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|A Report from birdtours.co.uk|
Costa Rica, March - April 2003 ,
Cotingas & Quail-Doves (Tinamous & Wood-Quail too)
The birds listed above, with the exception of Cotingas, had always been difficult birds for me, especially Wood-Quail. This trip was very successful in that I saw all my target Cotingas, one of my favorite bird families, as well as 4 species of Quail-Dove, 3 Tinamous, and 2 Wood-Quails.
Most trip reports that I've seen for Costa Rica describe birds seen on guided tours. I did a solo trip from March 24 through April 15. Hopefully this report will be of some use to independent birders getting around on their own. I had birded in Central America before, and I had also been to Costa Rica - 3 or 4 weekends during a business assignment in 1997-98, and a few days in 2000 around a trip that Dennis and I took driving from San Jose to Oaxaca, Mexico and back. I had contacted Dennis Rogers, who wrote a useful book on bird finding in Costa Rica and Panama, and who lives near San Jose with his wife and son. Dennis graciously put me up for several days during my trip, which helped in reducing costs and provided some good company.
I used both the Costa Rica & Panama field guides. I prefer the artwork and similar species sections in the Panama guide, but Stiles & Skutch has more specific information on Costa Rica.
Reference Material & Contacts
Trip Reports taken from http://www3.ns.sympatico.ca/maybank/main.htm
Best of the bunch was Patrick O'Donnell's Nov 1999-Jan 2000 report, which had specifics including getting around by bus
A Guide to the Birds of Costa Rica, 1989 - Stiles & Skutch
A Guide to the Birds of Panama, 2nd edition, 1989 - Ridgely & Gwynne
Site Guides Costa Rica & Panama, 1996 - Dennis Rogers
Where to Watch Birds in Central America, Mexico, & the Caribbean, 2001 - Wheatley & Brewer- read and copy the relevant CR sections & leave the book at home.
Lonely Planet Costa Rica, 5th Edition, Oct 2002 - accommodation, logistics
Maps - I had an old International Travel Maps of Costa Rica from 1998 - not that detailed, but as good as any. Budget Rent-A-Car gave me a good map, useful particularly for San Jose. Good, detailed maps are hard to find, if in fact they exist.
La Selva - www.ots.ac.cr/en/laselva
Monteverde Conservation League - www.acmonteverde.com, phone 645-5200
MONEY & LOGISTICS
Costa Rican currency is the Colon, trading at about 390 to the dollar while I was there. I had Visa traveler's cheques, which the airport bank would not change (American Express only). A European traveler also was refused there when she wanted to change Euros. American dollars cash are accepted in many places; some larger places will take travelers' cheques.
When arriving at the airport, go to the small tourist information desk directly opposite where you leave customs. They have a bus schedule for most buses from San Jose, with phone numbers and terminal addresses, a very useful thing to have.
I generally stayed in moderate to low budget hotels. Room prices ranged from $3-$20, with the exception of Selva Verde, Rancho Naturalista, and Savegre Mountain Lodge.
Buy a telephone card to use in Costa Rica. They are sold in many shops in various multiples (1000 colones, 3000, etc). Some phones may only accept cards, even for toll-free calling card calls.
My estimate is that the total cost was about $1300-1400 dollars. Biggest expenses were the car rental ($220), Rancho Naturalista ($120), La Selva ($185), and Savegre Lodge ($60). Free accommodation near San Jose with Dennis sure helped.
BUS & TAXI
Public buses are cheap and go to most places in the country. They are often preferable to having a car, especially in places like Monteverde. The most expensive bus trip I took, to Monteverde, was about 1500 colones - less than $4. Taxis around San Jose are inexpensive, and much preferred to driving this city without street signs and surprise one-way streets. Ask them to use the meter - the "maria". Long trips like Braulio Carillo should be negotiated beforehand. It may also be better to take a taxi to Braulio Carillo from San Jose, especially if split among 2 or more people. Taxis in Monteverde are relatively expensive - it's 2000 colones to Monteverde reserve from Santa Elena (6km) - but still might be preferable to having a vehicle.
One note about taxis. On several occasions cab drivers dropped me off at the wrong bus terminals. Always give them the street address as well as the title. Unlike taxis in many other parts of the world, some of these guys don't really know that much about finding destinations or getting around, which was a big surprise to me.
I rented from Budget for 1 week, arranged in the USA before arrival. Arranging car rentals in your country of origin is recommended, as you can often get better deals and unlimited mileage. Sunday through Saturday for a small automatic Toyota Yaris was $220. The highways vary in quality, often with potholes, but generally are manageable Gasoline is a bit more expensive than the USA. Some locations will need high clearance, and in the rainy season 4 wheel drive. Usually these places will have 4 wheel drive taxis in the area as an option.
I saw 392 species, and heard another 15, for a trip total of 407. 29 were lifers, and another 12 were new North American birds. I was primarily looking for target birds rather than a big trip list. Highlights were seeing the 2 white cotingas and a male Turquiose, a great look at a male Umbrellabird, 4 species of Quail-Dove, 3 Tinamous, and 2 Wood-Quails. Big misses were Black-cheeked Ant-Tanager and Silvery-throated Jay. Also missed was Ochraceous Pewee, but I knew it would be tough. Inquiries about specific species will gladly be answered at: firstname.lastname@example.org
March 24, Monday
I caught a direct flight from New York to San Jose, using the last of my frequent flyer miles with American, while there still is an American Airlines. No birding. Dennis Rogers and his son Stephen met me at the airport and after some delay with finding a bank, took me to Heredia where we had lunch and I changed money. We went to their house in San Isidro de Heredia, about 20-30 minutes north of San Jose.
March 25 - La Selva
I had made arrangements in the USA through the internet to stay at the biological station at La Selva, near the town of Puerto Viejo de Sarapiqui on the northern Caribbean slope. Their website is www.ots.ac.cr/en/laselva .The price is usually $55 per night plus meals at $8 each, but I was given the price of $55 all inclusive. The rooms are overpriced, being bunk beds with shared bath, but the location is excellent. Dennis drove me to the highway where I caught a bus to Puerto Viejo, then took a taxi (1000 colones) to the station, arriving before noon. Weather was warm with sun and clouds. I had lunch then birded the CES/CEN/STR trail from 12:45 to 3. This goes through forested areas and was generally shady even in the middle of the day. La Selva has an extensive trail system and provides a map, although the photocopy can be hard to decipher. The biggest surprise was a beautiful Agami Heron under a bridge right next to the STR path, only about 10 minutes from the reception area. He stayed there throughout my visit, allowing many repeat looks at close range, seemingly oblivious to the people who walked past. I saw White-ringed Flycatcher in the trees by the main bridge, and in late afternoon I saw Black-throated Wren in the bushes along the path by the river, before you cross the main bridge. At night I went out with a spotlight and owl tapes (Crested & Spectacled) with no response, but I did see a new mammal, the Kinkajou, in a tree near the river. I was surprised how many people were at La Selva. There were many researchers and a group of 35 American students on a 4 month trip around Costa Rica. There is a shop that sells beer and soft drinks that closes at 5, but reception will usually go in and get you a drink.
March 26 - La Selva
A guided tour is included in the price, but I opted for a birding tour, which cost a little extra, rather than a generic eco-tour. Carlos was the guide, and I showed him my list of target birds. We took the SUR and SCH trails, and he found me Black-capped Pygmy-Tyrant, tough to see well, Red-footed Plumeleteer, and a roosting Great Potoo behind the research buildings. We checked out a day roost for Spectacled Owl, but with no luck. Overhead vultures included the only King Vulture of my trip. Overhead swifts included White-collared, Gray-rumped, and Chestnut-collared. In the afternoon I walked the SOR trail from 2-5, finding an Olive-backed Quail-Dove by a dried marshy area with a boardwalk. I spent the last hour by reception, hoping for Snowy Cotinga or Short-tailed Nighthawk, with no luck. Mammals that day included Collared Peccaries, Agouti, Coati, 2-toed Sloth, and heard Howler monkeys.
March 27, Thursday - La Selva
This was a long day. I set off at 5:30 AM and walked the perimeter along the Sendero Holdridge (SHO) to the Lindero Sur to the LOC, or Lindero Occidental. As you get further down the SHO it has several steep ups and downs as it crosses creeks, mostly dry while I was there, although the trail was muddy in spots. This would be a real slippery mess in the wet. At 9:15 I found an antswarm at 1950 on the SHO trail, attended by many Ocellated Antbirds, 2 Spotted and 1 or 2 Bicolored Antbirds. Just past the swarm walked a male Great Curassow. At about 2050 on the LOC trail I got a tape-assisted Uniform Crake, paying me scant attention as it dug in the mud. When I reached "civilization" on the STR trail, sometime around 4 PM, the Agami Heron was in its usual spot, this time with a Gray-necked Wood-Rail and Pygmy Kingfisher. Just after four in the same area on the STR trail, I got a great look at a Slaty-breasted Tinamou calling about 40 feet in from the trail. Carlos had told me this was a good spot for it - thanks Carlos. I ran into both VENT and WINGS groups there, and Mimi Wolfe of VENT told me they had Great Tinamou and a good look in the morning at Snowy Cotinga near the guard station. Around dusk I met a group looking for the Short-tailed Nighthawk, and I got a brief look at one flying just above the trees away past the guard station. This bird does not soar overhead like most nighthawks, so the best strategy is to focus on a section of trees, maybe those opposite and towards the guard station from reception. It flies just above and close to the canopy. Another unsuccessful owl quest on the STR trail.
March 28, Friday - Last day at La Selva
This was a quest for Snowy Cotinga, a main target bird. It seemed the best spot was near the reception area, where people had seen them in the bare trees behind the reception and the bus parking area. I briefly checked out the river for Green Ibis, a target bird that I missed. I found out later that others had seen the Ibis from the bridge, and they soared overhead briefly, but I didn't see them. At a private farm about 15 minutes away groups saw Pinnated Bittern and Pink-billed Seed-Finch, as well as more Ibis. I didn't find out until just before my departure, so missed them. I walked down the main road just past a small bridge and found Olive-crowned Yellowthroat. I heard what sounded like Pheasant Cuckoo, unknown in this area, but later was informed that the Striped Cuckoo has alternate calls other than its usual 2 note whistle, so maybe it was a Striped. About 7 AM near the reception area I saw a few Snowy Cotingas in a treetop in the distance across the river, but they flew away and I couldn't relocate them. Returning to the reception area I was treated to 2 males which flew into a tree right above the dorm opposite the reception, giving great looks for about 10-15 minutes while they fed in the trees. They then flew across into the dead tree past reception briefly, and disappeared. This was my best look at a white Cotinga, and another trip highlight. At 1 PM I took a taxi to Puerto Viejo and caught the bus (920 colones) to San Isidro, arriving at 3 PM and spending the night with Dennis & Elena.
March 29 - Cerro de la Muerte
Dennis and I set out for the Providencia Road on the Cerro de la Muerte, off the Pan American highway that traverses the country, arriving 7:30-8. This is a dirt road at about kilometer 78 that descends into good forest. The road is a bit rough and must be driven slowly, but is doable in a regular car. Promising, but ultimately providing little of interest, was the flowering bamboo along the road. None of the bamboo specialists were seen on any of several visits throughout my trip. I lured out a Timberline Wren along the first kilometer, but I could not find a Zeledonia, although one was heard. We drove down as far as about kilometer 9, where there was a clearing. One Peg-billed Finch was seen in one of the sections of tall forest, maybe about 3 km down. Other mountain specialities were seen, including many Black-capped Flycatchers, but none were new for me. Dennis had seen Ochraceous Pewee here on 2 occasions, but this was not to be for me.
March 30 - Braulio Carillo
I took a taxi from San Isidro to the Quebrada Gonzalez station in the Braulio Carillo Park for about 7000 colones. There are frequent buses that pass the park starting at 5:30 from San Jose, arriving about 45 minutes later. There were a number of my target birds that potentially could be found here, but I missed them all. 2 groups had seen the Black-crowned Antpitta within the past week, but I didn't. I did find one or two flocks, and the most interesting birds were a Sharpbill, Tawny-faced Gnatwren, and several White-throated Shrike-Tanagers. I returned by bus in the afternoon to Dennis' house.
March 31 - Pacific coast - Tivives
I had convinced Dennis to drive me to the Pacific coast for Mangrove Hummingbird. We left at 4:30, arriving around 6:45 at the mangrove reserve at Tivives, near Caldera. There was a sign with a beach logo for a dirt road that turned off to the right which lead to Tivives, but it did not say Tivives. There is a guard who I guess is protecting the beach houses, but there was no problem passing. We parked along the road and searched for Hummingbirds, finding Cinnamon and Scaly-Breasted. Several Yellow-Naped Parrots were in the mangroves, and a couple of Northern Scrub-Flycatchers, as well as Panama and Brown Crested Flycatchers. At the river mouth were distant shorebirds and a Whimbrel, and several herons, including Reddish Egret. We took a path into the mangroves next to a house at the first opening on the left past the mangroves, and quickly found a young male Mangrove Hummingbird just before 10 AM. A pair of Scarlet Macaws flew by. We had brunch at a nice restaurant in Caldera, just over the bridge, then drove to Tarcoles where we found a Pacific Screech-Owl out in the open on a branch in a tree to the right of the house opposite the Tarcoles Lodge. We returned past Carara, but only stopped at the bridge, not entering the reserve, as it was the middle of the day and hot. There is an active Orange-collared Manakin lek here, but I never saw it. I had expected to find it on my excursion to the southeast, and this was a major miss for the trip. We spent about 20 minutes in the town square of Orotina looking for the roosting Black and White Owl(s), but only found 2 sloths.
April 1, Tuesday - Monteverde
During my stay at La Selva I talked with 2 of the American students visiting, who told me about an Umbrellabird lek near Monteverde where they had seen 6 or 8 (!!) birds a week earlier. This caused an abrupt change in my plans, and I took the 6:30 bus to Monteverde, nearly missing it as 2 consecutive cab drivers dropped me off at the wrong bus terminal. Tell them the exact street address as well as the name of the terminal, and don't pay them until you get out and confirm you are in the right place. The previous night the weather was terrible in San Isidro, with strong wind and rain. Most of the 5+ hour bus trip was in sunshine, but as we reached Monteverde we hit bad weather, with strong wind and rain. I had previously contacted the people in charge of the San Gerardo station, which is near the Umbrellabird site. It is administered by the Monteverde Conservation League (Asociacion de Conservacion de Monteverde in Spanish), based in Cerro Plano above Santa Elena in the Monteverde area. The first phone number (645-5851) was always busy, and didn't work, but the second , 645-5200 was operational. The staff all speak English, and in fact were all from the USA. Website is www. acmonteverde.com. The San Gerardo station has a 2 story building with bunk beds and linen, and cooking facilities. Prices vary with group size, from about $35 to $45 per person, sometimes including meals. The only caveat is that the manager has to be available to take you there; they will not let you stay by yourself. To get there is hike of about an hour, starting from the parking lot of the Santa Elena Reserve. There was a small group already there, so I was allowed to stay, but only for 1 night, and without the food they had previously said they would provide. I bought a sandwich at the bakery in town, and took a cab for 3000 colones (should be 2500) to the trailhead, not wanting to wait 2 hours for the bus ($2). I hiked in quickly in driving rain and wind, getting thoroughly soaked along the way, arriving at the San Gerardo station about an hour later at about 3:30. The altitude at the station is 1200 meters, or 3936 feet. A bit later the other group returned from their excursion, led by Kevin Easley, organized by Mike Mulligan. They were on a quest for some difficult birds in Costa Rica, and had a high success rate including Lanceolated Monklet, Scaled and Black-crowned Antpitta, and other goodies. We hoped for better weather, ate, and retired under pouring wind and rain. Bring matches and keep them dry, or a cigarette lighter, for the candles.
April 2 - Monteverde
The original plan was to walk in during the dark to arrive at dawn, supposedly when the birds start displaying, but it was still raining hard at 4:30. About 5:45 we all set off anyway. Kevin spooked up a Highland Tinamou, which I only heard. We arrived at the lek site around 6:30, and waited. The rain was lighter, but it was still windy and foggy. We saw Black Guan, but nothing else. The others left about 8, and I stayed another hour, with no success. I did see a Tayra on the way back to the station. We all hiked out in the rain, a rather grueling uphill haul which we did in about 80 wet minutes. I took the 2:30 bus back to San Jose, vowing a rematch. The others had to leave Costa Rica the next day.
April 3 - San Isidro de Heredia, little birding
Dennis took me out to the highway, as I was going to try another day at Braulio Carillo. Unfortunately the heavy rains had affected this part of the country, causing landslides that closed the highway, and there was a huge line of trucks waiting for the road to open. We returned to Dennis" house, and I did a little scrub birding near his house, seeing a few warblers and White-eared Ground-Sparrow. Night with the Rogers.
April 4 - Rancho Naturalista
I had been in touch with Frederic Vanhove, a Belgian birder now working as a guide at Rancho. We had met 2 years earlier when he was a volunteer guide in Alta Floresta, Brazil, at the Rio Cristalino Lodge. I took the 6:30 bus to Turrialba (650 colones, 2 hours), then a cab to Rancho for 3000 colones, arriving about 9:30. Try and get the direct bus to or from Turrialba, because the local bus stops everywhere, taking at least 30-40 minutes longer. Fred met me and we went out and quickly got the resident Tawny-chested Flycatcher. Their was a good assortment of hummingbirds at the feeders, including Snowcap, Brown Violet-ear, Green Thorntail, Green-breasted Mango, Garden Emerald, Green Crowned Brilliant, and White-necked Jacobin. Fred taped in a Dull-mantled Antbird near a gully by a stream. After lunch we walked the trails from 2:15 to 5:15. I had one of my best ever looks at a quail-dove, seeing a pair of Purplish-backed Quail-Doves on a log, one preening the other at about 30 feet. Rancho is very nice place, but in my opinion drastically overpriced. I was given a discount thanks to Fred, but the regular price was $135 a night including meals, with a shared bathroom. Meals are good, and the hummingbird feeders are good, but my advice is to minimize your stay here unless you have the money. They actually served Tang (!?!!) for breakfast with the fresh fruit, an unpardonable sin in this part of the world. Kevin Easley's brother Steve also works here, and they both told me about a place called Silent Mountain nearby that apparently is very difficult to find if you don't know the exact route. There are some very good birds here like Lovely Cotinga and many others that are difficult in Costa Rica, like Black-banded and Strong-billed Woodcreepers.
April 5 - Rio Tuis trail near Rancho Naturalista
This trail could be accessed independently. It is a dirt road off to the right only a kilometer or so from the Rancho entrance. A 4-wheel drive is necessary to drive to the end of this road, about 2 or 3 km, I think. A 4-wheel drive taxi had been arranged through Rancho, for $15. This trail crosses a river and climbs into good forest with birds different from RN, in spite of its close proximity. My main target was Lanceolated Monklet, which had been seen here on several occasions, once near the beginning before the bridge, and also about an hour's walk up the mountain. We missed it, and I found out later that Steve saw it the very next day. Oh well. Fred saw the Scythebill, and we both had Sulphur-winged Parakeets, Barred and Great Black-Hawk, Rufous Mourner, and Ashy-throated Bush-Tanagers along the first stretch. We returned for lunch, I watched the feeders for the immature male Black-crested Coquette that I didn't see, caught the 4 PM direct bus to San Jose, and spent the night at the Rogers' again.
April 6, Sunday - Drive to San Vito
Dennis and I spent an hour in the fields by his house, where he found me a Spot-bellied Bobwhite, which I only saw in flight, and the only Steely-vented Hummingbird of the trip. I caught a cab to the Budget Car Rental office in San Jose, picked up my car, an automatic Toyota Yaris, and drove up the Cerro de la Muerte to the Providencia Road, spending an hour here. I quickly discovered a plastic guard under the front end of my car was broken, hitting bottom at every high point in the road. I managed to push it into a position where it didn't drag the ground. I didn't see anything new of note, and continued my drive east, delayed about 90 minutes by tow trucks removing truck wreckage from a nasty accident. Wheatley mentions a dirt road past El Brujo for Wedge-tailed Grass-Finch. I spent an hour there seeing nothing of interest, but it was 3 PM on a fairly hot day. I finally got to the San Vito area, near the Panama border, about 5:15, and tried a small pond next to the airport for the Yellowthroat, but with no luck. I returned after dark to try for Striped Owl, but there were several lone individuals hanging out in the airport area, so after 20 minutes decided to quit. I found a cheap hotel in town, the Hotel Rino, for 3500 colones with hot water and fan.
April 7 - San Vito and Golfito
I returned to the same airport pond, trying again for the Yellowthroat. I caught a glimpse of a White-throated Crake, and had Common & Purple Gallinule, but no warblers. I then found a large marshy area at the far end of the airport. Where the main road veers right there is a dirt road to the left that goes around the grassy field known as the airport. At the far end you can park and there is a trail into a large marshy area. Someone had trimmed the vegetation along a canal, and I was able to walk in for several hundred meters. At the end of a canal I pished up a Masked/Chiriqui Yellowthroat. On the way back were about 4 or 5 Mourning Warblers, a Gray-Crowned Yellowthroat, and Pale-breasted Spinetails. I drove down the steep road to Golfito, arriving about 8:30. Golfito is a rather run-down town that stretches for several kilometers along the waterfront. I took a wrong turn and went around the far side of the small airport, arriving at a small reserve with a trail into the forest. I walked in and spent an hour, hearing possible Wood-Quail scurrying off and "peeping" and finding a Charming/Beryl-Crowned Hummingbird and Eye-ringed Flatbill. It was hot and humid, and I left, finally finding the forest road on the far side of the duty-free zone, described in Dennis' bird finding guide. I hit a bad patch after less than 2 km, and decided to reverse, park and bird by foot for about 30 minutes. It was nearly noon, and I returned to town, looking for a hotel. Someone in a trip report mentioned seeing Spectacled Owl outside the Hotel Gran Ceibo on the outskirts of town, so I stayed there for 6000 colones with a fan (10,000 for A/C), but no hot water, not really needed in this climate. I tried the Sendero Lecheria road. This is reached by driving around the fenced duty-free zone, and going past the forest road turn off to the police station, and going right across a bridge. This goes into second growth flanked by a large marshy area on the left. It was supposed to be a spot where the Orange-Collared Manakin was "common" according to Patrick O'Connell. Not one was seen or heard on my 2 visits there, but I had a great look at White-throated Crake, and I whistled in a Little Tinamou, also giving me a great look. I ate at the hotel restaurant and tried for the owl several times at night, but no luck. I reached 310 species.
April 8 - Golfito and drive to Osa
I drove up the Tower Road, not that far from the hotel. It's a dirt road to the right, just past a football field and a small creek called Quebrada 3 km. It reaches the towers after 8 km. Patrick's trip report said he had the Ant-Tanager near the top. Not me. I spent an hour or two along the road, trying a tape, but didn't see much, other than a spectacular view of the gulf. However, 1 or 2 km from the top there is a large open area on the right with a gate. It looked like construction was going on, with some square pits that could be potential foundations. There was a large flowering tree with long pod-like yellow flowers with hummingbirds. I had a female, then a male White-crested Coquette, somewhat backlit. When I moved for better light I could not relocate either, but there were many of these yellow flowering trees in the area. About half a km down the main road I found another female Coquette. There were also Charming and Snowy-bellied Hummingbirds. I left the Tower Road at 11 and made a second attempt on the Sendero Lecheria, seeing little of note - no manakin! I drove out of Golfito to the main highway, then west, and went left on the road that said Golfito 12 km, which is the other side of the forest road I gave up on the previous day. This was rough but passable, and I drove in 8 km. It was getting cloudy and started raining around 4 PM, cutting short my birding there. This has good forest habitat, and I heard the manakins "clicking" but couldn't see them. Interesting was the rufous-naped race of the Gray-chested Dove. I drove to Rincon de Osa on the Osa peninsula, about halfway to Puerto Jimenez. Be careful on this road. It is in good condition for about 10 km, then when you've been lulled into security and a high driving speed very nasty potholes appear. I arrived at the Cabanas Golfo Dulce around dusk, where there was a group of kayakers staying and fishing. Wood-rails could be heard calling from the mangroves. The cabanas were 5000 colones for a basic room with shared cold shower; they also have rooms with private bath. Showers are a pipe from the ceiling. There is a restaurant at the beginning of the "town", such as it is, but the cabanas people cooked me a chicken dinner for 1500 colones.
April 9 - Rincon de Osa & drive to San Jose
I was meeting a girlfriend in San Jose that evening, so I only had the morning in the area, unfortunately. I spent 30 minutes in the mangroves and dock behind the cabins - they are right next to the gulf - then drove slowly towards Puerto Jimenez. After a few kilometers the road reaches an open area with a restaurant and a metal bridge to the left. I later met Chris Jones who told me the day after I left he took the right fork 5.6 km and walked into the forest, where he found an antswarm with the Black-cheeked Ant-Tanager. I drove down this road a few km, but turned around and drove over the bridge and through the open area for 2 or 3 km. A flock of seedeaters contained White-collared, Variable, Yellow-bellied, and Ruddy-breasted. I drove back to the bridge and saw a pair of Ringed Kingfishers mating. About 100 or 200 meters back towards Rincon there was a fruiting tree high up, near where the telephone wires cross the road. There was a male and female Turquoise Cotinga and female Yellow-billed Cotinga, White-vented Euphonia, and many parakeets. A male Yellow-billed flew out and away. When I met Chris a few days later he said he had found the same tree with the cotingas. The Turquoise did not seem to be feeding, and mostly perched nearly motionless for long periods of time. This tree was almost straight up, and I laid down in the road for some neck relief. I also saw another rufous-naped Gray-chested Dove along the road. In the clearing of Rincon were several Scarlet Macaws. I left about 10:15, with an hour stop on the Providencia Road in the Cerro de la Muerte on the way back. I got lost in San Jose, my friend's hotel reservations had changed, and I should have stayed longer on the Osa peninsula.
April 10, Thursday - Tapanti & Cerro de la Muerte
I left my friend's hotel near the airport at 7 AM and reached Tapanti around 9:15. There were signs advertising several places to stay in Orosi, only 15-20 minutes from Tapanti, so this might be a good place to stay. Note that Tapanti does not open until 7 AM, although birding by the road near the gates can be good. Paul Koopman was there with a Birdquest group. I took the Oropendula trail, where Kevin Easley and Fred Vanhove told me they had seen the Monklet and Scaled Antpitta. I didn't, and only added a few trip birds like Black-bellied Hummingbird and White-throated Thrush. Everyone says to avoid this place on weekends. Even though it was Thursday, a school bus full of kids and a noisy family showed up to picnic at the benches by the river. I gave up and drove out to Cerro de la Muerte again with yet another attempt for the Jay, Pewee, & Zeledonia on the Providencia Road, again with no luck. I stayed until dusk to try for the Dusky Nightjar, which Fred had seen in the clearing at the top of the road. Unfortunately fog and light to moderate rain started, and I saw and heard nothing. I drove to km 95 to the La Georgina restaurant, getting a very basic room with shared bath for 1000 colones - the best deal of the trip. They also have cabins for 3700 colones. There was supposedly hot water in the shower, but actually there was no water at all that night due to some problem that was fixed in the morning. It's cold up there, but there were blankets
April 11 - Cerro de la Muerte
There are 3 trails below La Georgina, and they will provide you with a basic trail map. The only thing is the trails go down, so the return is uphill at high altitude. I took the trail to the left, the Descanso trail, and within 5-10 minutes I heard Zeledonias. I got a great look at one at close range. I tried the Costa Rican Pygmy-Owl tape and heard one calling. I walked down a bit further and got a brief look at one before the thrushes chased it away. Also in these forests were Quetzal, Ruddy Treerunner, and some other mountain specialties. The restaurant has hummingbird feeders at the windows, allowing close looks at Fiery-throated, Volcano and Magnificent. On the ground by the restaurant was the only Volcano Junco of the trip. I drove west to the San Gerardo road, which goes down to the Savegre Mountain Lodge, and other lodges. This road is in much better condition than the Providencia Road, being paved for over half its length, but there were more open areas and buildings. Not far from Savegre I ran into Chris Jones, who had also just returned from the Golfito area. He was still looking for Ochraceous Pewee, and showed me a Dark Pewee in a nearby field. Chris had been at Savegre a few days earlier and had seen 3 flocks of Silvery-throated Jays on the Los Robles trail, so I was encouraged. I checked into the Savegre Lodge, where they charged me $40 for a very nice large room and dinner - full board is $75, I believe. I had them drive me the 2 km uphill to Los Robles trail, where I spent 4 hours slowly walking and looking for the jays and ground birds. No jays, in spite of several tries with the tape, but I had a good look at a Buff-fronted Quail-Dove, one of the prettiest of the genus. I got to the lodge about 5, and ran into Glenn Crawford of Belize, who was leading a group. Glenn and I went out at dusk to the orchards a few minutes from the lodge to try for Dusky Nightjar. We heard one call intermittently, and got a glimpse of a silhouette and a brief flash in the spotlight. We spotlit in once in the distance, and it took off - this bird does not like lights. I highly recommend the Savegre Lodge. It's modest in price for a lodge, has very nice rooms, good food, knowledgeable guides, and good birds.
April 12 - Savegre
Chris Jones had returned to Savegre to try for the Pewee. One of the guides had given us specific locations on both the Quebrada Sendero and Los Robles. There were also supposed to be nesting Jays on the Los Robles Trail. I ran into Chris about 5:20 AM as we trudged uphill. Chris had a distant response to the Pygmy-Owl tape, and we heard the Nightjar again. We took the Quebrada trail, going left where it branches off from Los Robles about 200 yards. I gave up after 90 minutes, and set off for Los Robles and the Jay spot - no jay for me, despite hours of wandering around. I did hear one call briefly once, but could not find it, and it didn't respond to a tape. At the trailhead was a beautiful pair of Golden-browed Chlorophonias only 4 feet off the ground. I returned to the Quebrada trail, but didn't see anything. I then walked further up the Los Robles trail from the Quebrada, and was surprised with a good look at a family of Spotted Wood-Quail. I walked back up to Los Robles, but never saw or heard the Jay. I hiked down to the lodge and found out Chris had finally seen the Ochraceous Pewee on the Quebrada trail about 11:30. I decided to dump my car and drove to San Jose, returning the car to Budget. I checked into the Hotel Bulevar about 5. They had no towels, saying they were on the way. I went out for an hour, returned, and still no towels. A group of football students had arrived, and when I finally tried the shower, there was no hot water. I was told the students probably used it all up. For the only time in my life I demanded my money back and checked out, going to the rather dingy Hotel Diplomat in the center for $18. I returned there a few days later. Check out the rooms first. All are dark, but some have mirrors in the bathroom, some have sinks with hot water, and some have fans, irrespective of the price. The clerk, Laura, was very helpful, and booked me a taxi for the next morning. I packed a small bag to take to Monteverde and left some laundry and most of my luggage at the hotel for 2 days.
April 13 - Monteverde
I took the 6:30 AM bus to Monteverde, arriving before noon and checking into the Pension Colibri around the corner from the bus stop. I splurged on a private room with bath for $20, but they have cheaper rooms. In the afternoon I took a cab for 2000 colones to the Monteverde preserve entrance to check out their hummingbird feeders. I did not enter the reserve, which charges an exorbitant $12 for daily admission. I had been there in 2001 and there were no target birds there for me. There was nothing at their feeders, so I walked down to the Hummingbird gallery and watched their feeders for an hour, seeing Green Hermit, Violet Sabrewing, Green-crowned Brilliant, Purple-throated Mountain-Gem, Magenta-throated Woodstar, and a female Scintillant. 3 Wattled Bellbird could be heard calling in the distance. I walked down the hill a few hundred yards to where you could see a panoramic view of the forested hillside. I located a distant male Bellbird on a Cecropia tree. I walked down to the Cerro Plano area, where 2 Belgian birders named Jan asked about the Bellbird. They drove me back to the site, and one Jan located a male near where I had found it earlier. We then briefly checked out the Pension Mannikin in Cerro Plano, mentioned in a trip report as a spot for Chiriqui Quail-Dove. The caretaker let us look at the forest, which is separated by barbed wire, with no trails, only a view from the balcony. Nobody was feeding birds here, and it was a waste of time. Weather was windy at times but mostly sunny.
April 14 - Monteverde
Rematch with the Umbrellabird. I couldn't stay at the research station since the manager was away, but they said I could hike in. I had to wake up the cab driver (Hugo, arranged by the Pension Kolibri) who overslept, delaying me about 15 minutes, and I arrived at 5:10 AM . The trail is a wide trail that starts at the far end of the parking lot for the Santa Elena Reserve, about 6 km from Santa Elena. The trail descends through forest, and at a sharp turn right there is a fallen sign for either Mirador or San Gerardo to the left. It took me about 55 minutes to get here, and another 35 minutes to get to the Umbrellabird lek site. Along the trail to the station I saw a Highland Tinamou. Bellbirds were calling along the way. After arriving at the station, called Bosque Eterno de los Ninos, take the trail to the left, Sendero Congo. In 5 or 10 minutes it goes through a clearing, and just as the path enters the forest is a path to the left, which takes you to the site. It crosses a bridge and stream, goes uphill, curves right along a ridge, and there are bare barked trees along the path, where someone has carved Arturo in one next to the trail. A huge fig tree is on the right. This is the spot where I waited. I heard the Umbrellabird call - only one call, at intervals of about 5 - 10 minutes. It sounds like someone blowing over an empty bottle, and is very hard to locate. I decided to walk off the trail into the forest a few hundred feet. I heard something large in the trees overhead behind me, and a beautiful male Umbrellabird appeared in the open on a branch. I watched him for 10 minutes, hoping he would call, which he didn't, but the long extended wattles were prominent, and its bizarre crest was striking when it turned sideways. He flew a short distance into another tree, which I could see, then after 5 minutes moved out of sight. It was a bit after 7 AM. I hiked slowly back the way I had come, going left at the first fork after the stream crossings. This went through some open areas and then looped back to the lek site. About 100 feet down the trail I saw another (the same?) Umbrellabird high up in a tree. Several White-throated Spadebills were seen on the way out, and I heard a Nightingale Wren, but it did not respond to a tape. A probable Chiriqui Quail-Dove spooked up along the trail, but I didn't get a good look. This was maybe the highlight of a trip full of highlights. I hiked out slowly, seeing a Bellbird at fairly close range between the station and the main trail. Around 1 it got cloudy and started to rain lightly a little later. I arrived at the Santa Elena Reserve about 2, and had a drink and snack at the restaurant until the bus arrived at 3 PM. Kevin Easley's group had seen the Chiriqui Quail-Dove at the Santa Elena Reserve when I met them earlier, so this was tomorrow's plan. Another good meal at Morpho's restaurant to celebrate, with a good half bottle of Chilean cabernet.
April 15 - Santa Elena Reserve & Finca Ecologica
I had spent quite a bit of time patiently arguing my case to enter the reserve at 5:30 without a guide, before the usual opening time of 7 AM, and they finally agreed the day before. This cab was early, and I got there about 5:45. I walked the Cano Negro and Encantado loops, but didn't see much new. Best was a good look at a Barred Hawk in a tree - I had only seen it in flight previously. Bellbirds were heard here in several places. I met a guide who suggested Finca Ecologica for Chiriqui Quail-Dove, my last target bird in the area. I got to the restaurant about 11AM & lucked out as the bus arrived just as I returned to the restaurant area, although it took several detours on the way back to Santa Elena, arriving about 11:45. I got a cab for 1000 colones to the Finca Ecologica in Cerro Plano, arriving about noon on a hot day. It was very dry, and anything that moved could be heard. Mammals were active, and I saw Coatis, Armadillo (9 banded?), and White-faced Capuchins, including one digging a hole in a dead tree. There were several Orange-billed Nightingale-Thrushes, giving me a sweep of all 5 in Costa Rica. I was surprised to find an antswarm attended by White-eared Ground-Sparrow, a Ruddy Woodcreeper, Kentucky Warbler, Emerald Toucanets, and no antbirds. I made one last short loop and got a brief look at the Quail-Dove. It was nearly 2 and I had to get to the bus for 2:30. The reception guy showed me a shortcut through the woods just by the entrance, going to the Monteverde Lodge. About 50 feet along the trail was a very close and cooperative Chiriqui Quail-Dove, making 4 species for the trip, 3 of which were lifers. I caught the bus and returned to San Jose and the Hotel Diplomat, this time to a better room for $21. They accept credit cards, which was good as I was running low on colones
April 16 - Last day, Braulio Carillo
I caught a cab to the Caribenos bus station, arriving at 4:50. Unfortunately the first bus at 5 to Puerto Limon does not pass Braulio, so I caught the 5:30 to Guapiles, about 650 colones, arriving at Quebrada Gonzalez at 6:15. I was disappointed to see many students there on a research project, walking around taking GPS positions and "looking for birds" in an aimless manner. Not good for skulkers, antthrushes, or antpittas. I tried the Black-headed Antthrush tape, and heard one call back 2 or 3 times, but not very close. I finally found the Lattice-tailed Trogon between markers 5 and 6, which I nearly blew off because it sounded different from my tape. Fred Vanhove had told me Central American Pygmy-Owl was near the end of the loop, and I tried the tape around 9. Actually the first thing I did when I arrived was to walk the trail in reverse for a while trying the tape with no response. This time I had a response, fairly close, but I could not find the owl in the dense foliage, last hearing it at the 8 marker. It sounded different than the tape, but like a Pygmy-Owl. I did the Palmas loop a couple of times until it was nearly 11. The 2 Belgians had told me they saw a male Black-crested Coquette at a site near Braulio. I took a bus to the Hummingbird/frog garden on the right, only about 2 m from Braulio. It used to be a butterfly garden, but the butterfly liberation front must have struck, because the back door of the enclosed structure was open. The facility was closed, but you could walk in to the area where there were many flowers along the side of the building. There were many hummingbirds here, including Red-footed Plumeleteer, 2 male Snowcaps, Black-bellied in a variety of molts, and Blue-throated Goldentail, but no coquette. I spent nearly 2 hours watching hummers and taking a siesta. I made one last attempt at Braulio, taking a bus back about 3 PM. Finally I hit a flock which contained Streak-crowned Antvireo and an Antwren with some other birds. I took a bus back at 4:45, arriving at an extremely busy bus station. The buses do not run on Easter Thursday, so everybody was heading to the beach. End of trip
April 17, Easter Thursday - Flight home
Fortunately the taxis were working, and I caught an early (4:45AM) cab to the airport.