Ujarrás – birding hotspot

The little town of Ujarrás is a noted stop for tourists because of its ruined church and the beauty of the surrounding area. It’s located about an hour’s drive from my home in a valley just before the town of Paraiso and close to the Lago de Cachí and Tapantí National Park and it provides a habitat rather different from that of our mountain village of San Antonio.

Last Sunday, “Get Your Birds!” and Aves del Cantón de Paraíso  organized the first Domingos Pajareros walk, led by noted bird guide Ernesto Carman  at the Ujarrás ruins, hoping to encourage local birders, prospective birders and the general public to learn more about the area’s wonderful variety of bird species. See details at: http://allevents.in/cartago/domingos-pajareros-%7C-ruta1-ruinas-san-juan/2095524450672057

Participants in these walks need bring only binoculars; they are treated to expert location and identification of species and the use of bird guide books, plus scopes to zoom in on birds perched at a distance.

Numerous enthusiasts, including many very knowledgeable birders, joined this first walk and a grand total of 85 species was recorded for the group. See this link to view the list: http://ebird.org/ebird/view/checklist/S31294849   The walk, though short in distance, was very productive and led through the streets near the ruins, passing by coffee plantations and a Río Reventazón overlook, and ending in  the grounds of the ruins themselves.

Orchard Oriole - Claudia Araya Orozco Caño Negro

Male Orchard Oriole at Caño Negro, courtesy of Claudia Araya Orozco and the Asociación Ornitológica de Costa Rica

My own list for the day was of course somewhat shorter than that of the group as a whole but still very rewarding. It would have been even leaner if it were not for the help of my colleagues. The highlight, for me, was a male Orchard Oriole (Icterus spurius), the only migrant that I managed to see that day. Though it is found in migration at elevations up to 1500 m and is supposedly quite common in the lowlands, I myself had never seen this species in Costa Rica. It was a great start to the day.

Another species that I rarely see was in full view high in a tree close to the ruins, the Lesser Goldfinch (Spinus psaltria). The photo below, again not from this day, was taken near Concepción.

Lesser Goldfinch Edgar Mendez Vargas near Concepcion

Lesser Goldfinch, courtesy of Edgar Méndez Vargas and the Asociación Ornitológica de Costa Rica

However, the biggest shouts of joy from our group were reserved for hummingbirds, of which there were no less than ten different species. We had mostly fairly distant views but were treated to both a male and a female Black-crested Coquette (Lophornis helenae) and more than one Long-billed Starthroat (Heliomaster longirostris).


File photo of a male Black-crested Coquette, courtesy of Richard Garrigues


Again a file photo,  this one of a Long-billed Starthroat, courtesy of Richard Garrigues

The white wing-patch on the Starthroat is illustrated in Stiles & Skutch, but not in Garrigues & Dean. It seems to be a frequent, though perhaps not constant, field mark in this species.

The overview of the Reventazón at Ujarrás allows only a partial and fairly distant view, but we were able to record a good number of mostly fairly common aquatic species, including a Wood Stork (Mycteria americana) while the rather rare Prevost’s Ground-Sparrow (Melozone biarcuata) was not difficult to find at the edges of the adjacent  coffee fields. 

Wood Stork (CATIE)

File photo of Wood Storks at CATIE, Turrialba, courtesy of John Beer

We ended the walk with coffee and late breakfast at the pretty restaurant of El Cas, a spot that is much to be recommended. Not only does it have beautiful swimming pools and a lovely and relaxed environment, but it also has feeders where we found, among other things, both Garden and Canivet’s Emeralds. These are tiny, shining green hummingbirds (females have white breasts). The Garden Emerald (Chlorostilbon assimilis) is the more common of the two in the Turrialba area, while Canivet’s Emerald (Chlorostilbon canivetii), distinguishable only in the male’s reddish lower mandible, is here at the very extreme eastern end of its range in Costa Rica. This means that Ujarrás is perhaps unique in being host area to both of these beautiful species.

Canivet´s Emerald Carlos Calvo Cerca de Santa Rosa de Guanacaste

Male Canivet´s Emerald in Santa Rosa de Guanacaste, courtesy of Carlos Calvo and the Asociación Ornitológica de Costa Rica



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