Part Two Costa Rica With Birdwatching Trips 2018 By Ivan And Rose

Surely the number one bird for most visitors to Costa Rica?

Part two of our guest bird blog by Ivan and Rose who travelled with us in Costa Rica...

After leaving the Caribbean side of the country, we headed inland via the outskirts of San Jose and carried on the climb towards our base for the next three days in San Gerardo de Dota with a trio of stops on the way. First up and an easily overlooked patch of agricultural land quickly produced coppery-headed emerald, green thorntail and slaty throated hummingbirds and charismatic bananaquits and a splendid array of butterflies. Heading up higher we reached Serge Arias’s beautiful base at Casa Tangara Dowii for lunch and a brief tour of the wonderful and developing reserve Serge has as his home “patch”.

The weird and amazing Prong-billed Barbet seen from Sergio's balcony.

Viewing from the balcony we were enchanted by the red eyes of the prong billed barbets and the very cute mountain squirrels that were visiting Serge’s feeding station, with chestnut capped brush finches skulking on the floor which were joined by a buff fronted quail dove, but we had to carry on after a relaxed lunch and head to San Gerardo de Dota.

The wonderfully named Yellow-thighed Finch was a wonderful bird.

At the head of the valley, some superb Costa Rican coffee and cake beckoned with the café balcony feeders pulling in an astonishing array of birds despite another torrential downpour. Slaty flowerpiercers, acorn woodpeckers, sooty headed chlorospingus, flame coloured tanagers, large footed finches, rufous collared sparrows, yellow thighed finches provided a lot of entertainment, but the highland hummers stole the show. Talamanca, lesser violetear, purple-throated and white-throated mountain gems delighted us but a male volcano hummingbird dancing in the shower is a memory that will live long. Now we were in San Gerardo de Dota it was a short drive down to our well-appointed hotel at the end of the valley road, but an early night was on the schedule as we were up before dawn the following day for a very special bird.

So we were up at 4:30am to grab a quick coffee the hotel had prepared for us before a short drive back up the valley and a brief walk up the valley side to the view point, having the viewing platforms to ourselves just as it was getting light. Golden browed cholorophonia and emerald toucanets were amongst the first to show, but then the bird we’d really came to see appeared, trailing the tail plumes that gave rise to the legend of the ‘snake god’, landing in the avocado tree directly in front of us. Tentative at first, this astonishing male resplendent quetzal settled down to eat its first fruit of the day, and then was joined by another male, and then a female and then another male until there were at least five of these astonishing birds in the one tree. Simply ridiculous views, and in many ways a ridiculous-looking bird with such vivid colours and plumage, definitely one of the must see birds of the world. The viewing platform was starting to attract more people so we headed back to the hotel for breakfast still buzzing from what we had just seen, and what was waiting for us when we stepped off the bus, long tailed silky flycatchers that dropped closer and closer to us whilst feeding on one of the berry laden trees. Blimey, what a start to the day!

Wow! What an amazing bird the Resplendent Quetzal is one of THE birds to see!

Much of the next couple of days saw us further exploring the valley finding more quetzals, American dippers, rose breasted grosbeak, collared redstarts, flame throated warblers, yellowish and black headed flycatchers, scintillant hummingbirds, sooty thrush, yellow winged vireo, black phoebe and yellow-faced grassquit among a whole host of others along the way, with a trip up to find some high altitude specialities. Most notable among these being a number of volcano juncos including one that decided to take advantage of a puddle behind the minibus to have a scrub and washup and some timberline wrens, all with the back drop of the smoking Turrialba volcano.

A very range restricted species, almost endemic to Costa Rica, Volcano Junco.

A quick drop down the mountain and our lunch stop offered some more hummingbird feeders with jousting lesser violet-eared, fiery throated, Talamanca, scintillant and volcano hummers providing an immense amount of entertainment. Our postprandial walk added black billed nightingale thrush and black and yellow silky flycatchers to our burgeoning trip list. A brief nighttime excursion saw our superb driver spot something crawling along the roadside power lines almost before we were out of the hotel grounds; after a bit of discussion and checking of guidebooks we had seen (and photographed) an ultra-elusive cacomistle – none of our guides having seen one of these secretive nocturnal procyonids previously.

We enjoyed superb close views of Long-tailed Silky Flycatchers in the hotel garden.

And so week one of the trip came to a close with a long drive the following day to head towards the Pacific with more entertainment to come. We’ll pick up on that in our next installment.

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