Ruddy-tailed Flycatcher on the Boardwalk at Cahuita

The new boardwalk at Cahuita

A tiny bird flitting at head height among the heavy foliage that lines the new boardwalk at Cahuita National Park was the bird of the day for me when we spent a recent morning there. Whenever we have visitors from outside the country I recommend the beautiful beach and forest walk that is the major tourist attraction of the area. Now, however, they have added a splendid raised boardwalk that starts at the Puerto Vargas entrance and runs more than 2 km (!) through the swamp forest with its gigantic trees. It makes for superb birding if you go early on a weekday.

We arrived rather late but even in the middle of the day we were able to find interesting species in a five-hour walk. The boardwalk ends at the beach, where a short walk towards Cahuita brings a view of the few remaining pilings of the former dock of the port of Puerto Vargas. Seabirds always sit here, though on our visit we found only Royal Terns (Thalassius maximus):

We counted at least 28 Royal Terns here; photo by John Beer

But we weren’t here for seabirds. Rather we wanted to see what we might find in the swamp forest with its adjacent mangroves. The Common Black-Hawk (Buteogallus anthracinus) is the chief raptor in this type of environment, feeding mostly on crabs:

Common Black-Hawk poses at Cahuita; photo by John Beer
Common Black-hawk in flight at Cahuita; photo by Larry Waddell

Most of our time was spent, however, peering into the thick undergrowth for antbirds, wrens and small flycatchers. One of the latter was the tiny (3″) Ruddy-tailed Flycatcher (Terenotriccus erythrurus). It at first gave the impression of a minuscule Cinnamon Becard zipping from twig to twig. Only when it stopped briefly to perch could the grey head, relatively large eye, and lighter underparts be distinguished:

The species was formerly rated as common in wet forest (Stiles & Skutch) and is now termed uncommon in Garrigues & Dean’s standard field guide The Birds of Costa Rica. I personally have had very little luck finding it, since I have clearly identified it only once before, near the Rio Atirro. However, there are multiple sightings in many places, both recently and in the Turrialba area.

Perhaps I should consider wearing glasses when I’m birding! I was quite elated to see this very pretty little bird on this occasion, especially since it was at eye level and within just a few yards’ range.

We had good luck on the boardwalk with two common antbirds that rarely permit a good view: the Black-crowned Antshrike (Thamnophilus atrinucha) and the Chestnut-backed Antbird (Myrmeciza exsul). Please see my next post!

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