Thursday, 12 April 2018

A Day in LA - the way home....

Unofficial Bird of the Day [an addition to my North America list] - Elegant Tern

Six of us had a day birding around the LA area.

The plan was to visit the following sites;

male House Finch - seen at most sites
Heisler Park  - You get nice views of the Pacific here and with your scope you should be able to pick out some seabirds as well as shorebirds possible on the rocks below the viewpoints. You can often pick up California Towhee, Black Phoebe, Anna's and Allen's hummingbirds, Bushtits, etc. in the bushes in Heisler Park too. 


my first Californian Surfbirds

Crystal Cove State Park - Reef Point Unit.  - Walk trails and paved pathways watching in the scrub for the tiny California Gnatcatcher. Especially around the parking lot is good for California Thrasher. Near the bathrooms I often get Wrentits. Again, good coastal views here with a scope. 
Californian Gnatcatcher

Californian Gnatcatcher

Back Bay (Also known as Upper Newport Bay) in Orange County is also a great place for birding, especially on a falling tide. Access points are along Back Bay Drive. It's a great place for shorebirds, terns, gulls, etc. The marshy habitat here is home to Ridgway's Rails, which come out quite readily to recordings. 
Song Sparrow

La Bolsa Chica - 2.  South Lot entrance at 18000 Pacific Coast Highway in Huntington Beach, CA.
Savanna Sparrow
Western Sandpiper
Elegant Terns
Elegant Terns

Madrona Marsh
Allen's Hummingbird

Allen's Hummingbird

Allen's Hummingbird

Western Meadowlark

American Kestrel

Playa del Rey
Red throated Loon

Red throated Loon
Common Loon
female Ruddy Duck

We recorded the following species; 

  1. Canada Goose
  2. Gadwall 
  3. American Wigeon
  4. Mallard
  5. Cinnamon Teal
  6. Northern Shoveler
  7. Green-winged Teal
  8. Ring-necked Duck
  9. Lesser Scaup
    female Lesser Scaup
  10. Surf Scoter
  11. Bufflehead
  12. Common Merganser
  13. Ruddy Duck
  14. Red-throated Loon
  15. Common Loon
  16. Pied-billed Grebe
  17. Eared Grebe
  18. Western Grebe
  19. Clark’s Grebe
  20. Double-crested Cormorant
  21. American White Pelican
  22. Brown Pelican
  23. Great Blue Heron
  24. Great Egret
  25. Snowy Egret 
  26. Turkey Vulture
  27. Osprey
  28. Northern Harrier
  29. Red-tailed Hawk
  30. American Coot 
  31. Black-bellied Plover
  32. Semipalmated Plover
  33. Killdeer
  34. Black-necked Stilt
  35. Spotted Sandpiper
  36. Willet
  37. Whimbrel
  38. Long-billed Curlew
  39. Marbled Godwit
  40. Black Turnstone
  41. Surfbird
  42. Sanderling
  43. Semipalmated Sandpiper
  44. Western Sandpiper
  45. Least Sandpiper
  46. Dunlin 
  47. Ring-billed Gull
  48. Western Gull
  49. California Gull
  50. Caspian Tern
  51. Forster’s Tern
  52. Elegant Tern
  53. Rock Pigeon 
  54. Mourning Dove
  55. Anna’s Hummingbird
  56. Allen’s Hummingbird
  57. American Kestrel
  58. Black Phoebe
  59. Cassin’s Kingbird
  60. American Crow
  61. Horned Lark
  62. Northern Rough-winged Swallow
  63. Barn Swallow 
    American Goldfinch
  64. Bushtit
  65. Bewick’s Wren
  66. Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
  67. California Gnatcatcher
  68. Western Bluebird
  69. Northern Mockingbird
  70. European Starling  – I
  71. Common Yellowthroat
  72. Yellow-rumped Warbler 
  73. Spotted Towhee
  74. California Towhee
  75. Savannah Sparrow
  76. Song Sparrow
  77. White-crowned Sparrow
  78. Red-winged Blackbird 
  79. Western Meadowlark
  80. Bullock’s Oriole
  81. House Finch
  82. Lesser Goldfinch
  83. American Goldfinch
  84. House Sparrow  – I
  85. Nutmeg Mannikin  – I
Californian Thrasher

Monday, 9 April 2018


Costa Rica has been on my mental birding bucket-list for a long time and it is fair to say that it fulfilled expectations totally. It is a wonderful country; small and easy to get around with lay back people and amazing biodiversity. And as much as statistics can summarise a wonderful three week experience; we managed to see over 500 species [including 39 spp of Hummingbirds] for our group; truly an outstanding effort in a three week period.

Full credit for the success of the trip must go to Costa Rica and only slightly less to our wonderful guide Diego Quesada. Our birding with Diego was simply excellent! Costa Rica is indeed a brilliant destination for any naturalist however to travel with Diego made it even more so. He is probably the best bird guide I have ever had for any group I have organised anywhere in the world. His knowledge of birds, their habits, their songs and calls are all first class. His eye sight, aided I'm sure by experience, is amazing. 

Diego was a tourist guide before becoming a birding guide and it showed. He is a patriot of his Costa Rican homeland and he knows information and stories of geography, history, politics, environmental issues and current affairs well. This extra knowledge really added to our experience so we came away knowing much more than [some of] the birds. Costa Rica, I now believe, has many positive lessons to teach other countries. It was also our luck to be in the nation while a national election was taking place and we were delighted to allow Diego half a day off to travel so he could vote. His passion towards the politics and thus future of his nation was a joy, I'm sure, to all of us. He has energy, a sense of humour, patience and is able to read a group of people very well. I am looking forward to birding and travelling with him again. I have already taken the liberty of recommending his services to others.

Our driver, too, deserves a mention and a large vote of our appreciation. Johnny Chaves. Like Diego he has become our friend. His driving kept us safe on sometimes challenging roads most importantly and he really gave you the sense that hothing asked for was ever a bother when often it simply must have been. His words to me, posted after the trip summarises the man better than i could hope to [and I hope that he doesn't dislike me too much for posting them!].

 "Hi, Great Chief. I hope the group is well  [snip]  I want to thank all of you for visiting Costa Rica and enjoying my country. It was a great pleasure to have taken them to all the places we visited and I am very happy to have some dear friends in a country as far away and as beautiful as Australia. I want to apologize for my not very good English and because on many occasions it was difficult for me to understand them by their accent. I want to wish you a very good trip. May God bless each one of you and your families ... and above all, know that Costa Rica has some friends. I hope this is not the last time we see each other, that maybe next year we will see each other again. Thank you very much for everything and a big hug. I miss you all very much."

During our tour we had a vote every evening for our bird of the day and then, at trip's end, through a voting process we worked out Bird[s] of the trip.

Below is our itinerary in brief [with changes made from the original itinerary] and for each day, Bird of the Day.

DAY 1, March 17 : ARRIVAL TO COSTA RICA, Bougainvillea
DAY 2, March 18: Day off, Bougainvillea
BIRD OF THE DAY - Lesson's Motmot
DAY 3, March 19: Poas and Cinchona, Bougainvillea
BIRD OF THE DAY - Emerald Toucanet
DAY 4, March 20: Tapanti National Park, San Gerardo de Dota, Miriam’s Quetzals
BIRD OF THE DAY - Golden hooded Tanager
DAY 5, March 21: San Gerardo Valley *RESPLENDENT QUETZAL*, Miriam’s Quetzals
BIRD OF THE DAY - Resplendent Quetsal
DAY 6, March 22: Savegre Valley and Paraiso de Quetzales, Miriam’s Quetzals
BIRD OF THE DAY - Fiery throated Hummingbird
DAY 7, March 23: Birding at the Highlands, Bosque del Tolomuco, drive to San Isidro Valley, Talari Lodge
BIRD OF THE DAY - Yellow throated Toucan
DAY 8, March 24: Cloud Bridge Reserve, Garden House, and Talari Lodge
BIRD OF THE DAY - Speckled Tanager
DAY 9, March 25: Los Cusingos Nature Reserve, drive to San Vito, Las Cruces
BIRD OF THE DAY - Red capped Mannikin
DAY 10, March 26: San Vito area, Las Cruces Biological Station, Las Cruces
BIRD OF THE DAY - Collared Trogon
DAY 11, March 27: Ciudad Neily , Playa El Rey, Drive to Carara, Cerro Lodge
BIRD OF THE DAY - Scarlet Macaw
DAY 12, March 28: Boat Tour at Tarcoles River, Birding at Cerro Lodge, Cerro Lodge
BIRD OF THE DAY - Barred Antshrike
DAY 13, March 29: Carara National Park, Birding on the way to Ensenada, Ensenada Lodge
BIRD OF THE DAY - Streaked Antpitta
DAY 14, March 30: Birding at Ensenada Lodge and Cocorocas Salinas, Ensenada Lodge
BIRD OF THE DAY - White throated Magpie Jay
DAY 15, March 31:  Hacienda Solimar, Sandillal Reservoir, drive to Bijagua Area, Heliconias Lodge
BIRD OF THE DAY - Spectacled Owl
DAY 16, April 1:  Heliconia Lodge and Casitas Tenorio, Heliconias Lodge
BIRD OF THE DAY - Keel billed Toucan
DAY 17, April 2:  Heliconias, Donals+Pippa’s Tapir Valley and drive Caño Negro, Caño Negro Natural Lodge
DAY 18, April 3:  Boat trip to Caño Negro and drive to Medio Queso, Catarata Eco Lodges
BIRD OF THE DAY - Sungrebe
DAY 19, April 4:  Sky Adventures Hanging Bridges, Peninsula Road, Catarata Eco Lodge
BIRD OF THE DAY - Crested Owl
DAY 20, April 5:  Arenal and drive to Sarapiqui, Three-Wattled Bellbird and San Luis Feeders, La Selva Biological Station
BIRD OF THE DAY - Three-Wattled Bellbird
DAY 21, April 6:  La Selva Biological Station, Cope Arte Gardens, La Selva Biological Station
BIRD OF THE DAY - Sunbittern
DAY 22, April 7:  La Selva,  La Selva Biological Station
BIRD OF THE DAY - Great Currasow
DAY 23, April 8:  La Selva and Cinchona, La Paz Waterfall Gardens, Hotel El Robledal
DAY 24, April 9:  Shuttle to International Airport

Bird of the Trip? Each participant had to prepare the impossible; their top three birds using what ever criteria or methodology they desired. Each person's top bird was awarded 3 points, 2 for their second preference and 1 for their third. 
 My top three failed to impress others; Montezuma's Oropendola, Violet Sabrewing and Three Wattled Bellbird. 

Twenty-two species received a vote, out of a possible 36, showing a wide range of preference for species. This reflects both the variety of methodology and the great diversity and attractiveness of Costa Rican species. The winner, Sunbittern, only received 3 votes (9 points from only a quarter of the group) but they were all first preferences. 
Equal second species, Bare-throated Tiger-Heron and Streak-chested Antpitta, each received  4 votes (8 points), a first, 2 seconds, and a third. Fourth place, Resplendant Quetzal had two first places (6 points), nine other species had a total of 3 points, 5 had 2 points, and 4 had one point only. Six out of 12 birders choose as first preference a species that no one else cast a vote for, highlighting the individuality of choice among the group.There wasn't a single vote for the two macaw species.

 Of our guide's Diego's three choices (Jabiru, Streak-chested Antpitta,Sungrebe) only the Antpitta received any votes from the group, however Diego's comments about the experience of the Antpitta sighting reflected the experiences of a number of the group.

Sunday, 8 April 2018

Day 23 - La Selva back to San Jose


An early start [again] for some pre breakfast birding.
Long tailed Tyrant

White crowned Parrot

Band backed Wren


A return to the Great Green Macaw nesting site.
Tropical Peewee nesting

A return to feeders....
Orange fronted Parakeet

Waterfall park and paths, lunch, Hummingbird feeders and a zoo experience.

First at the La Paz Waterfall Gardens we visited their Hummingbird feeders....

Green Thorntail male

Green Thorntail male

Green Thorntail male

Coppery headed Emerald

female Mountain Gem

Green Hermit

Coppery headed Emerald
Then a walk along the trails to the waterfalls...
one of the Waterfalls at La Paz
Cathryn, Pam and myself and un-named American boys

Spangle cheeked Tanager

Prong billed Barbet

Common Chlorospingus
Costa Rican Warbler [fmrly  Three striped Warbler]

Costa Rican Warbler [fmrly  Three striped Warbler]

An Anole spp

An Anole spp
Following the walk we had a huge buffet lunch where we had an unexpected visitor... which proved to be another lifer
Slaty backed Nightingale Thrush in restaurant
Back out by the Hummingbird feeders another lifer turned up..
Sooty faced Finch

Sooty faced Finch
And then a little stroll around the zoo exhibits. It seems the majority of the animals were rescued from folks who were keeping them illegally. The frog exhibit was particularly good.
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A final [unsuccessful] twitch pre return to hotel!


A Day in LA - the way home....

Unofficial Bird of the Day [an addition to my North America list] - Elegant Tern Six of us had a day birding around the LA area. The ...