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Birding Costa Rica 2016: Irazu Volcano

Birding Costa Rica 2016: Irazu Volcano

PART VI: Rick’s and Iain’s excellent adventure!

NOTE: All photos by Rick Muise

Today is a big day. We are off to bird Irazu Volcano from the bottom to the top.  The volcanos in Costa Rica provide different environments and hence different species as you go up in elevation with the top providing home for several endemics found nowhere else.

We start very early with Lynette and Otto joining us and both local guides, Harry and Rene.  We drive through a lot of the best agricultural land around and no wonder given the beautiful volcanic soils.  Cabbages, coffee, corn and potatoes everywhere.   We see what are called “shade grown” coffee plantations, which just means the shade trees are there but are kept at maybe 3 feet taller than the coffee with no spreading branches so they don’t obstruct the sun.  Hmmm, makes you wonder about some of the brands we buy in Canada that advertise they are “shade grown”.

The first stop was a small bridge over a gorge of fragmented forest.  While dodging the occasional car, we see lots of Wilson’s Warblers, Mountain Elaenias and Acorn Woodpecker.  Next stop was another piece of roadside forest with Collared Redstart, Flame throated Warbler and Yellow Winged Vireo; all beautiful birds.  The Redstart works its way along a fence closer and closer to Rick while he watches a completely different bird.  We chased Wood Partridges through the forest but only heard them and had to move on.     Next was a farm with surrounding forests, at 9000 feet up.  There were lots of workers hand-hoeing the soil and using oxen pulled plows looking exactly like it is centuries ago.

Acorn Woodpecker

Acorn Woodpecker

 

Collard Redstart. Photo Rick Muise

Collard Redstart. Photo Rick Muise

Farming at 9000 feet

Farming at 9000 feet

 

We stop here for Quetzals with permission of the owner.  Around the field edges we find several Nightingale Thrushes singing their beautiful songs, two types of Silky Flycatchers and the Slaty Flowerpiercer.  Eventually patience pays off and the Quetzals are located in amongst tall trees; 2 Males, 1 Female and 1 juvenile.  Terrific looks.  We are at 9500 feet by this point and all of us were feeling the altitude but we take it easy.

Birding Irazu

Birding Irazu

 

 

Quetzal. photo Rick Muise

Quetzal. photo Rick Muise

Finally, to the top of the Irazu, 11,200 feet, where it was misty and cool.  Some people were forming a ring in the crater by holding up a long sheet of white cloth that had a diameter of maybe 250 feet.  Not sure what was the point but from the behavior it might have been a team building session or a new age ritual.  We ate at a picnic table while a scrawny cat begs for food as we watch the Volcano Juncos and Volcano Hummingbirds, two of the endemics we came for.   We walked the crater rim listening to Timberline Wrens but never seeing them; overhead were Chestnut-collared Swifts and again there are lots of Wilson’s Warblers.    The longer we are over 11,000 feet the quieter the 6 of us get, except for Harry who is still a non-stop stream of identifications.   Later we discover all of us are suffering bad headaches from the altitude.  Eventually a thunderstorm arrives and rain starts so we head back down.

At the top!

At the top!

 

 

Volcano Hummingbird

Volcano Hummingbird

 

 

Volcano Junco

Volcano Junco

The ride down the volcano is much faster, but the scary thing is the people who pass on blind curves.  On the way back to the lodge we stop at a large pond to see Bank, Cliff, Northern Rough-winged and Blue and White Swallows.  Lots of Spotted, and one Solitary Sandpiper.  Got back to the lodge exhausted after an 11-hour day but the numbers were great.

Species     233

Iain

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Birding Costa Rica: Tirimbina Rainforest

BIRDING COSTA RICA 2016: Tirimbina Rainforest Day 1

Rick’s and Iain’s excellent adventure begins!

Birding the Caribbean Lowlands

photos by Rick Muise

Our first stop was the Tirimbina Rainforest which we reached at 4 PM on our travel day.  We choose this site as it has a lodge with 9 km of lowland forest trails, both of which are part of a center for rainforest research into birds, plants and insects.  There are experiments and outdoor lecture sites all around the lodge. The accommodations are basic and the outdoor restaurant provides typical CR cuisine.  The lodge is staffed by many young researchers who can be found all around the grounds and all are eager to help, day and night.

Iain at Tirimbina

Iain at Tirimbina photo Rick Muise

Of course Rick and I wasted no time lounging around, to rest up from the long day of travel.  We immediately threw our packs into our shared non AC room and started walking around the compound and quickly picked up several lifers.  We met Stephen, one of the local naturalists in a garden, and he pointed out the Black-cheeked Woodpecker and Purple-crowned Fairy, a hummer whose flight looks more like a flutter than a hum.  It was a good ending to our travel day.  Rice and fish for supper, then a beer outside to write up the day and plan our first full day here.  So far we had only 20 species.

Apr 21: up at 5:50 am and out by 6:10 to bird a bit before breakfast; then eggs, pancakes, rice, mangos and not sures!  Today was hiking the 9 km of rainforest trails.  Access to the trials is across a swing bridge maybe 200 to 300 meters long over the Sarapiqui River.  Lots of swaying as you try to focus on the birds below you. The trails are narrow dirt paths through fairly thick forest, so getting birds requires work, but it was worth enduring the 32-degree C heat plus high humidity. Great Tinamou casually walked near the path, several Rufous Motmots sounded their warbling hoots which helped with location, Keel-billed Motmot posed, Toucans crecked crecked, and Chestnut-backed Antbird skulked through the underbrush.

Keel-billed Motmot

Keel-billed Motmot. photos Rick Muise

 

Great Tinamou

Great Tinamou

We arrived back at noon, tired hungry and sweaty.  More fried stuff and leather pork for lunch followed by our now fav sight, the outdoor bar where Pilsens awaited, which refreshed us as we continued to bird.  A cooperative Long-tailed Hermit appeared at the flowers a few feet away. A large tour from Germany arrived and the older women seemed very interested in the birds we were seeing as well as Rick and I, so we helped with bird names but kept our distance.  Finally hit the bed for a siesta in the early afternoon but it only lasted 30 minutes as we decided on more birding.  We realized that the lodge was across the road from grasslands, and despite birding from the roadside which was full of trucks, cars and motorbikes racing past, the fields had a good variety of species.  Red-billed Pigeon, Grassquits, Gray-capped Flycatcher and Anis.  Eventually we returned to the bar for more beer and a summing up the day’s notes.  Our first full day ended with 51 species and 2 tired birders.

Long-billed Hermit

Long-billed Hermit. photos Rick Muise

 

 

 

Groove-billed Ani

Groove-billed Ani

 

Grey Capped Flycatcher

Grey Capped Flycatcher

Cheers

Iain

 

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