Costa Rica Trip Report - Part 5/7 - Arenal Volcano and Caño Negro

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Subject: Costa Rica Trip Report - Part 5/7 - Arenal Volcano and Caño Negro
From: "Paul Dodd" <>
Date: Sat, 26 Jan 2013 21:20:01 +1100
The following morning we were up early for breakfast and to see the birds
that came into the feeding stations. We were meeting Roger at 8:30am as he
was accompanying us to our next destination and showing us some birding
locations along the way. I had my compression bandage on, and what a
difference it made! I could actually move without too much pain and more
importantly, could actually raise my camera and hold it! As well as the
usual suspects at the feeding station a Semi-plumbeous Hawk flew in ?
causing great consternation amongst the other birds who quickly saw it off.
This is an uncommon bird, so it was great to see it.


On meeting Roger in reception at the hotel he offered to drive to the next
location, so I gladly accepted. Those of you that know me reasonably well
will know that I never relinquish the driving, so I must have really needed
the assistance! During the drive we were adjacent to some sugar cane
plantations and Roger told us to keep a lookout for White-tailed Kite ?
within a minute or two we?d seen one of these birds that look remarkably
similar to Australia?s Black-shouldered Kite. Stopping at another site,
there was a ?duck? in a pond in a paddock. Setting the scope on it, we
realised that it was not a duck at all, but a Pied-billed Grebe ? our sole
grebe for the trip. In the long grass of the paddocks nearby we found
White-collared Seedeater and Yellow-faced Grassquit. Grassquits are funny
birds in that they leap up from the grass to call and then drop back into
the same spot again! We stopped off at several streams and rivers along the
way and ultimately found our quarry ? Black Phoebe. This species is
everywhere in the western United States, but here in Costa Rica is pretty
much confined to perching on rocks near water (preferably running water). As
we approached Arenal Volcano we stopped off for lunch at a restaurant
recommended by Roger (it was actually very good food). Here we saw Great
Curassow ? a large turkey-sized ground-dwelling bird. Additionally, the
restaurant had a pair of White-nosed Coati that they fed and looked after.
These animals provided great entertainment during lunch with their antics!


We arrived at our hotel, Arenal Observatory Lodge, 1.6km south of the Arenal
Volcano after travelling 11km on a very degraded and pot-holed dirt road.
This volcano had been the most active volcano in Costa Rica for quite a few
years until 18 months ago. Now it is dormant, but a spectacular, and
slightly menacing, sight. The Arenal Observatory Lodge is well regarded
amongst bird watchers, containing cultivated gardens and trails through the
forest. The hotel has a great balcony overlooking a couple of fruit feeding
stations that attract toucans, oropendolas and tanagers. From the balcony we
had great views of Brown Jay which is normally quite difficult to see in the
forest. None of the forest in the area is primary as it was all razed during
the eruption of 1968, so is all relatively young secondary forest. After
checking in and depositing our bags in our room we walked the trail from the
lodge to the creek and old lava flow. This is a steep and challenging walk,
and it was with some trepidation that I walked down and then back up. The
walk provided some new birds for us including Olive Tanager (Carmiol?s
Tanager), Tawny-crowned Greenlet, Slaty-capped Flycatcher and Scale-crested


The following morning we arranged to meet Roger just after breakfast and to
then drive the hour and a half to the Caño Negro Wildlife Refuge ? we had
discussed this ?side-trip? with Roger previously and we agreed that it would
be worth a trip to Caño Negro, and indeed it was. Caño Negro is a
world-famous wetland just a few kilometres south of the Nicaraguan border
that attracts all sorts of migratory waterfowl and other birds. The only way
to explore the area is by boat, so Roger had hired a boat and boatman for
us. On the way into the area we stopped at a flooded roadside ditch to find
a duck swimming towards us ? a Lesser Scaup. Over the road from this ditch
was an area with a couple of trees, one of which had a hole in it ? here we
saw two Hoffman?s Woodpeckers, obviously nesting in the hole. Once we
reached the water and were on our boat the excitement really began ?
Neotropic Cormorant, Anhinga (Darter), Glossy Ibis, White Ibis, Northern
Jaçana, Killdeer and a pair of Snail Kite were seen within minutes. Shortly
we found a Black-headed Trogon, a new bird for us, and a Pied Puffbird, our
first puffbird of the trip. Continuing the trip from the lagoon into the
mangroves we saw Wood Storks flying overhead and found a Rufous-necked
Wood-rail on the bank. We also managed to find a Black-crowned Night-heron,
the much rarer of the two night-herons in Costa Rica. Navigating our way
through the smallest channels in the mangroves we searched for Green Ibis
for about an hour before eventually finding a pair well hidden. Heading back
to the lagoon we flushed a Limpkin ? a stocky heron-like bird that is
generally only found in this area. Probably the only bird that we dipped on
that I really, really wanted to see was Roseate Spoonbill. Oh well?


The following day we met Roger just after breakfast. In keeping with our
tradition, he brought his wife, Yami. The four of us headed to the gardens
near the seismograph station (near the swimming pool) ? these gardens have
flowers that attract hummingbirds and other species and we weren?t
disappointed, seeing Bronze-tailed Plumeleteer, a new hummingbird for us,
and the spectacular Crimson-collared Tanager and beautiful Emerald Tanager.
>From the gardens we started the La Hormiga/Saino Trails into a small remnant
of primary forest. We saw several columns of army ants (eciton sp) leading
us to look for various antbirds. We saw Fasciated Antshrike, Streak-crowned
Antvireo, Slaty Antwren and Chestnut-backed Antbird (which we had seen
before). On the trail we encountered a larger tour group with a guide and at
that moment a Bare-faced Umbrella-bird flew out from the forest edge at
head-height and perched on a nearby tree. This endemic bird is rare ? this
was a lifer for Yami and also for the guide leading the other tour group.
They are peculiar looking birds ? the male (which we saw) is quite large
(about 43cm in length), dark with a dark crest and a vivid red throat sac
that it inflates during breeding displays. We felt privileged to have seen
this bird.


Since we had caught up with the tour group we decided not to follow them,
but to take the waterfall track instead. We heard, but could not locate a
White-whiskered Puffbird, Plain Xenops ? a small, almost nondescript
woodcreeper and a Sulphur-rumped Flycatcher. I found an anteater ? a
Northern Tamandua ? which has incredible golden fur with a black collar and
abdomen, a spectacular looking creature. We also saw more Collared Peccaries
here. Additionally on a tree trunk we found a colony of Greater Sac-winged
Bats (White-lined Bats). We returned to the hotel for lunch and then
afterwards walked the Farm Road tracks before heading back to the La
Hormiga/Saino Trails to complete the section that we skipped when attempting
to avoid the larger tour group. We returned to the hotel and on returning to
our room, we found quite a surprise ? on the railing of our balcony was an
Orange-bellied Trogon! We had our own balcony trogon! After relaxing at the
hotel for a while, it was time to take Roger and Yami to La Fortuna where
they would catch a bus back to Puerto Viejo.


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