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Day 1 (Friday, 17th February)


 

Buena Vista hotel

Buena Vista view

Buena Vista Hotel

View over coffee plantation to Valle Central

We had expected that after a journey that lasted from the doorstep to the Buena Vista Hotel around 27 hours or so, which included not only a stop over at Amsterdam as planned, but also a change of aeroplane at Orlando in the USA for the last leg to San Jose, that we would have been far too tired to have planned anything for the first morning in the country. However, after a virtually sleepless night, and lying awake for about an hour and a half waiting for the sun to rise, we eventually exited the doorstep at about 5:45, where we could just about see the birds that we had heard calling (from the bedroom). First of these were 3 Clay-coloured Robins, feeding on the lawn which also happened to be directly outside of our room. The rear of the hotel, which is we were we standing, was fairly small, but did overlook the central valley, and much nearer, a couple of coffee plantations directly below. This is where the birding began. The shuttle driver the evening before had mentioned that there wasn’t much of a garden to the rear of the hotel, so the birds were limited, but as the morning progressed (up until breakfast at 8:00) we discovered that the potential was much greater than had been expected. The garden itself was more than just a good vantage point, and we notched up Social Flycatcher and Rufous-collared Sparrows in the half light quite quickly. A small collection of Red-billed Pigeons, Tropical Kingbirds and a singing Yellow-bellied Elaenia were here, with Blue-and-white Swallows overhead. The vista below also held plenty of interest, the choice of which were Rufous-naped Wren and the first of a couple of Hoffman’s Woodpeckers, with a few Brown Jays to follow later. With curiosity mounting, we poked our heads through a hole in the hedge, and found the owner’s house, who was a very pleasant breakfasting gent hailing originally from Florida. He was more than happy for us to take in the birds of his garden, while he dined on juices and cereal. In the early morning sunshine, this move added yet more species, from very confiding Blue-crowned Motmot, and singing Greyish Saltator along the small avenue which ended at the locked entrance gate, to 3 noisy White-crowned Parrots which landed in a flowering tree behind two equally vociferous dogs confined to a compound. At 8 o’clock, we felt we had to call it a morning, since the car had now been delivered, and there was also the call of breakfast before setting off for the Talamanca Mountains.

Baltimore Oriole

Blue-and-white Swallow

Baltimore Oriole

Blue-and-white Swallow

House Wren

Red-billed Pigeon

House Wren

Red-billed Pigeon


 

K76 track

K76 clearing

Main track from K76

Clearing from track at K76

After dropping off the delivery driver for the car hire firm in Alajuela, we set off for the mountains. We surprisingly navigated the capital of San Jose quite easily, with only the odd slight unplanned diversion, and this quickly gave way to more open countryside, where the blue skies began to turn greyer. As we ascended, we came across more and more mist and low cloud. There was a lot less traffic on the road than we had anticipated, so we arrived at the first targeted stop in a couple of hours. At the K76 marker, we turned to the right off the highway opposite a restaurant, and parked the car about 200 metres along a track. The surrounding area was quite densely vegetated, interspersed with one or two open clearings, and had a main track running through to what we presumed was another restaurant. We spent a couple of hours here, since it proved to be rich in both birds and orchids. Most of the best birds turned up within a very short distance of the car – even as we parked, a couple of blackish ground dwelling passerines tantalised us, eventually showing themselves to be Yellow-thighed Finches (the yellow thighs were not always obvious). We then birded this area for quite some time, and almost immediately had a small group of Ruddy Treerunners, as well as a very confiding Black-and-yellow Silky-flycatcher. We found a clearing around the corner from here, which had made way for a procession of pylons, and this proved to be the best spot for birds at this location. New species seemed to be constantly appearing, and in addition to the already regular Treerunners and Yellow-thighed Finches, we added 2 new Hummingbirds to our world lists in the form of female Scintillant and stunning male Fiery-throated. The latter proved to be a problem initially, being ostensibly all dark in most lights, until they eventually turn to show off their iridescent red and yellow throats. While literally standing in this small spot, other birds which appeared included Large-footed Finch, a small collection of wood-warblers (Wilson’s, Yellow and Black-throated Green Warbler), and Black-capped Flycatcher. What was at first thought to be Peg-billed Finch proved to be the very similarly plumaged Slaty Flowerpiercer. We did venture a little further down the main track, but only added a couple more Fiery-throated Hummingbirds to our tally, so we returned once again to the clearing, which had also quietened down somewhat. A good diversion on route to Savegre Lodge!

Black-and-yellow Silky-flycatcher

Large-footed Finch

Black-and-yellow Silky-flycatcher

Large-footed Finch


 

Sooty Robin

Sooty Robin

We found the turning from the main highway to Savegre Lodge very easily (the large sign for the lodge helped enormously). The road to the lodge from here was around 10km long, and almost all downhill. We stopped after around 3km, where we parked on a corner just above a small hamlet. We picked up birds as soon as we left the car, with Long-tailed Silky-flycatchers amongst the first – perhaps not the close views we had hoped for, but enough for identification, and in addition a small yet mobile flock of Sooty-capped Bush-tanagers. A stunning Flame-throated Warbler was directly above us. Walking down towards the hamlet, we came across our first Sooty Robin, which was unnaturally confiding, more intent on feeding in the road verges only metres away from us than being alarmed by our presence. One or two Large-footed Finches were among the copious Rufous-collared Sparrows. A few small female hummingbirds were either Volcano or Scintillant, but would require more experience or well marked males before we decided on specific identification one way or the other.

Once we had torn ourselves away from the pit stop on the descent to Savegre Lodge, we twisted and turned our way along the remaining 7km of road, which was occasionally dotted with workmen repairing potholes and bits of road that had slid into ravines. The rest of this journey was uneventful, and we pulled over the bridge into the lodge grounds. Even as we were parking the car, it was obvious that this was a Mecca for hummingbirds. There appeared to be feeders throughout the lodge grounds, which is not large in area, but well spaced out with cabins in 2’s and 3’s looking over small open spaces. The constant loud clicking of hummingbirds was all encompassing, in particular from Green Violet-ears, and tempted us to stow the luggage in haste and head straight to the feeders at the reception. We spent the next two hours wandering around and marvelling at these little birds – most impressive was when we found Magnificent Hummingbird perched alongside the tiny bundle of feathers that is the Scintillant Hummingbird. The hummingbird population here more or less comprises four common species, the one not mentioned already was Grey-tailed Mountain-gem. Spreading a little further through the lodge area, we added Acorn Woodpeckers, Mountain Elaenia, Slaty Flowerpiercers, and yet more Sooty-capped Bush-tanagers to the list. As we passed 5:30pm, the light began to fade, and we called it a day, with the temperatures falling to a much more temperate level.

Home

Paintings gallery

Video clips

Images

DVD

Contact

Site map

Links

Content

Introduction

Day 1

Day 2

Day 3

Day 4

Day 5

Day 6

Day 7

Day 8

Orchids

Species list

Text only