Text Box: Costa Rica Rare Bird Reports



Cedar Waxwings continue into May


13 May 2007: Pieter Westra observed a group of 16 Cedar Waxwings Bombycilla cedrorum in Los Angeles de San Rafael de Heredia. The birds stayed perched in a tree for about ten minutes, before flying off and joining another similar-sized group in the air. The species had been seen in the area various times during the previous week.


Robert Dean saw a small group of Cedar Waxwings at El Cedral, in the mountains above Aserrí, on the morning of 05 May. The birds were in the same area where he had seen them a week earlier, when he at last added the species to his impressive CR list of 790.


This has been the second year in a row that this irruptive NA migrant has been present in CR in good numbers and at widely scattered locations. [See Feb/Jan 2007.]



Ocellated Crake heard calling above Buenos Aires


11 May 2007: Kevin Easley made audio contact with this extremely local species very late in the afternoon, 7.6 km up the main road after the turnoff from the pineapple fields. “I was playing tape of Ocellated Crake Micropygia schomburgkii from the New World Rails cassette and two different individuals clearly responded from the thick grass approximately 180 feet away on the right side of this road. It was the exact call on the tape. It was raining slightly with thunder overhead and quite dark even though it was only 5:00 PM. I was with Christine Daley from Guernsey who remained in the car due to the slight rain. I was unable to locate the bird but did get within 60 feet of it before the heavens opened up and soaked me good!”



A Bellbird comes calling in Heredia


09 May 2007: Dorothy MacKinnon called around 13:00 to report that she had just heard and seen a male Three-wattled Bellbird Procnias tricarunculatum in a bare tree, a mere 200m from her home in Concepción de San Rafael de Heredia. The site is on the southern slope of Barva Volcano, but not all that close to any of the species’ breeding areas.


The report reminded me of a similar incident on 08 May 2002 (CHECK YEAR), when Rudy Zamora had a calling bellbird in a fruiting fig tree by his home in Santa Ana, on the other side of the Central Valley from Dorothy’s bird.



Black Skimmer in Tortuguero


08 May 2007: Hernán Araya reported a Black Skimmer Rynchops niger at the mouth of the Jalova Lagoon, which is at the southern entrance to Tortuguero NP. This species is casual (at best) on the Caribbean side of CR, and it would be interesting to know if Hernán’s bird was a NA or SA migrant.



First record of Grayish Saltator in southern Pacific


02 May 2007: Federico Oviedo, who is working on a bird monitoring and banding program with Stanford University, caught a Grayish Saltator Saltator coerulescens in one of his mist nets, in Copal de Agua Buena, south of San Vito de Coto Brus. The site was in a coffee plantation shaded by Erythrina trees and bananas. The owner of the farm told him that he had begun seeing the species several months ago.


In response to Daniel Martinez’ email with news of this record, Mathias Kümmerlen wrote that during the Fila Costera CBC, on 03 January 2006, he saw a Grayish Saltator at an elevation of about 700m in the hills above Uvita, southeast of Dominical. The bird was in an area of mixed pastures and crops.


Apart from these two reports, I am unaware of any records for this species in the southern Pacific portion of CR.



White-tipped Sicklebills in Carara


27 April 2007: While birding the road in front of the Pura Vida Garden (up the dirt road from Hotel Villa Lapas) with Chris Kurtz, I heard a hummingbird calling from some roadside shrubbery. Upon tracking the sound to its source, I could scarcely believe that I was looking at a White-tipped Sicklebill Eutoxeres aquila! In all my years of birding in the Carara area, I had never seen nor heard of any sightings of sicklebills.


The bird was perched at about eye level in bushes on the road cut, where I was able to get this photo before it flew across the road and into the garden, where there is lots of Heliconia planted. Upon coming to the garden, you cross a small bridge and there is a red bodega on the right. A hibiscus hedge begins just beyond the bodega and, after a few meters, there is a utility pole in front of the hedge. A few meters farther, a tree (with spines on the trunk) is growing just behind the hedge. The bird’s singing perch was directly across the street from this tree.


I sent out an email to local birders, both to report the sighting as well as to find out if anyone else had ever had a sicklebill in the vicinity of Carara. Jim Zook responded that he had never seen this species farther north on the southern Pacific side of CR than Dominical, but, on 17 March, as he was entering the Oxbow Lake Trail, he ran into Gary Rosenberg and a WINGS group, who had seen a White-tipped Sicklebill that morning along the trail. Likewise, it was Gary’s first sicklebill in many years of visiting the area.


Kevin Easley also replied with a similar story. During a March Birdseekers tour, he “had a White-tipped Sicklebill feeding on the heliconia flowers along the beginning of the Oxbow Lake Trail at Carara NP. It was about 150 meters in, just past the Royal Flycatcher Onychorhynchus coronatus nest at the first little right hand bend of the trail (road) and before the first cement bridge on the left hand side. It then proceeded to perch for 15 minutes and we photographed it profusely as we watched a male Royal Flycatcher do about 6 tight circles (5 ft circle in diameter) around the nest in flight with its crest fully extended - it was quite a scene!” 


After reading the above, Bill Tice sent word that he in fact had seen a sicklebill in that area on 04 March 2004, near the base of the waterfall up the road from Villa Lapas. “We hiked down the long trail that starts up the road from Villa Lapas. It was unmistakable and I had very good views for a few seconds. Got great looks at it, curved bill, streaking on the breast.”



Ruddy Woodcreeper shows at La Paz Waterfall Garden


21 April 2007: While birding the Fern Trail at the La Paz Waterfall Garden, Chris Kurtz noticed an army ant trail running along the path. Following the ants to the head of the foraging column provided some very entertaining birding that included several close views of Ochre-breasted Antpitta Grallaricula flavirostris, along with nine other species. Of those other species, the least expected was a Ruddy Woodcreeper Dendrocincla homochroa that flew in and stayed so briefly that only I was able to get a look at it. This species is quite rare on the Caribbean slope, where it is generally confined to the foothills, between 500 and 1,000m. So, this sighting at about 1,500m was all the more unusual.



Blackpoll Warbler in San Vito


14 April 2007: Federico Oviedo captured this female Blackpoll Warbler Dendroica striata in a coffee plantation in La Isla, San Vito de Coto Brus. The plantation has shade layers of bananas, Erythrina, and Inga trees. The same bird was recaught in the plantation on 30 April.


This could be a fairly confusing warbler in this plumage, but check the color of those feet!






Grasshopper Sparrow seen NW of Monteverde


10 April 2007: Kevin Easley found a Grasshopper Sparrow Ammodramus savannarum along the road from Monteverde to Tilarán. It was perched on a barb wire fence, then flew into thick grass, 1.1 km from the village of San Miguel, heading towards Quebrada Grande. “I was with the Barnard family from England (Dave, Jayne, and Harry). It responded to playback from a tape I had from the Eastern US.”







Prevost’s Ground-Sparrow found at San Gerardo Field Station


10 April 2007: Kevin Easley was visiting the San Gerardo Field Station, on the Caribbean side of the Santa Elena Cloud Forest Reserve, when he happened to notice a Prevost’s Ground-Sparrow Melozone biarcuatua at the edge of the lawn area behind the station building. Although this species has been seen several times on the Pacific side of the Tilarán Cordillera in recent years, this is the first report from the Caribbean slope of that mountain range.



Swallow-tailed Gull spotted on pelagic trip


09 April 2007: Jim Zook, Bruce Young, and I joined Paul Murgatroyd aboard The Floating Bear for an overnight pelagic trip out of Playa Herradura, on the central Pacific coast. The two days at sea were quite productive, with 31 species identified and a total of 1987 individual birds seen, as well as four species of dolphins, with nearly 500 individuals estimated. However, the undisputed highlight of the trip came at 19:47 on 09 April. We had finished dinner and Jim had just gone up on deck to have a look at the stars, when a large, whitish gull appeared. Jim called excitedly down to the rest of us, who, after fumbling for optics, quickly emerged to view the nocturnal visitor. Captain John D.Cornwell got a spotlight on the bird and I got some shaky video, from which I extracted the accompanying image. Though fuzzy, the pinkish-red feet and the distinctive color pattern on the upperwing are discernible.


After several minutes of circling the boat, the bird finally flew off, leaving four elated birders behind.



Fifth sighting of Golden-cheeked Warbler in CR


08 April 2007: Robert Dean, Dorothy MacKinnon, and Lyn Statten saw a female Golden-cheeked Warbler Dendroica chrysoparia at El Cedral, in the mountains above Aserrí. The bird was foraging at an elevation of about 2,000m in habitat that consisted of pasture with scattered pine and oak trees.


This is the fifth time that this endangered NA migrant has been sighted in CR since September 2002. All sightings have been at elevations between about 1,500 and 2,000m, and four of the birds have been females.



Warbling Vireo in Carara


20 March 2007: The Oxbow Lake Trail at Carara NP produced a CR tick for Jay VanderGaast: a Warbling Vireo Vireo gilvus. “The bird was in the company of several other vireos, including Yellow-green and Philadelphia” (V. flavoviridis and philadelphicus, respectively). 



Some good birds in Las Alturas


01 March 2007: Jim Zook, Alison Olivieri and Julie Girard visited the Las Alturas de Cotón farm and had several sightings of this Black-and-White Hawk-Eagle Spizastur melanoleucus that Julie was able to photograph as it soared overhead. At one point, while watching the hawk-eagle, they simultaneously heard a Pheasant Cuckoo Dromococcyx phasianellus calling from inside the forest beyond the pasture where they were standing. What a moment!


Additionally, they had eight Cedar Waxwings fly over. And they also found a female Yellow-rumped Warbler Dendroica coronata with very pale and worn plumage. Unlike the waxwings, which turned out in good numbers, this was only the second report of a Yellow-rumped Warbler that I am aware of for this year.



For reports prior to these, please check Costa Rica Rare Bird Reports—Feb/Jan 2007 and Dec/Nov/Oct 2006.


For reports prior to those, please check the Gone Birding Newsletter.




Have you seen a rare bird in Costa Rica, or a species in an unexpected locality, or exhibiting odd behavior? If you have any noteworthy sightings, I (and the rest of the birding community) would appreciate hearing about them. Please send reports to Richard Garrigues gonebirdingcr@gmail.com and include pertinent details such as location (as precise as possible), date, time, and observers’ names. If you have digital images, all the better; however, please send images at file sizes of less than 500 kb.


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