Profile cover photo
Profile photo
Rancho Naturalista
Rancho Naturalista's posts

Post has attachment

Glass Frogs.
By Wayne Easley
Some of the most bizarre and fascinating creatures on the face of the planet are the glass frogs. Small, fragile amphibians with translucent skin that allows you practically to look through them, it is a delight to encounter one of the frogs or even better to see one of their egg cases. All of the glass frogs that live in Costa Rica are arboreal and place their egg sacks on leaves that are hanging over streams or rivers and occasionally on rocks near waterfalls. The female frog lays the eggs directly into this small gel cup where the tiny tadpoles reside for a couple of weeks or a bit longer. Apparently, they use a kind of gelatin to hold everything together. While this is going on, the adult male is generally nearby, guarding the whole area with his life and limb. If rivals show up, he is quick to challenge them, often jumping on the intruder or even engaging them in a sort of sumo-wrestling match. He has to be on the lookout for snakes, birds, and some animals that would like to make a meal of the small tadpoles. Also, he must keep a wary eye for a type of parasitic fly that may attempt to introduce her own eggs into the egg case. He takes his role as a father with quite a bit of seriousness. Once the eggs hatch, the little tadpoles live off the egg yolk in their own bodies. After a couple of weeks, the little guys are developed enough to fall out of the hole at the bottom of the egg case where they apparently plunge into the stream or river below. Still with a tadpole tail, they will live for several months in the stream or river feeding on tiny arthropods. After some time in the stream or river, they move out onto dry land while still retaining their tail. First order of business now is to find a place to rest for a few days. The next five or six days is spent in absorbing their own tails. Wow! for those of us who are over-weight, this might give us some food for thought. At this point, the frogs become full-fledged adults and may live for several years. Like other members of the family, they are quite fragile and possess bulging eyes that look forward; unlike, the tree frogs (many people confuse glass frogs with the tree frogs) that have eyes that are set back on the side of their heads.
This past week, a friend if mine, Herman Venegas (bird guide for Costa Rica Gateway Travel Agency) and I were exploring down on La Mina Road. La Mina Road is not far from my house and is situated between a fairly good size river on one side and the steep bank of vegetation on the other. "Better fasten your seat belts!" As we were driving along, cautiously, I should add, Herman said softly, “Wayne, can you back up, I think I see something really neat!" I backed the car up for ten or fifteen feet and Herman said, “There it is on that leave, I think it is a glass frog egg sac." The exquisite structure was filled with moving tadpoles. I am sure there were over fifty, all crammed into that tiny specialized container. Some amphibian experts suggest there can be as many as seventy eggs laid but the normal clutch is somewhere around twenty or thirty eggs. Herman and I were both pretty sure it was a glass frog egg case but to be sure I sent pictures to Brian Kibicki who is the local expert in amphibians. His reply was, "The egg case and tadpoles are from the species of glass frog called the Granular Glass Frog." Like most of the glass frogs, the Granular is mostly olive green but is a specie that has little bumps all over the body and each bump has a blue mark in it giving the frog a beautiful blue sheen. I had seen the adult only once before but I had never seen the egg case. Once again, the opportunity to see and photography the egg case of such a beautiful creature leaves me humbled. Truly, nature with all of its wonders is more exciting than fiction!
Wayne Easley
Rancho Naturalista,
Costa Rica

Pictures: The Granular Glass Frog, side view of the Granular Glass Frog, egg sac of the Granular Glass Frog, egg sac
Materials used in this report: Brian Kubicki-Costa Rica Glass Frogs-Editorial Inbio, Polliwogs World of Frogs, Glass Frogs- frog facts and info, Alien Earthlings in Drake Bay, Costa Rica, Glass Frog Facts-soft schools, Wikipedia-The Glass Frogs, personal observations. Please remember, pictures can only be used with the author's permission.

4 Photos - View album

Post has attachment

"If you are doing big year you must take a pelagic tour", was the words from my coworker at Rancho Naturalista, Harry Barnard. The only thing that came in to my mind was a dizzy feeling when imagining myself in the middle of the ocean far from the coast in a little boat, so I responded: No way, that is crazy!
And the little "pelagic" seed started to grow in my mind........

Post has attachment
Amazing birding adventures with Rancho Naturalista's birdwatching guide Mercedes Alpizar

Post has attachment
March 18-28, 2017
William Young

In March, 2017, I travelled to Costa Rica and stayed at Rancho Naturalista. I flew to San Jose and landed at noon on March 18. After taking more than an hour to clear customs and get my luggage, I found the driver who was taking me to Rancho Naturalista. Traffic from bridge construction slowed us down, but I eventually arrived at the lodge a bit before 5. The people at Rancho Naturalista gave me a quick tour. Dinner is served every night at six, and after I ate, I settled into my room (called Barbet) and got some rest before my first full day of birding.

When my alarm went off at 5:20 on March 19, the sun was already rising. Costa Rica is on Central Time, and they do not have Daylight Savings Time, so they were two hours behind Eastern Time. I started on the veranda, and one of the first birds I saw was a Golden-winged Warbler. At 6:20, I went to an area that has a sheet with a light behind it to attract moths, and birds come to eat the moths. Breakfast at Rancho Naturalista is served at seven. The dining area is next to feeders and a small pond so that people can watch birds come in to eat, drink, and bathe. After breakfast, I went with a guide named Luis to explore the lower trails on the Rancho Naturalista property.

Lunch is served at noon, and after I ate, I hiked down the steep hill on which Rancho Naturalista is located to look at where I would be staying on nights 6 and 7 of my visit. A tour group from Field Guides had reserved all of the rooms for those days. The house down the hill is called Rancho Bajo, and Kathy and John Erb live there. They own Rancho Naturalista, and their daughter Lisa is Rancho Naturalista's manager. Rancho Bajo has verbena and lantana bushes near the house which attracted at least one Snowcap and a lot of other bird species. When I saw Kathy, I introduced myself. After we chatted for awhile, I hiked back to the lodge and went to a viewing platform overlooking a stream in an area called the hummingbird pools. Hummingbirds and other birds come to bathe during the late afternoon.

On March 20, I went to the moth light before breakfast and saw a lot of the same species I had seen the day before. After breakfast, I went with Luis and another couple to the base of Cerro Silencio, and we saw a lot of tanagers and warblers. While we were compiling a checklist before lunch, someone said that a Crested Owl had been found on a morning walk. Lisa took me and another couple to where the bird was perched. I did not expect to see any life birds on this trip, so the Crested Owl was a surprise. After lunch, I went to look at the owl again, after which I birded around the lodge. During the late afternoon, I returned to the hummingbird pools.

On Tuesday the 21st, I went to the moth light and discovered that it was not on. Still, a lot of the same birds showed up. After breakfast, I went with a guide named Harry to La Mina, which has forest, a river, and some open areas to look for birds. Before getting there, we stopped at a bridge at Platanillo where there was a Sunbittern on a nest. I also saw a second life bird -- a Fasciated Tiger-Heron. After lunch, I birded around the lodge. March 22 was rainy and drizzly, and I went with Luis to an agricultural research center in Turrialba called CATIE, which stands for Centro Agronómico Tropical de Investigación y Enseñanza. I had debated whether I should go because of the weather. I decided to do it, because the rain tended to be intermittent, and the metal roofs sometimes made the rain sound harder than it really was. I am glad I went. CATIE has a lake with a lot of breeding herons and waterbirds. The weather was okay while we were there but deteriorated again during the afternoon, so I caught up on my field notes before dinner.

Because I was staying for ten days, Lisa offered me free transportation for one of my trips. I chose to go to the highlands to look for Resplendent Quetzals. Lisa used to be a bird guide; she does not do it any longer because she is too busy managing the lodge, but she offered to drive me up to see the quetzals. The day before we went, she asked Mercedes Alpizar Hernandez, one of the Rancho Naturalista guides, if she wanted to come with us. Mercedes is an excellent guide and was doing a big year in Costa Rica. She already had seen more than 530 species in the first few months of 2017. She has a sunny disposition which makes her a pleasure to be with. So I had two guides for the trip. We left at 5:30 in the rain to begin our three-hour drive to a lodge called Quetzal's Paradise, which is in a tropical cloud forest at 9,000 feet in the Dota region. We drove most of the way in rainy and misty weather, and it was still drizzling when we arrived. In cloud forests, one frequently encounters intervals of mist and rain. The quetzals were about a ten-minute drive from the lodge, and fortunately, the weather cleared briefly while we were looking at them. The lodge also has hummingbird feeders which attracted some of the highland species. After lunch at the lodge, we took a brief walk around some of the trails at Quetzal's Paradise, where we saw other highland bird species not found at the lower elevations around Rancho Naturalista.

One thing that was a bit unpleasant at Quetzal's Paradise was the presence of a group of Chinese photographers with huge camera rigs. They stood on the veranda near the hummingbird feeders and put their cameras into blast mode, which resulted is a steady stream of loud clicking that sounded as if they were trying to machine gun the birds. One of these photographers came on our quetzal outing and did the same thing, so any video that I tried to shoot of the quetzals had the loud clicking of this person's camera motor rather than the natural sounds in the area. On another day, someone with a large camera rig was standing three feet from a hummingbird feeder and taking flash photographs. I understand that the lodges are catering to both birders and photographers. However, some photographers seem to place shooting their pictures above all other considerations, including the effects on the people around them and the welfare of the birds they are photographing.
We drove back toward Rancho Naturalista, Lisa dropped me off at Rancho Bajo, where I would be staying that night. I am an introvert, so I did not mind being the only guest there. The next morning, I decided to sleep in until 6:30 before going outside to see the hummingbirds in the verbena. After breakfast, I walked up to a house where Wayne Easley lives. It is the house where Kathy and John used to live before they built Rancho Bajo. Wayne has a lot of feeders which attract birds, and I stayed there for about an hour and a half. While I was there, part of the group from Field Guides came to look at the feeders. The Field Guides leader was a pleasant man named Cory Gregory, and I told him about the birds I had seen at the feeders during the previous hour. I also joked with him about how I had been at Rancho Naturalista for five nights until his group took my room. I walked back to Rancho Bajo for lunch, and the weather front that had moved in a couple of days earlier was dumping more rain on the area. I spent the afternoon birding from the veranda at Rancho Bajo.

Throughout my stay, the food was fresh and delicious, but one thing I thought odd was that during my first five days at Rancho Naturalista, not a single banana was served with any of the meals. One of my doctors suggested that I eat a banana every day for the potassium. One afternoon after lunch, I mentioned the lack of bananas to some of the other guests and that I didn't understand why bananas are put on the feeding tables for the birds, but not on the dining tables. Mercedes was there, and she laughed. She said that Costa Ricans consider bananas cheap food, and Rancho Naturalista wants to serve better food to its guests. Rancho Bajo had bananas, so I was able to eat as many as I wanted. (One per day was enough.)

On Saturday, I hired Mercedes to take me to the Rio Tuis valley. The weather front had cleared out overnight, so we started our trip in bright sunshine. After lunch at Rancho Bajo, we spent much of the afternoon at a large artificial lake near a hotel called Casa Turire. On Sunday, Mercedes took me to some of the upland trails around Ranch Naturalista. We had lunch at Rancho Bajo, and I worked on my field notes before joining Mercedes at the hummingbird pools in the late afternoon. On Monday, the 27th, Mercedes came to Ranch Bajo at 6, and we birded around the property until breakfast. We spent the morning at La Mina, stopping to see the Sunbittern nest along the way. After lunch, I walked to Wayne Easley's house and watched his feeders before heading to Rancho Naturalista, where I watched birds come in to bathe in the pond near the dining area. I spend many hours during the spring in Monticello Park in Alexandria, Virginia, where a lot of warblers and other songbirds come to bathe in a stream. The bathing area at Rancho Naturalista is much smaller, but it attracts a lot of birds. The small pond concentrates the birds better than the long stream at Monticello, so one can more easily see every bird who comes in to bathe.

I had decided to stay the remainder of my time at Rancho Bajo rather than moving back to the lodge at Rancho Naturalista. For my final full day in Costa Rica on the 28th, Mercedes met me at 5:15 so that we could go to Wayne Easley's house to look for a Lesson's Motmot. Wayne also has a moth sheet, and he showed me some wonderful moths and other insects. I was more excited about seeing the moths than seeing the motmot. After breakfast, Mercedes and I watched the feeders at Rancho Naturalista for awhile before heading back to the upper trails on the property. We then headed to Rancho Bajo and birded until lunch. After lunch, we walked back to Rancho Naturalista, where Mercedes had some work to do, and I wanted to observe the ponds one more time. When I finished watching, I went to the Rancho Naturalista office and thanked some of the staff. I also said good-bye to Mercedes, who did so much to make my stay so enjoyable.

My ride to the airport was scheduled for 7:15, so I took a shower and finished packing before dinner. I said good-bye to Kathy and John and thanked them for everything they did to make my stay in Costa Rica so comfortable and relaxing. I move around a lot on most of my trips, but I wanted this trip to be less hectic and more restful. It turned out to be much better than I could have anticipated, and the people at Rancho Naturalista had a lot to do with that.

Below are my field observations.


I had a close look at a Green Ibis on a lawn at CATIE. It was looking for worms, and I saw it catch a long one. From certain angles, I could see the iridescent green on its plumage. Anhingas were nesting in the trees, and one male Anhinga was perched with his wings spread. He had bright blue skin around his eyes. One tree at CATIE had a large colony of nesting Cattle Egrets, who are beautiful in breeding plumage. In addition to the plumes on their breast and their erected head plumes, they have a red bill with a yellow tip and some lavender skin around the eye. The same tree had nesting Great Egrets, who had green skin around the eye. In other trees were perched Boat-billed Herons. Because they tend to be most active at dusk, I have never seen one during the day doing anything but either perching, sleeping, or sitting on a nest. Black-crowned Night-Herons were in the same area, and a couple were foraging on the ground. I also heard their loud QUAWK call from the trees. A young Black-crowned Night-Heron was in the trees at Platanillo. In the river at Platanillo were Green Herons foraging from the rocks. I saw them in a couple of other places. On the ride to CATIE, we stopped briefly at a wetlands area, and I saw a Little Blue Heron, a Snowy Egret, and a Great Egret. I saw Snowy Egrets and Little Blue Herons at Casa Turire. Also there was a Yellow-crowned Night-Heron molting from juvenile into adult plumage. And we saw and heard a Limpkin fly by. Its loud screams made the bird sound as if it were being abused.

I saw two life birds on the trip. One was the Fasciated Tiger-Heron. A young one was near the bridge at Platanillo. It was mostly brown with white stripes. It had its long neck stretched out. We later saw an adult along the river on our drive to La Mina. The adult is gray, as was the weather that day. Because we were in a car, I did not have a close enough look to see the barring on its plumage. At CATIE, there was an adult Bare-throated Tiger-Heron. It was gray, and I could see the bare yellow skin on the throat, at the base of the bill, and around the eye.

At CATIE, I saw a pair of Muscovy Ducks feeding on the lawn, but they were domestic. The only wild ducks I saw were some distant Blue-winged Teal at Casa Turire. In the distance was what looked like a Neotropic Cormorant, but it was too far away to make a positive identification.

Raptors and Vultures

I did not see many raptors on the trip. The most common was the Roadside Hawk. Three were by the road leading up the hill to Rancho Naturalista, and I heard their loud one-note screams. They were also in other places. About a half a dozen Broad-winged Hawks were soaring with a kettle of vultures over CATIE. On my final day at Rancho Naturalista, a Bicolored Hawk flew to a branch near where Mercedes and I were standing. It appeared to have a baby chicken in its talons. The hawk's leggings were brown, and it had a large orange eye. There was yellow skin above the bill and around the eye. Bicolored Hawks are Accipiters, a genus that kills birds, including chickens. Lisa said that she once saw a Bicolored Hawk who had killed a chachalaca and then dropped it on a road. We saw three Snail Kites at Casa Turire, two of whom were perched on a log next to the water. On some days, one or two Swallow-tailed Kites would fly near the dining area at Rancho Naturalista right after lunch.

After I arrived in Costa Rica, the first species I saw when we were driving out of the San Jose Airport was an Osprey, but I did not see another one during the trip. At CATIE, we saw a perched Yellow-headed Caracara in a palm tree, and we heard it vocalizing. We also saw the much larger Crested Caracara there, and I could see its white wing patches when it flew. Turkey and Black Vultures were the only species I saw on every day of the trip. The Turkey Vultures who stay in Costa Rica have a gray patch on their nape, while the migratory Turkey Vultures do not. Some Turkey Vultures at CATIE were on the ground and appeared to be eating palm nuts. I remember vultures doing something similar when I was at the Canopy Camp in Panama.

Chachalacas and Guans

Gray-headed Chachalacas were some of my favorite birds of the trip. They were common around Rancho Naturalista. They are pheasant-sized birds who behave like songbirds, sometimes hopping onto branches that can't support their weight. They sometimes had aggressive encounters with each other on the lawn near the feeders. When they were in trees, they often walked along branches rather than hopping. Sometimes they displayed by lifting their tail. I saw one in a tree at Rancho Bajo displaying to another one on the same branch. Their call is loud. On my final day, Mercedes and I saw a pair of Crested Guans in a tree in the pastures at Rancho Naturalista. I saw one with bare blue skin on the face and around the eye, a red throat, and white markings on its dark breast. One of them flew to the other side of the path, but the other stayed put when we walked by.

Sunbittern, Jacanas, Rails, Thick-knees, Lapwings, and Sandpipers

Another favorite bird during the trip was the Sunbittern. I had previously seen them from a distance, and they seemed shy and secretive. On this trip, I had close looks at a lot of them. The first time I went to view a nest at Platanillo, an adult was sitting on it, and another Sunbittern was foraging in the river. The second time, I saw two stripe-headed chicks in the nest with an adult. Both the male and female share in incubation and caring for the chicks. At La Mina, Mercedes showed me a nest with an adult and one egg. They usually raise two chicks, so I don't know if the female was finished laying her clutch. The bird at the nest would occasionally stand up and roll the egg. At La Mina and Rio Tuis, we heard the plaintive whistles of Sunbitterns, and I shot video footage of one vocalizing at La Mina. It opened its bills, and I could see its orange tongue. At Rio Tuis, we saw the wet footprints of one on a rock next to a bridge. At Platanillo, one was preening, and I photographed an open wing that revealed the sunburst pattern responsible for the bird's name.

A lot of Northern Jacanas were around the lake at CATIE. The birds were walking on lily pads with their long spindly toes, sometimes aggressively displaying at each other. They have a bright yellow facial shield and white skin above the bill. I could see the yellow spur on each upperwing, similar to the ones on a Masked Plover in Australia. They have bright yellow flight feathers. I also saw some young ones, who are brown with stripes on their head, and some juveniles molting into adult plumage. There were Purple Gallinules around the lake. I could see the long yellow toes on one standing on a log, and they sometimes compulsively cock their tail as if getting an electric shock. We heard the static-like call of a White-throated Crake at Casa Turire but did not see one. In the fields near there, we saw Southern Lapwings. Along a few rivers, we saw Spotted Sandpipers. I saw one who did not have spots yet.

Mercedes found a Double-striped Thick-knee at CATIE, which was a highly unusual place for it to be. It was on a lawn near the lake, and it was not bothered by someone about 25 yards away operating a leaf blower. It had a black stripe and a white stripe above its eye, which is the basis for its name. A lot of the guides from Rancho Naturalista went to CATIE in the afternoon to try to see the bird, but it had departed.

Doves, Parrots, and Cuckoos

I did not see a lot of any of these birds on the trip. I saw a few Squirrel Cuckoos. They were large, and I heard their loud 2-note call. They had a light bill and white markings on their long black tail. A few Groove-billed Anis flew around at La Mina. Ruddy Ground-Doves were on the ground and on wires at the base of Cerro Silencio. White-tipped Doves came to the ground around the feeders at Rancho Naturalista and at Wayne Easley's house. They had blue skin around the eye. While I was coming from the airport to Rancho Naturalista, I saw both White-winged Doves and Rock Pigeons. White-winged Doves were in areas we drove through that had human populations. I saw Red-billed Pigeons in a few places, including at Casa Turire. We scoped one, and it did not have red bills. It had a short light-colored bill with some skin at the base that was red.

The screeching of parrots was a common sound. I saw many more flying Crimson-fronted Parakeets than perched ones. In flight, their underwings looked yellowish. Some were perched in a tree at CATIE. I also saw White-crowned Parrots. They were stockier and had a shorter tail than the parakeet. From a distance, they appeared to be dark birds with a white cap. In good light, they were very colorful. They had red skin around the eye, gold and deep blue on their upperwings, and a red vent.

Nightbirds and Swifts

I had never seen a Crested Owl, but somebody found one on a morning walk on the lower trails at Rancho Naturalista. I ran into Lisa on the trail, and she took me to the spot. The owl had two buffy ear tufts which started near the base of its bill. The buffy tufts had a black line on the bottom. Someone who saw a photo I took said the owl reminded her of Groucho Marx. After lunch, I returned to the spot, and the owl was still there. It blended in well, and even though it was relatively close, I sometimes had trouble seeing it. On some nights, I heard the slow hoots of a Mottled Owl, but I never saw one. I also heard the haunting laugh of Common Potoos near my cabin at Rancho Naturalista, but I did not see any.
The only swifts I saw were White-collared Swifts the day we went to the highlands. They looked quite large, and I could see the white collar.


I saw 17 species of hummingbirds. The one I wanted to see most was a Snowcap, and at least one frequented the verbena bushes outside a door at Rancho Bajo. It was the color of port wine with a white cap, and it had two white marks on the edge of its tail. It was very tiny. I also saw both males and females bathing at the hummingbird pools. The females were plain. The small hummingbirds moved faster than the larger ones, which made photographing them a challenge. The best hope was to find perched ones.

The most common species around the feeders at Rancho Naturalista were White-necked Jacobins and Green-breasted Mangos. The Jacobins were very aggressive, chasing other species as well as their own species. The females did not have blue plumage and were spotted on the breast. At Rancho Bajo, I saw a lot of them at feeders, but I never saw any foraging on the other side of the house in the bushes. The male mangos had a dark line down their green underparts. Like the Jacobins, they could be aggressive. I saw a pair of males crash into each other, and I heard the contact. The female was more distinctive, with a black line down her white underparts. After the birds left the feeders, they sometimes went to nearby trees to perch. One afternoon, I watched as a male and female mango repeatedly returned to the same branch and perched together. We saw a female mango at Platanillo sitting on a tiny nest.

Crowned Woodnymphs came to the feeders. They used to be called Violet-crowned Woodnymphs before being lumped. They had a bright violet crown and an iridescent green throat. Occasionally, a Green Hermit would come to the feeders. It was bigger and longer-looking than the other hummers. The bushes at Rancho Bajo had Stripe-throated (Little) Hermits. They were quite small and brownish, and they had two white marks on the face. Rufous-tailed Hummingbirds were common around Wayne Easley's house. They are the only hummer with both a red bill and a rufous tail. They foraged in the bushes as well as going to feeders.

A few hummingbirds visited the area near the Rancho Naturalista feeders less frequently. One day, we saw a Green Thorntail in a tree over the fruit feeders. I could see the male's long thorn tail and the horizontal white line on his rump. In the same tree was a young Black-crested Coquette, who was tiny and also had a horizontal white rump line. I had previously seen a juvenile Green-crowned Brilliant, who was spotted below and had a long bill, some orange on the chin, and a white spot behind the eye. I saw a couple Violet Sabrewings at feeders along one of the Rancho Naturalista trails. They were large and purple, with a thick white edge to their tail. Purple-crowned Fairies bathed in the hummingbird pools. They perched in the nearby trees before coming to bathe again. There is an observation platform well above where the birds come to bathe, and the fairy appeared to be doing a ballet over the water. They are elegant hummers. A Ruby-throated Hummingbird was frequenting a bush outside Rancho Bajo. The people in Costa Rica were more excited about seeing it than I was, because I knew I would be seeing a lot of them soon near where I live.

Quetzal's Paradise in the highlands had a completely different set of hummingbirds. The two most common species at the feeders were Magnificent and Fiery-throated Hummingbirds. The Magnificent Hummingbird was large and had a slower wingbeat than other hummers. The male reminded me of a Crowned Woodnymph. He had a purple crown and a bluish-purple throat. The female was grayish below, and she had a white line over her black cheek. Both the male and female had long bills. The Fiery-throated Hummingbird appeared to be covered with iridescent sequins featuring all of the colors of the rainbow. When we were looking at the quetzals, Lisa found a Talamancan Pit-Viper. I noticed that the scales on the snake were similar to the feathers on the Fiery-throated Hummingbird. At certain angles, I could see the hummer's fiery throat. A small number of Lesser Violetears came to the feeders. They used to be part of the species called the Green Violetear before being split. One of them had lighter feathers on the crown and might have been partially leucistic. I found that if I spread my hands near the base of a feeder and stood very still, the hummers would perch on my fingers to drink from the feeders. The wind from their wings was very strong. The Volcano Hummingbirds are tiny. They did not come to the feeders on the deck outside the lodge, but they hung around in the nearby vegetation. We saw a male go to a different set of feeders, but he was quickly chased by a Magnificent. There are different races of Volcano Hummingbirds, and the males are differentiated by throat color. I had a close look at a female who was green on the back, white underneath, and had faint spotting on her throat. Her feathers looked more like conventional feathers than like scales.

Quetzals and Trogons

The bird I most wanted to see on this trip was a Resplendent Quetzal, one of the spectacular birds in the world. Lisa took me and Mercedes to the highlands, and we saw four in a white avocado tree. There were two adult males, a young male, and a female. The color on the back of the adult male quetzals varied, depending on how the light was hitting it. From some angles, it looked entirely Day-Glo green. From other angles, I could see blue around the nape and on the breast. The black wings were partially covered by green feathers. The bill was yellow, and the belly was bright red. The male is 14 inches long, but in breeding plumage, he has two bright green plumes that extend another two feet beyond the tail. The adult males have a pure white undertail, while the much plainer females have a black and white undertail. The young males lack the two long plumes. When the adult males flew, their streamers wafted in the wind. Quetzals seemed to be slow moving, and they tended to stay perched in one spot for a long time. I saw one aggressive encounter when the two adult males appeared to fly at each other, but each settled quickly on a different tree. Sometimes when a male would fly, he seemed to be going faster than he actually was because his steamers were swishing quickly. The quetzals sometimes flew to nearby trees and bushes, but they did not fly far.

The only trogons I saw were Gartered Trogons. A male-female pair was in a tree by the road leading to Rancho Naturalista. Mercedes and I saw another male-female pair on our drive toward Casa Turire. This species was split from the Violaceous Trogon. The male had a violet-blue back, a yellow belly, a black-and-white undertail, and a light blue eyering. Its call was a long series of separate notes. Trogons often perch in the same spot for a long time.

Kingfishers, Motmots, Toucans, and Jacamars

I saw three species of kingfishers. The Amazon Kingfisher was large with a plain green back. I saw one who had caught a large fish. At La Mina, two were chasing each other. The Green Kingfisher was smaller and had white spots on the wings. The males of both species had rufous on the breast, while the female did not. This is the opposite of the Belted Kingfisher, whose female has a rufous band on her breast. At Casa Turire, we saw Ringed Kingfishers chasing each other. The male is all rufous below, while the female has a blue band above her rufous belly. On my first full day, I saw a male-female pair of Rufous-tailed Jacamar on the trails at Rancho Naturalista. They looked like a large hummingbirds.

A main component of the soundtrack for the trip was the frog-like vocalizations of Keel-billed Toucans. I did not see many, but I heard them frequently. I had good looks at some around Wayne Easley's house. On my first morning of birding, I saw Collared Aracaris in a cecropia tree over the pond at Rancho Naturalista. On my final day, I saw one on the roof of the cabin where I had stayed. Along Rio Tuis, Mercedes and I ran into some young women from Texas, and we showed them an aracari in the telescope. They were excited and asked if we would wait until they got some of their friends to see it. We said we would not, but that we would be birding along the road. When their friends came about ten minutes later, a Keel-billed Toucan was perched near the top of a hill, so we let them look at it in the telescope. They were happy about seeing the Fruit Loops bird.

Mercedes has a Lesson's Motmot on her business card because it is her favorite bird. This beautiful bird was split from the Blue-crowned Motmot. On my final day in Costa Rica, she met me at 5:15 and we walked to Wayne Easley's house where a Lesson's Motmot regularly came to the feeders in the morning. When it showed up, it would sometimes lift its tail and waggle the two rackets back and forth. We had heard its whoop-whoop call when we were walking to Wayne's house, and we saw a backlit motmot in a tree. Four days earlier when I was at Wayne's house, I saw a Rufous Motmot come to the feeders. After getting something to eat at the feeders, it perched above the feeders for awhile. It seemed sluggish. Its rolling call is one of the archetypal sounds of Neotropical rain forests. The black spot on its rufous breast that looked like a passageway to its heart. The Lesson's Motmot had a similar black spot.

Woodpeckers, Ovenbirds, and Antbirds

I did not see many Woodpeckers on the trip. On my final day, I had a close look at a male Golden-olive Woodpecker busily working on a branch in the pastures around Rancho Naturalista. He had a gray cap, a whitish face, a red malar stripe, a striped golden belly, and a solid olive back. On a walk on the upper trails, we heard a Lineated Woodpecker but did not see one. A Black-cheeked Woodpecker came to the Rancho Naturalista feeders on my final day, and I had earlier seen one frozen on a tree trunk on the road up to Rancho Naturalista.

Woodcreepers were more common than woodpeckers. Streak-headed Woodcreepers were in a number of places. They look and sound like Cocoa Woodcreepers, who were also around but are a little smaller and have a narrower bill. The call was a long loud series of clear notes that rise and then fall. A Spotted Woodcreeper was on the lower Rancho Naturalista trails on my first full day. It had spots rather than streaks, and its bill was shorter than a Cocoa Woodcreeper's. On the same walk, I saw a Plain Brown Woodcreeper, who had no spots or streaks. All of these birds look very much alike and are difficult to tell apart. At Wayne Easley's house, I saw a pair of Northern Barred Woodcreepers, who were larger than the others and had faint black barring on their breast and back that was difficult to see. One of the easier ones to identify is the Olivaceous Woodcreeper, who is much smaller than the others and has an olive head. Another small one is the Wedge-billed Woodcreeper, who is brown and has a small bill like the Olivaceous. The Wedge-billed Woodcreeper is easily distinguishable from the other woodcreepers, but it looks and behaves a bit like an ovenbird called the Plain Xenops. We heard a xenops near the hummingbird pools but did not see one. The only ovenbirds I saw at Rancho Naturalista were Buff-throated Foliage-gleaners, who regularly hung around the moth light. I saw them all three mornings I went to the light. At Quetzal's Paradise, we saw a Ruddy Treerunner, who was large and bright rufous. It flitted around quickly.

I saw very few antbirds on the trip, and I am not disappointed. I do not find looking for antbirds on dark forest floors to be satisfying. I saw Slaty Antwrens on my first and last days on the trails at Rancho Naturalista. The male is sooty gray with white spots on the wings. Mercedes and I saw Plain Antvireos at Rio Tuis. I had previously seen this nondescript species at the moth light.


I saw three species of manakins. The most common was the White-collared Manakin. Its distinctive call sounds like one of those joy buzzer practical jokes when you shake hands with someone. I heard this sound in a many places without seeing the bird. I finally saw a male not far from the cabin where I had stayed at Rancho Naturalista. His front half was mostly white, except for his black cap. His belly was yellow, and he had black wings. I did not find out until later that I had seen a female the day before along Rio Tuis. Our driver found a nest occupied by a small yellow-green bird, and a couple of days later, Mercedes told me the bird was a female White-collared Manakin. At first, we thought the bird might be a euphonia. On the lower trails at Rancho Naturalista, I saw a male White-ruffed Manakin, who is a small black bird with a white throat. And on the upper trails, we encountered a singing White-crowned Manakin, who was all black with a white cap like a Snowcap. I managed to get a photo of this tiny bird while he was singing, and he had his bill wide open.

Flycatchers, Silky Flycatchers, Becards, and Tityras

The tyrant flycatchers are the largest bird family in the world, and Costa Rica has a lot of them. Great Kiskadees were common. When they were wet, you could see the golden crown that was usually hidden beneath the black feather combover. Boat-billed Flycatchers looked similar, but they had a larger bill and no rufous on the wings like the kiskadees. The call of the Boat-billed had loud notes with a bit of static. Smaller than both of these species but with similar plumage were the Social and Gray-capped Flycatchers. Both were nesting near the bridge at Platanillo. The Social had a darker head and more of a white stripe over the eye. A Social was also building a nest near one of the hanging plants at Rancho Bajo. The Piratic Flycatcher had dark streaks on its white breast. I frequently heard its loud two-note call. Tropical Kingbirds were not nearly as common as they were in Panama. I saw a few, especially in agricultural areas.

Dusky-capped Flycatchers were common. They were the only Myiarchus flycatcher I saw. From certain angles, the cap looked dark. In good light, they were lemony yellow below. Yellow-bellied Flycatchers were the only Empidonax flycatcher I saw. They were quite common, and I had an opportunity to study this species I rarely see where I live. They seemed to have a pink bill. They are supposed to be the easiest Empidonax to identify, but I still have trouble seeing the slight nuances of throat color. I have seen Acadian Flycatchers who have yellowish bellies. On my final day, I saw a Yellow-bellied near the Rancho Naturalista pond, and it quickly dipped into the water rather than going in to bathe. I saw a couple of Bright-rumped Atillas near the moth light, but I heard a lot more of them. The call builds and builds and ends with what sounds like relief.

Black Phoebes were common in rivers, foraging among the stones for insects. They sometimes flicked their tails, but in a different manner than the Eastern Phoebe. Torrent Tyrannulets were in the same area. They were small gray birds who also foraged on the rocks in rivers. I saw one Tropical Pewee on the way to Casa Turire. The field guide mentions the white mark near the bill, but I could not see it. I did see a yellowish wash on the underparts and the light-coloring on the bill. Ochre-bellied Flycatchers bathed in the hummingbird pools. I remember that they spent a lot of time splashing around in a stream at the Canopy Camp. Common Tody-Flycatchers were in a couple of places, including the verbena bushes at Rancho Bajo. The only Black-headed Tody-Flycatcher I saw was behind Wayne Easley's house. It had a white throat, while the Common Tody-Flycatcher had a yellow throat. Mercedes pointed out the call of a Scale-crested Pygmy-Tyrant on the trails at Rancho Naturalista, but we did not see one. The same was true for a Rufous Mourner, whom we heard on a couple of days.

Paltry Tyrannulets nest around Rancho Naturalista, and I saw a couple. They looked like small Tennessee Warblers. They did not look significantly small enough to warrant their name. I saw Yellow-bellied Elaenias on four days. Their ruffled crest made them look as if they were having a bad hair day. I saw a pair of Slaty-capped Flycatchers at La Mina. They were yellowish below, with a gray cap and a black ear streak. I saw a Yellow-olive Flycatcher behind the feeders at Rancho Naturalista. Mercedes and I saw another one at Rio Tuis in better light. In the same area, some Cinnamon Becards were building a nest. They had a cinnamon back and lighter underparts. I had seen one previously at La Mina. On my second visit to La Mina, I saw a Ruddy-tailed Flycatcher, who was small and moved very quickly. It was rufous with a gray head and back. At the dining area at Rancho Naturalista, a male-female pair of Masked Tityras was foraging in the trees. I heard their belchy call. The male had a black mask, red skin around the eye, and a red and black bill. The female had a red bill, and her head and back were brown. I had previously seen a pair at the base of Cerro Silencio. On the grounds of Quetzal's Paradise, we saw a female Black-and-yellow Silky Flycatcher, who is not related to the flycatchers. She was chunky, with an olive breast and a black cap.


The most common swallow was the Blue-and-white Swallow. It was small, with a dark blue back, white underparts, and a slightly forked tail. A couple of times, I saw them on the ground. Also common were Northern and Southern Rough-winged Swallows. The two are similar, but the Southern had a peach-colored throat and a light rump. At Platanillo, we saw Gray-breasted Martins, who were bigger than the other swallows.

Wrens and Gnatcatchers

I heard more wrens than I saw, which is usually the case. White-breasted Wood Wrens were singing in a lot of places, and their song can be fairly persistent. I had good looks at them at the moth light at Rancho Naturalista. Some were fighting with each other. On the trails at Quetzal's Paradise, we heard Gray-breasted Wood-Wrens but did not see any. At Rancho Naturalista, I heard Stripe-breasted Wrens, but I never saw one. The song sounds like a truncated version of a Ferruginous Pygmy-Owl. Bay Wrens sang in a number of places, including where the road to Rancho Bajo veers off from the road to Rancho Naturalista. We saw a couple foraging along the Rio Tuis. House Wrens were common, and I saw or heard them on the majority of days of the trip. I saw a Tropical Gnatcatcher in the verbena outside Rancho Bajo, and I saw another the same day at La Mina. It had a black head. At Rio Tuis, we saw an American Dipper nest, but we dipped on the Dipper.

Thrushes and Jays

Brown Jays were one of the most common species on the trip. They are much larger than Blue Jays. Unlike Blue Jays who sometimes imitate hawks, the Brown Jay seemed to always sound like a screaming Buteo. A lot of them came to the Rancho Naturalista feeders. One of the other most common birds at the feeders was the Clay-colored Thrush, who used to be called the Clay-colored Robin. It is the national bird of Costa Rica. The Costa Ricans sometimes call it the rain bird, because it starts to sing around the beginning of the rainy season. There is something to be said for having a common bird who everyone knows as the national bird rather than a showy bird who most people rarely see. They are in the genus Turdus like the American Robin. They frequently went to the pond to bathe, and unfortunately, often chased warblers I was trying to photograph. They have a wide range, and I saw a lot of them at Quetzal's Paradise in the highlands. Also in the highlands were a few Sooty Thrushes, who are in the Turdus genus. They are all dark gray with a yellow bill and feet. A couple were foraging on the ground. There were quite a few Black-billed Nightingale-Thrushes foraging in the same area. Their back was the color of a Wood Thrush. They had a gray face and a short black bill. They were about the size of a sparrow. In the highlands, we heard a Black-faced Solitaire but did not see one. They are frequently trapped for the cage bird trade because they sing so well. They do not do well when taken out of their highland habitat. I saw one Swainson's Thrush and one Wood Thrush on the trip. They were more common when I was in Panama.


Mercedes and I saw a Philadelphia Vireo and a Tennessee Warbler foraging in the same tree next to Rancho Bajo. The vireo was moving more slowly and had a bigger head and bill. It also appeared to be rounder than the warbler. The Tennessee Warbler looked more like a Philadelphia Vireo than the Red-eyed does, even though some people in Virginia misidentify the Red-eyed as a Tennessee Warbler. A Yellow-green Vireo and a Yellow-throated Vireo were in a tree next to the bridge at Platanillo. The Yellow-green looks like a Red-eyed with a few tinges of yellow. I saw a Lesser Greenlet on my second trip to La Mina. It is a nondescript bird.


I saw 23 species of warblers on the trip, including 16 who migrate to Virginia. I was excited to see Golden-winged Warblers. I had great looks at them at Rancho Naturalista and at Wayne Easley's house, and a couple came to bathe at the pond near the dining area. This species has become scarce in Northern Virginia, and I have not seen one during migration in years. I was also excited to see male Blackburnian Warblers in full breeding plumage. I watched one at the base of Cerro Silencio and another one in a tree next to the house at Rancho Bajo. The bright orange throat gives me a thrill no matter how many times I see it. In the highlands, I saw a Flame-throated Warbler, whose throat is a similar orange. I call them Flame-thrower Warblers. They are gray on the back and white below.

The most common warbler was the Chestnut-sided. They are one of the whitest looking warblers, and I saw many of them in different plumages, including full breeding males. Tennessee Warblers were fairly common in a number of places. I had good looks at the gray head and the white over the eye. Black-and-white Warblers were common. I saw both males and females, and they were probably getting ready to head north soon. On the upper trails at Rancho Naturalista, I was with Mercedes when she saw two life birds -- a Cerulean and a Canada Warbler. In the same tree was a Golden-winged, a Black-and-white, and a Chestnut-sided Warbler. You often can see a lot of different bird species in fruiting trees. The Cerulean is not common in Costa Rica. A bit later on the same walk, we saw a Magnolia Warbler. Mercedes had not seen many previously. On our trip to CATIE, Luis called me over to identify a bird with which he was not familiar. It was a Prothonotary Warbler, and it was a life bird for him. Mercedes was also at CATIE at the same time, and it would have been a life bird for her, but she was with two other people coming around the lake in the opposite direction, and the bird was not still there when she went to look for it.

On my final day at Rancho Naturalista, I sat next to the dining area for an hour and a half to see what warblers would come to bathe. I had had a brief look at a Mourning Warbler the first morning I was there, but I wanted to get a better look. A male Mourning eventually came in to take a bath. Before that, a male Wilson's Warbler had come in, along with a Golden-winged, Chestnut-sided, and Tennessee. Even though Rufous-capped Warblers are fairly common, I did not see any until the final day, when I saw a few of them, including two who came to bathe at Rancho Naturalista. On previous days, an Ovenbird was hopping near the pond, but I never saw it bathing. At the Rancho Naturalista moth light, a Kentucky Warbler hopped by each morning at about 6:45. I also saw one bathing at the hummingbird pools. On the hill between Rancho Naturalista and Rancho Bajo, I saw a female American Redstart. And on the trips along rivers, I saw both a Louisiana and a Northern Waterthrush. The Buff-rumped Warbler behaved like a manic waterthrush, hopping on rocks while foraging. It moved its tail a lot more than a waterthrush and flashed its buff rump.

Of the Costa Rican warblers, a lot of Golden-crowned Warblers were in the woods near Rancho Naturalista. They moved quickly. They were yellow below, and a couple of times, I could see the stripes on their head. A few came down to the area near the moth light. Tropical Parulas were fairly common. They had a dark head, and I saw one who had the reddish tinge on the yellow breast. They looked a bit sleeker than Northern Parulas. At the base of Cerro Silencio, a couple of Slate-throated Redstarts were foraging low. I could see the top of their heads, but their crowns were not showing. They had a slate-gray bib. At Quetzal’s Paradise, I saw Collared Redstarts, and their red crown was very much in evidence. They had a yellow face and a thin gray line on their breast.


The tanager name is used to describe birds in different families. The tanagers in North America are in the same family as cardinals and are not related to most of the Costa Rican Tanagers. I saw a male Scarlet Tanager in spring plumage at La Mina. Summer Tanagers were more common. At least one splotchy one was hanging around Rancho Naturalista, looking as if he were wearing a red and olive camo uniform. The Passerini's Tanager was one of the most common of the Costa Rican species. It was jet black with a red back that at time looked orange if the light hit it a certain way. It used to be called the Scarlet-rumped Tanager before being split. The female looked very different, being mostly olive and yellow with a gray head. Both the male and the female had a blue-gray bill. Blue-gray Tanagers were fairly common at the feeders. I had not realized how pretty they are until I saw them in bright sunlight, with their two-toned blue wings on their bluish-gray body. One at the feeders at Wayne Easley's house had some white feathers on its back and might have been partially leucistic. Palm Tanagers also came to the feeders. I saw only a couple of Bananaquits on the trip -- one in the verbena outside Rancho Bajo, and one outside the offices of Rancho Naturalista. They had a little white handkerchief like a Black-throated Blue Warbler.

Male White-lined and White-shouldered Tanagers are black birds with a bit of white on the shoulder that is usually mostly hidden. The white showed a lot when both species flew. One of the best ways to tell them apart was to look at the females. The female White-lined is a rufous bird, while the female White-shouldered is olive and yellow. The White-lined usually traveled in male-female pairs and was larger than the White-shouldered. We saw a pair of Tawny-crested Tanagers at the base of Cerro Silencio. The male was all black with a tawny beret. The area around Cerro Silencio had a lot of tanagers. I had nice looks at a couple of male Black-and-yellow Tanagers, who were canary-yellow with black wings. The females were greenish with a yellow throat and breast. A Crimson-collared Tanager was perched for a long time at the top of a bare tree. It had a red head and collar with a black face and breast. Emerald Tanagers are warbler-sized, and I saw the black comma behind the ear on this mostly green bird. On the trails at Rancho Naturalista, Mercedes found some Speckled Tanagers, who were lemon-lime colored with a lot of black spots. I saw a Bay-headed Tanager in a tree on the road to Rancho Naturalista. Along the Rio Tuis, we ran into a large group of Silver-throated Tanagers. They were mostly yellow with a white throat. Golden-hooded Tanagers were fairly common, and I saw them on five different days. Red-throated Ant-Tanagers hung around the moth light, and I had good looks at both the males and females. They seemed sluggish. The male had a red throat, while the female's throat was yellow.

I saw three species of euphonias. The Tawny-capped Euphonia was common and surprisingly tame. The male had a blue back and throat, yellow underparts, and a tawny cap. Yellow-throated Euphonias were also common, with the male having a blue back and yellow underparts. Rather than a tawny crown, he had a yellow forehead. The Olive-backed Euphonia was a mostly olive bird, with the males having a yellow cap and the females a tawny cap. I saw a couple of Green Honeycreepers. At Quetzal's Paradise, we saw a Sooty-capped Chlorospingus, who used to be called a Sooty-capped Bush-Tanager. It had an olive back, a yellow breast, a grayish throat, and a black cap with a white supercilium.

We saw all three saltators. Buff-throated Saltators occasionally came to the feeders. Black-headed Saltators had a black head, with a white eyebrow and a white throat. The two species were often seen in the same places. The Black-headed had a loud one-note call. The Grayish Saltator was gray with a white throat and a white supercilium.
Finches and Sparrows

The most common finch was the Yellow-faced Grassquit. Some came to the feeders at Rancho Naturalista and Wayne Easley's house, and large flocks were sometimes along the road in agricultural areas. They were tiny. The males had a yellow X on the face, while the markings on the female's face were more subtle. I saw a Blue-black Grassquit at La Mina. It was a small dark bird. Quite a few Variable Seedeaters were around Turire. The males in Costa Rica were small dark finches. A somewhat larger all dark finch was the male Thick-billed Seed-Finch. The female was a rich brown, and both sexes had large bills. Orange-billed Sparrows were common around Rancho Naturalista and at Wayne Easley's feeders. Virginia does not have any sparrows who are nearly as colorful. Black-striped Sparrows were common. Like the Orange-billed, it was olive colored and had gray and black crown stripes. It provided an important part of the soundtrack for the trip. Its song, which it began to sing before sunrise, was a series of loud single whistles which seemed to gain in intensity before ending in a series of loud paired whistles. Rufous-collared Sparrows were common in a lot of places, and I saw House Sparrows on the drive to Rancho Naturalista from the airport. At Quetzal's Paradise, I saw Yellow-thighed Finches. They were a large slaty finch with yellow near the top of their legs. We also saw Large-footed Finches. They were dark olive with a black head. They move around quickly, but I saw one with a stick in its mouth who stood on a log long enough for me to see the large feet.


My favorite blackbirds were the Montezuma Oropendolas. They were common around the feeders at Rancho Naturalista, and they had nests in the trees near Rancho Bajo and Wayne Easley's house. They displayed like other oropendolas I have seen, but they have much more colorful heads, with blue skin on the face and an orange bill with a black base. When they fly, their wings make a whooshing sound. I saw some carrying nesting material. Chestnut-headed Oropendolas have a whitish-yellow bill. The ranges of the two species overlaps, and they make different sounds when displaying. The Chestnut-headed sometimes came to the feeders, but not often.

Occasionally, a Melodious Blackbird would be on the lawn in front of the dining area at Rancho Naturalista. The song is not very melodious. Its introductory note is followed by an upward whistle. A female Baltimore Oriole came to the Rancho Naturalista feeders, and I saw bright orange males at the bridge at Platanillo and a couple of other places. I saw an Eastern Meadowlark walking on a driveway on my ride from the San Jose Airport. Mercedes and I saw one in a field near Casa Turire. The same field had Red-breasted Meadowlarks. We saw some in the grass, and one sang from one of the fence posts. Great-tailed Grackles were very common along the road and in some of the agricultural areas, and they seemed to fill a similar urban niche to the one that starlings occupy where I live. Bronzed Cowbirds were in the fields at the base of Cerro Silencio, and another was at a feeder at Quetzal's Paradise. A couple of Giant Cowbirds came to the feeders at Wayne Easley's house. They were very large with a red eye. They often parasitize oropendola colonies, and there were Montezuma Oropendola nests in the tall trees near Wayne's house. Also at Wayne's feeders was a Yellow-billed Cacique. They are usually shy birds, so seeing one at a feeder was a surprise.

Other Wildlife

I did not see a lot of mammals at Rancho Naturalista. I saw both Red-tailed and Variegated Squirrels. At Casa Turire, Mercedes and I saw a Nutria by the dock on which we were standing. From the same dock, we saw a Spectacled Caiman. On the way to CATIE, Luis found a tiny brown frog who was less than an inch long. Lisa found a Talamancan Pit-Viper when we were looking at the quetzals. It is a venomous endemic snake with green and black scales, and it appeared to be more than two feet long. People who live in the area kill such snakes, so our guide from Quetzal's Paradise picked it up and called someone to put it into a sack and bring it to a safe place. Rancho Naturalista has House Geckos. For such a small creature, its vocalizations are extremely loud.

I enjoyed seeing and photographing moths during the trip. I went to the moth light at Rancho Naturalista and watched birds come in during the early morning to eat moths from a sheet. Once when nobody was around, I looked at the moths on the sheet. After that, I began to feel sorry for the moths. A lot of birders also watch butterflies, but I think moths have far more variety — they are not just another pair of pretty wings. I especially liked the moths at Wayne Easley's house. When I got home from Costa Rica, a friend who likes moths identified some of ones I had photographed. Most of the moths do not have common names and are called by their Latin names. The Dirphiopsis flora was my favorite. It was red and furry with long yellow antennae and big black eyes. The wings had lovely pastels, with a light mark on each. The Eumorpha anchemolus was a large sphinx moth who looked as if it were wearing camo clothing. The Viviennea tegyra had black and yellow wings and an orange body. Its tail end was a rich iridescent blue. The Pseudosphex moza is a wasp mimic -- "sphex" is a genus of digger wasps. It had a dark blue body with the tail end looking like the pink eraser at the end of a pencil. The Adeloneivaia jason was one of the prettier moths. It had an orange body and broad orange wings tinged with lavender. The Dyspteris vecinaria was a lovely shimmering silver with two horizontal sea green lines across the wings. The head and top of the thorax were also sea green. The Acrosemia vulpecularia had orange-brown wings that appeared to have a lot of green moss on them. There was a light mark near the tip of each wing.

To see photos from the trip, go to: .

Post has attachment
My final day at Rancho Naturalista was very rewarding. I met Mercedes at 5:15 to walk up to Wayne’s house to try to see a Lesson’s Motmot, who is her favorite bird. We heard the whoop-whoop call of one as we were walking up the road and saw one in dim light. At Wayne’s feeders, we saw another one. The photo below does not show the tail rackets, but you can get an idea why this bird is so special. Wayne has a moth light, and he came out with some beautiful moths he was about to let go. I cannot identify them, but I have a friend who is well connected in the moth community who should be able to help. A lot of people like butterflies, but I think moths have far more variety — they are not just another pair of pretty wings.

After breakfast at Rancho Bajo, Mercedes and I birded the pastures and upper trails around Rancho Naturalista. As we were approaching the pastures, a male Bicolored Hawk landed in a nearby tree with a dead bird in his talons. A little further on, we saw a male Golden-olive Woodpecker. I have seen very few woodpeckers on this trip, but this one came close to us. On one of the pasture path, we saw two Crested Guans in a tree. They are like big chachalacas. Only one of them flew from the tree as we walked by.

After lunch, I walked back to Rancho Naturalista with Mercedes. She needed to do some work upstairs, and I wanted to try to get a good look at a Mourning Warbler. I mentioned the Philadelphia Vireo yesterday. The scientific name of the Mourning Warbler is Geothlypis philadelphia. The dining area at Rancho Naturalista is near some feeders and a small pond, and a lot of birds come to bathe in the pond. As I waited for the Mourning, I saw a Wilson’s, Golden-winged, Tennessee, and Chestnut-sided Warbler come in to bathe. A Yellow-bellied Flycatcher merely dipped in the water without going in. Mercedes came down at 2:15 to say good-bye. At 2:30, a Mourning Warbler came to the pond, and I had a nice long look while he took a nice long bath. At that point, I decided that the bathing Mourning Warbler should be my last memory of Rancho Naturalista, so I walked down the hill to Rancho Bajo to get ready to leave tonight.

This trip was very important to me. I am going to have to deal with a lot of medical issues the week I get home, and I thought this trip would be my last period of peace for awhile. My stay in Costa Rica has turned out to be far more pleasant and relaxing than I could have imagined. The people at Rancho Naturalista have been great, from Lisa the manager who took me up to see the quetzals to Bridget in the office who helped me to set the trip up. The guides Harry and Luis took me to some wonderful places where I saw a lot of birds. Kathy and Jack at Rancho Bajo pampered me for the final five nights of my trip. And I especially want to thank the guide Mercedes, whose enthusiasm always brought sunshine to my Costa Rican adventures even when it was raining. The Rancho Naturalista staff has been wonderful, and I really love the facility. While my emails might sound as if I am wearing myself out in the rain forest, this trip has been very relaxing. One measure of how much you enjoy a trip is whether you want to go home. If I had my choice, I would much rather stay here.


5 Photos - View album

Post has attachment
This morning, I went outside before breakfast and looked for a Snowcap. Shortly after I got to the verbena bushes, a male Snowcap showed up. The small hummingbirds tend to move more quickly than the larger ones, which makes photographing them a challenge, but this one perched briefly.

After breakfast, my guide Mercedes and I went to the upland trails at Rancho Naturalista, which are about a hundred meters higher than the lodge. A White-crowned Manakin sat on a bare branch. It is the manakin equivalent of a Snowcap, with an all dark body and a snow white cap. The manakin is 4 inches compared to the 3-inch Snowcap. Some of you might have heard of manakins, because another manakin species does a Michael Jackson moonwalk when viewed in slow motion. . The manakin I saw today did not moonwalk, but I managed to capture an image of him while he was vocalizing.

I did not see any life birds this morning, but Mercedes saw two — a male Canada Warbler and a male Cerulean Warbler. They were in the same tree, along with a Golden-winged, a Black-and-white, and a Chestnut-sided Warbler. You often can see a lot of different bird species in fruiting trees. I also had nice looks at a Yellow-bellied Flycatcher, a species I don’t get to observe often around Washington, DC. As we were heading toward some cow pastures, we found a Magnolia Warbler. It was only the second one Mercedes had ever seen. I am looking forward to seeing some of these warbler species, and possibly the same birds, in Virginia in April and May.

This afternoon, I headed back to Rancho Naturalista. Rancho Bajo is down a steep hill from Rancho Naturalista, and on the hike up, I saw a female American Redstart along with my first Bay-headed Tanager of the trip. When I arrived at the lodge, I heard the joy buzzer call of the White-collared Manakin. I went over to look for it, and a male popped up onto a bare branch. He is the first one I have seen on the trip. A lot of pheasant-like birds called Gray-headed Chachalacas come to the feeders near the lodge. They are common and quite humorous. They behave like big clumsy songbirds, perching in trees, sometimes on branches that cannot support their weight. When they are in trees, some walk along limbs rather than hopping. There is a different species of chachalaca in South Texas, and I liked to watch them as they crossed a road. They would stop on one side, look in both directions, and then tear across the road, even when there was no car coming. The name comes from their call, and they can be quite loud.

Mercedes and I went to the hummingbird pools and saw 3 Snowcaps come in to bathe — 2 males and a female. We also saw a male and female Purple-crowned Fairy. The fairies are long, elegant hummingbirds, and they appeared to be doing a ballet over the water. A Kentucky Warbler stopped in to bathe, and it was the 9th migrant warbler I saw today.

I will be in Costa Rica all day tomorrow, and on Tuesday, I will head to the airport after dinner. The drive to San Jose takes about three hours, and my flight leaves at 1 a.m. on Wednesday morning. Leaving Rancho Naturalista will be difficult.

By Rancho Naturalista's guest Bill Young

2 Photos - View album

Post has attachment
Another day, another new bird. Today’s new bird was a Fasciated Tiger-Heron. We stopped at a bridge not far from the entry road to Rancho Naturalista, and the tiger-heron was standing in the water. Fasciated means banded, and you can see the bands on the bird. Fascia can also denote bundles, which is where the word fascist comes from. The fascists used the analogy that they would be stronger if they banded together, just as a bundle of sticks is more difficult to break than a single stick.

The area around the bridge was extremely active. The star birds were Sunbitterns, who are not related to bitterns and are the only bird in their family. They are generally shy and difficult to see, but today, I saw five. At the bridge, one was on a nest — the two parents share incubation duties. The other was in the water near where the tiger-heron was. The Sunbittern gets its name from its remarkable wing pattern, which looks like the sun. The bird in the stream was preening and would occasionally stretch its wings. I managed to shoot video and photos of the Sunbittern doing this. I also saw an Amazon Kingfisher, who is a larger version of the Green Kingfisher. As soon as I saw it, I realized I had misidentified the kingfisher with the fish yesterday, which was an Amazon. I later saw Green Kingfishers, who are smaller and have a little more white on the wings. I don’t see these species frequently enough to have memorized such differences, especially something like relative size.

We then went to an area called La Mina, which was a short drive from the bridge. We saw more Sunbitterns, including one standing on a rock doing a display call. In one of the photos, you can see the Sunbittern’s orange tongue when it is calling. While walking at La Mina, we saw a lot of birds, including a male Scarlet Tanager and a female Summer Tanager. We saw a Louisiana Waterthrush after having seen a Northern Waterthrush at the bridge. We saw a Buff-rumped Warbler, who moves in a manic manner along the stream, bobbing its tail in a circular motion that is different from the two waterthrushes.

In addition to the tanagers and the waterthrushes, I have been seeing other migrant species who visit the United States. Today, I saw Baltimore Orioles, a Yellow-throated Vireo, Black-and-white, Chestnut-sided, and Kentucky Warblers, an Ovenbird, a Yellow-bellied Flycatcher, Northern Rough-winged Swallows, and a Swallow-tailed Kite. Species such as the Louisiana Waterthrush should be arriving in Virginia soon.

Some rain blew in after lunch, which is giving me a chance to relax a little. I hope the sun is shining wherever you are.

By Rancho Naturalista's guest Bill Young
3 Photos - View album

Post has attachment
I ended my message yesterday by saying that I wasn’t sure if I would see any new birds on this trip, and Rancho Naturalista has already made a liar out of me. This morning, I went to the base of Cerro Silencio, and we got back to the lodge at about 11:15. At 11:45, my guide said that another group had found a Crested Owl on the path I had walked yesterday. I had never seen one, so I walked along the trail to try to find people who were looking at the owl. I ran into a group who gave me directions. Then I ran into the manager of Rancho Naturalista, and she took me and two other people to a spot near where the owl was perched. After lunch, I went back to the spot and took some photos. It’s a pretty snappy looking owl with its two long cream-colored ear tufts that appear to begin at the base of its bill. In the photo, you can also see that it has long talons.

On the trip this morning, we drove to the base of a mountain. While driving along a stream, I spotted a male Green Kingfisher with a large fish in his mouth. The male Green Kingfisher has brown on the breast and the female does not, which is the opposite of the plumage of the Belted Kingfisher where the female has a brown breastband. We birded along a road that had about 15 species of tanagers. Many of the tanagers in Costa Rica are beautiful warbler-sized birds who are in a different family from our Scarlet and Summer Tanagers. Like our warblers, they often forage in trees, so they are not easy to photograph. I photographed a Tawny-capped Euphonia — the euphonias are in the same family as goldfinches. But as with yesterday, one of the birds that gave me the biggest thrill was a migrant warbler who will soon be heading north. A male Blackburnian Warbler was foraging on a branch in front of us, and I can never see that orange throat too often. I am getting a headstart on spring migration.

Another fun part of being at Rancho Naturalista is the people you meet. Today at lunch, I sat across from one of the authors to the guide to the wood warblers of the world — it is in the same series as the Peter Harrison seabird guide.

Thanks to all who have sent me emails. I will try to write replies soon.

Post by William Young
4 Photos - View album

Post has attachment
Tica Birding Adventure is a blog written by Mercedes Alpizar who works as a bird watching guide at Rancho Naturalista.
I am on my "Big Year" journey, travelling around Costa Rica in an attempt to see as many bird species as possible during 2017, and more importantly learning how to identify them correctly and everything I can about their natural history and ecology. Follow me during my adventure around Costa Rica and get to know the most interesting facts and funny stories about our beloved feathered friends!

Post has attachment
Al Lusk shared an album.
Mainly taken at Rancho Naturalista, the best place for birds in the country!
Thanks to Harry, Luis, and Mercedes for the IDs, and the opportunities to take these photos.
Wait while more posts are being loaded