Costa Rica Day 20, 25 February 2014 - Montezuma, Nicoya Ferry, Hotel Villa Lapas & Tarcoles Bridge

Today we left the Nicoya peninsular to enter the final phase of the trip, Carara NP. Leaving Montezuma we had one last surprise as a Grey-necked Wood Rail scampered across the road on the edge of the village as we drove out! Between there and the ferry we scored with a couple of Crested Caracaras and a single Yellow-headed Caracara.

Aboard the ferry were a pair of Grey-breasted Martins, a few Mangrove Swallows and Laughing Gulls as we set sail after a dodgy breakfast of a fried rock hard meat pasty thing! This time the birds from the ferry were a little more varied with the usual Brown Pelicans, Laughing Gulls, Magnificent Frigatebirds and Royal Terns added to with c40 Cabots Terns, a single Black Tern and 4 Brown Boobies, one of which came nice and close.

Grey-breasted Martin

Laughing Gull

Brown Booby

After leaving the ferry we made the surprisingly quick drive through Punterenas and towards the Carara NP to the east. Nearing the national park we couldn't resist a stop at the bridge over the Rio Tarcoles to gawp at the American Crocodiles that are easy to see here as they bask below the bridge on the waters edge. We saw c25 plus a few good birds too - 1 American Purple Gallinule, 5 Northern Jacana, 3 Southern Lapwings, 2 Black-necked Stilts, and amazingly quickly we also added the local superstar to the list in the form of 3 fly-through Scarlet Macaws

American Purple Gallinule

Having had our fill of crocs we drove the last few km to the Hotel Villa Lapas just outside the national park. Initial impressions of the place weren't good as it was lunchtime and full of coach day trippers. Sadly our impression of the place didn't alter very much over the 3 nights we spent there. It was full of birders but they were all American and whilst they were friendly there were too many of them and at mealtimes groups are most certainly given priority over independent travellers. The buffet meals also weren't great and as we'd become acustomed too - overpriced. The place is also supposed to have trails to walk/bird but the reality is they were to long-defunct zip line platforms and are now overgrown and impassable. We met a retired English couple here Peter and Pauline Heathcote who we socialised with and they enhanced our couple of days a lot. The one good thing about Hotel Villa Lapas is the position it's in and the gardens which allow some good on-site birding. This is what we did on our first afternoon there.

Around the gardens were 2 Fiery-billed Aracaris, 2 Yellow-throated Euphonias, Streaked Flycatcher, several Social Flycatchers, Grey-capped Flycatchers, Lesser Greenlet, c8 Rose-breasted Grosbeaks, 2 Red-legged Honeycreepers, Rufous-tailed Hummingbird, a single Scarlet Macaw, a surprise Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, Variable Seedeaters, Blue-grey, Golden-hooded, Summer and Palm Tanagers, a brief Black-crowned Tityra, Chestnut-mandibled Toucan, Common Tody-Flycatcher, a restless but lovely Purple-crowned Fairy and a spectacular Pale-billed Woodpecker On a walk up the valley as far as the limited path would take us were a Buff-throated Foliage-gleaner, Chestnut-sided Warbler, 2 Northern Waterthrushes, Red-crowned Woodpecker and 2 Long-tailed Woodcreepers while c25 White Ibis flew along the river at dusk to roost.

Streaked Flycatcher

Grey-capped Flycatcher

Common Tody-Flycatcher

Purple-crowned Fairy



Costa Rica Day 19, 24 February 2014 - Montezuma area

Having exhausted most of the possibilities locally (although I'd have quite happily gone back to Cabo Blanco!) we stayed in the Montezuma area for the day. The walk to the famous Montezuma waterfall was right opposite our lodge so we did that and generally bummed around the beach area taking photographs, lounging on hammocks, drinking coffee and eating!

Birding wasn't exactly spectacular but I did managed a few bits and bobs and a few shots of some commoner species. 2 Inca Doves, 1 Yellow-headed Caracara, 20+ Magnificent Frigatebirds, 1 Lesser Greenlet, 2 Bare-throated Tiger Herons, Cinnamon Hummingbird, 2 White-throated Magpie-Jays and the usual good numbers of Brown Pelican and Royal Terns. One Brown Pelican decided to roost in a tree at our lodge so enabled some closer pics. Pick of the day however (and keeping up the record of at least one new bird a day) were 2 showy Orange-fronted Parakeets in roadside trees between our lodge and the village.

Inca Dove

White-throated Magpie-Jay

Brown Pelican

Orange-fronted Parakeet

Orange-fronted Parakeet

Costa Rica Day 18, 23 February 2014 - Cabo Blanco, Rio Lajas & Montezuma

We began today with a feast at the weekly Sunday brunch at our lodge - the Amor de Mar this was excellent but with one exception - the willful refusal to cook me anything without egg. A basic enough request you'd think but sadly this is a reflection of the place. It is a lovely positioned place at the south end of Montezuma and very nicely decorated but a place that charges you to fill a water bottle and doesn't offer cold drinks of any sort? Come on! We also found the staff a bit snooty and the prices high so this isn't a place I'd recommend at all. For most birders this area won't be on their itinerary anyway which is good! We came here because Belinda wanted some time by the beach but the area is basically a young backpackers place.

Luckily there are some birding spots nearby and the best of these is the Cabo Blanco reserve at the southern tip of the Nicoya peninsular.

On the way we made a quick stop at the mouth of the Rio Lajas which gave us our only Mangrove Vireo plus a few herons and waders which I'll elaborate on later because we made a return visit towards dusk and saw far more!

Mangrove Vireo

Little Blue Heron

Arriving at Cabo Blanco we got the last space on the small carpark and proceeded to make a circuit of the Sendero Danish trail and it was full of birds. I found birds showing better here than many of the other places we'd visited. Within a few minutes I'd had good views of Rufous-and-white Wren, Red-crowned Ant Tanager and Rufous-capped Warbler while Orange-chinned Parakeets flew over several times. Further around the trail a female Long-tailed Manakin, several Lesser Greenlets, Streaked Flycatcher, Dusky-capped Flycatcher, Squirrel Cuckoo, 4 Barred Antsrikes, Worm-eating Warbler, Ivory-billed Woodcreeper and Plain Wren made it a thoroughly rewarding visit and one of my personal favourites.

Rufous-capped Warbler

Ivory-billed Woodcreeper

Red-crowned Ant Tanager
Red-crowned Ant Tanager

Worm-eating Warbler

Barred Antshrike
We drove a little north and made a beach stop for our picnic lunch. Here we were treated to Magnificent Frigatebirds right over our heads, a perched Osprey and c500 Brown Pelicans!

Magnificent Frigatebird

Magnificent Frigatebird

Magnificent Frigatebird
After returning to Montezuma during the heat of the day we then ventured back out to the mouth of the Rio Lajas in the late afternoon and had a lovely hour or so before the light began to fade. Herons were to ehe fore with prode of place going to c10 Boat-billed Herons on nests plus Green Heron, Little Blue Heron, Tricoloured Heron, 3 Yellow-crowned Night Herons, c12 White Ibis, 2 Cattle Egrets and plenty of Snowy Egrets. An Amazon Kingfisher didn't hang around to be photographed whilst Double-toothed Kite and Mangrove Black Hawk flew in. 5 Least Sandpipers allowed close approach as well as 2 Spotted Sandpipers, 25 Turnstone and no less than 30 Hudsonian Whimbrel.
Boat-billed Heron
Green Heron

Yellow-crowned Night Heron

White Ibis

Tricoloured Heron, Cattle Egret, Snowy Egrets and Hudsonian Whimbrel!

Least Sandpipiers


Costa Rica Day 17, 22 February 2014 - Nicoya Ferry, Curu National Wildlife Refuge and Montezuma

Today was the day we left the Santa Elena/Monteverde area and entered the next phase of the trip - the southern Nicoya Peninsular.

After breakfast we left the Arco Iris Lodge and began the long winding drive down to the coast. This is on steep dirt roads for much of the way and our heap of rubbish hire car didn't like it at all. The brakes even locked on at one point and I only managed to get going again by reversing up to free them! Eventually we pulled into Punterenas where several Magnificent Frigatebirds circled over hinting of things to come.We made our way down to the ferry terminal and grabbing tickets quickly we were the last car to board the 09.00 ferry (instead of having to wait until 11.00) - result! It was party time on board as it was a Saturday and the last day of a week long festival in Punterenas. Watching one of the ferry cleaners break-dancing to cheering passengers was hilarious!

There were a few birds from the ferry too - plenty of Laughing Gulls and Royal Terns, c6 Elegant Terns, c20 Magnificent Frigatebirds and more Brown Pelicans than you could shake a stick at. Once we'd disembarked and I'd relocated Belinda (passengers other than drivers have to walk off the ferry!) we drove the short distance to the entrance gate of the Curu National Wildlife Refuge and nearly had a major accident as 2 cars overtook as I was indicating to turn in! Jamming on my brakes made them sieze up again!

Luckily Curu was a welcome distraction from the car problems. The beach was beautiful and with Hudsonian Whimbrel, Mangrove Black Hawk, Spotted Sandpiper and Willet to add to the big numbers of Royal Terns and Brown Pelicans it was very enjoyable. A walk through the dry forest trails yielded some more goodies - eclipsing all the birds was an amazing chance discovery of a huge Boa Constrictor amongst dead wood a few meters off the path! Birds included a juvenile White Ibis, Yellow Warbler, Northern Waterthrush, a pair of Grey-headed Doves, 2 Inca Doves, Brown-crested Flycatcher, a very welcome Cinnamon Hummingbird (the only 1 of the trip), 2 Green Kingfishers, 2 Orange-chinned Parakeets, 3 Variable Seedeaters, 2 Paltry Tyrannulets, Ruddy Woodcreeper and Hoffmann's Woodpecker.

Brown Pelicans

Hudsonian Whimbrel

Spotted Sandpiper


Mangrove Black Hawk

White Ibis

Continuing our journey we left the main road onto the dirt road that drops down to the coast at Montezuma, our home for the next 3 nights. As we did so a Laughing Falcon swooped down over the road from a dead tree. After checking in at our lodge (more about that later) an exploration of the immediate area gave us Crested Caracara, Spotted Sandpiper, Turnstone, 2 Masked Tityra and Rufous-naped Wren. An evening walk along the beach into the village had us royally entertained by a pair of Bare-throated Tiger Herons and their fully grown young. They proved rather feisty but also comical as they made us unwelcome!

Bare-throated Tiger Heron (adult)

Bare-throated Tiger Heron (adult)

Bare-throated Tiger Heron (juvenile)

Black Vulture

Carlton Marshes, 30 March 2014

Having walked for miles between Covehithe and Kessingland (via Benacre) and seen not a single migrant apart from Chiffchaff and a Red-throated Diver I called in to Carlton Marshes in an effort to salvage something of the day!

Luckily the pair of Garganey of the last few days were feeding in the open on the main scrape and showed nicely. Also on the scrape were a couple of Little Egrets, a pair of Shoveler, Shelducks and a dodgy goose hybrid which obviously had Barnacle Goose in it somewhere. On the walk back I then enjoyed some of the best views I've ever had of a Cetti's Warbler that popped up right in front of me in a small bush beside the track. The day hadn't been a total wash-out!

Pesky Dusky Warbler, Oulton Marshes, 29 March 2014

Today I thought I'd give the Dusky Warbler of the last few days a go at Oulton Marshes. And it proved to be firmly in the 'very elusive' category for a long time before it finally gave itself up! Arriving at about 11.45 it hadn't been seen or heard since 08.00 so things didn't look very promising. Eventually I picked up the call and after much bush-staring finally got some good view of it low in willows where it remained (mostly out of view for 30 minutes). Just as I was about to leave it began to move towards the path and when I did leave it was some 100 meters from where it had initially been seen. I snapped the 1 lousy shot below when it was very briefly in bare pathside trees but the light (and my photographic skill!) was against me.
Also around the area were 2 Stock Doves, loads of Chiffchaffs, 1 male Blackcap, c5 Cetti's Warblers, Green Woodepcker and Little Egret. 4 species of butterfly too with Brimstone, Peacock, Small Tortoiseshell and a nice pale Comma of the early brood 'hutchinsoni' photographed on the path.

Dusky Warbler, Oulton Marshes

'hutchinsoni' Comma, Oulton Marshes

Later in the day I popped in to Ness Point where I eventually located 4 Purple Sandpipers between Ness Point and Harbour Point.

Purple Sandpiper, Lowestoft

Weybread GPs, 28 March 2014

My first look at Weybread for a while. A wander along the length of Ocean Pit and a quick look down Watermill Lane.
Spring wasn't exactly in full swing and indeed the only new arrivals I saw were 2 Chiffchaffs. I was hoping for some hirundines but nothing was doing on that score. My couple of hours weren't without their highlights though - best being a pair of Red-crested Pochard on Ocean Pit, albeit of 'unknown' origin it's the first time I've seen the species here. 3 Shoveler, [5 Barnacle Geese], 3 Oystercatchers, Sparrowhawk, Treecreeper, 2 Grey Wagtails and a Stock Dove were the best of the rest.   

Costa Rica Day 16, 21 February 2014 - Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve

Grabbing a quick early breakfast to enable us to get to the reserve early unfortunately didn't mean we could beat the crowds. We pulled up on the carpark shortly after 07.00 to find it packed with cars, coaches and people, not what we hoped for at all. There was then a scrum at the reception who are keen to push you into hiring one of their guides, luckily I was keener not to so we just bought tickets and received a trail map. Escaping tour groups wasn't easy and one guide in particular almost got his tripod stuck where the sun doesn't shine because he made constant tweeting, whistling and pishing noises making it really difficult to hear anything else! We also found a little bit of an attitude of 'if you haven't got a guide we're not going to tell you anything' which left a bit of a bitter taste. You may have guessed that I MUCH preferred the Santa Elena reserve!

Anyway, to the birds - first up was a distant perched Orange-bellied Trogon and several Tufted Flycatchers, Slaty-backed Nightingale-Thrush, Black-faced Solitaires (singing everywhere!), Common Bush Tanagers, a Golden-crowned Warbler and 3 Emerald Toucanets. To escape people we opted for the longest loop trail consisting of the Sendero El Rio, Sendero Pantanoso and the Sendero Camino. On our extended walk we saw 4 Black Guans, a pair of noisy and stonking Azure-hooded Jays, 4 Band-tailed Pigeons, 6 Collared Redstarts and heard 2 Three-wattled Bellbirds but just couldn't located them. As we neared the end of the final trail I finally located a feeding flock and in a few memorable minutes had Eye-ringed Flatbill, 2 Red-faced Spinetails, Spotted Woodcreeper, 3 Silver-throated Tanagers and 2 Spangle-cheeked Tanagers.

Orange-bellied Trogon

Azure-hooded Jay

Collared Redstart

Eye-ringed Flatbill

Red-faced Spinetail

After a coffee in the manic centre cafe and our packed lunch we visited the hummingbird gallery which is beside another coffee shop on the opposite side of the carpark. The feeders here were excellent and the pair of Magenta-throated Woodstars made my day! Into the bargain there were also 2 Bananaquits, several Green-crowned Brilliants, 2 Coppery-headed Emeralds, a few Stripe-tailed Hummingbirds, Violet Sabrewings, Green Violetears and Purple-throated Mountain-Gems. Back at the car and just as we were about to leave a call went up and a male Resplendent Quetzal proceeded to display above our heads as c50 people watched it. It was a like a twitch back home! A brief roadside stop and stroll on the way back down had me ticking Vaux's Swift.

Magenta-throated Woodstar (male)

Magenta-throated Woodstar (female)

Green-crowned Brilliant

Stripe-tailed Hummingbird

Resplendent Quetzal

Resplendent Quetzal
Back at our cabin 3 Masked Tityras and a Plain Wren showed really nicely to round the day off.
Masked Tityra

Plain Wren