19 March 2015

Waiting for Snow...COSTA RICA (25th Feb.)

...Now that is not something that many can claim on the eastern seaboard of the United States this year! But, more of that later.

Having bagged 7 Fiery-billed Aracaris and a Spot-breasted Oriole pre-breakfast, post-breakfast we drove into the Caribbean foothills, and Braulio Carrillo National Park. With our delayed departure from the Central Valley, delayed because of an exciting onslaught of birds, we did not roll into Braulio until the "poor birding time" of nearly 11am. I was not that hopeful of a bumper crop, with our late arrival, but decided that John and I would walk the famous Las Palmas trail. While John and I walked the trail, Pablo, my co-guide and bird photography fiend, went with John's wife, Irene, to enjoy the El Tapir Hummingbird Garden, just a few kilometers away.

As John and I entered the trail a Buff-rumped Warbler flitted on and off the trail, but the most noteworthy thing was the sheer lack of bird sounds; it felt like the birds had already left the building. The trail is only 1.6km long, so we figured, worst-come-the-worst, we would reach the other end in no time. John and I entered the trails without our cameras, a little laziness, and ominous clouds overhead leading us to this decision; a decision we were to regret dearly. Not only did we get no rain, but we got lots of birds, some very photogenic indeed. The first sign that things were going to work out was a Dull-mantled Antbird that showed very well on our first leg of the trail, then we hit several feeding flocks that created excitement with what they held within; the first of these held a Brown-billed Scythebill, a male White-throated Shrike-Tanager that sat at eye level for 5 whole minutes, several Carmiol's (Olive) Tanager, and Streak-crowned Antvireo and Checker-throated Antwren within the understorey component of the same flock. A little off trail work was required to locate a softly-spoken Song Wren too. Continuing on around the trail we walked into my nemesis bird, and a wonderful lifer right around lunchtime: a pair of Lattice-tailed Trogons, which could have been well photographed, were it not for my foolish lack of camera! On the way out we also walked up to a Crested Guan that glared down at us as it wolfed down fruits, and saw three Stripe-breasted Wrens too.

With our late arrival, and late lunchtime, we ate lunch and then returned to El Tapir, so that John and I could see some of what Irene and Pablo had seen during the morning. The unnerving news was that they had NOT seen a Snowcap, a hummingbird for which our visit there was crucial. However, we returned in the hope that it might pop up on one of the flowering Verbenas while we were there. While we waited for the arrival of snow, John and I set about catching up on some of the birds that were seen there during the morning: Bronze-tailed Plumeleteer flew in (photo immediately above), revealed its bright red feet and left; Green Thorntails flitted in and out of the verbenas, all the while being chased off by the aggressive resident Rufous-tailed Hummingbirds; the male Black-crested Coquette, perhaps as it is so tiny and so sneaky, flew in several times and avoided the usual vicious attacks. In the trees overhead we racked up Passerini's Tanagers, and better still, Black-and-yellow Tanager, Black-faced Grosbeak, and (for me at least), a male Tawny-capped Euphonia. The afternoon though was wearing on, and we still were without snow, and we still had to make our way another hour down into La Selva before the day was out. Tensions were high when the sun began to ail around 4:30PM, and even I was thinking that we might have to leave this bird behind, when Pablo shouted "S-N-O-W-C-A-P", and before we knew it there it was, a tiny hummingbird daubed in deep purple, and capped with a crisp white "Snowcap"! This bird is not only desirable for its rarity and endemic status (it is a regional endemic found from Honduras to west Panama, but is most gettable in Costa Rica), it just looks, and sounds good.

With the day wearing on, and snowcap bagged, we headed straight for La Selva, getting there with very little time to bird by the time of our late afternoon arrival. However, that did not stop is from adding Rufous-tailed Jacamar and Collared Aracari before darkness took over.

No comments: