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.

 

Sunday, February 20, 2005. Day 15 of 18. To Bosque de Paz.

[starting as we leave Selva Verde, about 9am]

Our driver today is Henry. We leave Selva Verde Lodge at 856 am, four minutes early. He has turned the opposite way from La Selva, so we'll be seeing new territory. We both love new roads.

We go by the turnoff to La Quinta, and scan for green ibis, but don't get any. Henry asks us where we're from and we tell him. His mom lives there too (San Jose, California), {It's surprising the number of people here who tell us they have relatives living in the Bay Area. Wonder why?} It's a beautiful morning. There's no rain, the sun is shining and it feels good. Especially the 'no rain' part.

Sharon says she saw cages with big roosters, and she wonders if they're for fighting. Henry points to some trees and says something that sounds like 'oolay', and Sharon figures out that it means rubber. A rubber plantation. And before that he pointed out an ornamental tree plantation. {Another thing we see a lot of that I had not known. They grow a lot of ornamental trees, plants and ferns for export to America for nurseries. They sure can grow anything here so no wonder. I will always think of Costa Rica when I see ferns and palms for sale.} We have been rising, rising in altitude and we've climbed into heavy fog, or I guess we've just climbed into the clouds.

We finally crest the top, and begin dropping. A dairy farm appeared in the fog just as we got to the top, and as we drop down, we are WAY out of rainforest and into sunny, warm, dry weather. All the trees in this area have been cleared, and it's full-blown farms and towns.

We pass through a little village we think is San Miguel, then get behind a big blue bus. Henry waits for an opening, then passes on a double yellow line. That kind of thing is the norm here. If you are sure it's clear, it doesn't matter what is painted in the road, you go. Now this may seem like you're risking your life, but things are way more laid back here than they are in the "north." And it's a free feeling.

We are within a half-hour of our destination, when Henry asks us if we'd like to see a beautiful waterfall. I just want to get where we're going, but we let him talk us into it, and it's just excellent. We bird the area a little, and get a pair we can't quite identify.

A tiny bill, olive back, dark bill, eye not particularly white, head a rusty brown, looked 'wet' to me. Sharon says it looked like the head had black specs on it. These tiny birds are working at eye level in the vines and trees, well maybe ten feet up. We let them go, and just enjoy different views of this waterfall, which is semi-surrounded by a wonderful red cliff.

Water falls. Cast iron sinks.

After we leave there we travel a short way then we come to the turnoff, to our right. We travel up a rocky road passing the Brits birding along the road. We go through the iron gate, which appears to be lockable, for security. There is a smaller "people" gate, also of wrought iron, and also lockable.

ARRIVAL AT BOSQUE DE PAZ

Henry drives us to the carpark, and as he gets out of the van, he says, "Bosque de Paz? Magnifique," with the French pronunciation.

As we get out, who should we see but the rest of the Brits. It's great seeing them again. We talk about birds we've seen and haven't seen, where they've been here and so on. They say the main trail, goes all the way "to the top." Steve and Tony did it, and tell us they got a very good bird up there, but it was quite a hike.

They ask if we've seen red-headed barbet yet, and we haven't. Tony gets out a map and gives us directions to a cafˇ where the bird is seen regularly. I make a note of them, but doubt if we'll do it.

They're here for a few hours, then they'll be off. Meanwhile, the staff takes our luggage up to our room while we meet Frederico, the owner and manager. He's very elegant and gracious, and in no time at all, we're up in the room. It's rated as a 'junior suite' here, and it's like a Marriott's but with rustic character, a slightly western or Spanish flavor.

We're delighted.

Gigunda Triple King Size

We unpack some things, then head back out, admiring the decorations on the railing in front of our second story room.

Ride 'em, Sharon

There is a hawk perched on a dead tree, and after a time, we get it identified as a Short-tailed Hawk, though it takes a bit of looking through the scope till it shows us all the necessary views. Hey, who's hungry?

There is a wonderful stream that cuts through the property, bubbling and bursting over big rocks, as it comes down the mountain. It goes under a concrete walkway,

and on one side of the stream are all the lodge buildings and on the other side is the forest. It is all the property of Frederico and his wife Vanessa, and there is the most peaceful feeling here, looking at the stream and the forest beyond.

On this side, right next to the stream is a large patch of grass maybe twenty by thirty feet, with a wire fastened to two poles, about twenty feet apart and next to the water. Six hummingbird feeders hang at evenly spaced intervals, and there is a patch of brush between the feeders and the stream. The air is electric with hummers buzzing the feeders, the violet sabrewings trying to run off the green-crowned brilliants, but there are so many feeders, with four perches each, that everybody gets a share. A tiny magenta-throated woodstar is an upgrade from the quick, rainy glimpse we got at Monteverde.

They have learned to drink fast.

Lunch is ready, and we go in, get seats with a big cluster of small flowers visible through a big window. There is a group of birders here, but we haven't talked with them yet. They number about six, and are all seated together at a long table.

FEDERICO

Federico comes over and, though not actually a prayer, he smiles and looks at each of us and blesses us, our families and the food. Very nice and, well, peaceful.

We start on our lunch, but Sharon sees a tiny hummingbird through the window. We have our binoculars, and we both jump up to see better. We look through our bird book, and I believe it is Sharon who does the ID as a SCINTILLANT HUMMINGBIRD. Tiny, with an orange gorget (the throat, generally speaking), and a white-and-rusty kind of color impression.

Scintillant (Internet)

The birding group hears us and one of the women comes over, hoping to see the bird, since she hasn't seen that bird yet. It's gone for now, but if we saw it this quickly, it seems reasonable that it comes often.

We sit with an older couple, Irene and Jeff. They are from England and are very English, meaning enjoyable. After lunch, we each go off on out separate adventures into the forest of peace. I asked Frederico if there was a map of the forest trails when we checked in, and he said it's a loop and we can't get lost. Well, he doesn't know me very well yet, so I forgive him.

We get our gear, cross the concrete walking bridge, and head up the trail. It's incredibly green and excitingly new to us. Up, up we go, as the trail rises constantly. It obviously rains a lot, off and on, and the trail is muddy in places, but mostly it's green.

We come to a decision spot, and take the branch to the right. We get a great little slate-throated redstart, with its yellow color, gray head and a little rust on the crown. It's fun making notes that I use to "try" and remind me how a bird call sounded. By way of example, we hear a bird and I say into my digital voice recorder, "Horse blubbering." What the heck does THAT mean? I can imagine, but could a bird sound like THAT?

A group of birders are coming down, and one of them asks us, "Are you birdwatchers?" Good question. We say yes, and when I ask if he is, he says yes, and that he's taking this group "to the top." I ask if he's a guide we can hire, and he says yes, to talk with Frederico. He seems like just a kid, but his English is almost perfect.

We soon get bush tanagers, black and white warblers (m), some kind of treecreeper, then a flash of an unidentified hummingbird. We bump into Jeff and Irene, and Irene has a walking stick like Sharon, only not nearly as cool, of course.

They have been on another trail, quite muddy they say. Irene gets the quote of the day when she says, "Your walking stick is a bit on the unusual side, in't it? {VERRY British}

We continue and and get both redstarts, slate-throated and collared, which are turning into the common birds of the area. Sharon gets a dark American-robin-like thrush. It's across the stream. We can see the rusty head and darker back, gray chest and yellow legs. It's a RUDDY-CAPPED NIGHTINGALE-THRUSH.

We get some unidentified swifts high overhead, and they are all dark, so are not white-collared swifts. We'll try to find out from the guide what kinds are here. Then, at another bridge, only higher upstream and wooden, we get a black phoebe.

EVENING ACTIVITIES

During dinner, Frederico invites us all to watch a video in the recreation building/chapel/library on hummingbirds. Sharon and I just read a great book called My Big Year, in which three guys competed against each other (unknown to each other at the beginning of the year), to try to see how many birds could be seen in one calendar year, in the ABA area. That means it has to be north of the Mexican border, but includes all of Canada and Alaska, and their islands. Anyway, the video was about a man trying to see as many hummingbirds in one year as possible, and videotape them. He saw 200, all over the Americas.

It was a wonderful video, and you simply cannot imagine the outrageous colors and allure of these hummers. Great stuff. There are no hummingbirds in any continent except the two Americas. Pretty special place we live, in that regard.

We head off to our room, and you know what? It's what I call "freezin' ass cold." That means REALLLLLLLY cold. There are lots of blankets and they feel great, when we snuggle down into the bed.

Can't wait for tomorrow. We have talked with Frederico, and have reserved Benicio for a half-day of birding tomorrow. He is the young man we met up on the mountain today. Hope he's good.

Birding Summary:
Trip Birds: Today 4, Entire Trip 321
Life Birds: Today 2, Entire Trip 154

Best Birds: Scintillant Hummingbird

Mammals: Agouti, Coati, [Forgot name - dark with light stripes running front to back, like small, fat pig]

Reptiles: none new

 

Monday, February 21, 2005. Day 16 of 18. Benny at Bosque.

Our alarm is off at 6 am. There are blue and white swallows who have roosted for the night under the eaves, maybe twenty, all in a row, all facing out. They are about three feet from where our heads will be, but they peel off and fly as we walk past, two or three at a time.

We go to the front of the property, but both gates are locked and we don't to wake up anyone, so we go back, watch the hummingbirds, and wait for breakfast.

At breakfast, we talk more with Jeff and Irene, the Englanders. They live north of London and watch birds in their back yard. Jeff says he has been keeping a diary to mark the annual timing of different things, for 40 years. The date the swallows come back (many, or maybe most, from South Africa) and the first cuckoo calling. This year, he says, the cuckoo hasn't called, for the first time ever. They blame global warming, and I pretend not to squirm in my seat, being from the country whose government pays no heed to global warming, claiming that there isn't scientific evidence to prove that it's a problem.

I don't know if you watched this, but there was a great Jerry Seinfeld episode where Kramer talked George into parking his car in a handicapped zone, to save time and be closer to a store where they needed to buy something. Elaine and Jerry were with them too, and while they were in the mall shopping, a handicapped lady in a wheel chair drove up in her van to park in this, the only handicapped spot. She saw it was taken, then had to drive all the way to the back of the lot to find the nearest parking spot, which was up an incline. She got her wheel chair out, then rolled back down the parking lot to the mall entrance. On the way, her wheel chair brakes failed, and she sped uncontrolled down the parking lot, crashing near George's car.

People gathered, heard the woman's story, the woman with the new broken arm, saw that George's car didn't have a handicap sign, went into a mob frenzy and began destroying the car. Which actually was George's father's car.

The four characters strolled out of the mall, and around the corner, where they saw the mob. Jerry sidled up to a guy and casually asked, "What's going on?" The guy quickly outlined the situation, and asked of "whoever" took the handicap spot, "Who would do such a thing?" Jerry looked at the man, clenched his teeth, put on his "outraged" facial expression and said, "Bastards!"

Breakfast is over and we want to "walk the road", for which we need to exit through either of the two front gates. We hope they aren't still locked, but they are. We feel a little bad about it, but knock on the door of the nearest house, whose occupant is apparently the gatekeeper. There are lights on. A woman answers, then calls her husband, I presume, who comes out and unlocks the "people" gate. {We find out later that this is "Victor's" house, the main grounds manager and father of Gabriella whose picture Bob takes later, cute kid.} And we're in the road.

MORNING ON THE ROAD

We cross the vehicle bridge, we look both ways at the stream, but see no activity, so we continue to the main road.

We turn left because if you turn right, you quickly begin a rapid climb up the steep mountain road, and because when we first drove in, the Brits were birding the road in the direction we have headed.

We round one gentle corner and see a man walking towards us. He appears to be a worker, walking from his home to the lodge, with a backpack and a walking stick. He motions for us to come quickly, but with the Japanese "wave," arm pointed towards us, wrist steady, palm down, hand up and down, not the elbow-bending motion we use in that other America.

We hustle on, passing up some spots we wanted to bird slowly, to find out what he has seen. He points to a large dead tree in the middle of a large field, and there on top sits a broad-winged hawk, waiting for the sun to come up, surveying his realm.

We thank the fellow, and both move on to our separate activities. We ID a couple of house wrens in a meadow to the left. There is fencing on both sides of the road. Every single car that drives by gives us a friendly wave from the driver and often the other occupants too. We wave back of course.

A motorcycle comes by and we lift our hands in greeting. He lifts the first finger of his right hand without lifting his hand from the handlebar as he passes. It's chilly in the morning shadows, with no sun yet. We are down in a valley, and can begin to see the sun hitting some of the peaks of mountains around us.

It has been raining here for the past few weeks. It was clear yesterday for the first day of no rain for ages, we learned yesterday. Normally February has no rain at all, but this year Costa Rica has had lots of rain. It is beautiful now, and we look forward to the sun hitting our faces.

We see and hear a number of birds we can't identify {Demonstrating again just how important the guides are here with their knowledge of the bird calls. Often when we are with a guide the most valuable thing about them is that they will just keep walking when they hear a bird call if the bird is common, while Bob and I tend to stop at every call to see if we can see the bird in case it is a "new" bird.}, and it's getting time to meet up with Benicio, the guide, so we head back.

Couples and groups come and go here, as at all birding lodges, most staying two or three or four nights. We are here for three. We meet a new couple from San Diego, here with their son. The woman is needle-pointing something, and her name is Jan. She seems so relaxed and is enjoyable to talk with, as her husband is out birding somewhere. Can you imagine relaxing in the Forest of Peace? They were in Monteverde also, and went on the skywalk there.

We get the stuff we want, then go to meet our guide, and get a yellow-throated (aka white-naped) brush-finch on the lower feeder, down by the bridge, on the way

BIRD GUIDE BENNY

Benicio seems even younger than I remember from yesterday. He says to call him Benny. It's 9 am.

A Hairy Woodpecker calls in the carpark trees and Benny spots it. He says a golden-bellied flycatcher is almost always around the feeders back at the lodge, band we go back hoping for an easy pickup, but it's nowhere around. A prong-billed barbet is though.

We turn and head back out. Brits Tony and Steve told us to ask Benny to show us the dipper nest, and that's where we're headed, I'm guessing. Benny is pretty quiet and and very serious. We hear the call of a gray-breasted wood-wren, and Benny talks back and forth with it. We wait a bit, getting a female wilson's warbler (m). Benny recognizes another call above us, and points out a DARK PEWEE. We can see its crest.

As we look at the dipper nest, on the downstream side of a giant mossy rock in mid-stream, Benny hears a sound while all I can hear is the rush of the stream. He finds and gets us on a MOUNTAN ELAENIA. Even in this relative local valley, we are still at a high altitude, so even the birds here may be mountain birds. Certain ones will only be still higher though.

After a few minutes, Benny says let's move on. We go back up to the exit road, and on the bridge over the stream. We can see the upstream side of the big nest rock, but can't see the nest itself from this angle. There are no dippers around, and we continue on out to the road. We've "dipped" on the dippers.

We turn left, in the direction we went earlier this morning, but now we've got some identification firepower, whose name is Benny. A yellow-faced grassquit hops along the side of the road and into the grassy field beyond. Some swifts fly over, like the dark ones we saw earlier, and they are identified as Vaux's Swifts. It's always fun listening to people pronounce "vaux's." Voze, vozes, vawx, vawxes. I still don't know how to say it, but I respond to any of those four.

We come to a place where there are no trees between the road (gravel and rock) and the stream. The stream's to our left, and there's a wire fence separating us. You can see all up and down the stream, and into the forest from here. On the other side of the road is the clear open pasture of grass, with the large dead tree, now without the hawk.

But before the dead tree, we passed another, smaller tree on a slight rise in the pasture, and Benny looks in that tree. "Chlorophonia!" he yells. "Where?" yells Sharon. I have put my binoculars up and by luck am right on the bright green, yellow and blue bird. It's flying EXACTLY straight towards me. Another bird has come with it, and they both veer off at the last moment, but perch in a tree above us, whose leaves, unfortunately, are the exact same color of yellow and green as the bird.

I spot it again, as Sharon is saying, "I don't have it. Which tree?" We try to get her on it, but it takes off too fast and she doesn't see it. All I saw was that color coming at me, with a fantastic blue on the forehead, but that was enough for my ID. Anyway, Benny searches in vain in the forest, and we finally let it go and continue down the road. Maybe we can get it coming back.

We get black-and-white warbler (m). It hops up next to a nest, but the book says they nest only as far south as the southern US. Now there are exceptions to most rules, but in this case, we think it's a coincidence, and not this bird's nest.

Benny gets us a visual upgrade of the tufted flycatcher, previously heard-only. It's cool, with its little crest.

He takes us down the road a little bit more, then to the other side of the road to a tiny hummingbird nest on the pasture-side. It's on a fern, with other fern leaves over it, which make good rain and sun protection. There are two of the tiniest eggs in it you ever saw. I get a great picture of the nest from the side. Benny says that it's a purple-throated mountain-gem's nest.

We go a bit further with no particular luck, then turn around and head back. As we get close to the bridge and the dipper nest rock, Benny perks up. "Dipper," he yells as he runs to the bridge, with us close behind.

And there, this side of the bridge from the rock, the female is industriously gathering twigs and leaves, continuing to work on the nest, while the male sits at his computer and plays online poker. I mean dips his head under water and eats, ignoring the female's activity. This goes on for the ten minutes or so we watch them. Then we're off, headed to the lodge area, across the stream, and into the forest.

We cross the second bridge, higher on the stream, and are in a huge sloping flat area, rich with flowers and bushes and tall grass. Every minute or less, a blackish bird pops up, then back down. We can't get them for sure, but Benny thinks they are yellow-thighed finches. We get golden-winged warbler (m) and then move on up the trail.

We meet the birding group, who are from San Diego, and they claim they saw a flame-throated tanager. Benny says he doubts it, to us. We meet Irene and Jeff again, walking the trails. We continue climbing.

A three-striped warbler pops up for us, in with some bush tanagers. We hear a red-faced spinetail, but it won't come out for us. Up still higher now, we glimpse a bird with a fantastic orange throat, and finally get good looks at a FLAME-THROATED WARBLER. It's beautiful, high in the tree, high on the mountain and according to my information, isn't present at any of the other four locations we've visited.

Benny "points out" the call of an azure-hooded jay, as we're collecting our warbler. A tufted flycatcher gives us nice views, then also does a slaty-backed thrush-nightingale. We hear the red-faced spinetail's call, added this time to that of the tapaculo.

Wait, can you smell that? It's white-collared peccaries, says Benny, and they stink. We come to this flower and Benny says a most unusual thing, though I suspect we misunderstand him. He says this is a queen-of-the-night and is hallucinogenic if you smell it at night. At night? We don't pursue it, but plan to come back after dark (yeah, right).

Sharon picks us up a tropical parula, then it's time to head back down for lunch and a nap break, if nothing exciting is going on. Now all over the trail, and particularly at intersections, there are signs on poles stuck in the ground, with arrows pointing back to the lodge, and most say, for example, "SALIDA," which means exit. The way, way out.

Up to now, Benny has been nothing but serious. We are our normal selves, and I think we're starting to rub off a little on Benny, because he says, "Hey, look at this." I have him repeat it so I can get a picture, which I'll now share with you.

Benny, Benny, Benny (He changed it back, of course)

Now we are down by the hummingbird feeder station, and we get three Magnificent Hummingbirds, with turquoise on the throat and purple or violet on the head. Fantastic. I always thought these were huge, but the violet saberwings give them a run for their money. The poker-faced Brit, Maggie says that they saw a magnificent earlier also.

Sharon Reading by the Bird Feeders

We say goodbye to Maggie and Liz, to Steve and Tony, and go into the dining room. We watch for the scintillant hummer again, and see it once or twice, but now we're looking for another that Benny has told us may be here (volcano hummer).

GOT NAPS?

Dad's Uncle Bill used to take day naps all the time, and I thought, "Old people sure sleep a lot," I still don't know about old people, but I like to, especially when you are all over a mountain in the morning like we were.

EL GUITARO

Later, before dinner, we hear some commotion coming from the shelter above the hummingbird feeders (the one in the photo directly above) and go to investigate. It seems that a Costa Rican guide and his group of perhaps eight people have arrived, and they are a spirited bunch, especially the guide, whose name is Fernando.

They have found a guitar, and been joined by two men on the staff here. They are singing Spanish songs in Spanish, and there are no subtitles. They are having a great time. They pass the guitar to a young man, here with his brother and parents. We later learn that the group is from San Francisco, and are here on an eight-day adventure, with every night except the last two in different places. That last full day will be spent at the beach, for the kids.

The young man is playing a song I recognize, and it is by Green Day. Sharon sends me back to the room for my video camera, and the Tikos (Costa Rican boys or men, as opposed to the Tikas, who would be the women, or girls) let loose with the theme from Gilligan's Island. In Spanish. I NEVER pick it up, but Sharon does. Each time they sing the names of the strandees, Fernando points to one of the members of his group, one at a time and everybody loves it. This one is the professor. That one is Mary Ann. And so on.

"Gilligan's Island." Victor on guitar, Fernando in the middle, Mario on right.

After a couple more numbers, I take the guitar and play the old Smothers Brothers tune "Hey Lidey Lidey." I sing a few verses alone to give them the idea. Here are three of my favorites. I sang the first two.

I got a sister, and her name is Shirley,
Hey Lidey Lidey Low.
Her hair is straight and her nose is curly,
Hey Lidey Lidey Low.

and

There's only one thing wrong with this verse,
Hey Lidey Lidey Low.
It's too SHORT.
Hey Lidey Lidey Low

and the last one
I ain't got no imagination,
Hey Lidey Lidey Low.
I ain't got no imagination,
Hey Lidey Lidey Low.

So then I try to get the first person in the circle to make up a line, where the next person has to rhyme the line, in time to the music, after one chorus line. You have to think fast. It goes pretty good. Like Sharon sings one, and the lady next to her rhymes it nicely, if not on the beat. That works ok a couple of times, then Fernando yells that he has one.

After the chorus, he belts out two lines that are funny, but something seems to be missing. Like

I hope you all are having some fun,
Hey Lidey Lidey Low
And hope you'll all come back
Hey Lidey Lidey Low.

Quite the opposite of the old cartoon Pogo, where I remember reading once, "It rhymes, it rhymes. But what sense does it make?"

Then it's time for dinner. We sit with Jeff and Irene again, and have chicken, cabbage, rice, mango juice and dessert cake, with bits of fruit in it. I'm hooked on the mango.

Again, at this meal, like all the others, Federico gave us a blessing beforehand. And there is another video to be shown. It is a National Geographic video, about life in the canopy of a rainforest. It is truly spectacular, and Sharon wants me to order it when we get home.

You can't believe the things that live and go on up there in the canopy of tall trees. Then it is back to the room for entering the day's information - photos and digital voice recorder, then off to bed.

I believe Sharon is somewhere in this bed, but it's so big, I can't find her. If I had a heat-sensing scope, I could use that I guess. Or night vision goggles.

Tonight? We sleep. Tomorrow? We BIRD! What a life. Ain't I supposed to get tired of this someday?

Birding Summary:
Trip Birds: Today 6, Entire Trip 327
Life Birds: Today 3, Entire Trip 157

Best Birds: Flame-throated Warbler, Magnificent Hummingbird

Nests: Purple-throated Mountain-gem

Mammals: Peccaries (smelled only)

Reptiles: none in particular

 

Tuesday, February 22, 2005. Day 17 of 18. Bosque. Pickin' up the Stragglers.

I wake up, go outside and hear the rufous-collared sparrows singing away.

Benny drew us a map of a place they saw a quetzal yesterday. Another shot? Excellent. We follow the map, think we've somehow missed the "big open space", but decide to go further, when BOOM, we're in the big open space. It's like you're looking at an open cathedral.

The stream, on the way up the trail

And we recognize one of the trees as a wild avocado. Benny said the orange-bellied trogon also feeds on these fruits. We wait and almost immediately begin hearing this wonderful flute-like call. Could that be the three-wattled bellbird? We look and look, but can't find the bird making that sound. And no quetzal comes to greet us either.

We finally decide we need to go. We have a choice of continuing up the mountain, then coming to the three-way intersection, turning right, then going back down the loop. Or we can turn around here, and go back. First, we start up, then I think about the map, conveniently left in our room by you-know-who, and reckon that if we keep going around the loop, it'll be 3-5 times further than doubling back. I tell Sharon, and we turn around. The right decision, as it turns out.

As we're on the trail, Sharon is ahead of me looking down. I am too, but glance up and see the rear end of something just on the trail, disappearing to the left. I mean the trail turns, and it just stays on the trail. I say, "Agouti, on the trail in front of us, just disappearing to the left." Sharon puts up her binocs, leans far to her right and says, "It's a bird, it's a tinamou!" I move over and get it too, just as it turns and walks off into the forest. We look at my bird list, and our book, and decide that it must be a MOUNTAIN TINAMOU. We check with Benny later, down at the lodge (he confirms, based on location and our description of size).

Benny also points to a tree next to the carpark, and says, "The long-tailed silky-flycatchers often perch in that tree." And in fact, there's a black-faced solitaire." It's a better view than we've had of this bird, and he also says that this is the one we heard in the big open area - the flutey-sounding one. In fact, he says, it is one of the birds being hit hard by poachers, who capture them to sell to people who keep them in cages in their houses because of the wonderful song. I was sort of hoping the flute-bird was the orange-bellied trogon or the bellbird, but were wrong about that.

We hear a call to our right, spin around, and get a fantastic close view of an azure-hooded jay. The intense blue on his head is breathtaking.

THE ROAD AGAIN

We head out on the road again, by ourselves, hoping for a couple of birds. We plan to walk a bit further than we did before. Out the gate, over the bridge, no dipper in sight, out to the road, left turn, and up to the hummer nest.

Incredible! Momma is on the nest now.

Purple-throated Mountain-gem (female)

We continue past the dead tree and further. After a bit, we get a bird I've been hoping for since we got here, the SLATY FLOWERPIERCER. Soft gray with a small downward hook on the end of the bill. It darts around quickly, and has a very high pitched call. Hard to see it for longer than about a second at a time.

I have to call time out for a pants-down bathroom break beside the road, because there isn't any place other than in the road or beside the road. I choose beside. Sharon's job is to whistle "She'll be Comin' Round the Mountain" if she sees a car coming. She ignores her duties and starts following a couple of birds. I'll let her tell her story here.

{It is not uncommon for us to see a new bird when one or the other of us is on a "bathroom break". One time on the top of a mountain looking for the black-crowned rosy finch, we had waited for hours without any luck and I suddenly just had to go to the bathroom. As I am just pulling up my pants, a rosy finch lands about 10 feet from me on a snow patch. I am whispering to Bob and waving at him, "the bird is here at my feet" which of course, gets him to look at the ground by my feet,when the bird is 10 feet away, but he finally gets on it.

Anyway, now I am watching for traffic here but also scanning for birds. I see movement in the ferns and grasses of the roadside about 20 feet up the road. I start seeing a black bird but I get flashes of bright yellow everytime he moves. I think to myself, " this might be the yellow-thighed brush finch". I look back at Bob but he isn't "finished" so I don't want to call him and have the bird fly away before he can get here. So I quietly say to myself,"stay here bird" until Bob finishes and then I excitedly tell him, "come here, I might have the Yellow-thighed finch" and we both get to see it.}

Anyway, I wind up my task and head down to Sharon. She quietly but firmly says, "Come here. Look at this bird." And sure enough, it's a pair of YELLOW-THIGHED FINCHES. They are shiny black, except for these little puffy bright yellow balls of feather, just above the top of the legs. It's unbelievable, and is immediately a favorite of ours. The yellow contrasting with black is just too much.

Yellow-thighed Finch (Internet)

All right! Two life birds, by ourselves. Plus I don't have to go to the bathroom any more. Cool. We come back further, to the bird we are hoping, hoping for.

I get the scope set up on the tree that the chlorophonia flew out of yesterday. Was it yesterday? Anyway, there in the tree is a pair of them! Maybe three! I get Sharon on the scope in a hurry, and we can't believe the beautiful bright green, yellow and blue. They are feeding on some kind of berries, and our sighting is courtesy of this fruit. GOLDEN-BROWED CHLOROPHONIA, at last, and we got it by ourselves, assist to Benny. Here's a photo I found on the internet.

Golden-browed Chlorophonia (male)

 

GOOGLE THIS

Now I'm sure you know that you can go to www.google.com, click the "Images" word, type in the name of any of these birds we're mentioning (or anything in your existence), and get several pictures of any of them. Back to the action though. Moral: Google is not just WORDS.

Then they fly over and land in a tree maybe twenty feet from us. They stay until we get our fill, thank you very much, then they fly right back to the berry tree. I get them in the scope again, and one has a bright red berry in its beak, adding that color to its own. Awesome.

We go on to the "dipper" bridge, have a seat, and relax for ten minutes or so, absolutely full of ourselves for the three life birds we saw out on "the road."

We go in for lunch, and by now we're good friends with Benny. He loves our story of the birds we got.

LUNCHBIRD

Just as lunch is over, Benny comes running and takes us out where we get both mates of a pair of LONG-TAILED SILKY-FLYCATCHERS, and if these birds aren't fantastic. We thank him, go back in for our dessert, and keep looking at them, through the window in the dining room for a while longer, with our binoculars.

Long-tailed Silky-flycatcher

When we finish, we ask Benny about a particular owl, and he draws another map. In this one, we will hike up the steep road a mile or maybe a half-mile, and look up in the trees on the left, in a long straight stretch. It will be a tough climb, but on safe and on solid footing.

We talk a little with Fernando, the fun tour leader at the guitar-fest last night, and his company is Serendipity Adventures. We'll look that up on the internet later. Then we get a hawk in a tree, which Benny identifies as a short-tailed hawk, and Sharon, as often happens, starts giving me reasons why he's wrong. And usually SHE'S wrong, though I'm sure she'd take issue with that statement. She's not wrong THIS time. The bird turns, and she sees this line down the middle of its throat, points it out to Benny, who agrees. It's a double-toothed kite. Way to go SHARON! How can I live with her now?

Actually Sharon argued for solitary eagle, but finally changed her mind to nail the bird. The eagle would have been excellent, but the birds are what they are, you know.

UP THE "HILL"

As we go through the security gate, the keeper there says "Trogon," holds up two fingers and says, "Dos." Sharon asks IN SPANISH, and learns that he saw them about ten minutes ago. We scour all over, but can't see them or hear their soft call.

We get bush tanagers, wrens, golden-wing warblers (m), all within fifty yards of going through the gate, then the gravel turns to pavement, just as our new map shows. We're climbing the road. Man, it's steep. We stop often to get a breather and check for birds.

Some time later, we are way up here, looking way down into the valley where we started. We're about as far as we think we should go for the owl, and we about face, head down, and begin checking all the trees. It's easier to scan for birds when you're going downhill than when you're puffing uphill.

But we can't find the spectacled owl anywhere. Sharon does the hoo hoo hoot of a great horned owl, and miles away some monkeys answer.

We continue down, and then take the time to scan the top of this enormous tree growing out of the downside of the mountain. And what do you know, we find another golden-browed chlorophonia up there. Remarkable. We also see a large brown thrush, but can't quite identify it. We know that mountain robins are up here, and that might have been one. Dang, it got away.

We finally give up, and retrace our steps, doing the easy downhill walk.

As we're walking up the road to the entry gate, I say to Sharon, in my predict-the-future mode, "You watch. We'll get up there, and they'll say an orange-bellied trogon was all over the place, at the lodge."

We walk in to the dining room and Sharon goes to the bathroom while I look up Benny. He opens up with, "They saw a female orange-bellied trogon at the big open area, by the avocado tree in the forest." I have to get Sharon.

Benny's headed home, walking, and we head up to our room. We decide, although we're pooped, to get our boots and walk up to try and find the trogon. Actually, Sharon's already got hers on, so I get mine. After putting them on, I'm walking down the steps, and Benny comes running up. "I've got the orange-bellied trogon. Hurry!" I yell, "Did you tell Sharon?" And his response is, "Hurry!" I follow, and ask again, but there's Sharon coming from the other side of the building. We each want to be sure the other is in on this!

We hustle out the drive, out the front gate, up the hill maybe twenty yards, and there she is, a beautiful female ORANGE-BELLIED TROGON. They have the softest-looking eyes. Brown head, orange belly, and when they call, their tail pops up so that it's sticking straight backward, horizontally. This is my photo, rather poor.

Female Orange-bellied Trogon

Benny talks to it, calling softly, and it responds every time. He said he went out the gate, heard it, ran back in to get us, and here we are. Well, I'm speechless. Thank you Benny

YOU MAN

I tell him the story of daughter Shandra's little son Tommy - our grandson. They were in San Jose and Tommy did something particularly cool. I said, "Hey Tommy, You da MAN!" He looked at me, not sure where I was coming from with that, and so he finally said, pointing at me, "NO. YOU MAN!"

Then I say, "Benny, YOU MAN!" He laughs, and I realize I don't remember him smiling much, in all the time we've been together. Then THE MAN heads for home. Way to go, Benny.

On the way in, we get a picture of the little girl who always waves and says hi to us, well, to Sharon actually, because Sharon talks to her in Spanish. Her dad, Victor, is the one playing the guitar in the picture from yesterday.

Cute little blue-sandaled Gabriella.

We head to the room to rest a while and then join a huge crowd at dinner. In honor of all our English friends, "We are CHUFFED!"

I'm a little sad that tomorrow we leave, but we have two more aces up our sleeve, because 1) we have a half-day to bird - our pickup isn't till the afternoon, and 2) we'll have Benny with us!

And now I'm gonna join Sharon in some serious sleepin'. Good night all, thanks for listenin'.

Birding Summary:
Trip Birds: Today 6, Entire Trip 333
Life Birds: Today 6, Entire Trip 163

Best Birds: Yellow-thighed Finch, Golden-browed Chlorophonia, Azure-hooded Jay, Orange-bellied Trogon

Mammals: none new

Reptiles: none new

Friends for life: Benny

 

Wednesday, February 23, 2005. Day 18 of 18. Half Day at Bosque. To SJ, CR.

BENNY ON THE ROAD

We're up early, as we'll be meeting Benny at 6am. We go down to the dining room, and he's there waiting. We head out towards the road, and a blue-crowned motmot is calling on our right. {It's raining and we are all bundled up, but we won't miss this last opportunity to bird before we leave and Benny is ready to bird, rain or not.}

Out on the road now, we get the usual redstarts, both kinds. Two black guans are up in a tree by the stream. Benny shows us ANOTHER purple-throated mountain-gem nest, but it's inside the fence, and we can't look inside it.

Down the road a bit now.

We stop at the first hummer nest, and WHAT HO! Momma's gone. There are two tiny babies in the nest, with bits of broken eggshell still there. Sharon gently bends the leaf down so I can get a picture, and the babies lift their beaks into the air and wave back and forth, thinking it's food. Sorry.

Two Purple-throated Mountain-gems chicks. Less than one day old.

We're feeling great, walking down the road. I ask, "Benny, how old are you?" He doesn't surprise us too much when he says he's 21. I think I'll impress him with our age, and the fact that we have climbed all over the mountain, "We're 61!" Then, very softly, without looking at us, he says, "Sorry," cracking up both of the elders.

Benny hears a high trill, and says, "Flowerpiercer." He calls, but it doesn't come. There are clouds overhead, with mist and light rain, blowing down at an angle. We keep hearing bright-rumped Attila, but still haven't seen one.

Benny hears something and says, "Trogon." He listens, but can't decide between two. We move on down towards the sound, and then we get a pair of wonderful orange-bellied trogons. This is the first time we've seen the male, and he's green above rather than the brown of the female. Both beautiful. They don't seem to mind the rain at all.

I've got the umbrella out, shielding my face and glasses from the angled rain. We move on, then get a pair of RED-FACED SPINETAILS, in addition to two or three prong-billed barbets. I get on a thrush-like bird, high in a tree to our left. The other two have resumed walking, and I finally call them back. I'm hoping for, and Benny confirms a MOUNTAIN ROBIN.

We get a black-throated green warbler(m), and it will leave in the next month or so, headed north. We come over a little rise, then there's an enormous landslide to our left. It ends at the river, about a hundred feet below us. There are signs on small poles stuck in the edge of the road to warn of the danger. And it does look dangerous. I wouldn't want to spend a lot of time right here. Benny scans all around, trying for a bird he knows we want. He says this area is good for flycatchers.

Then behind us as we're looking downward, is a call Benny points out. It's the GOLDEN-BELLIED FLYCATCHER. It calls a few times, then is gone. No see'um.

We continue on, coming to a giant philodendron, and earlier he pointed out another plant whose roots have medicinal qualities and whose stems are hallucinogenic.

There are these little purple flowers on the right, and Benny says Costa Ricans call them money flowers. You pick one and put it in your wallet or purse, then it brings you good luck, or money.

Money Flower {Which of course, I now have in my wallet!}

We come to a lookout where we see a town below us. Benny says this is Bajas de Toro (spelling not sure), and that it's his town. We can hear kiskadees telling us their name. Sharon picks up a black phoebe on a wire as we look down. We turn around and head back. Now we know where Benny was going, those times he left at the end of the day.

He says his father works at the lodge also, head of operations or maintenance or something like that. We hear a tapaculo calling again. We come to this interesting flower he says is called Little Bottle, because that's what the flowers look like. Actually, he gave the latin name, and I asked if he knew the common name. A hummer likes them too.

Little Bottle

Benny asks if we know the owner of Rancho Naturalista, Kevin Easley, and we tell him our story. He says when Kevin sees a really good bird, he says, "Aye, Carumba!"

BENNY IN THE FOREST

Now we're back at the lodge and we head into the forest, up the slope, to the place where the trail splits, the gallery trail to the left, or the valley trail to the right. A dusky-capped flycatcher makes an appearance, then we get mistletoe (new name paltry) tyrannulet and mountain elaenia. And finally we get excellent views of a pair of bright-rumped attilas that we have heard so many times but not seen until now.

Sharon and Benny head down, but I'm on this unusual bird I've never seen. I call them back, and Benny yells, "BARRED BECARD! BARRED BECARD!" There is a male and two females. The Brits had to go to the top of the mountain to get this bird. I wonder if they're back in England yet. I gotta tell 'em.

Benny says, "I THOUGHT this trail might be a good idea." He points out a plant that is wild tomatoes. We get black and white warbler, and continuing up the trail, we get three striped warbler. Benny hears a black-faced solitaire, and now we have first-hand knowledge that this was the mystery bird we heard at the big open area.

A green-crowned brilliant flies over us from its perch on the left. We turn around and head back down the hill now, for the last time. Suddenly we get a spectacular upgrade of the red-faced spinetail. We can see everything - face, tail and spines.

Back down at the feeders now, I'm trying to get a photo of a violet saberwing, but it won't cooperate.

IT'S TIME...

And finally it happens. Our driver arrives to take us back to the Hotel Bougainvillea and his name is Bernal. We say goodbye to everybody, to Federico and his wife, to Benny, to the staff that we recognize, and we leave a little something to each of them, in addition to putting some in the "tip jar" at check-in.

We finally drive out the entry road, through the gate, and turn right, headed for the owl hill. Up we go, Bernal urging the van to make it, which it does, of course, although we were in doubt once or twice.

We drive up into clouds, where the wild animals roam at will on the road.

Leche Makers

Shortly, we get behind a big silver trailer truck. Bernal says it's a milk truck, and indeed, it says leche on the side. I tell him my dad drove a milk truck for about twenty years. We crest and begin a descent, now out of the moist cloudforest and into dry weather. Unbelievably, to us anyway, there is a field to the right with sprinklers on. Irrigation.

DISNEY COSTA RICA

We come into a town called Zar Cero or Zar Cerro, or something like that, and come upon the most unusual bit of sculpted shrubbery I've ever seen. We're dumbffounded.

Let the Pictures Tell the Story

That's Sharon, on the Left. In that case, friend Ron White offers, that's me on the right.

Now we're in suburbs. Houses have front yards, and near the road in those yards, each has a box housing the electric meter. There is a hole cut out of the front panel of each box, so you can look in and see the meter, for the convenience of the meter reader.

We get closer to San Jose now. Sharon picks up on a hula hoop tree, with three hoops in it. Apparently the home of a sister and older brother.

We are now following a cattle truck. One of the cows has his tail stuck out between the side boards, into the next lane. Sharon says, "Don't drive beside him," and sure enough, he lets loose. Coffee is growing all over the hillsides. It is warm, like San Jose, California in the springtime. Clouds cover the peaks of the surrounding mountains.

We get to our hotel, give the driver our voucher and a tip, then give a voucher to the hotel reception lady. A bellhop helps me get our luggage up to the room, which is nice and large, with two queen beds, TV and so on. A balcony overlooks the front parking lot.

We get out all the wet clothing we have left over from our rainy birding, and drape it over chairs on the balcony to dry out.

Dry. Now I remember what that word means.

The rest is pretty standard stuff. We go downstairs to dinner, buy great souveniers, back to the room, watch TV, write some trip reports, look at the day's photos and video, and pack for leaving tomorrow.

Birding Summary:
Trip Birds: Today 4, Entire Trip 337
Life Birds: Today 4, Entire Trip 167

Best Birds: Mountain Robin, Barred Becard

Mammals: none new

Reptiles: none new

 

Thursday, February 24, 2005. Travel to San Jose, California.

We get up early enough to go birding, and a birding group already has a scope on a Ferruginous Pygmy-owl. Very nice.

HOME

The same driver as yesterday picks us up and delivers us to the airport. We check in there, go through security, catch our flight to Dallas, then a flight to San Jose, California, where our friends and neighbors Damon and Jenn Holst meet us at American Airlines baggage claim, Carousel 3.

Ah, it's great to be home.

I'll put out one last, summary report, and then you'll be free to move about the cabin.

Birding Summary:
Trip Birds: Today 1, Entire Trip 338
Life Birds: Today 0, Entire Trip 167

Best Birds: Ferruginous Pygmy-owl, Boeing 757

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