Birding Costa Rica 2016: Travel Day 4
PART IV: Rick’s and Iain’s excellent adventure!
Day 4 is a travel day and we are kind of winging it. It is about a 4-hour drive to our lodge in the Caribbean highlands south of Turrialba so we didn’t expect too much on the birding front; boy were we wrong! The day before, Luis told us about a birding spot along the route, run by a friend of his called Cope, so he arranged for us to make a quick stop there and gave us a number to call to arrange a time and get directions. This was a last minute arrangement and our only hope for birds.
So we are up just after 6, late, ate breakfast and headed to the Tirimbina forest for one last 2 hour walk before our driver arrives. We saw what we thought were 2 ‘lifers’, Streak Crowned Antvireo and Plain Xenops. Later Rick’s pictures when blown up revealed the Xenops to be a Wedge-billed Woodcreeper which we already have. It was not the last time Rick’s pictures aided our identifications.
Darwin our driver arrived and off we went. The telephone number I was given for the bird stop on the way did not seem to work. So we told Darwin about the arrangement and I showed him a picture of Luis who had set up the stop. Small world as he knew Luis so he called him and got the location and time sorted. On the way we stopped for fabulous coffee, food and sweet cakes at a set of roadside stores. Seems Darwin, a 26-year-old single guy, knew all the best coffee shops in southern Costa Rica. On arrival at a small town called La Union we found Cope’s place. He is an artist who has replaced his art income with birding tours, as they are much more lucrative. He is busy with a tour from England so William one of his guys takes us on a fast tour. First stop is a road side view of a Great Potoo with its baby. This gets many high 5’s. Now, there are two species of Potoos on the Caribbean side of Costa Rica, Great and Common. The Great imitates a slanted tree branch and the Common imitates a vertical branch/trunk. Next a walk through a local forest provides great looks at a Spectacled Owl, and a Black Throated Trogon on the nest. We could see the babies under her. Finally, a quick stop at his house turns up a Gray-necked Wood-Rail and hummer feeders. This all made for an excellent day!
We continued on to Rancho Naturalista which we chose because it is mostly geared to birders. It has access to many local trails up and down the hills and it is near several local hot spots. As well, the facilities are first rate with gourmet meals served family style. A real treat after Tirimbina. Our drive ended after passing the last village on lots of slow winding roads and then up a steep and rocky 1/2 km gravelly track which made the tires spin. You definitely need a 4-wheel vehicle. We finally arrived and are greeted by Harry (Englishman) the resident guide and the local German Shepard. We are quickly in our rooms (nice, no flat screens or phones) and then onto the balcony where we try to identify all 12 species of hummers. Beautiful Coquettes, Plumeteers, and Hermits fighting for a place at one of the many feeders. We thought we had died and entered nirvana.
Plan is to relax and then take a short walk to look for birds but then we meet Jackie and Tom on their way to the Pools to watch hummers. Hmm, sounds interesting so off we go. The Pools are really three or four very small puddles fed by a trickle of water which runs thru the middle of a forest gorge a few 100 meters from the lodge. You stand maybe 10 or 15 meters above them on a wood platform and watch species come for their end of the day baths as the light slowly fades. Woodnymphs, Snowcaps and Hermits dipping in to the water very much like dancers. Then Silver-throated and Emerald Tanagers bathe for a while. Foliage-gleaners and Leaftossers arrive and a Manakin races by. This is an end of each day event. Harry the guide just stands there naming birds, describing them and their calls. His knowledge is impressive. Eventually the light is so bad we head back to our rooms.
After showering I hear the dinner bell and arrive at the table. We are joined by the two Aussies (Jackie and Tom), as well as Harry the guide and Rene, a Brazilian birder who was asked to come to Costa Rica to do Macaw research and is now enjoying just birding and guiding at the lodge. Food quality is terrific followed by coffee and scotch. While eating we listen to the calls of a Mottled Owl. Species count 151.