Thursday, July 24, 2014

Day 10-11: Cararas National Park and Traveling Home

Hey Tyler writing! We bring you this post from approximately 37,000 feet in the air as we are currently flying home at the time this is being written. We are sad to leave because our one day on the pacific coast was so great, we wished we could have had more time to bird it! The day started off with us saying goodbye to Brian Zwiebel, Rob’s friend who also helps run Sabrewing Tours. Brian is an excellent photographer and his pictures can be seen on the Sabrewing Tours website. Then came some disappointing news, Rob informed us that before we woke up, he had walked to the Quetzal Research Station, the place where we photographed the adult male Quetzal the day before. He had seen Emerald Toucanet, Black Guan, and Rufous-browed Peppershrike, which were three birds we worked really hard to see but couldn’t find. We were happy for him but sad that we had missed out on three great high elevation birds. After leaving Savegre, we headed to Carara National Park, a park located where the Tuaz River meets the Pacific Ocean. Carlos had informed us that this would be a great spot for many of the waders, shorebirds, hawks, low elevation birds, as well as being one of the only populations of Scarlet Macaw in the country not to be affected heavily by trapping the birds for pets. As we neared the park, a moment of excitement came as Ethan said that there were two large birds flying towards us, we couldn’t tell what they were until the angle and lighting became better. At the same time everyone exclaimed that the two long-tailed, large, red birds flying at us were Scarlet Macaws! To me, this was the most exciting bird of the trip, one I had been wanting to see in the wild some day for 7 years, ever since I began birding! Within the next hour, we had seen Blue-ground Doves, Golden-naped woodpeckers, Crested Caracara, and Yellow-headed Caracara, surprisingly a bird that is not related at all to the Crested Caracara. We then arrived to Carara and walked the road to the river tour that Carlos had planned for us. We were able to see more Macaws, several rufous naped wren, and 3 Turqoise-browed Motmot at very close distance. On the boat, we hit a jackpot on shorebirds such as Willet, Whimbrel, Collared Plover, Wilson’s Plover, Semipalmated Plover, Short-billed Dowitcher, Ruddy Turnstone, Western Sandpiper, and Spotted Sandpiper. We also had a good number of waders like Great, Snowy, and Cattle Egrets, Rosette Spoonbill, Yellow-crowned Night-heron, Green heron on nest with 2 chicks, and excellent looks at a Bare-throated Tiger Heron. Ethan was able to spot Common (Mangrove) Black-hawk, White-tailed Kite, and Osprey. After the boat, we hiked the River Trail, which is said to be the single best trail in Costa Rica. Unfortunately the rain held most birds back but we still saw amazing things! The birds began after we stood around to watch about 6 White-faced Capuchin and 2 Howler Monkey walk through the canopy. After that, we had a nice flock of birds. Immediately we found a bird that brought Carlos goosebumps (or chickenbumps as he called them), a Ruddy-tailed Flycatcher, one of his absolute favorites! Right after that, a Royal flycatcher came into view. But the best bird here, in my opinion, was definitely the Pheasant Cuckoo, one of the most elusive birds in Costa Rica. Many people search for this bird yet few get to see it because It hides and sings deep in the forest. My dad found two different Slaty-tailed Trogons throughout the walk which were beautiful birds. Unfortunately, the Rufous-tailed Jacamar that Carlos found had flown away by the time we got there. By then, the sun was setting and we had to rerun to the hotel in San Jose so we could get up early this morning to head home. Not much excitement today except for the earthquake that hit the airport while we were waiting. It was powerful enough to shake the building and make my bag fall over. Well, we are sad the trip is over and Rob is already talking about the followup trip! Ethan and I want to thank Sabrewing Tour’s Rob Ripma for an excellent trip and Carlos Vargas for being a great guide and his knowledge of birds and natural history as well as his humor. Thanks everyone! Can’t wait for next time!
Ethan, Rob, Tyler

Cararas National Park

Spiny Iguana

Scarlet Macaw

Turquoise-browed Motmot Pair

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Day 9: Resplendent Quetzals!!

Hola amigos! Ethan writing. We woke up fairly early this morning, which was totally worth it. We traveled a short distance down the road where Resplendent Quetzals had been reliable. We were waiting around, and of course I had my back turned as Rob and Tyler saw a juvenile male Quetzal fly over. After a few minutes of searching the area, Rob told us to stay as he headed up the road a short ways. In about 10 minutes, he was making big gestures for us to come over. He had found it by scanning. The juvenile male and adult male look exactly the same except for the long tail feathers. The feathers were missing on this bird. As we were heading back towards the van, a female was spotted. The female has a dark head and is overall pretty drab. After eating breakfast, we hit the trails, looking for reported Black Guan. Although we missed the guan, we added some other cool life birds like Long-tailed Silky Flycatcher and Elegant Euphonia. Here's Tyler's pic of the Silky Flycatcher:
 We continued back to the lodge, took a short break, and tried a different trail. This trail was not very active, but almost right away we added Collared Redstart and Olivaceous Piculet. Tyler's Redstart from earlier in the day:
Later in the hike, we crossed a bridge. I was second, and I saw something out of the corner out of my eye; a female quetzal! My photo:
Coming back towards the lodge, Rob spotted a Black-faced Solitaire, and I spotted a Black-capped Flycatcher. We walked a short ways to a place where Emerald Toucanet was reported. Although we missed it, we added White-naped Ground Finch. Also (no big deal) we had another 2 quetzals. :)
Tyler got a nice picture of an ADULT Quetzal (MALE!)
That was basically our birding today. During dinner, Rob told us a surprise about tomorrow: We're not staying at Savegre. WE'RE GOING TO DA PACIFIC COAST!!!!!!!!!!!! THAT MEANS TONS OF NEW SPECIES, ones that we could never get at Savegre like SCARLET MACAW, PLUMBEOUS KITE, and COLLARED PLOVER. We are EXTREMELY excited, I'll end it here because we need sleep for tomorrow. Buenas Noches!

Monday, July 21, 2014

Day 8: Fiery-throated Hummingbird and Getting Settled at Savegre

Hi Tyler writing! Unfortunately we had to say goodbye to Harry and the amazing staff at Rancho Natualista this morning. We didn't leave without a few more life birds though! We were able to see Brown-hooded Parrots, Cinnamon Becard, Yellow-olive Flycatcher, as well as Ethan was able to see the Bright-rumped Attila that I saw yesterday. As we left from Rancho, we began the long 4 hour drive to Savegre Mountain Lodge. We decided to stop and walk across a bridge near a dam hoping to get water birds. We were able to add Giant Cowbird, Green Heron, and Bat Falcon. After the excitement of the Bat Falcon, we continued on to Mirador de Quetzales in hopes of Fiery-Throated Hummingbird. Before we even got out of the car, we had already seen 3! The feeders had at least 15 of them, 5 Magnificent, 2 Green Violetears, and a Volcano Junco. We also saw Black-and-yellow Silky-flycatcher and Large-footed Finches. After about 200 photos, here is the best Fiery-throated Hummingbird photo I took:

Lucky for me, the sun hit perfectly, if it hit from any other angle, it would appear black
After that, we went up to the timberline at about 11,000 feet. Our goals up here were, Peg-billed Finch, Volcano Junco, Timberline Wren, and Flame-throated Warbler. Luckily, we were able to see every one of these species! The Volcano Junco was not afraid of us and came within 4 feet of us!
Ethan's Photo

Tyler's Photo

As we were arriving in Savegre, Ethan and I both spotted a huge bird flyover. We noticed a white tail, rusty head and both knew what it was, Ornate Hawk-eagle! Unfortunately, we never were able to photograph it. We were amazed by the grounds at Savegre! The Savegre Mountain Lodge is amazing! The rooms are luxurious, the common area is extremely nice, the food is amazing, and the bird activity seems good from what we have seen. Here are some shots for the day:
Acorn Woodpecker (Tyler)

Sooty-capped Chlorospingus (Ethan)  
Flame-colored Tanager (Ethan)

Yellow-thighed Finch (Tyler)

Yellow-thighed Finch (Ethan)

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Day 7: Last Full Day at Rancho Naturalista!

Hey! Ethan writing. This morning, we started off getting a Tawny-chested Flycatcher, which is a really cool looking bird! After an amazing breakfast, we headed to a local spot to see Sunbittern. We arrived and almost instantly we had an Amazon Kingfisher. Soon afterwards, we had good views of Torrent Tyrannulets and a Buff-rumped Warbler. As we headed on, a Sunbittern was spotted, but dense foliage made those of us who are shorter (me) unable to see the bird. Only Rob Ripma, Tyler, and Harry saw the bird. As we moved along, we spotted many field birds, such as Yellow-faced Grassquit, Blue-and-Black Grosbeaks, and an Olive-crowned Yellowthroat. We never again saw a Sunbittern, but I ended the trip with an additional 15 life birds. On the way home, we had great looks at Crimson-collared Tanagers and a Bronzed Cowbird. During lunch, I spotted a nearby armadillo. Carlos asked, "Can I catch it?". Thinking he was joking, we all said sure. Well:

Amazon Kingfisher

Tarantula Carlos caught
(not one I liked)

Tyler's Sunbittern shot

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Day 5 and 6: Travel Day and Rancho Naturalista - Day 1

Day 5: Travel Day

Hola! It's Ethan. Early morning on day 5, we woke up at the CEDCAS Clinic super excited for the birding half of the trip. By 9:30, we had arrived at Rob's Hotel. From there we drove towards Rancho Naturalista, making two stops. The first was to a lookout area from which we saw a river, which held 4 Neotropic Cormorants and about 40 Wood Storks! We also viewed around 30 Black Vultures, plus a Short Tailed Hawk and a Swallow Tailed Kite. Afterwards, we drove to a park visible from the overlook. The park was very active, with many nesting birds and tons of life birds. Close views of Crimson Fronted Parakeets, as well as Montezuma Oropendola, Blue Crowned Motmot, breeding Palm Tanagers, and Common Tody-Flycatchers. Our best birds were probably two Prevost's Ground Sparrows, which we have good pictures of because they are uncommon. A few hours later, we arrived at our last stop, which gave us very hard to find birds including Red-breasted Blackbird, Yellow-faced Grassquit, Southern Lapwing,   Keel-billed Toucan, and 3 Green Ibis! We also had good looks at Groove-billed Ani and Cattle Egrets. Finally, as we were driving into Rancho, we saw 3 Keel-billed Toucans. The hummingbird feeders were alive with Jacobins, which we've learned is constant. On to the next section!

Blue-crowned Motmot (Tyler)

Day 6: Rancho Naturalista Day 1

Hey Tyler here! Today was our first day at Rancho Naturalista. Last night, as we were going through pictures, we heard a Common Paraque calling in the distance. Today we began early at 5:30 am to get in a full day of birding. When we woke up, it was pouring rain which was the perfect reason to sit on the deck and watch the feeders for a while. This quickly proved to be a great idea where we got some of the amazing feeder birds here such as Bay-headed Tanager, Montezuma Oropendola, Grey-headed Chachalaca, and Passerini's tanager. After breakfast, the rain let up and we went with a guide from Rancho Naturalista, Harry. We no more than left the parking lot and Harry had pointed out a Black-crested Coquette, a very small and amazing looking hummingbird. As we continued on our walk, we added many tanager species, wren species, flycatcher species, and more. We did happen to come across 3 Collared Aracari along with several Keel-billed Toucan. One of the best birds was we were able to find the very elusive Long-billed Gnatwren. From there, we went up into the forest and immediately noticed a change in species. We were able to see more of the dense wooded birds such
as Buff-throated Folliage-gleaner, slaty spinetail, several species of woodcreepers, and deep forest flycatchers. We then headed back to go to lunch and after lunch, headed right back where we left off. This time, we climbed much higher and found even more great birds! We heard then saw 3 Crested Guan, a bird we didn't really expect to actually see. When we reached the highest point we were going to go to, we got excellent looks at a White-crowned Manakin, a bird that usually doesn't stay still for more than a second. We went back down to the lodge and went to the hummingbird ponds, a series of ponds from a stream where the hummingbirds all come to bathe for the night. Our target birds here were Snowcap and Dull-mantled Antbird. After watching the hummingbirds for a while, our target showed up. A male Snowcap showed up! We had watched females flying around hoping to get a glimpse of this amazing purple and white hummingbird, and we did. While watching him, Harry noticed a black bird walking on the found in the back of the ponds. It was the Dull-mantled Anitbird! We successfully got our target species for the day and then some, ending with an amazing 121 species for the day and about 150 for the trip.

Grey-headed Chachalaca

Long-billed Gnatwren

Bananaquit (Ethan)

Crowned Woodnymph 

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Day 4: Poás Volcano and La Paz Waterfall Gardens

Hi it's Ethan. Today we went to Poás, an active volcano located about an hour north of San Jose. Unfortunately, the rain was so bad that we made it to the crater, and couldn't see anything but mist. Despite the disappointment there, we were able to see several good birds, two of which still cannot be identified but we do have good photos to help us identify when we meet up with Rob Ripma tomorrow morning. From there, we went to La Paz Waterfall Gardens, after being stuck in traffic for over an hour. Upon arrival, we were greeted by a very friendly Coati:
 When we walked down to the area we were going to be eating at, we couldn't believe what we saw. The 8 hummingbird feeders located in the gardens attracted 10 species of hummingbirds and usually a bananaquit at any given time. It was like nothing we had ever seen! 30-40 individual birds were constantly buzzing around our heads and landing on our fingers. The species we saw were:

1. Violet Sabrewing
2. Green Violetear
3. Brown Violetear
4. Green Crowned Brilliant
5. Coppery Headed Emerald (our favorite)
6. Green Hermit
7. Black Bellied hummingbird
8. White Bellied Mountain Gem
9. Purple Throated Mountain Gem
10. Green Thorntail

This is what the feeders looked like at any given moment: (Video by Tyler)
Brown Violetear (photo by Tyler)
 Coppery Headed Emerald (photo by Tyler)
 Female Green Crowned Brilliant (photo by Tyler)
 Prong Billed Barbet (photo by Tyler)
 A Sooty Robin that was not happy to be in the rain (photo by Tyler)
 Female Green Thorntail (photo by Tyler)
 Violet Sabrewing (photo by Tyler)

After Viewing the hummingbirds, we went to the indoor aviary briefly to see if the rumors about being able to hold captive toucans was true... I think it was true! The keel-billed toucan we held was fiery friendly and weighed a lot less than we expected!

Ethan With Toucan
 Tyler With Toucan
 Josh With Tocan

 From there, we headed on to the waterfalls, it was a nice walk through the rainforest with a nice reward:

(this is actually not the biggest one there, the biggest was so big, Tyler couldn't get a good picture because his 300mm lens was too close!)

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Day 3: Final Work Day

Hi it's Tyler! Today was our final work day here in Costa Rica. We returned to the same village today that we distributed shoes in yesterday. Today, as we arrived, the pathway to the building we would be in was so crowded with kids, we could hardly get into the building! Today was spent playing with the kids in the area while some of the members continued to do shoe distribution. We played a very fun game of Costa Ricans vs. Americans soccer in the little concrete plaza at the center of the town. The problem was, the village is built over a huge ravine that is washed out due to constant flooding of the area. The ball would fall down there constantly because the fence around the plaza was in bad condition. After lunch, we retuned to the village and continued what we had been doing when we left, but this time, we had brought meals for some of the families and went to their homes to deliver them.

Here is a view of the village from the top of the hill. The yellow buildings in the back were built up on top of the hill so that people driving along the road would not be able to see the poor village behind it. About 450-500 families live in the area in the picture.  

This is the ravine that runs throughout the entire village. On several occasions, families have lost their houses due to erosion and the houses collapsing. 

Here is Ethan, Hugo (pronounced with a silent H), and Me. Hugo is an amazing man who after having an extremely rough childhood, was able to found Sonrias con Esperanza, or Smiles with hope. Hugo has made such a difference in the lives of the people in the village. While walking through the village with him, I couldn't even count the number of times a kid would come up to him calling him dad. He was always just as excited to see the kids as they were to see him. Everywhere we went, every kid would drop what they were doing and run to him, stick their heads out a window to see him, or would yell from inside the house to tell him hi. He loves every kid in that village so much and is able to provide them with a safe play to play everyday. 
Now about the birding. Today was getting a little better as Ethan and I are now familiar with the common species and are able to notice more of the ones that seem different from the common inca dove, white wing dove, blue grey tanager, and social flycatcher. Today we were able to add 8 species to our trip count, putting us at 39 for the trip, (This number is about to drastically increase as the birding portion of the trip begins friday. The habitat nearby the clinic is not what we expected and 36 is actually more than we initially thought we would see here.) During breakfast, Ethan and I were able to get good looks at a band tailed pigeon that was flying around the clinic. In the village, we were able to see both Rose Throated Becard and the similar White Winged Becard. During one of the shoe distributions, my dad came in to grab Ethan and I because of a strange woodpecker outside. After getting a good look, we were able to identify it as a Rufous Winged Woodpecker. We had been seeing several Great Kiskadees and one of them looked different, but not smaller like the social flycatcher. We noticed the bird was Kiskadee size, but lacked the bright rufous coloring in the wings and tail the Kiskadee would have. It turned out to be a boat billed flycatcher! Throughout the day, Ethan and I had been seeing many White Crowned Parrots and Crimson Fronted Parakeets, both of which are absolutely beautiful birds. In the van heading back to the clinic, Ethan and I talked about how we had been here 3 days without seeing any raptors! We thought we would have a competition, first to find a raptor wins. When we got back the clinic, Ethan and I both ran to the top floor balcony which had become our birding deck. After about 40 minutes Ethan excitedly says "Raptor flying over the clock tower!" The bird was very distant but he was able to pull of a photo just good enough to see that the bird was a White Tailed Kite!

Tomorrow will be a day for the whole group to travel to Poás, a volcano that is north of San Jose. This place is supposedly very good for hummingbirds and other tropical species. We will be there all day tomorrow and are hoping for a very good day to bring that 39 species count even higher!

Thats all we got for today! Hoping for another great day tomorrow!