We began our last full day in Costa Rica well before dawn, when the resident mantled howler monkey troop started their day – around 4am – with their trademark howling. In the pre-dawn hours we heard double-striped thick-knee, a nocturnal shorebird, pacific screech owl and ferruginous pygmy-owl, all portentous sounds for the day.
Dawn at La Ensenada
At first light, we watched a few bats and lesser nighthawks get their bedtime snacks and headed down to the shoreline, where we watched pelicans, royal terns, a few sandwich terns, and white ibis getting a start to their day. Our first local specialty bird, the spot-breasted oriole, showed up shortly after that, along with an active rufous-naped wren and a brown-crested flycatcher. Our first trogon of the day, the black-headed trogon was not far behind.
While we were watching the obliging pair of trogons, someone, who perhaps had gotten bored of the trogon, though I’m not sure how that could happen, shouted “motmot!” We all hustled across the field to the furthest cabin, where several large birds had gathered to chase insects attracted by a porch light that had been left on all night. First the turquoise-browed motmot, then a white-throated magpie-jay. This motmot is perhaps the most beautiful of Costa Rica’s motmots, though they are all gorgeous.
In the background, we kept hearing ferruginous pygmy-owl, so we headed n search of its source. We finally found it in a large tree, our first good owl sighting of the trip. In the same tree, a pair of streak-backed orioles flew in, later joined by a third when they moved to pink-flowered tabebuia. Over breakfast, we discovered that the pacific screech owl we had heard was known to roost in a tree that we had watched other birds in earlier, so we went back to check it out, and with the help of one of the groundskeepers, managed to find it. It was sleeping deep inside a bare bush, and with its body stretched thin, it was easily mistaken for a bare branch. Owl number two.
After our owl, we boarded our bus and headed south, stopping for a few birding breaks, even before we left the property, adding masked tityra, Canivet’s emerald hummingbird, banded wren, and scissor-tailed flycatcher. Along the road we spotted a zone-tailed hawk, and during a rest break we got great looks at a barred antshrike, only our second antbird of our trip. We also discovered a rufous-naped wren nest, in a palm tree along the road.
At lunch, in the port town of Caldera, we had a great views of ctenosaur lizards, along with mobs of laughing gulls, royal terns and a few soaring magnificent frigatebirds. After lunch, we continued south to the Tarcoles River, where in addition to yellow-headed caracara and common black-hawk, we watched a half-dozen pairs of scarlet macaws fly over on their way to their roosts.
Black and White Owl in Orotina Town Park
One final stop before heading to our hotel for the night, the town park in Orotina. Here in the middle of a bustling city square, with kids on skateboards and young couples sharing romantic moments, we had excellent views of a roosting black and white owl.
We ended our trip with a farewell banquet. Everyone had to list their favorite bird of the trip. Prominent were red-legged honeycreeper, Montezuma oropendola, long-tailed tyrant, torrent tyranulet, great kiskadee, black guan, and of course our two resplendent quetzals.
What a great group on this trip, always willing to help others find our birds. Our local guide, Richard Garrigues, is of course a spectacular asset, with incredible knowledge of the local birds and how to find them, and a great ability to plan exciting days of birding, with great meals and lodges.
I look forward to returning to Costa Rica again next year. Next year: southern Costa Rica!
Gulf of Nicoya
White-throated Magpie-jay, preparing to steal table scraps
Laughing Gulls and Royal Terns Gathered on the Flats at Caldera
NYC Audubon's 2013 Tour