Sunday, February 9, 2014

Carara Part III: The Pitta Incident

Turquoise-browed Motmot. Sweet dreams are made of these. Tarcoles, Costa Rica.

Finally! The last installment from Carara National Park and Tarcoles. It's been a long-time coming...we can now let go and move on to the next part of the trip...but that's for next time. For now, its a mixed bag of crushes, the obligatory crap pics of cool birds in a rainforest, and the first public detailing of THE PITTA INCIDENT.

The first few of these you see will really cripple you. They belong in that upper echelon of bird that make you doubt everything you know and hold dear when you see them. Tarcoles, Costa Rica.

One of my favorite Psittacid experiences of the trip (aside from the Scarlet Macaws) was with this roadside flock of Orange-fronted Parakeets, bucolically chewing on flower pedals. Amazingly, Pat had a male Yellow-billed Cotinga in these same trees the same day! Photographed near the Cerro Lodge, Tarcoles, Costa Rica.

Nom nom nom nom. Nom. I dig the head pattern of these birds.

Why hello Cocoa Woodcreeper, what a stout bill you have. Photographed in Carara National Park, Costa Rica.

For our second day of birding Carara, we met up with Pat O'Donnell, the great ex-pat birder and guide who has excellent content on his Costa Rica bird blog right here. I can't imagine going back to Costa Rica without spending a lot of time researching Pat's posts, as he is constantly reporting on new birding spots and updates on areas that draw a lot of birders. If you need a guide, he's your man.

Unlike us four idiots, Pat knows pretty much all the local birds by ear, so he was pointing out all sorts of things we would never have recognized. As we walked the trail system closer to the visitor center (highly recommended, don't just do the "river trail"), he heard a Streak-chested Antpitta calling. None of us had seen any sort of pitta before, so we were stoked. He whistled the bird in....and we were all able to lay eyes on this fantastic lifer. After a couple minutes it moved back into the underbrush. There was much joy and merriment...until I saw Stilt.

Stilt had not seen the bird, and it took me a few moments to realize that she was crying. I couldn't believe it! It was amazing! She was uncontrollably sobbing because she had missed a life bird. While feeling bad for her, I was also savoring the moment of just having gripped off someone so badly that they were in tears. She asked me to not blog about it, but seeing as it has been over a year...I am blogging about it. Has anyone else ever seen anything like this?

My one attempt at documenting The Pitta Incident. Don't worry, after Stilt pulled herself together she eventually got to see the pitta.

Here is a Black-throated Trogon, which took over a year to identify from this photo. In shitty light, they can look remarkably similar to Gartered (Violacious) Trogon; note the white eyering and slightly different tail pattern. Carara National Park.

I somehow managed to not crush this Great Tinamou that we ran into a couple times. Probably because I was too busy soaking it in with my eyes. Carara National Park.

Fiery-billed Aracari, forged in the fires of facemelt. Photographed at Cerro Lodge.

The Tarcoles area is one of the relatively few parts of country oft-visited by foreign birders where there is a nice diversity of waterbirds. This cooperative Wood Stork lurked next to the road just west of town.

What a face. What a bill. What a neck. What a....helmet.

Magnificent Frigatebirds are abundant in the area. I dislike living in a place where I don't see frigatebirds at any moment I decide to look up. Photographed at the Tarcoles River Mouth.

Double-striped Thick-knee!!!! How bizarre. Photographed on a road I don't remember near a town I don't remember near La Ensenada Wildlife Refuge.

After we left the wonders of Carara behind, we made our way northward to La Ensenada Wildlife Refuge to try to pick up some additional North Pacific Slope species. Well once we were almost there, it turned out a certain "Frank" had left his binoculars over two hours away back at El Cerro Lodge. We were all devastated...but brave Frank had the courage to keep on birding, even without binoculars. This turned out to be an excellent decision, as we managed to get a lot of good birds and a number of lifers all around...birds like Long-tailed Mannikin, Plain-capped Starthroat, Crested Bobwhite, White-fronted Parrot, White-throated Magpie-Jay, and Three-wattled Bellbirds (heard only, but there seemed to be many). Unfortunately, my camera battery died and I was too giddy on birds to realize I had a fucking car charger for the battery with me in the car...and so I missed countless crushes of Hook-billed Kites, Streak-backed Orioles, etc. One of the biggest birding fails of my life. I definitely want to return to La Ensenada again and give it the thorough bush-flogging it deserves.

On the flip side, El Cerro had Frank's binos waiting for him when we returned that night.

This was one of my main target birds for the trip, which I thought we dipped on once we left the lush pastures of Tarcoles behind. I still struggle to make sense of the proportions of these birds. Great success!


  1. I gotta admit, those Orange-fronted Parakeets remind me of some of my more dubious makeup decisions in high school. Neon yellow eyeshadow: good for parrots, not so good for people.

    1. Most of my decisions in high school were dubious.

  2. Gotta stick me head in the freezer to stop this face melt.

    That last bird...part Pipit, part Night Heron, part Stilt...entirely preposterous.
    Your tropical posts have shown me many the "brain bird" and many the amazing conglomerate of color and pizazz, but that is by far the most incredible.

    1. Im glad you share my feelings. I didnt know I was so into knobby knees.

  3. I cannot for the life of me remember the bobwhites...were they the birds that kept flushing from the trail into the long grass? If so, maybe I do remember them.

  4. Jesus Christ. Everything in this post is destroying me. New level here.

  5. Oh no you didn't! You are horrible! Who knew antpittas could cause devastation at so many levels?