Monday, January 11, 2016

Costa Rica!

At the tail end of August I took off for a work trip to Costa Rica. Believe it or not our occasional tropical getaways actually do consist mostly of work, so there isn’t a lot of spare time to check out the local birds. I did have one afternoon with a couple of free hours to roam around the hotel property on Herradura Bay, and on the last day of our trip we had a boat tour of the Tarcoles River with a tour guide that turned out to also be a pretty good birder.

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Los Suenos Marriott Resort, Costa Rica. August 31, 2015.

The first wildlife of the trip were these little Common House Geckos that were all over the halls of the hotel. Native to Southeastern Asia, they were suspected to have been introduced to Costa Rica by hitching a ride on a cargo ship.

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Common House Gecko at Los Suenos Marriott Resort, Costa Rica. August 30, 2015.

The day that I had free time to wander around the hotel grounds was rainy and overcast, so the lighting wasn’t great for photos, but I headed out for a small lagoon on one end of the bay to see what was around anyway.

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Los Suenos Marriott Resort, Costa Rica. August 31, 2015.

This pair of Black-bellied Whistling Ducks were some of the first birds I found. These birds can also be found in the ABA area in parts of Arizona, along the Gulf Coast, and in Florida, so not necessarily a Costa Rica specialty.

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Black-bellied Whistling Ducks at Los Suenos Marriott Resort, Costa Rica. August 31, 2015.

This pair of Blue-gray Tanagers might have been the first birds I saw that aren’t on the ABA checklist.

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Blue-gray Tanagers at Los Suenos Marriott Resort, Costa Rica. August 31, 2015.

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Blue-gray Tanager at Los Suenos Marriott Resort, Costa Rica. August 31, 2015.

This Tropical Kingbird is a very close relative to our Western Kingbird, with perhaps the most helpful field mark hidden. The tail on a Western Kingbird is square, but the tail on a Tropical Kingbird is notched.

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Tropical Kingbird at Los Suenos Marriott Resort, Costa Rica. August 31, 2015.

This Inca Dove was hunkered down quietly in a tree near a walking path.

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Inca Dove at Los Suenos Marriott Resort, Costa Rica. August 31, 2015.

The Bare-throated Tiger Heron was another nice Central American specialty.

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Bare-throated Tiger Heron at Los Suenos Marriott Resort, Costa Rica. August 31, 2015.

Waders and shorebirds had a fair bit of overlap with birds that are on the ABA checklist too, including this White Ibis, Semipalmated Plover, and Spotted Sandpiper.

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White Ibis at Los Suenos Marriott Resort, Costa Rica. August 31, 2015.

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Semipalmated Plover at Los Suenos Marriott Resort, Costa Rica. August 31, 2015.

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Spotted Sandpiper at Los Suenos Marriott Resort, Costa Rica. August 30, 2015.

Lastly, this Ringed Kingfisher was a nice find on the way back in at sunset.

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Ringed Kingfisher at Los Suenos Marriott Resort, Costa Rica. August 31, 2015.

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Los Suenos Marriott Resort, Costa Rica. August 31, 2015.

A couple of days later we had lunch at an outdoor restaurant on the hotel grounds. The dining area had a handful of iguanas lingering around. They weren’t shy around people at all, and provided great entertainment for everybody over their lunches.

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Spike-tailed Iguana at Los Suenos Marriott Resort, Costa Rica. September 2, 2015.

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Spike-tailed Iguana at Los Suenos Marriott Resort, Costa Rica. September 2, 2015.

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Green Iguana at Los Suenos Marriott Resort, Costa Rica. September 2, 2015.

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Spike-tailed Iguana at Los Suenos Marriott Resort, Costa Rica. September 2, 2015.

This Rufous-naped Wren wasn’t shy about approaching the dining area either.

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Rufous-naped Wren at Los Suenos Marriott Resort, Costa Rica. September 2, 2015.

On the last day of our trip we had a boat tour of the Tarcoles River, and discovered that our tour guide was actually a pretty good birder. This was the highlight of the trip for me, as it’s really rare for tour guides to know anything about birds (in Orlando a tour guide on a swamp tour kept giving incorrect or completely made up bird names when people asked what kinds of birds they were looking at) or for tours to actually take any time to stop and look at birds as they go.

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Boat tour on the Tarcoles River, Costa Rica. September 4, 2015.

The birds came fast and frequent, starting with this Little Blue Heron I caught a glimpse of as we were waiting to disembark.

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Little Blue Heron on the Tarcoles River, Costa Rica. September 4, 2015.

American Crocodiles were a big hit with the non-birders on the trip (everybody but me), and the boat driver had no qualms about getting up close and personal with them.

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American Crocodile on the Tarcoles River, Costa Rica. September 4, 2015.

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American Crocodile on the Tarcoles River, Costa Rica. September 4, 2015.

Other reptiles included this young Green Iguana, and a gamily of Plumed Basilisks (also known as Jesus Christ Lizards), including an adult male, adult female, and juvenile.

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Young Green Iguana on the Tarcoles River, Costa Rica. September 4, 2015.

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Female Plumed Basilisk on the Tarcoles River, Costa Rica. September 4, 2015.

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Young Plumed Basilisk on the Tarcoles River, Costa Rica. September 4, 2015.

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Male Plumed Basilisk on the Tarcoles River, Costa Rica. September 4, 2015.

I was using my backup camera (slower focus, slower burst shooting, etc.) and since we were on the river we were constantly in motion, but I gave it my best shot to try to capture as many of the birds as I could. Luckily most birds that caught our eye were fairly large – not a lot of smaller birds to pick through. These Double-crested Cormorants were a familiar sight.

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Double-crested Cormorants on the Tarcoles River, Costa Rica. September 4, 2015.

This Green Kingfisher was a nice find too, it was really cool to see the long beak on this guy – it looks a little less dramatic below due to the angle of the photo, but it was really quite a bit longer than the Belted Kingfisher we’re familiar with at home.

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Green Kingfisher on the Tarcoles River, Costa Rica. September 4, 2015.

The diversity of waders was really nice. We had Little Blue Herons, Green Herons, Yellow-crowned Night-Herons, Roseate Spoonbills, and Wood Storks, to name a few.

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Little Blue Heron on the Tarcoles River, Costa Rica. September 4, 2015.

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Green Heron on the Tarcoles River, Costa Rica. September 4, 2015.

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Yellow-crowned Night-Heron on the Tarcoles River, Costa Rica. September 4, 2015.

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Roseate Spoonbill on the Tarcoles River, Costa Rica. September 4, 2015.

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Roseate Spoonbills on the Tarcoles River, Costa Rica. September 4, 2015.

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Wood Stork on the Tarcoles River, Costa Rica. September 4, 2015.

There were a few raptors around as well, including this Yellow-headed Caracara, Black Hawk, and White-tailed Kites.

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Yellow-headed Caracara on the Tarcoles River, Costa Rica. September 4, 2015.

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Black Hawk on the Tarcoles River, Costa Rica. September 4, 2015.

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White-tailed Kites on the Tarcoles River, Costa Rica. September 4, 2015.

As we cruised down the river we went up a side channel that connected to some mangrove forest. This was a really cool habitat I could have spent a lot more time in, but we were just there long enough for the guide to show us a spot that was loaded up with these colorful Mangrove Crabs.

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Boat tour through the mangrove forest on the Tarcoles River, Costa Rica. September 4, 2015.

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Mangrove Crab on the Tarcoles River, Costa Rica. September 4, 2015.

The last good bird of the trip was this Turquouise-browed Motmot that we saw while riding from the boat take-out to a lunch. This was a really fun find, as it was one of the very few passerines I saw and one of the more colorful as well. I’d definitely like to spend more time looking for colorful passerines (and fewer water birds) next time I get back to Costa Rica.

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Turquoise-browed Motmot near the Tarcoles River, Costa Rica. September 4, 2015.

Costa Rica is definitely on my bucket list for a proper birding trip (which this wasn’t) but it was nice to get a preview. Hopefully I’ll get a chance before too long to go back with Ellen and properly geared up for some serious birding.

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