This past weekend, I traveled to Saracen Lake in Pine Bluff to search for the Tropical Kingbird that’s been spotted there for roughly the past two weeks. It’s rare to Arkansas, and more common to South America. I saw my first Tropical Kingbird earlier this year on my birding trip to Costa Rica.
Pine Bluff is a 45-minute trip from Little Rock. My first attempt to find the Tropical Kingbird was around noon Saturday. I was there for about an hour with no luck. It was later spotted about an hour after I left. I tried again on Sunday, arriving around 2 p.m. – the same time it was spotted the day before. This time, I immediately found the Tropical Kingbird sitting on a chain link fence near the park’s entrance. While it never vocalized, the Tropical Kingbird was very accommodating in letting me park near it to take pictures.
Below are some other birds spotted during the two trips:
This past Saturday, I participated in my first Christmas Bird Count held in Little Rock. It was pretty fun, and awesome in the fact that I got paired with one of the state’s best birders. I also visited some birding areas that I’ve never been to before. We found 59 different species in the eastern section of Little Rock that included the Arkansas Audubon Center and the nearby Gilliam Park. Here’s a few of the birds we saw:
I recently traveled back to Holla Bend National Wildlife Refuge after hearing reports that the Whooping Crane was roaming closer to the road, allowing birders a better view. That was not necessarily the case for my second visit to see it. However, I did get the chance to get a slightly better view as the sunset. Along the way, I also spotted the below Red-tailed Hawk while a group of Northern Shovelers swam in water located just across the road from the Whooping Crane.
I love Senda Monteverde Hotel! However after a final morning walk, we left Monteverde for our final destination in Carrillo Beach in Guanacaste.
Blue and White Swallow
Northern Emerald Toucanet
White-eared Ground Sparrow
Along the way, we stopped once again in Abangares for gas, where I was entertained by the Macaws.
The views along the route were also pretty amazing.
We later stopped for lunch and a private, guided boat tour on the Bebedero River in the Tempisque River basin bordering Palo Verde National Park.
Bare-throated Tiger Heron
Pacific Screech Owls
We also saw so many crocodiles and babies!
We even saw monkeys, a giant anteater and bats! I need to emphasis how excited I was to see the bats!! I finally got a video of a basilisk running on water as well.
Our final days will be spent at Nammbú Beach Resort. I’ll admit I was not in the best of moods when I arrived – I was pure crankiness. I ended up taking a quick trip to check out the beach at sunset before getting in the pool to cool off and nab a drink from the poolside bar (which definitely helped).
We started our day off with a morning hike with the goal of spotting the Three-wattled Bellbird. We did not see it, although a couple that stayed behind because they were sick later spotted it near the hotel’s lobby. We ate breakfast at the hotel’s restaurant. It overlooks the grounds, and we watched the below Lesson’s Motmot and Yellow-crowned Euphonia visit a tree just outside our window.
After a quick breakfast, we then went straight to the Monteverde Cloud Forest Biological Preserve. The preserve was founded in 1972, and you want to arrive early to get assigned to the more popular trails. We arrived later than we had originally planned to so we were deferred to a less popular trail (although you still can’t go wrong on whatever trail you end up on).
Throughout the whole hike, we were on a lookout for the Resplendent Quetzal, an endangered bird known for its colorful plumage and considered one of the most beautiful birds in the world. We were just about to leave the trail when we decided to walk up another side trail to an artificial nest set up by preserve staff. We got lucky – we found both a male and a female (which visited the nest). Another tour guide was sweet enough to take my phone and get a cell phone photo (below, top left) through his scope of the Resplendent Quetzal. We actually had a pair of sisters cry because they joined the group specifically to see this particular bird and they were so thrilled they got to see it.
Before we left the preserve, we stopped by their hummingbird/gift shop/cafe area where they had multiple hummingbird feeders set up for visitors to catch a closer glimpse of the various species of hummingbirds. I have to admit: this was my favorite part because hummingbirds are so darn beautiful and funny!
Purple-throated Mountain Gem
Bananaquit, Coppery-headed Emerald
While traveling to our next stop for Finca Life Coffee Tour in Monteverde, we saw the below Masked Tityra on a telephone pole.
Once at the coffee farm, we ate lunch before touring the farm and sampling the coffee. It was definitely fascinating to learn how the family-managed farm operates.
While I loved hearing about the history of the coffee farm and how it operates, I also enjoyed the birds we found. We actually saw a male Three-wattled Bellbird! It sat in a tree calling near a Pale-billed Woodpecker. Near the end of the tour while looking at the coffee beans in the field, we discovered a male juvenile calling and a Montezuma Oropendola that completed a series of bows from a tree branch as part of its mating ceremony.
Three-wattled Bellbird (juvenile male)
Tonight, we went on a guided night walk at Curi Cancha Reserve, which includes 205 acres of primary and secondary forest. Only a few folks from the group went on the night walk, and afterwards, we ended up eating together in town at a local bar before heading back to crash. It was a fun walk, but I was disappointed in the lack of diversity in the amount of species we found – mainly because I really wanted to see an owl. But, we did see multiple bats and the below snake was a cool find!
While I liked Hacienda Guachipelin, we had issues with some of the air conditioner units leaking causing several of us to wake up to water all over the place. I enjoyed the stay, but I was ready to move on. We pulled out this morning for the next stage of our trip.
While traveling to Monteverde, we stopped at the Solimar Ranch for lunch and a guided tour of the ranch and wetlands. The ranch is just south of the mouth of the Tempisque River. The owner/guide was impressive – he was great at spotting birds and you wanted to stay near him at all times! I loved watching the basilisks run across the top of the water and searching for the various birds, crocodiles and flowers. Up near the ranch house, there were gardens with tons of butterflies. While we ate, we watched a male and female Rose-throated Becards build their nest. The pair took turns entering the nest and frequently sat near or on the nest the whole time we were at the house.
Pacific Screech Owl
Rose-throated Becard entering nest
Rose-throated Becard entering nest
One member of our group – a University of Arkansas grad student – had a neat find! He caught a boa constrictor that was in the process of catching a green iguana! Below is a video of him telling the story.
After Solimar Ranch, we made a pit stop in Abangares for gas (apparently, no one can be in the vehicle when you fill up so we all had to get out). We used this time to visit a souvenir store, and get sweets (mango milkshake) at Cafeteria Mi Finca. We also stopped at a roadside place – Cafeteria Horizonte – to take in the views.
We eventually arrived at Senda Monteverde Hotel. I joined a group for dinner at its restaurant, which was so dang good even if the desert was too rich for me to finish. We were greeted by staff with drinks once again and our cabins are pretty amazing. There was a mix-up with our cabins, but it was quickly straightened up.
It seems Black-bellied Whistling Ducks (above) are the ducks this year. They were among the birds found during a recent rainy trip to Bald Knob National Wildlife Refuge. My most exciting find, though: Bobolinks.
As I headed to Northeast Arkansas on Friday, I made a quick pitstop at the Bald Knob National Wildlife Refuge. High waters kept me on the south side of Huntsman Road near Safely Road, and limited time prevented me from entering on Coal Chute Road. Still, it was a fun trip – here’s some of what I found:
I previously worked as a news and sports photographer. Recently I have been enjoying wildlife photography. My approach toward bird photos is similar to sports photography. I attempt to capture mostly action and hopefully a unique perspective.