Including ourselves our group consisted of Risé Foster-Bruder and John Bruder, and their friends, Jeannie and Ron Mitchell, all from Colorado. Peggy Rudman (like us, is a full-time RVer) we had first met at Kartchner Caverns State Park in 2015 where she was a fellow volunteer. And rounding out our group was long time friend, Rick Meyers (Virginia). We first met Rick when he was our city’s police chief in Appleton. Rick is now the Police Chief in Newport News, Virginia. For quite some time we’d been luring Rick to join one of our tours. It wasn’t that he didn’t want to, it was just his busy schedule that had stood in the way. Until now!
As mentioned in the previous blog, our extra pre-tour day was spent birding the Hotel Buena Vista grounds before traveling (via Über) to Alajuela. Later that afternoon, Rick's flight had arrived and he joined us (binocular at the ready!) watching birds at the hotel. Richard made his appearance by late afternoon. The evening was spent getting acquainted (and reacquainted) with each other over dinner while we reviewed our trip agenda. To say that everyone was excited is a grand understatement!
The next morning, fortified with coffee, we briefly birded the hotel grounds before a light breakfast. By now the life bird tallies had begun in earnest. As seasoned travelers to the tropics, one might think that we had become somewhat jaded, seeing the same species over and over. But they would be wrong. And for those visiting the neotropics for the first time? The unbridled awe and delight of seeing even the most common of species for the first time? Rufous-tailed Hummingbird, Tropical Kingbird, Blue-gray Tanager, Rufous-collared Sparrow, and even Costa Rica’s national bird, the Clay-colored Thrush? Well, it was impossible not to feed off their energy and excitement, reminding us of our first tropical birding encounters.
Didier, our driver for the duration of the tour, joined us for breakfast. We recalled Didier from our 2013 tour and were delighted to have him along. Following breakfast we gathered our luggage (gosh, it would be nice if the hotel had an elevator!) and loaded onto our coaster bus, our transportation for the tour’s duration. Air conditioned, large windows and plenty of room to spread out.
|cleared just as we had hoped it would!|
The past few days we’d seen storms pass through the Central Valley and today was no different. A weather pattern such as this often portended poor views of the crater and in fact, we arrived at Poas National Park under overcast skies. We birded our way up a long paved path to discover the crater shrouded in mist. But, within minutes, the clouds lifted giving us magnificent overviews. Photo ops!
|Falls above the bridge - a few days later while crossing the bridge we saw the remains of an accident|
|Chef Joel and some of his amazing deserts|
|our lodging at La Selva|
|section of John's book showing details about La Selva|
The OTS (Organization for Tropical Studies) is a nonprofit consortium of nearly sixty universities, colleges, and research institutions from around the world. La Selva, an OTS property of 1,600 hectares is located in the Caribbean lowlands at the northern base of Braulio Carrillo National Park. It’s recognized internationally as one of the premier sites in the world for its ongoing research in lowland rain forests. In particular, work on climate change and its impact on biodiversity in tropical wet forests has become a significant area of study at the station.
|endemic Yellow Eyelash Pit-Viper|
Species included tinamous (Great and Little), Crested Guan, Great Curassow, King Vulture, Hook-billed Kite, Crowned Woodnymph, Gray-breasted Dove, trogons (Slaty-tailed, Gartered, Black-throated), motmots (Rufous and Broad-billed), Rufous-tailed Jacamar, Collared Aracari, Olive-throated Parakeet, toucans (Yellow-throated and Keel-billed), woodpeckers (Black-cheeked, Pale-billed), Great Green MaCaw, antshrikes (Fasciated and Black-crowned), woodcreepers (Wedge-billed, Plain-brown, Cocoa, Streak-headed), kingfishers (Green and American Pygmy), Dusky Antbird, Green Ibis (alas not seen by all),
|crossing the suspension bridge|
|finding the Vermiculated turned out to be easier than photographing it|
|Jamie and Richard|
After two days of birding La Selva in warm, humid lowland habitat, we journeyed up into the cooler temperatures of the Cordillera de Talamanca with its endemic-rich highland avifauna. Nearly half of the resident bird species here are found only in the mountains of Costa Rica and adjacent western Panama. This pattern of birding a few days in warm, humid conditions and then birding in cooler conditions at higher elevations would continue throughout the tour.
|Copé and Carol; our Copé artwork|
|Spectacled Owl (juvenile)|
|Thicket Antpitta - a nemesis no more!|
|our room at Savegre|
|with Chuck and Delia|
The next morning buoyed by an excellent buffet breakfast (we were not starving!), we squeezed into a “cozy” four-wheel drive vehicle that ferried us well above the lodge’s elevation (already at 7,200-feet) to forested trail heads. From there we wound our way back down to the lodge…far easier walking down than up!
|hardly out of the vehicle and we heard - then saw - Resplendent Quetzal (male)|
|Costa Rican Pygmy-Owl|
|first experience at the new (to us) observation deck|
|proof we did not starve!|
|"Blue Jeans" poison dart frog|
|Scintillant Hummingbird (female)|