Part Four Of Costa Rica With Birdwatching Trips By Ivan And Rose 2018

Costa Rica is teaming with wetland birds here a spectacular Roseate Spoonbill.

And so to the final leg of the tour. We departed the fabulous Macaw Lodge and headed down to the coast before making our way someway north to our base on the Pacific. Needless to say the trip didn’t pass without some birdwatching stops and a fabulous lunch overlooking an estuary. Racking up the wader and tern count was pretty much the theme of the day, hudsonian whimbrel, willet, royal and elegant terns forming part of the lunch backdrop and a “let’s have a look at these salt pans” suggestion from Abelardo was really worth the detour. Whilst it was getting hot and humid (and not for the first time we were grateful for the space and air conditioning in the bus), clocking the birds coming in as the tide was rising was something special. Rosy spoonbills, black necked stilts, willets, lesser yellowlegs, least and semipalmated sandpipers were good enough on the wader front although this was topped with a large flock of marbled godwits dropping in to feed in the brine waters. And then there were the terns, getting gull-billed, royal, elegant, sandwich and black skimmers in a single photo is something pretty special and it could have been better if the Caspian tern decided to drop down rather than fly over. Hastening our way back to the minibus we stopped in our tracks very quickly as a male painted bunting popped out of a bush for an all too brief moment while a stripe-headed sparrow was considerably more obliging. Onward to our accommodation as we needed to get there before dusk, and, on arrival, gorgeous white-throated magpie-jays, orange-fronted parakeets, steak-backed and spot-breasted orieoles and a roosting Pacific screech owl provided the welcoming party.

Always great fun working our way through mixed flocks of terns and waders.

A tiny but gorgeous Pacific Screech Owl was roosting near our cabins.

After a relaxing dinner we retired to our individual cabins (rustic, but functional) and bidding good night to the geckos feeding around the external night we nodded off whilst wondering what the rustling was on the roof and also thinking of what tomorrow would bring.

Double-striped Thick-knee a wonderful wader rather like our UK Stone Curlew.

A comparatively early start and we are heading to a huge cattle ranch that is being turned over to an extensive wet pasture. Out of the bus at the lodge to pick up the ranch guides and we were directed to two Pacific screech owls roosting outside the door, their exquisite camouflage blending into the tree trunk, and something of a taste of what was to come. More waders you say? Don’t mind if we do, quickly adding double-striped thick knees, southern lapwing, white and glossy ibis, more spectacular rosy spoonbills and limpkin added in fairly short order. How about herons and storks? We’ll tick those as well, with hundreds if not thousands of cattle egret, great egrets, snowy egrets, reddish egrets and seven species of herons ranging from bare-throated tiger-herons, through blue (great and little), green, tricolored, and black and yellow crowned night herons. The storks came in two varieties with plenty of wood storks and the huge and prehistoric looking jabiru. Of course there was a huge range of other avian stunners. The raptors included more bat falcons, peregrines, snail kites, magnificent crested and yellow headed caracas, but the raptor of the day had to be the astonishing laughing falcon, and there were two further challengers for the bird of the day in the shape of a male barred antshrike (the female wasn’t too bad either) and a long-tailed manakin (which would have walked away with the honours if it had stayed still long enough to get decent photo of it). Actually, this was only the morning! After lunch back at base we headed to some local salt pans adding the familiar red knot, grey plover, ruddy turnstone to the wader list and the more exotic black-bellied plover, Wilson’s plover, surfbird, solitary sandpiper, greater yellowlegs as well.

The enormous Jabiru Stork a fantastic bird and rare in Costa Rica a real wow moment!

Wonderful White-throated Magpie Jays were around the lodge garden.

The sun rose on the final full day of the trip and we were down to the boat jetty for a trip around the creeks and inlets of the Colorado Gulf. Brown pelicans, ospreys, terns (royal, sandwich and the one with a big carrot for a beak, ah yes, Caspian), rosy spoonbills, mangrove hummingbirds, mangrove vireo and ferruginous pygmy-owls perched and flited from branch to branch, whilst sanderling joined a whole host of waders in the remaining mud as the tide rose. The wow moment of the day came as we upgraded our views of magnificent frigatebirds from the soaring views of previous days to an isolated mangrove tree holding a roost of thirty or more, these incredible birds were totally unconcerned as we drifted closer to almost within arms’ reach. Heading back towards the jetty, the rising tide had pushed a greeting party of waders and terns to welcome us back. The rest of the day was a relaxing end to the trip with some time spent cursing the rapid moving cinnamon hummingbirds (you would have thought we would be used to photographing hummers by now!) and a very hot walk around the grounds, too hot for the birds but a good excuse for a siesta. Back to the cabin and we discovered what that mystery rustling was as the biggest green iguana emerged from a gap between the roof tiles. Our last activity for the day was a trailer ride through the grounds with motmots, northern jacana and chicks, black and roadside hawks, howler monkeys and a return visit to the waders at the salt pans before wrapping up the trip at a viewpoint overlooking the estate and coast. Needless to say, the descending light delivered more birds for the burgeoning trip list with lesser nighthawks and common pauraque putting in an appearance before we got back to base.

A Mangrove Hummingbird seen from our relaxing boat ride from our lodge.

And for a complete contrast in size up close to a Magnificent Frigatebird.

Packing up the next day, we meandered our way back to San Jose and the airport and bade a fond farewell to Alan, Ruth, Abelardo, Serge and our excellent driver who was ridiculously patient with our requests for rapid and unorthodox stops. Fortunately the flight was on time this time and we headed back to the UK in a bit of a daze after what we had experienced over the previous two weeks. Would we do it again? Absolutely and we simply couldn’t recommend the tour or Costa Rica highly enough.

Remarkably we seem to have scribbled somewhere close to 4000 words in these blogs, yet haven’t mentioned the infamous cloth snake, the stick nightjar or the thousands of TKs so far. Those who were there will hopefully feel relieved that these omissions have now been rectified.

Pura Vida as they say, until the next time.

A wonderful group people to enjoy a wildlife paradise with!

Huge thanks to Ivan and Rose for taking the time to write this wonderful account of a super trip! It brought back so many great memories, not only the mind-blowing wildlife but the lovely people that helped make the tour so much fun! Many thanks to Steve, Chris and Carla and Juanita who made the group of six that travelled with us in Costa Rica. Of course a huge thanks to Abelardo our local guide and the wonderful Sergio who put it all together for us, and made us so welcome in his home.

We are planning our next Birdwatching Trips adventure to Costa Rica, post virus of course, if you would like to join our small group tours, just six guests, please drop us a line here...

We look forward to enjoying great birds, great wildlife, great places and great fun with you soon!

As they do indeed say in Costa Rica Pura Vida - stong life.


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