Friday, December 13, 2013

Carara National Park and Tarcoles (Part 1)

What to say about Carara National Park? Carara's "river trail" is often touted as some of the best birding in Costa Rica, if not the very best. Well, I can't say it was the best, but it was very, very good...and we did not even get there early. Within a couple hundred feet of the trailhead we ran into a mixed flock, which included our first Black-hooded Antshrikes (that's a female above).

Yet again, we were slaying lifer after lifer as we made our way down the trail. We eventually made it down to the old oxbow, where one of the park guides had told us we could find the legendary Boat-billed Herons. He was right...awesome birds.

Dot-winged Antwrens were one of the most abundant species along the river trail. Here is a female, which is actually a lot fancier looking than the male.

The aptly-named Eye-ringed Flatbill. There isn't much to say about Eye-ringed Flatbills, I didn't see enough of them to really get to know them. Their name sounds like that of a fake bird.

Cooperative but not crushable were a couple Baird's Trogons. Not that you can see here, but these birds really turn into cripplers when they dare venture into the sunlight.

Streaked Flycatcher! By the time we saw this bird we were exhausted. The river trail is very easy walking (at least in the dry season), but that was some of the most intense humidity I've ever experienced. We were all delirious by the time we got back to the car. Someone even hallucinated a Rufescent Tiger-Heron afterwards. This should go without saying, but be sure to bring water out on these trails.

The Tarcoles River downstream from Carara is, well, tranquilo. We actually did attempt to do a river tour, but we were completely unsuccessful in locating the preferred operator listed in the birder's guide we were using...either something was up with the map provided or the road had been washed out. You might want to try calling ahead if this is something you are planning on doing. There is good birding in the area (including mangrove specialties), although it lacks the intensity of the weird and crippling avefauna of Carara.

Rose-throated Becard are fairly common in Costa Rica and you can expect to find them in a variety of locations. This richly colored bird with a pleasant demeanor is a female. Photographed near Tarcoles.

Here is the male Rose-throated Becard, which may disturb you. Yes, Rose-throated Becards do not have rose throats in Costa Rica. Photographed near Tarcoles.

Costa Rica isn't known for its diversity of sparrows, although there are some cool ones. The fantastically-marked Stripe-headed Sparrow was a much-welcomed lifer. Stripe-headed Sparrow is a member of Peucaea, which also includes the more familiar Cassin's, Botteri's, Rufous-winged, and Bachman's Sparrows. Photographed near Tarcoles.

Bare-throated Tiger-Heron is a really cool bird that birders will come across regularly in Costa Rica. It reminds me of a giant, fancy bittern. Such fine patterning. Such the bare throat. Photographed near Tarcoles.

My sad attempt at a Chestnut-backed Antbird photo. This thing was flitting around just a few feet away and I did not have what it took to get a real crush out of it...truly a shameful performance on my part. But look at that bird! And what a bird it is. This is the antbird species we ran into most frequently throughout the country; it's a real looker. I think the only other species I laid eyes on was a Bicolored at Quebrada Gonzales. Photographed at Carara National Park.

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