Monday, June 23, 2014

Back to Costa Rica: Birding El Toucanet Lodge

Black Guans are very docile for their size...they lack the courage of a chachalaca and the brazenness of a guan, and the unabashed curls of a currasow. Unlike all three, you are much more likely to find this bird feeding on berries up in the trees than running around on the ground like a mutant forest-sanderling.

I bet you didn't see this coming, did you? Well I still have not completed coverage of the BB&B winter tour of Costa Rica (2012-2013), and I thought I would change things up a bit and return to Costa Rica for a post. After all, it is the middle of June...with not much birding to be done, its time to start thinking about that winter trip to the tropics.

When we left off with The Pitta Incident, Stilt, Dipper Dan, Frank (spirit bird: Double-crested Cormorant) and I finished birding on the west coast and retreated inland. After much weeping, Dan and I dropped off Frank and Stilt at the airport and struck out on our own. Where to go? We did what we thought was best and headed south, and for the second time of the trip (after picking up some genital pastries) made our way into the Talamanca Mountains.

We decided to check out El Toucanet Lodge, a relatively cheap birder-friendly lodge that had been recommended by Patrick O'Donnell, the living birding legend of Costa Rica. The lodge sits at a lower elevation than the more popular Paraiso Del Quetzales and the Savegre resort, and not surprisingly had some different birds to offer. Like every other birdercentric place we stayed in Costa Rica, the birding was of a high caliber and everything else was tranquilo. And for those of you with pinche Spanish-speaking skills, the owner is an American ex-pat and knows his birds very well. The property isn't large but the birding along the driveway and along the road up-canyon was very rewarding, and the hummingbird scene is a good one as well.

Brown-capped Vireo! I know, I know, it doesn't look like anything fancy, but it is a bird I really wanted to see. El Toucanet was the only place we recorded them on this trip.

Brown-capped Vireo looks like a cross between a Philadelphia and Warbling Vireo, which is kind of disturbing when you think about it because birders don't fare very well telling those two apart anyway. They really are quite brown above though, so it is a bird with a useful name. I thought I saw one through the fog in an epic mixed flock up in a Mexican cloud forest once, but couldn't bring myself to count problem now though.

In the spirit of birds with useful names, here is a Yellowish Flycatcher. I honestly don't know what to say about it. I'm at a loss for words. It is a flycatcher that is very yellowish. God Bless the Empidonax.

It bears more than a passing resemblance to "Western" Flycatcher, but luckily for the birder, Pacific-slope/Cordilleran don't go south to Costa Rica. Yellow-bellied Flycatchers abound though, so it's good to be Empid-literate if you go down there during winter.

El Toucanet introduced us to our first Stripe-tailed Hummingbirds of the trip, which we also had later at Savegre.

Stripe-taileds range from southern Mexico to Panama, most often at middling elevations. Birds in Costa Rica and Panama are of the egregia subspecies, with two other subspecies being described for populations to the north.

There was no shortage of tiny Selasphorous hummers coming to the feeders at El Toucanet. They were all immatures/females, and all of them that we could identify appeared to be Volcano Hummingbirds (above). I'm sure scintillants show up there as well, but we could not find any.

Here is a more familiar bird you might appreciate. Golden-winged Warblers are fairly common winter residents in Costa Rica, and can be found at a wide variety of habitats and elevations throughout country. We saw many, which was a cause for much celebration.

Common Bush-Tanagers are the anchor for many mixed flocks in Costa Rica. I'm always glad to see them, because you never know what may be lurking in their ranks.

A random view from the deck of their lounge/restaurant. Not bad, eh?

Another perk of hanging out on the deck is the chance to see Magenta-throated Woodstar! I wish I got a photo that did this bird justice, but you get the idea here I hope. This was another species that we relished at the lodge and saw no place else.

The Talamancas are thick with Green Violet-Ears. The feeders at El Toucanet are no exception. I know this isn't exactly a crush, but I cannot deny the appeal of those outstretched "ears".

Look at accidental vagina pastry! I told you we had genital food. They weren't bad at all, and they all looked like vaginas. Accidental vagina pastries are not available at El Toucanet, so it would be weird to ask for them. More from El Toucanet and the Talamancas in the next Costa Rica post (whenever that is).

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