Monday, March 29, 2010

Costa Rica, Day 6- Macaws in Carara

With our somewhat distant look at a macaw the previous night, we wanted better looks this morning, so we got up at 5:15 or so to try again. While we were waiting at the bridge, I found two flocks of Black-bellied Whistling-Ducks, a lifer and, taxonomically, the first bird on my list; a collared plovers and its chicks, a pair of Jacanas, some least sandpipers, more stilts, more waders, more oropendolas, more crocodiles, and, eventually, more macaws.

A pair of macaws flew in towards the National Park, followed few minutes later by another one, and another. Still distant looks, but much better than the previous night. As we headed to breakfast, two more (the same pair?) flew over our heads going the opposite direction. Macaws in flight, apart from their coloration, look nothing like I expected them to- their tails are very long, and they look more like kites or huge terns than parrots.

A Yellow-headed Caracara flew over, and I spotted a "Mangrove" Yellow Warbler, a White-tipped Dove, some more Groove-billed Anis, and an iguana.

After breakfast, we headed to Carara National Park, following the route Adrian had suggested when we discussed it in Monteverde. First we headed to the longer trail in the park, along the Rio Tarcoles. The first birds we saw were a group of Dot-winged Antwrens, apparently quite common in the park. I soon spotted a Royal Flycatcher- Carara has to be one of the best places in the world to see these. They almost never raise their spectaular crest, but even lowered the long feathers give it a weird head shape.

There were a lot of guided tours, so if they were looking at something we would stop and look in the same direction, and often see something good. In this way we came across an awesome Violaceous Trogon on its nest. I got a quick glimpse at another a ways down the path. Continuing in the flycatcher theme, I found a Northern Bentbill, which does, indeed, have a bent bill, and two tiny flycatchers- Slate-headed and Common Tody-Flycatchers.

At one point, the trail reaches a lagoon, and there is a colony of Boat-billed Herons, a bizzare cousin of our Black-crowned Night-Heron.

Also there was an Anhinga, and lots of lizards- multiple iguanas, and some basilisk lizards. A few of the smaller basilisk lizards ran a couple feet across the water, which they are known for.

A Prothonotary Warbler was also present at the lagoon, as was an adult Bare-throated Tiger-Heron.

Carara is really a tropical rainforest- hot and extremely humid, so after seeing a Black-hooded Antshrike and a Cherrie's Tanager, we headed back, seeing a White-shouldered Tanager and our first monkeys of the trip, a trio of White-faced Caphucins.

When we got back to the parking lot, we decided that we wanted to see another macaw. We talked to one of the guides, who offered a $20 per person 2 hour tour, but 3/4th of my family (I would be the other fourth) had had enough of birding and wanted to get to the beach. So we reached a deal with the guide, Antonio- he would take us to see a macaw for 10 dollars a person. If we didn't see any, it was free. It seemed like a good deal at the time.

After maybe 10 minutes of walking, where we saw 3 doves species (White-tipped, White-winged, Ruddy Ground) and a Streak-headed Woodcreeper, we arrived at a clearing. Antonio pointed out a cavity in a tree where a macaw was sticking its head out. Yes!

A second later, the macaw vanished back into the nest hole. It stayed inside for another 20 minutes while we waited, but it eventually stuck its head out, giving great looks.

On the way back to the car, now satisfied with our macaw sightings, we spotted some leafcutter ants and a Rose-throated Becard. At the hotel, I found a Cinnamon Hummingbird, before we left our hotel to get to Manuel Antonio, our next stop. Before that, though, we stopped for lunch at the Hotel Carara. It would turn out to be the best lunch of the trip- not because of the food, which actually wasn't that great, but because of the wildlife.

First off, it's right on the beach, and there were pelicans, frigatebirds, gulls, and a caracara all flying around. But the best part was when two macaws fly by and perched in a nearby tree. We got incredible looks at them eating and flying around- the forty dollars we had spent to see just one did not seem like such a good deal anymore. My life Neotropic Cormerant was completely overshadowed by the macaws when it fly by.

Macaw food-

While we were watching the macaws, a local woman whose house was next to the restaurant managed to tell us that there was a monkey in her yard and that we should come see it (by saying "mano" and pointing at her child's stuffed monkey toy until we caught on). Sure enough, there was a Howler Monkey there, which, along with the macaws, made for a pretty good group of animals to see over lunch.

We drove south down the coast to the Manuel Antonio National Park area, and checked into our hotel, Costa Verde, the nicest hotel of the trip. From the balcony, you could see the ocean and the national park, and a lot of birds. I saw frigatebirds, pelicans, Blue-Gray, Palm, and Cherrie's tanagers, Red-legged Honeycreepers, Costa Rican Swifts, Kiskadees, Tropical Kingbirds, and my life Yellow-crowned Euphonia, Red-crowned Woodpecker, and Tropical Gnatcatcher, all from the balcony of our room.

The view from our hotel room (click to see the whole panorama):

The pool area was no less bird-rich. I ended up getting a "pool lifer" when a stunning Golden-hooded Tanager perched a few feet away while I was swimming, and a Long-billed Starthroat, apparently a fairly good bird for the area, buzzed by. Add Palm, Blue-Gray, Summer, and Cherrie's Tanagers to the Golden-hooded Tanagers, and you have a 5-tanager pool.

I saw Costa Rican Swifts return to their roosts, and one nightjar flew over, but I did not get an identifiable look. Still, the number of birds boded well for the next day, and a quick tally revealed that I was at 398 birds for my life list- just 2 more for 400.

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