King Vulture (Sarcoramphus papa)

King Vultures and Scarlet Macaws at Ciudad Cortés

Who says vultures are ugly?

Who says vultures are ugly?

Brief excursion to Ciudad Cortés, close to the Osa Peninsula:  The whole region is immensely attractive and the contrast with the area of the Pacific Coast north of Dominical is very noticeable. The huge tracts devoted to oil palm cultivation and the accompanying development of tourism have made the section from Jacó south to Dominical much less interesting for those of us who love nature. I stayed the night at Sortisomnis, a spa hotel with a concern not only for its guests but also for all things ecological, located 7 km from the main coast road at Ciudad Cortés and up a dirt road.  At 600 m altitude it is noticeably cooler and well placed for observing middle-elevation species, while 7 km below many aquatic, lowland and coastal species are in abundance.

The Scarlet macaw is one of just two macaw species native to Costa Rica

The Scarlet macaw is one of just two macaw species native to Costa Rica

My visit was quite brief, with a couple of hours spent in the late afternoon, walking between the cabins, and another hour or so early morning, looking out from the balcony over the splendid view. A Barred hawk (Leucopternis princeps) was among the late afternoon Black vultures, but so too was a pair of adult King vultures (Sarcoramphus papa). This, the largest of Costa Rica’s vultures, is a breathtaking sight with its white and black plumage, which makes identification easy, even at a great distance.

I could barely leave the balcony of my cabin the next morning as several parrot species, resplendent green, were active in the tree tops spread out before me. Noisiest was the large Mealy parrot (Amazona farinosa), and I found it fairly easy to distinguish when it was perched because of the yellow tail, which contrasts with the darker green of the body.

Mealy parrot with its big eye-ring, courtesy of Karel Straatman

Mealy parrot with its big eye-ring, courtesy of Karel Straatman

The slightly smaller Red-lored parrot (Amazona autumnalis) was also present but the I did not notice any great contrast between tail and body colour. Pride of place, however, went to the majestic pairs of Scarlet macaws (Ara macao), heading uphill presumably for a morning snack.

Other notable sightings of birds that I don’t see at home were the Blue dacnis and the Black-crowned tityra, plus a beautiful White hawk (Leucopternis albicollis)I can’t resist adding a photo from friend Karel Straatman‘s Costa Rican collection.

White hawk in flight

White hawk in flight

I’m very fortunate with friends!  Armin Dett of Pragma Design near Lake Constance in Germany was finishing his moth study at La Gamba Tropical Station, and as we left, a Solitary sandpiper (Tringa solitaria) appeared close to the road (there were probably two birds) next to the rice fields.  I don’t often see shore birds at home, so this was a special treat.

Solitary sandpiper picks up his heels

Solitary sandpiper picks up his heels

Unless otherwise noted, all photographs are by kind permission of Richard Garrigues, whose latest edition of The Birds of Costa Rica is now available.

Here’s the list of species from my all too brief stay at Sortisomnis:

  1. Cattle egret
  2. Black vulture
  3. Turkey vulture
  4. King vulture
  5. White hawk
  6. Barred hawk
  7. Roadside hawk
  8. Yellow-headed caracara
  9. Ruddy ground-dove
  10. Crimson-fronted parakeet
  11. White-crowned parrot
  12. Scarlet macaw
  13. Red-lored parrot
  14. Mealy parrot
  15. Smooth-billed ani
  16. White-collared swift
  17. Golden-naped woodpecker
  18. Red-crowned woodpecker
  19. Ochre-bellied flycatcher
  20. Boat-billed flycatcher
  21. Great kiskadee
  22. Social flycatcher
  23. Gray-capped flycatcher
  24. Tropical kingbird
  25. Black-crowned tityra
  26. House wren
  27. Tennessee warbler
  28. Yellow warbler
  29. Chestnut-sided warbler
  30. Bananaquit
  31. Summer tanager
  32. Cherrie’s tanager
  33. Golden-hooded tanager
  34. Blue-gray tanager
  35. Blue dacnis
  36. Green honeycreeper
  37. Variable seedeater
  38. Blue-black grassquit
  39. Black-striped sparrow
  40. Baltimore oriole
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