Birding Costa Rica 2016: Caribbean Highlands
PART V: Rick’s and Iain’s excellent adventure!
We are up again at 5:30 and having coffee at the hummingbird feeders by 6. Hermits, Woodnymphs, and Coquettes are darting about. Each night the staff sets up a sheet with a light behind it in a grove near the lodge and by morning it is covered in beautiful moths. All food for the birds. So before breakfast you head out and stand 10 feet away and watch for an hour. The moths attract Ant Tanagers, Woodcreepers, Tanagers and Antbirds. Great show and no walking! Rene is supposed to shake it off afterwards but refuses because one side has a few dozen African bees on it! Yikes. By now it is time for a breakfast of fruit, eggs, mandatory rice and beans and strong coffee.
Morning birding at the moth sheet. photo Rick Muise
We decide to walk the trails of the Rancho and the local area for the morning and take the afternoon off. I know it is hard to believe. Rene our guide, here from Brazil for 9 months, leads us up the hill (small mountain). Hard hot slog with a climb of over 1000 m, but the birding is worth it. In a field of guava trees, we find the Green Forktail. A small hummer with a long forked tail. A gem; then back into the forest where we get several Manikins, all White-crowneds. Sitting less than 20 feet away and singing. Only two left to get; Red-capped and White-ruffed. The trails are quite narrow in sections and while staring at birds I lose one leg down the slope but saved myself from a nasty fall. Rene turns and quietly says “don’t push me”. I realize it is just his sense of humour, so from then on I would drop the line regularly. A kind of mantra for “stay safe”. On the way back I comment that one song I am hearing sounds like our Northern Parula – turns out to be the Tropical Parula and very similar to ours. The walk also produces Plain Xenops, Lesser Greenlet and Spadebills. We hit the pools at the end of the day for another display of Harry’s knowledge and pick up Chestnut-capped Brush Finch and Immaculate Antbird.
Evenings are spent eating another top-notch meal, sharing the day’s experiences with each other and retiring to the couches where Rick and I can update our lists and listen to the Mottled Owl close to the lodge.
The second day is another relatively easy go. Out at 6 on the local trails with Rene. In conversation, I discovered he guided Noah Stryker in Brazil for 3 days as part of Noah’s big year for the whole planet where he got 6042 species. So, he is no slouch. You can find Noah’s blog for every day of that year on the Audubon site at http://www.audubon.org/features/birding-without-borders The pasture we visit produces some good birds: Crimson-collared Tanager (not so common here) and Cinnamon Becard, my first Becard ever.
For the afternoon, we convince a husband and wife at the lodge (Otto and Lynette), who were not birders, to join us for the afternoon. They are blueberry farmers from the gold coast of Australia and want help identifying birds. It is a 20-minute drive to a river and village, an area called La Mina. Right away we got our target bird the Sunbittern, a rather strange looking bird as it is shaped more like a turkey but elongated. It is the only species in the family of Sunbittern. The name is apparent once you see it fly, huge multi-coloured circles on their wings. Quite amazing. The river is fast, shallow and full of rocks so we get the little Torrent Tyrannulet, which is whitish and black and hawks insects from the rocks. A walk up the roadside produces a wealth of species, Chestnut-collared Sparrow, Tawny Euphonia, Blue Black Grosbeak, Grayish Saltator and Yellow-green Vireo. The place is rocking. This time Rick and Lynette both step on an ant hive followed by some dancing and swatting. They are very small but pack a wallop.
Back to the lodge for lunch and a rest. I convince the Aussies, but not Rick, to try once again for more Manakins, so we hiked the trails for nearly two hours, with little to show for it. Good choice Rick. But back at the lodge while sitting by the feeders with a beer before supper produced the White-crested Hummer (expected) and the Scintillant Hummer, not expected!!! It made me smile.