I'll Not Be Home for Christmas (Costa Rica - Part 1)

Updated: Jan 29

12/17/2021 - 12/24/2021


Looking ahead in 2021, we saw the writing on the wall. We just did not know quite how bad things were going to get. The holidays were going to roll around, and everyone was going to be pressuring us to come visit. Carmen has talked about taking another Spanish immersion class for years. This year looked like a good year for her to go, again. In particular, being gone over the holidays looked ideal. We set plans and then kept our heads down and noses to the grindstone until the holidays arrived. The holidays brought Omnicron with them, and we were wondering what we had done to ourselves. Nothing to fear, really. Covid number in Costa Rica are far better than the numbers in our own state. Vaccination rates are high. They are taking things very seriously. As usual, the only issues we saw were with other Americans.


Carmen headed down a week before I did and started classes. I joined her on her first weekend. It was a long day of travel that started at 2 AM and did not end until I arrived in Quepos around 8 PM. The next morning we had an early start. Carmen had booked a bird guide for me, and we had to meet him in Esquipulas (about 30 minutes away) at 6 AM. We met Jason at the soccer fields and started birding from there. The weather was not great. We were getting a lot of rain. Jason finally lead us to a place that is listed on Google Maps as "Projecto Esquipulas Ideal for Birds". Well, there is some truth to that. We spent the rest of the morning here. Jason lead us on a small hike around the place and was even planning to take us birding up and down the road. Frankly, I was exhausted and happy to just have a place to sit and shoot some photos; so, we hung out under the shelter while the rain came and went.


The stars of the place are the Fiery-billed Aracari (of which we saw several) and the White-crested Coquette. I was keenly interested in seeing the hummingbird. Unfortunately, it was not as interested in seeing me, and it did not show. Jason said they they even get Cotinga there at times. That would have been cool, too. The feeders and the perches are not ideally located, but they work well enough on an overcast day. We had plenty of that. Once the weather cleared up, we walked down to the river, where we were taunted by Scaly-breasted Wren. We got great, but distant, views of an Orange-collared Manakin working through some bushes on the other side of the river. Walking back, we caught a Long-billed Starthroat hanging out in a machete tree. All in all, a pretty good morning; even if I was pretty sure I was going to fall over from exhaustion.


Honestly, this place was the savior of the first part of the trip. Carmen had another week of classes before we would be heading out. Quepos is famous for being the home of Manuel Antonio NP. Unfortunately, MA is not well known for its birding. The entire area is very touristy and getting anywhere with decent birding was going to be a couple hour drive - one way. It would have been difficult to work out travelling that far with Carmen's class schedule.


With that in mind and a few other things, I made a return trip to this place later that week. The other things? Well, the Coquette, of course. The Scaly-breasted Wren was another. They were both life birds for me. I would not complain about the opportunity for some more photos, either. The Coquette was practically waiting for me when I arrived. I stepped out of the car, and there it was. It was also still quite dark. The bird perched, and I managed a few shots that were not totally blurry.


I posted up at the feeders and spent a relaxing morning. There are a number of Euphonia that come in to the feeders here. They can be a bit of a challenge to ID. What color it the throat? How far does the cap extend? Where am I at on the range map? Females can be down-right impossible to tell. I did notice one female that looked a bit different than the others, though. This one had a white-ish throat. She was also a little smaller and very timid around the other Euphonia. I did not know what I had, but I knew it was different. I later identified the bird from photos and was amazed to discover that it was a White-vented Euphonia. Another life bird. This made four species of Euphonia seen at this one location: Spot-crowned, Yellow-crowned, Thick-billed, and White-vented. Pretty incredible.


The weather cleared up pretty quickly this day, and the sun came out. With the feeders being backlit, I decided it was a good time to go look for that wren. I walked down to the river, and things were quiet. Not even the Buff-rumped Warbler was there to harass me. I waited around a bit and then started pishing loudly. This stirred up the wren. It was singing from the thickest tangle of brush on the opposite side of the river. No amount of pishing would budge it. Defeated, I slowly walked my way back up the path. I stopped where a stream crossed the path and looked around a bit. I had an odd feeling and started pishing again. The wren sang from right next to me. The song of a Scaly-breasted Wren is not a beautiful tinkling of jumbled notes. What it lacks in creativity, it makes up for in volume. Ear-splitting ascending whistles were assailing me from a thick mash of underbrush near the trail. Peaking around, I found a small window where I could spot the bird and snapped some photos. It froze when it realized it had been spotted. I got some shots and then moved off; slightly deafer but happy to have seen another lifer.


That pretty much sums up my time here. I walked back and spotted some mixed warbler flocks. At the pavilion, I found I had just missed the Coquette, again. It's hard to complain. I talked to a guide and some casual birders and then headed back to the hotel to clean-up and take notes before Carmen returned from class.


This place has a lot to offer, and the birding is good. They serve food there under the pavilion; so, you can have breakfast while watching the feeders. It cost me $20 to shoot there for the morning. I think it was well worth it. You can judge for yourself - Blue Dacnis, two species of Toucanet, three species of Honeycreeper, six species of Hummingbird (the Coquette is regularly seen, Woodnymph, Barbthroat, Goldentail, Violet-headed, and Rufous-tailed were all easily seen), three regularly occurring species of Euphonia, only four of the most common species of Tanagers, but also a host of other birds coming-and-going regularly. Given the quality of birding anywhere else in the area, this place is amazing.


As always, thanks for taking the time to look and read. I appreciate it,

Mike





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