Chestnut-coloured woodpecker

Great Green Macaws and Austrian mountain-climbers

The visit of 4 Austrian mountain-climbers to don Alejo’s El Bosque cabins brought a request from neighbour Wiet to give them a hand with some local excursions. Gerhard, Heidi, Johann and Ingrid arrived with varied backgrounds but all intensely interested in wild life. Gerhard is an entomologist specialising in moths but he’s also fascinated by snakes. He totes around a camera with a giant lens that looks like one of those shoulder-mounted anti-aircraft weapons. The year 2014 thus brings me into contact, for the first time in my life, with not one, but two people who have published works on moths! Heidi works in the medical field but is an intrepid mountaineer. Neither she nor Ingrid, a retired hairdresser despite her youthful looks, had any fear at all of the rather rough access to La Muralla waterfall when we took our first excursion together. Johann documents each step of their Costa Rica visit with a strong interest not only in nature but also in cultural aspects.

I enjoyed in particular an excursion we took to Puerto Viejo de Sarapiquí in search of the Great Green Macaw (Ara ambiguus), which Gerhard wanted to photograph for his collection. Since I knew the bird is regularly found near there, we spent our time on the approach road to La Selva Biological Station. Last bird of the day was in fact the Great Green, a group of five actually, though Gerhard could only manage a shot as they flew overhead to their nightly roost. This bird was down to probably only 50 individuals in Costa Rica by the year 2000 but has since recovered nicely and seems to be repopulating its former Caribbean range. I must try to return to Pangola, an hour or so on the other side of Sarapiquí, where both Costa Rica’s species of macaw can be seen together.

It’s not often that I manage to get away from home, and so there are several birds worth mentioning from this trip, including a life bird, the Black-thighed grosbeak (Pheucticus tibialis). This is a little unusual in that it’s a middle-elevation species, and the one to expect would be the Black-faced grosbeak (Cariothraustes poliogaster). But there was the Black-thighed, a single bird hopping from branch to branch in the lower understory of the approach road.

On the way to Sarapiquí I often stop at a soda in Horquetas that has a bird feeder consisting of a bamboo pole with its attendant spikes. It attracts only common garden species but you get close-up views of such beauties as the Green and Red-thighed honeycreepers.


Chestnut-coloured woodpecker with excavated nest-site

In addition to the howler monkeys, the La Selva Biological Station road always seems to have Pale-billed woodpecker (Campephilus guatemalensis), Rufous-tailed jacamar (Galbula ruficauda) and Cinnamon becard  (Pachyramphus cinnamomeus). Only the latter can be found close to my home patch. The Pale-billed is a spectacular bird similar to the more frequently seen Lineated woodpecker. It does not have the white line across the face that distinguishes the latter species. and Gerhard took some fine photographs, but Chestnut-coloured woodpecker (Celeus castaneus) was also present, a species that I have rarely seen but that is fairly common here. I have seen the jacamar at this location twice now. This male was calling loudly and afforded excellent views, looking much like a giant hummingbird.

This post is to be completed when the photos arrive.

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