Friday, April 23, 2010

Costa Rica, Days 7-10- Manuel Antonio and #400

Note: Sorry this post is so late- I haven't really had time to blog the past few weeks. This is the final post about my Costa Rica trip. If you haven't read the other posts from my trip, it might make sense to go back and read them in order. At this point in my trip, my life list was at 398.

With the number of good birds that I had been seeing, I figured I could get the 2 lifers I needed for 400 without any trouble- maybe even before breakfast. However, this was around the point that new sightings started to taper off. I still saw great birds- pelicans, frigatebirds, 5 tanagers, a few Euphonias, and a pair of Chestnut-manibled Toucans, but at this point I had seen most of them already, and lifers were becoming scarce.

We went to Manuel Antonio National Park, famous for its beaches and monkeys. There there were dozens of White-faced Capuchin monkeys, and they were very tame, stealing food from beachgoers and trashbins. Rarer were the Central American Squirrel Monkeys, a small, endangered species that is found in only 2 locations in Costa Rica. We saw both.

And, of course, the beach was incredible.

In addition to the monkeys, iguanas also raided our bags-

We walked out on Punta Catedral (Cathedral Point), a rocky outcropping in the national park. From the end of the point, when I scanned the ocean, I saw Frigatebirds, Pelicans, and another type of bird with a different silhouette. I quickly realized that they were Brown Boobies, a type of seabird closely related to the Northern Gannet. Lifer, and bird #399.

The view from Punta Catedral-

On the way home from the beach, we heard a very loud call, and then a tour leader pointed out a toucan. It turned out to be a Fiery-billed Aracari, a very cool bird with a large red bill. It is endemic to Costa Rica and western Panama, and it was my 400th bird! 

That night my dad predicted that I was done for lifers on the trip, so I woke up earlyish, sat on the balcony, and found 2- Social Flycatcher and White-collared Swift. That's real extreme birding there- it takes a lot of dedication and perseverance to sit on a balcony at your hotel room, in your pajamas, with an ocean view,  and watch tanagers, hummingbirds, frigatebirds, and other lifers fly by.

We went to the beach again that day. At one point there is a small bridge over a stream. I was a little behind, because I had been looking at Inca Doves, so when I got the bridge my parents were saying something about a wading bird with pink or red legs. I tried to think of a bird like that, and drew a blank, but luckily at that point a Gray-necked Wood-Rail popped out of hiding. Lifer, and an awesome bird. 

I again used my foolproof birdfinding method of listening to hear people talking about birds, and then looking in the direction that their scope is pointed. This became especially useful when one guide started talking about a "stickbird." There are only a few birds that could accurately by called a stickbird, and the Common Potoo is one of them. It looked exactly like the top of the broken branch it was perched on. 

At the beach I saw a flyby Royal Tern and a Green Kingfisher. Though the birding had been pretty incredible, I had not seen too many raptors- White-tailed Kite on the first day, and both Caracaras, but no hawks. I was therefore very happy when, while I was watching the potoo, first a Double-toothed Kite and then a Roadside Hawk both landed nearby. Both lifers, and, being raptors, very cool.
The kite-

An odd sound coming from a thicket turned out to be a quartet of Chestnut-backed Antbirds, accopanied by a Riverside Wren. Two more lifers, the latter endemic to CR/W. Panama. Back at the hotel room, I saw what I thought was a vulture from the balcony, but then looked again and realized it was actaully a Mangrove Black-Hawk, which pretty much eliminated the raptor shortage. At the pool a dusk, I found a flock of Smooth-billed Anis and a Lesser Nighthawk. 

The next day was our last full day in Costa Rica. My dad and I went Jet-skiing, while my mom and sister went to a spa. Jetskis are obviously not ideal for birding, but I did get great looks at pelicans, frigatebirds, and a Brown Booby ~15 feet away, a much better look than the distant birds on the colony the previous day. Back at the hotel, I picked up Spot-crowned Euphonia, and we headed back to San Jose. On the way, I spotted both anis, both caracaras, a few herons, and an osprey. In the parking lot of a supermarket, I spotted a black bird and a brown birds- male and female Blue-black Grassquits, which would turn out to be my last lifer of the trip. 

Back at the Hotel Bouganvillea, I saw many of the same birds as before- Rufous-tailed Hummingbirds, Canivet's Emeralds, Rufous-capped Warblers, Inca Doves, White-eared Ground-Sparrows, and a Blue-crowned Motmot. I managed to get an identifyable shot of the ground-sparrow.

The last bird of what was an incredible trip was a Tropical Kingbird just outside the airport, before we left the tropics for frigid New York.