Showing posts with label Birding Costa Rica. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Birding Costa Rica. Show all posts

13 July 2014

La Selva Biological Research Station, Costa Rica

Pale-billed Woodpeckers, La Selva

Our first taste of the public bus system in Costa Rica saw us on board a shiny new Chinese-made "Higer" coach, thundering southeast from Los Chiles near the Nicaraguan border to San Carlos. The coach had the customary television rack on the ceiling behind the driver, but mercifully there was no blaring TV in it. 

San Carlos Bus Station
We changed buses at San Carlos, and got to Puerto Viejo in late afternoon. We arrived at Estación Biológica la Selva in a Taxi and picked up our "Welcome Package" from the gate attendant. (On the phone a couple of days earlier, we had booked four nights at La Selva by phone.) The website is here:

La Selva is a protected area of 1,600 hectares of lowland forest at the tip of Braulio Carrilio National Park.  A network of well-maintained paths runs through the site. 

There are plenty of birds around, including this pair of Currassows at the edge of the football field.

Great Curassows - pair

Great Curassows - pair

Nearby, another large and characteristic bird..

Crested Guan

La Selva is not a hotel, so the rooms are rather spartan for the money you pay, and meals are taken in the canteen with the researchers, students and staff. Still, the birds and other wildlife made it great value.

Staff accommodation

In the "other wildlife" category.

Eyelash Pit Viper

The station has a public birding session from mid-morning  and keen birders can hire one of the available guides from 06:00 for a couple of hours at first light. Our rooms were actually a full kilometer from the main station area, but we always saw "good" birds along the broad concrete track between the two places.

Great Tinamou

While there we saw a number of foreign birding tour groups coming and going. Some were staying at the station, but others were obviously staying in the variety of lodges and hotels in the area outside it. With a lot of active birding going on, the visitor can pick up the latest "gen" quite easily.

Snowy Cotinga

Rufous-winged Woodpecker

Semiplumbeous Hawk
A good example of following up "gen" was news that Bare-necked Umbrellabird could be seen near a certain junction of two of the tracks.

Bare-necked Umbrellabird
This was "only" a female, but we were pleased to find it. Another species we stumbled over by ourselves was a party of Purple-throated Fruitcrows.

Purple-throated Fruitcrow

La Selva turned out to be a great way to bring our Costa Rican birding to a conclusion.  We saw a good number of birds that were new to us, even though we had been in Costa Rica for four full weeks by then.  There were "best yet" views, too of species we'd seen before. The birds were relatively unafraid of people, too, so there were some decent photo opportunities.

With generally poor light under the forest canopy, I used the tripod quite a lot at this site. This crocodile was a reminder not to stray off the paths.

A fairly typical example of the "small stuff" on the forest floor. We didn't have any bird tapes, so it took a bit of patience to get a clear view.

White-breasted Wood-Wren

More birds were encountered in the forest between the canteen and our rooms.

Rufous Motmot

Chestnut-mandibled Toucan

Our last night in Costa Rica was back at the Hotel Gavilan, where we said "Adios" to our friends there, including the Spectacled Owls.

From there, we took a taxi to San Jose Airport (2 hours).

While in Costa Rica we saw about 350 bird species. The well-organized or well-guided birder would probably see more birds than we did, but we did it at our own pace, and thoroughly enjoyed it.

And who would have guessed*, Costa Rica's football team did far better than England at the 2014 World Cup.

(*Actually, about four million Costa Ricans could have guessed, probably)

4 July 2014

CAÑO NEGRO… home of the Caiman

American Pygmy Kingfisher

Cano Negro is an area of river floodplain close to Costa Rica’s border with Nicaragua, where the Rio Frio flows towards Lake Nicaragua. We visited at the end of February this year. 

As the lagoons dry out, there is lots of marshy habitat for birds and other wildlife.  If I was in charge, I’d market the area as “Costa Rica’s Okavango Delta”.  Instead of large african mammals, though, there are horses and cattle, so it's not quite the same. 

The far bank of the lagoon at Laguna Guaval

Most of the birding is done by boat along the waterways. 

Boat-billed Heron

We weren't the only birders on the river !

Good all-round viewing

A lot of the daytrippers arrive after nine o'clock, having come all the way from La Fortuna, near Arenal. We were usually finishing our morning boat trips by then, having had the best of the day, we felt.

Spectacled Caiman (Caiman crocodilus)

Hands Up if you're a Northern Jacana


Green Ibis

We did our first two trips with the guy who ran the place we stayed, but he wasn't particularly good at birds. Later, we approached Rosi Arguedas of Paraiso Tropical (office opposite the square and beside the landing jetty path) who spoke English. She told us that their guide, Ernesto Santamaria, was a very keen birder. Ernesto also spoke a bit of English, which turned out to be useful. 
That evening we hired Ernesto (three of us paid US$60) and soon added Green-and-Rufous Kingfishers, Giant Potoo, and Common Potoo to the growing list of birds we’d seen on Cano Negro boat trips. We didn't even have to get out of the boat to see the Potoos. 

Green-and-rufous Kingfisher
With the Green-and-rufous Kingfisher we completed the "set" of green american kingfishers depicted on plate 26 of "Kingfishers, Bee-eaters and Rollers" by Hilary and Kathy Fry, and Alan Harris.

Giant Potoo

Common Potoo

Sunset at Cano Negro

A morning boat trip with Ernesto netted us Agami Heron and Jabiru. He was very willing to lead us ashore here and there when it was necessary to get a view of the specialties. 

Agami Heron (immature)

Jabiru and other stuff at another drying lagoon

Olivaceous Piculets

Black-headed Trogon

Wandering around the area, we enjoyed the general ambience of Cano Negro, with Jacanas feeding like sparrows around grazing horses, and Amazon Kingfishers duelling over the river. 

Northern Jacanas and quadruped

Northern Jacanas and quadruped

Amazon Kingfisher

In the village itself we found some colourful birds near an open-air restaurant. 

Yellow-throated Euphonia

Red-legged Honeycreeper (male)
Golden-hooded Tanager
After three nights and four boat trips, as well as birding along the riverbank on foot, we added over thirty species to our growing Costa Rica list.

20 May 2014

What a Spectacled….

It's raining here in wet-and-clammy late spring Hong Kong, so what better time to air a few more shots from Costa Rica.

(Just when you thought it was all over !)

We got back to San Jose on February 17th, and Nigel Croft headed back to the UK the following day.  Having splashed out on those trans-pacific air fares, though, we stayed on for a couple of weeks longer.

First stop, five nights at Rara Avis, which involved a 12 km horse ride and 3km trek in the forest next to Braulio Carrillo National Park…

Coati- (Nasua narica) 

Most of the Coatis we saw were hanging around picnic areas, so it was nice to see one in a natural setting, albeit with sniffing range of the Rara Avis kitchen….

Atmospheric open-air dining area

And "Thanks !" to Jonathan at Rara Avis for showing us this on one of his Night Walks…..

Ghost Glass Frog - (Sachatamia ilex)

On from Rara Avis to Puerto Viejo de Sarapiqui. We stayed at Hotel Gavilan, a pleasant hotel with a lot of birds in the grounds. Here are a few of them…

Spectacled Owl - (Pulsatrix perspicillata)

Slaty-tailed Trogon - (Trogon massena)

White-collared Manakin - (Manacus candei)
With digital, they sometimes say "If you can see it, you can shoot it…" well we could barely see this male Pauraque, calling from the stump of a fallen palm frond as night fell.  But he was puffing out his white throat patches manfully….

Common Pauraque - calling at dusk

Common Pauraque

There were howler monkeys down by the Sarapiqui River, and sometimes in the trees near the hotel, too.

Mantled Howler Monkey (Female) - (Alouatta palliata)

Then we tore ourselves away and headed towards Costa Rica's border with Nicaragua, namely to 

Caño Negro...

Here's a foretaste of that…

 Gray-necked Wood Rail - (Aramides cajanea)

Ringed Kingfisher - (Ceryle torquatus)

Spectacled Caiman (Caiman crocodilus)

Caño Negro…   home of the Caiman !