Saturday, April 15, 2017

Costa Rica Birding

Collared Aracari

We just returned from a wonderful week of birding in Costa Rica - our first time there.  I have worked on my photos all day (except for a much needed nap in the afternoon) and hardly know where to begin on blogging for this trip. We traveled with Wildside Nature Tours, the group that gave us such a great trip to the Galapagos several years ago. Our guide, Glenn Crawford, was absolutely phenomenal! The man has telescopic eyes and an eidetic memory. He knows the calls of about 1,000 birds, which is really useful when you are searching for them in the thick old growth forests of Costa Rica. He can tell the difference between the birds and the frogs. 

 Our driver, Lenny, is the bravest man I've ever met. The roads in Costa Rica are narrow, twisty, windy, and full of turns! But Lenny drove our bus up and down the mountains, taking those sharp switchback turns without blinking an eye, while I was holding my breath all the time. I would never try to make this trip if I had to do the driving! Being passed on such a road by a huge dump truck is quite an experience!
Fiery Throated Hummingbird
Of course, I will talk about the birds and share photos of them, which is the underlying purpose of this blog. I expected to see lots of bright colored tropical birds, which we found, of course. I was surprised, however, that more birds were shades of gray and black, giving them perfect camouflage in the dark reaches of the forest. Those birds were much harder to find.

Rufous-collared Sparrow

Sunrise and sunset in Costa Rica are around 5:30-ish both am and pm. We were in deep valleys, so the full daylight was a little less than this. We usually met at 6:00 am for a short bird walk before breakfast. After breakfast we went out for a 3 hour tour, then back to eat lunch, followed by a siesta. I never got a nap or enough time to work with my photos during siesta. Then out again around 3 until it got too dark to see. It was usually sunny in the morning, with clouds building up by noon. Scattered showers were a possibility any afternoon, but we only got caught once.

Rancho Naturalista Dining Room

And the food! I should have put on about 10 pounds from all the wonderful food I ate three times a day, but fortunately did not. Our Belgian chef at Savegre Mountain Lodge put out a fantastic buffet for each meal and always came by to make sure we had enough. At Rancho Naturalista, the meals were served family style with plenty to go around.
Fiery-throated Hummingbird

On travel days, we stopped for lunch at restaurants with good food for us, and feeding stations for the birds. Glenn had a hard time getting us back on the bus. We wanted to see more birds since we didn't have to hike anywhere for them, or peer between the leaves of trees to see them! It was birding paradise!
Blue-gray Tanager
Wildside printed up a 28 page checklist for us to use on the trip. Every evening after dinner, Glenn reviewed the birds we had seen or heard that day. Many of them I just marked with a G since Glenn heard and saw many more birds than I did. According to my numbers, he/we saw a total of 272 birds. Dick and I had 189 birds, of which 159 were lifers for us! During the first part of the week, I was madly trying to write them down in a little notebook - illegible and spelled wrong. Some of our birders used an app for birds of Costa Rica on their phones. I got it download, and it made things much faster. Then I could actually see what the little brown bird that Glenn found actually looked like, including its call.

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