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!
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.
|Long-tailed Silky Flycatcher|
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.
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 Vireos, Spot-crowned Woodcreeper, and Buffy Tuftedcheek.
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!
|and in action!|
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.