birding in Costa Rica so special.  I ended up adding 24 new species of hummingbirds to my life list on this trip and there are still more to be seen in this country!

Adding 3 new hummingbirds to my life list at this location was great, but in a strange twist of fate, I actually ended up with 4 new hummingbirds for my life list from this location.  The 3 new life birds added were the Fiery-throated Hummingbird, Volcano Hummingbird, and the White-throated Mountain-Gem.  We also had Lesser Violetear and Magnificent Hummingbird at this location.  Two days after returning home to Arizona, we received notice that the AOS (American Ornithological Society) had split the Magnificent into 2 species.  The Magnificent Hummingbird is now called Rivoli's Hummingbird in the northern range, which includes Arizona.  The sub-species that resides in Costa Rica and Panama are now called the Talamanca Hummingbird.  An ironic twist of fate just for seeing and photographing a species already on my life list.  It is often called an 'armchair' lifer.

Fiery-throated Hummingbird

Fiery-throated Hummingbird

Lesser Violetear

Talamanca Hummingbird

Talamanca Hummingbird

Volcano Hummingbird

White-throated Mountain-Gem

Of course there were many other birds to be found at this location and a total of 14 new life birds.  Here are a few photos of some of the rest.  (Got to love those members of the silky-flycatcher family!)

 Black-and-yellow Silky-flycatcher

 Long-tailed Silky-flycatcher

 Long-tailed Silky-flycatcher

Long-tailed Silky-flycatcher

 Black-billed Nightingale-Thrush

 Collared Redstart

 Golden-browed Chlorophonia

 Large-footed Finch

Mountain Thrush

Mountain Thrush - Juvenile

 Prong-billed Barbet

 Ruddy-capped Nightingale-Thrush

 Sooty-capped Chlorospingus

 Spangle-cheeked Tanager

 Slaty Flowerpiercer

Sooty Thrush

Once we departed the lodge, Serge then took us up higher in elevation and over the Continental Divide to a place with very different habitat.  We were searching for 2 endemic species that could be found here; the Volcano Junco and the Timberline Wren.  We succeeded in finding both species!  Unfortunately, I was not able to get a photo of the Timberline Wren, but the Volcano Junco was a bit more cooperative.  Very similar in appearance to our Yellow-eyed Junco in the Sky Islands of Arizona.  

Volcano Junco

  Volcano Junco

Although this was not on our radar, these locations turned out to be an awesome day and I believe that by the end of this day, my life bird count had reached the 792 mark.  I had started out on the Costa Rica trip with 689 life birds and I had already succeeded in adding over 100 new life birds to my list.  Would it be possible to crack the 800 mark before my departure back to Arizona?  I only had one more full day of birding.  What would it bring and what can I do to make the 800 mark happen?  Stayed tuned to the next blog post for the details.


Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Costa Rica: Rancho Naturalista

After Monteverde, we headed for the metropolis of San Jose and we planned 4 nights in this location as it would be an easy place to base any of our day trips.  We teamed up with one of Costa Rica's finest bird guides, Serge Arias.  He is based out of Cartago which is a short distance east of San Jose and he took us to a couple of spots south and east of Cartago where the list of birds were quite different from the northern part where we spent our first nine days.  If planning a trip to Costa Rica, Serge is sure to be an asset for your trip.  

The first day, we headed to Rancho Naturalista, which is might be the best spot in Costa Rica to find the Snowcap, a hummingbird that was high on our list.  If you plan a trip to Costa Rica, please check out Rancho Naturalista and consider making it a destination on your list.

Since the Snowcap was our target bird, we might as well start off this post with that special little hummingbird.  We not only had a nice adult put on a show for us, but a juvenile was visiting the flowers as well.  This is a stunning a beautiful hummingbird!



Snowcap - Juvenile

Here is a video of the adult as well as it was visiting flowers.  Yes, there are people talking in the video, but it was a lot of fun!!!

Of course there were other hummingbirds as well as other species of birds.  

 White-necked Jacobin - Male

 White-necked Jacobin - Male

White-necked Jacobin - Female

  Crowned Woodnymph

 Garden Emerald

 Green-breasted Mango - Male

 Green-breasted Mango - Female

Rufous-tailed Hummingbird

 Blue-gray Tanager

 Brown Jay

 Chestnut-headed Oropendula

 Dusky-capped Flycatcher

 Keel-billed Toucan

Olive-backed Euphonia

Gray-headed Chachalaca

 Banded Peacock

 Green Basilisk Lizard - closeup

 Green Basilisk Lizard - Look at the length of that tail!!!!

 Doris Longwing - Blue Morph

 Doris Longwing - Blue Morph


After leaving Rancho Naturalista, we headed back to the city of Cartago.  On the way, Serge stopped at a pond on one of the campuses of a university.  This was a great stop because we got to add the Boat-billed Heron to our life lists.  If it wasn't for that enormous bill, it would look a little similar to the Black-crowned Night Heron which is very common in parts of the United States.  What a great addition!

 Boat-billed Heron

What a great first day that we spent with Serge.  The next day took us to another fabulous spot for birds and that will be covered in the next blog post.