We would also have one last shot for a Timberline Wren (Richard had one at this location weeks earlier). A wren, while still present, only teased us with vocalizations, never making a satisfactory appearance. Just a small dark object darting through vegetation. Fiery-throated Hummingbirds, however, did put on quite a display.
|Didier and his coaster; always kind to animals|
Lunch at Restauranté La Leda, a spot where we've dined before, either while on tour or when we drove to the beach during our six week cabin rental in San Ramon. Loads of fresh seafood and a chance to check the mudflats in front of the restaurant. At the very least an entertaining display of hundreds of Laughing Gulls vying over scraps of food thrown out by restaurant staff.
|seafood options at La Leda|
|Rio Tarcolitos at Villa Lapas|
At twilight as we gathered for dinner, we bumped into Richard’s eldest son, Leonardo. Déjà Vu. We had last seen Leonardo at Villa Lapas two years prior when he was leading a Swarovski bird tour. Here he was, leading another Swarovski group. The group was huddled behind Leonardo, patiently waiting for a Spectacled Owl to leave its nest cavity (amidst a cacophony of cicadas).
During and following breakfast, and before getting aboard our coaster to head over to Carara NP, we added Costa Rican Swift, Rose-throated Becard, Brown Jay, Rufous-and-white Wren, and Blue-black Grosbeak.
|Yellow-throated Toucan exiting nest cavity|
Past stays at Villa Lapas usually included a river trip on the Tarcoles River. The main target bird? One of Costa Rica’s true endemics, the Mangrove Hummingbird. Those who have been on past river trips recall that finding a small hummingbird in mangroves from a moving boat is at best, difficult. And while the charm of a riverboat cruise is alluring, Richard suggested we eschew the boat this time in favor of driving to a newly opened preserve where Mangrove Hummingbirds were coming to feeders. Always up for something new we agreed to the change. And since we would be heading to our next overnight directly from the reserve, we loaded our luggage and struck out for the reserve.
|roadside birding Cuacimo Road|
|not the best shot of a Mangrove Hummingbird but sure beat the boat shots|
|Carol with one of the owner/biologists|
Back on the coaster we found ourselves once more heading to higher ground (i.e., cooler temps) on our way to our next birding destination, Monteverde. While leaving the lowland dry forest, our roadside birding found the only tour view of Turquoise-browed Motmot before making the transition into dramatic cloud forest scenery.
|on the road to Monteverde|
|approaching the small town of Monteverde|
|view from our room|
Visiting Monteverde (founded by Quakers) can be a double-edged sword. On the one hand its six ecological zones and extremely high biodiversity are huge draws to nature-minded tourists. On the other hand, its six ecological zones and extremely high biodiversity are huge draws to nature-minded tourists. The trick to visiting is to get there early before the busloads. Or, return late in the afternoon after most of the buses have left.
To that end, our early morning avoided early crowds. And, owing to Richard’s status as a preeminent author/guide, he was able to obtain entry for us a full hour before the park officially opened.
Our reward for an early arrival included Chiriqui Quail-Dove, Emerald Toucanet (Blue-throated), Olivaceous Woodcreeper, Rufous-capped Warbler, Golden-crowned Warbler, White-eared Ground-Sparrow, and a surprise to many (including Richard), an Azure-hooded Jay.
|Orange-bellied Trogon (female)|
|cute but a handful of trouble if they think you have food|
|our pizza for lunch stop|
The next morning, with low clouds laced with mist all around, we ate breakfast and ticked two trip birds from the hotel restaurant’s balcony: Steely-vented Hummingbird and Bronzed Cowbird.
|many, many more steps like these on the Encantado Trail|
An upside was that most everyone got to experience birding with umbrellas while trudging up and down the Encantado Trail with an endless supply of steps that sorely tested our legs and knees. An upside? Oh, yeah. A few wiser souls stayed behind enjoying the warmth of the gift shop and hot chocolate. And they still got the Green Hermits that were also around the visitor center.
The rest of the day was spent journeying to Arenal Volcano—an impressive, conical peak rising more than 3,000 feet above the surrounding plains. Impressive, that is, if you can see it. Like Poas Volcano, the weather has to cooperate. Our last three visits to Arenal? It hasn’t.
The now newly completed visitor center (opened just a month prior) was the trailhead for a wide, paved main trail that gently sloped down to the Mirador Largo Arenal observation tower, a 3 kilometer round-trip walk. There were a number of birds along the way but new to the trip were: Double-toothed Kite and Olive-sided Flycatcher.
Arenal Peninsula Road eventually merged with the La Fortuna - El Castillo Road where Didier found another roosting Great Potoo. This road lead us to the Arenal Observatory Lodge where we were once again found ourselves on the Caribbean side of the country with another chance to find a few bird species we had missed at La Selva
|Green Honeycreeper (male)|
Both before and following breakfast, we mingled with other lodge guests on the massive deck while watching birds undeterred by the wet weather attacking loads of fresh fruit. The stars of the show were Montezuma Oropendula displaying their comical up-side-down gurgling calls and a female Great Curassow demolishing whole bananas (much to the delight of coatis on the ground below the platform feeder where chunks of bananas fell).
|Christian scoping out wildlife for guests|
|Carol, Christian, Tom - so happy to see this young man mature|
There are numerous trails at Arenal but the weather looked as though it wasn’t going to cooperate so we boarded our coaster and made our way back down the La Fortuna - El Castillo Road toward La Fortuna where we finally got a break in the weather.
|seated at Sendero Bogarín|
|Olivaceous Piculet (female)|
|Red-legged Honeycreeper (male)|
|Common Pauraque on nest|
While in the La Fortuna the skies did in fact clear. So much so that eventually we started getting looks at Arenal Volcano’s peak. By the time we got back to the lodge, the views from our rooms were quite spectacular.
|finally - the skies opened up!|
|inclement weather means viewing from inside|
|Great Curassow (female) pigging out on the feeding platform|
|Catarata del Toro|
|Howler monkey youngster with mom looking us over|
We returned to the Central Valley and the Hotel Buena Vista with plenty of time to relax and ready our bags for our return trips to the states the next morning. We said our goodbyes to Didier as we would be taking a taxi or hotel shuttle to the airport the next morning. He really outdid himself this time!
|Rick's Birthday celebration|
As we do with all our trips, we asked everyone to submit their top five favorite birds of the tour. For those traveling to Costa Rica and adding so many new life birds it was an overwhelming task. “Favorites” changed on a near daily basis.
Facing a long travel day, by 9:00 that evening, we made out way back to our room hoping to get some sleep. Some of us wound up getting more sleep than we had bargained.
Waking with a start at 3:50, we jumped out of bed, rushed to gather our (thankfully already packed) luggage so we could join the others already waiting in the taxi… the taxi which was to depart the hotel for the airport at 4:00 A.M.! Note to self: always make sure your alarm is set to the correct part of the day. For example, if you mean to get up in the A.M., make sure it isn’t set to P.M.. How embarrassing! But, we did make it to the airport on time. Just with a lot more adrenaline pumping than planned.
The rest of the journey back to Arizona was more relaxed with no delays. The hour long drive back to the RV after retrieving our truck had us arrive by late afternoon, tired and happy to be home from yet another great bird tour with friends in Costa Rica.
|our 2017 tour route (clockwise)|
|Sun? Where is the sun? Hotel Monteverde|
|Resplendent Quetzal (male)|
|raucous Great Kiskadee|
|Masked Tree Frog - Arenal Observatory Lodge|
|Southern Rough-winged Swallow|
|Lake Arenal sunset|
|last evening at Hotel Buena Vista|
|bar art at Arenal Observatory Lodge|
|Resplendent Quetzal (female)|
|departing San José and flight over Mexico|