Tuesday, 4 August 2020

Hummingbirds at Bosque del Tolomuco

We left the steamy Osa Peninsula behind and worked our way northwest along the picturesque coastline. Eventually, we turned off the highway and began to climb back up into the Talamanca Range, the cloud cover obscuring the sun as we ascended into the mountains. Our destination for the night was a place called Bosque del Tolomuco. This property, owned by a Canadian couple, catered to birdwatchers and included several guesthouses and a busy array of hummingbird and fruit feeders.  The main draw at Bosque del Tolomuco at the moment was the pair of White-crested Coquettes that were daily visitors to the Blue Porterweed flowers around the property. We had just observed a single White-crested Coquette in the Osa Peninsula, though we were eager to obtain better views (and hopefully, photos) of this uncommon species. 

Since this was a new elevation for us in Costa Rica there were several other new species of hummingbirds that we had a chance at here. One of these was the beautiful Violet Sabrewing, a well-named species. In the late afternoon gloom we found a few individuals attending some of the feeders.

Violet Sabrewing - Bosque del Tolomuco, San José, Costa Rica

White-throated Mountain-gem was easily the most numerous species of hummingbird present.

White-throated Mountain-gem - Bosque del Tolomuco, San José, Costa Rica

Before dark we added four more species of hummingbird, of which two were "lifers" - Stripe-tailed Hummingbird and White-tailed Emerald. We also enjoyed watching the fruit feeders, tallying species like Red-headed Barbet, Golden-hooded Tanager and this Red-tailed Squirrel among the numerous Tennessee Warblers and Silver-throated Tanagers. 

Red-tailed Squirrel - Bosque del Tolomuco, San José, Costa Rica

The next morning dawned cool but cloudless. As the sun crested the mountains some Swallow-tailed Kites took to the wing, soaring in a valley below us. A nice way to start the day. 

Hummingbirds were active in the porterweed early on, including all of the species from the previous evening. I finally managed to take some decent photos of White-tailed Emerald and Stripe-tailed Hummingbird. 

White-tailed Emerald - Bosque del Tolomuco, San José, Costa Rica

Stripe-tailed Hummingbird - Bosque del Tolomuco, San José, Costa Rica

White-tailed Emerald - Bosque del Tolomuco, San José, Costa Rica

Silver-throated Tanager - Bosque del Tolomuco, San José, Costa Rica

We also enjoyed scintillating looks at Scintillant Hummingbirds, of which three or four patrolled the porterweed. 

Scintillant Hummingbird - Bosque del Tolomuco, San José, Costa Rica

Scintillant Hummingbird - Bosque del Tolomuco, San José, Costa Rica

Eventually I managed to lock onto a Magenta-throated Woodstar, another new species for both of us. Female Magenta-throated Woodstars can appear surprisingly similar to the Scintillant Hummingbirds, especially in photographs. 

Magenta-throated Woodstar - Bosque del Tolomuco, San José, Costa Rica

Following a tip from the property owner I parked myself by a small guesthouse halfway down the driveway. The porterweed here was one location where the coquettes were often seen. 

I did not have to wait long before a tiny hummingbird with white throat, rufous belly and a broad white stripe across the rump appeared. A White-crested Coquette! I called Laura over and we both enjoyed amazing views as it fed only a few metres away. Eventually it settled on a twig and I cracked off some decent photos. 

White-crested Coquette - Bosque del Tolomuco, San José, Costa Rica

White-crested Coquette - Bosque del Tolomuco, San José, Costa Rica

A male appeared only moments later. Unfortunately I was never able to nail down an excellent photo but the crazy spiky hairdo is apparent in these photos. What a hummingbird!

White-crested Coquette - Bosque del Tolomuco, San José, Costa Rica

White-crested Coquette - Bosque del Tolomuco, San José, Costa Rica

Laura and I soon hit the road, happy with our hummingbird experience at Bosque del Tolomuco. We traveled through the mountains towards Cartago, following the winding mountain roads to the town of Orosi. We had booked a hostel here for two nights and were looking forward to exploring the nearby Tapantí National Park, which contained a whole new suite of possibilities. That evening we found an excellent restaurant and splurged on wood-fired pizza and wine, a nice end to the day.

Thursday, 30 July 2020

The Osa Peninsula - Part 2

This summer I have been setting up my moth sheet and light nearly every evening and spending many hours figuring out the identifications the following day. As a result I have not been devoting much time to the blog. But indeed, I have tales to tell from our adventure in Costa Rica a few months ago. It's hard to believe that less than five months ago we were traipsing around the humid, forested lowlands of the Osa Peninsula!

My last post detailed our first 24 hours of exploration at the Bolita Hostel and its excellent network of trails that snake through primary forest near Corcovado National Park. When I left off, we had just finished an afternoon hike and were preparing for our first night hike. 

Unfortunately I had forgotten to bring my macro lens up to the hostel from the car, a realization I came to while prepping my gear for the night hike. Shoot! After setting up our moth sheet we began our hike, walking down the trail back towards Dos Brazos. We journeyed all the way to the river before we turned around and retraced our steps back to the hostel. 

Despite only herping for two hours or so we came across some nice finds. Snakes are always high on the priority list when Laura and I are night-hiking and this time we lucked out with several individuals. Below is a Northern Cat-eyed Snake (Leptodeira septentrionalis), one of two that we discovered during the evening. Our other snake of the evening was a Blunt-headed Treesnake (Imantodes cenchoa), a common and widespread species but one that is always nice to come across because of how ridiculous its proportions are. Most pencils have more girth than an average Blunt-headed Treesnake. 

Northern Cat-eyed Snake (Leptodeira septentrionalis) - Bolita Rainforest Hostel, Puntarenas, Costa Rica


Lizards were noted throughout the walk, especially when we hiked along a small creek. This is a Water Anole (Anolis aquaticus), a species that is almost always within a few feet of a flowing creek. At night they sleep on branches and rocks beside the watercourse. 

Water Anole (Anolis aquaticus) - Bolita Rainforest Hostel, Puntarenas, Costa Rica


I think my favourite find of the night was this individual - a Granular Poison Frog (Oophaga granulifera)! This spectacular anuran was a new one for us, and one of my most wanted herps for the Osa Peninsula. 

Granular Poison Frog (Oophaga granulifera) - Bolita Rainforest Hostel, Puntarenas, Costa Rica


Unfortunately the moth sheet was a bit of a bust, no doubt due to the hundreds of ants that walked from a nearby tree onto the rope and then the sheet, attacking many of the moths that briefly landed on it. I had never seen that before! According to some of the other guests at the hostel there was a huge Fer-de-Lance that hung out in the grass under the sheet for part of the evening. Of course, it was long gone by the time that we had returned from our night hike. That's how it goes sometimes!

Due to the incredible success we had had with birds the previous day my target list was a lot smaller. Surprisingly, not a single "life bird" was added despite another incredible day of birding and herping along Bolita's trails. 

We hiked up the Big Banana Trail and took the Valle Frijol Trail again, the same route we had followed the previous day. Once we hit the Bonanza Trail and the primary forest we continued down this way, eventually making our way to a creek. It was a hot and muggy morning, much warmer than yesterday, and bird activity was much reduced. We enjoyed many of the same species from the previous day, as well as a few new ones such as Speckled Tanager, Blue Dacnis, Yellow-throated Vireo and Gartered Trogon. 

Gartered Trogon - Bolita Rainforest Hostel, Puntarenas, Costa Rica


Shortly after merging onto the Bonanza Trail, a huge black serpent appeared on the leaf-strewn path. A Bird-eating Snake (Phrynonax poecilonotus)!

Bird-eating Snake (Phrynonax poecilonotus) - Bolita Rainforest Hostel, Puntarenas, Costa Rica


This large and impressive species is widespread in the northern Neotropics, but it was one that neither of us had encountered before. This individual was on the larger size, probably measuring longer than 2 metres in length. The snake was quite docile and I very slowly and carefully picked it up. Most snakes are pretty relaxed if they are approached the right way and this one was no different. A gentle giant. 

Bird-eating Snake (Phrynonax poecilonotus) - Bolita Rainforest Hostel, Puntarenas, Costa Rica


Bird-eating Snake (Phrynonax poecilonotus) - Bolita Rainforest Hostel, Puntarenas, Costa Rica


As indicated by its common name, this species often preys on birds and bird eggs but it will also take down small mammals. Following a brief photoshoot we let the beautiful serpent go on its way, and it slithered across the dry leaves and into a brushy thicket, out of sight. 

Bird-eating Snake (Phrynonax poecilonotus) - Bolita Rainforest Hostel, Puntarenas, Costa Rica


We continued our walk to the waterfall, stopping periodically for birds. This next species was a new trip bird for us, and a lifer for Laura; the Golden-crowned Spadebill. 

Golden-crowned Spadebill - Bolita Rainforest Hostel, Puntarenas, Costa Rica


A few minutes later while relaxing at the creek I caught sight of an interesting woodcreeper which turned out to be a Brown-billed Scythebill. Another awesome species!!

Brown-billed Scythebill - Bolita Rainforest Hostel, Puntarenas, Costa Rica


We retraced our steps along the Bonanza Trail and took the Fila Quemada Trail back around. Bird activity had really slowed by this time and so we focused more on insects and herps. 


Heliconius doris - Bolita Rainforest Hostel, Puntarenas, Costa Rica


Delicate Ameiva (Holcosus leptophrys) - Bolita Rainforest Hostel, Puntarenas, Costa Rica


Heliconius doris - Bolita Rainforest Hostel, Puntarenas, Costa Rica


Mastigodryas melanolomus - Bolita Rainforest Hostel, Puntarenas, Costa Rica


Some commotion in the trailside shrubbery at various points produced a few skulking species, including Black-hooded Antshrike and Dusky Antbird. 

Black-hooded Antshrike - Bolita Rainforest Hostel, Puntarenas, Costa Rica


Dusky Antbird - Bolita Rainforest Hostel, Puntarenas, Costa Rica


I was thrilled to have a nice close encounter with a pair of Riverside Wrens, a species that had been one of my top targets in the Osa Peninsula and one which I had yet to photograph up to this point. 

Riverside Wren - Bolita Rainforest Hostel, Puntarenas, Costa Rica


We were pretty tired and thirsty and picked up the pace on our way back to the hostel, with visions of cold water dancing in our heads. Luckily, I was still paying attention to unusual sounds and heard what might have been a primate way up a tree just off of the trail. Something about it sounded strange - there was less persistent crashing through the branches that monkeys usually cause. Eventually I mustered up the energy to bushwhack off the trail to an area where the canopy was more visible.

I was pretty shocked to see a Northern Tamandua way up the tree, and so I frantically called Laura over. Together we enjoyed awesome views of the anteater, it periodically checking us out as well. This was only the second time I can recall seeing a Northern Tamandua, and it was a new one for Laura. We were pretty excited!

Northern Tamandua - Bolita Rainforest Hostel, Puntarenas, Costa Rica


Following a short siesta we hit the trails again. This time, our plan was to hike the entrance road during daylight hours, pick up my macro lens at the car and then after dark, night-hike back to the lodge. 

Central American Spider Monkey - Bolita Rainforest Hostel, Puntarenas, Costa Rica


Morpho menelaus - Bolita Rainforest Hostel, Puntarenas, Costa Rica


Lesson's Motmot - Bolita Rainforest Hostel, Puntarenas, Costa Rica


Near a small creek crossing we found this sharp male Red-capped Manakin, having a bath in the flowing water. 

Red-capped Manakin - Bolita Rainforest Hostel, Puntarenas, Costa Rica


Red-capped Manakin - Bolita Rainforest Hostel, Puntarenas, Costa Rica


Eventually we made it to the river and completed the crossing. 

River crossing - Bolita Rainforest Hostel, Puntarenas, Costa Rica


The scrubby roadside habitats near where my car was parked provided a huge boost to our day list and we quickly went from around 80 species to over 100 for the day. 

Scarlet-rumped Tanager - Bolita Rainforest Hostel, Puntarenas, Costa Rica


Black-striped Sparrow - Bolita Rainforest Hostel, Puntarenas, Costa Rica


Since it was still daylight we met up with a friend for a couple of drinks - Zeph, a Frenchman who lives in Dos Brazos. Following a great visit with him, we hit the trails with hopes of snakes and other nocturnal delights. 

Laura spotted the first snake, and a venemous one at that - a Fer-de-Lance or Terciopelo (Bothrops asper) coiled up on the side of the path. This one was just a baby. 

Terciopelo (Bothrops asper) - Bolita Rainforest Hostel, Puntarenas, Costa Rica


Terciopelo (Bothrops asper) - Bolita Rainforest Hostel, Puntarenas, Costa Rica


Taeniotes scalatus - Bolita Rainforest Hostel, Puntarenas, Costa Rica


Copiphora cultricornis - Bolita Rainforest Hostel, Puntarenas, Costa Rica


Our next snake encounter occurred along the banks of the river that we had crossed earlier. Watercourses are excellent locations to find snakes in the tropics and this river came through in the form of a Northern Cat-eyed Snake (Leptodeira septentrionalis). 

Northern Cat-eyed Snake (Leptodeira septentrionalis) - Bolita Rainforest Hostel, Puntarenas, Costa Rica


This photo may look posed but this is exactly how we found the snake, right beside a Fitzinger's Robber Frog. Perhaps we had interrupted the snake's meal plans?

Northern Cat-eyed Snake (Leptodeira septentrionalis) and Fitzinger's Robber Frog (Craugastor fitzingeri) - Bolita Rainforest Hostel, Puntarenas, Costa Rica


We noted several more herps along the river including various frogs and a few Common Basilisks (Basiliscus basiliscus).

Common Basilisk (Basiliscus basiliscus) - Bolita Rainforest Hostel, Puntarenas, Costa Rica


Smilax sordida - Bolita Rainforest Hostel, Puntarenas, Costa Rica


Craugastor sp. - Bolita Rainforest Hostel, Puntarenas, Costa Rica


Laura was on fire tonight and she found her third snake of the night just past the river as we initiated our walk back to the hostel. And this one was easily the coolest snake of the night - a Forest Flame Snake (Oxyrhopus petolarius). This coral snake mimic is not dangerous to humans, but it is rear-fanged with venom that is toxic to anoles. Forest Flame Snakes are quite variable in colour but usually have some combination of black and red cross-bands. We had seen one previously, a stunner that I had found at the Narupa Reserve in Ecuador back in November. 

Forest Flame Snake (Oxyrhopus petolarius) - Bolita Rainforest Hostel, Puntarenas, Costa Rica


Forest Flame Snake (Oxyrhopus petolarius) - Bolita Rainforest Hostel, Puntarenas, Costa Rica


While not quite as exciting as the snake, this caterpillar was certainly an interesting one! 

Automeris sp. - Bolita Rainforest Hostel, Puntarenas, Costa Rica


Automeris sp. - Bolita Rainforest Hostel, Puntarenas, Costa Rica


I believe it is in the genus Automeris, which includes the familiar Io Moth that is widespread in North America. There are many species of Automeris in the tropics, and I am not sure which one this caterpillar is. A nice way to close out a successful night hike!

Automeris sp. - Bolita Rainforest Hostel, Puntarenas, Costa Rica


The following morning was our last one in the Osa Peninsula, sadly. I still had one main target bird species that was missing from my list - the diminutive and difficult to find White-crested Coquette. Shortly after dawn I tried the Cacique Trail which is located very close to the hostel. Mark Dorriesfield, a friend of mine from Ontario, had visited Bolita on a few occasions and suggested the Cacique Trail as the most reliable for the coquette.

Early on the coquette was a no-show but there were a ton of other bird species to keep me occupied as I walked along the trail which followed the rim of a valley. I finally had my photo-op with the endemic Black-cheeked Ant-Tanager, a species that I had seen and heard on a few occasions in the preceding days but never very well. A great start to another beautiful day!

Black-cheeked Ant-Tanager - Bolita Rainforest Hostel, Puntarenas, Costa Rica


This Band-tailed Barbthroat provided incredible views as well. 

Band-tailed Barbthroat - Bolita Rainforest Hostel, Puntarenas, Costa Rica


Laura eventually joined me and we birded the ridge, picking up more and more species. At one point a tiny hummingbird flit among some white flowers just above the trail. It was initially elusive but I finally got it in my binoculars. A female White-crested Coquette! A few seconds later and it was gone (sans photos). A huge thrill, and a great way to close out our time at Bolita!

Squirrel Cuckoo - Bolita Rainforest Hostel, Puntarenas, Costa Rica


We packed up our bags, said goodbye to the staff and hit the trail. I must say it was a noticeably easier hike out, namely because we had less food in our packs and because it was mostly downhill. 

This next species is a Scaly-throated Leaftosser. This skulky species is well-named since it searches for morsels underneath fallen leaves. This was by far the best view that I have ever had of this normally shy species.

Scaly-throated Leaftosser - Bolita Rainforest Hostel, Puntarenas, Costa Rica


Scaly-throated Leaftosser - Bolita Rainforest Hostel, Puntarenas, Costa Rica


We were relieved to finally finish the hike and get back to the car, equipped with air conditioning. We made a stop for some cold drinks and hit the road. 

With a bit of free time on our hands, we checked out the Río Rincon bridge for a second visit. This time the Yellow-billed Cotingas were a little more cooperative with some great views of them in flight. I also found a surprise Mangrove Cuckoo right at the bridge, though I guess it should not have been a surprise since there were mangroves a short walk down the road. 

Mangrove Cuckoo - Puente Río Rincon, Puntarenas, Costa Rica


Eventually I meandered down the pavement towards the mangroves since one of the Costa Rican endemic species prefers these environs -  the well-named Mangrove Hummingbird. Despite the hot temperatures and time of day there was a fair bit of bird activity and I added close to 20 bird species to my Costa Rica list in this short visit. Some highlights included a pair of Pale-billed Woodpeckers, Great Black Hawk, Plain-breasted Ground-Dove and Ruddy-breasted Seedeater. Meanwhile, the gravelly shoreline of the river produced Whimbrel, Willet, Greater Yellowlegs and Tricolored Heron among others. 

Pale-billed Woodpeckers - Puente Río Rincon, Puntarenas, Costa Rica


Eventually I lucked out with a drab-looking Mangrove Hummingbird. Not the showiest of hummingbirds but one with a restricted range, so I was happy.

Mangrove Hummingbird - Puente Río Rincon, Puntarenas, Costa Rica


And with that, we hit the road and left the Osa Peninsula behind. Our time here had been incredible, with nearly all of my hoped-for bird species appearing, along with a nice diversity of herps, mammals and insects.  I can see why the Osa Peninsula is a top priority for many naturalists visiting Costa Rica!