Thursday 26 April 2018

Life-enhancing gadgets

Three new gadgets have recently been introduced to Chateau L, and all three are what I would term life-enhancing. All three are to do with food or drink, which figures.

The first is a fridge-freezer which makes ice. OK so this is really just for me, but the days of the children using up all the ice for some project, or for a drink which they then discard untouched on a table, after which they put the empty ice tray back in the freezer....well those days are over. There is nothing more enraging than mid-preparation of a refreshing and much-needed (alcoholic) drink discovering that there is no ice. Ice cannot be conjured up out of thin air. Except now it can. I simply walk over to the freezer and hold my glass under a slot.  Abracadabra, and my glass fills with ice. It even crushes ice, so mojitos etc are now a breeze. My G and T consumption has increased exponentially. Of all the things to come out of the American desire for extreme convenience this has to be one of the best. I am never going to look back. Plus of course the whole thing is ginormous. Able to store lots of tonic water….

The second is a bread-maker. Let me tell you, this is truly revolutionary. No more plastic bread from the supermarket. No more £4.50 a loaf ‘artisan’ bread from the trendy new bakeries springing up all over the place. Instead we have fresh bread whenever we want it – providing we remember to restock on flour regularly. The thing is a bit of a hulk and takes up a fair bit of counter space, but it is worth its weight in gold and like the fridge we cannot believe we lived without one for so long. It is not quick – if you are immediately desirous of a fresh loaf of bread then you had best think again, but what we (the royal we…) do is to set it off overnight to be ready at 6am. So not only do we have fresh bread for breakfast and packed lunches, we also wake up to the house smelling divine. Initially a loaf would last less than five minutes, but as the magic wears off we are becoming more used to having decent bread constantly available and there is less desperate scoffing. It does not last anywhere near as long as supermarket bread as it has no preservatives in it – two days tops – but this is probably a good thing. It is also simplicity in itself – you (by which I mean Mrs L or a child) just tip all the ingredients in and set it off. There is no mixing, no kneading, no washing up even. At the appointed time you simply tip out a fresh loaf of bread and tuck in. It is brilliant.

The third and most recent is a blender. We already had a cooking blender that buzzes or slices stuff up, an ancient moulinex thing, but this is totally different. This is specifically for soups and smoothies, and is that latter that I bought it for. I was recently on holiday somewhere where fresh fruit grew on trees, and the place we were staying had one of these. I went large on watermelon, banana, pineapple, oranges, pomegranates etc and made some delicious drinks. When I got home I missed it, so I bought one. It was not cheap – all the advice was to get something very robust – but it looks like it will last a long time, and more importantly it works an absolute treat. There is quite a lot of experimentation going on but breakfasts have been transformed. The best one so far is one banana, about one third of a mango, ten frozen blackberries, a few grapes, a few spoons of natural yogurt and about a glass of ice. On-demand ice. The machine makes light work of this and the end result is sensational. I am much in demand from my children, and the aforementioned recipe makes enough for three. I am in the habit of getting up early at this time of year to go out on the patch, so the kids now know to have a quick look in the fridge to see if there is anything scrummy waiting for them. If you want your family to eat fruit, indeed if you yourself want to eat fruit, this is a way to make that happen. 

Wednesday 25 April 2018

Costa Rica - Day 6

Our day in the Highlands had been great, and today we were headed for another area with a new set of birds – the Pacific Lowlands. Before we left Savegre we walked one of the trails behind the hotel – here we had excellent views of Spotted Barbtail. We also saw Dark Pewee on the margins of the the forest. It was perched ridiculously high up and was located by Leo on call. It would be have been nice to continue birding this areas as we had missed the Peg-billed Finch, but time was pressing and we had a long way to go.

First we had to climb out of the valley. This took us past the Quetzal trees we had scored in the previous afternoon, and as we approached the bend we could see a few people pointing excitedly up the slope on the other side of the road from where we had seen the birds yesterday. We pulled up and jumped out – a male Quetzal was in full view excavating a nest hole while the female sat in the trees above him. The entire bird was visible, from the top of the aquamarine head to the bottom of the extended ‘tail’ feathers. Wow all over again. We burned 20 minutes of birding time elsewhere on this phenomenal sight but it was worth it!

Back on the main road we had a couple of targets. The first was a site that Leo knew for Wrenthrush, a real skulker that we tried in two places for and I jammed a view of it at the second. I think Bob went without unfortunately but once again we had to keep moving. Our destination was the town of Tarcoles – all the way down the slope, through San Isidro, over the smaller range and then a long way up the coast (see map here).  Also here were Yellow-thighed Finch, Flame-throated Warbler, and Sooty Thrush.

Yellow-thighed Finch

Sooty Thrush

Our next stop was the communication tower road – a regular destination for Volcano Junco and Volcano Hummingbird – we saw both very easily and were able to get going again – very much tick and run birding today.

Volcano Junco

Volcano Hummingbird

After a quick lunch at a roadside stop overlooking some feeders we visited the Bosque del Tolomuco. As far as I could tell this is somebody’s house with a couple of cottages that they rent, but it also has a great many bird feeders and we added many new species here including White-crested Coquette which we saw no-where else, Magenta-throated Woodstar, White-tailed Emerald, Green-crowned Brilliant, White-throated Mountain Gem and Snowy-bellied Hummingbird. We also saw Lesson’s Motmot, another Red-headed Barbet, and a Black-striped Sparrow along the edges of the garden.

White-tailed Emerald

Green-crowned Brilliant

White-throated Mountain Gem

Lesson's Motmot

Silver-throated Tanager

We continued down the Pacific slope to the city of San Isidro. I had fallen asleep somewhere on the way down and woke up as we pulled up next to a police station in an unprepossessing industrial estate close to the Colegio Tecnico Profesional. I got out of the car and was instantly floored by the heat. Wow! A huge difference from the relative cool of the Highlands! This is what we would be birding in over the next day and a half! The reason we were in a slightly bizarre place for birding is because it is a very reliable location for Turquoise Cotinga. Sure enough a distant bird perched up was one, but flew out of view before Bob or I could get to the scope. This happened several times until we changed position slightly and thankfully got excellent views of several different birds that flew in. Incredible looking things, precisely as their name would suggest!

Turquoise Cotinga

Before we left the city we stopped at a small water treatment plant quite close to the Cotinga site. Here a five minute scan produced Black-bellied Whistling Duck, Blue-winged Teal, Black-necked Stilt and Southern Lapwing. None of these were new for me but it is little stops like this that contribute to a large trip lists and the glowing feeling that this promotes in birders returning home from an expedition.

Back in the comfort of the air-conditioned car we turned onto Route 243 and crossed over the small coastal range before finally seeing the Pacific Ocean. From now on the rest of the day would just be a long drive up the coast to Tarcoles. There were nonetheless birding opportunities similar to the water treatment works. For instance we stopped by some fields for Smooth-billed Ani, scanned for raptors such as Yellow-headed Caracara, and also stopped at a small roadside wetland area for a quick-fire addition to the list in the shape of Ringed Kingfisher, Anhinga, Bare-throated Tiger Heron (which completes my set of this fantastic family), Purple Gallinule, and Green Heron. Amazon Kingfisher was also on the overhead wires here. We had to press on though, this is the unfortunate reality of wanting to maximise the different habitats in a short trip. By far the majority of the habitat along the coast was Palm Oil plantations – bird-free zones barring various Pigeons, and a real shame to see but that is the economic reality of the tropics. Have a look at the satellite view below and it really hits home – miles and miles of it, with presumably a dearth of biodiversity. At one point some Scarlet Macaws flew over the road I think, but we would see this species better the following day.

Add caption

We arrived at the Hotel Villa Lapas in the dark to discover a Common Pauraque in the car park and the happy news that we were on an all inclusive rate and as such that there was an open bar. Bob and I thus consumed multiple beverages whilst light-crazed Cicadas zoomed around our heads and smashed into our faces. These were collected by a small child with a huge love of anything that moved – the benefits of having field scientist parents – and dutifully presented to any passing adults. Trip list 311 - all going well.

A real feature of the Pacific lowlands was the incessant grating of Cicadas

Monday 23 April 2018

Nocturnal migration


You can see where it came from but it is a fundamentally silly word. 

And it a very silly thing to start doing. Frankly it has moths written all over it. Slippery slope.

I am only on day two, but I would say that it has startling similarities to mothing, chief of which is that the spectrogram has the equivalent of lots of small brown and wholly unidentifiable moths on it. The micros of nocturnal calls. Equally it has some very obvious things, lets call them Elephant Moths - so far these include Mallard, Tawny Owl, Coot and Fox. Oh, and this being London, the A12, planes, helicopters, sirens, motorbikes, gunshots, screaming....

I did not buy the kit luckily. On the cusp of doing so I remember that Mrs L had previously flirted with a singing career, and had needed at times to record herself warbling. She is now a teacher - prone to the odd warble still, but not - thankfully - in need of playback. I have found the device, dusted it off, and pressed it once more into service recording a different cacophony. Before I go to bed I simply place it out on the balcony and let London do its stuff. 

And there is a great deal of stuff - not ideal for someone already busy. Happily you don't have to listen to the whole lot in real time - you whack it onto the computer, convert it to a graphical representation, cut out the low pitched rumble of traffic and then advance about a minute at a time looking for what might be higher pitched bird sounds. Unfortunately these can be also be foxes, car doors slamming, cats, a person whistling, and late night garden trampoline enthusiasts. Occasionally you get an identifiable bird - the whirring of a duck's wings with the unmistakable quack of a Mallard. Much of the time you are left scratching your head. 

Last night for instance I have something that sounds a bit like a Corncrake, which is surely impossible. It has that doppler effect to it so the two calls sound as if whatever made them is travelling, but as far as I know Corncrakes do not call in flight. I have no idea what it is. I had considered Garganey but it does not seem quite right for that either. Insect, bat, someone who recently stole my phone and was running down the street with it (if you know me you will understand...). You can judge for yourself using the link below.

Anyhow, I will probably never know and it is of no great importance, but let us presume for a minute that it is a definite nailed on Corncrake. No doubts, it just is one - ID established and the great and the good are happy. Right, on my list it goe..... ah. This is the conundrum of which I spoke yesterday. How can I possibly tick a bird that flew over while I was asleep?! Can I put it on the garden list? What about the patch list - not mine but the wider patch? THE list. Other than historic records, can we have a bird on there that not a single person has seen or heard? I am not sure that we can. I suppose a records committee would accept it for London, but even so it would just seem a little bizarre, to me at least, to have something on the list purely on the basis of a nocturnal recording. Corncrake would not as it happens be a patch tick, there are records from the early 1900s which make it out to be a regular summer visitor - a kick in the teeth from over a hundred years ago - but you know what I mean. If we knew that a new bird for the patch had overflown us the previous night, what would we do?

What would you do? Other than stay up all night sitting on the balcony?

Sunday 22 April 2018

Busy as a busy bee

I like being busy. I like having things to do. If I don't have anything to do I find myself a bit lost. Listless. I am not really able to sit still very often, there is always something that I find that I can be getting on with. This time of the year is excellent, as there is LOTS to do. Too much some might say, but it keeps me busy and I like that very much.

First of all there is birding. It is late April and migrants are arriving in droves. No matter that I've seen them all before on the patch, and that my patch list therefore looks basically the same every single year. No matter that in nice weather most things sail straight over the top of us. I am out and I am enjoying it. Today for example I got two new ones in the space of about 20 minutes. A pair of House Martin were new back to the local colonty, and a short while later I spied some distant yet familiar shapes. Swifts, my earliest ever on the patch by three days (the joy of stats). People talk about jizz and it is a funny thing to explain, but these, pinpricks with the naked eye, were cast-iron Swifts. When I raised by bins it was only to confirm what I already knew. They have come a long way, and it has been an age since I last saw them here. Happy.

Then of course there are the plants. This time of year I am mostly to be found pottering around in the garden or the greenhouse. It is the time of the annual reorganisation - winter is over and everything that has been taking shelter can once again be brought out to enjoy our fleeting growing season. The Agaves are once again threatening Mrs L's legs on the terrace. The banana is back in the flowerbed. The Norfolk Island Pine, Christmas duties long since over, has been placed in the garden lest it get too hot indoors. Greenhouses have been power-hosed, and the endless task of getting back to some semblance of order after a long and desperate winter is underway. 

Enter stage left Nocmigging. Like 95% of other birders I have been curious to give this a go. Happily for me Mrs L purchased a sound recorder during her brief singing career. Hunting around I found it behind the piano covered in cobwebs. If she was not using it, could I perhaps try it out? Yes, that was OK. Dusting it off I was pleased to see it still worked, and so on Friday night I recorded a 7 hour symphony of the A12, sirens, airplanes, helicopters and various gunshots, fireworks, motorbikes and so on. A masterpiece. Not straightforward at all, bloody London. I have persevered though and managed to isolate Coot, Mallard and Tawny Owl. Exciting stuff. What I am really hoping for is waders of course, but then I face a dilemma - more on which in another post, remind me if I forget please.

But this is not enough. Juicing. Uh-huh. Chateau L's bread-maker has been joined by a fairly snazzy blender and so my body is rapidly becoming a temple to fruit and vitamins. First try was two bananas, and apple and a mango. Mmmmm-mmmmmm. A bit thick, I need to work on consistency, but utterly delicious. Second attempt today was just apples and oranges as nobody else likes bananas. Not as good, and a bit gloopy, but I am sure that trial and error will get me there. I have no idea whether I will slim down or whether I will just get fatter from eating lots more fruit on top of everything else, but it's more vitamin C then I have had in a long time so there must be some benefit.

I have also started reading again, and am currently very much enjoying Beyond a Boundary by C L R James. It's about cricket, but about so much more than that, and I am enjoying it hugely. My firm plan today was to sit and read it in the garden, but instead I repotted plants, edged the lawn, sky-watched, and sprayed the kids with a hose. Not to worry, there is always the commute tomorrow.

So..... Get up, stop sound recorder, shower, dress, make juice. Go out birding. Go to work reading a book. Work. Return home reading a book. Check greenhouses and perform various green-fingered tasks. Domestic things. Eat. Download 7 hours of noise and sift out 10 seconds of birds. Add birds to vast spreadsheet, write blog, plan next holiday and add more things to to-do list. Put out sound recorder. Sleep.

Wednesday 18 April 2018

Endless Fox sex delivers results

I am pleased to report that all my sleepless nights earlier in the year have been worthwhile. My experience every January and February is that Foxes enjoy seemingly endless and very satisfying sex. Right through the night. It is loud, it is prolonged, it is really quite annoying, but you cannot say that it does not work...

Earlier this week I happened to glance out of the new turret here at Chateau L and down at the end of my neighbour's garden the enhanced family was having one of its first forays above ground. There are four cubs, and the mother has a stick rather than a tail - she is clearly feeling the strain. My neighbours, luckily, are not big gardeners. The area at the bottom of their garden is distinctly wild, and the area at the top is not far off. Were they green-fingered, I expect that they might find the rotting food and assorted crap that foxes bring back rather irritating. For my part I have spent the last few evenings getting readyfor the growing season and if I don't say so myself the grounds of Chateau L are beginning to look rather nice. What I don't need is any, er, decoration, so I sincerely hope that they enjoy the wilder side of things as I have very little interest in scooping up fox poo from an entire family. I have enough wildlife issues as it is - this evening I discovered that I have contributed all of last year's crop of monkey puzzle seeds to one of the insatiable squirrels. Many of them had started to germinate and I was very much looking forward to seeing how they got on. Alas no, one massive binge from a squirrel that probably wasn't even hungry has put paid to that. Maybe the presence of a pack of growing foxes will convince my rotund grey friend that a new garden should be sought. I doubt it somehow, but I live in hope.

There is no denying that they are very cute though.

Sunday 8 April 2018

Costa Rica - Day 5

Savegre Mountain Lodge is nestled almost at the bottom of the valley, along a dead-end road that winds down from Route 2 that follows the ridge. There are several lodges here, and all exist for but one purpose. Resplendent Quetzal is an industry, this is THE place where these birds are seen, and there are something like 80 pairs in the valley. Almost everybody you see along the road or at the breakfast table will be a birder that is here to tick Quetzal.  Amazing when you think about it. In common with all the places we stayed the accommodation was comfortable and the food good. When you are 85 years old these things matter!

Spotted Woodquail

We were up early and exploring the grounds – we had agreed with Leo that when it came to Quetzals we were happy to play it cool. The way most people in the valley see Quetzals is to get up before dawn and go and stand near the designated fruiting trees that the birds have recently been frequenting for their morning feed. This pretty much guarantees you a sighting, but you have to endure seeing the bird with upwards of a hundred other people who have a combined age of 9,000. Not for us. Instead we had a quick check of a fruiting tree at the hotel (no Quetzal but an Emerald Toucanet and male Scintillant Hummingbird) and then started birding. First up were a group of Spotted Woodquails that we managed to creep up on, and which gave the monopod another airing. Other birds encountered before breakfast were Black-faced Solitaire , Ruddy-capped Nightingale-Thrush, and Long-tailed Silky-Flycatcher nesting right outside our bedroom door.

Ruddy-capped Nightingale-Thrush

Long-tailed Silky Flycatcher
Sulphur-winged Parakeet

After breakfast with a Louisiana Waterthrush we took the private track behind the hotel up the side of the valley into the oak forests, stopping for Sulphur-winged Parakeet in the orchard and Yellow-bellied Siskin slightly up the hill. In the forest itself there were a number of speciality birds we needed to see, and by sacrificing a Quetzal twitch we would have this area to ourselves. Our trusty 4x4 managed to get all the way up and at the end of the track we continued uphill on foot. Acorn Woodpeckers were abundant, but it took a very long time to connect with the targets. The first was an Ochraceous Pewee, plaintively calling from high up that we got a good look at through the scope, and then a further half mile onwards what Leo called as his bird of the trip – Silvery-throated Jay. He had apparently not seen one at all in 2017 so this was a huge result for us. The bird was brief and far away, but in the few seconds it was visible we were able to get on all the key features. Black bird, silver throat, ahem. Also along here were Lineated Foliage-gleaner and Tufted Flycatcher.

Acorn Woodpecker

Tufted Flycatcher

Collared Redstart

Black Guan

We returned to the car and on the way back down passed what were presumably the first of the Quetzal twitchers on their way up. I doubt they actually got the Jay as the distance from the end of the drivable track would have been way beyond them. We drove out of the hotel and down to the very end of the valley where we walked a trail past a trout farm and alongside the river. Being around midday this was not super-productive, but we got great views of a Yellowish Flycatcher, Philadephia and Brown-capped VireosSpot-crowned Woodcreeper, and Buffy Tuftedcheek.

Yellowish Flycatcher

During our lunch break I positioned myself at the feeders near the hotel which were far better than those at La Quinta, but struggled with the midday light. These are actually in the garden of a local guide but he has chairs set up and only asks for donations to buy fruit. It is quite a set up and if you had the time you could easily spend the start and end of the day here. As ever birding came first and so I just took a few photos when a convenient cloud passed over. Many really good birds came in during the hour or so I was here though, including Silver-throated Tanager, Yellow-thighed Finch, Red-headed Barbet, Acorn Woodpecker, Flame-coloured Tanager, Tennessee Warblers by the dozen, and several species of Hummingbird. These will feature in another post as there are too many photos!

Red-headed Barbet

Slaty Flowerpiercer
and in action!

Tennessee Warbler

Rufous-collared Sparrow

Flame-coloured Tanager

Baltimore Oriole

Silver-throated Tanager

At around 3pm it was time for the big one. Resplendent Quetzal. We hoped! Imagine coming back from Costa Rica having not seen one! The first question birders ask is “Did you get the Quetzal?” Not being able to answer in the affirmative would have been distastrous. We drove up the valley to the stakeout to find it deserted. Awesome. We started to look into the trees, scouring every stem, and I lucked out quite quickly with a female sitting quietly on a horizontal branch. I beckoned the others over and Leo set up the scope. Bingo. What. A. Bird. At this point another car with a guide and a couple of birders turned up but this did not detract from the moment. In fact it helped as with more eyes looking we also discovered the male, sitting similarly motionless nearby. Wow! What. An. Even. Better. Bird. Initially only the top half was visible. This is very nice, but not the main attraction. Then it moved and we were able to see the tail. But not the rest of it…. Eventually it moved again and we got more or less the whole thing – spectacular, you can see why it generates a whole branch of tourism on its own.

The rest of the day was devoted Owls in the valley. We dipped a Costa Rica Pygmy Owl at a known stakeout but got a Bare-shanked Screech Owl closer to the Quetzal spot. Excellent views once again as we gradually pin-pointed the exact location before switching on any lights. Back at the hotel after dinner we did the usual tot up of species and were pleased to see that after our fourth day we were on 279.

Friday 6 April 2018

Costa Rica - Day 4

We returned to La Selva first thing in the morning to try and clean up on a couple of things we had missed previously. It is difficult to keep track of a list during the intensity of the birding day, but every evening in the manner of most bird tours we went through the systematic day list, and it is doing this that allows the guide to formulate the plan for the following day. Leo must have realized that there had been a couple of easy misses the previous day and that we had time before we set off for the Highlands to snaffle a couple of them. Within about five minutes of pulling up at the entrance barrier that is exactly what had happened, with great views of both Cinnamon Woodpecker and Chestnut-coloured Woodpecker. These are pretty similar, especially 30m up a tree, but the views were such that it was easy. We also managed great views of a pair of highly elusive Black-throated Wrens and a much easier Fasciated Ant-Shrike.

Cinnamon Woodpecker

Chestnut-coloured Woodpecker

Black-throated Wren

With these early scores under our belts we drove the fairly short distance to Cope’s Place at Guapiles, stopping briefly at a river for some great views of Fasciated Tiger Heron and a tiny Strawberry Poison Frog. This is literally a man called Cope’s (pronounced Co-pay) house – he has turned his garden into a feeding station and also has some stake-outs nearby. Extremely enterprising, and he had a stream of visitors. Too many visitors! Soon after we arrived a minibus full of Japanese photographers turned up and started papping anything and everything that moved, and this included me! Or rather my photography gear. This is perhaps a clash of cultures but I confess to being a little surprised to find a lady buzzing round me with her phone trying to take a photo of my home made camera strap whilst I stood there wondering what on earth was happening. I am very proud of this creation as it happens, it allows me to bird with a 500mm lens in an very comfortable and trouble-free way. Not that this would have helped my newfound Japanese friends, as they were not exactly travelling light. Tripods, crazy pan heads, all manner of crap clipped to them and seemingly not the faintest clue about what makes a pleasing bird photograph. It was ridiculously comic, at one point somebody on the road spotted a Parrot in a tree, and this caused some of the group who were at the garden feeders to take the direct route and charge straight across the feeding station to the road where their compatriots were taking photographs of an empty tree which until recently had had a Parrot in it…..because they had also run directly under the tree. Their arrival caused chaos, and for a while we were all stood around wasting time whilst Cope worked out who was going to do what and when – during which a Russet-naped Wood-Rail ran across the road. Presumably they leave good tips as if I were a guide I would have driven the minibus into a lake at the earliest opportunity.

Not my idea of fun!

In the end we left and went to the Crested Owl stakeout. Whilst Cope searched for the Owl in the forest we discovered it was in a tree above our car, so that was all pretty easy. When Cope returned part two of the stakeout was to take a quick look at the Honduran White Bats that make tent shelters under large leaves of Heliconias. Very cool, but even better was that on the route in I had noticed a small corrugated-leaf Zamia. At the bats I asked Cope about this plant and he knew exactly what I was talking about, and so on the way back to the road he took me down a different path and showed me a huge adult Zamia neurophyllidia (as I discovered when I consulted the literature at home). How cool to know your land so intimately that you know where certain plants grow?

Crested Owls

We returned to Cope’s garden, passing the minibus of photographers on the way to where we had just been. To be honest I felt for the bats…. At the feeding station we passed a happy half hour watching the various comings and goings. These included many Clay-coloured Thrushes, Pale-vented Pigeon, Palm Tanager, Chestnut-headed Orependola, Great-tailed Grackles and a Wood Thrush all feasting on fruit. There were also sugar-water feeders for the hummingbirds, which included White-necked Jacobin, Long-billed Hermit, Stripe-throated Hermit and Rufous-tailed Hummingbird. I could have stayed for a long time but we had a long journey ahead of us with further stops so reluctantly left.

Pale-vented Pigeon

Wood Thrush

Passerini's Tanager (female)

Chestnut-headed Orependola

Rufous-tailed Hummingbird

White-necked Jacobin

The next stop was very close by on the main road back up the Carribbean slope. This is known as the Old Butterfly Garden which had a new suite of hummers including Snowcap. The parking area borders a large planting of Porterweed and this was buzzing – literally! We saw both male and female Snowcap, the former displaying to the latter whilst she sat on a stem, as well as Black-crested Coquette, Green Thorntail and Violet-headed Hummingbird. Again somewhere I could have spent the whole day, waiting for white cloud to hide the sun and then trying for hummingbirds in flight. Of course that wasn’t possible so we went into the cool of the forest to try for new birds. Of all the areas that we visited over the course of the week this was probably the least productive, but clearly it had massive potential. I’ve seen it mentioned elsewhere that birding this slope a few km up the road was one of a particular birder’s most memorable birding moments. The best bird here was probably an Ashy-throated Chlorospingus.

Green Thorntail

Snowcap, female

Snowcap, male

Now the real driving began – we had to go all the way back to San José on Route 36, through the city without getting stuck in any traffic, and then back up the other side of the central valley into the Highlands on the 2. The traffic was not too bad and during a quick stop for a fruit juice we added Cattle Egret to the day list, and a Cicada was seen well – huge insects! Mid afternoon we had ascended into the Parque Nacional Los Quetzales, and took a side road towards Paradaiso Lodge.  This was a fairly rough track but very good birding, and the important bird that we needed to see we got almost immediately – Black-and-Yellow Silky-Flycatcher. We spent the rest of the afternoon birding along this track in the warm sunshine. No Quetzals, but being new habitat lots of new birds for the list. These included Yellow-winged VireoTimberline Wren, Flame-throated Warbler, Sooty Thrush, Black-cheeked Warbler and Mountain Elaenia.

Yellow-winged Vireo

Black-and-Yellow Silky Flycatcher

Flame-throated Warbler

With darkness falling we retraced our steps to the main road and took the next turning to San Gerardo de Dota. In the gathering dusk we managed excellent views of Dusky Nightjar, and heard Unspotted Saw-whet Owl calling. The road descended into the Savegre Valley, and we followed it almost to the end where our lodgings for the next two nights were – the Savegre Mountain Lodge. Although we had spent much of the day in the car, our trip list now stood at 246.