26 October 2017

Costa Rica Bird Challenge: Day 4, (15 Oct 2017)

Rancho Naturalista to Crested Owl; a day for the ages…
 
I have to admit having earmarked this day for something pretty special before arriving in Costa Rica, and I approached it with a little extra excitement to some of the others, no offence to the other excellent sites meant. However, “Rancho” is a bit of a birding legend. The lodge is run by a birder, the supreme host of Lisa Erb, and has a team of excellent bird guides right on site. I knew one of them from my brief time here last February, and was quick to secure the services of Harry Barnard for this day. His hearing skills, spotting skills and guiding skills are superb. I can honestly say I have not experienced such accurate descriptions of where a bird is hidden within a mass of tropical leaves better from anyone else. He carried no laser pointer, and did not require one either!
 
The first few hours of the day were spent birding the grounds close to the lodge, and with the considerable aid of Harry, we had chalked up 120 species or so in a few hours before we left there, including some special ones indeed: Tawny-chested Flycatcher, Snowcap, Black-crested Coquette, a lonely Green Thorntail, White-necked JacobinViolet-headed Hummingbird, several Green-breasted Mangos, great looks at a tubby Tawny-throated Leaftosser (a bird that simply oozes character in spite of being largely brown in colour); Golden-olive Woodpecker, Scarlet-thighed Dacnis, and Carmiol’s Tanager. Dull-mantled Antnbirds were also heard calling from deep down below calling from a wet gully, while the taunting calls of the always difficult to see Thicket Antpitta echoed down to us from the slopes above. A landmark moment also came when we finally nailed down our first House Wren of the challenge (quite belatedly for such a common species!)
 
After reluctantly leaving Rancho Naturalista behind, (but fortunately not Harry who lent his ears and eyes to us for the entire day), we set off for the Tuis Valley, with two particular targets in mind, a Sunbittern hiding among the boulders of the river, and the rare Lanceolated Monklet in the riverside forest, a very tough bird in this country. The first bird proved straightforward; in spite of the forest seeming deathly quiet, a Sunbittern showed, and due to the tenacity of a fellow team in the same area, the Redstart Wranglers, we all got to enjoy long, long looks at the cute Lanceolated Monklet too, before we all left for El Copal, another area of excellent foothill forest not far from Rancho.
 
After narrowly making it up the dirt road to El Copal, we quickly ate and launched off into the forest, knowing that our few hours on site might feel like barely enough, even in the potentially worst part of the day in the tropics – early afternoon. However, this trail and this reserve bucked that trend, and we enjoyed a near constant stream of birds, and ended up virtually having to run back to the bus to fit in one more site before dark. Flocks were quite active, and we got lots of Black-and-yellow and Emerald Tanagers (no exaggeration), got see well males of both White-ruffed and White-crowned Manakins, got looks at both Song Wren and Bicolored Antbird (but could not set eyes on the calling Spotted Antbirds in the same area unfortunately due to severe time constraints leading us away), Tawny-capped and White-vented Euphonias, a glowing male White-winged Tanager, Red-headed Barbet, and the rare Rufous-browed Tyrannulet were all also seen. Black-breasted Wood-Quails however, approached very close and nearly deafened us with their raucous calls, but never broke cover.
The reason we ended up rushing around the trail quicker that we’d have liked to, was not because we had far to go, or that the birding was bad, quite the contrary; but because the hotel we were heading for Casa Truire is home to a large wetland, which could provide some serious list loading of waterbirds that we may not have time for elsewhere on the bird race. We simply had to make it there with light to spare. We made it there in the nick of time, avoided checking in to give us the time needed, and jogged down to the lake edge. Several Prothonotary Warblers in the trees beside the dock were a nice start, as were wild Muscovy Ducks, Snail Kites, the call of our first White-throated Crake, and news from another group of a Limpkin around the corner, which was soon located along with Least Grebe, and better still Least Bittern. One of the last birds of daylight was a Russet-naped Wood-Rail strutting across the lakeside trail, and several Pauraques lifting off the forest path. However, the day was not over. Following a rather extravagant dinner, we set out for nightbirds, and very quickly were being glared at by an unhappy looking Tropical Screech-Owl. We then ran into the leading team (led by local guide Diego Quesada), who very kindly showed us a Crested Owl (adult and juvenile) they had just found, to round off what was anticipated to be one of the better days of the tour, and surpassed expectations, with just under 200 species recorded for our team on this day.
 
The next day was to be very different indeed, with a visit to the endemic rich highlands to start, and ending on the other, Pacific, side of the mountains. Just outside Carara National Park

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1 comment:

Waderworld said...

Good to see you are back to Blogging Mr Woods, keep up the good work!