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Costa Rica Recap - Part 2 of 3

posted by Tim Avery at
on Thursday, July 7, 2011 

Driving down the Pacific coast of Costa Rica, not long after passing Quepos the Palm plantations cease and the lowland Jungles can be seen along stretches of the highway. Of course most of it is quite fragmented by farmland, but none-the-less the amount of forest compared to further up the coast is impressive! My first taste of the real lowland rain forest of the south Pacific would come the afternoon of the 6th day and along with it a variety of new birds.

The Highway just north of Uvita, Costa Rica

Day 6

Leaving the Playa Palo Seco on Friday the 17th we made a stop in Manuel Antonio for lunch. PIRATIC FLYCATCHERS posed outside of Sancho’s on the bluff at the top of the small town. VARIABLE SEEDEATER, RUDDY GROUND-DOVE, and CHERRIE’S TANAGER could all be heard while we ate.

Piratic Flycatchers in Manuel Antonio

After lunch we descended into Quepos and then headed south. A couple miles down the road I spotted a BARE-THROATED TIGER-HERON off the side of the road. The only of the trip it was a spectacular looking bird. A few miles down the road I checked off one of my North American nemesis birds when a WHITE-TAILED KITE flew over the road and dove into a field nearby. Too bad I wasn’t back home to get this long overdue species. As we made our way south the jungles rose from the coast—some in impressive fashion with tree covered cliffs rising right from the side of the road. The rivers seemed to become cleaner as we made our way towards Uvita. The Rio Baru had water that actually looked blue, in comparison to the brown water on all the rivers to the north. The drive didn’t produce and new birds, but it was a scenic hour and a half.

Bare-throated Tiger-Heron along the highway south of Quepos

We made it to Uvita around 2:30pm and headed east through town into the hills. The town had a bank, grocery store and a few restaurants, and was the “biggest” city we went through south of Quepos. The resort we were staying at was a 10 minute drive from the highway up into the hills. If you tried to find it on a map, you would be lost. We had turn by turn directions, but 100 yards from the highway the road turned to dirt and even with those directions we took a couple wrong turns. The road twisted and at points seemed to be going straight up the mountain. Switchbacks did not exist. Pretty soon we made it to the gate, and as we pulled in I had to stop as there were birds all over on the hillside across the road. CHERRIE’S TANAGER, HOUSE WREN, and VARIABLE SEEDEATER were all moving across the hill.

We checked in a few minutes later and while they were getting everything ready I spotted a CHESTNUT-MANDIBLED TOUCAN in the tree above the main building. It ended up flying right over me and landing about 100 feet away in great light. At the same time I heard what I thought was an Aracari, and after scanning the trees across the resort where we drove in I spotted 2 FIERY-BILLED ARACARI in a tree that over the next 3 days would produce a number of life birds. All the while ORANGE-CHINNED PARAKEETS were making a racket from the trees behind the main building, and a number of other birds I couldn’t ID by sound were calling and singing all around. Two SWALLOW-TAILED KITES circled overhead providing great looks before they disappeared.
Over the next two hours on the trail to our cabin, and from the porch of our cabin the lifers kept on coming. BLACK-STRIPED SPARROW, YELLOW-BELLIED ELEANIA, GOLDEN-HOODED TANAGER, THICK-BILLED, SPOT-CROWNED, and YELLOW-THROATED EUPHONIA, SHORT-BILLED PIGEON, and BUFF-THROATED SALTADOR were all added pretty quickly.

Numerous flocks of WHITE-CROWNED PARROTS flew over. During the following days, MEALY PARROTS and BROWN-HOODED PARROTS also made appearances overhead as well. Darkness came quickly and the birds went away with them

Day 7

The road leading up the mountain
above the resort.

Saturday was supposed to be a major birding day around the southern part of the country, but because our first resort wasn’t quite as nice as the second, we decided to just enjoy the resort for the day instead of spending all day in the car. I started off the morning with a quick hike up the mountain along the main road. The birding was phenomenal! In a 150’ stretch of road I had 3 Trogon species with VIOLACEOUS, BAIRD’S, and SLATY-TAILED.

As I watched one trogon I spotted a BLUE-CROWNED MOTMOT, then a COMMON TODY-FLYCATCHER. Several BLACK-STRIPED SPARROWS fed in the understory along the road, while a couple GREEN HONEYCREEPER worked in the trees overhead. The constant clicking of the CHERRIE’S TANAGERs let you know they were around, and the most abundant species present.

After getting a ways up the road I headed back down and a SQUIRREL CUCKOO flew across the road in front of me. Despite its large size it was very difficult to photograph and I only managed pictures of its tail. At the same time I was watching the cuckoo a shot of black flew through my field of view. I found the bird perched up near the power lines and it was a SLATY ANTWREN. It was one of the very few “ant-birds” I saw and/or heard while in Costa Rica. Despite several small ant swarms I never could find the ant birds and other species that were supposed to follow these groups.

Slaty Antwren--the only species of Antwren I saw in Costa Rica

The rest of the morning was spent at the pool where I watched both the Aracari’s and the Toucans again. Flocks of ORANGE-CHINNED PARAKEETs and WHITE-HEADED PARROTs made a constant racket coming and going from multiple directions. As it warmed up the vultures started to appear and after a while I finally spotted a couple KING VULTURE way up in the clouds. I snapped a couple shots that are identifiable, but far from great.

King Vulture soaring over Uvita

In early afternoon the clouds rolled in so we took a drive down the coast about 20 miles. There weren’t a lot of birds but we did come across a flock of GRAY-HEADED CHACHALACAs—the only of the trip. We headed back to the resort in a torrential downpour and after a couple wrong turn made it back to our resort surprisingly easy despite the terrible road conditions. The rest of the day was spent napping and enjoying the air conditioning in our villa.

Day 8

Started off the morning in the same fashion as the day before, walking up the road. On this day I walked further up as there wasn’t a ton of activity. On my way out of the resort I ran in to two hummingbirds that were new for the trip—PURPLE-CROWNED FAIRY and a LONG-BILLED STARTHROAT.

The lower portion of the road didn’t turn up anything, but as I got higher up I spotted a few things. A couple more SQUIRREL CUCKOO were around and while I was watching one I spotted a MASKED TITYRA in a tree about a 100 yards away. I decided to work my way closer but got side-tracked when a TAWNY-WINGED WOODCREEPER flew into a tree above me. After watching it I kept moving when I caught flashes of white above and saw several Tityra’s fly in. When I looked at the first one I noticed it had a black cap and was not a masked—but a BLACK-CROWNED TITYRA. However, when I found the second and third birds I saw they were MASKED TITYRAs. A second later I found another capped bird. The 4 were moving through the trees feeding together—made it easy to see both species in a quick period of time.

After the Tityra “flock” moved on I kept hiking up the road when another woodcreeper flew past me and landed about 25 feet away. After studying it for a minute I knew it wasn’t one I had seen before, but I wasn’t sure of the species. I took pictures, and after I got back to the resort I found it in the book as a STREAK-HEADED WOODCREEPER. I made my way up to a flat area where I was at eye level with a lot of the canopy hoping I could spot a few things. I spent about 15 minutes and never saw anything besides TROPICAL KINGBIRDS and HOUSE WRENS. As I was about to leave I heard the grunting of Toucans from the forest nearby. It got closer and all of the sudden two flew right over me about 10 feet overhead. I hoped they would land nearby, but they kept flying until they were out of sight into the jungle.

Heading back down the road there was a two note call from the bushes that kept piquing my curiosity. I couldn’t find the bird, but recorded it, thinking it might be a trogon. It seemed odd as it was pretty low to the ground, but who knows. When I got back to Utah I did some research and found that the birds was a CHESTNUT-BACKED ANTBIRD, and my recording matched up to that on Xeno-Canto. I was able to do this for a few species while there—which I will get to later. Heading back to the villa I spent some time on the porch watching the trees across the road. I caught a glimpse of some movement that appeared to be blue in color and soon found a small flock of honeycreepers working through the tree. Along with the GREEN HONEYCREEPER, were both SHINING HONEYCREEPER and RED-LEGGED HONEYCREEPER. The star of the show however was a single BLUE DACNIS that’s color was amazing. The only downside was the birds were about 200 feet away so the looks at all of the birds weren’t phenomenal.

Blue Dacnis near Uvita

We literally spent the entire rest of the day at the pool as the storm clouds didn’t roll in till around 4pm.

The view over the pool--the Pacific a couple mile away

In the middle of the afternoon a flock of swifts appeared over the resort—they weren’t your average swift as they were enormous. The birds were WHITE-COLLARED SWIFTS and they come in at the size of a small nighthawk. Quite a sight to see a half dozen cruising around about 50 feet overhead. A little later came the coolest sighting of the afternoon—unfortunately I was in the pool and was unable to get any video or photos. A flock of 5 Aracari’s came through the forest and towards the pool. Pretty soon they were in a tree about 50 feet away, and one by one they flew right by the pool. It was pretty cool to see them fly by in the same path, and in a moment they were all gone.

We took a hike in the afternoon to a stream in the forest. We saw exactly ZERO species of birds. I recorded something that kept calling from the understory, but still haven’t figured out what it was. The jungle again showed how strange it was that despite such a lush forest it was dead, and yet a ¼ mile away in the front of our villa there was a constant stream of activity. The forest edges were always the most productive areas, and that was proved on several occasions during the trip. The rest of the day came and went with nothing else of note. In the evening a COMMON POTOO sang from the forest nearby, the first and only of the trip

On my second morning at Uvita as I walked up the road I saw a unique and cool looking animal coming towards me. It turned out to be a White-nosed Coati--the only of the trip.

White-nosed Coati near Uvita

Next will be part 3 of 3, the Mountains...

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Anonymous Mark said...

Wow, great photos! The variety of species is simply amazing.

July 8, 2011 at 8:31 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nice picture of the Woodcreeper. What a splendid looking bird.

July 8, 2011 at 9:44 AM  

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