Part Three Costa Rica With Birdwatching Trips 2018 By Ivan and Rose

The word "awesome" is over used but not in this case - King Vulture.

From the highland delights of San Gerardo de Dota we headed pretty much due west to pick up the Pacific Coast highway, another of those roadside stops saw us greeted by white faced capuchins which were a quick introduction to the beautifully laid out gardens. Again the hedges were humming with white-crested coquettes, white-tailed emerald, green-crowned brilliant, violet sabrewing, and snowy-bellied hummingbirds all within a very short time. Downwards we went and black-bellied whistling-ducks, grey-breasted martins and ruddy ground dove were spotted around a small urban reservoir before hitting the coastal strip of monotonous palm oil plantations on our way north to our next destination.

In total contrast to the vulture a tiny but gorgeous White-crested Coquette.

A couple more stops added the first gulls (laughing and Franklin’s) of the trip, a pair of scarlet macaws, scissor tailed flycatchers, mockingbirds, turquoise-browed motmots, a prehistoric looking gathering of groove billed anis and a flyover king in amongst a kettle of mixed vultures. Further up the coast and through the tourist resorts we hooked sharp east and up the coastal range to the stunning ecolodge where we would be for the next three nights.

Roadside Scissor-tailed Flycatcher had us doing an emergency stop!

Pretty close to paradise we think, the wonderful Macaw Lodge.

Although we were now getting used to the night song of the forest, this appeared to be amplified with mesh floor to ceiling windows in the gorgeous rooms and providing a taster of what we would experience over the next couple of days. First up was an exploration of the grounds starting at the lodge and another new hummingbird for the trip, this time aptly named charming hummingbird, together with some more curious bananaquits and some considerably less confiding white-throated crakes. Spot crowned euphonia and grey-cowled wood rail were also seen before we stepped out of the main building.

The wonderfully named Charming Hummingbird that came to the flowers by the breakfast table.

Off on to the waterfall trail and the opportunity to get acquainted with non-avian components of the local flora and fauna including brown basilisks, roosting long nosed bats, colourful butterflys and a shout of “snake!” caught one’s attention as it came from Rose behind me who had spotted some movement on the path as my foot brushed past something. Turns out it was a dosing fer-de-lance pit viper which then had us rapidly switching focus from the trees to the floor and back again, but what an experience. Onwards and sulphur rumped flycatchers, plain xenops and dot winged antwrens caught the attention at eye level, while the western variety of green and black dart frogs, skinks and young tarantulas scurried around in the leaf litter. Again we suddenly came to a halt, but this time our eyes all looked up into the forest canopy as a king vulture was sitting directly above us. The rest of the day was spent relaxing around the lodge in the company of scarlet macaws that joined us for lunch, golden naped woodpeckers, Inca doves, bay headed tanager, crested caracara, least flycatcher and more macaws that accompanied an afternoon stroll. We were joined for the evening by Serge again and one of the new guides that had just started work at the lodge, having travelled up from Bolivia. In one of those curious coincidences, Hugo’s last job was working with Ricardo Céspedes Paz (director of the superb d’Orbigny Natural History Museum in Cochabamba) who Ivan had spent time with in the field looking for very old fossil fish around Cochabamba in 2004, what a strange and small world we now live in!

Of course anywhere called "Macaw Lodge" has superb Scarlet Macaws - seen from the veranda.

Next day and we headed off the ranch and down to the coast, clocking yellow bellied sapsuckers and lineated woodpeckers on the way, before heading into a coastal forest reserve where humidity was rapidly increasing. It didn’t stop the birds, ruddy tailed flycatcher, gartered trogon, white whiskered puffbird, grey headed tanager posed nicely, whilst an orange collared manakin gave us a bit of a runaround darting through the branches. Lunch was calling so we headed off to another fabulous spot with great food, pausing on the way at a bridge crossing a river where tens of American crocodiles were basking in the sun and black and grey hawks were cruising the thermals. The afternoon had us back on a boat and cruising through the mangrove swamp, although not before we had upgraded our views of a scissor-tailed flycatcher. The swamp trip was a tale of small crocs, hawks, ospreys, kingfishers, racoons, frigatebirds, pelicans, ibis, warblers, mangrove swallows and herons, and what a variety of herons. Little blue, tricolored and yellow-crowned night herons were a teaser with (yet) another wow moment as we quietly drifted past a day roost consisting of double figures of boat-billed herons that were practically within touching distance.

The mind-blowing birds just keep coming in Costa Rica - Boat-billed Heron.

Back up to the lodge for our final night there, with a toast to the fabulous day and venue before hitting the hay again accompanied by the chorus of frogs. The morning dawned and the white-throated crakes reappeared, a colourful kiskadee and green kingfisher posed in some branches draped with dew covered spiders’ webs overlooking the lodge ponds and a pair of Muscovy ducks waddled in front of us during breakfast and we reluctantly packed up and headed further north to our next destination, leaving this bit of paradise behind. We’ll pick up on the remaining part of the trip in the, you’ve guessed it, next instalment.

Our brilliant local guide Abelardo always smiling and so enthusiastic!

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