Tag Archives: Trip Report

North Dakota Trip Report (Part I) – Bring on the Birds!

Sunrise at Sand Lake National Wildlife Refuge, South Dakota 5-27-2016
Sunrise at Sand Lake National Wildlife Refuge, South Dakota 5-27-2016

I’m calling this the North Dakota Trip, but since we’re travelling through Wisconsin, Minnesota, and spending the first night in South Dakota – well, we’re birders so we start birding when we see birds. But alas, the title “North Dakota Trip” rolls off the tongue a bit better than the “Wisconsin, Minnesota, South Dakota, North Dakota, and Montana Trip”. Semantics aside, let’s get on with it……

After more than a year of kicking around the idea of a birding trip to North Dakota, all the ducks (fitting right?) fell into place. This was somewhat of an easy trip to plan because the Northeast Wisconsin Birding Club has this unique combo of GPS/bird guide/wildlife photographer/bird expert-extraordinaire; I highly recommend that each bird club out there get their own “Neil”! A “Neil” is someone who has decades of birding experience, can navigate multiple states with little reference to maps, and is willing to introduce new birding locations to others. Not to mention helping each of us collect some new lifers. And NO, you can’t have our clubs Neil – get your own!

Do you have a "Neil"? I highly recommend one! Sand Lake, South Dakota 5-27-2016
Do you have a “Neil”? I highly recommend one! Neil working to get photos of Bank Swallows – Sand Lake, South Dakota 5-27-2016

The four of us, Neil, Vicki, Lynn, and myself left Appleton at 5am on Thursday, May 26th. A few weeks earlier, Neil had provided an itinerary, both Lynn and Neil booked hotel reservations, I scoured the internet for bird sights from the Dakotas, and Vicki well, Vicki didn’t do anything (hahaha Vicki!). Wait, I take that back Vicki brought the alcohol. Leaving early ensured we’d arrive at our first night of lodging before evening and gave us an opportunity for a bit of birding along the way. By the afternoon we had travelled and birded through Wisconsin and Minnesota, crossed the Red River into North Dakota, and arrived in Aberdeen, South Dakota shortly after 4pm.

Sand Lake NWR - near Aberdeen, South Dakota - our first nights destination.
Sand Lake NWR – near Aberdeen, South Dakota – our first nights destination.

On the way into Aberdeen, I got my first looks of what we were in-for: shorebirds galore!!! Oh, and my first lifer of the trip on what was essentially a travel day – an American Avocet.

American Avocet - Sand Lake, South Dakota 5-27-2016
American Avocet – Sand Lake, South Dakota 5-27-2016
Shorebirds!!! Day 1 - a great indication of what we were instore for. Near Aberdeen, South Dakota 5-26-2016
Shorebirds!!! Day 1 – a great indication of what we were instore for. Near Aberdeen, South Dakota 5-26-2016

After overnighting in Abeerdeen, we got an early start on Friday morning, May 27th. Witnessing the sunrise over the prairie marsh at Sand Lake is a spectacular way to start the day and was only rivaled by the addition of two more lifers; Franklin’s Gull and Swainson’s Hawk. Although the Swainson’s was to distant to get a photo, there would be ample opportunities in the days ahead and spoiler alert, I got a few decent shots that I’ll share.  Some of the other highlights from our morning at Sand Lake:

Western Grebes - we counted 37 here, but there will be many more to come! Sand Lake, South Dakota 5-27-2016
Western Grebes – we counted 37 here, but there will be many more to come! Sand Lake, South Dakota 5-27-2016
Digiscoped and heavily cropped Marbled Godwit - Sand Lake, South Dakota 5-27-2016
Digiscoped and heavily cropped Marbled Godwit – Sand Lake, South Dakota 5-27-2016
Black-crowned Night-Heron - Sand Lake, South Dakota 5-27-2016
Black-crowned Night-Heron – Sand Lake, South Dakota 5-27-2016
Yellow-headed Blackbird - Sand Lake, South Dakota 5-27-2016
Yellow-headed Blackbird – Sand Lake, South Dakota 5-27-2016

From Sand Lake we headed over to McPherson County and stopped at the Ordway Memorial Prairie. This is one of the benefits of having a “Neil” – this prairie is nearly unmarked and located along a highway; a place you could easily drive right by without realizing it was there. Stop number 2, life bird number 3 for the day; Western Kingbird.

Wilson's Phalarope - Ordway Memorial Prairie, South Dakota 5-27-2016
Wilson’s Phalarope – Ordway Memorial Prairie, South Dakota 5-27-2016
Marbled Godwit - Ordway Memorial Prairie, South Dakota 5-27-2016
Marbled Godwit – Ordway Memorial Prairie, South Dakota 5-27-2016
Eastern Kingbird - Sand Lake, South Dakota 5-27-2016
Eastern Kingbird – Sand Lake, South Dakota 5-27-2016
Grasshopper Sparrow - Ordway Memorial Prairie, South Dakota 5-27-2016
Grasshopper Sparrow – Ordway Memorial Prairie, South Dakota 5-27-2016

In the afternoon we said good-bye to South Dakota and headed for our overnight lodging in Jamestown, North Dakota. Jamestown is not only home of the world’s largest buffalo (and a shop where it was impossible to control Vicki & Lynn), but is also where one of my uncles favorite authors was born – the American novelist and short story writer Louis L’Amour. And while we did stop to see the world’s largest buffalo, the birds were still the highlights – including my 4th lifer of the day, Eared Grebe!

Ahh yes, nothing like birding a sewage treatment area! But hey, you go where the birds are. Eared Grebe - Jamestown, North Dakota 5-27-2016
Ahh yes, nothing like birding a sewage treatment area! But hey, you go where the birds are. Eared Grebe – Jamestown, North Dakota 5-27-2016

Travel day + day 1 and I’m 5 lifers in…not a bad way to start a trip!!! Until next time, Bird It Up!

 

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Costa Rica Trip Report Part (Part VIII) – Well We’re Movin’ On Up

Sunrise over Heliconias Lodge - Costa Rica 3-22-2015
The Howler Monkeys were….well, howling as the sun rose over Heliconias Lodge – Costa Rica 3-22-2015

This is the eight post in a series documenting my Costa Rica birding trip from March14-28, 2015. To read the previous post, click here: Costa Rica Trip Report Part (Part VII) – “Forget the Horses!!”

Yes it’s true – we were movin’ on up, but not to an east side deluxe apartment in the sky. On this day, Sunday, March 22nd 2015, we were movin’ on up towards the Nicaraguan border and a complete change in habitat. This shift in location presented a whole new group of birds and greater opportunity for photos. So buckle up for a photo intensive post – I hope to be sparse with words, but long on photos.

Heliconias Lodge to Cano Negro 3-22-2015. Black line represents approximate travel route to date. Blue line is todays travel.
Heliconias Lodge to Cano Negro 3-22-2015. Black line represents approximate travel route to date. Red line is todays travel.

We spent the morning birding the trail at Heliconias Lodge and taking in the suspension bridges which had us near the top of the canopy.

The trail at Heliconias Lodge indicating distance and suspension bridge locations - Costa Rica 3-22-2015
The trail at Heliconias Lodge indicating distance and suspension bridge locations – Costa Rica 3-22-2015

Along the trail we came across a number of large Leaf Cutter ant mounds. The photo below doesn’t do justice to just how big this area is – I’d estimate it was 20 feet wide by 15 feet across.

Leaf Cutter Ant Mounds - Costa Rica 3-22-2015
Leaf Cutter Ant Mounds – Costa Rica 3-22-2015

I shot a brief of the ants in action:

Below are some of the birds and flora we came across while on the trail:

Heptatic Tanager - Costa Rica 3-22-2015
Heptatic Tanager – Costa Rica 3-22-2015
White-ruffed Manakin - Costa Rica 3-22-2015
Our 5th Manakin of the trip: White-ruffed Manakin – Costa Rica 3-22-2015
Flower - Costa Rica 3-22-2015
Flower – Costa Rica 3-22-2015
Northern Barred-Woodcreeper
Northern Barred-Woodcreeper – Costa Rica 3-22-2015
My roommate Dar and I on a suspension bridge at Heliconias Lodge.
My roommate Dar and I on a suspension bridge at Heliconias Lodge. Not sure who gets the photo credit, but I know it isn’t me. Carol possibly?

Not a very good photo, but I was on a suspension bridge and yes, they do swing. Photography from the bridges added a new challenge.

Blue-throated Goldentail
Blue-throated Goldentail – Costa Rica 3-22-2015
I believe this is a Bronze-tailed Plumeleteer. Unfortunately, one of the diagnostic field marks is red feet, which obviously can't be seen from in this photo. Costa Rica 3-22-2015
I believe this is a Bronze-tailed Plumeleteer. Unfortunately, one of the diagnostic field marks is red feet, which obviously can’t be seen in this photo. Costa Rica 3-22-2015

Near the canopy level Tom spotted something below on the canopy floor and being a true birder, he was ready to climb over and jump down. Thankfully Dar was able to ID the species from the suspension bridge thereby saving Tom’s life. Did I ever mention I can be facetious?

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After our morning hike, we said a final good-bye to this region of Costa Rica and began our trek Northeast.  Although we weren’t moving far, we were movin’ on up (technically we were movin’ on down, but that doesn’t fit the song). As always, we birded a bit along the way and found this cooperative Roadside Hawk right where he should be – along the roadside.

Roadside Hawk - Costa Rica 3-22-2015
Roadside Hawk – Costa Rica 3-22-2015

The afternoon was our first chance to do some lazy birding; no trails, no mountains, no roadside birding. No, it was time to relax on a boat ride through the Cano Negro Wildlife Refuge. The refuge is located just a few miles from the Nicaraguan border and consists of wetlands, rainforest, and swampland. Encompassing 25,000 acres, the refuge is of the most important wetlands in the world and was named Wetland of International Importance in 1991. The diversity at Cano Negro is stunning with more than 350 species of birds, 310 species of plants, and more than 160 mammals! Instead of boring you with more commentary (and at the same time relieving me of having to do so more writing), kick back as we did and enjoy some photos from Cano Negro.

Michael enjoying the boat ride in the Cano Negro Wildlife Refuge - Costa Rica 3-22-2015
Michael enjoying the boat ride in the Cano Negro Wildlife Refuge – Costa Rica 3-22-2015
Amazon Kingfisher - Costa Rica 3-22-2015
Amazon Kingfisher with lunch – Costa Rica 3-22-2015
Snowy Egret - Costa Rica 3-22-2015
Snowy Egret – Costa Rica 3-22-2015
Boat-billed Heron - Costa Rica 3-22-2015
Boat-billed Heron – Costa Rica 3-22-2015
Ringed Kingfisher - Costa Rica 3-22-2015
Ringed Kingfisher – Costa Rica 3-22-2015

Below you’ll see the American Pygmy Kingfisher (male in first two photos, female below). This bird stands out not just for it’s color, but it’s size. Clocking in at a mere 5 inches (13 cm), it’s easy to see where the “pygmy” portion of the name came from. Checkout how tiny the legs are on the male!

American Pygmy Kingfisher (female) - Costa Rica 3-22-2015
American Pygmy Kingfisher (female) – Costa Rica 3-22-2015
Black-bellied Whistling-Ducks - Costa Rica 3-22-2015
Black-bellied Whistling-Ducks – Costa Rica 3-22-2015
Gray-necked Wood-Rail - Costa Rica 3-22-2015
Gray-necked Wood-Rail – Costa Rica 3-22-2015
Black-necked Stilt, Black-bellied Whistling-Duck, and Roseate Spoonbill - Costa Rica 3-22-2015
Black-necked Stilt, Black-bellied Whistling-Duck, and Roseate Spoonbill – Costa Rica 3-22-2015
Great size comparison - Snowy Egret in front, Great Egret in back - Costa Rica 3-22-2015
Great size comparison – Snowy Egret in front, Great Egret in back – Costa Rica 3-22-2015
Limpkin, White Ibis, Pale-vented Pigeon - Costa Rica 3-22-2015
Limpkin, White Ibis, Pale-vented Pigeon – Costa Rica 3-22-2015
Limpkin, Black-necked Stilt, Black-bellied Whistling-Duck, and Egrets - Costa Rica 3-22-2015
Limpkin, Black-necked Stilt, Black-bellied Whistling-Duck, and Egrets – Costa Rica 3-22-2015
Black-collared Hawk - Costa Rica 3-22-2015
Black-collared Hawk – Costa Rica 3-22-2015
Glossy Ibis - Costa Rica 3-22-2015
Glossy Ibis – Costa Rica 3-22-2015
Caiman - Costa Rica 3-22-2015
Caiman – Costa Rica 3-22-2015
Wood Stork - Costa Rica 3-22-2015
Wood Stork – Costa Rica 3-22-2015

So, is that enough photos for ya? If not, stay tuned – we’ll be back at Cano Negro in the next installment of the Costa Rica Trip Report. Until then, Bird It Up!!

 

Costa Rica Trip Report Part (Part VII) – “Forget the Horses!!”

What are you looking at? White-nosed Coati at Celeste Mountain Lodge - Costa Rica 3-21-2015
What are you looking at? White-nosed Coati at Celeste Mountain Lodge – Costa Rica 3-21-2015

This is the seventh post in a series documenting my Costa Rica birding trip from March14-28, 2015. To read the previous post, click here: Costa Rica Trip Report (Part VI) – A Day in the Life

Some days on a tropical birding trip are just more memorable than others, and this day happened to be one of them. That’s not to dis any of the days – they were each memorable, productive, exciting, and fun. This day was just kicked up a notch due to an unexpected sighting and the phrase “Forget the horses,” which none of the tour participants will ever forget. But, I’m getting ahead of myself…….

We woke for the last time at the Celeste Mountain Lodge; today, March 21st, 2015, we would be saying goodbye to heaven. If I haven’t made it clear yet, Celeste Mountain Lodge was a place I wanted to stay. So much so, that I did inquire with the owners about a job. But alas, I’m back in Wisconsin. Our guide Richard had tried to reserve rooms for a third night at this lodge, but they were already booked. So after some morning birding and one final delicious lunch, we’d be headed 15 minutes down the road to Heliconias Lodge.

Day 7 - To Heliconias Lodge
Day 7 – From Celeste Mountain Lodge To Heliconias Lodge 15 minutes down the road.

After some coffee and a bit of birding at the lodge feeders, we headed back across the street to the properties reserve for a pre-breakfast walk where we got excellent looks at a Dull-Mantled Antbird and fleeting looks at a Gray-chested Dove.

Dull-Mantled Antbird - Costa Rica 3-21-2015
Dull-Mantled Antbird – Costa Rica 3-21-2015

We returned to Celeste for breakfast and as would be expected, some birding at their feeders.

Green Honeycreeper (female) at the Celeste Mountain Lodge feeders - Costa Rica 3-21-2015
Green Honeycreeper (female) at the Celeste Mountain Lodge feeders – Costa Rica 3-21-2015
Golden-Hooded Tanager at Celeste Mountain Lodge feeders - Costa Rica 3-21-2015
Golden-Hooded Tanager at Celeste Mountain Lodge feeders – Costa Rica 3-21-2015

After breakfast we returned to the nearby road which we birded the day before. When we went to board the bus, an extremely tame White-Nosed Coati was wandering around the driveway. Michael learned just how sharp their claws are as it stood on it’s hind legs and put it’s front paws on his leg, like a friendly dog would. Quickly backing away, Michael let us know just how sharp they were, and he had the small hole in his pants to testify to it!

Michael & Tom investigating a White-Nosed Coati....or was the coati investigating them? Celeste Mountain Lodge - Costa Rica 3-21-2015
Michael & Tom investigating a White-Nosed Coati….or was the coati investigating them? Celeste Mountain Lodge – Costa Rica 3-21-2015
Broad-Billed Motmot near Celeste Mountain Lodge - Costa Rica 3-21-2015
Keel-billed Motmot on the left, Broad-Billed Motmot on the right. Near Celeste Mountain Lodge – Costa Rica 3-21-2015
Your's truly watching a Blue Morph Butterfly. Can you see the brilliant blue of the butterfly? Costa Rica 3-21-2015. Photo courtesy of Nancy at Bluestar Enterprises.
Your’s truly watching a Blue Morph Butterfly. Can you see the brilliant blue of the butterfly? Costa Rica 3-21-2015. Photo courtesy of Nancy at Bluestar Enterprises.

Although Michael & Nancy spent most their time birding, they were also on a family vacation as Nancy’s husband Lance and daughter Amanda were along for the tour. Most days while we were birding, Lance and Amanda would be off on their own excursions like visiting waterfalls, ziplining, or simply lounging around the lodge or pool. On this morning they were off doing a horseback ride, but little did we know they’d be following the same road we were birding. Around the bend comes Amanda and Lance – with Lance in a memorable pink helmet. Most of us were watching them when Richard uttered those now famous words – “Forget the horses!!” Those words were followed by Umbrellabird and immediately the horses were forgotten.

The Bare-necked Umbrellabird is endemic to Costa Rica and western Panama and is officially listed as endangered. According to Birdlife.org, the breeding population in Costa Rica is estimated at 190-330 mature individuals. Along with Panama’s population, the global population for the Bare-necked Umbrellabird is placed at 1,000-2,499 mature individuals. Stated another way – this is a hard bird to see and likely the rarest I’ve ever seen if global populations are below 2,500 individuals!

Forgetting the horses was easy as this usually hard to see bird sat content in a nearby tree for a good 7-10 minutes. Everyone in the group got excellent looks and Tom shot some amazing video through his scope. This bird deserves some love…..

If Elvis was a bird, he'd be a Bare-necked Umbrellabird. Costa Rica 3-21-2015
If Elvis was a bird, he’d be a Bare-necked Umbrellabird. Costa Rica 3-21-2015
Bare-necked Umbrellabird - Costa Rica 3-21-2015
Bare-necked Umbrellabird – Costa Rica 3-21-2015

I was also able to capture some video through my camera:

With smiles all around after getting killer looks of the Bare-necked  Umbrellabird, we boarded the bus in route to another nature reserve. Along the way we found one of my target birds for the trip – Bat Falcon.

Bat Falcon - Costa Rica 3-21-2015
Bat Falcon – Costa Rica 3-21-2015
Laughing Falcon - Costa Rica 3-21-2015
Bat Falcon – Costa Rica 3-21-2015

We also crossed a river where the water runs blue…….

Costa Rica 3-21-2015
Costa Rica 3-21-2015

Once at the nature reserve we were treated to some great looks at a host of birds and flowers. Although I didn’t get a photo of it, one of the highlights was hearing and seeing a nearby Laughing Falcon!

Summer Tanager - Costa Rica 3-21-2015
Summer Tanager – Costa Rica 3-21-2015
Banaquit - Costa Rica 3-21-2015
Banaquit – Costa Rica 3-21-2015
Social Flycatcher - Costa Rica 3-21-2015
Social Flycatcher – Costa Rica 3-21-2015
Flower – Costa Rica 3-21-2015
IMG_7232
Flower – Costa Rica 3-21-2015

It’s kind of fun traveling with the guide that everyone wants to have!! Multiple times throughout the trip Richard stopped to autograph copies of his book – and not just for birders, the other guides were also after signed copies!

Need a guide? Look no further than Richard Garrigues!!!
Need a guide? Look no further than Richard Garrigues!!!

After saying goodbye to the Celeste Mountain Lodge for the last time, we were off down the road to Heliconias Lodge.

Heliconias Lodge - Costa Rica 3-21-2015
Heliconias Lodge – Costa Rica 3-21-2015
A few from our room at Heliconias Lodge - Costa Rica 3-21-2015
A few from our room at Heliconias Lodge – Costa Rica 3-21-2015

One of the benefits of lodging at Heliconias is the hiking trails located right on the property. We spent the afternoon exploring these trails, which includes three suspension bridges – one of them a double bridge which wraps around a large tree.

Dar enjoying some birding near the canopy level on one of the suspension bridges - Costa Rica 3-21-2015
Dar enjoying some birding near the canopy level on one of the suspension bridges – Costa Rica 3-21-2015
IMG_7357 black-throated trogon
I apologize for the crappy, heavily cropped photo, but you can still make out the Black-throated Trogon in a nesting cavity – Costa Rica 3-21-2015

I know the photo below doesn’t do the bird justice, but at Heliconias we ticked off our 7th trogon in 7 days! And with the Resplendent Quetzal it was our 8th species from the Trogonidae family in the first week! Could we complete a trogon slam? Although there are two other trogons found in Costa Rica that we had yet to see, one was out of range from our tour, so that left just one more to find over the next 7 days. If you’re one of those inquiring minds that wants to know whether we got it, well you’ll just have to keeping following these trip reports to find out.

IMG_7323
Trogon species #7 – Lattice-tailed Trogon – Costa Rica 3-21-2015
IMG_7326
Plant – Costa Rica 3-21-2015
IMG_7434
Flower – Costa Rica 3-21-2015

I thought it would be nearly impossible to compete with our bird of the day – the 10 minute looks of a very cooperative Bare-necked Umbrella bird – but Richard found a way to try; ant swarm #2!! Some tours never come across a single army ant swarm and here we were enjoying our second. A couple of the birds brought in by the swarm:

IMG_7372 spotted antbird
Spotted Antbird right where you’d expect to find a bird with “ant” in it’s name, at an ant swarm – Costa Rica 3-21-2015
Spotted Antbird - Costa Rica 3-21-2015
Spotted Antbird – Costa Rica 3-21-2015
IMG_7397 zeledon's antbird
Zeledon’s Antbird – Costa Rica 3-21-2015
photo (3)
Your’s truly surveying the canopy on one of the Heliconias suspension bridges – Costa Rica 3-21-2015 Photo credits: Thanks to Dar (I think???) for this photo.

Bare-necked Umbrellabird, a second ant swarm, Laughing and Bat Falcons, if there is one thing this tour didn’t do, it’s disappoint! Spoiler alert – we’ll be leaving this area of Costa Rica in the next trip report; whole new terrain, lots of photos, and some magnificent birds! Bird It Up!

Since I’m sharing only a small portion of my photos, and since those only represent a small fraction of what we saw, below is a list of other notable species from day 7:

King Vulture

Common Pauraque

Bronze-tailed  Plumeleteer

Bicolored Antbird

Ocellated Antbird

Wedge-billed Woodcreeper

Scale-crested Pygmy-Tyrant

Tropical Pewee

Yellow-faced Grassquit

Scarlet Tanager

Montezuma Oropendola

Costa Rica Trip Report (Part VI) – A Day in the Life

Sunrise over the Celeste Mountain Lodge 3-20-2015
Sunrise over the Celeste Mountain Lodge 3-20-2015

This is the sixth post in a series documenting my Costa Rica birding trip from March14-28, 2015. To read the previous post, click here: Costa Rica Trip Report (Part V) – A Trip to Heaven

After arriving in heaven, i.e. Celeste Mountain Lodge, late in the afternoon the previous day, the morning of March 20th gave us our first morning birding the lodge grounds and our first full day in the surrounding area. Since we overnighted here again on March 20th, I thought this would give me an opportunity to breakdown a day in the life on the tour when we did not move to a new destination. So with that in mind, let’s get on with it……

Day 6 – Overnight at Celeste Mountain Lodge – 3-20-2015
Day 6 – Overnight at Celeste Mountain Lodge – 3-20-2015

5am Wakeup: Brush the teeth, throw on some clothes, gather my gear and head out the door.

5:25am: With sunrise arriving at 5:44am, it’s still dark as we make our way toward the dinning area for coffee. Over the next 30 minutes the entire group is sipping coffee or juice and saddling up to the bar overlooking the property as the grounds crew fills the feeding platform with a variety of fresh fruit. From 5:45-6:15am we “bird by coffee” from the comfy confines of the lodge – this gives us ample opportunity to get acquainted with some of the familiar birds in the area.

Although we were familiar with the Variable Seedeater from our first days at Hotel Villa Lapas, this species at Celeste is quite different looking – hence the name “Variable”. From northern Costa Rica and extending into southeastern Mexico, the Variable Seedeater is primarily black except for a white spot at the base of the primaries.

Variable Seedeater (Caribbean race)3-20-2015
Variable Seedeater (Caribbean race male) 3-20-2015

As you continue south, the same species looks quite different. Below is the Variable Seedeater we saw while at Hotel Villa Lapas in the Pacific lowlands; same bird, completely different markings.

Variable Seedeater 3-16-2015.
Variable Seedeater (Pacific race male) – Hotel Villa Lapas 3-16-2015.
Variable Seedeater (female) - Celeste Mountain Lodge 3-20-2015
Variable Seedeater (female) – Celeste Mountain Lodge 3-20-2015

Around 6:15am we walked across the road to a private reserve owned by the Celeste Mountain Lodge. The reserve is made primarily of transitional rain-to-cloud forest and we spent approximately 80 minutes birding the trails.

IMG_6973
The trails and steep hillside of the private reserve owned by the Celeste Mountain Lodge. This mountainside trail is yet another reason to stay at Celeste; besides enjoying the birding on the grounds, the short 5 minute walk to the reserve is home to a host of other species.

The highlight of our morning walk at the reserve was the Black-throated Trogon seen below. This was our 6th trogon species in 6 days!!!

By 7:35am we were back at Celeste having worked up an appetite. We would be leaving the lodge at 8:45am so we had time to eat breakfast, cleanup, and of course do some more birding. As I mentioned in the previous post, the meals at Celeste are first class, which caused consternation as I swayed between trying to enjoy my breakfast and stuffing my face in order to get back to the birds.  See – even the dilemmas in heaven are delightful; do I spend more time looking at the specular avian wildlife or do I continue to gorge on an incredibly delicious breakfast? My choice – do both at the same time!

Squirrel Cuckoo 3-20-2015
Squirrel Cuckoo – Celeste Mountain Lodge 3-20-2015
Passerini's Tanager & Buff-throated Saltator 3-20-2015
Passerini’s Tanager & Buff-throated Saltator 3-20-2015

We also had our first looks at a Collared Aracari on the property grounds!

We left the grounds around 8:45am and Carlos drove us down the road for some late morning birding. We stopped along the road side and bird from approximately 9-10:35am. Below are some of the highlights:

Scarlet-rumped Cacique 3-20-2015
Scarlet-rumped Cacique – near Celeste Mountain Lodge 3-20-2015
White-fronted Nunbird 3-20-2015
White-fronted Nunbird – near Celeste Mountain Lodge 3-20-2015
Black-crested Coquette 3-20-2015
Black-crested Coquette – near Celeste Mountain Lodge 3-20-2015
The Costa Rica crew – you know it’s a tough ID when Stuart is driven to consulting his field guide! Near the Celeste Mountain Lodge 3-20-2015
Buff-throated Foliage-gleaner – near the Celeste Mountain Lodge 3-20-2015
Blue Morpho Butterfly – near the Celeste Mountain Lodge 3-20-2015

From the roadside we took a drive to a nearby property where we hiked in and birded from 11am-12:45pm. Birding through what is normally considered lunch hour, it’s a great time to remind everyone to pack some snacks when touring; keeping the energy levels up is of utmost importance, especially when birding with Richard who takes every advantage of daylight to squeeze in a few more species.

Birding near the Celeste Mountain Lodge 3-20-2015
Great Kiskadee nest building near the Celeste Mountain Lodge – 3-20-2015
White Hawk soaring near the Celeste Mountain Lodge 3-20-2015
Olive-crowned Yellowthroat near the Celeste Mountain Lodge 3-20-2015
Blue-black Grassquit near the Celeste Mountain Lodge 3-20-2015

We got back to Celeste around 1pm and would have ample time to enjoy lunch, pickup a few new birds on the grounds, and some free time to catch a quick nap, clean some clothes, or just relax with a cold beer.

Lunch at Celeste Mountain Lodge 3-20-2015

During lunch we got our first looks at one of the most stunning birds in Costa Rica, at least in my opinion, Crimson-collared Tanager.

Crimson-collared Tanager 3-20-2015
Crimson-collared Tanager at Celeste Mountain Lodge 3-20-2015

I also shot this short video from the birding bar viewing area on the side of the lodge. In the video you can see the feeding platform where many of the photos in this post were taken and to the left is the mountain where the lodge has its reserve, and where we hiked pre-breakfast.

After lunch, at approximately 2:45pm, we headed back over to the Celeste reserve located across the road from the lodge. After seeing the male Black-throated Trogon in the morning, we got great looks of the female in the afternoon.

Black-throated Trogon (female) 3-20-2015
Black-throated Trogon (female) – Celeste Mountain Lodge reserve 3-20-2015
A view of the Celeste Mountain Lodge from the reserve across from the property – 3-20-2015

By 5pm we were back on the lodge grounds birding in comfort during the last hour of daylight.

Black-striped Sparrow at Celeste Mountain Lodge 3-20-2015
Black-striped Sparrow at Celeste Mountain Lodge 3-20-2015

The morning started with “birding by coffee,” the night started with “birding by beer.” Does it get any better than birding by beer while watching the sunset over the mountains in Costa Rica?

Sunset view from the Celeste Mountain Lodge 3-20-2015
Sunset view from the Celeste Mountain Lodge 3-20-2015

With the sun setting at 5:50pm, it was time for the nightly ritual. Over an adult beverage we gathered to go over the days birding checklist. This was followed by a fantastic meal, another adult drink, and a quick check of email. By this time it was around 9pm and most of us went to turn-in. After a  shower to clean off the grime and sunscreen, getting gear and clothes organized for the following day, it was lights out around 10pm. Six days in and I still netted 31 lifers! Yes, if there is a heaven, this is it!

Bird It Up!

Costa Rica Trip Report (Part V) – A Trip to Heaven

Arenal Volcano, Costa Rica 3-19-2015
Arenal Volcano, Costa Rica 3-19-2015

This is the fifth post in a series documenting my Costa Rica birding trip from March14-28, 2015. To read the previous post, click here: Costa Rica Trip Report (Part IV) – The Army Invades

The morning of day 5, March 19th, was a repeat of the previous day with birding by coffee around the property of the Cala Lodge. While the diversity of species around the grounds wasn’t particularly high, it did afford us ample opportunity to get familiar with some of the regulars – and for those of us taking photos, a second chance to capture a missed bird or two from the day before. In my case, this allowed me to grab some better shots of a pair of Emerald Toucanets.

This Masked Tityra was hanging around the Cala Lodge during breakfast. Costa Rica 3-19-2015
This Masked Tityra was hanging around the Cala Lodge during breakfast. Costa Rica 3-19-2015

After breakfast we packed, loaded the bus, and bid adieu to the Cala Lodge. Our plan for the day was to bird our way north to Bijagua with a stop at the Santa Elena Cloud Forest Reserve. Since birding the cloud forest means heavy canopy cover and moderate lighting for good photography, the uninformed reader would assume a reasonably short, photo-light post. However, in my attempts to disappoint the uniformed reader and over deliver, I’ve managed to cram in a number of photo galleries – like the Cala Lodge grounds; less species diversity, more time with each one present. But rest assured dear reader, I’ve already started processing my photos for the next trip report and I will makeup for any short comings in this post with a sustained, photo heavy post that will stuff you like a turkey during a proper American Thanksgiving dinner.

Day 5 - from Cala Lodge in Monteverde to Celeste Mountain Lodge in Bijagua. Black line represents route already covered; red represents travel covered in this post, although I really have no idea what route we took to get there...I can however confirm that we did arrive at the Celeste Mountain Lodge.
Day 5 – from Cala Lodge in Monteverde to Celeste Mountain Lodge in Bijagua. Black line represents route already covered; red represents travel covered in this post, although I really have no idea what route we took to get there…I can however confirm that we did arrive at the Celeste Mountain Lodge.

Some photos from Santa Elena:

Buffy Tuftedcheek - Costa Rica 3-19-2015
Buffy Tuftedcheek – Costa Rica 3-19-2015
Michael was hoping to remain in Costa Rica birding the rest of his life away. Here he scopes out potential living quarters.
Michael was hoping to remain in Costa Rica birding the rest of his life away (and I was trying desperately to figure out how to join him). Here he scopes out potential living quarters.
Butterfly, but do you know which one? I know some readers are into butterflies so hopefully someone can help me ID this correctly!
Butterfly, but do you know which one? I know some readers are into butterflies so hopefully someone can help me ID this correctly!
Santa Elena cloud forest – it’s magical walking through a forest like this; few people, birds calling, and anticipation around every corner.

As you can see in the picture below, standing near the peek at nearly 6,000 feet, the sunlight starts to filter through.

At the top of the Santa Elena Cloud Forest Reserve you can climb a tower, though no more than 4 at a time on the top platform, which provides a stunning view of the country, including Arenal Volcano. And if you’re lucky, or have a 12 year old birding whiz with you, you can score a life bird like the King Vulture Michael pointed out to me with the wind whipping about us. The video below is a panorama of the countryside from the aforementioned platform:

On the way out of the reserve (I’m 70% sure were still at Santa Elena), we filtered through the gift shop (this part I remember for sure). While I wandered around looking at books and possible gift ideas to take home, Stuart came bounding in with a wide-eyed looking and carrying on about a Ruddy-capped Nightingale Thrush. Out the door I followed and almost immediately came across the thrush working the pavement and gravel next to the building.

Ruddy-capped Nightingale-Thrush
Ruddy-capped Nightingale-Thrush

Full disclosure – I don’t recall exactly where we saw the species below; I guess that’s what happens when you try and remember details from 6 months ago. I can however guarantee you that they were seen on this day and I was in Costa Rica…northern Costa Rica…..somewhere between Monteverde and Bijagua.

Roadside Hawk
Roadside Hawk – Costa Rica 3-19-2015

The road to heaven was paved with new species (seriously, if there is a heaven I hope to pickup a few lifers in the hedges surrounding it!). As we climbed the final road to our lodging for the next two nights, we came across a White Hawk and a colony of Montezuma Oropendolas.

Below are the nests of Montezuma Oropendolas, a colonial breeder which builds hanging nests of woven fibres and vines which can hang down more than 3 feet from the securing branch.

Witnessing a colony is quite a spectacle as this relatively large species – bigger than a crow, smaller than a Red-tailed Hawk – is quite vocal.

Montezuma Oropendola - Costa Rica 3-19-2015
Montezuma Oropendola – Costa Rica 3-19-2015
Great Kiskadee - Costa Rica 3-19-2015
Great Kiskadee – Costa Rica 3-19-2015

And later that afternoon, we arrived in heaven – a place also known as the Celeste Mountain Lodge. Celeste – based on the Latin caelestis meaning “heavenly” – is as close as I’ve ever come to heaven.  Not only is it a birders paradise, which I’ll discuss below, but the owners are focused on sustainable tourism, believing in the “3 R” rule: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. The focus is on using locally available and eco-friendly supplies. For example, 90% of the food comes from local business; hot water is provided by solar panels; alternative use of food plate presentation reduces soap and water consumption; and on and on – an entire blog post could be dedicated to the sustainable tourism practiced at Celeste. One item representative of their entire philosophy does stand out and needs telling. When they completed the lodge – 18 rooms in one building, on two floors – all the leftover building material fit into one pickup truck! Everything that could be used, was used. An example being the light sconces which were designed from leftover roofing material. If all this “eco-friendly,” “sustainable tourism,” and “low impact” talk makes you think of a sparse, rustic lodge, think again. This is a place I could easily spend my remaining days – relaxing in the comfort of an open air eating and lounge area, birding from one of the lookouts, and enjoying meals of the highest quality. Yes dear reader, yes; this is heaven.

“Walls” that rollup and provide an open air environment allowed us to bird in comfort. Feeders placed directly out in front at eyelevel:

The group birding from the confines of the Celeste Mountain Lodge. With feeders at eyelevel and an open air dining/lobby/birding area, the pace was comfortable, and the diversity of species quite amazing. Photo courtesy of Nancy at Blue Star Enterprises.

A view from the lodge – sitting at the benches shown above:

A few of the species from our first afternoon (and rest assured, the next post will have a smorgasbord of birds at and around the feeders here):

Buff-throated Saltator - Costa Rica 3-19-2015
Buff-throated Saltator – Costa Rica 3-19-2015

Ending the day with an adult beverage or two at Celeste Mountain Lodge:

Left-to-right: Yours truly, Carol, and Tom at Celeste Mountain Lodge in Costa Rica.

The open air dining/lounge/birding area. Kitchen is way in the back and on the first floor you can see the blue light from the pool below:

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I’ll have more photos from the Celeste Mountain Lodge in my next post, but for now heed my advice; if you’re planning a trip to Costa Rica -whether for birding or relaxation – you’ll want to spend some time at this lodge. I wish I was there now!

Since I’m sharing only a small portion of my photos, and since those only represent a small fraction of what we saw, below is a list of other notable species from day 5:

Gray-headed Chachalaca

King Vulture

Prong-billed Barbet

Brown-billed Scythebill

Lineated Foliage-gleaner

Red-faced Spinetail

Mangrove Swallow

Ochraceous Wren

Spangle-checked Tanager

Slaty Flowerpiercer

Blue Grosbeak

Bronzed Cowbird

Costa Rica Trip Report (Part IV) – The Army Invades

At the Monteverde Ecological Sanctuary in Monteverde, Costa Rica 3-18-2015.

This is the fourth post in a series documenting my Costa Rica birding trip from March14-28, 2015. To read the previous post, click here: Costa Rica Trip Report (Part III) – The Ledge, The Cloud Forest, and One of The Top Five

Awoke on day 4  (March 18th, 2015) at 5am and the early morning routine was slowly morphing into habit; dress, brush teeth, grab bins and camera, out the door by 5:20am. I spent 20 minutes birding alone on the Cala Lodge grounds in the early morning light. By midday, the peace and serenity of those first moments of daylight would contrast sharply with the disorderly chaos of an invading army. But that would come later and before I get ahead of myself, there was coffee, breakfast, birds, and critters.

Day 4 – Overnight at Cala Lodge – birding around Monteverde 3-18-2015

By 6am, the group was doing some pre-breakfast birding at the lodge. This was the first place we stayed where the lodge brought birds to us by putting out assorted fruit on large platforms. Birding on a veranda with the birds coming to the feeders at eye level and a cup of coffee close at hand is an ideal way to start the day. Although the variety of species was a bit low, the feeders provided excellent photo opportunities and there was enough action to keep us occupied until breakfast.

The Blue-crowned Motmot above, along with the other birds looking for a free meal, had to deal with an apprehensive Variegated Squirrel. Within what appeared to be easy jumping distance from tree to feeder, this squirrel looked tentative and took it’s sweet time getting to the fruit.

"Should I, or shouldn't I?" This Variegated Squirrel was apprehensive about making the leap.
“Should I, or shouldn’t I?” This Variegated Squirrel was apprehensive about making the leap.

A female Golden-olive Woodpecker flew in to inspect a tree cavity….

Golden-olive Woodpecker - Costa Rica 3-18-2015
Golden-olive Woodpecker – Costa Rica 3-18-2015

A moment later it became obvious she called this spot home.

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Orchid Bee – Costa Rica 3-18-2015

After breakfast we headed to the Monteverde Ecological Sanctuary. The sanctuary is a private reserve composed mainly of low, mountainous forest and along with the mild humidity, offers a distinct habitat compared to the cloud forest. It wasn’t long before the first signs of forest chaos were discovered; there was an invasion underway and the head of the army was coming! Our guide Richard figured we had some time before the advancing army showed itself in full so we headed down a trail for one of our target species. When we reached a certain spot, Richard positioned us on the trail and pointed out the exact branch to watch. Within a minute of using audio playback, in came a beautiful male Long-tailed Manakin which landed on the same branch Richard had pointed out. A few moments later the female showed up.

Words cannot do justice to the Long-tailed Manakin mating display so instead of butchering the imagery, check it out for yourself. Click the link below – the video was shot by our guide on a pervious trip:

http://ibc.lynxeds.com/video/long-tailed-manakin-chiroxiphia-linearis/two-males-performing-courtship-display-female-present

Oh what a sight it was to watch this incredible dance live!! Although it didn’t end up on my Top 5 list, it easily could have. It’s one of those moments I’d love to go back and experience again, and hopefully some day will.

Long-tailed Manakin - Costa Rica 3-18-2015
Tough lighting conditions and my photo doesn’t do this species justice, but if you didn’t watch the video above, I’d recommend you scroll back up and check it out. Long-tailed Manakin – Costa Rica 3-18-2015

Talk about setting high expectations. It was still morning and we had hours of birding ahead of us. How do you top that mating display? Well on this day we opted for taking on an invading army. We returned to where we had come across the front lines of the army earlier that morning, but this time the main body was moving through the forest. If you haven’t figured it out yet, the army I’m referring to was a swarm of army ants – a birders dream!

When army ants move through a forest, all the insects, spiders, and other ground critters flee or get consumed. This makes easy pickings for the birds as the insects give up their locations by scampering  from under the leaf litter of the forest floor. For approximately 90 minutes, we watched a vast array of bird species fly in for an easy meal as the swarm flood over the forest floor. How many insects flee? At one point I thought I heard rain drops starting to pelt the leaf litter of the forest floor only to realize it was the sound of the fleeing insects!

Below is a very brief video of a very small portion of the swarm (as mentioned above, we basically stood in the same general area for 90 minutes as it moved through – that should give you an idea of just how big a swarm is):

Not only did the swarm bring chaos to the forest floor, but it brought chaos to us birders as well as we moved from one spot to another – crouching low, bending to look around tree trunks, checking the canopy – the number of species that came in was staggering, not to mention trying to ID them all. You’d be standing in one spot and hear someone call out a new species and before you’d have a chance to slide over, someone else would be calling out another. It was perhaps the most exciting 90 minutes of my birding life and at the end of it I could only stand there smiling, mentally exhausted. It reminded me of the feeling I had after taking the 3 hour and 30 minute GRE (Graduate Record Exam) – my brain was fried, overloaded with trying to see and ID everything that was going on. However, unlike the GRE, I was in a state of bliss.

A small sampling of some of the birds seen near the swarm:

Northern Barred-Woodcreeper - Costa Rica 3-18-2015
Northern Barred-Woodcreeper – Costa Rica 3-18-2015
Masked Tityra - Costa Rica 3-18-2015
Masked Tityra – Costa Rica 3-18-2015
Dusky-capped Flycatcher - Costa Rica 3-18-2015
Dusky-capped Flycatcher – Costa Rica 3-18-2015
Ruddy Woodcreeper - Costa Rica 3-18-2015
Ruddy Woodcreeper – Costa Rica 3-18-2015

In the afternoon we headed to another reserve in Monteverde, but what it was called or where exactly it was located I’m not sure. I’ll blame my inability to recall this location on the mental exhaustion of the ant swarm, but in reality it was a lack of good note taking. However, I do know that one of our target birds is perhaps the most famous species in Costa Rica: the Resplendent Quetzal.

This is one of the places we ran into what some call “civilians”, others “tourists”, and I call “expendables.” Whatever you call them, they are non-birders. I do however give them credit for getting off the beaten path and checking out some wildlife…..especially birds. We found the quetzal high up in a stand of trees and while a gorgeous bird, those who only seek the quetzal miss out on hundreds of other species which challenge and surpass its beauty.

It didn’t take long before a few of us noticed some small, non-descript birds working a brush pile nearby. While the expendables where watching the quetzal through a scope, our lot was chasing down the White-napped Brush-Finch shown below. Richard was talking with other guides near the quetzal when he noticed we were working the shrubs and walked over. “Only real birders would turn their backs on the Resplendent Quetzal to checkout the small finches in the brush” he exclaimed. We smiled in agreement.

White-naped Brush-Finch - Costa Rica 3-18-2015
White-naped Brush-Finch – Costa Rica 3-18-2015

A littler further along we came into a clearing which we birded for a good hour as a host of species, both near and far, entertained us. The Golden-browed Chlorophonia shown below were high up in a distant tree. Staring at birds high up in the canopy will eventually bring on “warbler neck” – soreness brought on from having the back of your head against your back as you gaze nearly straight up. I turned around rubbing the back of my neck to see Stuart lying on his back on the ground, pack under his head, watching the same birds in style and comfort.

Stand like this for a few minutes and you’ll know “warbler neck.”

Amanda and Michael watching a bird high up in the canopy and demo-ing warbler neck. Photo courtesy of Nancy Johnson at Blue Star Enterprises.
Amanda and Michael watching a bird high up in the canopy and demo-ing warbler neck. Photo courtesy of Nancy Johnson at Blue Star Enterprises.

The way to bird the high canopy….

Stuart avoids warbler-neck by birding the high canopy in style! Thanks to trip leaders Tom & Carol Sykes for the photo. I highly recommend checking out their blog. It's packed with beautiful photos and information on birding the U.S., Costa Rica, and other destinations: http://tomandcarolsykes.blogspot.com/
Stuart avoids warbler-neck by birding the high canopy in style! Thanks to trip leaders Tom & Carol Sykes for the photo. I highly recommend checking out their blog. It’s packed with beautiful photos and information on birding the U.S., Costa Rica, and other destinations: http://tomandcarolsykes.blogspot.com/
Paltry Tyrannulet - Costa Rica 3-18-2015
Paltry Tyrannulet – Costa Rica 3-18-2015

Some of the hummingbirds found at the clearing:

Canivet's Emerald - Costa Rica 3-18-2015
Canivet’s Emerald – Costa Rica 3-18-2015
Coppery-headed Emerald - Costa Rica 3-18-2015
Coppery-headed Emerald – Costa Rica 3-18-2015

As we made our way back through the forest, we picked up a few more species.

Slate-throated Redstart - Costa Rica 3-18-2015
Slate-throated Redstart – Costa Rica 3-18-2015
Talk about having the area covered; if there was a bird nearby, we were determined to find it. In this case, it was a Black-headed Nightingale-Thrush.
Talk about having the area covered; if there was a bird nearby, we were determined to find it. In this case, it was a Black-headed Nightingale-Thrush.
Not the best photo, but it's the best one I have. Although not super colorful, the Nightingale-Thurshs became some of my favorite birds. Black-headed Nightingale-Thrush - Costa Rica 3-18-2015
Not the best photo, but it’s the best one I have. Although not super colorful, the Nightingale-Thurshs became some of my favorite birds. Black-headed Nightingale-Thrush – Costa Rica 3-18-2015
Orange-billed Nightingale-Thrush - Costa Rica 3-18-2015
This one was seen at the ant swarm. Orange-billed Nightingale-Thrush – Costa Rica 3-18-2015

Heading down the trail with the sun setting below the canopy, Richard heard a distant call. We didn’t stop, but about 50 yards later the proverbial light bulb illuminated above Richard’s head and with a smirk on his face, he snapped his fingers and did a 180. He couldn’t place the call upon first hearing it, but once he did, it was only a few minutes before we found the noise-maker: a Gray-throated Leaftosser.

Gray-throated Leaftosser - Costa Rica 3-18-2015
Gray-throated Leaftosser – Costa Rica 3-18-2015

As we left the park, we came across another tour group and as usual, Richard knew the guide. This kind of networking (i.e. Richard knowing almost all the other guides) was a continuous benefit as Richard was able to gather information on what species had been seen or heard and their location. In this case it was an Orange-bellied Trogon.

Orange-bellied Trogon - Costa Rica 3-18-2015
It was near dark, but the guide had a small spotlight which allowed a few of us to snap some photos. Orange-bellied Trogon – Costa Rica 3-18-2015

Looking back through this post – the number of stories (both shared and those edited out), species seen, and photos included – it’s hard to believe we’d be able to top this as the best overall day. But believe me, we were going to try!

Click the link to jump to the next post in this series: Costa Rica Trip Report (Part V) – A Trip to Heaven

Shorebirds Baby, Shorebirds!

Although I’ve been birding, I haven’t done a local birding post in quite some time. Well, that’s going to change right now. With July behind us and the bulk of shorebirds on the move, Stuart and I headed out this past Saturday for what turned out to be a very productive day of birding. With clear skies and temperatures set to climb into the 90s, we got an early start and left the Malcolm Manner at 6am. The plan was to bird Horicon Marsh, but once on the road Stuart suggested we start with a detour to the Lake Michigan shoreline to search for the two Piping Plovers being seen there.

Sometime around 8am we found the two plovers on the Sheboygan beach hiding amongst some gulls. Is there a better way to start the day than both of us picking up a lifer before 9am?? Why yes, there is! Not only was this a lifer for Stuart, but a milestone lifer as he notched his 300th Wisconsin life bird!! I’ve now had the privilege of sharing in two landmark events in Stuart’s birding life this year, the first being his 2,000th life bird in Costa Rica (more info on that can be found here: From the Roads of Costa Rica).

With our target species on the lakefront found, we zipped over to Horicon Marsh as the temperatures climbed. The shorebird habitat along HWY 49 was excellent with a nice mix of exposed mudflats and shallow water. And the shorebirds didn’t disappoint either – although the first bird that caught my eye was a Virginia Rail feeding on the algae mats.

While watching and photographing the rail, a small, dark ball of fur came wondering out of the reeds – a juvenile Sora. A few moments later, an adult Sora came out near the chick. It was interesting to watch the chick, still presumably fearless, wander out along the algae while the adult hugged tight to the edge of the reeds.

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Sora (Juvenile)
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Sora

Feeding in the shallow waters along with Greater and Lesser Yellowlegs, was another of our target species – Stilt Sandpiper.

Some species of shorebirds can be difficult to tell apart, especially to beginning birders. Take Long-billed and Short-billed Dowitchers for example; there is much overlap in size between the two species and often, flight calls are the only way to tell them apart. Thankfully we had both species of Dowitcher at the same spot and seeing the differences was readily apparent. Yellowlegs also present a similar problem, especially when they are alone with no other species to compare them with. It’s not often you get multiple species to lineup in profile view side-by-side-by-side, but on this morning it was like a police lineup with both Yellowlegs and the Stilt Sandpiper under suspicion. I really like this comparison shot because it shows the difference in size, bill size, and body shape. Focusing on the three birds in the middle:

  • The one on the left is a Greater Yellowlegs. You can easily see how much bigger it is than the Lesser Yellowlegs which is the bird on the far right. Also notice the difference in bill size.
  • Center bird (with its head tucked in) is a Stilt Sandpiper.
  • Lesser Yellowlegs is the bird on the far right.
IMG_0918
Bird police lineup! “Suspect #2, please tuck your bill into your back”

Quite a few Black-necked Stilts were also present……

including this one which Stuart found awkwardly sitting on a distant mudflat. Never seen one sitting like this before!

Heavily cropped distant shot of lazy Black-necked Stilt
Heavily cropped distant shot of lazy Black-necked Stilt

With the sun baking down on us and temps rising into the 80s – and still not yet noon – we decided to make a jaunt down to Mayville for the continuing Rufous Hummingbird. We gave the hummer until 12:15 to show before we would head to lunch and with three minutes to spare it showed up at the feeders. Another target bird successfully seen.

After lunch, and a celebratory beer for Stuart’s 300th Wisconsin life bird, we returned to Horicon Marsh and birded Old Marsh Road. Initially we had planned only a short walk to look for fall warblers, but within the first minute we came across a cooperative Black-billed Cuckoo. Both Stuart and I commented on the extended looks it gave – neither of us had either seen one sit for so long and I was happy to get a few photos of it.

Black-billed Cuckoo
Black-billed Cuckoo

After coming across a Black-and-white Warbler and a Philadelphia Vireo, we spotted a flycatcher high up in the tree and backlit making for a challenging ID. Stuart retreated to the car for a scope and we were able to make out the Olive-sided Flycatcher. Although this wasn’t officially a target species, I had mentioned to Stuart earlier in the day how I had missed this flycatcher this spring and it would be two years in a row without seeing one (meanwhile Stuart had seen 4 or 5 different individuals already, including one in his yard).

Olive-sided Flycatcher
Olive-sided Flycatcher

Before driving home we did a lap on the auto tour. The Least and Solitary Sandpiper below put on a nice show just off the road giving us excellent looks.

Solitary Sandpiper
Solitary Sandpiper

If my math is correct, we finished the day with 67 species, including 16 species of shorebird, and one big milestone! Shorebirds baby, shorebirds!!!

Costa Rica Trip Report (Part III) – The Ledge, The Cloud Forest, and One of the Top Five

Lineated Woodpecker -sunrise near Carara National Park (the Pacific Lowlands) Costa Rica 3-17-2015
Lineated Woodpecker -sunrise near Carara National Park (the Pacific Lowlands) Costa Rica 3-17-2015

This is the third in a series of posts documenting my Costa Rica birding trip from March14-28, 2015. To read the previous post, click here: Costa Rica Trip Report (Part II) – The Pacific Lowlands

To the delight of corporations and capitalism the world over – and myself for that matter – I’m still alive and kicking! It’s been a busy couple of months with birding, yard work, family commitments, and lots of reading, but I’ve finally found some time to do a bit of writing. I’m hoping to be a bit more consistent with my posts, but fair warning – shorebirds are already migrating back south and fall migration is going to pickup. Birding first, blogging second! Enough of that, let’s get on with it…..

As I’m combing through my photos, I’ve realized some days I have a ton of excellent photos and other days, not so much. There are two major reasons for this. First, since we bird along the way on travel days we hit a number of locations, each with different/specific birds. Second, days with ample sunlight (meaning we didn’t spend the whole day in a forest where my camera struggles with the relatively low light conditions) provide for great photo opportunities. Well, this day, being both a travel day and a day where we spent the majority of our time outside the forest, I had a lot to choose from – my initial selection numbered 52! So buckle in for a photo intensive post.

Tuesday, March 17 – Day 3 meant change. After a pre-breakfast birding excursion, we would be leaving the Pacific lowlands for good and gaining nearly 5,000 feet in elevation as we climbed Costa Rica’s continental divide to Monteverde.

Day 3 - from Hotel Villa Lapas to Monteverde as indicated in red, although I really have no idea what path we took to get to Monteverde.
Day 3 – from Hotel Villa Lapas to Monteverde as indicated in red, although I really have no idea what path we took to get to Monteverde. However I do know we climbed a lot of seamlessly endless mountain switchbacks.

As the sun rose over Costa Rica, our guide Richard had us positioned on what I call “The Ledge,” which afforded us an incredible view of the valley below and a host of new species.

Early morning birding on "The Ledge"
Early morning birding on “The Ledge”

One of those Ledge species was the Groove-billed Ani pictured below; a species that will forever remind me of my mate Stuart. Knowing I’m a huge jazz fan, Stuart came up with the idea of naming a jazz group “The Groove-billed Ani’s”. Not content with resting on that single idea, Stuart built on it to create an entire night of jazz. For those who don’t know, there is also a Smooth-billed Ani and Stuart’s idea is to have a hard grooving jazz group called “The Groove-billed Ani’s” start the night. As the night begins to wind down, the after midnight group – “The Smooth-billed Ani’s” – would take over and provide some down-tempo, chill jazz. Brilliant!

Groove-billed Ani at The Ledge 3-17-2015.
Groove-billed Ani at The Ledge 3-17-2015.

Photos of some of the other birds we spotted at The Ledge:

at The Ledge 3-17-2015.
Streak-headed Woodcreeper at The Ledge 3-17-2015. If you’re one who considers all sparrows “little brown jobs,” then you’ll want to avoid Woodcreepers.
Red-legged Honeycreeper at The Ledge 3-17-2015.
Red-legged Honeycreeper at The Ledge 3-17-2015.

On our drive down from The Ledge, this Scarlet Macaw put on quite a show for us outside a private residence. Could you imagine leaving your house and having wild macaws outside?

Scarlet Macaw near The Ledge 3-17-2015.
Scarlet Macaw near The Ledge 3-17-2015.

After breakfast back at Hotel Villa Lapas, we packed our gear, boarded the bus, and headed for Monteverde. Along the way, we would make three key stops and pickup some more new species. First stop, the Pacific coast which netted us some gulls, terns, and shorebirds.

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The Pacific Ocean – 3-17-2015.
Brown Pelicans & shorebirds - 3-17-2015 Costa Rica
Brown Pelicans & shorebirds – 3-17-2015 Costa Rica.

After a brief stop along the Pacific Ocean, we took a side rode to a tract of Pacific mangroves. One of our targets was the Panama Flycatcher – it would be our one shot to find this species since it’s mainly found along the Pacific coast and we were venturing inland with no return to the coast. Bus stops, we file out, stop a short way in the brush, Richard plays the call, the Panama Flycatcher shows up. Not only shows up within minutes of us stopping, but provides excellent views.

Yellow (Mangrove) Warbler - 3-17-2015 Costa Rica.
Yellow (Mangrove) Warbler – 3-17-2015 Costa Rica. Will this species be split from the “non-Mangrove” Yellow Warbler which has a yellow head?? If so, I’ll gain another life bird and it doesn’t get much easier than that – what Stuart calls “an armchair tick,” meaning I can sit at home and do nothing and add a new life bird.

After leaving the coast, we headed inland through some relatively poorer and more rural farmlands on our way to Monteverde. A stop at the salt ponds along the way proved very productive and it was a pleasure scoping shorebirds and terns from a comparably short distance.

Whimbrel
Whimbrel
Black-necked Stilt, Wilson's Polver, Whimbrel - salt ponds in Costa Rica 3-17-2015
Black-necked Stilts, Wilson’s Polvers, & Whimbrels – salt ponds in Costa Rica 3-17-2015
Streak-backed Oriole 3-17-2015
Streak-backed Oriole 3-17-2015

From the salt ponds we made our way over a series of mountain passes; up we climbed on narrow, mainly dirt and gravel roads, before leveling out briefly or descending and then up we’d go again. Speeds were slow, the roads were bumpy, but no one minded…..especially when we rounded a corner and came across a group of Mantled Howler Monkeys. Our bus driver Carlos pulled over to the side and we spent a few minutes watching the group from the bus. Mantled Howler Monkeys eat large quantities of leaves, but since the leaves are hard to digest and provide less energy than most foods, they spend the majority of the day resting and sleeping. As someone with a habitually lazy streak, this seems like the ideal way to spend your time on the planet.

You’ll notice in the photos below, the baby is in a different spot for each picture. While we tried to watch the entire group, this baby seemed to be putting on a show just for us; swinging from branches, climbing all over another monkey, and then looking to take a snooze on one of their backs. Everyone on the bus was wide-eyed with perma-grin smiles.

Arriving in Monteverde we had a few target species. One of those was the Buff-fronted Quail-Dove; an uncommon species endemic to Costa Rica and western Panama. After the drive, many of us filed off the bus and headed straight for the restrooms where wandering just feet from the men’s door was the Buff-fronted Quail-Dove. Ohhhh if only all target species were that easy, but then again, what fun would that be?

We climbed the trails of Monteverde and Richard positioned us at beautiful overlook of a waterfall. This was a spot Richard had counted on in the past for a Snowcap to come and bathe in a small pool near the waterfall.

Unfortunately, the Snowcap did not get the memo and missed our date, but without the search for the Snowcap we may never have came across what would turn out to be my #3 moment on the trip (refresher from the prologue – we were notified on day 1 that at the end of the trip we would need to provide a “Top 5.” The top 5 could be birds, moments, or events – there were no hard and fast rules, only that we would need to share our top 5 experiences.)

Without further ado, my #3 trip moment was almost getting decapitated by a Barred-Forest Falcon! As we were heading back down the mountain, I was second inline directly behind Richard when out of nowhere a blur of an object swooped down and headed straight for me. I’m sure I didn’t need to, but instinct took hold and I ducked. When I looked up at Richard I was wide-eyed with a “what the hell was that?” look on my face. We backtracked down the path and Tom was able to get a scope on the culprit and each of us got great looks at the Barred-Forest Falcon.

Barred-Forest Falcon - Monteverde 3-17-2015
Barred-Forest Falcon – Monteverde 3-17-2015. Sorry for the blurry photo, but the lighting was poor and the falcon was a ways off.

We got back to the parking lot with the sun getting ready to set and had our first hummingbird feeder action. It was a dizzying experience as hummingbird species came zipping by at staggering speeds while Richard called out the various species. Many of these were obliviously use to people and would sit perched while visitors walked up mere feet from them and snapped photos with their phones. It was an incredible way to close out a magnificent day!

Purple-throated Mountain-gem - Monteverde 3-17-2015
Purple-throated Mountain-gem – Monteverde 3-17-2015

As daylight began to disappear, we made our way to the Cala Lodge where beers and dinner awaited us.

Since I’m sharing only a small portion of my photos, and since those only represent a small fraction of what we saw, below is a list of other notable species from day 3:

Black Guan

Black-breasted Wood-Quail

Green Violetear

Coppery-headed Emerald

Yellow-headed Caracra

Yellow-naped Parrot

Spotted Barbtail

Rose-throated Becard

Black-faced Solitaire

Collard Redstart

Stripe-headed Sparrow

Click the link to jump to the next post in this series: Costa Rica Trip Report (Part IV) – The Army Invades

Costa Rica Trip Report (Part II) – The Pacific Lowlands

Picking up a Fiery-billed Aracari within your first 5 minutes of birding - that's the way every morning should start! At Hotel Villa Lapas 3-16-2015
Picking up a Fiery-billed Aracari within your first 5 minutes of birding – that’s the way every morning should start! At Hotel Villa Lapas 3-16-2015

This is the second in a series of posts documenting my Costa Rica birding trip from March14-28, 2015. To read the previous post, click here: Costa Rica Trip Report (Part I) – The Adventure Begins

As someone who normally requires multiple cups of coffee, breakfast, and a shower to peel back the sleep from my eyes, a good indicator of how much I was enjoying the trip was my ability to wakeup, get dressed, and get birding without those necessities. After the first day or two, I started showering at night before bed and when the alarm would sound at 5:10am, I’d be up, dressed, and out the door by 5:30. The excitement of being in a new country (and really a new location every 2 days) and the anticipation of what the day would bring was better fuel than any cup of coffee.

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Day 2 – Overnight at Hotel Villa Lapas – birding at nearby Carara National Park.

As would become common place throughout the trip, the morning started with birding on the grounds at Hotel Villa Lapas. These early morning birding opportunities – usually around 30 minutes – became one of my favorite daily rituals. It allowed me a few minutes each morning to bird on my own and spend as much time as I wanted watching or photographing whatever species caught my attention. Most mornings these were common species which could reliably be found on the hotel grounds, but since they were usually new to me from the day before, the extra minutes watching these helped cement their names and images in my mind. On this morning at Hotel Villa Lapas, I was taken by the beauty of the  Variable Seedeater shown below:

One of the other advantages of these early morning birding opportunities was the chance to pick up a bird you may have missed. The day before I missed on the Painted Bunting which was seen by the rest of the group. Fortunately, I came across it on this morning and spent about 15 minutes watching and photographing it. As I approached the bus I realized the rest of the group had boarded and was waiting on me. A few playful jabs about holding up the group were thrown my way, but after I explained the cause of my delay everyone was happy that I’d picked up the lifer I missed the day before (did I mention there was a great group of birders on the trip?).

If a black-and-white bird, even one as dashing as the male Variable Seedeater, is not your thing, than I’m sure this Painted Bunting will float your boat:

WOW!! I held the bus up briefly as I tried to capture a few photos – stunning colors! Painted Bunting 3-15-2015 at Hotel Villa Lapas.
WOW!! I held the bus up briefly as I tried to capture a few photos – stunning colors! Painted Bunting 3-16-2015 at Hotel Villa Lapas.

After breakfast we headed back to Carara National Park and within minutes of arrival picked up our first Two-toed Sloth just off the parking lot. Although I didn’t get a picture of the curled up ball of fur at the top of a tree, I did manage to capture a photo of the next non-bird critter we saw – a troop of White-faced Capuchins; a monkey most often associated as a companion to the organ grinder. What a sight – seeing the 10-12 individuals traveling across the top of the tree canopy, each following the same path.

White throated Capuchin at Carara National Park 3-16-2015
The first primates of our trip – White-throated Capuchin at Carara National Park 3-16-2015

One of my morning highlights wasn’t a bird, and it wasn’t exactly a critter either – it was a scream from a bathroom. Nancy, Carol, and I stopped to use the facilities within the park. Shortly after entering the stall I heard a loud scream followed by “Oh my god, oh my god” and then the sound of laughter. After Nancy assured us she was ok, we got the scoop: as Nancy grabbed a piece of toilet paper and pulled, a Gecko came flying out and landed on her. It seems the Gecko was taking a siesta on top of the toilet paper and was hidden by the holder. When Nancy gave a pull the Gecko came flying out and gave her quite a scare…and gave all of us quite a laugh!

IMG_4807 3-16
This Gecko was on the wall between my bathroom stall and Nancy’s. Little did we know his amigo was planning a sneak attack.

Before leaving Carara to have lunch back at Hotel Villa Lapas, our guide Richard heard the call of one of our target birds for the Pacific lowlands. After spending 30 minutes searching, and picking up a Rufous Piha during the search, Richard finally spotted our target high up in the canopy. I believe my question to Stuart – and this I repeated multiple times during the course of the trip – was “How the hell did he see that?” Now when I say it was high up in the canopy, I mean near the top of a large tree in a forest of other large trees and covered by leafs and branches. But alas, Richard was quick with the scope and there it was – a Baird’s Trogon! The following day we’d be leaving the Pacific lowlands and this was our one shot at this bird. We were rewarded richly for Richard’s tenacity.

Baird's Trogon - Carara National Park 3-16-2015
Crappy shot, I know, but this should give you a good idea just how high up and covered this bird was. This is a cropped photo taken with a 50x optical zoom. Baird’s Trogon – Carara National Park 3-16-2015

In the afternoon, we birded a different section of Carara. It was here that I learned that although Richard always had a plan, he also liked to surprise us. After hiking for about 20 minutes with little bird activity, I thought maybe we had hit our first lull – things were relatively quiet and I don’t remember adding any lifers. We stopped at a small stream and shortly after the lifers came to us.

Richard had positioned us at a water source during the final few hours of sunlight and minutes later the birds started to arrive. Although photo opportunities in the late afternoon light of the forest were few with my bridge camera, the views we had of the birds were outstanding. The birds would come in, spend some time bathing in the stream, and then fly to a perch to dry off and preen. It was one of the highlights of the trip – we stood still, the birds came to us, and many were within 10-15 feet giving excellent views. Highlights included: Red-capped Manakin, Blue-crowned Manakin, and Green Honeycreeper.

Needless to say day 2, like day 1, was a smashing success! Later that night I remember being disappointed that we were leaving the wonderful accommodations of Hotel Villa Lapas the next morning. That feeling was quickly washed away by the anticipation of what was to come; 2 days down, 12 to go! Bird It Up!

Muscovy Duck at Carara National Park 3-16-2015
Muscovy Duck at Carara National Park 3-16-2015
Pale-billed Woodpeckers at Carara National Park 3-16-2015
Pale-billed Woodpeckers at Carara National Park 3-16-2015

Since I’m sharing only a small portion of my photos, and since those only represent a small fraction of what we saw, below is a list of other notable species from day 2:

Marbled Wood-Quail

Ruddy Quail-Dove

Stripe-throated Hermit

Purple-crowned Fairy

Golden-naped Woodpecker

Great Tinamou

Rufous-tailed Jacamar

Black-faced Antthrush

Chestnut-backed Antbird

Black-faced Antthrush

Plain Xenops

Stub-tailed Spadebill

Riverside Wren

Orange-billed Sparrow

Click the link to jump to the next post in this series: Costa Rica Trip Report (Part III) – The Ledge, The Cloud Forest, and One of the Top Five

Costa Rica Trip Report (Part I) – The Adventure Begins

Sunrise over San Jose, Costa Rica 3/15/2015
Sunrise over San Jose, Costa Rica 3/15/2015

This is the second in a series of posts documenting my Costa Rica birding trip from March14-28, 2015. To read the prologue, click here: Costa Rica Trip Report – The Prologue

NOTE: My original plan was to do a 7 part weekly series to cover my trip to Costa Rica. As I started writing this weeks article the text began to grow and the photos numbered 30….then 40…..then 50, I began to struggle with how to incorporate the photos and tell the stories I wanted without boring you to death with a series of  War and Peace length posts. Well, my genius gene kicked in this morning and I realized it’s my blog and I can do with it what I want! So, I’ve decided to do a single post for each day of the trip – the posts will still be photo heavy, but I should be able to post them more frequently and hopefully you won’t keel over from boredom. (On a side note, I’m also converting a number of my photos (and all new uploaded ones) to a smaller file size in order for them to load faster on the site.) Enough with this drivel and onto the birds……

Flying over Costa Rica the first thing one notices – at least those of us from the U.S. – is the vast tracts of green; such a stark difference compared to the expansive, highly organized grids of cement and concrete known as Chicago – a place I had departed 5 hours earlier. Seeing all that green put a giddy-up in my step and without any checked luggage I was able to make my way through Customs and out of the airport within 45 minutes. Outside I immediately entered birding mode and spotted a couple of birds flittering around the airport rafters. I grabbed my camera as the distance required higher power than my bins (binoculars) and snapped a few photos. As anticipation grew from a simmer to a boil, I checked my viewfinder to see what my first bird in Costa Rican bird would be; a Tropical Kingbird maybe? How about a Great-tailed Grackle? Nope and nope. With a bit of disappointment, the viewfinder clearly showed two House Sparrows. Not exactly the bird I wanted as my first Costa Rican bird, but hey I thought – it can only get better; and get better it most certainly did!

After checking into the Hotel Buena Vista, I immediately put on some shorts, grabbed my birding gear, and headed down to the gardens. Since Tom & Carol had been in Costa Rica since mid-January, Dar had arrived the night before, and Michael & Nancy earlier in the day, by the time I hit the gardens, I had 5 tour guides getting me on the resident birds. Although it was mid-afternoon by the time I got out, I still tallied 21 birds (16 lifers) and a couple of Imperials (that’s Costa Rican beer). Man, it was good to be in Costa Rica!

Grayish Saltator - one of the 16 lifers found during my first evening in Costa Rica. At Hotel Buena Vista 3/14/2015.
Grayish Saltator – one of the 16 lifers found during my first evening in Costa Rica. At Hotel Buena Vista 3/14/2015.

The next morning, Sunday, March 15th was the first official day of the tour and the group was gathered and birding on the hotel grounds by 5:30am (a few minutes before sunrise). Morning highlights included a beautiful pair of Barred Antshrike, a Flame-colored Tanager, and a Yellow-green Vireo. It was the start of a productive morning which would morph into a productive day! After breakfast at the hotel, we set out for Hotel Villa Lapas located near the Pacific coast, but more importantly, within close proximity to the nearly 13,000 acre Carara National Park.

Travel from Hotel Buena Vista to Hotel Villa Lapas - Sunday March 15th.
Travel from Hotel Buena Vista to Hotel Villa Lapas – Sunday March 15th.

As he would do on all of our drives, our guide and author of The Birds of Costa Rica: A Field Guide, Richard Garrigues would make targeted birding stops along the route. In a small plot of scrubland located along a stream between a residential neighborhood and several businesses we added a Cinnamon Hummingbird, Inca Doves, and a couple of cows. Although the birds were of utmost interest, it was interesting to see the cows come wandering out of the shrubs in this urban area and proceed to walk across both lanes of traffic in order to go around us.

"No Amanda, you can't pet the cows"
“No Amanda, you can’t pet the cows”
Just a couple of boring dull gray doves right?
Just a couple of boring dull gray doves right?
No, BAM - Inca Doves! Say what you will about doves, but the scaled back, rufous and black wings, and pattern make this one cool lookin' bird! 3-15-2015No, BAM - Inca Doves! Say what you will about doves, but the scaled back, rufous and black wings, and pattern make this one cool lookin' bird! 3-15-2015
No, BAM – Inca Doves! Say what you will about doves, but the scaled back, rufous and black wings, and pattern make this one cool lookin’ bird! 3-15-2015

Before we arrived at the hotel for lunch, we stopped again and picked up a Rufous-browed Peppershrike and our first owl, a Ferruginous Pygmy-Owl. “Ooohhhs” and “aaahhhhs” were heard throughout the group as the pygmy-owl obliging sat in one spot providing excellent looks. On our next stop, we were introduced to owl #2 for the day – a Black-and-white Owl which trying to top the pygmy-owl, sat still allowing everyone extended looks and photo opportunities.

What’s better than 2 owl species and 2 lifers on the same day? How about 3? Yep, after lunch on the grounds at Hotel Villa Lapas we were shown our third owl of the day – a Spectacled Owl. Later that night over drinks I remember someone commenting, “Three owls on day 1, can’t wait to see him [our guide Richard] top that tomorrow.” And top it he did…day after day.

Rufous-browed Peppershrike - 3/15/2015
Rufous-browed Peppershrike – 3/15/2015
Sunday AM owl - Ferruginous Pygmy-Owl 3-15-2015
Sunday morning and owl #1 – Ferruginous Pygmy-Owl 3-15-2015
Owl #2 and it still ain't lunchtime! Black-and-white Owl 3-15-2015
Owl #2 and it still ain’t lunchtime! Black-and-white Owl 3-15-2015
Owl #3 on the day! Spectacled Owl at Hotel Villa Lapas 3-15-2015
Owl #3 on the day! Spectacled Owl at Hotel Villa Lapas 3-15-2015

Starting the trip with two night at Hotel Villa Lapas was a great choice. Accommodations were excellent, as were the food (all inclusive for food and drinks), and birding on the property was productive. Plus, it’s location near Carara National Park is advantageous for taking morning and afternoon trips.

Some of the birds we saw on the hotel grounds:

Bay-headed Tanager 3-15-2015 at Hotel Villa Lapas
Bay-headed Tanager 3-15-2015 at Hotel Villa Lapas

Following lunch we made an afternoon excursion over to Carara National Park. The highlight for me was getting to see one of my target birds – the Royal Flycatcher. It was a bird I had asked about seeing and as I soon found out, Richard continually delivered on getting us on our wish list birds.

Get prepared to be Wow’d and in awe here at Bird It Up as I introduce an exciting new feature: the embedded video (queue dramatic John Williams music). In this video you’ll see some of the grounds at the Hotel Villa Lapas, our tour bus, and some of the rooms. My main reason for recording this video was to capture the sounds just before sunset – it was one of the those moments I’ll never forget; walking back to the room the surrounding hillsides exploded into a roaring insect factory; it went from relative quiet and calm to a continuous buzzing alarm.

To say our first day was a success would be an understatement. As a group we easily topped 100 species – something we would do everyday on our trip! If you haven’t been on a birding tour before, realize that the group total is what everyone together sees – not every individual sees every bird. Plus, everyone has a different standard for adding a bird to their list – if you seeing a flash of brown and the guide calls out the bird, do you mark it as seen? Or do you wait until you can see it and ID it? My point is – we each decide what we add to our lists based on our own criteria. That being said, I added 88 birds (including the few hours I birded on Saturday afternoon) and 72 lifers! Any question whether I went to bed with a giant smile on my face??? Content and eager for more, I drifted off into sleep so I’d be rested for day 2 in order to get out there and Bird It Up!

Since I’m sharing only a small portion of my photos, and since those only represent a small fraction of what we saw, below are a few other notable species seen on the first day:

Chestnut-backed Antbird

Black-hooded Antshrike

Wood Stork

Black-mandibled Toucan

Scarlet Macaw

White-crowned Parrot

Dusky Antbird

Northern Bentbill

Plain Wren

Red-legged Honeycreeper

Ruddy-tailed Flycatcher

Click the link to jump to the next post in this series: Costa Rica Trip Report (Part II) – The Pacific Lowlands