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Frigates and Motmots and Howlers, Oh My!

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

La Ensenada is a dude ranch and birder's resort on Costa Rica's northern Pacific coast. It's a magic combination of ranchland, mangrove and shore, looking out on the Golfo de Nicoya. 
Pastoral scenes include carob trees in full bloom, an astounding old rose over the pastures...

beautiful ponies who put up with the riding styles of diverse foreigners, not including us

photo by Jenny Minton

photo by Jenny Minton

a pickup that has clearly hauled its last rolls of hay

and outside the gates in the village, a little shop with a creepy mannequin who was wearing a swimsuit when we arrived and this Daisy Mae getup when we left. 

Turquoise-browed motmots are a dry savannah delight. Really, is there a more delightful bird? Don't miss its little racquet-tipped tail.

On our first morning at La Ensenada, we took a boat ride into the mangrove forest. Fidel brought that boat's nose right up out of the water as we skimmed to our destination.

The flats at the mouth of the mangrove swamp are coated in great birds. Whimbrels by the gazillion; western sandpipers, short-billed dowitchers, semipalmated plovers, black-bellied plovers, willets and marbled godwits teem. Black skimmers, royal and Sandwich terns and a smattering of laughing gulls round out the cast. It's pretty amazing to see these far northern nesters taking it easy in the hot Costa Rican sun. 

The only Caspian tern I was able to pick out amongst many royals was discovered in this photo, flying along behind a magnificent frigatebird. Oh my. 

I loved this tandem team of young male frigates. If there is a more graceful flyer I haven't seen it.

The frigates, gulls and terns were dogging a little shrimp boat. What a beautiful smile from the fisherman, with his gorgeous great big prawns to show us.

We sought the mangrove yellow warbler with its chestnut head; the mangrove vireo and  mangrove hummingbird, and found them. Rufous-necked wood rail, not so much. 

Pygmy kingfisher. Almost too tiny to believe. 

Deep in the mangroves, lesser nighthawks roosted. 

We enjoyed rare looks at perched frigates. The red dollop there is his gular sac, which he can inflate to cantaloupey proportions when displaying to passing females on the breeding grounds. He'll spread his wings, throw his head way back, and shake that thing while making a bloobling noise. They can't resist. Don't miss his ooky toes.

We have a great, easy going group this year. Interested in pretty much everything, quiet and respectful in nature. It's nice.

Which is a very good thing when the full moon draws the Gulf of Nicoya down so far that the pier we're supposed to land on is high and dry. Fidel and Mario had to improvise a landing on sharp mussel shells that was nevertheless reasonably safe and dry. We had a good old walk over mucky shell-strewn rocks to get to the ranch, though. 

photo by Jenny Minton

Better, we all agreed, to have an adventure than have smooth sailing all the way.

La Ensenada has its share of birders. I loved the pose on this man who was photographing black-headed trogons.

Birds are plentiful and great. A crested caracara makes off with a quarter of a broad-winged hawk. We'll never know how he got that, but there you have it. Weird stuff birders see.

And a baby mantled howler feasts on figs. 
There's so much more than birds out there. There's everything to be enjoyed. What fun to be in such exotic places, taking it all in. 


This trip just gets better every day!

Oh the motmots... be still my heart.

Posted by Gail Spratley March 1, 2016 at 7:20 PM
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