We were supposed to meet up with our guide at 6am for a look around the trails of the lodge, but a misunderstanding meant that he was an hour late. This time wasn't wasted - we even managed to make our first misidentification mistake before it was light. A Turquoise Jay was found feeding a black juvenile. We totally missed the obvious - that this was the parasitic young Giant Cowbird. The hummers were up and around the feeders sharpish, with noise and activity abounding with the light of the morning barely full. A White-winged Brush-Finch was found skulking around the feeders, and sitting around the dome for some time was rewarded by a brief but spectacular Masked Trogon. At the other end of the lodge compound, a singing Azara's Spinetail was calling but only giving brief views.
We had wanted to avoid overuse of guides, since we usually prefer to find and (mis)identify birds ourselves. However, the number and variety of birds here, many in the canopy, made the presence of our guide invaluable, and this proved so as early as the first session with him pre-breakfast during the walk down the old road. He quickly picked up the first speciality. A Long-tailed Antbird was very difficult to pin down due to its skulking habits, but taping eventually led to half reasonable views. Just before the first bend in the road, a singing White-sided Flowerpiercer initiated a small bird wave, which was unfortunately a little high for ease of identification and comfort. However, we did make out Streak-necked Flycatcher, Grass-green Tanager, Golden-rumped Euphonia, and White-tailed Tyrannulet. Progress a little further down the track was highlighted by a perched Common Potoo, which was difficult to find behind shrubbery and bamboo. Suffice to say that this was a known roosting post.
For the late morning to lunchtime sortie, our guide took us along the track ascending from the lodge, and then back through one of the trails. We started the walk in fine weather, but most of the walk was in drizzly to moderate rain, although this did not detract from some enjoyable birding. We kicked off the walk again with a skulker, tape lured into half views - a pair of Plain-tailed Wrens at what appeared to be a nest site. Birds on the ascent were in low numbers, with the highlight being a flypast Plain-breasted Hawk.
Once at the junction of a smaller track to the right, the rain began to fall in earnest. Some way along here, we heard the first calls of Plate-billed Mountain-Toucan, and it didn't take us long to pick one out. The real birding began a little further on, when a Rusty-winged Barbtail kicked off a frenetic bird wave. One or two birds could be seen in its company, but took a short time to pick out. These first birds included Streaked Treehunter and Crimson-backed Woodpecker. Attention switched to the opposite side of the track, where there were even more birds. Cleaning off rainwater from damp lenses found Cinnamon Flycatcher, Brown-capped Vireo, and a pair of handsome Plush-capped Finches. I unfortunately only caught the back and tail of a Streaked Tuftedcheek. The descent down the Ocellated Tapaculo trail didn't unearth any other birds, despite taping for the trail namesake and White-fronted Nunbird.
With the rain still falling, and a fancy for some lazy seated birding for the afternoon, we walked the track down from the lodge for just over 1.7km to find this haven for hummers. Tony and his wife bought some unused pasture land 10 years ago, and now own something like 100 acres, which has been transformed into a bird oasis. He is more than happy to accept birders into his garden, which has undergone an amazing transformation due to their hard work, including building the house themselves. Thus for the price of $5 each (to help towards the filling of the feeders), and a request not to wear boots on the upper balcony, there is the opportunity to observe a hummingbird city.
A considerable amount of time was spent on the lower balcony watching a thriving mass of hummingbirds. The numbers visiting the feeders at the lodge seemed impressive, but these were far outshone by the product of Tony's sugar feeders. Many of the species from slightly higher up were again present, but new species such as Brown Inca, White-bellied Woodstar, Blue-tailed Emerald, and Rufous-tailed Hummingbird were added. In addition, there were much higher numbers of Purple-throated Woodstar and Booted Racket-tail, with the latter having frequent squabbles in midair.
Not many birds other than hummers visited this central part of the garden, but Tony's guided tour did show the potential for variation. With a garden list of around 350, this always had to be the case. In the immediate environs of the house, we saw Black-winged Saltator, Black-capped Tanager and Slaty-throated Whitestart. A marauding flock of Red-billed Parrots kept returning to plunder the corn crop. A walk along one of the trails for a short way added Crimson-mantled Woodpecker, Blue- & Black-capped Tanager, and Golden Tanager.
It was difficult to eventually tear ourselves away from the spectacle, but with a longish uphill walk to complete we left with plenty of light left. Compensation for this came in a Sickle-winged Guan perched at the top of a trackside tree, uttering its pathetic and somewhat squeaky call.