Deja Vu from 2000 Miles describes deja vu as ” the illusion of having previously experienced something actually being encountered for the first time.”

I know while birding I have experienced this many times. Often when birding the local patch and seeing a familiar bird.  I feel that I have been here before looking at the same bird.  And maybe I have??

But I still get the feeling when birding my local area but the feeling is for areas far from Illinois or Indiana.  Maybe walking a trail at Atterbury FWA brings the feeling that I walked this same trial somewhere far away from the Midwest.  Maybe Oregon or California. Somewhere but not here.

Have you ever had the feeling that you have been here before? While walking a trail in Ecola State Park, Oregon I was sure I had been there before but couldn’t place when or where…

But on a recent Saturday morning there was no doubt the location of the feeling.

Observing from Rick’s Cafe Boatyard I noticed a group of Turkey Vultures on the Eagle Creek Reservoir Dam.  After a quick scan to check that there were no Black Vultures mixed in I gave my attention to other birds flying up and down the reservoir. While watching a group of Double-crested Cormorants fly I noticed the Turkey Vultures had lifted off and were flying in a group high above the ground.

And immediately there was no doubt that I was back at Flamingo Beach, Guanacaste, Costa Rica.

The view from Rick’s Cafe Boatyard, Indianapolis – 9/26/15.
The view along the main road – Flamingo Beach, Guanacaste, Costa Rica – 12/19/14.

As you can see from the photos there isn’t much difference except the sky is cloudy and overcast in Indiana and is a clear and tropic-blue in Costa Rica.

Plus the difference that there are Turkey and Black Vultures, Magnificent Frigatebirds, and Brown Pelicans soaring in the photo from Costa Rica.  And only Turkey Vultures and two Bald Eagles in the photo from Indiana.  But the feeling was the same for both as when I posted about Costa Rica back in February – both times it was really something to watch!



A Few More Pictures from Costa Rica

Since it snowed 6 inches Friday night which wrecked another Saturday of birding, I thought I would get together a few more pictures from Costa Rica, December 2014.

Remember to click on photo for enlarged view.

Let’s start with the photo that made me the maddest from the trip, a Crimson-collared Tanager that I couldn’t get a good shot. I tried all sorts of angles but none were clear. And then it flew away and I didn’t see another one the trip. La Fortuna area – Dec. 2014
The photo from one of the best times on the trip. You can’t really tell but there are both Turkey and Black Vultures, Magnificent Frigatebirds, and Brown Pelicans soaring together. It was really something to watch. La Flamingo area – Dec. 2014
A closer look at a Magnificent Frigatebird. La Flamingo area – Dec. 2014
Sorry for only catching him/her on a power line, but it  kept running back and forth outside our balcony. A Variegated Squirrel, I think. Nothing beats a squirrel with a racing strip down it’s back. La Flamingo area – Dec. 2014
Sorry, another power line shot. This was the only time I didn’t see a Stripe-headed Sparrow peeking out from the bushes. La Flamingo area – Dec. 2014
The most numerous parrot of the trip was the Orange-chinned Parakeet. They enjoyed the bananas at the lodge where we stayed. And in typical parrot fashion were quite vocal about it. La Fortuna area – Dec 2014
We saw numerous Three-toed Sloths on the trip, but this was the only one that gave a half way decent picture. OK, maybe a quarter decent picture. La Fortuna area – Dec. 2014
Both sexes of Passerini’s Tanagers feeding on the local bananas. I was glad to see the females were a duller color like they are here in the temperate zones. I was beginning to think all birds were really colorful. La Fortuna area – Dec. 2014
Another numerous species like the Passerini’s was the Blue-gray Tanager. To me they seemed to keep to cover more than the Passerini’s. La Fortuna area – Dec 2014
I did not get a good photo of a Streaked-backed Oriole but I like this one since it shows off the streaked-back. Like most orioles he wasn’t happy with me getting close. La Flamingo area – Dec. 2014
I had never noticed how many contrasting colors a White-winged Dove has until I studied this one. In other words I had never taken the time to look. La Flamingo Area – Dec. 2014
We were at a hot springs when my brother-in-law noticed a large bird in a tree. Immediately after I took this photo the Osprey flew down to the river and got it’s fish. La Fortuna area – Dec. 2014
A good way to start the day – a flock of White Ibis roosting. I took this picture before sunrise at the one-lane bridge in the previous blog. La Flamingo area – Dec. 2014
And what is a set of pictures without at least one Great-tailed Grackle? I have decided I must include one from every trip. Or at least a cousin of one. La Flamingo area – Dec. 2014


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10 Things We Heard About Costa Rica Before Going – True or False?

Here is a list of non-birding related items that we had read or heard before our trip to Costa Rica in December 2014. In our experience some are correct, some aren’t, and a few fall in the gray middle area.

The points aren’t in any particular order.

1. We had heard most Costa Ricans spoke some English so you really don’t need to know Spanish.  Mostly False.  Only at the major locations – the airport for example – or at the lodges.  Otherwise very spotty.  We could have used knowing basic Spanish.

2. We had read not to exchange money at the airport because of the exchange rate and fees.  False – Do it.  We would have been better off to pay the higher fees and got some colóns at the airport.  We ended up wasting money because we hadn’t broken any U.S. $20’s at the airport and then later going to an ATM.

3. We had heard mixed reports about renting a car. We didn’t rent one and I am glad we didn’t.  We hired drivers to get from place to place, which I think is the way to go for the first time traveler.  Next time I will do a hybrid system .  I would hire a driver for the 3-4 hour journey from the airport to our destination and then rent a car at the location for a few days. I spoke to a gentleman from Saskatchewan who drove and it was “OK” with the most recent GPS software. But I talked to a couple from the U.K. with just maps and they had to stop 20 times asking for directions from the airport.  There are very, very few directional road signs. And they are small.

One Lane Bridge
Even the main roads have one lane bridges that slow traffic. This photo is on a nice day but we had to cross several on a very rainy day. La Flamingo – Dec. 2014


4. Don’t forget your exit tax at the airport – $29 per person.  True.  We talked to several people who knew nothing about it.

5. It is called the Rain Forest for a reason. True.  We were in the rain forest area for 4 days.  It rained 3 of them. In fact the first day we were there it was clear and the locals said it was the first day in 3 weeks it hadn’t rained.

Arenal VolcanoArenal Volcano Cloudy

On the left the view of Arenal Volcano on our first day in the area. This would be the only day the volcano was seen most of the day. On the right is a more typical view (or lack of ) of the volcano.

6. I read you should download a copy of “What to pack for Costa Rica” and then follow it.  True. We used the 2 small flashlights we had every night.  The lodges aren’t very well-lit.  And my wife lost her glasses. But we had packed a second pair as the list recommended. The one we used is located here.

7. We had neither read or heard about the waves at La Flamingo.  We were expecting the types of waves we experienced in different parts of the U.S.  If I’m describing it correctly, the waves “break” all at once, knocking you down if you’re standing in them. Not what we were expecting.  (See losing wife’s glasses in 6 above)

CR Waves
Typical waves at La Flamingo. They “break” all at once knocking you down and push you around. Dec. 2014


8. Allow time at customs/immigration on the flights if you have to make a connecting flight.  True and False.  Coming back into the U.S it’s true, not so much going out. We saw and have heard of several people missing connecting flights because of the long lines coming back into the U.S. Luckily we had a 3 hour layover in Houston because it took an hour and 20 minutes to get through the long line.  But maybe it was because of the holidays?

9. I had read and heard that WiFi is spotty. True.  Several places you had to be within 50′ of the service to get your phone, laptop, etc. to work.  I didn’t use either but my wife and daughter had some troubles with their phones.

10. You can drink the water. True.  None of us had any problems.

I would like to know if you have any points to add or disagree with my points. Just  leave a comment below.

A Few Photos from December 2014 Costa Rica Trip

I started to call this my 10 favorite photos but I couldn’t narrow it down.  So I’ll go with a title of just a few photos.

Let me start by stating up front this was a family vacation with birding added. Though if you ask my family they would say it was a birding trip for me. The trip was my first out of the country in years so I was also using the trip to see how I like traveling aboard.

I am not going to write about the trip in a travelogue format. I will present a brief description of the trip and in my next post discuss some things we had heard or read about Costa Rica before we went and if they were true or not.

A brief description of the trip. On December 13 we flew from Indianapolis to Houston to San Jose. No problems. We had hired a driver to take us to La Fortuna, the town nearest Arenal Volcano.  My sister-in-law’s family came in the next day. The lodges we stayed at in La Fortuna had great grounds for birding, so I did most of it there.  The day I was to go with a guide to Arenal got all messed up so I didn’t make it.  But I did hire a guide one morning that took us around the grounds of a local preserve. After four days in the area we then moved on to the NW resort area – La Flamingo. All the birding there was within walking distance of the hotel. We stayed 3 days and flew home out of Liberia.  No problems there either.  Got home at 12:30 AM and did the Johnson County CBC the next day. That’s the trip in a nutshell.  If you want more details leave a comment and I will reply.

Here are a few of my favorite birds-photos from the trip. I’m sure I’ll post more at a later date.

Remember to click the photos for a better view – especially the Broad-billed Motmot’s.

Probably the best photo of the trip, this Tropical Kingbird was perched outside our balcony. La Flamingo – Dec 2014


This Yellow-bellied Elaenia was actively feeding in the grounds at our lodge at La Fortuna. Dec 2014


This Social Flycatcher was checking out a couple of dogs running by the tree. La Fortuna – Dec. 2014


A Palm Tanager was hanging around, literally, eating bananas outside our lodge. La Fortuna Dec. 2014


I saw numerous Scaly-breasted Hummingbirds on the trip. La Fortuna – Dec. 2014


After seeing numerous Great Kiskadees in Texas and Costa Rica, one of the few birds I was actually hoping to see so I could compare them was a  Boat-billed Flycatcher. I was initially a little tentative on the ID until it called. La Flamingo – Dec. 2014


Not the best of photos but it was taken under a tree in the rain. I was waiting for the rest of the group to come back when I saw some movement under a tree – a Broad-billed Motmot. I almost missed the tail at first (Click to enlarge and look close). Like myself, it sat for a long time just avoiding the rain. La Fortuna – Dec. 2014


Out walking one morning I came across this Ringed Kingfisher hunting by one of the numerous one-lane bridges. La Flamingo – Dec. 2014


I watched this Rufous-naped Wren for quite a while coming and going but never did figure out where the nest was being built. Seeing a wren this size was cool! La Flamingo Dec. 2014


And lastly, there is something eerie about a Black Vulture beachcombing. La Flamingo – Dec. 2014


My 5 Best Birds of the Year – 2014

As with the tradition of bird bloggers, one must pick out their best birds for the previous year.  Not sure I like the term best bird, since all birds are in some way the best bird. But I like going through the exercise because it makes me reflect on the previous year.

Since I birded outside the Midwest on 3 occasions this year- South Texas, Southern California, and Costa Rica – picking a Best Bird of the Year is a little more difficult this year. But keeping with societies hangup for lists, I now present my top 5 birds of 2014.

5. Rufous-crowned Sparrow

Seen at Mission Hills Regional Park in San Diego in November.  I had not expected to see it since it was low on the status and distribution list. A very nice surprise.

A completely unexpected bird that sat up for great looks. Mission Hills – San Diego, CA – Nov. 2014


4. Montezuma Oropendola

This was one of the birds I had definitely wanted to see in Costa Rica.  A large blackbird but with a chestnut back, yellow tipped tail, and white under eye.  What else to say.

MORO Corrected
I lightened the photo to try to show the coloring a little better. Taken photos is tough during the rainy season since it is always dark and rainy. Hence the term “Rain Forest” – La Fortuna area – Costa Rica – Dec. 2014

3. Green Jay

As I have stated previously, why can’t the Midwest have a blue headed, green body jay?  I probably wouldn’t even travel much if I could see one of these in my neighborhood.

Not the clearest of pictures, but the best one I had to show the contrasting blue head, black face and throat, and green body. Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge – Texas – June 2014


2. Carolina Wren

Still my favorite Midwest bird.  If not my favorite bird. What’s not to like about an always chattering, feisty, brown above, buff below fireball?

Carolina Wren - Common in Indiana - Not so common in North-Central Illinois
Carolina Wren – Illinois

1. Golden-olive Woodpecker

Of all the new birds I saw this year this one probably made me gasp the loudest when I first saw it. It almost looked fake with the colors seeming to be painted on. I looked and looked and still couldn’t believe the coloring.

I still can’t believe that the colors aren’t painted on it’s body. La Fortuna area – Costa Rica – Dec. 2014

So there you have my top 5 for 2014.  Hopefully you have had as good of time reflecting  on the birds you saw in 2014.