Costa Rica part 4: Rio Grande de Tarcoles and Carara National Park; 8th-10th April 2017   Leave a comment

 

This post covers the boat trip on the Rio Grande de Tarcoles and our time at Carara National Park.

 

After departing the Rio Rincon area (which was covered in the last post) we headed north along the Pacific coast until we reached the Rio Tarcoles. We spent much of the afternoon on the river seeing a great variety of birdlife.

 

Amongst the many species present were White Ibis ….

 

…. here with a Roseate Spoonbill,

 

…. adult Little Blue Heron (immatures are predominately white) unfortunately it lined itself up with some discarded plastic.

 

…. Tricoloured (formerly Louisiana) Heron,

 

…. and the diminutive Green Heron,

 

…. but pick of the bunch was the bizarre Boat-billed Heron. Their huge and weirdly shaped bill has evolved to scoop fish and other prey items from the surface of the water, whilst the enormous eyes are an adaptation to a nocturnal existence.

 

Another speciality of the mangroves is ‘Mangrove’ Black Hawk, once thought to be a separate species, it is now lumped in with Common Black Hawk.

 

There are only six kingfishers in the New World (compared to 108 in the Old World) and the appropriately named American Pygmy Kingfisher is the smallest of the six.

 

As we reached the mouth of the river we saw other tourist boats ….

 

…. their main interest seemed to be the enormous (and rare) American Crocodiles ….

 

…. but we also enjoyed more views of the pretty White Ibis ….

 

…. and a camera-shy Roseate Spoonbill.

 

We had the luxury of staying at a lodge near Carara NP for two nights, it was one of those all-inclusive places, so most of us swapped an evening beer for numerous cocktails, but of course we were out at dawn the following morning. The Park was surprisingly busy with tourists, especially by mid-morning and there was quite a grockle-jam to photograph beauties like this Scarlet Macaw.

 

Some of the biggest of the worlds parrots, the raucous screech of the large macaws carries for miles. Many species are threatened due to the demands of the pet trade and indeed some species have gone extinct, whilst others hover on the brink.

 

The acrobatics of a Central American Spider Monkey entertained the crowds.

 

Only Neotropical monkeys have prehensile tails which they can use as a fifth limb and which can support their entire weight.

 

A Tarantula on the path produced gasps of horror from the grockles but many stopped to photograph it.

 

We saw about a dozen species of woodcreeper on the tour but this one, Northern Barred Woodcreeper was one of the best.

 

Antthrushes are placed in a different family from other ‘ant-thingies’. Skulking around the forest floor with their tails cocked up like a tiny chicken, they are one of the great prizes of Neotropical birding. This is Black-faced Antthrush.

 

And here is one of the many ‘ant-thingies’ we saw on the tour, a Chestnut-backed Antbird.

 

Puffbirds are more closely related to kingfisher and jacamars than to the passerines. They have a habit of sitting still for long periods which means that once found they can be easy to photograph. White-winged Puffbirds were unusually common on this trip with up to 20 seen. Although they have quite a large Neotropical range I have never seen more than three on a trip before.

 

We only saw one species of jacamar, Rufous-tailed, but they were quite common and conspicuous.

 

Tanagers are no longer a monophyletic group, some are now placed with the cardinals, others with buntings, whilst seedeaters, saltators and even some grosbeaks have been moved into the traditional tanager family Thraupidae. This means tanagers turn up in many different places in the field guide and checklist. Fortunately this White-winged Tanager is still in Thraupidae.

 

In the afternoon we sat quietly on a little used trail and kept our eyes on a nearby stream in the hope that birds would come to bathe. We didn’t have to wait long until a couple of male Red-capped Manakins appeared.

 

We had extended views of the males (and a female) bathing ….

 

Male manakins are best known for their elaborate displays where a dominant male is ‘helped’ in a coordinated dance routine by a number of younger subordinate males. We didn’t see this with this species but we did in the related Long-tailed Manakin, but I didn’t get any decent photos.

 

Later an impressive Great Tinamou came down to drink. All tinamous are elusive and timid due to a long history of being hunted by humans and we were privileged to see one so well.

 

It’s not very often you get to photograph the undertail pattern of a tinamou.

 

A couple of Central American Agoutis also came to drink.

 

We also had time to bird around the lodge, both after lunch and before departure on the second day. This huge Iguana was entertaining ….

 

…. and we had great view of Turquoise-browed Motmot ….

 

…. one of six species of motmot we were to see on the trip. By the way motmot’s tail feathers don’t grow like this, the birds strip off the barbs with their bills to give themselves their distinctive look.

 

Of course the ubiquitous Clay-coloured Thrush (Costa Rica’s national bird) was present ….

 

…. and so was this multi-coloured Painted Bunting ….

 

…. but pride of place goes to the pair of Spectacled Owls that lived in the huge tree by the dining area ….

 

…. although there was some uncertainty among some of those present as to who actually feeds the baby!

 

On 21st March the sun will be over head at midday at the Tropic of Cancer, the latitude of Cuba or northern Mexico. On 21st June it will be overhead over the northern Amazon, however at midday in mid April its overhead in northern Costa Rica and it certainly felt like it was!

 

On route to some salt pans we stopped by the mangroves to look for Rufous-necked Wood-rail, a species that I have missed on a number of tours. It was in the heat of the day and not surprisingly we dipped.

 

 

 

We were on our way to some salt pans to look at waders (or shorebirds as they say in the New World). I took so many photos of the waders that I thought they deserved a post of their own so this will be following shortly as part five of my Costa Rican narrative.

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