|clockwise from San Jose|
|Anita at far end. To her right is Melissa (naughty!) then Risé with her husband John|
|Dean and Chris far left. Larry and Carol far right.|
|front entrance and parking|
|Richard and his wife Maricia|
|always lots of flowers but less bird habitat this time|
After we had exhausted all the birding possibilities in the gardens, the big attraction turned out to be at the front of the hotel where a couple hundred raucous Crimson-fronted Parakeets gathering in their evening roost.
Marking the “official” start of the tour, early the next morning we assembled with Richard for a walkabout down a road located directly across from the hotel which lead through urban scrub. A totally unexpected highlight of the walk was finding a Prevost’s Ground-Sparrow! White-eared Ground-Sparrows had always found in the hotel gardens (except for this visit). And while Prevost’s Ground-Sparrow has always been listed on the hotel bird checklist, Carol and I had never - and I mean never - seen any on the hotel grounds. And trust us when we say, it wasn’t for a lack of trying.
|off we go|
Putting together a tour itinerary following so many previous tours (this was our sixth) and keeping it interesting for everyone as well as for us was a challenge. But leave it to Richard’s expertise to pull it off. True, all of the destinations on this first tour would be places we’d been to before but they were places we longed to see again.
|newer cabins and bar outdoor seating|
|definitely a lot cooler at Cerro!|
|Tufted Flycatcher (top); Flame-colored Tanager|
|feeling better, trooper Anita got right back on the horse...and that's no bull!|
|Villa Lapas lodging and open air dining|
|Richard conversing with his son Leonardo who is now guiding his own groups|
|even the other guides wanted Richard's autograph|
|Carol with Nina Cheney|
|on the Tarcoles River|
|cabins and sunset at La Ensenada|
|great views of the volcano from our decks (if it hadn't been cloudy!)|
|birding from the deck rain or shine (Carlos our driver on the right)|
|our good friend Christian Campos|
While the wet weather proved challenging, we managed to eke out White-fronted Nunbird, Band-backed Wren, Black-striped Sparrow, Slaty Spinetail, Collared Aracari, Olive-backed Euphonia, showy Montezuma Oropendula, Crimson-collared Tanager, Black-cheeked Woodpecker, Golden-hooded Tanager, and Black-crested Coquette, just to name a few. We also managed a couple of personal bonuses to our Arenal visit. One was chatting again with a young lodge wildlife/bird guide, Christian Compos. It was Christian who, during an earlier visit, we managed to get a donated a pair of binoculars from Eagle Optics delivered to him after we discovered Christian only had a spotting scope. We also chanced upon meeting Robert Dean, the artist who illustrated all the birds in Richard’s “The Birds of Costa Rica” A Field Guide” (both editions) and who gladly added his John Hancock next to Richard’s signature in our latest copy of Richard’s field guide.
|our lodging and getting our bearings|
On the last full day of our tour as we headed back to San José, we included a stop at Poás Volcano, an active 9,000 foot stratovolcano in Central Costa Rica which has erupted 39 times since 1828. The main tourist attractions at Poás are its two crater lakes (Laguna Caliente and Lake Botos). Viewing either of the two craters is very much like trying to see the top of Arenal Volcano - totally dependent upon the weather. Fortunately for us, the weather at the top this particular day was clear affording us good looks at the turquoise-colored Lake Caliente, one of the most acid lakes in the world. Naturally we were also there to see the birds. Like Black-thighed Grosbeak, White-naped Brush-Finch, Collared Redstart, Yellow-thighed Finch, the secretive Sooty-capped Bush Tanager, Large-footed Finch, and the stunning Fiery-throated Hummingbird.
|wrapping up at the Buena Vista|
One final mention. Meals as we travel between lodges. Richard somehow always knows where the best little roadside restaurants or cafes are to be found. There was the Rancho Perla near La Fortuna, Restaurante La Pacifica in Canás City, the stunning view from Valle Encantado Restaurante near Pelez Zeledon, just to name a few of the stops. Richard knows our groups very well!
|Melissa and Anita|
|Chris and Dean|
|Risé and John|
|Carol and Larry|
|in Costa Rica, Rose-throated Becard lacks a rose throat|
|Strawberry "bluejean" Poison Dart Frog|
|Brown-throated Three-toed Sloth|