FIELD GUIDES BIRDING TOURS: Holiday Costa Rica: Rancho Naturalista I 2017
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Field Guides Tour Report
Holiday Costa Rica: Rancho Naturalista I 2017
Dec 19, 2017 to Dec 27, 2017
Jay VanderGaast & Ernesto Carman


The large Montezuma Oropendola was a common sight at the Rancho Naturalista feeders. Photo from another departure, by participant Doug Clarke.

Imagine waking up Christmas morning, going downstairs, and finding a whole pile of brightly wrapped presents under the tree. Isn't that what every child dreams of as December 25th approaches? Now, imagine going upstairs to the balcony on Christmas morning, and finding a whole pile of brightly wrapped (in feathers) presents under the trees, and in the trees, and on the feeders! Lifers for Christmas--isn't that what every birder dreams of as December 25th approaches? On this year's tour, I think we made a few of those birders' wishes come true. Okay, perhaps by the 25th a lot of these birds were no longer lifers, but they were still shiny and new and the excitement had not yet worn off. It takes some time to get tired of Montezuma Oropendolas, Collared Aracaris, White-necked Jacobins, Passerini's Tanagers, Orange-billed Sparrows, and the like. The fact the we weren't freezing our butts off shoveling snow for a week made our time at Rancho that much sweeter! Yup, Christmas in Costa Rica ain't half bad.

Unlike on a normal Christmas, we received some wonderful gifts not only on the day, but throughout the week we were there. Right off the bat, our trip up to Irazu Volcano on a cool, rainy morning provided such exciting treats as Fiery-throated Hummingbird, charming Collared Redstarts, Flame-throated Warbler, Black-and-yellow Silky-Flycatcher, Large-footed and Yellow-thighed finches, and the original angry bird--Volcano Junco, all species restricted to the highlands of Costa Rica and Panama. We also received what for many was probably the best present of all, when Ernesto looked up and spotted a spectacular pair of Resplendent Quetzals perched quietly in a towering oak over our heads! Now that's the way to kick off a Christmas tour!

As the week progressed, each morning, at each new site we visited, we found ourselves "unwrapping" a whole new pile of presents. At the lodge itself there were the moth cloth regulars: Plain-brown and Spotted woodcreepers, Buff-throated Foliage-gleaner, White-breasted Wood-wrens, Golden-crowned Warblers, and Red-throated Ant-tanagers. There were the birds at the hummingbird pools: sparkling Snowcaps and flashy Crowned Woodnymph, the very local Tawny-chested Flycatcher, and tough to see skulkers like Dull-mantled Antbird and Tawny-throated Leaftosser. And the trails offered up such wonderful birds as huge Crested Guans, roosting Crested Owls, Golden-olive and Pale-billed woodpeckers, stunning Keel-billed Toucan, snappy White-collared Manakins, Stripe-breasted Wren, and a bunch of tanagers and euphonias, to name but a few.

Elsewhere in the valley below, we enjoyed fantastic views of the unique Sunbittern and a Fasciated Tiger-Heron along the Tuis River, loads of waterbirds such as Boat-billed Heron and Ringed Kingfisher at CATIE, and Limpkin and Wattled Jacana (a rarity in the country!) at Lake Angostura, with bonus Neotropical River Otters. There were Red-breasted Meadowlarks and Southern Lapwings on a nearby farm, and Northern Emerald Toucanet, Tawny-crested, Emerald, and Speckled tanagers, and Yellow-throated Euphonia at Silent Mountain. Further afield, a day trip to EARTH netted us a bunch of great lowland species like Russet-naped Wood-Rail, Broad-billed Motmot, Slaty-tailed Trogon, White-necked Puffbird, Rufous-winged Woodpecker, and blindingly white Snowy Cotingas. Plus sloths, five of them to be exact! And our final day's visit to Tapanti National Park rewarded us with Red-headed and Prong-billed barbets, White-bellied and Purple-throated Mountain-gems, Black-bellied Hummingbird, the bulky Streak-breasted Treehunter, Black-faced Solitaire, Sooty-faced Finch, and many more. The side trip to Ernesto's home, Finca Cristina, was also a big hit, and I'm sure there's a few of you enjoying some delicious Finca Cristina coffee while you're reading this!

All in all, it was a great week away from winter, and a welcome respite from the brutally cold weather back in Canada and the US. The good folks at Rancho Naturalista, led by Lisa Erb, took excellent care of us and fed us (too) well! Did anyone expect to have such a scrumptious Christmas turkey dinner in Costa Rica? Our super driver (and extra birding guide) Vernon got us from place to place to place expertly and safely, and Ernesto did his usual amazing job of spotting and pointing out birds, frogs, orchids, etc, and providing some insight into Tico life. Thanks to all of these folks who helped make this tour such a delight. A final thank you to all of you who decided to spend your holidays with us. It was a varied group, but a good one, and I think I can safely say that we all had a lot of fun. It would be my pleasure to see you all on another tour someday.

Happy New Year to all, and happy birding in 2018!

--Jay


KEYS FOR THIS LIST
One of the following keys may be shown in brackets for individual species as appropriate: * = heard only, I = introduced, E = endemic, N = nesting, a = austral migrant, b = boreal migrant


BIRDS
Tinamidae (Tinamous)
GREAT TINAMOU (Tinamus major) – All three tinamous were heard calling at EARTH, but none was especially close. [*]
LITTLE TINAMOU (Crypturellus soui) [*]
SLATY-BREASTED TINAMOU (Crypturellus boucardi) [*]
Anatidae (Ducks, Geese, and Waterfowl)
BLACK-BELLIED WHISTLING-DUCK (Dendrocygna autumnalis) – I think it was Linda that spotted a distant flock of these flying over the far side of the Angostura Reservoir.
MUSCOVY DUCK (Cairina moschata) – A lone male made a close pass as it flew over Angostura Lake, giving us all a great view of this burly duck.
LESSER SCAUP (Aythya affinis) – About 25-30 of these were on Angostura Lake, most of them in eclipse plumage. [b]
Cracidae (Guans, Chachalacas, and Curassows)
GRAY-HEADED CHACHALACA (Ortalis cinereiceps) – These birds have bounced back at Rancho, after having been down considerably in numbers in recent times. We had upwards of 30 at the feeders there daily.
CRESTED GUAN (Penelope purpurascens) – Seen up on the forest trails a couple of times, then a pair appeared right above one of the cabins on one of our last afternoons. Nice to see this huge, edible bird making a comeback here, a good sign that there's no hunting pressure locally.
BLACK GUAN (Chamaepetes unicolor) – Vernon picked out a single bird sitting quietly in the subcanopy next to the road at the entrance to Tapanti NP.


Violet Sabrewing is one of the largest hummingbirds; there were at least two that at times over-shadowed the other hummers at the feeders on our tour. Photo from another departure, by participant Doug Clarke.

Podicipedidae (Grebes)
LEAST GREBE (Tachybaptus dominicus) – Ernesto spotted a trio of these small grebes in the distance on Angostura Lake, but only the folks who hadn't retreated to the bus to grab umbrellas were able to see them in the scope before they vanished.
Phalacrocoracidae (Cormorants and Shags)
NEOTROPIC CORMORANT (Phalacrocorax brasilianus) – A few birds roosting on driftwood on Lake Angostura.
Anhingidae (Anhingas)
ANHINGA (Anhinga anhinga) – A single bird was perched in a Cecropia tree on the edge of the pond at CATIE, and a couple more were scoped at Angostura Lake.
Ardeidae (Herons, Egrets, and Bitterns)
FASCIATED TIGER-HERON (Tigrisoma fasciatum) – Great views of an adult standing in the Rio Tuis as we headed up to Rancho for the first time.
GREAT BLUE HERON (Ardea herodias) – A lone bird at CATIE, and a couple more at Angostura. [b]
GREAT EGRET (Ardea alba) – Mainly around Angostura, with one also on the drive down to EARTH.
SNOWY EGRET (Egretta thula) – One individual was almost a fixture in a narrow ditch in the town of La Suiza.
LITTLE BLUE HERON (Egretta caerulea) – Quite a few around the edges of Angostura Lake, with a lone adult also at CATIE.
CATTLE EGRET (Bubulcus ibis) – Small numbers daily, including the regular morning and afternoon flights through the valley below the lodge.
GREEN HERON (Butorides virescens) – One or two around the CATIE pond, where they were once more numerous, but perhaps the creation of the Angostura Lake in 1999 lured many of them away, as there were quite a few there.
BLACK-CROWNED NIGHT-HERON (Nycticorax nycticorax) – A lone, lovely adult roosting in the papyrus along the edge of the pond at CATIE.
YELLOW-CROWNED NIGHT-HERON (Nyctanassa violacea) – I don't think we ever saw this species locally before the creation of the Angostura Lake, but now they are regulars. We saw a couple at CATIE, and quite a few more around the reservoir.
BOAT-BILLED HERON (Cochlearius cochlearius) – The birds at CATIE are arguably the most reliable and accessible ones anywhere. They've been roosting in the bamboo there for decades, and we had our usual excellent scope views of these bizarre herons there.
Threskiornithidae (Ibises and Spoonbills)
GREEN IBIS (Mesembrinibis cayennensis) – In my early years in the country, this was a difficult bird to see. We'd only find them in the Caribbean lowlands, and even there they were shy and tough to see well. Perhaps coinciding with the creation of the reservoir, this species has expanded its range and increased in number, but also seems bolder and much easier to see. We recorded them on 4 days, and we even had a pair along Rancho's driveway and heard them regularly from the lodge at dawn and dusk!
Cathartidae (New World Vultures)
BLACK VULTURE (Coragyps atratus) – Ubiquitous and seen in large numbers daily.
TURKEY VULTURE (Cathartes aura) – Also common and seen daily, though generally in smaller numbers than the Black.
Pandionidae (Osprey)
OSPREY (Pandion haliaetus) – A solitary bird coursed over the lake at Angostura, another species that expanded its operations into the region with the creation of the lake. [b]
Accipitridae (Hawks, Eagles, and Kites)
WHITE-TAILED KITE (Elanus leucurus) – We only ever saw this species while we were on the road, so had to be satisfied with our views in passing, though a couple of them were quite good.
HOOK-BILLED KITE (Chondrohierax uncinatus) – The group that took the walk down to Rancho Bajo on our first day at Rancho had good views of a rufous female soaring low over the valley.
GRAY-HEADED KITE (Leptodon cayanensis) – Vernon spotted a gorgeous adult landing nearby as we tried to lure in a pygmy-tyrant in the primary forest at EARTH. Excellent scope views followed.
ORNATE HAWK-EAGLE (Spizaetus ornatus) – Ernesto and I picked out the distant cry of this bird at Tapanti, then spotted it glide by just over the treetops. We though it had vanished over the ridgetop, but another birder that happened to be nearby saw it land in the top of one of the tallest trees on the ridge, and we quickly got the scopes trained on the bird, a handsome adult, for some fabulous studies.
SNAIL KITE (Rostrhamus sociabilis) – Yet another species that expanded into the Turrialba region after the creation of the Angostura Lake (there are more to come below). We saw several at the lake, including a lovely adult that flew past quite close.
BICOLORED HAWK (Accipiter bicolor) – Rancho's resident bird spent a couple of early mornings sitting up on its favored perch, just visible from one end of the balcony. I doubt there's a more reliable Bicolored Hawk anywhere in its vast range.
BARRED HAWK (Morphnarchus princeps) – Views of a distant soaring bird at Silent Mountain left a little to be desired.
ROADSIDE HAWK (Rupornis magnirostris) – The most commonly seen hawk, with records daily, and aptly, often seen along roads. Amusing was the one that appeared to be playing goalie on the soccer field at EARTH.
BROAD-WINGED HAWK (Buteo platypterus) – A few of these common wintering hawks were seen on most days. [b]
SHORT-TAILED HAWK (Buteo brachyurus) – Two or three (or just one fast bird) were seen from the bus on the lower slopes of Irazu Volcano as we descended the mountain en route to Rancho.


One of Costa Rica's common tanagers, we saw Blue-gray Tanager every day, and in many places. Photo from another departure, by participant Keith Jackson.

Eurypygidae (Sunbittern)
SUNBITTERN (Eurypyga helias) – Always a crowd-pleaser, this monotypic bird showed beautifully along the river in Platanillo, obligingly flying up the river at one point to expose the striking, but usually concealed, wing pattern. Vernon found another in a small rivulet flowing through a sugar cane field near Angostura Lake the next morning.
Rallidae (Rails, Gallinules, and Coots)
WHITE-THROATED CRAKE (Laterallus albigularis) – At EARTH and Angostura; none were close enough to even try to pull out. [*]
RUSSET-NAPED WOOD-RAIL (Aramides albiventris) – One was strolling around in the open, feeding in the recently mown grass along the entrance road at EARTH. Part of the recent split of Gray-necked Wood-Rail; both new species occur in the country, and even overlap at some sites (such as Ernesto's family farm). This bird showed the rusty nape patch for which the species was named.
PURPLE GALLINULE (Porphyrio martinica) – Fair numbers around the CATIE pond and Lake Angostura.
Aramidae (Limpkin)
LIMPKIN (Aramus guarauna) – Like the Snail Kite, this bird expanded into the Turrialba region once the lake was created, and after apple snails first appeared there. We had excellent looks at a couple from our elevated viewpoint on the south side of the lake.
Charadriidae (Plovers and Lapwings)
SOUTHERN LAPWING (Vanellus chilensis) – A fairly recent invader to Costa Rica from the south, but now a widespread and fairly common part of the open-country avifauna. We had a trio of these in the Angostura Lake region.
Jacanidae (Jacanas)
NORTHERN JACANA (Jacana spinosa) – Numerous at CATIE, where the many juveniles attest to their breeding success at this site. Lake Angostura's creation has no doubt allowed them to increase their numbers locally, and there plenty there as well.
WATTLED JACANA (Jacana jacana) – A rare species in Costa Rica, and most of the records are from the far south, as they invade from Panama. One was reported from Angostura Lake about a month earlier, and I was hopeful that it might stick around, as I'd never seen it in the country before. When it was reported again on Dec. 20th, hopes got higher, and I was pretty pumped when Vernon located it skulking around in the water hyacinth. Eventually the bird came out into the open for all of us to get great looks.
Scolopacidae (Sandpipers and Allies)
SPOTTED SANDPIPER (Actitis macularius) – One along the river as we viewed the Sunbittern, and another near Tapanti. [b]
Columbidae (Pigeons and Doves)
ROCK PIGEON (Columba livia) – Only seen on our final day as we drove back into San Jose. [I]
PALE-VENTED PIGEON (Patagioenas cayennensis) – A number of these were seen along the highway en route to EARTH. Getting stuck in traffic due to a major road accident ahead, just as we were approaching the turnoff allowed us to get some good views of several.
RED-BILLED PIGEON (Patagioenas flavirostris) – The commonly seen large pigeon, missed only on the day we went to EARTH.
SHORT-BILLED PIGEON (Patagioenas nigrirostris) – The distinctive "Who cooks for you?" call was heard in the distance at EARTH. [*]
INCA DOVE (Columbina inca) – Our only sighting was of a single bird perched on a wire below a large animated billboard on the outskirts of San Jose on our final day.
RUDDY GROUND-DOVE (Columbina talpacoti) – A common open-country species, and we saw small numbers at several sites.
WHITE-TIPPED DOVE (Leptotila verreauxi) – One was a regular visitor below the feeders at Rancho.
GRAY-CHESTED DOVE (Leptotila cassinii) – We heard the mournful coo of this species at EARTH. [*]
WHITE-WINGED DOVE (Zenaida asiatica) – When I first started birding in CR, this species was pretty much restricted to the dry northwest. Since then it has expanded its range dramatically, now ranging right across the Central Valley and all the way over to the Turrialba region. They were a common roadside sight on a number of days.
MOURNING DOVE (Zenaida macroura) – Unlike the White-winged Dove, this species hasn't expanded its range at all, and is still only found on the slopes of Irazu, where we saw several perched on power lines or flying around.
Cuculidae (Cuckoos)
GROOVE-BILLED ANI (Crotophaga sulcirostris) – I'm not sure if it was just unlucky or if these birds have really gone down in numbers, but we missed them at a number of spots where they should have been present. We eventually did see some near Angostura Lake, including a male perched atop a female, with a "present" in its beak, trying unsuccessfully to get her to copulate with him.
SQUIRREL CUCKOO (Piaya cayana) – The best of several sightings came along the triangle road at EARTH, where one was feeding low next to the road just a few meters away.


The Bicolored Hawk at Rancho was seen on several days. Photo from another departure, by participant Max Rodel.

Strigidae (Owls)
TROPICAL SCREECH-OWL (Megascops choliba) – Our final tick of the trip. After the pygmy-owl showed up almost immediately, I had hopes of a record time in getting these two owls. But these owls stubbornly remained on the wrong side of the concrete wall, where we could hear them calling continually. After a long, and not entirely patient wait, we were finally rewarded when we saw the shadow of one bird wing by overhead. It still took several more minutes to track it down, but we ultimately were successful, and had some incredible looks as it sang in the spotlight beam.
CRESTED OWL (Lophostrix cristata) – I was happy to learn of a day roost for this species at Rancho, as I'd heard, but never seen it on the property before. Though the bird was missing for the first couple of days, I found one during an outing on our second to last day there, though only 3 folks were with me. We looked again the next day, and were pleased to see a pair of them glaring down at us.
CENTRAL AMERICAN PYGMY-OWL (Glaucidium griseiceps) – A calling bird in the primary forest at EARTH stayed well away from the trail and couldn't be located. [*]
FERRUGINOUS PYGMY-OWL (Glaucidium brasilianum) – It didn't take long to find one of these little guys at the Bougainvillea. It started calling nearby shortly after we ventured into the gardens, and took no time at all to track down for some amazing looks. For Bob, this was his first ever owl in the wild, so he was especially impressed, probably even more so when his second came just a short time later!
MOTTLED OWL (Ciccaba virgata) – Heard most nights around the lodge, most often around 3:00 AM, but it wouldn't play nice on the two nights we tried to see it. [*]
Caprimulgidae (Nightjars and Allies)
LESSER NIGHTHAWK (Chordeiles acutipennis) – This bird wasn't in its regular roost tree near the cafeteria at EARTH, but we soon spotted it perched in another tree nearby and got some fantastic scope studies of its cryptic coloration.
Apodidae (Swifts)
SPOT-FRONTED SWIFT (Cypseloides cherriei) – I'm not sure how many really registered this species, but Ernesto pointed out single birds a couple of times at EARTH. Personally I didn't see the spots on these birds, but the larger size, dark plumage, and blocky head made it stand out from the other small swifts that were present.
CHESTNUT-COLLARED SWIFT (Streptoprocne rutila) – A flock of about a dozen flashed by overhead as we birded in the upper pastures at Rancho on our final afternoon there.
WHITE-COLLARED SWIFT (Streptoprocne zonaris) – Usually the most numerous species of swift encountered, but our only sightings came on one morning along the Silent Mountain Road, where a flock of about 10 of these huge swifts made a couple of passes overhead.
VAUX'S SWIFT (Chaetura vauxi) – Most of the small swifts around the entrance to EARTH were this common species, though Ernesto only also saw a couple Gray-rumped Swifts among them.
LESSER SWALLOW-TAILED SWIFT (Panyptila cayennensis) – Several pairs of this sleek, and easy to identify swift were flying in tandem over the entrance gate to EARTH.
Trochilidae (Hummingbirds)
WHITE-NECKED JACOBIN (Florisuga mellivora) – The most numerous of the many hummingbirds at Rancho's balcony feeders. We had a memorable encounter with one at Silent Mountain, too: a female zipped right down in front of us, then came right up to Linda, appearing to take a small bug from her binoculars before speeding off on its way.
GREEN HERMIT (Phaethornis guy) – Regular in small numbers at the balcony feeders, though seems easily intimidated by the other hummers despite its large size.
LONG-BILLED HERMIT (Phaethornis longirostris) – Deborah pointed out one of these feeding at a heliconia flower right next to the trail at EARTH, though it zipped off before many of the rest of us could get on it.
STRIPE-THROATED HERMIT (Phaethornis striigularis) – The folks that visited Rancho Bajo with me saw one at the verbena hedge during our fruitless coquette watch, and another was seen briefly by some during the coffee purchase at Finca Cristina.
BROWN VIOLETEAR (Colibri delphinae) – One of these uncommon hummers was at the feeders at Rancho Bajo, giving the folks that visited there a good look.
LESSER VIOLETEAR (Colibri cyanotus) – The recent split of Green Violetear has left these birds with this uninspired name. We saw our only one feeding low at the base of a large oak on the upper slopes of Irazu, though we probably would have enjoyed much better looks if we hadn't been distracted by the sudden appearance of a large, long-tailed green, red, and white bird!
PURPLE-CROWNED FAIRY (Heliothryx barroti) – Only the folks that made a visit to the hummingbird pools during the siesta break on our last day got to enjoy the sight of this attractive hummingbird dipping daintily into the water.
GREEN-BREASTED MANGO (Anthracothorax prevostii) – Numerous at the balcony feeders. Interestingly, both this and the jacobin were quite seasonal at Rancho before the establishment of these feeders. Both appeared mainly in the dry season, when the orange-flowering Erythrina trees were in full bloom, and we actually had to work to find them!
GREEN THORNTAIL (Discosura conversii) – The smaller hummingbirds were scarce at Rancho this trip, and we missed this one there, but luckily we spotted a tiny female feeding in the canopy of a hibiscus tree along the road at Tapanti on our final morning.
GREEN-CROWNED BRILLIANT (Heliodoxa jacula) – A male turned up briefly at the balcony feeders late in the week, then was seen again chasing other hummers away from the forest feeders late the same afternoon. At least I presume it was the same individual.
FIERY-THROATED HUMMINGBIRD (Panterpe insignis) – We didn't have feeders to rely on this year as the restaurant that used to maintain them has since closed, but we still managed some pretty good views of this highland specialty on the upper slopes of Irazu. One bird we were watching eventually flew across the road we were standing on, choosing the most direct route, right through our group!
WHITE-BELLIED MOUNTAIN-GEM (Lampornis hemileucus) – One of several new hummingbirds we found on our final day at Tapanti. I think Claudia spotted this one feeding at a patch of flowers along the road, but unfortunately it didn't stick around long enough for too many of us to get on it.
PURPLE-THROATED MOUNTAIN-GEM (Lampornis calolaemus) – A seasonal visitor to Tapanti NP from higher elevations, this species is not uncommon there at this time of year, but disappears from the park by the time I roll through on my March tour. We had nice views of a few, beginning with one right at the park entrance.
VOLCANO HUMMINGBIRD (Selasphorus flammula) – This hardy little hummingbird is common on the upper slopes of Irazu Volcano, where temperatures can drop to freezing on some nights. No doubt this species goes into torpor on such nights. We saw plenty during our time up there, many of them handsome little males.


We had a great view of a Sunbittern in Platanillo. Photo from another departure, by participant Doug Clarke.

VIOLET SABREWING (Campylopterus hemileucurus) – At least two males of this massive hummingbird were regulars at the balcony feeders, where they dwarfed some of the other species.
BRONZE-TAILED PLUMELETEER (Chalybura urochrysia) – Scare this trip, and our only sightings were brief views of a skittish bird at the feeders at Wayne's home, just down the road from the lodge.
CROWNED WOODNYMPH (Thalurania colombica) – Quite a few of these sparkling hummers were regulars at the balcony feeders, and we also enjoyed the sight of them splashing in the stream, where the gorgeous colors really glow thanks to the reflection of the light off the water.
STRIPE-TAILED HUMMINGBIRD (Eupherusa eximia) – I don't recall having any previous records of this species at Tapanti, so I was a bit surprised to see a male feeding at some flowers just inside the park. Ernesto and a few folks also had quick looks at another just before we got to the park, so maybe my memory is just faulty!
BLACK-BELLIED HUMMINGBIRD (Eupherusa nigriventris) – Several fine males of this species showed beautifully on our last morning at Tapanti NP.
SNOWCAP (Microchera albocoronata) – Not as numerous as they once were at Rancho, but lucky for us there are still a few around. We had a female at the balcony feeders one morning, then good looks at males at Rancho Bajo (for some), and at the hummingbird pools for everyone that ventured down. A very unique and special hummingbird that is always a big target for visitors to the lodge.
RUFOUS-TAILED HUMMINGBIRD (Amazilia tzacatl) – Numerous around the lodge and many other sites, and seen in numbers daily.
Trogonidae (Trogons)
RESPLENDENT QUETZAL (Pharomachrus mocinno) – I didn't ask people for their favorite birds of the trip, but I suspect this would have received more than a few votes. The presence of some good fruiting avocado trees on Irazu had us hopeful we'd find this bird, but weather conditions weren't especially favorable (intermittent rain, fog, and steady, strong wind). But a clear break came shortly after we arrived in the area, and we ventured out from shelter to tally a bunch of great highland species. While we were working to get improved views of an actively feeding Lesser Violetear, Ernesto suddenly announced that a male quetzal was sitting above us, and all other birds were forgotten. We were soon ogling this gorgeous creature and its lovely mate through the scopes, and when the very first rays of sunshine that morning broke through the clouds and hit the iridescent green feathers of that bird, I think more than a few of us were in complete awe.
SLATY-TAILED TROGON (Trogon massena) – Our trip down to the Caribbean lowlands got us this large trogon, a male of which perched nicely over the track in the primary forest reserve at EARTH.
GARTERED TROGON (Trogon caligatus) – Great looks at a male perched in a large patch of bamboo just off the balcony on our first morning at Rancho. He was seen again in the same bamboo a few days later as we ate breakfast out on the terrace.
COLLARED TROGON (Trogon collaris) – A male at Tapanti was just one of many birds that made that day's outing such a success!
Momotidae (Motmots)
LESSON'S MOTMOT (Momotus lessonii lessonii) – Formerly Blue-crowned Motmot, a species which was split a few years back, then split further more recently. This was both one of our first birds, and our very last. We started with fine scope views of a pair on our pre-breakfast outing the first morning, then found a sleeping bird after dark as we returned to the hotel after our successful owling on the last day.
RUFOUS MOTMOT (Baryphthengus martii) – I returned to my room after our visit to EARTH to find one of these large motmots perched on a chair on my deck, so I quickly looked for someone to share it with. Only Ursula and Rudolf were around, but they enjoyed a private photo session with the bird (no longer perched on the chair, however). Later, several folks got to see another on Wayne's feeders, and finally we all caught up with one that visited the Rancho feeders while we enjoyed our final daylight breakfast on the terrace.
BROAD-BILLED MOTMOT (Electron platyrhynchum) – We squeaked this one out in the nick of time at EARTH, spotting it sitting in the subcanopy just before the heavy rains chased us back to the bus.
Alcedinidae (Kingfishers)
RINGED KINGFISHER (Megaceryle torquata) – A male perched above the pond at CATIE was our only one for the trip.
AMAZON KINGFISHER (Chloroceryle amazona) – One at the Sunbittern stream was not very cooperative, but a female the next day at Angostura was, and she gave us several nice views as she perched and fished in front of our viewpoint.
GREEN KINGFISHER (Chloroceryle americana) – One at a roadside pool at EARTH, and another at Angostura, where we had a good comparison between this and the similar, though larger, Amazon.
Bucconidae (Puffbirds)
WHITE-NECKED PUFFBIRD (Notharchus hyperrhynchus) – A pair of these large, lethargic puffbirds were perched in some bare branches in the canopy along the entrance road at EARTH. It was fun to see one actually do something other than just sitting, as one bird sallied out to nab a large beetle that was flying by.
Galbulidae (Jacamars)
RUFOUS-TAILED JACAMAR (Galbula ruficauda) – Heard along the trail at Rancho one afternoon. [*]
Capitonidae (New World Barbets)
RED-HEADED BARBET (Eubucco bourcierii) – A pair crept around in the canopy of a tree next to the Tapanti ranger station, but just wouldn't show themselves at first. Eventually, though, the brilliant male came into view and everyone enjoyed superb views.
Semnornithidae (Toucan-Barbets)
PRONG-BILLED BARBET (Semnornis frantzii) – We first spotted a pair of these birds on the ground next to the road at Tapanti, a sure sign of an army ant swarm, as these barbets generally stay up in trees. We wound up with some excellent close views as they few in a fruiting tree right next to us.
Ramphastidae (Toucans)
NORTHERN EMERALD-TOUCANET (BLUE-THROATED) (Aulacorhynchus prasinus caeruleogularis) – After returning to the bus after walking up the Silent Mountain Road, we were standing around having a cold drink when one of these small toucans rocketed overhead and landed in a dense bank of ferns above the bare dirt of a landslip, a strange place for a toucan, but it allowed us some nice looks. Our only other one came at Tapanti, where Bob spotted one feeding on some fruits in a branch overhanging the road.
COLLARED ARACARI (Pteroglossus torquatus) – Nearly daily, including a party of several birds that were occasional visitors to Rancho's feeders.
YELLOW-THROATED TOUCAN (CHESTNUT-MANDIBLED) (Ramphastos ambiguus swainsonii) – Only seen at EARTH, but we had quite a few there, starting with scope views at the main entrance.
KEEL-BILLED TOUCAN (Ramphastos sulfuratus) – Regularly at Rancho, with some good studies of a couple perched in a dead treetop just down the driveway from the lodge. The lighting on these birds was amazing and allowed us to soak in all the brilliant colors on those huge bills.


We found our Broad-billed Motmot just before we had to run back to the bus at EARTH. Photo from another departure, by participant Doug Clarke.

Picidae (Woodpeckers)
ACORN WOODPECKER (Melanerpes formicivorus) – I think only Diane and I had one outside the restaurant at Irazu while everyone else was still inside eating lunch.
BLACK-CHEEKED WOODPECKER (Melanerpes pucherani) – The most regularly seen woodpecker, as a couple of them were visitors to the Rancho feeders.
HOFFMANN'S WOODPECKER (Melanerpes hoffmannii) – The common woodpecker around the Hotel Bougainvillea, with a few sightings also in the Tuis valley down towards Turrialba.
RUFOUS-WINGED WOODPECKER (Piculus simplex) – Not an easy bird to find on this trip, so finding a cooperative male with a mixed flock at EARTH was a bit of a coup.
GOLDEN-OLIVE WOODPECKER (Colaptes rubiginosus) – Both groups saw this beautiful woodpecker independently on the first day we split up at Rancho. We had another good look at one right above the bridge as we watched the Sunbittern.
CINNAMON WOODPECKER (Celeus loricatus) – Heard at our lunch stop at EARTH, but it never showed. [*]
LINEATED WOODPECKER (Dryocopus lineatus) – We heard one during the walk down to Rancho Bajo, but it was quite distant and was never seen. [*]
PALE-BILLED WOODPECKER (Campephilus guatemalensis) – We had several nice encounters with this large woodpecker, starting with a pair from the balcony on our first morning at Rancho.
Falconidae (Falcons and Caracaras)
CRESTED CARACARA (Caracara cheriway) – Although a couple were called out earlier in the week, it wasn't until the final day that we finally got some participants onto one of these in the Orosi Valley.
YELLOW-HEADED CARACARA (Milvago chimachima) – A few folks had one on the Hotel Bougainvillea grounds the first morning on our pre-breakfast walk, while the rest of us caught up with a couple during our afternoon visit to CATIE. Until recently, this species was pretty much restricted to the southern Pacific slope in CR, but it has been expanding rapidly in recent years.
LAUGHING FALCON (Herpetotheres cachinnans) – This species was a rare find around the lodge during my guiding days there, but a pair has evidently taken up residence in the area, as we heard the raucous laughter almost daily, and had a couple of good sightings of these cool birds, too. Snakes in the region better beware, as that is this falcon's preferred prey.
AMERICAN KESTREL (Falco sparverius) – Diane spotted a male perched in a dead tree on the ridge top along the Silent Mountain Road for our only sighting of the trip. [b]
BAT FALCON (Falco rufigularis) – A pair perched on wires over the Rio Reventazon were unsatisfying as we had to look at them only from the bus as we drove by. Luckily, Ernesto had another one staked out in the Orosi Valley, and that one gave us ample opportunity to study it through the scope.
PEREGRINE FALCON (Falco peregrinus) – Local guide Harry spotted this one circling high overhead at Rancho Bajo. [b]
Psittacidae (New World and African Parrots)
BARRED PARAKEET (Bolborhynchus lineola) – A high-flying flock of 29 birds whizzed by overhead, where only Ernesto was able to lay eyes on them. [*]
ORANGE-CHINNED PARAKEET (Brotogeris jugularis) – A few of these small parakeets were flying about along the entrance road at EARTH.
BROWN-HOODED PARROT (Pyrilia haematotis) – A couple of high flying flocks blasted past overhead at Rancho and Silent Mountain, but overall the views weren't great.
WHITE-CROWNED PARROT (Pionus senilis) – The most common parrot in the area, and we had daily views of these birds, including some excellent scope studies from the Rancho balcony.
MEALY PARROT (Amazona farinosa) – Our only Amazona parrots were a pair of these birds that flew directly over the group as we birded along the entrance road at EARTH.
OLIVE-THROATED PARAKEET (AZTEC) (Eupsittula nana astec) – A bird of the Caribbean lowlands, we saw this one only at EARTH, with a couple of birds showing nicely near the cafeteria just before we hopped on the bus.
GREAT GREEN MACAW (Ara ambiguus) – We were inside the forest when we heard these ones calling at EARTH, and they sadly did not fly over the only clearing from where we would have been able to view them. [*]
CRIMSON-FRONTED PARAKEET (Psittacara finschi) – Abundant, and seen daily on the tour, with some very large flocks flying up the valley as seen from the Rancho balcony.
Thamnophilidae (Typical Antbirds)
GREAT ANTSHRIKE (Taraba major) – That big mixed flock we ran into just before leaving EARTH had some great birds in it, including a pair of these massive antshrikes. I think most people only got to see the male, though the female was lurking about as well.
RUSSET ANTSHRIKE (Thamnistes anabatinus) – Ernesto's group saw a couple of these arboreal antshrikes in a mixed canopy flock at Rancho on the first day we split up the on the trails.
PLAIN ANTVIREO (Dysithamnus mentalis) – A pair made an early morning visit to the moth cloth for a dawn feast. The male showed best, but at least a few folks saw the female, too.
CHECKER-THROATED ANTWREN (Epinecrophylla fulviventris) – Seen by a couple of folks with Ernesto on the trails at Rancho.
SLATY ANTWREN (Myrmotherula schisticolor) – Heard at Rancho. [*]
DULL-MANTLED ANTBIRD (Sipia laemosticta) – Not always an easy bird to see, but these antbirds have been habitual visitors to the hummingbird pools for years. We had excellent looks at one bathing late in the afternoon, though it took a spotlight to make it look like more than a dark blob in the low light.
Furnariidae (Ovenbirds and Woodcreepers)
TAWNY-THROATED LEAFTOSSER (Sclerurus mexicanus) – Another late afternoon visitor to the hummingbird pools, and again, by using a spotlight we were able to get great looks at this shy terrestrial bird. We could even make out its tawny throat.
OLIVACEOUS WOODCREEPER (Sittasomus griseicapillus) – One of the smaller woodcreepers, this one was seen a couple of times with mixed flocks at Rancho. Watch for this variable species to be split into several in the near future.


Common Tody-flycatcher may indeed be common, but they are still delightful! We saw them almost every day. Photo from another departure, by participant Max Rodel.

PLAIN-BROWN WOODCREEPER (Dendrocincla fuliginosa) – Our only one gave great views as it fed at the moth cloth one morning.
WEDGE-BILLED WOODCREEPER (Glyphorynchus spirurus) – The smallest woodcreeper of all. We saw this one a couple of times at Tapanti.
COCOA WOODCREEPER (Xiphorhynchus susurrans) – First seen at EARTH, but the best views were of the one that fed on moths at Wayne's home. At times it was just a few feet away.
SPOTTED WOODCREEPER (Xiphorhynchus erythropygius) – The spots may be hard to see, as they are mainly on the underside, but the birds weren't too tough. This was one of the most commonly seen woodcreepers of the trip, and we had them regularly at Rancho (including at the moth cloth) and at Tapanti.
STREAK-HEADED WOODCREEPER (Lepidocolaptes souleyetii) – Another species we saw often, not surprisingly as this species is fairly tolerant of disturbance and prefers more open habitats than many other woodcreepers.
SPOT-CROWNED WOODCREEPER (Lepidocolaptes affinis) – The highland counterpart of the preceding species. A pair of these were our first woodcreepers, seen high on the slopes of Irazu Volcano.
PLAIN XENOPS (Xenops minutus) – A common, small Furnariid, though we almost missed it, only catching up with one in a mixed flock on our final full day at Rancho.
STREAKED XENOPS (Xenops rutilans) – Mostly replaces the Plain Xenops at slightly higher elevations, and in general, far less often encountered than Plain. We had good looks at one in a mixed flock at Tapanti.
STREAK-BREASTED TREEHUNTER (Thripadectes rufobrunneus) – A pair of these large Furnariids started calling near the army ant swarm at Tapanti, then flew across the road towards where several other birds were feeding at the swarm. After a bit of work, we managed to coax one of the birds out into the open for some super looks.
BUFF-THROATED FOLIAGE-GLEANER (Automolus ochrolaemus) – A common understory species at Rancho, though we mostly just heard them. Our only views were of a pretty cooperative bird at the moth cloth early one morning.
SPOTTED BARBTAIL (Premnoplex brunnescens) – A lone bird fed on the ground on the embankment down which the army ants were moving at Tapanti.
RED-FACED SPINETAIL (Cranioleuca erythrops) – Several good views of this arboreal spinetail with mixed flocks at Tapanti.
Tyrannidae (Tyrant Flycatchers)
YELLOW-BELLIED ELAENIA (Elaenia flavogaster) – Seen well along the driveway on that first rainy morning at Rancho.
TORRENT TYRANNULET (Serpophaga cinerea) – A stop at a stream crossing en route to Tapanti failed to net us a dipper, but we did score our only one of these charming little flycatchers, perched on a large boulder in the middle of the rushing stream.
OLIVE-STRIPED FLYCATCHER (Mionectes olivaceus) – This and the next species are largely frugivorus, and feed by hover-plucking small fruits from shrubs and trees. We saw this one a couple of times at Rancho and Tapanti.
OCHRE-BELLIED FLYCATCHER (Mionectes oleagineus) – Encountered a few times at Rancho, including one in company with an Olive-striped Flycatcher along the driveway at Rancho.
PALTRY TYRANNULET (Zimmerius vilissimus) – A rather unfair name for this cute little flycatcher, which, like others in this genus, feeds largely on mistletoe berries. We saw these birds pretty regularly at several sites.
BLACK-CAPPED PYGMY-TYRANT (Myiornis atricapillus) – This tiny bird took a lot of work as it tended to stay pretty high in the canopy at EARTH, and seldom sat still for long, but I think most folks walked away with okay views, some even getting quick looks through the scope.
SCALE-CRESTED PYGMY-TYRANT (Lophotriccus pileatus) – Seen by some on an optional afternoon walk at Rancho. Then at Tapanti, we all had great looks at a bird feeding low next to the road.
COMMON TODY-FLYCATCHER (Todirostrum cinereum) – A fitting name, as we saw this charming flycatcher on most days of the tour.
BLACK-HEADED TODY-FLYCATCHER (Todirostrum nigriceps) – Unlike the preceding species, this one tends to stay high in the canopy. We had a few decent sightings of these at Rancho, as well as a very cooperative one at EARTH.
YELLOW-OLIVE FLYCATCHER (Tolmomyias sulphurescens) – One was seen along the driveway on our first morning at Rancho.
TAWNY-CHESTED FLYCATCHER (Aphanotriccus capitalis) – A real Rancho specialty, this restricted range species occurs only in Nicaragua and CR, and is sparsely distributed throughout its range. Usually these show up at the moth cloth each morning, but a large tree fall wiped out some of the pair's territory just before we arrived, and they were no-shows at the moth feast. Luckily we had good views of one that dropped in for a late afternoon bath at the hummingbird pools.
TUFTED FLYCATCHER (Mitrephanes phaeocercus) – A couple of these perky little birds were feeding around a clearing at Tapanti.
OLIVE-SIDED FLYCATCHER (Contopus cooperi) – Mainly a migrant in the country, as most birds winter in South America, with very few wintering in Central America. The one we found along the Silent Mountain road gave us great scope views as it sallied out for insects and regularly returned to the same perch. [b]


We had some great looks at the Keel-billed Toucan from the driveway at Rancho. Photo from another departure, by participant Doug Clarke.

TROPICAL PEWEE (Contopus cinereus) – A few of these resident pewees were seen at EARTH, and one at Silent Mountain. The calls are the best way to separate them from the 2 wood-pewee species. which are regular passage migrants and rare wintering species here.
YELLOW-BELLIED FLYCATCHER (Empidonax flaviventris) – The most common wintering Empid in most of the country, and we saw this bird pretty regularly through the week including a bold one at the moth cloth. [b]
LEAST FLYCATCHER (Empidonax minimus) – A pretty rare migrant in the country, so it was a bit of a surprise to find one along the trail at Silent Mountain, just after our encounter with the Olive-sided Flycatcher. [b]
YELLOWISH FLYCATCHER (Empidonax flavescens) – Excellent looks at one perched on a bare branch just above the army ant swarm at Tapanti.
BLACK-CAPPED FLYCATCHER (Empidonax atriceps) – A very distinctive highland Empid. A pair of these put on a good show as they moved along a barbed wire fence on Irazu Volcano.
BLACK PHOEBE (Sayornis nigricans) – Quite a different looking bird from those in the US. Not uncommon in areas near water.
BRIGHT-RUMPED ATTILA (Attila spadiceus) – Heard only at Silent Mountain. [*]
DUSKY-CAPPED FLYCATCHER (Myiarchus tuberculifer) – The common Myiarchus on this tour route, and we saw them almost daily.
GREAT CRESTED FLYCATCHER (Myiarchus crinitus) – A regular wintering species at lower elevations. We heard one or two at EARTH. [*]
GREAT KISKADEE (Pitangus sulphuratus) – Hard to miss this large, noisy flycatcher, and we didn't miss them on any day.
BOAT-BILLED FLYCATCHER (Megarynchus pitangua) – Generally less numerous and obvious than the kiskadee, though still fairly common. We had our best views of a couple at CATIE.
SOCIAL FLYCATCHER (Myiozetetes similis) – A smaller version of the kiskadee, and just as common and conspicuous. Also seen on a daily basis.
GRAY-CAPPED FLYCATCHER (Myiozetetes granadensis) – Though outnumbered for the most part, by the similar sized Social, this species is still pretty common, and we saw them most days.
GOLDEN-BELLIED FLYCATCHER (Myiodynastes hemichrysus) – Though we scoped this one in a dead tree along the trail at Silent Mountain, it always seemed to manage to sit where it was partially obscured by a branch or a bromeliad.
TROPICAL KINGBIRD (Tyrannus melancholicus) – Pretty much everywhere, everyday.
Cotingidae (Cotingas)
PURPLE-THROATED FRUITCROW (Querula purpurata) – Super looks at a couple of males, their purple throats shimmering when the light hit them just right, in the primary forest at EARTH.
SNOWY COTINGA (Carpodectes nitidus) – At least 3 males and a couple of females of these ethereal looking birds were in some fruiting trees at our last stop before leaving EARTH.
Pipridae (Manakins)
WHITE-RUFFED MANAKIN (Corapipo altera) – We only managed to connect with females and subadult males at Rancho, so finding a male along the road at Tapanti (where I've rarely, if ever, seen this species) was a bonus!
WHITE-COLLARED MANAKIN (Manacus candei) – Pretty common at Rancho, and seen well a number of times, including at least one male that visited the fruiting fig tree just off the balcony.
WHITE-CROWNED MANAKIN (Dixiphia pipra) – It was just a bit too early in the season for this species to be active at their long-used lek in the higher forest at Rancho, but the group that joined me on the trails one afternoon lucked into a handsome male in some fruiting trees on the edge of the pasture as we came out of the forest.
Tityridae (Tityras and Allies)
BLACK-CROWNED TITYRA (Tityra inquisitor) – A handsome male was seen on our first morning at Rancho, and a couple of others were with the Snowy Cotingas at EARTH.
MASKED TITYRA (Tityra semifasciata) – Usually more common than the other tityra, but we saw similar numbers of both species, with a female at Rancho on our first morning, then several birds at EARTH.
CINNAMON BECARD (Pachyramphus cinnamomeus) – A couple of birds were well-seen as they moved with a big mixed flock near the end of the day at EARTH.
WHITE-WINGED BECARD (Pachyramphus polychopterus) – Our only one was a female with the same flock as the Cinnamon Becards.


Birds do not come much brighter than the Passerini's Tanager. We got many good views of these colorful creatures. Photo from another departure, by participant Doug Clarke.

Vireonidae (Vireos, Shrike-Babblers, and Erpornis)
LESSER GREENLET (Pachysylvia decurtata) – Usually common, but kind of scarce this trip, and the only ones we saw were at EARTH.
YELLOW-THROATED VIREO (Vireo flavifrons) – A common wintering species, and we saw a few birds on most days of the tour. [b]
PHILADELPHIA VIREO (Vireo philadelphicus) – A couple of birds were on the grounds of the Hotel Bougainvillea on our first morning, and another was seen next to the lodge at Rancho. [b]
BROWN-CAPPED VIREO (Vireo leucophrys) – One was with a mixed flock at Tapanti, though it didn't stick around too long and may have been missed by some.
Corvidae (Crows, Jays, and Magpies)
AZURE-HOODED JAY (Cyanolyca cucullata) – A skulking bird showed up very briefly above the army ant swarm at Tapanti, and was in view just a couple of seconds if you were standing in the right place.
BROWN JAY (Psilorhinus morio) – Numerous and noisy, and seen daily on the tour.
Hirundinidae (Swallows)
BLUE-AND-WHITE SWALLOW (Pygochelidon cyanoleuca) – The default swallow at most of the sites visited, and we saw them every day of the trip.
NORTHERN ROUGH-WINGED SWALLOW (Stelgidopteryx serripennis) – This species seems to have increased in number since my days guiding at Rancho, with a corresponding decrease in the numbers of the next species, which used to be the more numerous one in the Rancho area. The birds we saw were likely all residents, though northern migrants also occur in the country at this time of year.
SOUTHERN ROUGH-WINGED SWALLOW (Stelgidopteryx ruficollis) – Separable from Northern by the throat color (peachy orange in this species) and rump color (white in Southern). we saw a few of these at several sites, including some feeding low over the water at the CATIE pond.
GRAY-BREASTED MARTIN (Progne chalybea) – Quite a few on power lines and around service stations in the Caribbean lowlands.
MANGROVE SWALLOW (Tachycineta albilinea) – A few of these white-rumped swallows were feeding over the wet soccer field at EARTH.
Troglodytidae (Wrens)
HOUSE WREN (Troglodytes aedon) – Surprisingly few though we saw this widespread wren at several sites.
OCHRACEOUS WREN (Troglodytes ochraceus) – A couple of birds were seen fairly well in a flock at the Tapanti ranger station. As usual, they were creeping along tree trunks and branches, and were often obscured by the epiphytic plants and vines they were foraging among.
BAND-BACKED WREN (Campylorhynchus zonatus) – Super scope views at one of these large, dapper wrens in a palm tree at CATIE.
RUFOUS-NAPED WREN (Campylorhynchus rufinucha) – A trio of these showed well on the Hotel Bougainvillea grounds, where they took up residence a number of years ago.
BLACK-THROATED WREN (Pheugopedius atrogularis) – Always a tough species to see well, as they prefer dense heliconia thickets and rarely come out into the open, but we had some pretty nice looks at a couple where we had the large mixed flock at our last stop at EARTH.
STRIPE-BREASTED WREN (Cantorchilus thoracicus) – Heard regularly at Rancho, though we struggled a bit to see them. I think quite a few folks eventually got pretty decent views of couple with a mixed flock near the Crested Owl roost.
CABANIS'S WREN (Cantorchilus modestus) – Beautiful views of a very friendly bird right next to the coffee sales room at Finca Cristina. This is part of the three-way split of the former Plain Wren.
BAY WREN (Cantorchilus nigricapillus) – One was heard regularly right around the lodge, and was seen well by several of us as it foraged in the mimosa-like tree by the front door.
WHITE-BREASTED WOOD-WREN (Henicorhina leucosticta) – Heard daily at Rancho, though the only ones we saw (and boy did we see them well!) were the bold pair at the moth cloth.
GRAY-BREASTED WOOD-WREN (Henicorhina leucophrys) – A couple of these wrens were among the many birds availing themselves of the easy pickings at the army ant swarm at Tapanti.
Polioptilidae (Gnatcatchers)
LONG-BILLED GNATWREN (Ramphocaenus melanurus) – I think only Craig and Ernesto got onto this long-beaked little bird in a mixed flock near the Crested Owl roost at Rancho.
TROPICAL GNATCATCHER (Polioptila plumbea) – The only gnatcatcher in most of the country. We had a few sightings at Rancho and EARTH.


We found Rufous-naped Wrens in the gardens at Hotel Bougainvillea. Photo from another departure, by participant Keith Jackson.

Turdidae (Thrushes and Allies)
BLACK-FACED SOLITAIRE (Myadestes melanops) – Several were seen at Tapanti, including one the dropped to the ground to feed at the army ant swarm.
BLACK-BILLED NIGHTINGALE-THRUSH (Catharus gracilirostris) – One bird along the stream behind the lunch restaurant on Volcan Irazu.
SLATY-BACKED NIGHTINGALE-THRUSH (Catharus fuscater) – At least 4 of these were feeding out in the open at the Tapanti army ant swarm. At least that's how many we had in view at any given time.
WOOD THRUSH (Hylocichla mustelina) – At Rancho. [b*]
SOOTY THRUSH (Turdus nigrescens) – Nine or 10 of these large highland thrushes were foraging on a soccer field in the last large town we went through on our way up to Irazu.
MOUNTAIN THRUSH (Turdus plebejus) – Also seen only on Irazu, but we just had a couple of these dull thrushes along the way.
CLAY-COLORED THRUSH (Turdus grayi) – Pretty much ubiquitous, which is fitting as it is the national bird of Costa Rica.
Mimidae (Mockingbirds and Thrashers)
GRAY CATBIRD (Dumetella carolinensis) – Claudia photographed one having a bath in the pool below the feeders during an afternoon break. The next day it came out during lunch and was seen by all. [b]
TROPICAL MOCKINGBIRD (Mimus gilvus) – I think it was Diane that spotted one from the bus as we drove along the highway in the Caribbean lowlands. Later we saw 4 birds on a farm near the Angostura Reservoir. A fairly recent arrival in Costa Rica, but has been expanding its range quite rapidly in the last 15-20 years.
Ptiliogonatidae (Silky-flycatchers)
BLACK-AND-YELLOW SILKY-FLYCATCHER (Phainoptila melanoxantha) – Super looks at a close bird perched along the roadside on Irazu Volcano, just after we'd walked away from our quetzals.
Parulidae (New World Warblers)
OVENBIRD (Seiurus aurocapilla) – One responded to pygmy-owl imitation along the edge of the Angostura Reservoir. [b]
NORTHERN WATERTHRUSH (Parkesia noveboracensis) – One in the same area as the Ovenbird. [b]
GOLDEN-WINGED WARBLER (Vermivora chrysoptera) – A not uncommon wintering species. Most of the ones we saw were males (apparently males and females have different wintering habitat preferences to some extent). At Rancho we also had excellent looks at a "Brewster's" Warbler, a first-generation hybrid between this species and Blue-winged Warbler. [b]
BLACK-AND-WHITE WARBLER (Mniotilta varia) – A few scattered records of this common wintering species. [b]
FLAME-THROATED WARBLER (Oreothlypis gutturalis) – Several of these gorgeous highland warblers were seen our first day at Irazu, including a close, cooperative pair right up at the top.
TENNESSEE WARBLER (Oreothlypis peregrina) – One of the most common wintering warblers. We saw them daily including at Rancho's feeders. [b]
GRAY-CROWNED YELLOWTHROAT (Geothlypis poliocephala) – Vernon spotted our only one in a heavily grazed pasture on a farm near Angostura Reservoir.
MOURNING WARBLER (Geothlypis philadelphia) – A couple were seen at Wayne's home, including one fine adult male. [b]
KENTUCKY WARBLER (Geothlypis formosa) – This secretive terrestrial warbler showed beautifully as it bathed in the pool below the feeders on our first morning at Rancho, then was seen again bathing at the hummingbird pools. [b]
OLIVE-CROWNED YELLOWTHROAT (Geothlypis semiflava) – A singing bird at Angostura Lake was a bit tricky and uncooperative, but I think was eventually seen well by most.
AMERICAN REDSTART (Setophaga ruticilla) – Adult males were seen both at EARTH and around Wayne's home. [b]
TROPICAL PARULA (Setophaga pitiayumi) – Seen a few times at Rancho and Tapanti. Perhaps the best was the bird that was bathing in a hollow high up on a tree trunk, just after a Speckled Tanager had been bathing in the same hollow.
BAY-BREASTED WARBLER (Setophaga castanea) – According to Ernesto, this was a banner year for this species in the country, with unprecedented numbers passing through on migration. And though most of them winter to the south (mainly from the Panama Canal zone through to NW South America), a few birds stayed put in Costa Rica. We saw one each at EARTH and in the pasture area at Rancho. This may have been my first ever on the property, but was certainly my first winter record there. [b]
BLACKBURNIAN WARBLER (Setophaga fusca) – We saw this species on most days, though most of them were rather dull females and/or juveniles. [b]
YELLOW WARBLER (Setophaga petechia) – Another common wintering species, mainly in areas around water, and we saw fair numbers at CATIE, EARTH, and around the Angostura Reservoir. [b]


The mid-sized (for a hummingbird!) Rufous-tailed Hummingbird was a frequent sight for us. Photo from another departure, by participant Doug Clarke.

CHESTNUT-SIDED WARBLER (Setophaga pensylvanica) – Another of the most numerous wintering warblers in the part of Costa Rica, and other than the first day on Irazu, we saw them in good numbers daily. [b]
BLACK-THROATED GREEN WARBLER (Setophaga virens) – A regular wintering species in the highlands. We saw a couple around the restaurant on Irazu. [b]
RUFOUS-CAPPED WARBLER (Basileuterus rufifrons) – This attractive resident warbler is regular in disturbed areas of second-growth, where it can be hard to see. We had them a couple of times around the lodge.
BLACK-CHEEKED WARBLER (Basileuterus melanogenys) – Another highland specialty from our first morning on Irazu. Our lone bird was a one-eyed individual that showed very well behind the restaurant after lunch.
GOLDEN-CROWNED WARBLER (Basileuterus culicivorus) – A small party of these cooperated nicely as they fed at the moth cloth one morning.
COSTA RICAN WARBLER (Basileuterus melanotis) – The split of Three-striped Warbler made for another addition to the list of Chiriqui endemics-species found only in the highlands of Costa Rica and western Panama. A pair of these birds were at the army ant swarm at Tapanti, though they didn't play nice and were probably missed by a few folks.
BUFF-RUMPED WARBLER (Myiothlypis fulvicauda) – A loudly singing bird along a rushing stream at Tapanti was difficult to see, as the field of view was extremely narrow, but at least a couple of people managed a look.
WILSON'S WARBLER (Cardellina pusilla) – Easily the most numerous wintering warbler in the highlands. We saw loads on Irazu Volcano, with just a few birds scattered elsewhere. [b]
SLATE-THROATED REDSTART (Myioborus miniatus) – Nice looks at several along the trail at Silent Mountain, then again at Tapanti.
COLLARED REDSTART (Myioborus torquatus) – Mainly at higher elevations than the preceding species, and we had nice views of a couple of these birds, known locally as "Amigo de Hombre" on Irazu Volcano.
Thraupidae (Tanagers and Allies)
WHITE-SHOULDERED TANAGER (Tachyphonus luctuosus) – Seen a couple of times with mixed flocks at Rancho.
TAWNY-CRESTED TANAGER (Tachyphonus delatrii) – It's been quite a few visits since I've last seen this species at Silent Mountain, so it was great to run into a large flock of them right next to the track there, and to get such fantastic views of them too.
WHITE-LINED TANAGER (Tachyphonus rufus) – The only ones we saw were a pair coming into the feeders at Wayne's house.
CRIMSON-COLLARED TANAGER (Ramphocelus sanguinolentus) – The first one at EARTH was a bit brief, but not a bad view, still, a perched pair at our lunch stop at Tapanti the last day gave us far superior views.
PASSERINI'S TANAGER (Ramphocelus passerinii) – A pretty common bird around the lodge.
BLUE-GRAY TANAGER (Thraupis episcopus) – Pretty much everywhere, and seen daily in numbers.
PALM TANAGER (Thraupis palmarum) – A little less numerous than the Blue-gray Tanager, but still pretty common.
SPECKLED TANAGER (Ixothraupis guttata) – This lovely tanager seems to have gotten tougher to find around Rancho lately, and we only wound up seeing a couple of birds. The first was with a bunch of other tanagers in some fruiting melastome trees at Silent Mountain, the second was taking a bath in a hollow on the side of a tree trunk at Rancho.
GOLDEN-HOODED TANAGER (Tangara larvata) – Generally the most numerous Tangara tanager on this trip, and we saw bunches of them most days.
SPANGLE-CHEEKED TANAGER (Tangara dowii) – Some spectacular views were had of this gorgeous tanager during our time at Tapanti.
PLAIN-COLORED TANAGER (Tangara inornata) – The odd species out in a genus that is replete with gorgeous, colorful birds. We saw 3 or 4 of these dull birds in a big mixed flock at EARTH.
BAY-HEADED TANAGER (Tangara gyrola) – Quite a few of these were about, including a few in the fruiting fig tree just off the balcony.
EMERALD TANAGER (Tangara florida) – This used to be one of the tougher Tangara around Rancho, but they seemed to have increased in number by quite a bit. We saw these well at Rancho and Silent Mountain, then came across a few more at Tapanti, too. I believe it was the first sighting of this species at Tapanti for both Ernesto and me.
SILVER-THROATED TANAGER (Tangara icterocephala) – Though we had these most days, I don't recall any one sighting that was especially good. Lots of buzzing calls, backlit views, and birds flitting around in dense canopies. Still, I expect a few of you saw them quite well.
SCARLET-THIGHED DACNIS (Dacnis venusta) – A couple of female-plumaged birds around Rancho.


Tennessee Warbler is a common wintering bird in Costa Rica, and we saw them daily. Photo from another departure, by participant Keith Jackson.

GREEN HONEYCREEPER (Chlorophanes spiza) – Just a couple of sightings: a female just outside the lodge on our first morning, and a brilliant male the next afternoon at CATIE.
BLACK-AND-YELLOW TANAGER (Chrysothlypis chrysomelas) – Sadly our only one was a lone female in a big mixed tanager flock at Silent Mountain. This was a bit odd, as usually this species is quite gregarious.
SLATY FLOWERPIERCER (Diglossa plumbea) – Quite a few birds were about on Irazu Volcano. Like all flowerpiercers, these birds bypass the pollinating parts of the plants by piercing the base of the flowers and filching the nectar from the newly made hole.
THICK-BILLED SEED-FINCH (Sporophila funerea) – A few of these were seen along the track at Silent Mountain.
VARIABLE SEEDEATER (Sporophila corvina) – Generally the default seedeater in much of the country, and on this trip, it was the only one we saw.
BANANAQUIT (Coereba flaveola) – Small numbers on most days. There was usually one or two hanging about in the flowering verbena hedge next to the lodge.
YELLOW-FACED GRASSQUIT (Tiaris olivaceus) – Regularly encountered in open grassy areas throughout.
BUFF-THROATED SALTATOR (Saltator maximus) – Seen most days, as a trio of these were regular visitors to the feeders.
BLACK-HEADED SALTATOR (Saltator atriceps) – A pair at the Sunbittern spot near Platanillo was all we could muster up this trip.
Passerellidae (New World Buntings and Sparrows)
SOOTY-CAPPED CHLOROSPINGUS (Chlorospingus pileatus) – Numerous at higher elevations on Irazu Volcano.
COMMON CHLOROSPINGUS (Chlorospingus flavopectus) – Replaces the above species in cloud forest at slightly lower elevations. As usual, the most numerous bird at Tapanti.
BLACK-STRIPED SPARROW (Arremonops conirostris) – A bird or two below Wayne's feeders were the only ones we bumped into.
ORANGE-BILLED SPARROW (Arremon aurantiirostris) – Almost a daily sight below the feeders at Rancho, with a couple also showing off at the moth cloth.
SOOTY-FACED FINCH (Arremon crassirostris) – A pair of these skulking finches showed nicely as they fed on the open embankment that the army ants were foraging along at Tapanti.
VOLCANO JUNCO (Junco vulcani) – Aptly named, as this species is found regularly on the highest volcanos in the country. We had some up near the crater at Irazu.
RUFOUS-COLLARED SPARROW (Zonotrichia capensis) – Common throughout the mountains here, but we only saw them on the travel days to and from San Jose, other than a single bird along the Silent Mountain Road.
LARGE-FOOTED FINCH (Pezopetes capitalis) – One bird was all we needed, and that's what we got on Irazu. That one bird was up near the crater, and gave excellent views as it sat quietly in a large shrub along the trail. At least a couple of people were pretty impressed by the size of its feet!
WHITE-EARED GROUND-SPARROW (Melozone leucotis) – A pair of these handsome large sparrows turned up below the feeder at Finca Cristina, just as were about to hop on the bus and head back to the city.
YELLOW-THIGHED FINCH (Pselliophorus tibialis) – Several birds were in the shrubby ravine behind the restaurant on Irazu, and a juvenile bird, lacking the yellow thighs, fed unconcernedly next to the road at Tapanti.
Cardinalidae (Cardinals and Allies)
SUMMER TANAGER (Piranga rubra) – A common wintering bird that we saw daily, including some fine, bright red males. [b]
RED-THROATED ANT-TANAGER (Habia fuscicauda) – It's hard to imagine getting better views of this shy species, that pair at the moth cloth are pretty bold now.
CARMIOL'S TANAGER (Chlorothraupis carmioli) – Formerly Olive Tanger. A small group of these chunky tanagers were seen a few times with mixed flocks, generally near the Crested Owl roost.
ROSE-BREASTED GROSBEAK (Pheucticus ludovicianus) – Oddly scarce this trip, and the only one I recall was a female bird on the campus at EARTH. [b]
Icteridae (Troupials and Allies)
EASTERN MEADOWLARK (Sturnella magna) – One was singing from a fencepost at the farm we visited after birding the reservoir at Angostura. The birds found in CR are residents, not northern migrants.
RED-BREASTED MEADOWLARK (Sturnella militaris) – A pair of these landed on the fence next to the Eastern Meadowlark as we watched, giving us a rare opportunity to photograph the two meadowlark species side by side. I haven't seen any of the results yet; was anyone successful?


We saw many White-necked Jacobins at the feeders. Photo from another departure, by participant Linda Smith.

YELLOW-BILLED CACIQUE (Amblycercus holosericeus) – The folks that walked down to Rancho Bajo with me had quick looks at a pair of these skulkers just below the lodge.
CHESTNUT-HEADED OROPENDOLA (Psarocolius wagleri) – The smaller of the two oropendolas, and usually the less numerous of the two, as was the case again this trip. That said, we still saw these daily at Rancho.
MONTEZUMA OROPENDOLA (Psarocolius montezuma) – As always, there were plenty of these crow-sized blackbirds around, and we saw them in good numbers daily.
SCARLET-RUMPED CACIQUE (Cacicus uropygialis) – Heard them at EARTH. [*]
BLACK-COWLED ORIOLE (Icterus prosthemelas) – A group of 10+ birds sitting in the rain atop the trees in the banana plantation at EARTH was the largest group of these birds I've ever seen.
BALTIMORE ORIOLE (Icterus galbula) – A very common winter resident, and we saw plenty every day of the trip. [b]
RED-WINGED BLACKBIRD (Agelaius phoeniceus) – The birds found here in CR are resident, but quite local and not as ubiquitous as they are back home. We were quite surprised to find a large concentration of them (197 was the maximum count) feeding among several other icterids on the soccer field at EARTH. The vast majority of these (maybe all) were males in fresh plumage.
SHINY COWBIRD (Molothrus bonariensis) – A fairly recent invader (first recorded in 2004) in to the country, but now quite widespread on the Caribbean slope. We saw 4 or 5 of them among all the Red-winged Blackbirds at EARTH.
GIANT COWBIRD (Molothrus oryzivorus) – One bird was teed up on top of the same dead tree the Keel-billed Toucans favored at Rancho, for the folks walking to Rancho Bajo. Aside from that one, there were a handful among the other birds on the soccer field at EARTH, and a few more near Angostura Lake.
MELODIOUS BLACKBIRD (Dives dives) – Since first invading from Nicaragua in the late 1980's, this bird has spread throughout the country and down into Panama. We saw them on several days.
GREAT-TAILED GRACKLE (Quiscalus mexicanus) – Though not up at the lodge, grackles are pretty common in disturbed habitat pretty much throughout.
Fringillidae (Finches, Euphonias, and Allies)
GOLDEN-BROWED CHLOROPHONIA (Chlorophonia callophrys) – The only one we managed to track down was a female in the pasture at Rancho. Still a beautiful bird, but the male is really something to see.
YELLOW-CROWNED EUPHONIA (Euphonia luteicapilla) – Seen a couple of times from the balcony at Rancho. Had the most extensive yellow on the crown of any of the euphonias.
YELLOW-THROATED EUPHONIA (Euphonia hirundinacea) – A brilliant male was found as we walked down the Silent Mountain Road, and he stayed put long enough for us to get good scope looks.
OLIVE-BACKED EUPHONIA (Euphonia gouldi) – A couple of these were regulars at the banana feeders.
WHITE-VENTED EUPHONIA (Euphonia minuta) – Arguably the scarcest of the country's euphonias, a pair of these birds showed very well from the balcony on our first morning at the lodge.
TAWNY-CAPPED EUPHONIA (Euphonia anneae) – Pretty common in middle elevation forests, and seen regularly along the trails at Rancho, at Silent Mountain, and again at Tapanti, with many giving us super looks.
LESSER GOLDFINCH (Spinus psaltria) – Ernesto spotted a pair in a weedy field as we drove up Irazu Volcano, but only a couple of others got on them when we backed down for a look.
Passeridae (Old World Sparrows)
HOUSE SPARROW (Passer domesticus) – Singles were seen a couple of times as we passed through the town of La Suiza. Good thing, as some folks were real worried we'd miss this one. ;-) [I]

MAMMALS
LONG-NOSED BAT (Rhynchonycteris naso) – These were the dozen or so bats roosting on the ceiling of the chapel at EARTH.
GREATER WHITE-LINED BAT (Saccopteryx bilineata) – The larger darker bats on the vertical wall at the front of the chapel were these common bats.
MANTLED HOWLER MONKEY (Alouatta palliata) – Heard only at EARTH, each time just prior to the arrival of a heavy downpour. [*]
WHITE-THROATED CAPUCHIN (Cebus capucinus) – A few folks saw a couple of distant ones during a brief stop between rain showers at EARTH.
HOFFMANN'S TWO-TOED SLOTH (Choloepus hoffmanni) – We had a very good sloth day at EARTH, spotting five of the creatures, all 5 of which were this species. The one at our lunch spot was probably the best of the bunch.
VARIEGATED SQUIRREL (Sciurus variegatoides) – The larger, bushy-tailed, reddish-bellied squirrel at the feeders and elsewhere.
RED-TAILED SQUIRREL (Sciurus granatensis) – The smaller squirrel with the reddish tail, also at the feeders.
ALFARO'S PYGMY SQUIRREL (Microsciurus alfari) – One of these tiny squirrels was spotted foraging over the road at Tapanti. With their habit of creeping up tree trunks and branches, they look remarkably like Wedge-billed Woodcreepers!
DUSKY RICE RAT (Melanomys caliginosus) – One or two regularly came out below the feeders to feed on rice and cracked corn.
CENTRAL AMERICAN AGOUTI (Dasyprocta punctata) – In the 25 years of living and or/visiting Rancho, I think this was the first time I'd ever seen an agouti there! It was cool to see this one show up daily at the feeders.
WHITE-NOSED COATI (Nasua narica) – This animal was also pretty scarce at the lodge during my time there, but again, a lone male was making daily visits to the banana feeders.
TAYRA (Eira barbara) – A bunch of us were up on the balcony enjoying hummingbirds when this huge weasel wandered out into the yard and strolled below the feeders before vanishing back into the brush.
NEOTROPICAL OTTER (Lontra longicaudis) – Not one, not two, but three of these animals were spotted in the Angostura Lake as we scanned the water for birds.


ADDITIONAL COMMENTS

Extra Critters:

Green Iguana (Iguana iguana): some big ones at EARTH and CATIE.

Central American Whiptail (Ameiva festiva): the speedy lizard that whizzed by under the feeders one afternoon.

Ground Anole (Anolis humilis): Ernesto pointed one out to some folks on the Rancho trails.

Large-headed Litter Frog (Craugastor megacephalus): I believe this was the small frog species pointed out by Ernesto at EARTH.

Banded Centipede Snake (Tantilla supracincta): the beautiful and harmless snake that resembled a coral snake, which the Rancho staff had caught in the kitchen.

Orange-kneed Tarantula: seen by some along the Rancho trails.

Leaf Mantis: one dropped in for dinner one evening.


Totals for the tour: 303 bird taxa and 13 mammal taxa