Cartago Bird Count – from Pejibaye to Tapantí

I joined 4 excellent young Tico birders to participate in the Cartago Christmas Bird Count and discovered a huge swathe of prime birding habitat close to Turrialba that seems to be little visited.   Despite missing several very common species, our group of 5 amassed a total of 136 different species on our jaunt from Taus, near Pejibaye, past El Copal and to the downslope into Tapantí. We’d have done even better but had to be picked up by car late afternoon, still several kilometers short of our destination.

I say “jaunt”. What should have been 10 kilometers seemed at least twice as far, because we walked from 4:00 am until 4:00 pm, admittedly very slowly of course. It began after an uncomfortable night on the hard floor of the abandoned school in Taus just outside El Humo, which in turn is close by Pejibaye. We walked the first two or three kilometers, mostly uphill, in the dark, recording our first bird, a calling Great Potoo, at daybreak when we reached the start of the count circle.

My day’s list is much shorter than what our group recorded because it shows only the species that I personally managed to see/hear. You can see from the species diversity that we covered both middle and fairly high elevations.

First, here’s a pic, courtesy of Andrey Acosta, of one of the species highlights:

Gray-headed Kite near El Copal

Gray-headed Kite near El Copal. Note the exuberant vegetation.

And now my day’s list:

  1. Little Tinamou
  2. Gray-headed Chachalaca
  3. Crested Guan
  4. Great Egret
  5. Green Ibis
  6. Black Vulture
  7. Turkey Vulture
  8. Gray-headed Kite
  9. Bi-colored Hawk
  10. Roadside Hawk
  11. Broad-winged Hawk
  12. Squirrel Cuckoo
  13. Common Pauraque
  14. Great Potoo
  15. White-collared Swift
  16. Stripe-throated Hermit
  17. Green-fronted Lancebill
  18. Fiery-throated Hummingbird
  19. Purple-throated Mountain-Gem
  20. Crowned Woodnymph
  21. Black-bellied Hummingbird
  22. Snowcap
  23. Rufous-tailed Hummingbird
  24. Gartered Trogon
  25. Collared Trogon
  26. Rufous Motmot
  27. Rufous-tailed Jacamar
  28. Prong-billed Barbet
  29. Collared Araçari
  30. Keel-billed Toucan
  31. Hairy Woodpecker
  32. Lineated Woodpecker
  33. Barred Forest-Falcon (voice)
  34. Barred Parakeet
  35. White-crowned Parrot
  36. Crimson-fronted Parakeet
  37. Chestnut-backed Antbird
  38. Zeledon’s Antbird
  39. Olivaceous Woodcreeper
  40. Wedge-billed Woodcreeper
  41. Plain Xenops
  42. Slaty Spinetail
  43. Yellow-bellied Elaenia
  44. Slaty-capped Flycatcher
  45. Common Tody-Flycatcher
  46. Yellow-margined Flycatcher
  47. Tropical Pewee
  48. Black Phoebe
  49. Dusky-capped Flycatcher
  50. Boat-billed Flycatcher
  51. Social Flycatcher
  52. Gray-capped Flycatcher
  53. Tropical Kingbird
  54. White-ruffed Manakin
  55. Cinnamon Becard
  56. Yellow-throated Vireo
  57. Philadelphia Vireo
  58. Brown Jay
  59. Blue-and-white Swallow
  60. Northern Rough-Winged Swallow
  61. Southern Rough-Winged Swallow
  62. House Wren
  63. Band-backed Wren
  64. Black-throated Wren
  65. Stripe-breasted Wren
  66. White-breasted Wood-Wren
  67. Gray-breasted Wood-Wren
  68. Long-billed Gnatwren
  69. Tropical Gnatcatcher
  70. Golden-winged Warbler
  71. Black-and-white Warbler
  72. Tennessee Warbler
  73. Olive-crowned Yellowthroat
  74. Tropical Parula
  75. Blackburnian Warbler
  76. Chestnut-capped Warbler
  77. Rufous-capped Warbler
  78. Golden-crowned Warbler
  79. Wilson’s Warbler
  80. Crimson-collared Tanager
  81. Passerini’s Tanager
  82. Blue-gray Tanager
  83. Palm Tanager
  84. Golden-hooded Tanager
  85. Speckled Tanager
  86. Spangle-cheeked Tanager
  87. Bay-headed Tanager
  88. Emerald Tanager
  89. Silver-throated Tanager
  90. Green Honeycreeper
  91. Black-and-yellow Tanager
  92. Slaty Flowerpiercer
  93. Bananaquit
  94. Yellow-faced Grassquit
  95. Buff-throated Saltator
  96. Black-headed Saltator
  97. Common Chlorospingus
  98. Black-striped Sparrow
  99. Rufous-collared Sparrow
  100. Hepatic Tanager
  101. Summer Tanager
  102. White-winged Tanager
  103. Red-throated Ant-Tanager
  104. Melodious Blackbird
  105. Black-cowled Oriole
  106. Baltimore Oriole
  107. Scarlet-rumped Cacique
  108. Montezuma Oropendola
  109. White-vented Euphonia
  110. Tawny-capped Euphonia
  111. Golden-browed Chlorophonia

We ended at Tapantí National Park, one of the prime birding destinations in Costa Rica, but our count area stopped before we actually reached the park. The trip was a very memorable one because my companions were not only a lot of fun to be with but also extremely knowledgeable. I hope to be able to bird with them again in the near future.

Gray-headed Kite (Leptodon cayanensis), Barred Parakeet (Bolborhynchus lincola) and White-winged Tanager (Piranga leucoptera) were life birds for me, but the views were either brief (parakeet) or distant (tanager) and so my favorite was the kite. This beautiful bird, with its mild-mannered facial expression, sat nicely for a good while at fairly close quarters near the entrance to El Copal lodge. Another true knee-trembler! A visit to El Copal is now on my short list of places I must visit.

We had repeated good views of Black-bellied Hummingbird (Eupherusa nigriventris) and Snowcap (Microchera albocoronata), two hummers that I rarely see:

Black-bellied Hummingbird, courtesy of Richard Garrigues

Black-bellied Hummingbird, courtesy of Richard Garrigues


A much sought-after hummer, the aptly named Snowcap

Male Snowcap at San Rafael de Santa Cruz, Turrialba, courtesy of Sue Magree

But the most interesting hummingbird was the Green-fronted Lancebill (Doryfera ludovicae) that perched repeatedly on a rock in the middle of a fast-flowing stream, darting out to take gnats in mid-air. Andrey Acosta actually waded into the stream to try to get close-up shots of this tiny bird with its long thin bill. Its plumage is quite dark, as befits a species often found in gloomy environments.

This Green-fronted Lancebill was hard to spot in the gloom of the river bottom.

This Green-fronted Lancebill was hard to spot in the gloom of the river bottom.

Finally, though several families were well represented throughout the day, the array of tanager species, 11 in all, was particularly impressive. As already mentioned, the White-winged Tanager (no photo available) was a life bird for me, but I also see the Black-and-yellow and the Hepatic are also not frequently to be seen. Most of the common species were found, but the following photos (all by kind courtesy of Richard Garrigues) show three species that I find only with great difficulty here near my home:

Emerald Tanager

Emerald Tanager with its distinctive ear-patch


Spangle-cheeked Tanager, a highland species

Spangle-cheeked Tanager, a highland species


Speckled Tanager, well-named!

Speckled Tanager, well-named!

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