Quetzal Quest

 

The sunset from our cabanas on the first evening 

Our next stop was at Paraiso Quetzal Lodge, located in the Talamanca highlands, off Route 2. Our purpose, to see Resplendent Quetzal. The cabanas, glorified timber sheds really, are adequate in terms of comfort levels but spectacular for location. The extensive grounds and trails give resident birders access to a variety of habitat and plenty of birds – we must have had half a dozen new species just walking from Reception to our cabin! The lodge is also well situated to explore several other well-documented sites in the Central Highlands and we visited plenty of interesting locations during our three night stay. Unfortunately, we failed to find Quetzal locally (I suspect very few visitors see them at the lodge) and in the end had to resort to paying a guide to show us some. We were glad we did though – they are truly amazing.

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Not all birds in this region are bright or brash though. Reminiscent of our UK Blackbird, if it weren’t for the pale eye, this is in fact Sooty Robin – seen in the grounds of the lodge

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Nor is every parrot species garish or gaudy – what about this super-subtle Barred Parakeet

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An intriguing species, first seen in the grounds, were these ‘Big Feet’ – Large-footed Finch, which feed by continuously raking through the leaf-litter 

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Another stunning regular species – Black and Yellow Silky-Flycatcher

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There are several hummingbird feeders located in the grounds, attracting a select group of species – this Green Violet-ear amongst them

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and this Magnificent Hummingbird

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or what about this, aptly named, Fiery-throated Hummingbird!

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Further up the mountain range, at or above the tree-line we came across several of these scarce endemics – Volcano Junco. It had taken us an hour, in sweltering heat, to track them down, but when we returned to the car there was one sheltering under it!

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Another species of the area was this rather diminutive and under-stated Black-capped Flycatcher

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Meanwhile back at the cabanas – another woodpecker makes the list. This time it’s Hairy, of the Costa Rican race

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and another local endemic, Long-tailed Silky-Flycatcher, seen near-by

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Last word (or photo) goes to another skulking endemic – Black-cheeked Warbler

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Paraiso Quetzal Lodge is a good place to stay, well located with plenty of birding interest. But if you go expecting Resplendent Quetzal on the doorstep, you’ll be disappointed. Paying ‘top dollar’ for average facilities and very limited access to ‘free’ information and locations, you might do well to look elsewhere. Next stop, San Vito – close to the Panamanian border, with more great birding on route.

Orosi & Tapanti National Park

 

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The final species we saw at Alex’s place, before departing for Orosi, was this female White-collared Manakin

The route between Sarapiqui and Orosi, our next stop, takes you through some interesting countryside, past a well-known humming bird reserve on Route 32 – little more than an over-grown garden but packed full of these exquisite but frustrating little birds.

At the mountain garden reserve on Route 32, our target bird was Snowcap – quite different from other ‘hummers’

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Other nice species included Green Thorntail

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and this tiny Black-crested Coquette

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The small town of Orosi is well placed for visiting the excellent national park of Tapanti, describe in the site guide as ‘a birding gem, providing access to a wide diversity of species in beautiful upper-midddle-elevation forest.’ We stayed in the conveniently located and well appointed Chalet Orosi – Silvia the manageress, who speaks excellent English, couldn’t have been more helpful. The chalet is situated in well kept grounds with good views over the surrounding countryside. We saw forty species of birds just whilst enjoying our leisurely breakfasts! We had scheduled two full days for visiting the park – on the first day it rained continuously and it was near impossible to bird outside. Luckily, we came across Kiri Lodge, the nearest accommodation to the main entrance to the park, but which was full at the time of organising our trip. They have an excellent open-air restaurant, with extensive views over the approach to the National Park, and so we spent most of our first day birding from their veranda. By the following day the weather had improved and we spent the whole time in the park, finding and observing a wide range of species.

Chalet Orosi – an excellent base from which to explore the Tapanti National Park

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One of the first species seen near the park on our first rain-drenched day was this one, Chestnut-headed Oropendola 

Another bird seen on the approach track was this Orange-billed Nightingale-Thrush, one of several of this family seen on our trip  

Black Guan, observed from the Kiri Lodge veranda, whist enjoying a leisurely lunch – it’s still raining!

You’re never far away from this watchful fellow – Roadside Hawk, one of the commonest Costa Rican raptors

Once inside the park, more colourful tanagers were added to the list, including, Spangle-cheeked

also more ‘hummers’ – this one is Green Hermit

and this rather under-stated Rufous Mourner – named after it’s melancholy song

Final photo from the Tapanti National Park, Black-faced Solitaire – ‘it’s ethereal song, a characteristic feature of montane wet forest – extremely difficult to locate whilst singing.’

On our way to the next destination, the world renowned Paraiso del Quetzal lodge, we stopped off at Lankester gardens, on the outskirts of Cartago – ‘a small oasis set among fields, cattle pastures and residential neighbourhoods’. Much more of the latter since the guide book was written, but still a good place to catch-up with some interesting species.

This Green Heron gave exceptionally close views on one of the ornamental garden ponds 

as did this White-eared Ground-Sparrow, watched whilst drinking coffee in the gardens cafe

Costa Rica – 1st stop, Sarapiqui

The first stop on our two week tour of Costa Rica was three nights at the excellently located bed & breakfast, run by the very friendly and knowledgable Alex, of Posada Andrea Cristina, located on the outskirts of Puerto Viejo de Sarapiqui, central to the protected area of La Selva and close to the Nicaragua border. This is a great place to become acquainted with many of the common birds of Costa Rica as well as catching up with some of the specialities of the area, including Great Green Macaw, which can be seen flying over the property.

Alex’s garden is a great place to start your Costa Rican birding experience, with several interesting species coming to his feeders. This one is the electric blue male Green Honeycreeper

Seen on feeders at a roadside cafe in a nearby valley, this subtly marked female Red-headed Barbet

Also seen in the area, one of a huge variety of colourful tanagers – this one is Crimson-collared 

Just across the road from our bed & breakfast was a farm track leading to the river – home to many different species including Laughing Falcon

this Black-thighed Grosbeak

our first woodpecker species of the trip, Rufous-winged

this exquisitely marked Keel-billed Toucan and superficially similar Collared Aracari

This is a good area for hummingbirds including Green-breasted Mango – this is the more easily identifiable female

and the relatively straight-forward Violet Sabrewing

Found whilst birding close to the Nicaraguan border – a troop of Mantled Howler Monkey

An unexpected bonus, whilst staking out the Great Green Macaws, was this King Vulture – a target species for much later in our trip

Our next stop was in Orosi, on the Caribbean side of the central highlands – strategically located close to the excellent Tapanti National Park.

Splendid Resplendent!

I couldn’t resist the temptation, whilst the WiFi lasts out, to post todays top bird – Resplendent Quetzal! A pair, located on farmland 10k from the lodge, with the aid of Michael, our local guide. Words cannot capture the sheer splendour of the male. An overdue Costa Rica ‘tick’, after Bob and I missed out on our 2011 visit.

 

 

 

Costa Rica Update

We’ve already reached the half-way point in our Costa Rica adventure but, unfortunately, the WiFi hasn’t been good enough to post any news until now. We’re currently staying at the excellent Paraiso Quetzal Lodge, along Route 2 mountain road, at kilometre 70. The birding has been fabulous so far and today we’re off in pursuit of the holy grail of Costa Rican birding –  Resplendent Quetzal!

We left Gatwick last Thursday, having stayed over-night at the very convenient Bloc Hotel, situated inside the Terminal Two building. We flew direct with British Airways and, having arrived at San Jose and collected our 4WD from Thrifty, made our way to our first stop at Posada Andrea Christina Bed & Breakfast in Sarapiqui, close to the Salverde National Park. This is an excellent location for a general introduction to birding in Costa Rica, as well as home to the threatened Great Green Macaw. Alex, the proprietor, is an excellent and knowledgable host – breakfast on the terrace, over-looking the bird-feeders, with Three-toed Sloth hanging in the trees above, a memorable experience. Chalet Orosi, in the town of the same name, was our next destination, with the fabulous Tapanti National Park on the doorstep. The chalet providing a very homely base – Silvia an attentive hostess, with plenty of bird-life in the gardens to keep you amused. On our first day around the park it rained non-stop but we still managed to see plenty of birds during a prolonged coffee/lunch-stop at Kiri Lodge. Next week we head further south to the Panama border and then back north along the Pacific coast.

Here’s just a taste of Costa Rican birding, but more photos will have to wait until we’re back in the UK.

Slaty-tailed Trogon 

 

Broadland Bounty

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Adult Iceland, accompanied by a couple of Mediterranean Gull – Mautby 

I took a short trip outside the Bird Club boundary yesterday afternoon, in an attempt to add a couple of Norfolk year ticks to my list. At Mautby the Hooded Crow was elusive (luckily I had seen it well a few weeks previous) but the adult Iceland Gull did show itself eventually, albeit rather briefly. At Filby Broad the Red-necked Grebe was just about as far away as it was possible to get. I got equally distant views of a two Cranes at Brograve Levels, but at least they’re a pretty big target to search for. Walcot produced the usual collection of winter gulls, including a couple of colour-ringed individuals.

Colour-ringed Herring Gull, Walcot

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Dusky Maiden

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Female Dusky Thrush, Derbyshire – first 2017 tick

The first winter female Dusky Thrush at Beeley, Derbyshire, was my first British ‘tick’ of 2017 today – a long over-due twitch at that. It’s been one of those birds that, when it arrived, I couldn’t spare the time to go for it, but then as the weeks have gone by and it was still being reported, I worried that it would do a flit moments before I got there! Anyway I did decide to go and it, obligingly, decided to hang around. Giving reasonable but rather distant views. A lovely bird all the same, as was the superb ‘bonus bird’, in the shape of an immature White-billed Diver, on the River Witham, Lincolnshire, on the way home!

Immature White-billed Diver, Lincolnshire

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