El Copal – Monkeys and new birds

One of the Turrialba area’s best birding hotspots is the Reserva Biológica El Copal (http://www.elcopal.org/index.php/el-copal/donde-estamos) located about 7 km from the town of Pejibaye, which in turn is about 25 km from Turrialba. The road to Pejibaye from Turrialba and the 1 km extra to the hamlet of El Humo have now been completely paved, and vehicle access to El Copal via dirt road is possible, even without 4-wheel drive,  weather conditions permitting.

As part of the Cartago Province Christmas Bird Count I was able to spend a very comfortable night at the reserve, with excellent attention from manager Beto Chávez and cook Tatiana (great Tico food!). The next day was count day. Our ‘group’ consisted simply of local guide Andrés Ramírez and me, and our birding was done from the huge veranda of the main building and on the El Tigre trail, where we encountered both white-faced and howler monkeys.

The weather cooperated and we had no rain until mid-afternoon. Bird of the Day was a female Black-throated Blue Warbler (Setophaga caerulescens) that appeared at ground level on the trail. As is so often the case, I had a mere glimpse and almost missed what looked like a drab warbler without wing bars. However, Andrés was able to spot the small white wing patch, which is the key identification feature for this rare migrant from the north. To see what else I missed, you can check the official count list at:

Here are my other highlights:

Hummingbirds: The ample plantings of rabo de gato ensure a good mix of hummers, although the Rufous-taileds probably chase off smaller species. Nonetheless, we found Snowcap, Green Thorntail, White-necked Jacobin, Purple-crowned Fairy, and even a Violet-headed Hummingbird. On the forest trail, we added Green Hermit and Green-crowned Brilliant.

Broad-billed Motmot (Electron platyrhynchum):This is a common lowland bird but it is not widely reported in our area and was a first for me. This individual was very cooperative and sat nicely within very close range.


Broad-billed Motmot, seen at nearby Tausito by John and Milena Beer

Cinnamon Becard (Pachyramphus cinnamomeus): Because the veranda looks down  or across at tree-top level, I had my best-ever views of this fairly common but pretty bird, which seemed to be as curious about us as we were about it.


File photo of a Cinnamon Becard, courtesy of Richard Garrigues

Manakins: All three of our local manakins were present:  White-collared Manakin (Manacus candei),  White-crowned Manakin (Dixiphia pipra) and White-ruffed Manakin (Corapipa altera).

Pale-vented Thrush (Turdus obsoletus): This is another that I have managed to miss on several previous occasions and so was a life bird for me. Views were fleeting, but the white belly distinguishes it immediately from the national bird of Costa Rica, found almost everywhere, the Clay-colored Thrush. It stays mostly high in the trees in small flocks and seems rather shy.

Tanagers: Tawny-crested, Passerini’s, Blue-gray, Black-and-yellow, Silver-throated, Emerald, Speckled, Golden-hooded, and Bay-headed. We ran into several flocks of these fruit-eaters, and though none of them was a rare species I really enjoyed seeing some of them at very close quarters, in particular the Speckled Tanager (Tangara guttata), which seemed to be the day’s signature bird. In addition, we had the recently reassigned Carmiol’s Tanager and Summer Tanager, no longer classified as tanagers despite their name, and we also saw several Green Honeycreepers and Scarlet-thighed Dacnis.


The beautiful Speckled Tanager in a file photo by courtesy of Karel Straatman

Black-thighed Grosbeak (Caryothraustes poliogaster): In taxonomic order, I mention this one last, even though a large flock of them appeared as almost our first birds of the count day. Again, it is a common bird in the Caribbean lowlands but this was only my second sighting, and this time at close range.

While waiting at El Humo, both before and after the count, I was treated to similarly close-range views of Fasciated Tiger-heron (adult) and Sunbittern.

Here is Andrés’ official list for Christmas Count, including quite a few species that, as usual, I managed to miss:

1 Great Tinamou
2 Crested Guan
1 Black Guan
7 Cattle Egret
2 Black Vulture
1 Turkey Vulture
1 Broad-winged Hawk
1 Sunbittern
6 Short-billed Pigeon
1 Common Potoo
12 White-collared Swift
5 Vaux’s Swift
2 White-necked Jacobin
1 Green Hermit
2 Purple-crowned Fairy
2 Green Thorntail
1 Green-crowned Brilliant
1 Violet-headed Hummingbird
3 Snowcap
7 Rufous-tailed Hummingbird
1 Collared Trogon
2 Broad-billed Motmot
1 Red-headed Barbet
6 Collared Aracari
7 Keel-billed Toucan
1 Black-cheeked Woodpecker
1 Rufous-winged Woodpecker
1 Golden-olive Woodpecker
1 Lineated Woodpecker
2 Laughing Falcon
11 White-crowned Parrot
7 Crimson-fronted Parakeet
1 Plain Antvireo
2 Black-headed Antthrush
1 Olivaceous Woodcreeper
1 Plain-brown Woodcreeper
1 Spotted Woodcreeper
1 Streaked Xenops
2 Slaty-capped Flycatcher
1 Rufous-browed Tyrannulet
2 Paltry Tyrannulet
5 Scale-crested Pygmy-Tyrant
2 Yellow-olive Flycatcher
1 Tropical Pewee
1 Yellow-bellied Flycatcher
1 Empidonax sp.
1 Black Phoebe
1 Bright-rumped Attila
2 Dusky-capped Flycatcher
1 Boat-billed Flycatcher
2 Tropical Kingbird
3 White-ruffed Manakin
1 White-collared Manakin
1 White-crowned Manakin
2 Masked Tityra
1 Cinnamon Becard
1 Black-and-white Becard
1 Tawny-crowned Greenlet
1 Yellow-throated Vireo
1 Brown Jay
7 Blue-and-white Swallow
30 Northern Rough-winged Swallow
5 Barn Swallow
1 House Wren
1 Band-backed Wren
2 Stripe-breasted Wren
3 White-breasted Wood-Wren
2 Tropical Gnatcatcher
5 Pale-vented Thrush
1 Golden-winged Warbler
3 Black-and-white Warbler
5 Tennessee Warbler
2 Tropical Parula
11 Chestnut-sided Warbler
1 Black-throated Blue Warbler
1 White-shouldered Tanager
15 Tawny-crested Tanager
5 Passerini’s Tanager
12 Golden-hooded Tanager
14 Speckled Tanager
17 Bay-headed Tanager
8 Emerald Tanager
19 Silver-throated Tanager
2 Scarlet-thighed Dacnis
5 Green Honeycreeper
2 Black-and-yellow Tanager
2 Variable Seedeater
2 Bananaquit
4 Buff-throated Saltator
5 Ashy-throated Chlorospingus
1 Common Chlorospingus
3 Summer Tanager
1 White-winged Tanager
5 Carmiol’s Tanager
30 Black-faced Grosbeak
2 Baltimore Oriole
4 Chestnut-headed Oropendola
3 Montezuma Oropendola
2 Yellow-crowned Euphonia
13 Tawny-capped Euphonia
2 Golden-browed Chlorophonia





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