Friday, December 30, 2016

Costa Rica trip part 2: Rio Magnolia Lodge and Buenos Aires (Dec 17-Dec 26)

Yellow-throated Toucan (Chestnut-mandibled), Rio Magnolia Lodge, Costa Rica, Dec 17, 2016
Brown Jay, Rio Magnolia Lodge, Costa Rica, Dec 17, 2016
White crowned Parrots, Rio Magnolia Lodge, Costa Rica, Dec 18, 2016
Golden hooded Tanager, Rio Magnolia Lodge, Costa Rica, Dec 18, 2016
Common Pauraque, Rio Magnolia Lodge, Costa Rica, Dec 18, 2016
Golden winged Warbler, Rio Magnolia Lodge, Costa Rica, Dec 19, 2016
Fiery billed Aracari, Rio Magnolia Lodge, Costa Rica, Dec 19, 2016
The next three days were spent exploring around the grounds and trails of the lodge which once again produced a wide variety of species. On the first full day there I added another life bird with the sighting of a Great Black Hawk soaring above the lodge. I averaged into the 90's for species everyday without an extreme amount of effort which speaks well to the diversity at the lodge (plus I certainly miss species every day as I hear some birds I just cannot identify).
Mountains viewed from grasslands, Buenos Aires, Costa Rica, Dec 20, 2016
Mountains viewed from grasslands, Buenos Aires, Costa Rica, Dec 20, 2016
Marsh (which could have contained a Masked Yellowthroat but did not), Buenos Aires, Costa Rica, Dec 20, 2016
Snake looking like a stick, Durika area, Costa Rica, Dec 20, 2016
On December 20th I once again met up with Andres plus another guide that he knew. I met them in San Isidro at 5am (requiring a wake up at 3:30am to make the drive down). We then headed south toward the Buenos Aires to explore a variety of locations over the course of the entire day. Although I had a variety of possible new birds in this corner of Costa Rica I have never visited before my main target was another warbler, a Masked Yellowthroat. This subspecies of Masked Yellowthroat only occurs in a small portion of Costa Rica and nearby Panama and is likely a separate species and known as Chiriqui Yellowthoat. Unfortunately we missed finding the warbler but we were really not quite far enough south to guarantee seeing it as the area we visited was at the northern extreme of its range...I will have to try again next time I come down but will just have to go further toward the Panama border. Nonetheless we still had a decent day despite the winds that picked up mid morning and continued for most of the rest of the day. We spent a large portion of the day in the savannah and grasslands in an indigenous peoples reserve to the northeast of Buenos Aires as well as some foothills headed toward the Durika Biological Reserve. The area reminded me a lot of the Antisana area of Ecuador with large sweeping grasslands running up to steep mountains, albeit on a much reduced scale...truly beautiful country especially when compared to all the nearby agricultural areas near Buenos Aires. We had a handful of targets in the grassland area and managed to have some fantastic luck finding Ocellated Crake, a secretive species that is related to rails and has a very restricted range within Costa Rica occurring only in the grasslands we were in. We managed to find at least a dozen individuals with three seen briefly including a juvenile bird that flushed and flew a short distance. The Crakes are absolutely amazing in their ability to move through the grass without moving even a single blade even when within just feet of you. At times multiple birds would be calling almost at our feet but you could not see them. Our big misses despite a whole lot of effort were Wedge tailed Grass Finch and Ruddy breasted Seedeater. We might have heard the grass finch once but could not confirm it. Both species occur in the area but are few in number and can be quite difficult to find especially with the strong winds we had. Once we got up past the grasslands we birded a bit of the forest near the Durika Biological Reserve where we had great looks at a pair of Bare crowned Antbirds and heard a few Bicolored Antbirds as well as a Rosy Thrush Tanager (another species on my target list). Again despite lots of effort we could not get looks at this uncommon and very skulking species. Andres did find a very interesting snake that was right along the was a mimic that looked exactly like a stick except for the last several inches near the head.  After spending the entire morning and the early afternoon in the areas mentioned above we headed back down to Buenos Aires to check a small marsh which held our only chance of finding a Masked Yellowthroat. However as I mentioned above we missed the species but did hear a yellowthroat giving a scolding call but we could not confirm the species. We had a few other marsh species there including a few egrets and herons as well as a Purple Gallinule. An odd surprise there was a female Painted Bunting which at least added another species to my Costa Rica list. With the wind not letting up the guides made a few phone calls and got a tip on another location to try for looks at the Rosy Thrush Tanager at a private house outside Cocoa. We arrived there in the late afternoon as time was running out for the day and scaled a gate and started looking for the bird. After trying several locations without success we were just about to leave when we heard a bird calling distantly. We eventually got a few fleeting glimpses and then finally some killer looks at a male bird that perched in the open for several seconds before disappearing again. I didn't have time to even try for a photo but I got great looks. We ended the day back in San Isidro a little after five were I got picked up for the hour drive back to the lodge. A long day which featured a few misses but some great sightings too.
Spot crowned Euphonia, Rio Magnolia Lodge, Costa Rica, Dec 21, 2016
Bat Falcon, Rio Magnolia Lodge, Costa Rica, Dec 21, 2016
Mourning Warbler, Rio Magnolia Lodge, Costa Rica, Dec 21, 2016
Yellow-throated Toucan (Chestnut-mandibled), Rio Magnolia Lodge, Costa Rica, Dec 21, 2016
After a long day away from the lodge on the 20th I spent the 21st just taking it easy around the cottage and the lodge and never ventured very far from either location but still managed over eighty species for the day, even with a break in the afternoon to get an hour massage at our cottage. The next day I also spent the day at Rio Magnolia but covered a larger area including and finally ran across my first decent mixed species flock in the jungle and added a number of new species for the trip.
Red legged Honeycreeper, Rio Magnolia Lodge, Costa Rica, Dec 22, 2016
On the 23rd we both took a morning tubing trip along the lower Savegre River. Despite it not being a birding trip and having no binoculars along with me I still managed to turn up a few birds (mainly some waders, a few Spotted Sandpipers, a handful of Neotropic Cormorants and three species of kingfisher). We never made it back to the cottage until mid afternoon and spent the rest of the day just lounging around (still managed to get around fifty species just sitting on the porch including my first female Golden winged Warbler of the trip).
Speckled Tanager, Rio Magnolia Lodge, Costa Rica, Dec 23, 2016
Silver throated Tanager, Rio Magnolia Lodge, Costa Rica, Dec 25, 2016
The last couple full days (Christmas Eve and Christmas Day) we stayed around the grounds of the lodge before having to make the long journey back home to reality. Christmas Eve featured my best single day total at Rio Magnolia for the trip with 118 species. My totals for Christmas were a bit lower as we had some afternoon rain which kept me from covering as many areas but I still managed to find some good stuff including the first Osprey record from the lodge.
White nosed Coati, Rio Magnolia Lodge, Costa Rica, Dec 22, 2016
White nosed Coati, Rio Magnolia Lodge, Costa Rica, Dec 24, 2016
Moth, Rio Magnolia Lodge, Costa Rica, Dec 18, 2016
Moth looking like a leaf, Rio Magnolia Lodge, Costa Rica, Dec 17, 2016
Butterfly, Rio Magnolia Lodge, Costa Rica, Dec 18, 2016
Beyond the birds I had a number of other encounters including several sightings of White nosed Coati at Rio Magnolia as well as a few White faced Capuchin Monkeys.  There was also a Jaguarundi (a small wild cat) seen around the lodge while we were there but I never managed to find it.  The numbers and variety of butterflies and moths was once again impressive and speaks volumes to the diversity in the tropics.

Overall for the trip I managed to find a total of 233 species of birds with 7 of them being life birds (bringing my total to a nice round 1250). I also added nine species to my Costa Rica list bringing that total to 507. The number of neotropical migrants around was about average with more than the usual amount of Philadelphia Vireos and Tennessee Warblers. The number of Swainson's Thrushes was down a bit compared to my past experiences down here in winter.  Managed to find a total of 13 species of warblers with the vast majority being Chestnut sided and Tennessee Warbler as well as Collared Redstarts (only up in the mountains).


  1. Stunning Post Larry,exquisite Birds,Costa Rica is on our to do list.
    Happy New Year.Stay safe.
    John and Sue

    1. is truly a great place...highly recommend it and if you ever need any info about spots down there don't hesitate to ask.