Monday, June 22, 2009

Birder of the Year: Costa Rica 1

Background info: In each November/December issue, WildBird subscribers have the chance to crown one of their peers as Birder of the Year. The candidates appear as Forum Birders and Backyard Birders in each of the previous five issues. The contest is open to everyone who responds to the questions posed in the Birder’s Back Yard and Lister’s Forum departments in every issue.

As 2008 Birder of the Year, Connie Kogler of Loveland, Colo., received a Swarovski 8x32 EL binocular and an expenses-paid five-day trip for two to Costa Rica with Swarovski and WildBird hosts. She also received a Swarovski squall jacket as well as “The Songs of Wild Birds” by Lang Elliott and the fifth edition of “Peterson Field Guide to Birds of North America,” provided by Houghton Mifflin.

Connie, her husband Al, Clay Taylor of Swarovski Optik and I flew to Costa Rica in early June to bird for four days with Clay's Costa Rican colleague, Alex Villegas. Aided by our driver, Rafael, we covered a fair bit of ground starting on June 10.

From my window seat, I could see the sunrise as our 12:30 a.m. flight from Denver approached San Jose (SJO). Connie, Al and I flew south on the same plane, making it easy for Clay, Alex and Rafael to collect us and begin our adventure. In the trusty Kia Bongo III, we emerged from morning traffic and traveled northeast through Braulio Carrillo National Park before stopping for breakfast.

The delicious buffet included fresh fruit and filling vittles that revived our sleep-deprived bodies. Then we began birding in the parking lot of course! I enjoyed peeks at Palm Tanager, Tropical Kingbird, Blue-gray Tanager and Social Flycatcher before we piled in and continued on the highway.

In Puerto Viejo de Sarapiquí, we stopped at Posada Andrea Cristina to collect Alex Martinez, a dynamic and energetic fellow. Alex told us about his work to conserve trees for Great Green Macaws and led us to a site where we might see the endangered parrots.

Along the road, we stopped to look more closely at Bare-throated Tiger-Heron, Orange-chinned Parakeet and the long, hanging nests built by Montezuma Oropendola. Such a cool species with its two-toned bill.

Then we trooped off into the fresh green land to see if we could find some macaws. During our quest, we also spied Tropical Pewee, Wedge-billed Woodcreeper, Common Tody-Flycatcher, Thick-billed Seed-Finch...

Piratic Flycatcher, Black-cheeked Woodpecker, Blue-black Grassquit, Passerini's Tanager, Groove-billed Ani, Great Kiskadee, White-winged Becard, Violaceous Trogon... and then

Alex found a tree (not above) in which many macaws were feeding. Oh my word! I soaked in good looks at three elusive creatures as they maneuvered through the branches. A sudden commotion sent the birds into the air -- four away from us and four across our field of view. What magnificent colorful parrots!

Thrilled with our luck, we also spied Masked Tityra and enjoyed a little more time with Alex Martinez before resuming our journey. Different habitat and new species awaited us!



Blogger Patrick Belardo said...

Cool birds! I had the luck to see them at La Selva. THey were up in a tree eating almonds (or was it pecans?). It was neat to see them cracking open the nuts.

June 23, 2009 6:46 AM  
Blogger Dale Forbes said...

a tree of great green macaws...
they must have been stunning and I was rather jealous when I heard. sounds like you guys had a great trip!

Happy birding

June 29, 2009 3:54 AM  
Blogger Amy said...

Dale, "stunning" is an apt word for the macaws. We saw other incredible birds, too, which I plan to highlight this week.

June 29, 2009 9:07 AM  
Blogger Gordon Gover said...

One of my fondest birding memories is of a day slogging through thigh-high mud for a chance to see Great Green Macaws with Alex Villegas. He even negotiated a horseback ride from a local for one of our party who would have otherwise not reached the nest tree. We were fortunate enough to see ten birds in the same tree.

January 12, 2010 11:04 AM  

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