Brooklyn Bird Club
Long Pond Greenbelt
|Location: Costa Rica, 2013
Reported by: Joe Giunta
Our group consisted of Joe, Kathy, Al, Isabel, Debbie, Mary Jane, Wolfgang and Ardith. It was the third time that Happy Warblers LLC had sponsored a trip to Costa Rica. The trip was highly successful with a total of 288 species of birds being seen by most members of the group. At the end of the trip it was wished that we could have stayed longer and just enjoyed the wildlife, venues, food, and friendships that were made on the trip.
Feb. 24: Our United/Continental Airways flight, out of Newark/Liberty Airport, took off right on schedule. We were greeted at the airport by our guide, Noel Urena , and our driver Luis. Noel and Luis would remain with us for the next eight days. We stayed the first night at the Hotel Bougainvillea, which was fairly close to the airport.
Feb. 25: We were up early and did some birding on the grounds of our hotel. The Bougainvillea Hotel has about 10 acres of gardens which are richly planted to attract birds. It was a great place to stay and only 25 minutes from the international airport in San Jose. We saw some of the more common birds of San Jose area including Red-billed Pigeon, Blue-crowned Motmot, Grayish Saltator, Blue-gray Tanager and Clay-colored Robin. North American migrants were well represented with Baltimore Oriole, Tennessee Warbler and Yellow Warbler being well seen. After breakfast at the hotel we started our journey towards Celeste Mountain Lodge. We made stops along the way picking up many species. One excellent stop was the La Paz Waterfall Garden. They had many hummingbird feeders and we would see 9 species of hummers very close. Included in these hummers were Brown Violet-ear, Green Thorntail and Purple-throated Mountain Gem. Besides hummers there were a good number of tanagers, including Crimson-collared Tanager. We had lunch at their restaurant. We made another stop at a location where the highway crossed over a river. We picked up American Dipper and Torrent Tyrannulet. The Tyrannulet was on a nest. There was a lot of driving this day and Luis did an excellent job. We came very close to the Nicaraguan border passing through the small town of Upala. We finally reached our hotel, Celeste Mountain Lodge, and prepared for dinner. This hotel has a “French” feel to it and the food is described as “Costa Rican-French Fusion”. This was unique for me. After dinner we went out owling. No owls this night but many pauraques. They sang in the evening and again just before dawn.
Feb. 26: We started the day by birding before breakfast. The Celeste Mountain Lodge has many trails and we birded the short one just down the road. We saw many great birds. Easily seen were Broad-billed Motmot and Slaty-tailed trogon. We went back to the lodge for breakfast and then a ride in the van to another section of trails. We were in mixed habitat with a trail through the woods and then into open area. We saw Rufous-tailed Jacamar and above us an Ornate Hawk-Eagle. White Hawk became a daily occurrence at this lodge. A marshy area produced so-so views of a White-throated Crake. We went back to the lodge for lunch, a break and then out again. We redid the trail that we visited in the early morning. We were looking for Tody Motmot. Unfortunately we came up empty but we did see a male Purplish-backed Quail-Dove. We also saw the female. She was on a nest. It was a great birding moment. We had dinner at the lodge and went owling again. No owl and no Potoo but again many pauraques.
Feb. 27: We were up early and again birded around the lodge before breakfast. This day we would take the van and visit a nearby lodge, Heliconias Lodge. This other lodge had new trails for us to explore. Heliconias Lodge was one of the first eco-lodges in Costa Rica and has preserved an area of about 175 acres. This lodge has nice trails with three aerial bridges. We saw a good number of flycatchers including Paltry Tyrannulet, Scale-crested Pygmy-Tyrant and Yellow-bellied Flycatcher. Woodpeckers were also nicely represented with Golden-olive, Black-cheeked and Cinnamon well seen. Probably the best sighting at this lodge was an Immaculate Antbird. The bird just sang and sang and remained within 10 feet of our group for excellent views. Also seen was an immature Long-tailed Manakin. Not the best view but OK. We went back to our regular lodge, the Celeste, had lunch and prepared for some late afternoon birding. We took the van and traveled about a half mile down the road. We got really lucky as we came upon a feeding flock. The birding was great! We saw Emerald Tanager, Rufous-winged Tanager and Scarlet-thighed Dacnis. But the best sighting was reserved for a Lovely Cotinga, a beautiful bird and a lifer for everyone except Luis our driver.
We had dinner and again when out for some owling. This time we went to the same area where we had the feeding flock and this time we hit it big. First we heard a Mottled Owl and then we called in a Crested Owl for fantastic views. We went back to the Celeste Lodge and some more pauraques.
Feb. 28: On this day we would leave the Celeste Mt. Lodge and head for the lowlands of the Pacific Slope and Cerro Lodge. We would drive through much open and very dry habitat finally arriving at the humid and hot area around Carara National Park. On the way we stopped at some grassland areas in Guanacaste province seeing a small flock of Crested Bobwhites, a few White-throated Magpie-jays and a flyover of a Brown Jay. Continuing our drive we stopped at the Salt Ponds near Punta Morales. There were over 500 birds at this location consisting of Laughing Gulls, Royal Terns, Gull-billed Terns and Sandwich Terns. There was also a good collection of shorebirds holding 12 species including Stilt Sandpipers and Wilson’s Plovers. Another section had a wooded/scrub area holding a good collection of land birds. The best was Lesser Ground-Cuckoo of which we had excellent looks. Also present were Turquoise-browed Motmot and Streak-backed Oriole. We finally arrived at our destination, Cerro Lodge. The temperature difference was quite noticeable. While we were in Celeste Mt. Lodge the weather was cool, but now we would be hot and humid. Of course the difference in temperatures and areas would give us different species.
March 1: Before breakfast we birded around the lodge. They had many feeders and we would see Rufous-naped Wren and Baltimore Oriole coming to the feeders. In the distance, visible through the scope, we saw the Yellow-billed Cotinga. Not the best of views but still an all white bird perched in the top of a bare tree. Clearly visible from the lodge were pairs of Scarlet Macaws as they flew by. Also visible were numerous Muscovy Ducks flying by our lodge and visible from our dining room. We left the lodge and headed towards Carara National Park. This park has the reputation as being one of the best birding spots in Costa Rica. We got to the park and started birding immediately. There are two main trail systems in the park. We would do one in the morning (River Trail) and one in the afternoon (Headquarters Trail). Some of the first birds we saw were: Chestnut-backed Antbird, Gray-necked Wood-Rail, Golden-crowned Spadebill, Eye-ringed Flatbill, and great views of a Royal Flycatcher. The Royal Flycatcher was voted as one of the favorite birds of the entire trip. Walking down the trail we picked up more species like Tawny-crowned Greenlet and Long-billed Gnatwren. North American migrants were also well represented with Chestnut-sided Warbler and Kentucky Warbler being seen. One of the more interesting sightings was that of a leaftosser. We were trying to call in an antpitta but all we got was this pile of leaves continually being tossed up and down. Finally we got looks at the cause of action, it was the Scaly-throated Leaftosser. We left Carara and headed back to the lodge. On the way back we had a good look at a Ferruginous Pygmy-Owl. We went back to our lodge, had dinner and then another round of owling. We were just going to do the area near the lodge. We were able to call in a Pacific Screech-Owl. We heard the owl coming closer and closer and then somehow without being seen it flew over us. We then relocated it and put the flashlight on it for a better view but it flew away, not to be seen again.
March 2: This was our last day of birding and we would make the most of it. After early morning birding and breakfast at Cerro Lodge we took the van and drove to Golfo de Nicoya. Along the way we saw Scissor-tailed Flycatcher, Ruddy Ground-Dove, Common Ground-Dove and Inca Dove. Noel was searching for the tree that held the Yellow-billed Cotinga that was seen from the dining room of our hotel, Cerro Lodge, but we could not find it. When we finally reached the gulf we could see all the way to the Pacific Ocean. We added many species to our trip list including Ruddy Turnstone, Whimbrel, Magnificent Frigatebird and many Black Vultures cleaning up the remains of a pilot whale that had washed ashore. We went back to the lodge, had lunch and checked out. We were heading towards what some considered the best part of the entire trip, our boat ride on the Tarcoles River.
The Tarcoles River separates the dry north Pacific slope from the wet south Pacific slope of Costa Rica. Because of this the area held many bird species. The boat ride was about three hours and our group had the boat all to ourselves. We would see: 5 Kingfisher species (Belted, Ringed, Green, Amazon, Pygmy), 11 shorebird species (inc. Double-striped Thick-knee), 13 heron species (inc. Roseate Spoonbill, Boat-billed Heron), 7 raptor species (inc. White-tailed Kite), and 3 warbler species (inc. Prothonotary and Mangrove). We also had excellent looks at a Rufous-browed Peppershrike. We finally left this spot and headed towards San Jose and the Bougainvillea Hotel for our last night, but Noel had one surprise for us. On the way we made one stop just outside of San Jose for great looks at a Black-and-white Owl. We arrived at our hotel and had dinner. What a great birding trip!
March 3: We left our hotel at 7am arrived at the airport for our 10 am departure back to Newark Liberty airport. With a strong tailwind we arrived back in the NYC area one hour early.
Great Blue Heron
Little Blue Heron
Western Long-tailed Hermit
American Pygmy Kingfisher
Great Crested Flycatcher
Northern Rough-winged Swallow
Southern Rough-winged Swallow
Black-throated Green Warbler
Species seen - 288