Sunday, March 22, 2020

Costa Rica Part II: The Edges of La Selva

Well, well,'s just a whole new world out there, isn't it? Here in Santa Clara County, the Coronavirus Capitol of California, we have been under a shelter-in-place order for what seems like a little while now. This...this is some weird and bad shit.

But as Hunter said, "when the going gets weird, the weird turn pro". Get off Facebook, get outside. Now is not the time to chase esoteric county birds hundreds of miles away, now is the time to geri bird and give your 5MR the attention it deserves, while you still can. Now is the time to have some fun, because by the time April rolls around there probably won't be anyone having fun, anywhere. These are the last days of friendship, of love and life, so enjoy them before your lungs fill with covid-19 and...

Who said that? That sure is dark...but what did you expect? You knew what you were getting when you surfed over here. BB&B is not the type of place to just throw up a picture of some common bird, recite some well-known piece of trivia about it copied and pasted from allaboutbirds and wait for those sweet, sweet likes to roll on in. Anyhow, with each passing day I am all the more grateful to have fit this Costa Rica trip in last month.

As I mentioned in the last post, our first base was Hotel Gavilan again. There's decent birding to be had on the property (especially if it is your first time in the country), and it's pretty cheap and laid back. Unlike La Cinchona, seemingly little has changed since we were there in 2012. The food is fine though they don't give you many options...but if you like tipico, you can get tipico. Their credit card reader was down so I had to scrape a large amount of cash together to check out (not ideal), but they charged us less than they would have if I had paid by credit card (ideal). Anyhow, it's still a good though not extremely comfortable option, but it wasn't packed with tourists and there are Pale-billed Woodpeckers nesting next to their driveway (above). There are also VERY nice, VERY chatty Canadians to provide you company.

A VERY persistent puddle in the driveway attracted a number of birds, but mostly enchanting Dusky-faced Tanagers. Of all the birds in Costa Rica, is this simply the best one? Stilt would assure you it is. More from Gavilan in a later post.

For our first real morning of birding in Costa Rica, we headed over to the edges of the La Selva Preserve, which is conveniently just a few minutes from Gavilan. To bird the main part of La Selva you have to either be staying there or pay for a guided walk, and we decided to do neither and take our chances with doing some road birding. We first walked the road along the northern edge of the preserve that ends at the river (here is the eBird hotspot). Great Tinamou was one of the first birds I heard when we got out of the car - it would also be the last time we detected a tinamou of any kind for the trip! How embarrassing. At least we saw Short-billed Pigeons?

Cinnamon Woodpecker was a life bird and is a real looker...just an ace woodpecker in my book. Other life birds for me here were Blue-chested Hummingbird, some flyby Great Green Macaws, and White-ringed Flycatchers.

A pair of confiding Slaty-tailed Trogons were giving a potential nest site a gander next to the road. Don't you just love confiding trogons?

We then walked down the main access road for the preserve - you can walk all the way to the guard station. The walk in was pretty slow except for two SNOWY COTINGAS that flew over the road. Agonizingly brief looks but a great life bird for yours truly. No photos though so here is a Great Kiskadee building a nest instead (sorry).

There are hella Olive-backed Euphonias in Costa Rica. Here is one of them.

We didn't see a whole lot of becards on the trip - most of the ones we did see were Cinnamon Becards like this.

The way back to the car was much birdier than the way know what they say, "Middle, most hottest part of day, is best time to make for greatest birding". A pair of fabulous Long-tailed Tyrants was hanging out near the road, and that too was a life bird.

After struggling in the heat of the day for a while we finally hit another decent mixed flock. Northern Barred-Woodcreeper is a cool bird itself, but is also often indicative of some other interesting birds nearby.

Red-throated Ant-Tanagers anchor many low and mid elevation flocks.

I was really stoked to get good looks at this Fasciated Antshrike. I was kind of confused at the time why it was being so obliging, and it wasn't until I looked at my photos that I saw it was because it was trying to deal with an enormous spiky caterpillar that has amazing camouflage - just look under the tip of the antshrike's bill.

I have pictures of the antshrike flinging/coughing/sneezing caterpillar juice on more than one occasion, so perhaps the caterpillar ultimately survived the encounter by being nasty...or succumbed to its antshrike wounds.

"Soul-satisfying views" has admittedly become a bit of a cliche, but those words are still apt and highly relatable. The soul was satisfied in its absolute entirety after walking up to this totally tame Black-throated Trogon.

I'm not a raptor fetishist but it is a rare and special occasion to see a new species of hawk, and Semiplumbeous Hawk was yet another lifer that morning. Unlike some of the others this one was very obliging and hung out on an open perch next to the road. Semiplumbeous Hawks reside and abide in lowland tropical rainforest and was one of the (admittedly many) target birds that morning.

It is indeed Semiplumbeous, in fact it is the only bird named "Semiplumbeous" in existence. That's fine, we don't need more of them. I very much appreciated this lifer brazenly loitering on the same branch until we decided to walk away, lifering often doesn't end up that way.

Motmots. Who doesn't love motmots? No one, it is impossible. Somebody struck gold when they decided that some birds should be named "motmots", and it goes without saying that the birds have great looks and great vocalizations to match their fantastic names. We saw many Broad-billed Motmots on this trip.

I am nothing if not honest though, and now I must show you the truth. This motmot had an absolutely pathetic tail. Utter bullshit. It looked like it landed in a fire and had almost the whole thing burned off. Most unfortunate, but at least the rest of the bird was not equally haggard.

Go ahead, cropshame me if you must, I can take it. More CR to come soon, until then I recommend feverish yardbirding.....though perhaps "feverish" is not the most sensitive choice of words....well you know what I mean.


  1. Damn I love seeing and reading about Costa Rican birds...

  2. "Somebody struck gold when they decided that some birds should be named "motmots"" Truer words have never been written.

    I am amazed at the shot of the Dusky-faced Tanager you managed.

    1. Much deleting occurred for just that mediocre shot. But it's bird of the trip so I had to try.

    2. Bird of the trip, I had no idea.