Brooklyn Bird Club
Long Pond Greenbelt
|Location: Costa Rica, 2016
Reported by: Joe Giunta
The Happy Warbler Birding group had its fifth annual trip to Costa Rica. The trip was highly successful with a total of 267 species of birds being seen by most members of the group. Members of our flock were: Joe, Sharon, Mary Jane, Joan, Elyse, Gerry, Eleanor, Sandy and Kathy. With us were our guide Noel and our driver Luis. The trip was somewhat different from previous trips because we were including Cano Negro, a new area for us, and somewhat the same as we were again visiting Carara and the area around Celeste Mountain Lodge. For a photo history of this report please go to the end.
Jan. 18: 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 and driver Luis. They would remain with us for the next ten days. We stayed the first night at the Hotel Bougainvillea, which was fairly close to the airport.
Jan. 19: 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 common birds of San Jose like: Rufous-naped Wren, White-winged Dove, Buff-throated Saltator and Rufous-collared Sparrow. Of special interest was the great view we had of the White-eared Ground-Sparrow. We left the hotel and headed towards Cano Negro. It would be an all day ride because we would do birding stops along the way. We made a very nice stop at the La Paz waterfall picking up the Torrent Tyrannulet. Driving on we stopped at Gallery Chinchona. They had many feeders and as it was near lunch time we also had lunch at their restaurant. The action at the feeders included: Emerald Toucanet, Red-headed Barbet and Prong-billed Barbet. They also had a nice collection of tanagers including: Silver-throated Tanager and Passerini’s Tanager. Continuing on we came to a spot known for the White-throated Crake. After trying to trick the crake to come into the open and nearly giving up the bird appeared to the enjoyment of us bird watchers. We arrived at our hotel, Campo Lodge, at dusk. Dinner was almost immediate and we prepared for our next day.
Jan. 20: This was the day of the two boat rides, one early and then one later in the afternoon. We would also explore different parts of the Rio Frio and surrounding marshes. Our key targets for the day were the number of egrets and herons that use this area as their winter retreat. We saw good numbers of: Great Blue Heron, Tricolored Heron, White Ibis, Cattle Egret, Snowy Egret, Wood Stork and Roseate Spoonbill. For the day we were able to score all possible six species of kingfishers that reside in the area. We had good looks at: Ringed, Belted, Amazon, Green, Green-and-rufous and the American Pygmy Kingfisher. Of some special interest we saw a few Prothonotary Warblers and a few Mangrove Warblers. The latter with its red head is a special form of the Yellow Warbler that resides in this area. At one point on the afternoon boat ride we exited the boat and located a somewhat distant Jabiru. This bird has been declining in population and has become very difficult to locate. It was one of the highlights of the entire trip.
As the day was starting to slip into night we went to a secret spot that Noel knew about. Here he called in about 5 Yellow-breasted Crakes. They came within 10 feet of our boat. At the same time a few flocks of Nicaraguan Grackles flew overhead. They were “lifers” for everyone in our group. The birding was not finished as on our return to the lodge many Lesser Nighthawks flew overhead. A very easy day with many great birds.
Jan. 21: We were up early and after some birding on the grounds of the lodge we started our journey towards our next lodge, Celeste Mountain Lodge, located on the slopes of the Tenorio volcano. Along the way we would make a few stops seeing birds like Keel-billed Toucan and Collared Aracari. Everyone likes big colorful birds. We reached the lodge in time for lunch. Of all the lodges and places we visited the food at Celeste was by far the best. The owners are French and call their food tica-fusion. Before each meal Joel, the owner, would come to our table and give us a brief description of our meal. It was very impressive.
After lunch and a break we went out in the van for some birding. Among the birds we saw were: Long-tailed Tyrant, Black-faced Grosbeak and Montezuma Oropendola. We also tried to encourage a Central American Pygmy-Owl to appear. We heard about three of them but were unable to see them. As it started to get dark we headed back to the lodge accompanied by a few Pauraques.
Jan. 22: Today we would bird the grounds of the lodge. They have their own preserve located across the road and many bird species can be found there. We went out birding before breakfast as this was the best time to see the Tody Motmot. At 5:30 we were on their trail looking for birds. After a little time Noel was able to locate the motmot. We all had excellent looks. Back to the lodge for breakfast and then back on the same trail for some more birding. The birding was somewhat slow but we did see: Dull-mantled Antbird, Broad-billed Motmot, Rufous Motmot, Slaty-tailed Trogon. Of special interest to me was the fabulous views of a male Spotted Antbird. I just love that bird and the sound it makes in the forest. We went back to the lodge for lunch and a break.
In the late afternoon we went out again, determined this time to see the American Pygmy-Owl. We went to the same spot where the owl was calling from yesterday. But this day we saw the owl and had excellent looks. It was a feeling of accomplishment. We went back to the lodge for another excellent dinner.
Jan. 23: The day started off raining so Noel decided to take us to the other side of the mountain, the dry side, where we could continue birding. After a short ride we were in Guanacaste province and there was no rain. Unfortunately we did have some strong wind gusts which made for difficult birding. We did not get wet. Birds seen on this side of the mountain included: Crested Caracara, Roadside Hawk and Groove-billed Ani. For a change we had lunch on the road at Barrigon Pizzeria in the town of Bijagua. We returned to the lodge where it started raining and did not stop for the rest of the day. We did some birding looking at the feeders. We saw: Barred Antshrike, Black-mandibled Toucan, and Black-cheeked Woodpecker. We added to our North America warbler list by adding Tennessee and Chestnut-sided. Both male and female Summer Tanagers were at the feeders. We had dinner, went over the list and prepared for our next day.
Jan. 24: The rain had stopped! We had a short morning walk around the grounds of Celeste Mountain Lodge before we headed towards our next lodge, Cerro Lodge. On the walk we saw: Chestnut-headed and Montezuma Oropendola, Yellow-throated Euphonia and Hepatic Tanager. Of course we would make many birding stops along the way to our next lodge. One of our stops was the Sandillal Dam. Here we saw a few thousand Blue-winged Teal. It is the largest winter concentration of Blue-winged Teal anywhere in Costa Rica. Joel, from Celeste Lodge, had packed box lunches for us and we ate them near the dam. We also did some land birding in the area seeing: Cinnamon Becard, Pale-billed Woodpecker, White-throated Magpie-Jay (a trip favorite), Rose-throated Becard and Black-cheeked Woodpecker.
We traveled more going both south and west until we reached the “Salt Ponds.” This is an area where ocean water is able to enter, evaporate and leave a good amount of sea salt residue. It also attracts a good number of sandpipers and water birds. We had excellent views of: Wilson’s Plover, Whimbrel, Long-billed Curlew, Willet and Marbled Godwit. Gulls and terns were well represented and we saw: Royal Tern, Sandwich Tern, Gull-billed Tern, Black Skimmer and many Laughing Gulls. Along the sides of the ponds were some excellent scrubby areas holding many land birds. Here we saw Squirrel Cuckoo, Northern Beardless-Tyrannulet and Golden-winged Warbler. We finally reached our lodge just as it was getting dark. We did the usual, dinner, the list and then relax time.
Jan. 25: Today was our boat ride on the Tarcoles River. Similar to our boat rides in Cano Negro we saw many egrets and herons. New for the trip were Muscovy Duck and Magnificent Frigatebird. We also picked up Yellow-crowned Night-Heron. Hawks were well represented with views of: Crane Hawk, Mangrove Black-Hawk and Gray Hawk. One Roseate Spoonbill was very close to our boat and afforded us the opportunity to get some good photos. After the boat ride we headed back to our lodge for lunch and a siesta. In the late afternoon we took in some birding around and near the lodge. Two birds of note were the Double-striped Thick-knee and the Ferruginous Pygmy-owl, two of them. The owls put on quite a show. They were mobbed by many smaller birds especially hummingbirds which did not want them in their territory. Another great bird we saw was the Long-tailed Manakin. It was probably the most spectacular looking bird of the entire trip. Going back to the lodge at twilight we were accompanied by dozens of Lesser Nighthawks. Dinner was at the lodge, then the list and we prepared for our next and last day of birding.
Jan. 26: After breakfast and some birding of the feeders at the lodge we headed towards Carara Nation Park. It could be said that this park is the birdiest of any park in Costa Rica as it is where the northern and southern parts of the country meet. The park can hold species from both parts. We took the easy loop near the visitor’s center. Birds seen were: Dot-winged Antwren, Black-hooded Antshrike, Chestnut-backed Antbird and Black-faced Antthrush. A feeding flock produced more birds. We saw: Tawny-crowned Greenlet, White-shouldered Tanager (many), and Cocoa Woodcreeper. Two birds of special note were the Scarlet Macaw, in a nesting cavity, and the Great Tinamou, a bird hardly ever seen but only heard. We all froze and let the Tinamou walk right across the path. We went back to the lodge, had lunch and headed back towards San Jose and the Hotel Bougainvillea. We had dinner in their restaurant, did our list, celebrated the great trip we just had and prepared for our trip back to NYC.
Jan. 27: We left our hotel at 4:30am and arrived at the airport for our 7am departure back to Newark Liberty airport. With a strong tailwind we arrived back in the NYC area a little early. Another great birding trip filled with many great sightings and memories.
Photos from Elyse:
Photos from Gerry:
Great Blue Heron
Little Blue Heron
Lesser Yellow-headed Vulture
Central American Pygmy-Owl
American Pygmy Kingfisher
Great Crested Flycatcher
Southern Rough-winged Swallow
Species seen - 267