Sunday, February 3, 2008
Spotted Rail and Curlew Sandpiper
Here are some notes on the Spotted Rail (Nov.18, 07) and the Curlew Sandpiper (Nov.21, 07).
The coordinates for the Spotted Rail are 10.441, -85.3603. The Google Maps satellite images have great resolution but were taken in the dry season and so show dry looking rice fields. If you pan out a bit you can see that the Rio Tempisque is not far away. When I was there in November the fields closest to the river were fallow and mostly covered with water and overgrown with aquatic vegetation and the roads were just drying out enough to drive on without getting struck. The areas further away from the river were mostly in mature rice that was just being harvested. There were many ducks and shorebirds here and this is an area that you can reach via public roads without having to go through any gates. I found the rail by pure luck. I was driving slowly with the window down and heard the distress call of a frog, the one they make while being eaten by a snake. I stopped and walked over towards where the noise was coming from and as I came to the edge of a water filled ditch the rail scurried out of it and up onto the berm at the edge of a rice field. It stopped and looked at me from about five feet away and I froze not daring to raise my binos. This staring match didn't last long, but what a glorious few seconds that was. The afternoon sun was at my back and there was hardly any wind. It finally shot off into the flooded rice and out of sight. Never did find out what was making that frog cry, but it wasn't the rail.
The Curlew Sandpiper was in flooded rice fields at the La Cutacha sector of Pelón de La Bajura ( 10.4118, -85.3825 ). The roads were just starting to dry out and the mucking tractors were making their first passes through fallow muddy fields that still had a fair amount of standing water (see attached Jabiru photo to get an idea of conditions, the Golden and Black-bellied Plovers were in this same field) This is inside the Hacienda and behind a locked gate (at the good time of year). You need to get permission and enter from the Interamerican highway just W of Pijije (entrance to Lomas Barbudal is at Pijije). It is a U shaped area surrounded on three sides by the Río Tempisque, and if there is a big flood, it fills in with water during the wet season. If you were to go there now in verano the area is much as the satellite photo shows it except that it is super dry and dusty and a main thoroughfare for trucks hauling sugar cane across the Rio Tempisque. They build a temporary crossing in the dry season so cane from the N side of the river can get over to the El Viejo mill at La Guinea.
Almost got a photo of the sandpiper but just as I was setting up to digiscope it a Peregrine blew through and chased up the 3000 or so other shorebirds and ducks that were with it (G. and L. Yellowlegs, BN Stilts, Stilt Sandpipers, Dowitchers, BB Plovers, Am.Golden Plovers, and assorted peeps). I spent the next 1.5 hours trying to find it again but had to finally give up as the sun got bad (only view available was looking W) and the birds started to doze with bills under wings. In the search also picked up a Ruddy Turnstone, some Collared Plovers and a Wilson's Phalarope. Also a few Franklin's Gulls and both Caspian and Gull-billed Terns. An amazing shorebird show so far from the coast. The ducks were also great there too, mostly BW Teal but also both Whistling-Ducks, 4 N.Pintails, 9 N.Shovelers, 11 L.Scaup and 1 Am.Wigeon. Throw in 9 Jabirus and a ton of the other Palo Verde type marsh regulars and it was not to be beat.