Monday, January 21, 2013

Birding Hotel Gavilan Rio Sarapiqui

Life. Bird. Gray-capped Flycatchers are widespread and common on both slopes of Costa Rica. Thankfully, they are not hard to tell apart from their Social Flycatcher cousins. All photos today from Hotel Gavilan.

Hotel Gavilan was our base for the first leg of our trip. From there we could strike out towards La Selva Biological Station (a grueling 5 minutes away), the Savegre lodge, the El Tigre fields, Sarapiqui Eco-Observatory and La Virgen Del Socorro. Gavilan both came recommended by Pat "The Dude" O'Donnell (who runs Costa Rica's dominant birding blog) and the extremely valuable "A Bird-finding Guide to Costa Rica" by Barrett Lawson. In fact, I planned practically the entire trip using these two resources, as well as taking advice by birding giant (literally) Dave Pereksta.

The hotel has a lot going for it. It's cheap, it feeds birds, it has food, it has beer, it has coffee, it's clean, and has high-quality birding on the property. What's not to like??? Nothing.

Our first morning there was grueling. The lifers were overwhelming. New woodcreepers, woodpeckers, tanagers, was disgusting. Dipper Dan (formerly TPAD Dan), famous in the birding community for his acute addiction to chewing tobacco (not American Dippers), was up way before dawn making feeble attempts at bird identification...the birder's Christmas Morning was in full effect. The lifers came at such a furious pace we were all giddy on nerd endorphins (the worse of all endorphins), and the long lost but familiar feeling of being a beginning birder had set in again. Our earbirding skills were practically useless, and some of the birds we were seeing we couldn't even remember hearing of...these were dubbed "brain birds", a lifer for the brain, if not in reality.

This was the only Bronzy Hermit of the trip that I'm aware of. It had a territory in Gavilan's courtyard. It's easily identified as the most basic-looking hermit, lacking any tail craziness or freakish bill length.

Strawberry Poison-dart Frog, aka the Blue Jeans Frog. It's pretty damn cool to see animals in the flesh that you've only seen on nature shows for your entire life.

Moncho, the hotel's awesomely-named security guard, pointed out this pair of Spectacled Owls to us our first morning there. They had found the perfect day roost with huge overhanging leaves to keep them out of the multiple torrential downpours that happened every day and night. We saw them there 3 out of 4 days of looking.

This Scaled Pigeon was found during a flurry of lifer activity on our first morning. It ended up being the only one of the looking bird!

Part of the hotel grounds. A mix of gardens and mature second-growth, the birding was quality.

A basilisk lizard faces off with a gang of Palm and Passerini's Tanagers. I've never seen a lizard come to a bird feeder before...bananas and plantains are in high demand down there.

Another gratuitous feeder better get used to them. Left to right, the crippling Golden-hooded Tanager, the ghastly gray Palm Tanager, and a molting Red-legged Honeycreeper.

Scarlet-rumped Cacique has basically the same exact color scheme of Passerini's Tanager (at right), but don't share many similarities otherwise. This is the only Carribean Slope site where we had this blue-eyed wonder.

The Basilisk will meet you in many places in Costa Rica. You may know this duder as the Jesus Lizard; it has the ain't-nature-fucking-amazing? superpower of being able to run across water. 


  1. Ah Jeez...I think I might have to stop reading your blog for a while. You're pushing m to sell my stuff and move to Costa Rica for some months.
    Subliminal Steve...

    Too much

    1. Give in to the temptation Laurence...who needs stuff when youve got a big life list?

  2. Good thing I have a doctor's appointment this Friday cause my face melted off :-)

    I didn't get to see many birds when I was in Costa Rica so I am birding vicariously through your images.

    1. Nothing feels better than a good facemelt. The results, however, are horrible.

  3. Whelp, you have officially enacted sufficient revenge upon me for taunting you with my photos a year ago in CR. I ask you to please stop the torture. NO, DON'T, I'm a masochist.

    Looks like you guys really killed it down there. Unfortunately while we were down there we pretty much just worked the whole time, took buses and didn't have time to explore much beyond our two sites. Luckily we were on the coast for half the time and the mountains the other half, so diversity was better than just being at one, but we still didn't break 300...very sad. Any spadebills on your end? They were some of my fav.

    1. Hey Sam. Yep, we had a spadebill at Carara National Park, I don't remember what species off the top of my head.

      It was a great trip, looking forward to doing it many birds to see still.

  4. I missed the spectacled owls when I was there. Which sucks, cause I really wanted them in my life.

    1. Well go back then, duh. Saw one at Carara NP as well.

  5. Drool. Wipe. Repeat.

    Want to know how good of a birder I am? I totally thought that those owls were monkeys when I first looked at the photo.

  6. Come to think of it, Spec. Owls are freaky, monkey looking things...
    Scaled Pigeon and Scarlet-rumped Cacique on the feeder at El Gavilan- nice!