Day 7 (Thursday, 24th February)
The rain had been lashing against the hotel roof through the night, and we had hoped that this would be the end of it, but it continued to fall as we approached La Selva. We were due to be at the reserve for 5:45am, but the security guards weren’t aware of our booking, and reception wasn’t due to open until 7am, so we wandered the area in what was now a light drizzle. Our guide appeared after 6am, and was thankfully only showing the 3 of us around. We were a little disappointed to be only guided around the reserve for less than 2 hours, when we had expected 3 hours. The expectations of La Selva had been high, but birds had to be worked for, and we actually only saw 2 new species during these early hours, and both were seen from the reception area – Green Ibis as we set off, and Violet-headed Hummingbird on our return. We spent 10 minutes exploring the reception area again, picking up many of the species that we had already seen, such as Band-backed Wren, Chestnut-sided Warbler, Masked Tityra, Grey-capped Flycatcher, Great Kiskadee, and Passerini’s Tanager. We then started to enter the secondary forest, hoping to see Jacamar, but we did come across many Black-mandibled & Keel-billed Toucans, and a small group of Collared Aracaris. Once over the river, we picked out Clay-coloured Robin, Wood Thrush, and a couple of White-collared Manakins. We headed for the previous roosting site of Crested Owls, but all we had here was perched Green Ibis, and fleeting views of a fleeing Rufous Motmot (identified by the guide on call). Back at reception, a pair of Variable Seedeaters were feeding on the lawn – quite tricky in this part of Costa Rica, since they are the all black variety.
Once our guide had departed, we continued to try to pin down the Violet-headed Hummingbird, when a pair of Crested Guans flew in to one of trees adjacent to reception. Looking decidedly prehistoric, they proved to be quite a large bird, showing their only smudge of colour which was a red throat sack. The flowering trees behind reception added White-necked Jacobin to the Costa Rican list. The best part of the morning was when we returned to the secondary forest, when after 100m, we came across a bird party, initiated by Passerini’s Tanager, followed by Long-tailed Hermit, and finally a perched Fasciated Antshrike in the dense foliage. 20m further on was a collection of thrushes, which contained at least one Pale-vented Robin – a tailless individual which showed the white vent clearly. Most of the other birds also seemed to have the dark bill of this species, although the vents were difficult to see in the subdued light. A pair of Grey-breasted Wood-rails appeared just behind them. A little further again, and we saw the first of 3 Plain Xenops, with Streak-headed Woodcreeper close by. This track eventually terminated at the first security gate to the La Selva entrance drive, so we doubled back on ourselves, and stumbled across a stunning female Chestnut-coloured Woodpecker. If not enough, a male Fasciated Antshrike appeared in the same tree, uncharacteristically out in the open almost within touching distance from us. Back at the car park, we added another male Violaceous Trogon to our list. As if in a parting gesture, the fifth White-collared Manakin of the morning was found.
After leaving La Selva, we headed South towards Braullio Carillo national park. We were looking for a place called El Tapir, but the location we found seemed deserted. So we ended up at Quebrada Gonzalves, one of the main entrances to Braullio Carillo, which had the added benefit of security guards at the car park, and paid the $6 each to walk the rain forest. We navigated the shorter of the two trails (1.6km), which took about an hour. This offered a typical rain forest experience – dense forest with almost constant heavy rain. Birding was also very heavy, with only a single Wood Thrush, a small party of unidentified passerines, and 2 separate Sulphur-rumped Warblers for our efforts. Back at reception, we spent some time under the canopies watching the surrounding clearing, where we saw a Chestnut-sided Warbler, Olive-backed Euphonia, and a group of Collared Aracaris.