Where We Bird — the Poro Road

Riverside Wren with nesting material. Photo by Sarah Beeson-Jones

Thanks to Julie Girard-Woolley, the SVBC has been birding this hidden road for a few years and found some pretty great birds there. Julie is a ‘walker’ (and an SVBC founder) and this spot is spectacular in March with a huge grove of blooming Poro trees. But we are not there for the trees — so let’s start with a bang: the Riverside Wren.

Endemic to southern Costa Rica and western Panama, Cantorchilus semibadius is one of many very loud wrens

Rufous-capped Warbler. Photo by Jo Davidson

Next up, we have not a migrant but a resident, Rufous-capped Warbler. Although ‘common’ in the northern Pacific, Central Valley and southern Pacific, it’s always a jolt to see that red head, white eyebrow and cocked up tail. Basileuterus rufifrons shares its genus with three other resident Tico warblers.

Here is another photo from Jo who has documented so many species in San Vito from her porch, she is admired far and wide. This is her Smoky-brown Woodpecker — just the head, but that is enough. Who doesn’t love woodpeckers? These are found in the northern half of the Caribbean slope and on the Pacific slope but are ‘uncommon’ in both locations. How did she get this photo? See below for a view you would be lucky to see in the field. Picoides fumigatus shares its genus with the Hairy Woodpecker, the Costa Rican race of which is smaller and darker than those in North America.

Smoky-brown Woodpecker by Jo Davidson

By now you will have noticed the photos are all out of synch with the text but it’s hard to resist including all these birds because obviously we are trying to entice you to visit us in San Vito, when you feel safe, and we will be here to welcome you.

One last bird — yes, we saved the best for last — and then the local spot where we go for breakfast when our walk is over. 

The last bird photo is a Double-toothed Kite and we saw two, building a nest, on one of our excursions to the Poro Road. It was pretty exciting! See below for a photo by Randall Jiménez Borbón who works as the Community Outreach Coordinator at the  Asociación Ambiental Finca Cántaros.

Double-toothed Kite, Harpagus bidentatus, by  Randall Jiménez Borbón, aka Ciccio

Double-toothed Kites often perch in the forest waiting for a troop of monkey to follow. They fly low to pick off any tasty critters the monkeys spook, like lizards and large insects.

See below for another photo we hope will be of interest: the Soda La Negra where we often go for breakfast after a Poro Road bird walk. Highly recommended are the scrambled eggs, rice and beans, sausages, tortillas and the coffee. The interior of this welcoming place is full of plants for sale, too, so you can augment your garden or your porch with some nicely potted flowers after breakfast.

Soda La Negra, just below the San Vito Hospital. Photo by Alison Olivieri

 

Zooming With Owls — Part 5, the End

What is the first thing you do when planning a birding trip? Buy or borrow a bird book and note the ones you really want to see. In the case of your trip to Costa Rica, who didn’t include the Crested Owl?

Crested Owl at Finca Cantaros, photo by David Rodríguez Arias, Biólogo Regente de Vida Silvestre at Finca Cántaros

So, we’ve saved the ‘best’ for last and we’re saying ‘best’ because this owl is San Vito’s Most Distinguished Avian Visitor of 2019-20. For the past two years, one — and sometimes two — of them have spent the green season right here, in a huge stand of bamboo near the lake at Finca Cántaros: arriving in June and departing in December.

We have many questions, not the least of which is ‘where do they go’? And ‘why’? Thirty years ago, when the definitive book A Guide to the Birds of Costa Rica by F. Gary Stiles and Alexander F. Skutch was published, not a huge amount of this species’ natural history was known. Their diet was described as “. . . beetles, orthopterans, roaches, caterpillars.” But, as one of their habits was said to be “. . . daytime roosts, especially at gaps and edges and along streams. . . “, what do you want to wager the diet included aquatic insects, frogs, small fish?

So here is the question we asked this beguiling owl, “Where do you go when you leave Finca Cántaros?” and the owl said, click here and hit ‘play’ to hear its answer.

Roughly translated, this means, “. . . to Guanacaste, like everybody else!” Just kidding, we have no idea what this Crested Owl was saying but it was recorded by Costa Rica’s own Patrick O’Donnell (Google him, if you haven’t already).

And now, we are sorry to say, it is time to ‘End Meeting for All’. 

 

Zooming With Owls — Part 3

Striped Owl, photo by Randall Jimenez Borbón, aka Ciccio

The Striped Owl is a favorite — just look at that photo! Considered “local” and “uncommon” in the Coto Brus-Terraba region, they can be found perched on roadside utility wires at night. Let’s say, for example, you are driving home to San Vito after a weekend at Manuel Antonio National Park. You see an upright figure on a wire ahead and it’s getting dark so you slow down to see what this might be: a Striped Owl! What a prize!

The ear tufts are reminiscent of Long-eared and Short-eared Owls of North America but hunting techniques differ in that the northern birds tend to fly over large, open areas like salt marshes whereas ‘Stripeys’ favor roadside edges of forest or rice or palm plantations, often near lights, where they can dive for prey that includes small mammals, large insects, amphibians and occasionally small birds. 

We wanted to know more about “owl pellets”, so fascinating to nature centers around the world, so we decided to ask ‘Stripey’: why do you all cough up those (potentially) gross detritus-y balls of ??? and this is the answer (click here and click play). The bird didn’t really answer the question but we were happy to hear a recording from so close to home.

This Striped Owl comes to us from the extensive nature photography collection of Randall Jimenez, a Detectives de Aves teacher, who works at Finca Cántaros as the Coordinador de Alcance Comunitario, i.e., the public face of the new Asociación Ambiental Finca Cántaros.

Randall can be found on Facebook, WhatsApp and other social media platforms and, should you wish to visit Cántaros, please contact him.