At the Aquiares look-out – 3 common species not easy to spot

Lesser Greenlet (Pachysylvia decurtata): Verdillo menudo; Graukappenvireo; Viréon menu

Lesser Greenlet at the look-out; photo by John Beer

It could be mistaken for a warbler if you don’t get a good look at the bill. This little bird is actually a vireo and is quite common within its wide range from north-eastern Mexico south to Ecuador. In Costa Rica the Lesser Greenlet has a grey cap, while further south from around central Panama the cap is green. In the Turrialba area you can expect it everywhere in woodlands except at higher elevations. It seems to favour the higher understory and thus it’s presence is hard to detect unless you are familiar with its short, repetitively whistled song.

I have found it in my own, not very thickly wooded, garden, but John took the fine photo at the Aquiares over-look above the coffee fields. This is a good birding spot from where a path also leads up to the mountain road linking the villages of La Pastora and Capellades.

The same short trip also brought good views of an Olivaceous Woodcreeper (Sittasomus griseicapillus): Trepadorcito aceitunado; Grimpar fauvette; Dünnschnabel-Baumsteiger

The Spanish name tells you it’s a small woodcreeper, while for the Germans it is the thin-billed woodcreeper. But the first thing that separates it from most of the many confusing woodcreepers to be found here in Costa Rica is the lack of streaks or spots:

Olivaceous Woodcreeper works its waz up a mossy trunk; photo by John Beer
Where do I go next? Trunk becomes stump: Olivaceous Woodcreeper reaches the top; photo by John Beer

The Olivaceous Woodcreeper is found much more readily on the Pacific side of the country. It is a fairly common species but avoids the higher slopes of our volcanoes. Close to home I can readily find it not only at the Aquiares look-out but also at San Diego de San Antonio, and of course at Guayabo National Monument.

Yellow-billed Cacique (Amblycercus holosericeus): Cacique picoplata; Gelbschnabelkassike; Cassique à bec jaune

A third fairly common species that John’s camera captured at Aquiares is one that is present in many locations. The problem with the Yellow-billed Cacique is that it spends most of its time skulking in thick underbrush. Its loud, clear, double-note whistle is the best clue to its presence. Amazingly I have managed to see it only occasionally in the Turrialba area in all these years. It’s a member of the Icteridae family (New World Blackbirds) and it is indeed a black bird, but with a pointed yellow bill and staring yellow eye:

Peeking out: Yellow-billed Cacique at the Aquiares Mirador; photo by John Beer

Just to prove that John has better luck than I do with this species, here’s a bird giving him a surprised look at Angostura in May 2018:

What the…? Yellow-billed Cacique at Angostura Dam; photo by John Beer

…..and finally a full-length view in John’s garden earlier this year:

Yellow-billed Cacique at Santa Rosa; photo by John Beer

John and Milena were again ably assisted by friend and guide Steven Aguilar. At the following link you can find the day’s fairly lengthy check-list (76 species) for the Aquiares Mirador:

https://ebird.org/checklist/S73851904

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