Archive for the ‘Coati’ Tag

Costa Rica part 8: Arenal Observatory Lodge and La Selva; 18/4 – 19/4 2017.   2 comments

This is the penultimate post from my trip to Costa Rica covering the the Caribbean slope at Volcan Arenal area and a couple of stops on route to La Selva.

 

 

 

The Arenal Observatory Lodge acts as both a tourist lodge and a scientific station keeping a watch on this active volcano. This was one of the prettiest places we stayed with great views from the deck of the volcano ….

 

…. with a plume of steam rising from the summit ….

 

…. and  the nearby lake. This is the same volcano that we saw from San Gerado (see post Costa Rica part 6) which isn’t far away at all, its just that we came the long way round.

 

There were some feeders close to the decking where a number of birds that I have already illustrated, like Red-legged Honeycreeper, were seen. We also regularly saw Bananaquits, this is a species that gets a surprisingly poor press. It is quite pretty and is the only member of the Coerebidae, so of great interest to ‘family collectors’ but because it is common it gets dismissed as a ‘trash bird’.

 

Small birds like Bananaquit are to be expected at feeders but imagining opening your curtains at home and seeing a Great Currasow on your bird table.

 

…. or seeing a whole bunch of Coatis playing around below it for that matter.

 

One of the amazing thing about the lodges in Costa Rica was how tame the cracids had become. Guans, Currasows and Chachalacas have been hunted for millennia and hence are very timid, but here these Crested Guans were just walking around on the lawn ….

 

…. or perched up on a wall.

 

Seeing the turkey-sized female Great Currasow wandering around on the road was a treat ..

…. upstaged perhaps by by the black male with it’s punk crest.

 

Early in the morning we took a trail to a scenic waterfall seeing a nice range of birds but the real excitement happened on the way back.

 

Totally unexpected was this encounter with a Bare-necked Umbrellabird. In my post about Monteverde and San Gerado I explained how we were disappointed that the nearby ‘brollybird’ lek had been abandoned and they hadn’t been seen reliably at the site since 2014. Having given up hope of seeing this mega we were amazed when one flew over the ornamental gardens of the lodge. Initial views were poor but a local guide leading a couple of guests around relocated it and we all got superb views.

 

It wasn’t a full adult but a juvenile male with the start of the ‘umbrella’ (the forward pointing crest that hangs over the bill) and the bare red throat that is inflated in display.

 

It goes without saying that this was the bird of the trip, not just for me but for just about everyone else as well. I was asked earlier ‘if the Zeldonia was number two bird of the trip what ever was number one’, well here it is!

 

As well as birding around the lodge we also visited the area around the lake.

 

The river near the lodge was crossed by a number of suspension bridges, of far better quality than the ones at Heliconia (see last post).

 

Other interesting birds seen in the area included the retiring White-tipped Dove,

 

…. Keel-billed Motmot, which were often paired with a Broad-billed Motmot (bringing their true specific status into doubt)

 

…. and Rufous-winged Woodpecker (hiding it’s rufous wings under the mantle).

 

On the first night at the lodge I had excellent views of Black-and-white Owl, the second night some of us went ‘herping’. First to be seen was this small venomous viper ….

 

…. and at a pond we found this beautiful yellow frog ….

 

…. but the highlight was this pretty Red-eyed Tree Frog.

 

The day we departed Arenal Observatory we headed for private reserve at La Fortuna in the hope of seeing Uniform Crake, this time we did  and very well, we even saw a pair building a nest. As the light level was so low when we set out I didn’t take my camera, which was a mistake as the views were prolonged and as the light improved they were highly photographable. Back at the reception we did see a pair of White-throated Crakes though (above).

 

As on our previous visit Grey-headed Chachalacas were common and tame ….

 

…. and even their small chicks came to the bird table.

 

Other visitors included the ubiquitous Blue-grey Tanager ….

 

…. and Tropical Mockingbird. On my 1981 trip the guide and two of the clients saw this species near San Isidro and it was the first record for the country, since then it has colonised much of lowland Costa Rica.

 

We headed back into the mountains to Cataracta de Torro, a small lodge that has a number of trails, hummingbird feeders and spectacular views.

 

We were just after two species, both of which we saw well; Black-bellied Hummingbird ….

 

…. and White-bellied Mountain-gem.

 

We continued on the mountain roads to Cinchoma were we stopped for lunch. From the cafe we had views of several bird feeders with the backdrop of another waterfall.

 

However within minutes of our arrival the heavens opened and we were caught in a torrential downpour.

 

At least we were undercover!

 

The hummers sheltered under leaves during the worst of the rain but it only had to ease off slightly and they were back. This is a Green Thorntail.

 

I have posted pictures of Green-crowned Brilliant previously, but none catching the light quite like this.

 

…. our old friend Violet Sabrewing put on a good show too.

 

From here we continued to La Selva and the OTS Biological station where we were to stay for the final three nights of the tour. This will be the subject of the final post in this extended series, but here’s a photo from La Fortuna to end on.

 

But of all the wonderful things we saw today, the Red-eyed Tree Frog early this morning was one of the best. In daylight with the pupils contracted and the iris at full size, the red-eyes look totally  amazing.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Costa Rica part 6: Hacienda Solimar, Monteverde and San Gerado. 11/04 – 15/04 2017   Leave a comment

This post covers our time at the Hacienda Solimar in the dry north-west of Costa Rica, the ecotourist resort of Monteverde and the research station at San Gerado.

 

A common bird through much of Costa Rica but especially in the dry north-west was Great-tailed Grackle. The males are much larger than the females and the strange twisted tail feathers looks pretty impressive in flight.

 

Gnatcatchers were more common in these dry area. I find the nomenclature of the two species to be most confusing, this is a female Tropical Gnatcatcher and has pale lores, on the other hand White-lored Gnatcatcher has a dark line on the lores and is identified by the lack of white supercillium in the male or narrow one in the female. We saw a pair of each species together at one point – no wonder I get confused.

 

 

Yellow-naped Amazon was a great find and a life bird for me.

 

In due course we arrived at the lovely Hacienda Solimar where we were to stay for the night.

 

A working cattle ranch, but with areas dedicated to wildlife conservation, we were able to see substantial numbers of waterbirds during our stay.

 

Perhaps the most numerous bird was Black-bellied Whistling Duck ….

 

…. which rose in large numbers when the pair of local Peregrines appeared.

 

But the main prize was the huge Jabriru, the largest stork in the Americas. in the background are White Ibis and an immature Little Blue Heron.

 

Although this was a paradise for birds we were in a bit of a rush as the light had started to fade and we didn’t get out of the vehicle to scope up the wetlands.

 

Fortunately before the sun had set we had good views of a pair of Double-striped Thick-knees, a relative of out Stone Curlews.

 

Sunset over the Hacienda ….

 

…. and moonrise over the mountains.

 

The following morning we saw beautiful butterflies, flushed Spot-breasted Bobwhites ….

 

…. and watched Streak-backed Orioles building their nests.

 

In the dry forest and open pastures we found ….

 

…. Howler Monkeys,

 

…. Black-headed Trogon,

 

…. the huge Lineated Woodpecker and

 

…. another of those tricky Myiarchus flycatchers, this time Nutting’s Flycatcher,

 

…. and the striking Short-tailed Hawk.

 

Banded Wren showed well ….

 

…. and even did a little show jumping for us.

 

Hoffman’s Woodpecker is the common ‘pecker of the arid north-west ….

 

…. and we had more close up views of Lesson’s Motmot.

 

Ferruginous Pygmy-owl is a widespread and relatively common diurnal species and its call is often imitated by leaders in an attempt to drawn other species in.

 

On the other hand the diminutive Pacific Screech-owl is nocturnal but the guy at the guest house knew exactly where one was roosting.

 

The best bird of the morning was this lovely Lesser Ground Cuckoo which I flushed from the grass just yards from the bus as we were about to board. It flew to nearby trees and gave great views.

 

…. but the species of the day and mammal of the trip was this Northern Tamandua, a species of arboreal anteater that Hermann spotted from the moving bus! It slowly climbed down the bough ….

 

…. and then climbed up the main trunk until lost to view in the foliage.

 

After lunch we left the dry lowlands and headed up into the mountains and the ecotourist mecca of Monteverde. When I visited Monteverde in 1981 it was a 25 mile drive on a dirt road to a small Quaker community where there was a research station with basic accommodation and a small hostel. Now it is Costa Rica’s premier ecotourist resort with accommodation that caters for everyone from lethargic backpackers to the well-heeled.

 

As well as catering to birders, the area has several canopy walkways to allow the naturalist and the curious to get close to treetop wildlife, multiple zip-lines for  adrenaline junkies and a nice line in rainbows. East of the continental divide at 1500m  it is pretty wet, but to the west you can see the clouds billowing over and evaporating in the dry Pacific air. It was quite windy, especially in the vicinity of our hotel which was in an exposed location.

 

The area consists of at least three large areas of protected forest. On our first outing we scored birding gold with not just views, but photos as well, of the retiring Chiriqui Quail-dove.

 

Although we saw another Resplendant Quetzal (making it the third location of the trip) ….

 

… the highlight was the amazing Three-wattled Bellbird. To hear it’s incredibly loud song go to http://www.xeno-canto.org/331004

 

Can any other songbird open its mouth as wide as this?

 

A Coati trotting away down the track resulted in this unusual shot.

 

We were only one night at the nice hotel. Leaving most of our gear there the following day we hiked down a wide trail for a couple of hours to a research station at San Gerado on the Caribbean slope where we stayed for two nights. On arrival we had a stunning view of Volcan Arenal further to the east.

 

The accommodation was probably the most basic of the trip, but there were some nice compensations such as complete peace and quiet, a supply of wonderful moths to photograph ….

 

…. and a balcony with great views of Volcan Arenal. Alison is demonstrating how to get into a hammock without ending up on the floor, something I have yet to master.

 

It was a good job we saw Arenal on arrival as this was the view for most of our visit.

 

We had our fair share of mist and rain whilst at San Gerado ….

 

…. but it did clear enough to allow us to bird the nearby pastures and mature montane forest.

 

Our main target was the amazing Bare-necked Umbrellabird which used to lek in a tree some 45 minute walk from the lodge. Unfortunately this lek site has been abandoned since 2014 (although the tour information still says that you have a very good chance of seeing one here). We did see some great birds in the area though. In the pastures around the lodge was a colony of Montezuma’s Oropendolas (above) ….

 

…. and this was the only place on the entire trip where we saw the scarce Blue and Gold Tanager. Another goody was the riverine Sooty-faced Finch which after hours of searching numerous stream-beds was tracked down at a little river close to the lodge just minutes before departure.

 

Raptors included Black-hawk Eagle, the elusive Bicoloured Hawk (above) ….

 

…. and the ubiquitous Turkey Vultures that roosted adjacent to our rooms.

 

After two rather wet nights (and one rather wet day) at San Gerado it was time for the long slog back to Monteverde. I walked, but about half the group paid extra to be ferried on the back of a quadbike.

 

Back in Monteverde we returned to the hotel and visited some great hummingbird feeders nearby. This is a Violet Sabrewing.

 

…. male Green-crowned Brilliant,

 

…. but the chestnut-throated juvenile Green-crowned Brilliants are a trap for the unwary.

 

A male Purple-throated Mountain-gem shows off all it’s best bits.

 

A female Purple-throated Mountain-gem joins a Lesser Violetear at the feeder.

 

Magenta-throated Woodstar was a life bird ….

 

…. as was the diminutive Coppery-headed Emerald.

 

Although we had started to see a number of species of owl, we still were short of Bare-shanked Screech Owl that we had dipped on so spectacularly at Cerro de la Muerta. Pete suggested we go back to the start of the San Gerado track after dark where to everyone’s delight we scored with Mr Bare-shank (but I didn’t get any photos). Later at a restaurant near the hotel we met up with Robert Dean (left), an acquaintance of Pete’s and a Monteverde resident. Robert is the illustrator of the Helm Field Guide to the Birds of Costa Rica. Originally from the UK he once had an interesting career as a rock guitarist and was a member the 80’s band Japan.

 

The following morning we had wonderful views of Black-breasted Wood Quail but I got no decent photos in the gloom of the forest floor. So I’ll conclude this post with another photo of a female Purple-throated Mountain-gem.

 

From Monteverde we drove along the mountain ridge to Celeste Mountain Lodge to the north. This will be the subject of the next post.