Day 2 (Saturday, 19th February)
After a half decent sleep, and in temperatures which were quite cool, we did of course wake up early, leaving the room for birding at first light. At this time of the day in the mountains, the sky was clear, and the outdoor temperatures bordered on cold. The Green Violet-ears had already begun their own version of a dawn chorus, although only the odd bird appeared at the feeders. We started the morning by exploring the reception area down to the river, and reacquainted ourselves with some of the birds already seen, including the 4 hummingbirds, Tennessee Warblers, Slaty Flowerpiercers, and Sooty-capped Bush-tanagers. We also chanced upon a pair of Torrent Tyrranulets next to the river and the bridge, feeding on the grass adjacent to the water. We were about to stop for breakfast, when we veered off to what appeared a more residential part of the grounds to find a different mix of birds. After Clay-coloured Robin, we picked up our first Mountain Robin, with obvious dark bill and drabber plumage. This was quickly followed by a fine male Flame-coloured Tanager, calling on wires, with a response from another male close by. Almost at the end of this area, we found Ruddy-capped Nightingale-thrush, at first calling but elusive, and then feeding in front of us on the open lawns. Our first trogon of the trip was a fine male Collared Trogon perched above the river, closely followed by a group of Band-tailed Pigeons and a single Collared Redstart. When we finally reached reception at 7:30, the hummingbird activity at the feeders had returned to normal.
After a nourishing breakfast of
tomatoes on egg, we gleaned some information from reception as to the possible
location of nearby Quetzals, and set off over the bridge from the lodge,
picking up our first Swallow-tailed Kite above the peaks as we did so, and
Red-tailed Hawk minutes later. The track just down from the lodge was
productive for tyrant flycatchers, in the guise of Black-capped, and the more
common and confiding Yellowish Flycatcher. We were looking for a track to the
left, with a wooden bridge, which was alleged to be the direction for the
Quetzals, but first crossed a substantial vehicular wooden bridge, to enter
what appeared to be an outdoor recreation area. Black Phoebes kicked off an
avian show here, followed by a group of noisy Long-tailed Silky-flycatchers
which entertained for some time, with Tufted Flycatcher overhead. One or two
Common Bush-tanagers proved more elusive at first as they foraged in the
After about 400m, we turned left towards a wooden bridge, which was no more than a felled tree with rails. Just as we were about to cross, we came across a bird party. Amongst this loose group were 2-3 Spangle-cheeked Tanagers, the only ones we were to see during the week, and a single Silver-throated Tanager, which we would see a lot more of as the trip progressed. In addition were Yellow-winged & Philadelphia Vireos, interspersed with various wood warblers. Continuing on over the bridge, the track followed the river on the opposite bank, and we had only progressed about 100m when we were treated to very close Sooty-capped Bush-tanagers, and two active Ruddy Treerunners, demonstrating where their name comes from, feeding and chasing in all directions on the moss covered branches. This activity was all just before the clearing where Quetzals had been reported to be nest building. Once we were happy that we had located the particular target tree, which did indeed seem to have new shavings from the excavation at its base, we made ourselves comfortable on a discreet rock for half and hour or so to watch and wait. This proved to be fruitless, with no Quetzal on show, and was quite quiet overall for birds, so we continued along the track, which eventually crossed over a rope bridge and an impressive waterfall. This offered an excellent opportunity to bathe steamy feet in the refreshingly cold water. This seemed to be an opportune time to turn around and return for another stake out at the Quetzal site. Again, the target bird failed to show here, but we did pick up Collared Redstart and Flame-throated Warbler. Approaching the log bridge once again, bird parties continued to cross our path, and these included Black-cheeked Warbler, Spot-crowned Woodcreepers, Yellow-thighed Finches, and a pair of Black-faced Solitaires. Increasing numbers of Collared Redstarts seemed to coincide with them being also much more approachable, with one bird almost touchable.
After we exited the waterfall trail, we decided on a little trek up the hill to the village of San Gerardo de Dota, where the terrain was more open. The uphill climb was short and steep, and well used by passing traffic. A species that made this worthwhile, besides the Yellow-faced Grassquits, was Yellow-bellied Siskin, with a singing male following the drabber female. The next move was to descend back down to the waterfall trail, and sit out the absent Quetzal once again. Ever the optimists, we had a fruitless one hour sit, although one of the local guides did mention other sites for the bird, most of which required local knowledge. We did add Black-thighed Grosbeak to the list during our wait, with two and then a later single flying through.
At 4 o’clock, we turned back towards Savegre Lodge, again passing a small collection of Yellow-thighed Finches, Ruddy Treerunner, Rufous-capped Brush-finch, and lone Flame-throated Warbler. Back at the lodge, we decided to follow one of the tips from the guide, when he had told us that, unbelievably, Quetzals made regular appearances just to the rear of our room in trees which included fruiting avocados. We sat this out, outlasting the collection of other birders who eventually left, until 5:15pm, when a male Resplendant Quetzal flew into the avocado tree directly in front of us. It posed both inside and outside of the canopy for about 5 minutes before leaving. A bellbird had been calling throughout nearby, but proved good to its reputation and kept well hidden.