Costa Rica (2018) #5: Birding Dominical beach and Rio Baru

Yellow-headed Caracara Dominical Costa Rica

Yellow-headed Caracara

Birding Dominical: The beach and Rio Baru

This is (finally) my last post about the week we spent in December 2018 in Dominical, Costa Rica. And for the first time, I’ll be talking about birds I saw somewhere other than at our villa property . During the week, we did leave the property. I never birded Hacienda Baru, which has an extensive (425 species) eBird list, except for the birds I saw without binoculars while doing an amazing zipline tour there. It seemed like pretty similar habitat to our villa, and you had to pay to bird there, so I just explored close to home. An afternoon trip to Parque Reptilandia was surprisingly unproductive for birds, but good for lizards.

I rounded out my area list in and around the little town of Dominical, which sits on the Rio Baru where it flows into the ocean. We did surfing lessons at Dominicalito Beach, and had delicious tacos in Dominical a couple of times.

Great Kiskadee Dominical Costa Rica

I’ve never seen the yellow stripe on top of a Great Kiskadee’s head before

The trips to the beach and river mouth produced 9 lifers: Melodious Blackbird, Mangrove Swallow, Southern Rough-winged Swallow, Bare-throated Tiger Heron, Ruddy Ground Dove, Lesser Greenlet, and the only trip sightings of Common Black Hawk, Amazon Kingfisher and Common Tody Flycatcher.  There’s a trail along the southern shore of the Rio Baru that heads from one end of town to the beach.

There were other familiar birds at Dominical. Indeed, much of my list could have just as easily been a 5MR list. We saw Brown Pelican, Willet, Sanderling, Spotted Sandpiper, Least Sandpiper, Royal Tern, Snowy Egret, Great-tailed Grackle and Osprey.

Sandwich Tern Dominical Costa Rica

Sandwich Tern

There were also plenty of birds around that I couldn’t find close to home. Sandwich Terns and Gull-billed Terns flew about. Laughing Gulls lounged on shore. A Tricolored Heron and Little Blue Heron fed in the shallows. And of course there were Tropical Kingbirds, which are ubiquitous in the area.  

Magnificent Frigatebird Costa Rica

Magnificent Frigatebird

We never made it to Parque Nacional Mario Ballena, a whale’s tail shaped beach south of Dominical. Nor did we go to Parque Nacional Manuel Antonio (monkeys and sloths, but we had those on the property, without crowds or entrance fees). If I was back in the area again (please let that happen), I’d spend a day checking out locations even further south like Sierpe and Gamba. I’d add a day trip to San Isidro del General, too, which is at a higher elevation and promises some different birds. 

And I’d go back to Dominical in a second. Laid back vibe. Not crowded. Easy to get around. Incredible scenery. And so many awesome birds.

Costa Rica (2018) #4: Birding Dominical, Medium-sized Birds

Scarlet-rumped Cacique Dominical Costa Rica

There’s a big red rump hidden on this Scarlet-rumped Cacique

Birding Dominical: The Medium-Sized Birds

I was on a roll for a bit with the Costa Rica posts. Then a new law school semester started. And Republicans managed to snatch defeat from the hands of victory and lose control of the Senate. This was immediately followed by a bunch of crazy white folks invading the house of Congress while it was in session, trying to stop the certification of a fair election, chanting that the Vice President be hanged and murdering a police officer in the process. Days later,  despicable-human-in-chief Donald Trump was impeached a second time. More importantly, he lost the ability to tweet, and an obnoxious ringing in many of our ears suddenly quit. During those remarkable 9 days (yes, all of that happened in the last 9 days), over 27,000 Americans died of COVID.  In a perfectly on-brand response, Trump officials announced they were releasing vaccine doses from a stockpile reserve that didn’t exist.

2021 was supposed to be better than 2020. Ugh. All the nonsense and tragedy is more reason to daydream about tropical birds. Because what everyone needs right now is some amazing tropical birds. I’ve already covered the small birds and the big birds I saw at our amazing villa near Dominical, Costa Rica. In this post, I’ve got pictures of the medium-sized birds that moved through the property.

Streaked Flycatcher Dominical Costa Rica

Streaked Flycatcher

I could bird all day, in swampy heat and falling rain and slippery mud, if there was a chance to see trogons and motmots. Trogons are like sedentary robins. Despite their size and colors, they tend to stay still in the forest for long periods of time, making them surprisingly difficult to spot. I managed to find two kinds of trogons on the property: Gartered Trogon and the deliciously-gray Slaty-tailed Trogon pictured below.

Like trogons, motmots are really good at not being seen despite their size and coloring. But one motmot habit makes them easier to spot than trogons. They have a tendency to wag their long tail feathers back-and-forth. That’s how I spotted the Lesson’s Motmot pictured above. It was perched deep inside a tree, and I would have walked right past without noticing it if it’s tail wasn’t moving like a pendulum. Check out the link for a video of a motmot wagging its tail.

Black-hooded Antshrike Dominical Costa Rica

There are a whole collection of birds in Costa Rica that are named after the ants they love to eat. There are antwrens, antbirds, and antshrikes. They mainly move through the understory, making them tough birds for good clean looks. I was able to identify a Dusky Antbird, a Chestnut-backed Antbird, and the Black-hooded Antshrike pictured above. The Black-hooded Antshrike was kind of enough to perch just above eye-level in bushes right alongside the trail I was walking. And while I found several trails of leaf-cutter ants on the property, I never found a big swarm of ant-eating birds.

Another new kind of bird I found in Costa Rica were the woodcreepers. They’re like woodpeckers, moving vertically up trunks. But instead of pecking holes in the trunks of trees, they eat insects off the trunks. Most of them are brown, and it’s hard to get clear looks at the heads, bills, and breasts that are the keys to distinguishing them. I saw 5 kinds of woodcreepers on the property: Long-tailed Woodcreeper (small size helps ID), Wedge-billed Woodcreeper (small size and small bill), Cocoa Woodcreeper (long straight bill), Black-striped Woodcreeper (large, bold streaking on upper back), and Streak-heeded Woodcreeper (medium-size, light streaks on head). Many of the views were binocular-only, through 30 feet of dense trees. 

Let us not ignore the big red crest of the Lineated Woodpecker, or the amazing tail of the Squirrel Cuckoo. The abundance of amazingness of the birds is, even now, years after I lived it, hard to believe. 

This post could be never-ending, there were so many birds. I managed to photograph a Plain Xenops (above), which is like a woodcreeper but without the long, stiff tail feathers used to work its way along the trunk. Both Black-hooded and Masked Tityra were regular visitors to the trees just off the porch. Parrots and parakeets of many colors were regulars as well, sometimes in flocks of 200 hundred. 

I don’t know about you, but I feel better because of this post. Thank you, Costa Rica.

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