Sunday 23 March 2014

Costa Rica - The Final Cut (Arenal Part II)

It has been 17 days since Donna and I got back from Costa Rica. It was difficult at first adjusting to the glacial world we live in.  I've adjusted to the weather but the birds! There is an absolute lack of novelty around the Avalon Peninsula in late March.  We try to turn overwintering Ring-billed Gulls into spring migrants. We get excited now that local nesting kittiwakes have moved into St. John's harbour where they will be daily until early August when they go back to sea.  Quidi Vidi Lake was our sanity savoir during the winter with the gulls and ducks.  But in spring we are seeing the same ducks that we've been looking at for months and there isn't anything much turning up among the gulls. Besides those nasty Bald Eagles are keeping the gulls thin on the ground. Spring is desperate times in Newfoundland. After a long winter scraping-the-bottom-of-the-barrel-birding of spring is going to be a mental challenge.  I suggest an alternative hobby to get us though the last week of March and all of April. It is called DYFO  (drinking your face off)  every day for the next five weeks. The consequences will be less severe than trying to live on the satisfaction from spring birding on the Avalon. 

Below are images from a time that seems like a life time ago but were actually just a few weeks back.  

Golden-hooded Tanager is a fairly widespread and locally common tanager in Costa Rica. It is possible to get used to them. It happened to me, but overall they are well up there in the ten most stunning colour combinations of all the Costa Rican tanagers.  They are much smaller than the Hepatic Tanager in the same frame.

A Golden-hooded Tanager waits for a Clay-coloured Robin to finish feeding on a watermelon skin.

Passerini's Tanagers were even more numerous than the Golden-hooded Tanagers at the fruit feeder just off the deck of the Arenal Observatory restaurant.  

Bay-headed Tanagers did not visit the feeders but were present in these trees I heard called 'gumdrop' tree.  This was also where the stunning Emerald Tanagers were found.

Banaquits were commonly seen in the flowers planted around the restaurant.

Although common and a frequent sight, I never got used to the Red-legged Honeycreepers feeding in the flowers. 
Brown Jay is another bird one could forget to photograph because they are so in your face around the fruit feeder.

The only White-throated Robins I have ever seen were the dozen of so feeding around one particular 'gumdrop' tree every morning.

Black-crested Coquettes were uncommon but tame when you found them feeding on the flowers.

This Gray-crowned Yellowthroat was one of the few birds that actually came to my pishing in Costa Rica.  I was trying to get better looks at various seedeaters at the time.

Arenal is a place I could easily go back to. There was plenty I learned about after I departed. For instance the panoramic view of the forest behind this Keel-billed Toucan has visible Lovely Cotinga and Three-wattled Bellbird in the late afternoons if you know what tree to search.

Birders visiting Costa Rica usually land at capital city of San Jose. Thirty minutes from the airport is Hotel Bougainvillea where birders often spend their first and last nights in Costa Rica. The huge garden behind the hotel has lots of nice birds.  It is a bigger hit on the Day One than the last day after already being blasted by Costa Rican bird novelty.  Below are a few snaps of birds in that garden.

Rufous-capped Warbler is probably widespread within its Costa Rican range but the only individuals I saw were behind Hotel Bougainvillea.

Red-billed Pigeon is an attractive woodland pigeon and quite widespread. If you don't take a picture of it on your first day you might forget to do it later.

White-eared Ground-Sparrow has a very limited range in Costa Rica and if don't see it at Bougainvillea you might not see it at all. Shy! Very shy for a so called sparrow.

They are plenty of North American breeding species spending the winter in Costa Rica. At Hotel Bougainvillea Tennessee Warbler was particularly numerous but there were also Yellow Warblers, Baltimore and Orchard Orioles, Summer Tanagers and this Yellow-throated Vireo.  

There is serious exotica on the Hotel Bougainvillea grounds including Squirrel Cuckoos, Grayish Saltators and everyone's favourite to start of a Costa Rica vacation with, the Blue-crowned Motmot.


  1. What a superb Blog.

  2. Bruce, you're thinking of Prevost's Ground-Sparrow that is hard to see anywhere outside of the Hotel Bougainvillea grounds! White-eared Ground-Sparrow is not exceedingly hard to find at mid-elevations.

  3. Awesome. Oh, least I have my pair of cardinals at the feeder, and an adult Cooper's hawk that keeps trying to catch them.


Note: only a member of this blog may post a comment.