This blog will be about our last two days of birding with the Tropical Birding’s Birding with a Camera tour. Our bus took us north along the Pacific coast. We stopped at an overlook near Jaco. This was the view of the beach.
Flocks of Brown Pelicans flew by and so did a couple of Scarlet Macaws. The group walked down the road a couple of hundred metres following them and Doug spotted one and was able to get a photo. A beautiful bird!
We continued north to our hotel for one night, Villa Lapas. We didn’t take any photos of the hotel; it wasn’t as unique as the lodges that we had stayed in previously. They had a large lawn area and we had a good look at a Green Iguana (Iguana iguana) that was just outside our room.
On our afternoon birding walk, we walked down a dirt road that followed the river.
There were two Yellow-throated Toucans, high in the trees. Here’s one of them.
The toucans flew over to another tree, and while Wendy was looking at them there, she saw a pair of Scarlet Macaws stick their heads out of two nest cavities. The toucan continued to keep watch on a branch just a few metres away. Our guide told us the toucans were probably waiting for the macaws to leave the nests so they could eat the eggs or young. Luckily that didn’t happen when we were there.
Doug spotted this small Green Kingfisher along the riverbank. We know that this one is a male because of the rufous breast-band. A Green Kingfisher is half the size of a Belted Kingfisher that we are familiar with at our home in BC.
We saw this White-whiskered Puffbird sitting in the middle of a forest trail. It acted as if it was injured, because it didn’t move as we came close. The specialized feathers (bristles) of a puffbird that project from the base of its beak likely protect the puffbird’s face and eyes from the scaly moths, butterflies and other large noxious insects that make up the puffbird’s diet.
This is a Sulphur-bellied Flycatcher, which we only saw once on the trip. They are more common later during the wet season.
We watched a pair of Rufous-naped Wrens having a dust bath and later perching on a railing. They are noisy and conspicuous wrens.
We’ve already posted a photo of a Yellow-bellied Flycatcher in this Costa Rica series of blog posts, but we really like this little bird and it posed so nicely.
Our hotel was really close to the Tarcoles River and a birding river cruise was arranged as part of our tour. We boarded one of the Jungle Crocodile Safari boats at about eight o’clock, way ahead of the regular tourists who ride the boat in order to see crocodiles.
We had lots of room to move from side-to-side depending on which side was close to shore or out of the sun. It was a slow-moving river and also quite shallow. We were impressed at how our driver could maneuver the boat so that we had good views of the birds.
We had a pair of Mangrove Swallows who stayed close to the boat the whole time. It looked like they were building a nest on the boat’s roof. Here is one feeding close to the boat.
We had a good view of this Turquoise-browed Motmot. We saw two that day, but they were the only sightings of the whole tour. This species of motmot has a large area of bare shaft on its central tail feathers.
We only saw a Bare-throated Tiger-Heron once. It eats a variety of prey items, including baby crocodiles.
Here are two photos of a Yellow-crowned Night-Heron; the first in its more common pose and the second when it was doing a stretch. It forages for crabs and other crustaceans in the estuary mud, and is often active at night.
Our captain made sure we saw a good-sized crocodile before he turned the boat around.
The boat headed out towards the ocean.
The Magnificent Frigatebirds were plentiful in the wide section of the estuary. Here are two views: head-on and side-view. These birds are females, because males have a red throat patch. These pterodactyl-like birds are really big (90 cm – 130cm). Although they will pluck their own prey from the water’s surface, they generally maneuver skillfully to harass other seabirds in order to steal their prey.
When we were near the beach, we could see that there was a crew doing a cleanup. People come from all over the world to volunteer in beach clean-ups. There are tours that you can pay to join that are specifically set up for this or tourists can volunteer for a scheduled beach clean-up event.
The boat turned again and headed back inland. We got a good view of a Common Black Hawk. Common Black Hawks are found year-round along the coasts of Central and South America. Some of the population migrates into Mexico and Arizona. In Arizona, its pretty special to see one because they are only found along permanent streams.
This silly-looking bird is a Roseate Spoonbill. Its distinctive spoon-shaped bill is obvious in the photo below.
Here is a Roseate Spoonbill feeding. Spoonbills walk slowly while sweeping their bills from side to side in the water. They swallow their prey whole.
We were really lucky to see this American Pygmy Kingfisher. The boat backed up so we could get a better view, but it was still behind a lot of foliage. It is the smallest kingfisher in Costa Rica.
As we made our way back to the dock, we looked carefully for shorebirds. There was a group of Ruddy Turnstones that were well camouflaged among the rocks. This bird is just developing its breeding plumage. From April to September they develop a rufous colouring. They were all turning over rocks in their search for prey.
A Willet walks purposefully, picking and probing the ground for prey. Their territorial song is “pilly WILL WILLET” which gives them their name.
This is a White Ibis. Ibises detect and grab prey with their long-decurved beaks, which they use in up-and-down, sewing-machine-like movements.
We saw over fifty species on our hour-and-a-half tour. After we got back to the hotel, we packed up, checked out, and had lunch before we set out on our final bus ride back to the San Jose area. One of the group members requested that the bus driver find us a “tourist trap” so we could pick up souvenirs. Luis drove us to the biggest souvenir shop in the area, “El Jardin.” We bought some wonderful things, but no socks.
By mid-afternoon we were back at Hotel Robledal. We enjoyed our last dinner with the group and headed off to the airport in the morning.
Throughout the whole tour, we saw some amazing birds as well as some beautiful scenery. The people were friendly everywhere we went. Often if we were near a roadway, people would honk their horns as a welcome. The occupants of one car, yelled, “Pura Vida” as a greeting. Going through all the photos (over one thousand of birds alone) and writing this blog has helped us extend our enjoyment of the trip.
Now that we are almost half-way through April, we will start putting our “Arizona in April” blog posts together.