Day 3 (Sunday, 19th February)
Happy but not too satiated by the views of the Quetzal the previous evening, we arose at first light to make the short walk to the rear of the cabin to stake out the bird yet again. It was a little less of a surprise to have a male bird make two appearances, at 6 and 6:30am, unfortunately in still increasing early morning light. During our wait, a single Emerald Toucanet made several visits to pick at the small avocados growing from the canopy, and we were fortunate enough to see a passing flock of Sulphur-winged Parakeets twice. A similar sounding pair of birds was calling from a lone tree on the slope just above us, so I scrambled up to its location – not an easy option at this altitude – to pin down a pair of Boat-billed Flycatchers. We didn’t see the Quetzal again, despite waiting around until 7:45am, but other birds did appear for various groups later in the morning, both here and next to the entrance bridge.
We were going to head straight up and out of the valley, to make our first stop at the Hotel Georgina, just a little way along the main highway, but the call of the mountain was too strong. After pulling off the road on to one of the tracks to the peak, we parked the car after a short distance, and worked a couple of the paths through the terrain, which mainly consisted of lowish bushes and the odd small copse of trees. The scenery at this altitude is stunning, with the air clear, and even the temperature was still very comfortable to quite hot. First bird that we saw was a Red-tailed Hawk hovering over the peaks. Expecting to find some highland specialities, we were surprised at first to stumble across Wilson’s Warblers and Slaty Flowerpiercers. We ultimately found about half a dozen flying, perching, feeding and battling Hummingbirds, most of which proved to be Volcano, amongst the less prevalent Scintillants. These were our first definite Volcano Hummingbirds, with some of the males showing off their purple gorgets with pride. Only other additions here were a male Magnificent Hummingbird and a small group of Sooty-capped Bush-tanagers.
After we left Cerro de la Muerte, the next stop, which we had been looking forward to due to its potential for hummingbirds, was the Hotel Georgina, only a few kilometres South of the Cerro de la Muerte turn off. Arrival there was a little disappointing, since the feeders were located on the opposite side of the glass windows to our inside seating. We did have numbers of Magnificent Hummingbird and Green Violet-ear, along with smaller counts of Scintillant & lone Fiery-throated Hummingbird, but eyeballing them on the other side of a window while sipping on a vat of coffee wasn’t exactly what we had hoped for.
Most of the rest of the day was spent driving to Punta Leona, a journey which was composed of various either interesting or exasperating parts. The former included the descent from the mountains, unless one of the crawling trucks was met on a series of bends, the latter mainly the 48km of pure stony track and pothole that was the road from Dominical to Quepos. The whole journey must have taken at least 5 hours.
The security and design of the Hotel Punta Leona complex came as something of a surprise. We had booked for economy accommodation, and were stunned to find ourselves within an American biased holiday resort, with many all inclusive features. However, this was lost on us, and within minutes of finding our room, we found what we supposed was one of the mapped walking nature trails within the complex. It seemed to be a private road which was under construction, and the paving stones used for the road were still being laid. As we walked up this road, we initially thought we had missed the trails proper, but as soon as some antbirds appeared in the form of Black-hooded Antshrike and Dot-winged Antbird, our spirits started to lift. The paved road was bounded on both sides by thick woodland, and birds appeared regularly from it. Many were difficult to discern in the canopy, but identification was easier as we continued our climb. This included Yellow-throated Euphonia, Scarlet-thighed Dacnis, and the first of a few Panama Flycatchers. It was only when we reached the top of our climb that we agreed this was in fact one of the marked trails, despite it appearing as if it had been designed as an add on road for more accommodation. The descent was possibly even more interesting, not least due to the appearance of our first handful of Scarlet Macaws – startling in both size and noise as well as colour. It was likely that they were aiming for a roost somewhere in the resort grounds. We also found our first large Woodpeckers – at least 3 Pale-billed at the base of the road. Above us were a couple of Woodcreepers, only one of which could be identified as Streak-headed, as well as single Summer Tanager. Perhaps most impressive of all was a pair of Black-throated Trogons, picked up when the male flew across the road on to a nearby branch. All in all, this turned out to be a rather good walk, although we were looking forward to leaving the resort first thing in the morning.