FAVE BIRDS – Pale-billed Woodpecker

I have lots of woodpecker photos of 9 different species, but this one seems the most unique to me and one that is not seen as often and can easily be confused with the common Pileated Woodpecker. And because it is also similar to the now-extinct Ivory-billed Woodpecker in the states, I will call it the CR substitute! 🙂 I first saw one of these on the Bribri Yorkin Indigenous Reserve, but not as good a photo as this one at Arenal. Read about the Pale-billed Woodpecker (Link to eBird description) or see my Pale-billed Woodpecker Gallery for my shots from 5 different locations in Costa Rica with links below to the trip galleries where I made the photos. As with so many birds I have found this one easier to find and photograph at Maquenque Eco-Lodge and the Arenal Observatory Lodge that I highly recommend for birding and bird photography. 🙂

Pale-billed Woodpecker, Arenal Observatory Lodge, Costa Rica
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FAVE BIRDS – Montezuma Oropendola

This bird has always intrigued me with its bright colors and unique nests and because I have seen him all over the country from coast to coast, mountains, valleys and lowlands! Read about the Montezuma Oropendola on eBirds site or see my collection of photos in my Montezuma Oropendola Gallery. I tell more about this photo and the unique nests they make in my Backstory below plus links to the places I made my photos as trip galleries.

Montezuma Oropendola, Arenal Observatory Lodge, Arenal Volcano NP.
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FAVE BIRDS – King Vulture

Vultures are not all ugly as this magnificent creature attests. The King Vulture (eBird description) is hard to find and even harder to photograph without help, but possible as seen in my King Vulture Gallery from 3 locations in Costa Rica. Read the Backstory for how I got the closeups and follow the links to the three trip galleries where I found this big bird!

King Vulture, Maquenque Lodge, Boca Tapada
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FAVE BIRDS – Green-breasted Mango

The Green-breasted Mango (eBird description) is a type of Hummingbird found only in Central America and northern South America. My Green-breasted Mango Gallery has photos from three locations in Costa Rica. The featured photo of a female is not particularly good photography, but I like it because I caught her looking right into the camera at my eye-level which I’m seldom ever able to do! 🙂 Read more about this shot and the places I’ve seen this bird under The Backstory below.

Green-breasted Mango Female, Dave & Dave’s Nature Park Sarapiqui, La Virgen, Costa Rica
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FAVE BIRDS – Green Ibis

This “uncommon” bird is generally found only on the Caribbean or Atlantic side of Costa Rica while the more common White Ibis is on both sides, though more prevalent on the Pacific side. This particular Green Ibis (eBird link) was photographed in Tortuguero NP as one of the 5 locations in my Green Ibis Gallery. I particularly liked this photo because of the unusual flying position of his wings in an umbrella or bowl shape. Never seen this in any bird. See my Backstory below for more information about the five places I’ve photographed this bird.

Green Ibis, Tortuguero NP
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FAVE BIRDS – Great Kiskadee

Not exotic but one of the most often seen birds across Costa Rica is the Great Kiskadee (eBirds link) and I have a lot of photos of them in My Great Kiskadee Gallery, but I still can’t tell you what makes him “great.” 🙂 And be forewarned that I still get them confused with the Social Flycatcher (looks the same but is technically smaller) and some of the other flycatchers that are the same colors.

Great Kiskadee, Xandari Nature Resort, Alajuela, Costa Rica

I don’t really have a “Backstory” for this bird or this photo and since the locations where found are pretty much “everywhere in Costa Rica,” I will not link to trip galleries where I have photographed them. But you might want to see in my bird galleries some of the ones that are often confused with the Great Kiskadee and hey! Some of these photos might even be mis-labeled. 🙂 I really do get them confused!:

¡Pura Vida!

FAVE BIRDS – Gray Hawk

I decided to pick only one of my many hawk photos and honestly, I’m not sure why I liked this one best. The Common Black Hawk is the one I’ve photographed the most with the Road Hawk a close second and I have some good photos of both. The Gray Hawk (eBird description) is common and sure of himself and seems determined in this photo. See others I’ve photographed in my Gray Hawk Gallery from many locations. And read below The Backstory on how and where I photographed this and the other Gray Hawks in my gallery.

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FAVE BIRDS – Sunbittern

One of those thrilling moments of discovery was the first time I finally saw a Sunbittern, even though planned and expected but not guaranteed, there it was! And after a few shots of a plain walking bird along the stream, he finally opened his wings for this shot of spectacular color and design! Read the Backstory for more on the experience.

The Sunbittern (eBird description) is found along water in Central America and the northern half of South America. See my Sunbittern Gallery for my images made at La Mina near Rancho Naturalista, Turrialba; Macaw Lodge near Carara NP; and at Tapirus Lodge, Braulio Carillo NP. See links at bottom of post for all three of these trip galleries and links to these 3 lodges in The Backstory.

Sunbittern at La Mina, Costa Rica
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FAVE BIRDS: Resplendent Quetzal

The first in my series of favorite bird photos since moving to Costa Rica is almost everyone’s favorite, the Resplendent Quetzal (eBird description) found in the cloud forests of Costa Rica and some other Central American countries that is an endangered species or “near threatened.” See my other photos of this beauty in my CR Resplendent Quetzal Gallery with photos from three different trips to San Gerardo de Dota and two trips to Monteverde, the two best places to find and photograph this colorful bird in Costa Rica. Note that it is the national bird of Guatemala, but on my three trips there I never saw one.

Resplendent Quetzal, San Gerardo de Dota


On my first trip to Costa Rica in 2009 on a birding tour, one of our stops was the Hotel Savegre in San Gerardo de Dota and I made this close-up here of what I think is a younger male Resplendent Quetzal than the one in the top photo because his tail was not as long. They took us to a nearby farm and pointed to a wild avocado tree where Quetzales would come to eat if we waited patiently. Most everyone sat on a little hill beside the tree to see the birds when they came in and that was where I started . . .

But when someone else crawled down under the tree to shoot from below, I decided to also be different and joined him. A good decision! we were much closer to the birds when they flew in and that is how I got this closeup shot of a young male in brilliant Christmas colors that served as my Christmas card one year! The other shot above this is I think of a more mature adult with long flowing tail that was made this year in January during a week stay at the remodeled and enlarged Hotel Savegre! I love it there! 🙂

San Gerardo de Dota

I love all of San Gerardo de Dota and have had good experiences in 2 other lodges there, Trogon Lodge and the simple little cabins at Cabinas El Quetzal, then called Mariam’s Cabinas. But without a doubt, Hotel Savegre is my favorite for service, food and facilities plus the number of birds seen. See my photo galleries listed below for photos from each location.


I found it a little more difficult to find Quetzales in Monteverde, but they are there and you will see in my galleries I got some good photos there too including a nesting couple. I just prefer San Gerardo de Dota. One trip to Monteverde was with the Costa Rica Birding Club and we stayed in cabins. My solo trip was at Monteverde Lodge and Gardens which I highly recommend with a great restaurant and super guides to guarantee you find birds of all kinds, including the Quetzal. Plus it is very good birding on the lodge’s large property of forest and gardens. I love it there too! 🙂

My Trip Galleries that include Quetzales

“Not all those who wander are lost”

~ J.R.R. Tolkien

¡Pura Vida!

FAVE BIRDS: The Next Blog Series + Health Update

Starting tomorrow I am going to share some of my favorite bird photos out of literally thousands of over 350 species of birds here. It has been very difficult to choose just a few favorites. I started with 40 and whittled it down to 21 and gave up after that, so over the next three weeks I’ll be sharing 21 bird photos of 21 different species of birds found here, introducing the species, including a link to the eBird description, a link to my gallery on that species, and I’m writing a “Backstory” about each particular photo I’m sharing. It seems that there is a story behind every photo! 🙂 I hope you will find it interesting and revealing about Costa Rica for both nature lovers and birders! And oh yes, the two bird photos in this post did not make the cut for a feature, so they decorate this post! 🙂

I’m working ahead on the series and trying to make each blog post a visual work of art as well as a valuable chunk of information about a bird species in Costa Rica, including where I found it and which lodge I stayed it. I trust they will become valuable tools for future visitors and new expat residents of Cost Rica, starting tomorrow with the beautiful Resplendent Quetzal!

Yellow-throated Euphonia & the Feature Photo at Top is a Gray-cowled Woodrail

Update on My Health and Latest Cancer Report

First, I recently had the same CAT Scan (called TAC here) they did to diagnose the cancer and it shows me totally cancer-free after the surgery and 7 weeks of radiation. That is good news!

Now the effects of the radiation still have not all gone away and usually do not for about a year for most patients, meaning I may be “normal” by next July. 🙂 The left side of my face & neck + the left ear are all still swollen or enlarged somewhat. That is normal the first year. My smile is almost “normal” now, not totally lopsided on right side only as after surgery. I will always have to deal with my left eye not blinking or being able to fully close. I use eye drops two or three times a day and wear an eye patch most of the time except for about 3 hours in the morning.

I am still low on energy or tired a lot, wanting to sleep more and that is normal for the first year they say. My taste has partially recovered though not totally and they say that can take as much as 6 months to a year to fully recover, so I’m much closer to normal there! Though my appetite is still not high and my weight is still lower than before. I drink an Ensure protein shake once a day to help keep me healthy and otherwise try to eat healthy.

Mentally/emotionally I am fine and generally have a positive attitude about life regardless what is happening. So in short, I’ve made great improvements and I’m overall feeling very well, just not planning as many activities as before. Plus at 81 I needed to slow down anyway! 🙂 And these new series of blog posts using past photos is one example of how I’m slowing down while remaining creative. But I will be adding new trips and new photos, just not as frequently now! 🙂

¿Cómo estás? – ¡Total bien! 🙂 That’s how most people answer here regardless how they really feel! 🙂 The positive and helpful attitudes of Costa Ricans is also healing to me! I’m so glad I live here now!

¡Pura Vida!