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Jan 15th - 28th. - Sri Lanka. £1750

Feb 12th -27th - Costa Rica - full

Mar 20th - 30th Morocco - 10 nights. - £1190

April 5th - 12th - Andalucia migration tour. - £750 - 2 places

April 16th - 24th - Coto Donana & Extremadura - £950 - 2 places

April 29th - 6th May. - Lesvos - £875

May 8th - 15th - Portugal - full


May 13th - 21st Bulgaria - £850

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Red-throated Bee-eater

Red-throated Bee-eater
join us for a fantastic tour of The Gambia this November

Friday, February 28, 2014

DEVON- WEEKEND BREAK - FRIDAY 28TH FEBRUARY 2014

TRANSFER FROM HONITON TRAIN STATION TO EXETER - VIA ALYESBEARE COMMON, WOODBURY COMMON & BUDLEIGH SALTERTON.

I collected 10 members of the CENTRAL LONDON RSPB GROUP AT 13:15 AT HONITON train station, it was raining and quite windy.

We drove for about 30 minutes and arrived at our first birding venue, Aylesbeare Common. This RSPB nature reserve supports a good number of Dartford Warblers on extensive managed heathland.
It was blowing a gale on this exposed hilltop but the rain eased a little. We saw Common Stonechat and had very brief glimpses of the target bird the Dartford Warbler before we gave up.

All wrapped up for winter the ten members of Central London RSPB Group


Next we moved onto the another section of heathland and the site of a Iron Age hill fort at Woodbury Castle. The whole site is now covered by mature woodland of Beech trees where a huge flock of Common Chaffinches were feeding. We were hoping for a few Brambling in with the flock but we never found one. During an hour long walk we also saw: Blue, Great and Coal Tits, European Robin, Dunnock, Eurasian Nuthatch and Goldfinch.

We finished the afternoon at Budleigh Salterton where a large open tidal marsh forms at the mouth of the river Otter (recently in the national news because a family of Beavers were discovered!) The shingle bank along the sea-shore  rose 15 metres above the sea and provided a good vantage point from where to watch over the marsh and the sea. The sky had cleared but a very cold wind blew from the west.

A fair number of species were seen in an hour-long vigil: on the marsh during this high tide period we saw: Eurasian Curlew, Common Redshank, Eurasian Wigeon, Common Teal, Brent Goose, Herring Gull and a small flock of Eurasian Skylark. Out at sea we fared a little better with sightings of: Red-throated Diver, Common Scoter, Northern Gannet, Razorbill, Fulmar, European Shag, Great Cormorant and Great-crested Grebe,

We called it a day at 16:45 and drove to our hotel near Topsham, we ate a superb dinner before retiring for the night.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

BRIERLEY HILL, FOREST OF DEAN. - FEBRUARY 26TH 2014

SERRIDGE RIDGE

This was a quick stop whilst I was on the way to Hereford to visit mum for her 90th birthday!
In December I went to the same place and saw a dozen Two-barred Crossbill and today I was hoping for the same.

A number of other birders were milling about and I got the most hated of all phrases "you should have been here 10 minutes ago", yes a guy had seen four T B Crossbills just before I got there.

I spent a couple of hours walking around the area with no luck. I did see a number of other species:
Common Crossbill, Bullfinch, Chaffinch, Coal Tit, Marsh Tit, Jay, Goldcrest and a few more common species.

Common Crossbill



Sunday, February 23, 2014

COSTA RICA - DAY 16 - FEBRUARY 23RD

TRANSFER FROM ENSENADA LODGE TO SAN JOSE AIRPORT FOR DEPARTURE HOME

Our tour was finally over we had had 14 full days of exciting birding and listed 448 species but we were not finished just yet!

We departed from Ensenada at 3am!!!!  The approach track was 17km long and very bumpy so it took 50 minutes or so to navigate. Along the way we saw several Common Paraque, a couple of Lesser Nighthawks and two Rufous Nightjars, a new trip bird. This was our final species of the trip making a final total of 449 with another 6 species heard but not seen.


On the veranda at Rancho naturalista


We all arrived at the airport with plenty of time for boarding, we said our goodbyes as we split up to take different flights.

THANKS FOR READING THE BLOG ON THE COSTA RICAN TOUR - IF IT HAS WHETTED YOUR APPETITE FOR SOME GREAT BIRDING, PLEASE GET IN TOUCH AND BOOK YOUR PLACE ON NEXT YEAR'S TOUR.

COSTA RICA - DAY 15 - FEBRUARY 22nd 2014

HACIENDA SOLIMA - ENSENADA LODGE AND SALINAS (SALT PANS)

Well our final full day had finally arrived and oh so quickly. It was yet another opportunity to wake the group up early, but by now they were used to it. So we ate breakfast at 6:30am and boarded our nice air-conditioned bus at 7:15am.

It took an hour to drive a few kilometres to Hacienda Solima because the track was very bumpy and we stopped to look at few birdies. We had frequent sightings of Scissor-tailed Flycatcher, we stopped to watch a pair of Double-striped Thick-Knee and we added Eastern Meadowlark to our list.

The elusive Lesser Ground Cuckoo


Hacienda Solima is a huge privately owned working cattle ranch of some 20,000 hectares, of which approx. 30% is set aside as nature conservation areas. Much of the land is open pasture which is fed by canals and wet ditches, there are many pools and larger flooded meadows at this time of the year. The whole area is a magnet for birds and some of the pools were literally covered in wildfowl.

We arrived at 8am and after checking in at the hacienda and collecting a guide we were able to take the bus all over the ranch, with the aid of the resident bird guide and Roy, our own guide, we saw a tremendous number of species.

The first official stop produced a list as long as your arm, but the highlight had to be both the Jabiru and the Lesser Ground Cuckoo. The Jabiru sat out in the marsh with hundreds of Black-bellied Whistling Ducks, Blue-winged Teal, Wood Storks, White Ibis, Limpkin, Northern Jacana and hundreds of egrets and herons. It was nice to see so many Bare-throated Tiger-Herons out in the open like that.

Spectacled Owl

 

The Lesser Ground-Cuckoo was special for most of the group and well appreciated, it was hard to find in the scrub but eventually it sat out and posed for our cameras and scopes.


Next we went for a short walk into a small patch of dry forest, the approach path wound its way through some long grass and scrub where we disturbed a couple of Coyotes, my first ever sightings of this species made it special.

Turquoise-crowned Motmot
Our local guide took us on a narrow trail into the dense forest and led us directly to a roost-site of Spectacled Owls, amazing how he could see them from where we stood. We all had great views in the scope of two of the owls. We then walked a little further and the guide called another fantastic bird by mimicking its call, a Long-tailed Manakin, this bird blew us away with its beautiful plumage and long tail feathers. During our spell in the woods we also saw Black-headed Trogon and Turquoise-browed Motmot.

After that excitement we boarded the bus and continued our tour of the ranch, we passed many pastures with hundreds of cows and bulls feeding in them. We searched the flocks of ducks for Fulvous Whistling Duck without success but the many egrets and herons kept us happy. It was also excellent for raptors, Snail Kites were common, a couple of Harris Hawks were seen and a great number of vultures circled above us with Wood Storks.

Our next stop was in a sheltered area adjacent to a canal with some mangrove swamp on one side. Our guide pointed out a roosting Lesser Nighthawk, which sat just above the track, super. We stood and watched the area of water where mangroves hung over the edges. Within a few minutes we had listed some excellent species; American Pygmy Kingfisher, Ringed Kingfisher, Boat-billed Heron, Black-crowned Night Heron, Bare-throated Tiger Heron, Anhinga, Common Ground-Dove and we heard a Ferruginous Pygmy Owl calling.
Pacific Screech Owl
 

Our journey continued with the same pattern, which consisted of short stops where we stepped out into the heat for a short scan or to watch a particular species. An American Kestrel was nice to see as was Eastern Meadowlark, Plain Breasted Ground-Dove, a flock of some 25 Scissor-tailed Flycatcher and much, much more.
Lesser Nighthawk

It was now nearly lunchtime so we made our way back to the hacienda where we stopped along the driveway to look for another roosting owl. This time we found a Pacific Screech Owl what a lovely little chap. We then found a Tree Porcupine sleeping in the next tree, now that was an ugly little critter but nice to see, a tame Bush Buck was also walking around the gardens at the hacienda.

We ate a very welcomed lunch before saying goodbye to our guide and the staff at Hacienda Solima, we had had a great morning’s birding with some special memories to cherish. We drove back to Ensenada lodge and took a break before meeting up again for our afternoon birding session, this time we were going for our first waders-watch at the Salinas de Ensenada.
Mexican-Hairy-Dwarf Porcupine
 

These salt pans lie very close to the ocean and provides a haven for hundreds of roosting and feeding shorebirds. The pans looked empty as we drove in but on closer inspection we could see many birds, and as time went by, more and birds flew in until it was packed, we had chosen a good time to visit just before high tide.

I will list the waders seen approximately tallest to shortest: Black-neck Stilt, Whimbrel, Marbled Godwit, Willet, Lesser Yellowlegs, Solitary Sandpiper, Stilt Sandpiper, Short-billed Dowitcher, Spotted Sandpiper, Sanderling, Semipalmated Plover, Least Sandpiper and Western Sandpiper. Some of these gave us ID problems of course, but we got there in the end.

Other birds around were Osprey, Wilson’s Phalarope, Roseate Spoonbill, we searched for Collared Plover and Killdeer without success.

The light was beginning to fade so we decided totals a short walk in the nearby mangroves to look for other species and our last new bird often day was found when a nicely coloured, male, Indigo Bunting turned up.
 

Juvenile Bare-throated Tiger-Heron
 

A last minute search back at the lodge for Crested Bobwhite produced only a small flock of Striped-headed Sparrows, the gorgeous White-throated Magpie-Jay and a few spot Breasted Orioles.

A beautiful sunset ended this superb birding, which was rather fitting as we had travelled throughout a beautiful country and see some exquisite birds.

At dinner we all listed our top 6 species in order starting with the favourite first, after totting up the scores the top 3 came out as; Resplendent Quetzal, Golden-browed Chlorophonia and Scissor-tailed Flycatcher.

Boat-billed Heron
The total number of species listed was 448 with 5 more heard but not seen, this impressive total was due to the keen eyed participants and their untiring, sometimes relentless pursuit of target species and of course most of the credit goes to Roy. His expertise and outstanding knowledge of hummingbirds and flycatchers was phenomenal, because of this we listed 44 out of 51 possible hummers and over 30 different Flycatchers.

 

Saturday, February 22, 2014

COSTA RICA - DAY 14 -FEBRUARY 21ST 2014

 
CERROS LODGE WALK - TARCOLES BOAT TRIP - TRANSFER TO ENSENADA

Today we got up early, oh there’s a change, ha! We met at 5:30am at the main reception area and went for a walk in and around the grounds and also along the track outside. We spent an hour so enjoying a lovely cool morning and some great new species. Stripe-headed Sparrow was now on everyone’s list and we soon found a new Flycatcher. I must say that Roy our guide is mustard on his Flycatchers and hummers, he knows all the calls in an instant. This new one was Nutting’s Flycatcher which showed very well. A little further along the road we found a small flock of Yellow-naped Parrots, they sat in the morning sunlight and looked stunning. Over the course of the next hour we added a number of birds as well as a troop of  White-faced Capuchin Monkeys. The birds included; Pale-billed Woodpecker, Squirrel Cuckoo, Grove-billed Ani, Black-crowned Tityra, White-lored Gnatcatcher, Rose-throated Becard and lots of common species.
 
DOUBLE-STRIPED THICK-KNEE (taken from the boat)
 

At breakfast we enjoyed the lovely view of the distant sea and Magnificent Frigatebirds flying over it.  We had several visits into the garden  by Scarlet Macaws and a few orioles, tanagers, thrushes and sparrows to the feeders. A bird of prey sat in a dead tree and was identified as a Double-toothed Kite, another addition to our list.

After breakfast we drove down into Tarcoles and half of the group got off the bus and onto a boat for the ‘crocodiles and birds’ trip whilst the rest drove further away to bird-watch a new area hoping to find the Fiery-billed Aracari.
MAGNIFICENT FRIGATEBIRD - they never land and even sleep on the wing like swifts
 

The boat-trip was superb, we had glorious weather, a nice cooling breeze and lots of birds to see. We were supplied with a checklist and nearly completed the whole list and we had to add several species to it. A nice male Prothonotary Warbler was one of the first birds on the list then many of the common herons and egrets were seen along the shore. We then found a few roosting Yellow-crowned Night-Herons, an Osprey, lots of Spotted Sandpiper and a few very big crocodiles.

Then we had some real excitement when not one but two Yellow-billed Cotingas flew into a riverside tree, what a wonderful find they were smashing to see.

A little later the guide from the boat jump ashore and put on the ‘tourist show’ by hand feeding a docile gigantic crocodile, then a Yellow-beaded Caracara came down for scraps left over.

SPOT-BREASTED ORIOLE



Still further upriver we had great close views of a Grey-necked Wood Rail and of Double-striped Thick-Knee, Southern Lapsing and Belted Kingfisher. At that point we turned the boat around and headed back down river where we found a Ringed Kingfisher, Bare-throated Tiger-Heron, Northern Jacana and lots more egrets. Overhead we saw lots of vultures and a Wood Stork circling on the thermals.

For the last part of the trip we zoomed down to the mangrove swamps to look for some specialist species, on the way we passed about 20 Magnificent Frigatebirds that were dropping down to the water to pick up fish.

In the mangrove swamps we drifted quietly down the enclosed channels and found many new species. Two Kingfishers were added to the list, Green and American Pygmy Kingfishers, we found Yellow Warbler with a chestnut head (formerly Mangrove Warbler now just a sub-species of Yellow Warbler), a couple of Red-winged Blackbirds hopped about in the dense scrub and we ha d excellent views of Panama Flycatcher just a couple of metres from the boat.
 

As we turned to go back a Plumbeous Kite circled high above us with the Vultures, then the guide heard a Mangrove Vireo so we pulled into the bank and he mimicked the call of the Pygmy Owl, within seconds we had a number of birds around us, Prothonotary Warbler, Common Tody Flycatcher and the target bird the Mangrove Vireo.

We headed back seeing a few more species such as Neotropic Cormorant, Anhinga, Royal Tern and at least four more Ospreys.

Well that ended the boat trip, we all thoroughly enjoyed  and notched up just under fifty species, we had a qui drink before jumping onto our waiting bus and at off to collect the other half of the group.


They had not fared so well, it was hot and dusty along the track they chose to walk along.  A few birds were seen with some additions to the trip list which included: King Vulture, Black Swift, and Cooper’s Hawk but there wasn’t a sighting of the most wanted Aracari.


WHITE-THROATED MAGPIE-JAY

 

From there we drove northwards along the Nicoya Bay and after a stop for lunch we arrived at our last destination of the trip, Ensenada Lodge. There was a noticeable difference in the climate and the vegetation, we were well and truly in dry, hot forest.

After a hour’s settling time we set off for a short walk to explore the grounds and surrounding forest. Our lovely rooms overlooked the bay and the distant hills and immediately in front of us was a large open meadow of short grass.

We walked along a track which took is to open dry forest and birds began to appear as the heat abated. A couple of Parrots and a parakeet were first on the list, two of them were new for us, Ornage-fronted Parakeet and Yellow-napped Parrot. Then we had a Couple of new orioles to admire, the Streak-backed was lovely and the male Orchard Oriole was stunning.

I can’t believe that at this stage of the trip there are still hummingbirds out there for us to find, but there are, we found two of them in quick succession. We found Canivet’s Hummingbird and Plain-capped Star-throat, that brings the total number of hummers to 44 different species, amazing.

During the walk we also found Brown-capped Flycatcher and Northern Beardless Tyrannulet, two more ‘firsts’ for the trip. We also found a lovely Vine Snake and several superb butterflies.

Back the lodge we found our third species of Oriole when a male Spot-breasted sat nice for us in the late afternoon sun. A few White-Throated Magpie-Jays came close to us as got into the complex.

 
7pOur evening meal was taken in the main building where we could watch a lovely setting sun over the bay.
 
 p
 

Friday, February 21, 2014

COSTA ROCA - DAY 13 - FEBRUARY 20TH 2014

CARARA NATIONAL PARK - TARCOLES MANGROVE WALK

A FANTASTIC DAY - WITH SOME GREAT SIGHTINGS - 28 NEW SPECIES FOR THE TRIP

Breakfast was taken at 6am. We then spent a while watching the feeders from the restaurant veranda. One great sighting was of a distant Yellow-billed Cotinga, we were told that this bird often made a short stay in its usual tree and we were lucky enough to see it. Several Scarlet Macaws flew over, as did Crested Caracara and Montezuma Oropendola.
the Owl Butterfly is massive, I am sure 4 of these beasts could carry you off!!
 

So at 7am we all set off for a day visit to the famous Carara National Park, it was a beautiful day with wall to wall sunshine and a nice temperature. We set off on foot along the ‘river’ trail, it was a wide track that ran through the forest in a nice straight, flat line. It wasn’t long before the birds started to appear and Roy our excellent guide was calling them left, right and centre. A Black-hooded Antshrike came first followed quickly by a Dot-winged Antwren. Then we waited patiently near a known nest-site of a Royal Flycatcher, within a few minutes a lovely male showed well, it’s crest wasn’t erect but it was still a special find for us. Turquoise-browed Motmot, Violaceous Trogon, White-whiskered Puffbird came one after another. We visited a lekking-site of the Orange-collared Manakin and saw  three individuals but not displaying, just ‘clicking’ and flitting about.

Next we located a Northern Bentbill, super little beast, it was well liked by the group, this little tyke liked our attention and showed well for a few minutes. A Slaty-headed Tody Flycatcher called from trees nearby but only Roy our guide saw it. However our next bird was seen very well by all of us. A male Barred Antshrike sat out in the morning sun anodised for us, what a superb looking bird, even its crest is barred, wonderful another great species to find.
Barred Antshrike another stunning species for our list
 

Next came some real excitement as we came across a swarm of soldier ants crossing our path, Roy knew this would be good and led us around the swarm to a nice vantage position and we waited. First a few Grey-headed Tanagers appeared, then. Bicoloured Antbird, Followed by a Chestnut-backed Antbird. These are typical birds that follow ant swarms, they do not eat the ants but take anything that flies up or runs out of the path of the ants, very clever, let the ants do their work.

Other birds joined the flock, Tawny-winged Woodcreeper, Buff-throated Saltator and even Clay-coloured Thrushes were at it.
 

 


Turquoise-browed Motmot


 

Well what next? We walked further along the trail and turned off to the Meanders River where a small section of an ox-bow lake is visible, it was now very overgrown with reeds and shrubs but we did manage to see a few species. Black-necked Stilts, Northern Jacana, Tricoloured Heron and a Sulphur-bellied Flycatcher were seen. Then we approached some tall trees that grew alongside the ‘lake’ and we found a small colony of roosting Boat-billed Herons, this bizarre looking creature was a most wanted species by the group, off went the cameras, click, click, click.
 

 


the odd looking Boat-billed Heron


 

It was now approaching 11am and some of the group had pre-arranged to return to the lodge for an afternoon of leisure, so they departed and walked back to the bus whilst we journeyed on. Within a few minutes we found a Black-faced Antthrush which was quickly followed by a Ruddy Quail-Dove, both of these are hard to find species. Then we had a quiet spell as we made our way back to the entrance, we then jumped back onto the bus which had returned and were driven to the main visitor’s centre where we sat at shaded picnic tables and ate an excellent packed lunch.

The afternoon started slowly, it was very hot and humid even in shade of the forest trees. We watched a Apia of Scarlet Macaws at their nest hole and photographed a few lizards before moving deeper into the forest. Birds started to call, a Rufous Piha called but we couldn’t find it and so did a number of other species including a Scaly-breasted Wren.
 


Grey-headed Tanager



 

Then we hit a good patch where birds began to show, first a Tawny-crowned Greenlet then a Yellow-rumped Flycatcher, but the best of the three, by far, was a Golden-crowned Spadebill, what a little beauty and so hard to see, we even got it in the scope, fantastic bird. We continued along the track adding species at regular intervals, Buff-throated Foliage-gleaner, Plain Xenops and Northern-barred Woodcreeper to name but a few.
 

A calling Streaked Antpitta was next to be found, it was very close to the side of the track and with a little patience we located it and got great views. It doesn’t get much better than this. After that superb addition to our list everything else seemed anti-climatic, even a party of beautiful Bay-headed Tanagers didn’t draw much attention.
Tawny-winged Woodcreeper
 

Our last birds seen on the trail were, Great Tinamou and then Black-hooded Antbird and Dot-winged Antwren, both of the latter two species showed very well at eye level and much better views than they did earlier.
Well it was now 4pm, the park was closing so we jumped onto the bus and drove the short distance into Tarcoles, we parked down by the river in preparation for a short walk near the mangrove swamp.

The area where we walked had mature trees adjacent to the mangroves, it was full of birds, we never walked far before listing 4 of our 5 target species. A Prothonotary Warbler was first in the bag, we saw two or three of them. A Northern Waterthrush then showed well before we found a Mangrove Warbler (this is a sub-species of Yellow Warbler, the male has a completely red-brown head - they were split at one stage but have been lumped back together as one species) regardless it was nice to several of them. Next we turned our attention to the many Flycatcher buzzing about, we took time on one particular bird and finally identified it as a Tropical Peewee, we then saw a nice Streaked Flycatcher before finding the. Panama Flycatcher. Lastly we were looking for the endemic Mangrove Hummingbird, this is a prize indeed, and before long our excellent guide Roy found, first a female then a male, we were over the moon!

Chestnut-Mandibled Toucan
That concluded our birding for the day, we drove back to the lodge noting 20-30 Lesser Nighthawks, they were hawking insects in the late afternoon sky. Back at the lodge the rest of the group had had a relaxing time but still managed to see a couple of new species, the Stripe-headed Sparrow was one of them.
 


Thursday, February 20, 2014

COSTA RICA - DAY 12 - FEBRUARY 19TH 2014

TRANSFER FROM TALARI LODGE TO CERROS LODGE ON THE PACIFIC COAST

From the sublime to the ridiculous, yesterday was a total wipe-out and today we were blitzed by birds. It was truly amazing this morning and one of our best birding sessions yet, we met in the car park at 5:45am and were still there at 6:45am because so many species were milling around. We got great views of some birds that had only been glimpses before today and we added a dozen or so species to our list. Red-headed Woodpecker was one of the first we had a dozen sightings of this species. Then we found an Yellow-crowned Euphonia, Common Tody Flycatcher, Piratic Flycatcher and a lovely new hummer – the Long-billed Star-throat.
Breakfast at Tamari Lodge
 

A Streaked Saltator was next then an American Redstart showed well, a Tropical Gnatcatcher was also nice to see, the whole garden was buzzing with tanagers, orioles, warblers, flycatchers, thrushes and honeycreepers, what a great time we all had. A short walk through some secondary forest produced Lineated Woodpecker and we heard the Orange-billed Nightingale-Thrush but couldn’t lure it out from the dense scrub. A Poro tree was absolutely full of birds, dozens of Baltimore Orioles were joined by Rose-breasted Grosbeaks, the males of both of these species were exquisite in their summer plumage.
 

Our breakfast was delayed but we eventually dragged ourselves to the dining room which was open plan and we could see the whole garden and some feeders where the stunning Speckled Tanager and both Red-legged and Green Honeycreepers came to feed.


YELLOW-CROWNED EUPHONIA
At 9:30am we got on the bus and continued our journey to the Pacific coast. We arrived on the coast near Quepos. We passed hundreds of hectares of Palm Olive groves before turning off the Min road to drive through the palms to some open grass and rice meadows.

A very straight and long track bordered the rice fields and we took this track on foot. A wide, water-filled ditch fan alongside the track and this was full of birds, lizards, frogs and butterflies. Again we were presented with a plethora of birds, many in song and lots on the move. We quickly found Green Heron, American Pygmy Kingfisher, Purple Gallinule, Green Kingfisher and a small party of Dickcissel. Then we found several flocks of seedeaters with 3 varieties being listed, all the time there were doves, vultures, hawks and egrets in the sky and perched in trees and bushes.

Our walk ended a couple of hours later, the bus picked us up and we made the short journey into Quepos where we ate lunch and visited Roy’s art gallery. A quick look at the beach produced 3 ndw species Magnificent Frigatebird, Willet and Tricoloured Heron.
ROSEATE SPOONBILL, WOOD STORK AND GREAT EGRET'
-

At 2pm we were on the road again heading north towards Carara National Park and our lodge nearby. But first we made a stop at the Parrita River. This tidal river usually holds many waders, egrets and herons and even though it was high tide there were a lot species there. Adjacent to the river there is a huge shrimp farm with many pools, some are quite shallow which provides a haven for waders during high tide. It was there that we concentrated our efforts, we quickly located small flocks of ‘peeps’ and larger shorebirds. Whimbrel, Grey Plover, Willet, Black-necked Stilt, Least Sandpiper, Semi-palmated Plover and a Spotted Sandpiper were first on the list. The waders were joined by Roseate Spoonbills, White Ibis, Snowy and Great Egrets, Wood Storks and both Great Blue and Little Blue Herons. We also found Lesser Scaup and Blue-winged Teal on the water.

In the trees along the road we found Common Black Hawk, Crested and Yellow-headed Caracara as well as Orchard Oriole.

Again we had to drag ourselves away and continued northward, an unscheduled stop at the side of the road was made to view a large pool in a filed, it was full of birds. Mainly storks, egrets and herons (including the Bare-throated Tiger Heron), but also a few species of waders. We added Lesser Yellowlegs, Western and Solitary Sandpipers to our wader list and we saw our first Spectacled Caiman. The caiman was very large and spent its time catching fish in this ever-shrinking pool which was drying out rapidly. The Roseate Spoonbills looked fantastic in the afternoon sunlight contrasting strongly with the ugly, dull Wood Storks.

A couple of Mealy Parrots and a Scissor-tailed Flycatcher were also added to our list, both species were sitting in middle distant trees. . Other sightings along the road included: Scarlet Macaw, White-tailed Kite and last but not least Lesser Nighthawk. We saw a dozen or so of these nightjars hawking insects above the track in the final 2kms of our journey, a nice bird to end a great days birding. I haven’t counted but we must have seen over 100 species today and added about 30 new ones. Just counted it was 117 seen today.

COMMON TODY FLYCATCHER
 
Our list now stands at 375 species. With a full day in Carara tomorrow and two more days further north we should top the 400 mark easily.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

COSTA RICA - DAY 11. - FEBRUARY 18TH 2014


TRANSFER FROM SAVEGRE TO TALARI LODGE WITH STOPS AT PROVIDENCIA TRACK, BOSQUE del TOLOMUCO, PARAMO FOREST AND LOS CUSINGOS

It seemed that we saw more venues than birds today with lots of stops and not much to show for our efforts. We departed from Savegre just after breakfast and drove up the valley to the main road, after about 2km we turned onto a wide track called La Providencia  where we got off the bus to walk. We were in cloud, it was quite chilly and the light was bad. After about an hour we had very few species but two of them were new for the trip; slaty finch and Peg-billed Finch, other species seen were: Common Bush Finch, Sooty-capped Brush-Finch, Volcano Hummingbird, Mountain Eleania and a few tanagers.
GREEN HONEYCREEPER
 

We climbed back onto the bus and drove for a couple of hours towards our next destination. A quick stop at a small lodge called Bosque del Tolomuco was made to look at the hummer feeders that are dotted about the lush gardens. We noticed a distinct change in temperature as we alighted from the bus, it was very much warmer, we were now on the Pacific slopes on the eastern side of the country.

During our short stay we added three out of four of our target hummingbirds which is not a bad effort. Green-crowned Brilliant was the most common species seen, along with the Magnificent Hummingbird then our first new species was found when a Voilet-headed Hummingbird showed up then a Magenta-throated Woodstar turned up, this species is yet another endemic to Costa Rica and Western Panama. Finally we found a Stripe-tailed Hummingbird, this along with Scintillant Hummingbird and Green Hermit made up the total of our sightings at the feeders.

Other birds seen at this wonderful venue was Swallow-tailed Kite, Baltimore Oriole, Cherrie’s Tanager and a Rufous-breasted Wren, both of the latter two species were new for us.

Lunch was taken at a roadside restaurant which had a magnificent panoramic view and a couple of feeders which were very quiet, just a Stripe-throated Hermit and a couple of common tanager species were seen.

Our afternoon venue was a conservation area known as Los Cusingos, this where the famous ornithologist and author Alexander Skutch lived for over 50 years, his home remains untouched since his death and is now a museum maintained in his honour, it is a fascinating place to visit and well recommended.

Today the gardens and surrounding secondary forest were very quiet it took great effort to see even one bird! We waited a while before taking a circular walk in the forest, even then it was hard to find a single bird. We started well with a Red-capped Manakin then a single flycatcher was seen and we heard a few more species including an elusive Scaled Pigeon.

Back in gardens things started to move around 5pm, tanagers began to emerge and visit the feeding tables as did a Green Honeycreeper and a Blue Dacnis. A few warblers flitted about we saw Tennessee and Chestnut-sided Warblers, then a couple of Yellow-headed Caracaras appeared followed by a Roadside Hawk and a couple of hummers.

Roy our guide called us to the back of the buildings to watch a Grey-necked Wood-Rail and an Agouti walked by. So our great expectations of Los Cusingos were certainly dampened by the poor show of birds and no sign of Cotingas or Aracaris.

 
We drove to our lodge for the night at Talari where a lovely dinner was served and an early night was taken by the group.

COSTA RICA - DAY 10 - FEBRUARY 17TH 2014


SAVEGRE HOTEL de MONTAǸE TRAILS - ALL DAY

BALTIMORE ORIOLE



It was a much quieter day and a little anticlimactic after yesterday’s fantastic birding extravaganza. After a lovely breakfast at 6:30am we loaded up into two four wheel drive land rovers and were taken up some 300 meters to the top of mountain behind the hotel. It was a lovely bright sunny day with little cloud and we were sheltered from any wind by the mountain.
COMMON BUSH-TANAGER


It started slow then we had a couple of purple patches then it went slow again for a while. We walked back down along the main track before turning off onto one the well maintained walks, we choose the Quebrada Trail.

We found the Collared Redstart to be quite common and the Wilson’s Warbler, also most of the small flocks qe found were of Common Bush-Finches which lived up to their name. A sighting of a male Black-throated Green Warbler was our first new species, a couple of Mountain Eleanias and Yellowish Flycatchers were nice to see also an Ochraceous Peewee showed well.
 

Our first feeding flock held several species, the beautiful Spangled'-cheeked Tanager was the most common of the tanagers and were often joined by Silvery-throated Tanagers. This first flock had 4 or 5 Ruddy Treerunners, a Spotted Barbtail and a Barred Beard (we only heard this species). Yellow-thither Finches fed with the bush finches and a brief view was had of a what we thought was a Silver-throated Jay.

SUMMER TANAGER
A Golden-browed Chlorophonia called but we never located it but we did tracked down a Resplendent Quetzal from its call. A Silvery-fronted Tapaculo refused to show but we found our one and only Green-fronted Lancebill and what a bill it has! The next few hundred metres went quiet and only few sightings were made, a Chestnut-capped Brush-Finch showed for a few of us and not much else happened.
FLAME-COLOURED TANAGER
Lunch was taken back at the hotel and we reconvened  at 3:30pm outside the main reception office. We set off on foot taking a track through the woods to an open grassy area, there we found several species including: Summer Tanager, Yellow-winged Vireo and Brown-Capped Vireo. We also had good views of a Black-throated Green Warbler and the beautiful Spangle-cheeked Tanager, a Dark Pewee and a Tufted Flycatcher were nice to see too.

We walked down to the river and hit a purple patch when we found a pair of the endemic Flame-throated Warblers, what a stunning looking species. We had excellent views of yet another male Resplendent Quetzal, this bird is almost common around here. Next we found a Ruddy-capped Nightingale Thrush, a Gray-breasted Wren and a little later we found another target species a Spot-crowned Woodcreeper. We walked back to the hotel via the river and found  a Louisiana Waterthrush feeding in the river. Back at the hotel we watched the last of the activity at the feeders wirh Flame-coloured Tanagers and Acorn Woodpeckers making an appearance.

Well that concluded another great day in Costa Rica, tomorrow will be on the move to the Pacific Slopes at a much lower altitude.


 
 
 
 

Monday, February 17, 2014

COSTA RICA - DAY 9 - FEBRUARY 16TH 2014


TAPANTI EARLY MORNING THEN TRANSFER TO SAVERGE WITH A STOP AT PARAISO del QUETZAL

A brilliant day full of exciting finds with many endemic species added to our list. It was a full-on action packed day today with dull overcast conditions to start and to finish with and bright sunshine in the middle.

The early morning walk was taken along the track above the lodge, we drove 2km uphill reaching 2700 meters elevation and then began the descent on foot. We started in the clouds so the light was really bad when we found our first new bird of the day. A pair of Orange-bellied Trogon sat on the wires near a street lamp, they were catching moths and gave continuous calls which was the only way we could separate them from the Collared Trogon in the poor light.


The exquisite Golden-browed Chlorophonia


At times the cloud lifted and it did turn brighter and as it did so, so the birds came out. We had a nice spell when we tracked down a Rufous-browed Peppershrike, what a great bird species to locate and one that is not easy anywhere. Next we heard a Golden-browed Chlorophonia but could not see it in the gloom but a pair of Elegant Euphonias were nice and again they were not easy to track down.
Band-backed Wren
 

A Yellowish Warbler came next and then an unexpected Band-backed Wren put in an appearance, this species is out of range here. After chasing and searching for a view of the Elegant Euphonia earlier on the walk we now found a male sitting out in the open singing his little heart out. Then just around the next bend we bumped into a small flock of Golden-browed Euphonias and got some outstanding views of this exquisitely coloured little gem.

Well that walk set us up for the day, so after scrambled eggs, toast and wonderful coffee we set off in the bus to our next destination, the Savegre hotel.

We stopped after 3 hours to take a light lunch which was over in 30 minutes and soon we arrived at the Paraiso del Quetzal Lodge where we hoped to see the most wanted species of all the Resplendent Quezal.

After collecting a local guide from the Lodge we drove a short distance and then turned onto a side track and quickly parked up. We followed the track on a steep downhill course, it was very windy on the way down but we managed to see a few species including Common Bush-Finch, Sooty-capped Bush-Tanager and a newly fledged Green Voiletear.

At the bottom of the hill the guide led us to a fruiting avocado tree where we found a superb male Resplendent Quetzal, our most wanted species was now in the bag. We had great views of it perched and in flight what a stunner.
I THOUGHT YOU MIGHT LIKE A FEW PICS OF THE QUETZA
 
 

We crawled our way back up the 1km hill (remember we were at 8000ft so the air was a little thinner so some of us struggled) and got back onto the bus. The short drive back gave us time to recuperate before another walk was taken. We birded the track to the Paraiso del Quetzal Lodge and new species came thick and fast. Black-billed Nightingale-thrush was first on the list, then Yellow-thighed Finch, Mountain Elaina, Black-capped Flycatcher, Sooty Thrush and lots more.
SOOTY THRUSH


At the lodge the group split into two, some went on a further walk whilst others stayed at the lodge. More birds were added from both groups; Wrenthrush is a little beauty and well applauded by the group for showing so well, Timberline Wren, another sought after bird also showed well, we also saw both the Long-tailed Silky-Flycatcher and the Black & Yellow Silky-Flycatchers as well as a lot of ‘good’  high altitude species.

Back atthe lodge we spent some time on the excellent veranda watching the hummer feeders where we had great views of a number of hummingbirds including Volcano, Magnificent, Fiery-throated, Green Violetear and Purple-throated Mountain-gem.
 
                                                            BLACK-CAPPED FLYCATCHER

Other birds seen around the lodge not already mentioned were: Large-footed Finch, Black-cheeked Warbler, Collared Redstart, Band-tailed Pigeon and close views were had of Mountain Thrush.

At 5pm we had to make a move to our next venue which was the Savegre Hotel some 45 minutes away. We still added a couple species as we drove there, Acorn Woodpecker, Sulphur-winged Parakeet and Red-tailed Hawk.
                                                    THE ENDEMIC - VOLCANO HUMMINGBIRD

Well what a day, we added 25 species to our list which now stood at 305 and we are only just passed half-way.

We arrived at Savegre which just enough time to settle in and then later we enjoyed a super dinner and a nice cold beer.

 

Sunday, February 16, 2014

COSTA RICA – DAY 7 – FEBRUARY 14TH 2014


RANCHO NATURALISTA – LAGUNA ANGOSTURA – TRANSFER TO TAPANTI

We started the day on the veranda at first light and were rewarded with great views of a Snowcap and then a Bicoloured Hawk, great start to the day. Before breakfast we took a short walk to the ‘bug’ trap (moth trap) which consisted of a large white sheet under a shelter and a very powerful light. Several species came to feed on the bugs and moths and went to watch them. Three nice Flycatchers put in an appearance; Tawny-chested, Dusky-capped and Yellow-bellied and a Spotted Woodcreeper was nice, we also had superb views of a White-breasted Wood-Wren and the best of all was a Buff-throated Foliage-gleaner.

 

 
After another excellent breakfast we set off in the bus to a nearby marsh area where a huge laguna holds lots of species. The laguna Angostera sits by the side of a large hotel complex which has a huge area of lawns and meadows.

Grey-headed Chacalaca
The laguna itself held many birds, we listed about 25 species which included ducks, herons, egrets and lots more. The highlights were; Snail Kite, Limpkin, Northern Jacana, Yellow-crowned Night-Heron all seen out on the marsh. In the trees and the scrub we also saw some excellent species with the Yellow-winged Vireo topping the list. Alongside this bird we found Yellow-throated and Philadelphia Vireos, Chestnut-sided Warbler, Golden-winged Warbler, Tropical Gnatcatcher and all od these were in the same tree. A Yellow-bellied Eleania was a nice find and in a meadow we saw Giant Cowbirds with Melodious Blackbirds and a few Shiney Cowbirds, this latter specie is a relatively new species on the Costa Rican list.

We drove back to Rancho and ate our last meal there before loading up the bus with our luggage and setting off into the mountains for the next leg of our journey. Tapanti National Park was our destination, a mid-level elevation site about 1500 meters above sea level which promised a lot of new species for us. In fact we hadn’t even unpacked the bus when a shout went up of “Green Ibis” we all dashed down to the trout pools that formed part of the lodge’s grounds and sure enough an ibis was there, fantastic.

Collared Aracari
Half an hour later we were out in the courtyard listing the birds present in and around the lodge. A small colony of the noisy Montezuma Oropendula was literally hanging from the nearest trees and both Palm & Blue & Grey Tanagers joined Melodious Blackbirds and  the pretty Rufous-collaréd Sparrows around the bird table. We then walked on the track looking for new sightings. It wasn’t long before we had a nice list despite the dull mass of cloud and the reduced light. A Grey-breasted Wren joined White-naped Brush-Finch onto the list with several Silver-throated, Spangled-cheeked, Bay-headed Tanagers, all showing well too. The Yellow-faced Grassquit was nice to see as was another gorgeous Blackburnian Warbler. As we neared a stream the light began to fade and light rain began to fall so we turned around and headed back but not before watching a group of Brown Jays and a flock of Chestnut-headed Oropendulas.

Dinner was served at 7:30pm and as we were staying on a fish farm most of us tried the delicious fresh trout.

COSTA RICA - DAY 8 - FEBRUARY 15TH 2014


TAPANTI NATIONAL PARK ALL DAY.

Weather: it was dull and cloudy at first then it got brighter with rain later.

Well Tapanti lived up to its reputation as an excellent birding venue we had a great day there which started at 6am as we pulled up at the gates, just before that we had stopped to watch an American Kestrel sitting in a roadside tree, how amazing it was that I had seen the same species in the same tree for 3 years in a row?
American Kestrel

 For the first hour we never ventured more than 100 meters from the main gate. A Collared Trogon was seen on a telephone wire then we found a mixed feeding flock which to our great joy contained a Streak-breasted Tree-hunter, a Wedge-billed Woodcreeper and a good variety of tanagers one of which was the superb Spangled Cheeked Tanager. We also found a Red-faced Spinetail and a nice Tawny-chested Flycatcher, then as we walked back to the bus we heard a Silvery-fronted Tapaculo calling, we waited patiently and after 10 minutes or so the bird showed intermittently and most of us got good views of it.

We drove back to the lodge for breakfast then we returned to the park for an extended walk along the main track. It seemed that birds were everywhere and we found it difficult to keep up with birds being shouted out. Another couple of flycatchers were added to the growing tally, the Golden-bellied was particularly appreciated.
on the hunt for a Silvery-fronted Tapaculo
 
One of the best birds seen was the Spotted Barbtail but we also had great views of Eye-ringed Flatbill, Dark Peewee, Spotted Woodcreeper and there was such a lot more too. Not forgetting the ‘hummers’ we found several of these little gems, Purple-crowned Fairy, Green Thorntail and three new ones: the Magnificent Hummingbird and the two endemics to Costa Rica and Western Panama the Fiery-throated and the the Black-bellied Hummingbirds, the latter caused a lot of excitement as we saw a male courting a female and displaying all around her, it doesn’t get much better than that, but it did later!

A short trail leading off the main track took us down to the river, a Black Guan was seen just above us as w entered the trail. The path wound its way down to the river where we added American Dipper and Torrent Tyrannulet, then a second Spotted Barbtail was found and this one showed really well.
Tawny-chested Flycatcher
 

It was now approaching lunch time so we walked back to the bus and hopped on and drove back to the lodge to eat.

The afternoon birding session began at 3:30pm we drove back to the park with the intention of walking all the way back to the lodge. At the entrance gate we spent a fair amount of time watching the trees around the compound and parking area, it was fantastic we found a pair of Red-headed Barbets, they showed really well and are exquisite! The male and female birds are so different and equally as beautiful what a sighting. A Mountain Thrush put in an appearance too and we found a pair of Tawny-capped Euphoria. Tanagers and Common Bush-finches were very common all along the track and around the car park.
Rufous-collared Sparrow
 

One mixed flock held some of the most colourful tanagers you can possibly see, have a look at these beauties in the field guides: Bay-headed, Spangled-cheeked, Speckled, Golden-hooded and Silver-throated all of these were seen together, absolutely lovely and  a great display of colour to brighten up the dullest of days.

The cloud thickened and the rain started so we beat a hasty retreat back to the lodge to get ready for dinner. Two final birds to report for the day were, firstly a Green Ibis came nosily into to roost in the trees around the car park and then later a Common Paraque was found on the grass lawn as some of the group were returning to their rooms after dinner.

 
 
Coati - seen along the main track in Tapanti