LUTMAN'S COSTA RICA 2005 25TH ANNIVERSARY BIRDING TRIP

 

Note: Sharon's notes are in {brackets}. Information added to the original reports will be in red.

 

Thursday, February 10, 2005. Day 5 of 18. To Monteverde - Resplendent Quetzal country.

[We woke up at Villa Lapas, packed, then birded a little. The driver met us at reception about 8am]

Alex is our driver, and he loads our stuff into the back. Sharon and I sit side by side in the bench seat behind the driver, with lots of leg room.

We take off and I ask him which route we'll take to Monteverde. He tells us and I ask how close we'll come to Orotina. He says it's only a few kilometers and he'd be glad to help us get our owl. Hot perro!

THE OWLS

In no time at all, we're in Orotina and Alex asks someone how to get to the center square. We drive right there and park. I see the circle, the fig tree, the ice cream man, and I can just feel the presence of those owls. Now where are they?

The "Ice Cream" Man in Orotina

Alex and I walk over to the ice cream man, but Sharon heads over to the park and starts scanning the huge tree, thick with leaves.

Location: Ice Cream Man
Alex asks him if he knows where the owls are and he nods, but doesn't point or anything, so I add up all the information I have and decide I need to order three "ice creams," which aren't ice cream at all.

He has this insulated push cart, which he moves around on two bicycle wheels. He opens the top door and there is a massive block of ice in it. He takes this scraper and begins shaving ice. He fills one cup, then the other two.

Alex and he talk, and Alex asks me if I like powdered milk or buttermilk? Huh? He goes on to explain that he puts a liquid flavoring in the cup of ice, but then adds either powdered milk or buttermilk. That makes a thing Alex calls a copo. I decide on mixed fruit flavoring and powdered milk, though I'm pretty dubious about this concoction as I watch him dump some of the powder into my slushee-like drink. Alex gets buttermilk, and I get Sharon powdered milk also.

Sharon, meanwhile, is grinning like a Cheshire cat and motioning for me to get the heck over there. She has the owls. But I'm in the middle of this and must see it through. Plus I know if the owls are up there, they're roosting for the day and aren't going anywhere.

The Copos Man stirs them up a little, and I pay for them. I think they're about 50 or 75 cents each. I stir mine vigorously to dissolve all the powder, and guess what! It's just delicious!

Location: Under the Fig Tree
Sharon walks over and scans all around. She has this great method of checking the area UNDER the tree for bird poop, and there it is. But she can't locate the birds. A friendly police woman comes over and asks what she's looking for. She tells her, and the lady cop knows and leads Sharon to a slightly different angle where the owls are visible, asleep up in the tree. {Actually, the police woman approached me and asked me a question in Spanish of which I get "Are you looking for", and then she adds a word that I don;'t know but assume means "owl". Of course, I say "Si" and she shows me the birds.}

Sharon motions and yells for me to come over. "Hurry!"

I come over with our drinks, set them down, walk to get the right angle, and there they are, two sleeping BLACK-AND-WHITE OWLS. I snap a picture of what's visible, which doesn't include their faces, and then the lady officer points out a sleeping sloth in another tree. We have a look and then we're off, resuming our trip to Monteverde, knowing we already have a lifer today. I can't decide which I like better, the owls or the copo. Best to have some of each.

Black-and-white Owl (Internet)

It's about a 4.5 hour trip, and the last couple of hours are slow, up a tortuous path, with huge potholes everywhere. We climb and climb, getting nice views along the way, till we begin to see a cloud cover over the mountains to our right. Huge dropoffs are the rule as we climb higher and higher.

Those clouds are our destination. We're to expect cool, cloudy and rainy. We're prepared, we think. Alex stops so we can get out, stretch our legs and look around. Here's our vehicle, typical of our transportation between stops.

Our Transportation

HOTEL MONTANA

Alex delivers us to the Hotel Montana, with the tilde over the second 'n', so it's mon-TAN-ya. Our first bird here is the ever-present great-tailed grackle.

Alex unloads our luggage and I give him our voucher plus a tip. We say goodbye and we are taken under the wing of the hotel front desk, to whom I give another voucher. We know we need to locate a bird guide, and we have the name of "Koki" from Steven Easley. They say they'll call Koki and he'll call us back down at our room.

We have a top-of-the-line room here, and the clerk, Sharon and I descend the steep slidewalks down to the newest building

Sharon on the steep sidewalks of Hotel Montana of the complex, with great views out over field and forest, down to flatlands.

We get the key to our room, and it's grand. Like an upscale Marriott's, with all hardwood furnishings and trim. Even a television, refrigerator and a phone, none of which we had at Villa Lapas, in our rather standard room there.

Koki calls, but he's tied up. I ask if he would recommend somebody, and he says any of the guides in the "association" are excellent. We thank him, and go back up to the front desk to inquire further.

Our CRGateway email connection, Sonia, had given us the names of two guides here, and we give them to the girl working the desk. Her name is Dina, but with tilde over the 'n', so she's DEEN-ya. She knows one of the names but not the other. She calls the one she knows, but he's busy already.

She pulls out a two-page list of Monteverde association guides, and explains that you have to train and pass certain tests to be a member of the association, and that only association members can actually guide people inside the Monteverde Reserve itself.

She recommends Melvin, but he's busy too, and then together we choose Elvin, who's secretary of the group. He's available. I get on the phone, and ask, "What are the chances that we'll see the quetzal here?" I wait, hoping, hoping, and he laughs and says, "If you go with me, 100%!" I'm thrilled and we sign him up for $100 for all day, not for tomorrow, but for the day after. We'll be on our own tomorrow, so far anyway.

We go into the dining room, but it's like a restaurant, as opposed to the buffet-style of Villa Lapas. They have the specials of the day and a menu. We order, and I have a hamburger with "potatoes," which means French fries, and a coke.

As we're eating, Sharon overhears a group talking about the birds they saw today. She asks them if they are birders, and they are. It turns out that they have been using a guide they like, named Bernal, and he's coming back to pick them up again at 145 pm. They invite us to talk to him then. They like him.

They're paying him $80 a day, but that was his quote not including transportation, so they are giving him extra money to pay for his car and fuel which I think is about $4 a gallon in my quick calculations. I think $10 or $20 a day extra.

We wait with them as Bernal pulls up. He'll be glad to guide us tomorrow, but has to check at home first, to see if his wife has taken any calls and already booked him. We're to call him at 6 pm tonight. "There's a few BLUE-AND-WHITE SWALLOWS," he says as we look up, and they remind us a little of tree swallows of North America.

Now the background on this is that on our own, we've seen 14 life birds, and with guides we've seen 62. It's clear that in Costa Rica, at our skill and knowledge level, we want to hire guides as much as possible, though I didn't think that when we were planning the trip. Sharon and I love to bird without guides, but our desire to see and identify the birds here has overshadowed that.

We go outside to bird a little and get Emerald Toucanet behind the restaurant in a secropia tree. Our next lifer is YELLOW-FACED GRASSQUIT, a small olive-green bird with black face and chest and yellow markings on the face. A dapper little bird. They eat seeds in the grasses.

The hotel has a private forest, but as we walk the trail, it's clear that it's not original rainforest, as was Villa Lapas' but is second-growth forest, replanted after the original rainforest trees were leveled years before. The birding is poor. We get a couple of warblers but don't ID any of them.

As we near the end of the trail, we get a male baltimore oriole in transition to adulthood. We walk up to the road in front of the hotel, and across the street, where we get a blue-crowned motmot sitting on the grass.

I'm interested in the internet, so we walk downtown, about 15 minutes away to the internet "cafe". It is two rooms with eight 8-year old computers, all turned off. What they mostly do here is arrange tours, and they can't hook up my laptop.

I have an AOL phone number for Costa Rica that's several years old, but when I tried to reconfirm it before we left, it seemed that AOL is no longer IN Costa Rica. So I'll try it fron the phone in our room and see what's up.

We walk down the hill to our room, getting a wilson's warbler. We go into the room. Sharon does a mini-laundry in the bathroom of our Room 42, while I try and try to get on AOL, but keep getting "authentication failed," I presume because the number's no good any more, even though a modem DOES answer.

We call Bernal at 6pm, and learn that we're on for tomorrow. He'll pick us up at 630 am. YESSSS.

We also learned from the front desk list, that Bernal is not licensed to be a guide INSIDE Monteverde Reserve itself, so he'll be taking us to other birding locations outside the reserve. That's fine with us, the more different kinds of places we can bird, I figure, the more birds we'll see.

As it approaches dark, the clouds lower, the wind picks up and it gets downright chilly. The sunset is eerily beautiful.

After dinner, I transcribe the day's events, download the day's photos, make our nightly slide show and we watch, oohing and ahhing. Then we settle down for some good old Costa Rica Rainforest television.

YOU DON'T SAY

Our favorite is to watch a movie on HBO in English, but with Spanish subtitles. In my personal favorite, some hard-nosed detectives were talking, and one said, "No shi-!" The translation was, "You don't say." So from now on, if I say, "You don't say," ...

We're off to sleep, setting the alarm for 530 am.

As my dad might have said, "Asta Lumbago."

Birding Summary:
Trip Birds: Today 5, Entire Trip 183
Life Birds: Today 3, Entire Trip 64

Best Birds: Black-and-White Owl

Nests: Inca Dove

Mammals: no new ones

Reptiles: no new ones

 

Friday, February 11, 2005. Day 6 of 18. Monteverde's Sky Walk. Santa Elena Reserve.

The alarm is off at 530. I think I woke up at 2 and 3 and 430 and 5 before the alarm went. We gear up for birding and in this case, we take our heavy-duty rain gear.

THE RAIN

When Sharon birds in the rain, she can't hold an umbrella because of her walking stick (needing the other hand for her binoculars), and she doesn't have a raincoat other than her parka, which we didn't bring to Costa Rica. I bought two plastic panchos, and she has one of those on over her sweat shirt and cloth jacket. She wears her Australia bush hat, which is waterproof, meaning it soaks up about a gallon of water before ever dripping on her.

I have a tee shirt, a long-sleeved shirt, my birding vest, my black jacket and a light umbrella, which I hang over my water bottle (sitting in one of the bottle-holders of my fanny pack) by its handle strap. {Thank goodness that at the last minute, I threw in a sweatshirt and light jacket "just in case we had cold weather" because I am layered like Bob is and it's cold on top of this mountain.}

When actually looking at birds in the rain, I hold the umbrella and the left side of my binoculars with my left hand, and the right side of the binoculars with my right hand. I grasp the umbrella shaft high up, near the fabric so it protects my glasses and binoculars from blowing rains.

And I won't even go into how I manage adding the scope and tripod in these conditions, because Bernal will have a scope today.

BERNAL

We're waiting under the shelter of the restaurant building when we see Bernal pull up. It's blowing pretty hard, but the sky's clear. We're just in that edge of the cloud where it appears to be misting and lightly sprinkling, but as I said, it's clear skies, below the clouds.

Birds don't much like to play with us in big winds like this, and Bernal voices that concern when he picks us up. That's birding. You have to take what you get and make the best of it, unlike life, where you can complain and kick gravel, thereby improving the situation.

We drive to Monteverde's version of the Sky Walk, which is a sight better and bigger than the one at Villa Lapas. When we get out, it's blowing and raining like crazy. You don't say.

MONTEVERDE SKY WALK

Sharon gets a COMMON BUSH TANAGER right out of the gate, and common is the word for them. Bernal takes us over to the hummingbird feeders, and a man is just filling them. The hummers zoom madly around him and swarm each feeder as he fills, then puts it back up.

The hummingbirds don't mind the driving rain, and we get PURPLE-THROATED MOUNTAIN GEM. Bernal points out a female GREEN-CROWNED BRILLIANT, following by a large and spectacular VIOLET SABREWING. A STRIPE-TAILED HUMMINGBIRD is next, then the definition of green as a green-crowned brilliant male perches to take nectar.

A COPPERY-TAILED EMERALD rounds out the hummingbirds before Bernal takes us to the end of the loop, where we will do the loop in reverse. But first we go in and buy two tickets. He doesn't need one since he's a guide, apparently.

We come to the first bridge, and get rather poor views of a BLACK-BREASTED WOOD QUAIL, followed by a much better look at a GRAY-BREASTED WOOD-WREN. As we move on, Sharon gets a good look at a SMOKY BROWN WOODPECKER, but my view isn't as nice.

An excellent BLACK-FACED SOLITAIRE follows, but it isn't singin' in the rain. Bernal points out a Black-and-white Warbler (m) high in a secropia tree. We are well off of the bridge and on a trail when we see a SLATY-BACKED NIGHTINGALE-THRUSH shuffling his feet on the ground, trying to scare up breakfast.

Now we're on the same bridge where our new dining room friends saw a quetzal yesterday. Can Bernal get it again, in this driving rain?

Rain, anyone?

Survey says...... no. We carry on, though, as if we're still having fun, all soaked and quetzal-less and everything.

Bernal points out the call of the SILVER-THROATED TAPACULO, which voices its concerns from deep cover. He says that they are almost impossible to view, but he hears them all the time. {This is a perfect example of why we "count" birds as "heard only". This bird is a tiny, two-inch brown bird that skulks along on the ground. One of our guides said he had only seen one in ten years of birding. But he sings loudly and all the guides can clearly identify him by that song. So we count it even though we will probably never see it.} A CHESTNUT-CAPPED BRUSH-FINCH follows, then an OCHRACEOUS WREN. Two types of treecreepers follow, and those are the RUDDY TREERUNNER and a SPOTTED BARBTAIL.

We look at the member of the cedar tree family which has fallen across the trail, then been sawn through on both sides of the trail, and the cut "trail" portion of the tree moved to the side. As we look at the smooth, uniform cross section of the tree, Bernal points out that because of the lack of seasons here, there are no growth rings in this tree, and so the tree ring method cannot be used here to date trees. Fascinating.

We are back at the main building and are pretty disappointed that the bad weather was the likely cause of us not seeing any quetzals today. Bernal did his best, and called one in yesterday, but not for us. This makes us glad that we scheduled two different locations with two different guides to maximize our chances of seeing Mr. Q.

He wants to go over to the Santa Elena Reserve now, but Sharon and I want to look at the hummingbirds again first, so over we go.

A nice little THREE-STRIPED WARBLER works the underbrush, and then a tiny hummingbird, the MAGENTA-THROATED WOODSTAR shows up. Bernal is very excited for us to see this little one. What a great name - woodstar. Another hummer follows, the GREEN VIOLETEAR, and it's one of those birds you can "see" just by the name.

We use the facilities here at the Sky Walk, then Bernal takes us over to Santa Elena. It's just as rainy here as it was over there, though a little more protected.

SANTA ELENA RESERVE

We pull into the parking area, and right away get YELLOWISH FLYCATCHER, so Sharon chalks up one more "parking lot" bird.

Sharon shielding her binocs from the rain {Cute, huh? I look and feel like I'm wearing a trash bag, but at least I'm dry.}

We get a nice SPANGLED-CHEEK TANAGER, with its orange belly. We see a BLACK GUAN from the back, but as it turns, we get poor looks at the blue on its bill.

Soon we get a beautiful yellow and black COLLARED REDSTART. It fans its tail as it pursues insects, and has a neat rusty red cap on top of its black head. The name is in the process of being changed to collared whitestart, or maybe it has already.

Collared Redstart (Internet)

Bernal sees a bush tanager and says they are often the leader of a group of birds commonly known as a "mixed flock," a term sure to excite any tropical birder. You may walk through the rainforest for twenty minutes not seeing anything, then get a dozen birds of every kind within two minutes, so you have to have on your best ID skills for these moments. We've got Bernal, but we are beginning to recognize some of the birds.

There are no new birds for us in this group, and Bernal takes us to a bird that he has "staked out," meaning it's almost always at this spot. It's a BARE-SHANKED SCREECH-OWL, and looks like a big football with white spots and streaks, high up in a tree near the main building.

We get poor views of two SILVER-THROATED TANAGERS as they move overhead, and we hope for better views later.

We finish up the reserve by having lunch, as a slaty-headed nightingale-thrush joins us, right on the porch. {And I buy souvenirs.}

We drive into town, and I ask Bernal to take me to a bank, so I can get more dollars. I go into the National Bank, and wait in line. Bernal yells at me not to get in any big lines, but since I don't know how to recognize a big line from a small one in a Costa Rican bank, I park myself in the line of perhaps 4 people.

They take forever, and I learn why when I get up to the window. On my way in, I asked a guard if the bank would give me dollars on my ATM card (the ATM machine didn't work), and an American girl who overheard me said that yes they would because she had just done it.

When I get up there, I'm told that no, they don't do that, but they can give me cash on a credit card. I ask what they charge to do that, and incredibly, she says one dollar. One dollar? Wow, where's the good old rip-off-the-customer spirit of the North American banks anyway?

But I have to sign four waves of papers, with lots of stapling of papers in between each, and that's after she takes my credit card and disappears for about eight minutes. After about ten minutes, the transaction's all done. I've got 600 dollars at a cost of $1. I'll believe that when I get home and get my credit card bill.

THE ECOLOGICAL CENTER

We go over to the Ecological Center, which is pretty new. It's a dry forest, and is pretty quiet. We get a Wood Thrush though, and see an Agouti, a small pig-like mammal. We also get wilson's warbler, black-and-white warbler, and rufous-capped warbler. Then our first female long-tailed manakin.

We get a nice photo of a blue-crowned motmot through Elvin's scope, as a family of 12-15 Coati females and young stroll past us. They are great fun to watch, and mostly ignore us. "Mom, what are those?" "Shut up and eat your worms, dear, it's just Californians. Leave them alone and they'll leave you alone."

Bernal shows us a fallen wild avocado tree, and now we know what the quetzal's favorite tree looks like. The last new trip bird we get for the day is a Black-throated Green Warbler (m).

Bernal drives us back, and after taking off our wet, wet clothes and changing into dry ones, we go up for dinner, then back for the day's photos, some transcription, rest and television.

We had a great day today, it being our first day in a new region, with a knowledgeable guide and two areas covered. Plus the birds didn't seem to mind the weather, all except for the quetzal, that is.

Good night everyone. May you dream of quetzales.

Birding Summary:
Trip Birds: Today 29, Entire Trip 212
Life Birds: Today 25, Entire Trip 89. Twenty-five of the 29 birds we saw today were life birds!!

Best Birds: Purple-throated Mountain-Gem, Green-crowned Brilliant, Violet Saberwing, Coppery-headed Emerald, Magenta-throated Woodstar (all hummingbirds).

Mammals: Agouti, Coati

Reptiles: none to speak of

 

Saturday, February 12, 2005. Day 7 of 18. Monteverde Reserve. We need stinking Quetzales!

We're already at the lower end of the number range of life birds I hoped we'd see (100-120) and we're not even halfway through the trip. But the lifers come with much more difficulty as one gets deeper into the trip. Could we see 150? That would be great.

As we walk up the hill to meet Elvin, a couple of wrens are bouncing in and out of the drain grate slots beside the road. They look so funny doing that. They have white or light throats, are buffy below, but neither of us get other key markings. They may be house wrens or plain wrens.

We meet Elvin at the top, and he drives us the half-hour or so to the Monteverde Reserve. He parks, and we notice a long, long line has formed, waiting for the gates to open. Elvin bypasses this line, goes straight to the check-in, signs in, and off we go. I can't help it, I'm trembling with hope and excitement. {As yesterday with Bernal, Elvin leads us the opposite way on the loop trail from the other tourists. He hopes to get to the quetzal site before there are many people to disturb them. We hope}

A gray-breasted wood-wren is singing on our left, but Elvin keeps walking. We pass through the second growth forest after ten minutes or so, to get to the old growth rainforest trees where the quetzals live.

The trees are 3-5 times taller in the secondary forest. We get a yellowish flycatcher in a ravine on our left.

Elvin has something!

He maneuvers around, points his scope up at about an 85 degree angle, if you assume 90 degrees is straight up.

"Warbler neck" is now called "quetzal neck"

I let Sharon get on first. She sees a female quetzal, but it flies before I can get on it. Ten seconds later he says, "Oh," and moves the scope and tripod to another location. "Male," he says, beaming. "Look!" I get on first this time and THIS IS IT. It's spectacular. RESPLENDENT QUETZAL! If I was an emotional sort of guy, I might get a little tear in my eye. Sharon gets on it and is equally blown away.

Our Resplendent Quetzal. That ribbon is one of his so-called tail covers.

The bird has what Elvin calls "tail covers," but which any non-informed person (me, for example) would call a long tail. It's about two or three times the length of the bird, and there are three distinct long feathers blowing in the wind up there. A quetzal is the most elegant of the group of birds called trogons. They remind me of the Dr. Seuss book "Bartholomew and the 500 Hats." If you know that book, well, the Resplendent Quetzal is Hat #500. Later male quetzals we see have only a single tail cover, and Elvin says they sometimes lose them.

Elvin says you can go to www.cloudforestalive.org for pictures of nests and activities going on in and around them, using live webcams.

Our new friend from Rancho Naturalista, Dick Walton, a professional videographer, and his lovely wife Patsy, went to Savegre (a birding area I cut from our trip because of time considerations) next, after Rancho Naturalista, and sent me the two images below, lifted from his digital video. His company is Brownbag Productions, and you can read about him at http://www.brownbagproductions.com. He does GREAT stuff

I notice that Dick's birds are green (agreeing with our Costa Rica bird book paintings), whereas the one from Monteverde I took, appear blue. I can't explain that, but I think they're supposed to be green. Maybe the sky is bouncing blue off of him. Or maybe the Monteverde birds are slightly bluer than Savegre ones. Call me Mr. Speculator.

We walk around the loop, stopping perhaps five times for Elvin to get us views of other quetzals, but they're all WAY up there, and we find the scope an absolute necessity. We have one view where a male and female are lined up in the scope, the male with its back to us and the closer female facing us. Wow.

Elvin has been giving quetzal calls throughout, and he says they have about 10 different calls.

We get an excellent view of a black-faced solitaire near the two quetzals. We have seen the following tree activity before in the tropics, but Elvin points out the work of the strangler fig. {The tree starts out as a seedling high up on a limb of a bigger tree. Then it sends down roots to the ground.} They slowly surround, then choke the life out of big trees, leaving one huge hollow strangler fig tree. There are many of them in the forest.

We hear a chit, chit, chit, and Elvin says it's the stripe-tailed hummingbird.

There are spider monkeys way over our head, Elvin says, pointing. Suddenly Elvin hears a familiar call, and tells us the name of a bird. I remember this bird's picture, and we strain to get a look. Finally the AZURE-HEADED JAY shows itself, and it's pretty cool. Very, very dark blue, with a patch of pure azure on the top of its head. Beautiful.

Just as Elvin teaches us the call of the TUFTED FLYCATCHER, which we both hear clearly, one of the ten or so spider monkeys climbing through the canopy overhead does an extremely rude thing.

As Elvin's cleaning off the top of his head, he says, "Rule Number 1. Never stand under a monkey. But if you do, keep your mouth closed." Hey, I told you we might run across Rule #1, a most excellent rule to have in the top position, don't you think?

A tapaculo calls, and Elvin says in the five years he's been here, he hears the bird in the forest almost every time, but has only seen one four times. They spend no time at all in open spaces. They are always in thick underbrush, and zip across open spaces only when they need to.

A slate-throated redstart shows himself, followed by a beautiful golden-winged warbler (m) in a mixed flock. A SPOTTED BARBTAIL is next, followed by a green-crowned brilliant (hummer).

We call time out of the bird world, to watch a Nine-banded Armadillo beside the trail, slowly working its way through the low greenery. Pretty cool, and it makes me think of Texas.

Back to the birds, a Bananaquit and another slate-throated redstart wind up the mixed flock.

Sharon heard and read about the botfly, which occurs in Costa Rica, and I ask Elvin about it. He shows us a scar on his wrist and says a mosquito injected the larva (egg?) into that wrist when he was six years old. His parents took him to the hospital to have it taken care of, but I shut my ears at that point. It's Sharon who watches the surgery channel at home, not me. If you don't know about the botfly, believe me, it's way better keeping it that way, unless you too drool over surgery closeups and the like.

Elvin asks about my digital voice recorder, how does it work, what does it cost, how much time will it hold, etc. (solid state, auto shutoff after 30 seconds of non-use, one AAA battery, $129, 6 hours), when Sharon spots a black guan. Elvin asks if we've seen one yet, and we say yes.

We come to a plant he calls Monkeytail Fern. It has really soft fuzz, and hummingbirds take this fuzz to line the inside of their nest.s They get spider webs and wrap them around the nest to provide for the expansion needed when the chicks start growing. Finally they use moss to camouflage the outside of the nest. Pretty cool stuff. I've noticed the nest-expansion thing in Anna's Hummingbird nests around our house and wondered about it as those tiny naked things grow into little birds.

We get a great view of a PRONGBILL BARBET, then a nice upgrade on the silver-throated tanager. Elvin gives Sharon a couple of brown ball-like objects from the ground and asks if we know what they are. Sharon says, "Monkey comb?" And that's what they are. Remarkable, that Sharon. {They are seedpods, very prickly on the outside.}

We get LINEATED FOLIAGE GLEANER in a group of birds, along with SPOTTED WOODCREEPER, in the shadows.

We come to the intersection of our trail with another, and we branch off to this other one. The Numoso trail or something like that. An emerald toucanet is tearing things off a tree right above us, as if he's trying to bomb us.

I ask Elvin about his scope. It's a Leica Televid 77 scope on a Manfrotto tripod with a 25-60X zoom. He says Leica came in and gave all the association guides great discounts, payment terms and guarantees, so they all use them. Great PR for Leica.

The last lifer we get at Monteverde Reserve is an OLIVACEOUS WOODCREEPER, with its gray head on a rusty-colored body. A red leaf turns into a summer tanager.

We have lunch at headquarters, do some shopping, buy our tickets post-trip, I watch the glassblower do his intricate work, behind three panes of glass for heat protection, I presume, and then we're off.

 

CHILDREN'S RAINFOREST

Elvin drives us over to the Children's Rainforest, a project using contributed funds. We can't find anyone at the ticket-selling booth, so in we go. We'll pay when we leave.

We are walking steadily up a long, climbing grade, and I'm getting muscle burn. It feels great, as I push into it. Sharon's keeping up too.

We get smoky brown woodpecker, and now we're in a totally dry area, not rainforest. There is a farm here, and Sharon gets a rufous-collared sparrow, perched on a fencepost. Earlier we saw a yellow-faced grassquit. We get a black-throated green warbler and a green violetear going tic, toc, tic, toc, A squirrel cuckoo shows himself.

We hear, and then Elvin IDs a PLAIN WREN, which is very nice, especially for a plain wren. We're on the Bellbird Trail, but the three-wattled bellbirds haven't returned yet from their migration, dangit. A rufous-capped warbler hops on the trail ahead.

We get a great upgrade of the black guan, and we clearly see its red legs, red eye and electric blue on the rear half of the bill. It honestly looks like there's a light bulb in there.

Another coati ambles through below us.

We finish up where we started, and now two elderly (way over 61) people sell us tickets, and invite us to see the children's exhibits, which I do in a Chevy-Chase-seeing-the-Grand-Canyon sort of way, and then we book.

NIGHT TOUR LOCATION

In addition to Elvin's Monteverde Reserve job, he also leads night tours at a location he takes us to next. Eight brown jays fly through the open area between two large groups of trees, calling and calling. They are jay flying, as it's illegal to jay walk.

A slate-throated redstart pops up, and Sharon gets the ID, since Elvin and I are napping as we walk. A common tennessee warbler (m) is high above us after we cross a chain gate. Another green violeater does the tic toc thing.

It's not too birdy here, and we walk back towards the car park, but must complete the loop, which puts us on the road a couple of hundred yards past the center (I'm not sure what I said there either). Elvin says for us to continue birding along the road, heading away from the center, and he'll go back for the car and pick us up.

Uh oh, we're on our own. Immediately we get a YELLOW-THROATED BRUSH-FINCH, and it's very dapper. Elvin catches up with us and says the name is being changed to white-naped brush-finch. We stop the car shortly thereafter to bird another location.

We get an immature summer tanager, and that's about it for the day. Well, we do one more stop at a stream habituated by a great bird called the sunbittern. He isn't here and I'm not bitter, as I get a nice shot of a couple of little girls crossing the bridge.

Elvin takes us back home and gives us his card, which reads

Elvin Rodriguez
Monteverde guide
Tel 645 6006, Cell 823-6869
elvinguia@yahoo.com.mx
fincaecologica@racsa.co.cr

We enjoy the cool weather, and when it's time, we walk up the hill to dinner, where as usual, I top off my dinner with two scoops of chocolate chip ice cream. So far, in my life, every day I've seen resplendent quetzal, I've had ice cream. I hope to keep up that tradition.

We go back and pack to the 90% level. We'll finish in the morning.

Birding Summary:
Trip Birds: Today 12, Entire Trip 224
Life Birds: Today 10, Entire Trip 99

Best Birds: Resplendent Quetzal, Azure-hooded Jay, Prong-billed Barbet, Yellow-throated Brush-finch (new name: White-naped Brush-finch)

Upgrades: Silver-throated Tanager, Black Guan

Mammals: Armadillo, Spider Monkeys in "action"

Reptiles: none new

 

Sunday, February 13, 2005. Day 8 of 18. To Rancho Naturalista.

Sharon woke up before the alarm went off with, "I hear parrots." Someone told us that new parrots for us may feed in a couple of trees just around the corner from our room. We go out, only to find that they've gone, but a nice WHITE-THROATED ROBIN does nicely for our lifer-before-breakfast. Yesterday, Elvin said he thought he saw one near his night walk place, but wasn't sure. So we know they're here. {Oh, what a short story for the 10 to 15 minutes we spend arguing that "yes, it is a white throated robin, look at the markings" versus "they're not supposed to be here, what else could it be?" A typical arguement between me the eternal optimist and Bob, the eternal statistician.}

We have arranged for an early breakfast, and after we finish, I go out to meet the driver when he gets here.

[end of Monteverde]

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