After birding Talari Mountain Lodge, we headed toward our next planned destination, El Cerro Lodge near Tarcoles, on the west coast. The drive took us from San Isidro west to Hwy 34, which we took north all the way to Tarcoles. The climate reached new levels of heat and humidity, even though it was the dry season on the Pacific Slope. This was virgin birding territory, and we all ran high fevers...we were sick with birdlust. Of course, it was very difficult to not bird on the way, and we couldn't help but pull over a few times. A random roadside stop to look at some Scissor-tailed Flycatchers south of Manuel San Antonio led to a whole glut of birds, including Mangrove Cuckoos!
Having missed them on previous Florida trips, I was more than happy to get these exceedingly cooperative birds as lifers. Oddly, we were neither next to mangroves or water, although we were probably pretty close to the coast.
While looking at Scissor-tailed Flycatchers and Mangrove Cuckoos, multiple flocks of Crimson-fronted Parakeets noisily cruised by.
While trying (and failing) to take in all the new birds popping up left and right, I saw something that looked vaguely like a blotchy white pigeon flying towards us....of course it wasn't a pigeon, it was a fucking PEARL KITE! It was tiny! And on top of that, it was carrying a Chestnut-sided Warbler that it had just slain!
The kite sat above us for a while, contentedly ripping chunks of feather's out of the warblers neck.
Eventually it took flight, warbler still in talons.
As you can see, the kite isn't much larger than a Tropical Kingbird, and really does look sort of like a pigeon.
After wracking up a bunch of unanticipated lifers, we attempted to do a quick stop at Manuel Antonio National Park...I cannot understate what a huge mistake this was. Talk about a clusterfuck! So many people! So many Europeans! None of us were quite prepared for it. We did get a few trip birds...the sandy spit behind us in Quepos was covered with Franklin's Gulls, which unexpectedly greatly outnumbered the Laughing Gulls there. Anyways, here is Frank, Stilt, Dipper Dan and Seagull Steve looking rad/shitty.
Our muchacho "Mancho" let us through the security gate and set us up for the night. He was difficult to communicate with, and seemed to mumble a lot...but after a little while lurking in the darkness of the parking lot, he asked if we wanted to see a bujo...and holy shit, what a look! I guess the lodge is well-known for its pair of Black-and-white Owls that seem to have no fear of people whatsoever, thus the brutal crush you see above.
I think its safe to say that whenever you are staying at a birder-friendly lodge in CR, it's worth asking if they have any owls that live on the grounds that are easy to see...I believe Cerro has some confiding Pacific Screech-Owls as well, but we didn't luck out on them, although we later had Ferruginous Pygmy-Owl (from the pool!).
As you can guess, we were pretty stoked to wake up and bird the grounds the next morning. At daybreak I was already lifering new hummingbirds, and it felt great. The fruit feeders next to the veranda had a flock of Fiery-billed Aracaris ravaging shit.
What a crippler.
The birder's guide we were using claimed all of the Melanerpes woodpeckers in the area are hybrids, but I'm not sure if that is entirely substantiated or not...so here is a bird that looks like a Hoffman's Woodpecker but may or may not have some Red-crowned Woodpecker genes (it does look like there is some pink in that nape).
I think I'll leave off here...stay tuned for more from Cerro Lodge and Carara National Park, where the great birds never stop.