Tag: Roadside Hawk

Costa Rica (2018) #2 – Birding Dominical: Toucans, Hawks, Kites, and Vultures

Yellow-throated Toucan Dominical Costa Rica

Yellow-throated Toucans were regular visitors to the property

Birding Dominical: The Big Birds

Because the birding was so unbelievable where we stayed (I tallied 95 species on the property in a week, and dozens more I couldn’t identify), I’m going to break up the recap into several posts. But first, a few words about our amazing home for the week. The property is called Selva Escondida. It sits between the towns of Dominical and Uvita on a steep slope about 1,200 feet above the Pacific Ocean. The accommodations are known as Villa Chill.  It has 8 bedrooms splits between a main house (with a pool) and two small guesthouses. There were 15 of us staying together, so we needed all the rooms. It’s not cheap, and I think you have to rent the whole thing, so small groups and budget birders will need to look elsewhere. Any place in the area would be great, frankly. But this place had 250 acres of diverse habitat, laced with a couple of roads and a few miles of hiking trails. For a birder, it was nearly heaven.

Dominical Villa

The balcony in Dominical – great for spotting soaring birds

Of the 95 species I identified on the property, a lot of them were big birds. I saw 3 species of vultures (King, Black, Turkey), 4 species of kite (Double-toothed, Swallow-tailed, Gray-headed, Hook-billed), 2 species of hawks (Roadside and Broad-winged), a Crested Caracara, and whatever a Hawk-Eagle is (Black Hawk-Eagle).  EBird says Double-toothed Kites are frequently seen soaring “with wings bowed down, tail closed, and puffy white feathering visible under the base of the tail—a distinctive combination of features.” That’s exactly the picture I got! It also says they are rarely seen perched, but I managed to photograph one perched on the property. 

Double-toothed Kite Dominical Costa Rica

A Double-toothed Kite made a low fly-by

I came to suspect that the Roadside Hawks I kept seeing were actually a single bird that resided on the property. On multiple morning walks, I found it standing on the same rock. Each time, at first glance, I thought the rope it was standing on was a snake. Broad-winged Hawks were more often hidden in the branches of forest-edge trees.

At any moment of the day, if you could peel your eyes away from the small birds flitting around the bushes and trees and look up, you were bound to see something soaring by.  Three days in a row a Black Hawk-Eagle circled overhead, screeching like an Osprey. I was stoked to see this bird, but would have loved a closer view. They have crest feathers on their head, and look like they’re wearing striped leg warmers. Twice a King Vulture wandered past.  The Swallow-tailed Kites stayed over the ridge, but close enough to make out their awesome tails. And I lucked into my lone look ever at Wood Storks when a group of 9 went by headed south.

Of the massively-billed birds, I saw Yellow-throated Toucan (daily) and Fiery-billed Aracari (two disappointingly fleeting views). The toucans are elegant fliers, who swoop up to their landing spot. When they weren’t hopping from branch to branch gobbling up fruit, they were conspicuously perched and calling loudly.

This hut on the slope above the property was also great for hawkwatching and chilling

There were big birds who weren’t soaring above, too. During my wandering, I stumbled into Great Tinamou, Crested Guan, Great Currasow, and Gray-headed Chachalaca.  It’s always odd to see such large creatures in the trees, but that’s always where the Crested Guan and Chachalaca were. Because of their size and the way they shake the branches, you often think at first that they are monkeys.

Great Currasow Dominical Costa Rica

This pair of Great Currasow wandered the property

Crested Guan Dominical Costa Rica

Crested Guan somehow move through the canopy pretty skillfully

A Bare-throated Tiger Heron lurked along a creek. In the lower right of the photo you can see an adult Basilisk, also known as the Jesus Christ Lizard, for its ability to run on water. While my oldest son isn’t as in to birding as he used to, the possibility of finding Basilisks got him to accompany me on several 6:00am walks (to this father’s great delight).

Bare-throated Tiger Heron Dominical Costa Rica

Yucatan, Mexico #3 – Birding Tulum

Yucatan Jay Tulum

The endemic, and ubiquitous, Yucatan Jay

Aldea Zama: Birds Around our Tulum Condo

We spent the middle of our Yucatan trip in and around Tulum. It’s a former hidden eco-chic getaway that now suffers from its own success. Posh (i.e. WAY-overpriced) hotels and chic-ly named condominiums dominate. The visitors are a bunch of broke ravers and DJ aficionados alongside hedge fund bros in white linen and yoga ladies on bikes. Tulum itself is not a birding hotspot. Still, there’s beauty and adventure to be had. There are several sets of ruins within a short drive (Coba and Muyil). Tulum has beachfront ruins. The amazing-looking Sian Ka’an Preserve is near. The highlight of the area for us was, by far, the cenotes – limestone sinkholes filled with crystal clear water. Some are great for snorkeling. Others offer scuba diving. Tankatch Ha, near Coba, is a cave almost 100 feet down from the surface, and has a platform for jumping in (highly recommended). The cenotes are unique, dazzling, and magical. Don’t miss them. And the beach is nice if that’s your jam.

We stayed in a rental in an area known as Aldea Zama. It’s a big flat area of jungle between town and the beach that has turned into a theme park of condominium complexes. Don’t get me wrong – we loved having air conditioning, a kitchen and a couch, and a nice swimming pool outside our door for our five night stay. When a couple family members felt sick for a couple of days, the condo was a trip saver. And all the buildings and construction sites provided a lot of jungle edge that gave me a chance to find some birds. On various morning and afternoon walks, I picked up eight lifers: the ubiquitous Yucatan Jay, Yucatan Woodpecker, Yucatan Vireo, Scrub Euphonia, Black-cowled Oriole, White-fronted Parrot, Yellow-lored Parrot, and Olive-throated Parakeet. I never found any big or mixed flocks, though.

Melodious Blackbird Tulum

Melodious Blackbird

Green Jay Tulum

Green Jay

Olive-throated Parakeet Tulum

Olive-throated Parakeet

Yellow-fronted Parrot Tulum

Yellow-lored Parrot

Black-cowled Oriole Tulum

Black-cowled Oriole

Yucatan Vireo Tulum

Yucatan Vireo

Social Flycatchers and Masked Tityra were regulars on snags, while Roadside Hawk preferred mid-level cover.


Tulum Ruins

One day, the boys and I headed to the beachfront ruins in Tulum. It’s a popular tourist destination, so unlike the bigger and better ruins at Coba, or the awesome birdiness of empty Muyil, there is a line to stand in. Happily, a family of pretty tame coati provided free entertainment. It was super windy (not unusual during January from what I’m told). The iguanas didn’t seem to mind, but it kept the bird activity down. Don’t expect a big list here.  

Yellow-throated Warbler makes ID easy

Beachfront ruins at Tulum

Tulum beach ruins