Roseate Spoonbill (Platalea ajaja)

The Roseate Spoonbill (Platalea ajaja) (sometimes placed in its own genus Ajaja) is a gregarious wading bird of the ibis and spoonbill family.  I’m kind of partial to pink birds!

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They have quite a large range all over Mexico, Central America & South America.  Look for them when you visit eco-lodges along rivers in Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, and Venezuela. I saw this one near the large parrot clay lick near Napo Wildlife Center.  I also saw quite a few on the Tarcoles River in Costa Rica.







Check out the gorgeous colours close-up!


A pretty slideshow


Slow-mo in-flight!


Cruise Ship Birding Made Simple

A few months ago, I did a series targeted to the budget birder on birding from a cruise ship and how to put together your own birding cruise.  Although this way does save you money and you can choose any ship you prefer, there is also an option for those who prefer an organized group birding cruise.  Carefree Birding offers a variety of itineraries mostly around the Caribbean.  You basically book the cruise component through their travel agency and then book a birding package for those who wish to go on the birding shore excursions (non-birding family members don’t have to book the excursions).  This offers a nice option if you are short of time to do your own legwork in booking private birding shore excursions such as I did.  Since you have to use their travel agency you do lose out on airline miles for booking through a frequent flyer mile portal such as United Cruises or bargaining for the cruise fare on Cruise Compete, but for many people time = money so they prefer to have everything organized for them.

James Currie of Birding Adventures did a cruise on the Celebrity Equinox (ship details here) and you can see what a typical birding cruise is like on his videos.

Costa Rica, Belize & Cozumel – it was nice to see their visit to Crooked Tree in Belize.  I did this as a land trip and had a different experience because I was targeting parrots and didn’t do the water excursion.

Panama, Grand Cayman & Cartegena, Colombia – I wish I had known about the botanical gardens in Grand Cayman as we went to a different place back in 2008.  I like their option better!

Gartered Trogon (Trogon caligatus)

The Gartered Trogon (Trogon caligatus), also known as the northern violaceous trogon, is a near passerine bird in the trogon family, Trogonidae. It is found in forests in east-central Mexico, south through Central America, to north-western South America (west or north of the Andes in Colombia, Ecuador and Venezuela).  It was formerly treated as a subspecies of the otherwise exclusively South American violaceous trogon (T. violaceus).

When I saw this bird during the shore excursion on my cruise in 2011, it was still being called a Violaceous Trogon.  The split came sometime in 2012 and field guides published before then will use the old name.  It gets confusing as I remember my guide calling it a Violaceous Trogon in Selva Verde in 2013!

My photo is blurry so I added shots of a male (1st pic) and female from Wikipedia to show the bird’s beautiful colours to advantage.

g trogon1 g trogon2IMG_5616Their range extends from Mexico through most of Central America to the tip of South America in Colombia.  I have seen them during a shore excursion in Puntarenas and in Selva Verde, Costa Rica.



Birdlife (has not separated the Gartered and Violaceous Trogons)

Cornell Lab

Beauty of Birds




Turquoise-browed Motmot (Eumomota superciliosa)

The Turquoise-browed Motmot (Eumomota superciliosa) is a colourful, medium-sized bird of the motmot family, Momotidae. It inhabits Central America from south-east Mexico (mostly the Yucatán Peninsula), to Costa Rica, where it is common and not considered threatened. It lives in fairly open habitats such as forest edge, gallery forest and scrubland. It is more conspicuous than other motmots, often perching in the open on wires and fences. From these perches it scans for prey, such as insects and small reptiles.

My photos of this stunning little bird were backlit so didn’t do justice to it’s beauty.  Looks like I have to rely on Wikipedia for close-up shots.

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IMG_5589aThey have a fairly large range throughout Central America from Belize to Costa Rica.  We saw them in Nicaragua around the Granada area and in Costa Rica while enroute to the Manantial Sanctuary.





Cornell Lab


Sometimes it just blows me away when I see how beautiful a bird really is after I saw one in bad light (usually backlit by the sun) and see photos and videos posted by others who were lucky enough to see the bird in good light.  Check out these videos!


Puntarenas, Costa Rica – The Ultimate “Birding From A Cruise Ship” Port

Costa Rica is one of the world’s great birding & eco-tourism destinations and really deserves a full land-based trip such as we did in 2013.  But if you happen to find yourself on a Panama Canal cruise, make sure Puntarenas (or nearby Caldera) is included!  Most ships will offer a good choice of eco-tourism options if you want to book with the cruise line.  Here are a few from Princess to give you an idea.

Scarlet Macaw Sanctuary, Boat Tour & Country Drive

Carara National Park, Pura Vida Gardens & Lunch

Rainforest Aerial Tram, Tarcoles River & Lunch

There is also a new Scarlet Macaw Sanctuary (not sure if this is where Princess is going now, they used to go to El Manantial) called the Ara Project.  They used to be based in Alajuela but recently relocated here.  I have pretty extensive posts on Carara & the Tarcoles River Cruise when we were there on a land trip so in this post I will give my advice for a shore excursion when you have limited time.

Puntarenas is one port where you are better off organizing a private trip.  You can sometimes recruit others to share the cost if you join your cruise’s Roll Call on Cruise Critic.  We ended up on our own but the price was reasonable even if we did pay it ourselves.  After much online research, I chose Odyssey Tours and Travel and it was an excellent choice!  The guide knew the local birds well and he took us to a great local place for lunch that had no other cruise people so it was really authentic.  They also have a tour sharing service.

In the map you can see our customized itinerary.  We started from the port (Puntarenas Excursions on the Google map), drove to Carara, spent the morning there, had lunch at that little restaurant on the beach (black line), went back towards the port stopping at the Molas souvenir shop and finishing at the El Manantial Sancturay (roughly “unnamed road”), then back to the ship.



Warning, there is a ridiculous number of photos to follow!  I probably should have split this over 2 posts but I am trying to show you what you can do in just ONE day in this port!

Pre-dawn arrival and we were first off the ship.  Our guide picked us up and we hit the road to Carara to get to the Scarlet Macaws asap.

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We caught the Scarlet Macaws in time for breakfast.  This was a young family, we could tell by the way the young macaw kept going back and forth between his parents.  Since we had such a good view, we hung out here for over an hour.

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Reluctantly leaving the macaw family, we walked through the park looking for any kind of wildlife.

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We had lunch a bit early to make sure we had time for the afternoon program.  The food was delicious an it was only us and one other private tour group of 10 people here.  After lunch, we wandered down to the beach to watch sea birds.

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We had a quick drive through the town of Tarcoles then a quick stop where the crocodiles hang out under the bridge.  Some tour groups feed them.  Being Aussies, we weren’t all that fussed about seeing crocodiles.

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The Molas Souvenir Shop was about halfway back to Puntarenas.  They take all credit cards so I went a bit nuts here!  I would have been even worse if we hadn’t been limited for room!

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I really wanted those tables but didn’t know how to get them back to Australia.

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Enroute to the sanctuary, we lucked upon this beautiful motmot and trogon.

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Final stop was El Manantial Sanctuary.  The birds were rescued from smugglers or in some cases donated by pet owners who couldn’t keep them anymore.  You can see where the Great Green Macaws, Scarlet Macaws and Orange-fronted Parakeets have been set free but still hang around the facility to steal food from their still captive friends.  Only the species that are native to Costa Rica are set free here, others such as the Cockatoos and Hyacinth Macaws will stay in the aviaries.

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Here’s the end of the tour, a quick drive through Puntarenas and we were dropped at the end of the small market that pops up to serve cruise ships.  We did end up buying still more bird themed souvenirs!

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The ship docks at the end of a very long pier so they have a cute little train to get us back to the ship.  My poor husband was exhausted!


I was more exhilirated after such a successful trip!

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Orange-fronted Conure (Eupsittula canicularis)

The Orange-fronted Parakeet or Orange-fronted Conure (Eupsittula canicularis), also known as the Half-moon Conure, is a medium-sized parrot which is a resident from western Mexico to Costa Rica.

The first photo was taken in Huatulco and the 2nd photo which is in better light shows 2 released Orange-fronted Conures hanging around the still captive birds at El Manatial Sanctuary near Puntarenas, Costa Rica.

IMG_4851IMG_5656aOrange-fronted Conures have a large range down the Pacific coastal strip between roughly Puerto Vallarta, Mexico to Puntarenas, Costa Rica.  The black dot is Huatulco which is a popular cruise ship port where we saw them.



World Parrot Trust





Volunteer At The Ara Project, Costa Rica

Do you love working with parrots? If so, we need your help! Join us for a rewarding experience working with large macaws in Costa Rica.

At the Ara Project’s breeding and release center you will see wildlife, visit a beautiful country and learn about a different culture, and meet new people. Best of all, you will make a difference in the lives of endangered macaws.

Full details are on their website.

Read about my visit to the Ara Project (prior to relocation).


Use miles to get to Costa Rica for free and hotel points just after you arrive to get your bearing, then transfer to the project.

Conde Nast Has 9 Reasons To Visit Costa Rica In Green Season…….But I Have 3 Of My Own

Conde Nast has a nice slide show depicting their top 9 reasons to visit Costa Rica in “green season”, the more enticing name for what is basically the wet season.  I was there last year in August and got a fantastic deal on some wonderful eco-lodges.  My Costa Rica posts can be found here.  To see the CN slideshow, click on the butterfly.


And now for my reasons…………..

1.  Fewer people makes it easier to see the birds.  There is nothing worse than arriving at a beautiful nature reserve like Monteverde or Los Quetzales National Park and not seeing Resplendant Quetzals because they are hiding from all the noisy tourists!