Monday, February 23, 2015

Onward To Melty Face/South to San Vito

Behold; one of my most wanted needed birds of all time.  

In the spirit of finishing what I start, I think it's time, once again, to revisit the Costa Rica trip that part of me seems to refuse to finish wrapping up.  The Great Ornithologist Felonious Jive thinks you readers out east could especially use some tropical facemelt about here we go.

After our second round of birding the Talamancas, Dipper Dan and I headed south for unbirded territory.  Once we passed the turnoff to Talari Mountain Lodge in San Isidro, everything was new. We made good time heading south, and didn't stop to bird much except for a Bat Falcon here and a Smooth-billed Ani there...the Southern Pacific Slope of Costa Rica has been heavily deforested for agriculture, at least along the road between San Isidro and San Vito.  There just wasn't much to see. There was one positive aspect to driving through miles of pastureland though...I knew we would have a chance of running into a certain flycatcher that I was hellbent on seeing.

When a Fork-tailed Flycatcher swooped by our car it was all I could do to keep from diving through the window to get a better look at it; a vein in my forehead exploded, sending geysers of blood all over the front of the car and temporarily blinding Dipper Dan.  I wailed and moaned.  My entire life, up to this moment, had been spent waiting for this brilliant bird. There turned out to be a roadside pair that were extremely obliging; I actually got these photos by walking up to the birds instead of gawking at them from the car (which is how I get most of my kingbird and Scissor-tailed Flycatcher pictures).

Much like the Scissor-tailed Flycatcher, this is a bird you have to see to believe.  I had one shot at seeing these birds before coming to Costa Rica; I was assured that we would find one in the lowlands east of Veracruz, Mexico, but the day we were to look I was bedridden with intestinal agony. Redemption is mine!  This was one of my top target birds for the trip; we only saw one other during the trip, out near the Esquinas Rainforest Lodge.

That night we met up with Leslie Tucci and Dave Spangenburg, both friends of friends who happened to be living in San Vito at the time.  The next morning it was off to San Vito OTS and the Wilson Botanical Garden for another dose of lifers.  Before we started birding the grounds we got stuck at the fruit feeder, where a suite of sweet tropical birds were going to town on fresh fruits. Silver-throated Tanagers are everywhere in Costa Rica but its hard to not look at them, for reasons I suspect you understand.

As sharp as the Silver-throateds are, very few birds can touch what a Speckled Tanager brings to the feeding station.  It's been two years since I took these photos and I still can't believe this is a real bird. This creature brings the facemlt like few I've ever seen.

The mind reels...and boggles. Talk about a crippler.

Crippling, blinding, facemelting...this bird has it all.  This was a species that I first saw in a field guide, thought "Oh, that looks pretty cool", then saw in real life and thought "Holy shit! How come no one told me about these things?".

Although completely outmatched by the Speckled Tanager in boldness and looks, it was still nice to see a Thick-billed Euphonia come in to join the morning tanager salad.  If you haven't birded south of the border, euphonias of different species are common throughout Central America and occur in a variety of habitats.  I wouldn't be surprised if one showed up in the U.S. someday...for example the distance between Scrub Euphonias in Mexico and McAllen, TX, is shorter than the distance between McAllen and Kingsville.

Above the fruit fray a Blue-headed Parrot stopped in for  a few minutes to catch some sun.  This singular (and very easy to identify) parrot was the only one of the trip, if I remember correctly.

This hawk is a Roadside Hawk.  Along with Gray Hawks, this is one of the most abundant and highly visible raptor species in the country (from a car, anyway), and they can indeed be found along roads and in a variety of disturbed habitats.  We never did see a Gray-lined Hawk though, oh well gotta go back.

Scale-crested Pygmy-tyrant!  This post needed a real rainforest bird, one that will not be drawn into the open by the allures of fresh fruit or sunlight.  This bird was ricocheting around in the foliage right in front of us, flashing it's gigantic, ridiculous crest that is 100% not visible in any of the photos I got. Awesome bird though.

While walking around the woods, we were greeted by a small flock of Crested Guans on the trail. Not an unusual event in many parts of Costa Rica by any means, but as a pinche gringo it takes some getting used to.  If you had only seen turkeys a couple times before and then walked in to a flock of them, you would find it weird too.

More to come from the Southern Pacific Slope...eventually.


  1. Spectacled Tanager just ruined many things for me, and also my face, which is really saying something considering you opened with a Fork-tailed Flycatcher.

  2. Thanks, I'll be down there (San Vito) in less than a month and really want the Fork-tailed Flycatcher and Speckled Tanager and....

    Weirdness - you have a friend Jess who is dating my nephew in Maryland. He studies ticks and fleas though I don't think there is much call to go to Costa Rica to search those out. We got to talk about your blog over Christmas break (in Louisiana). Small world. I do enjoy your blog, thanks.

    1. It took me a bit to figure out which Jess you were talking about, but I've got it now. It is an odd nortion, that somewhere out in Louisiana, someone I haven't seen in years is talking with her boyfriend's uncle about this very blog...weirdness indeed...

  3. That Spectacled Tanager is ridiculous. I've never seen that color outside of a black light poster in the average college dorm room. It just can't be improved upon!