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 we got a House Crow on the way! A quick stop for a fruit juice 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.



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