Friday, January 18, 2019

Costa Rica (Part 2) Monteverde Cloud Forest

Definitely my favourite spot of the entire trip, the Monteverde Cloud Forest area is absolutely spectacular. The rich biodiversity is amazing and no photos can do it justice. You have to see it to believe it.
Lesson's Motmot
Santa Elena, Costa Rica (Jan 2019)
We spent 3 days in the Santa Elena region, the community closest to the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve.

On our first day there, Gary and I toured the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve with a local guide, Esteban Mendez.  This was our only birding-specific tour with a birding guide during our 14 day trip and it was amazing. I learned a lot.  The bird I really wanted to see was the Resplendent Quetzal and we saw a beautiful male on that day with Esteban. But it wasn't the only Quetzal of the Monteverde segment of the trip. We eventually saw more the next day and 1 more on January 3rd. 
Esteban and I on the trails
Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve, Costa Rica
We did a bit of birding in Santa Elena before the Cloud Forest Reserve opened.  We saw many birds including a beautiful female Elegant Euphonia (no photos), as well as some more Lesson's Motmots and a few Yellow-throated Euphonias. And many more birds including these 2:

Steely-vented Hummingbird
Santa Elena, Costa Rica
Orange-bellied Trogon
Santa Elena, Costa Rica
We arrived at the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve at 7h30am.  You have to arrive early since they limit the number of visitors that can go into the park at once, which I think is a great thing for controlling human impact and preventing overcrowding.

We saw many interesting species during that January 2nd morning.  Here are a few of our sightings.  Note: Since the Cloud Forest consists of extremely dense vegetation and is almost constantly in the mist and clouds, the lighting is not ideal for capturing anything in photos.  But that's totally ok; that's exactly how it should be because this high-moisture climate is what makes the Cloud Forest what it is. 
Tufted Flycatcher
Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve (2 Jan 2019)
We saw a Green-fronted Lancebill near a set of waterfalls, which is a great place to find this hummingbird (who doesn't visit feeders). My photo doesn't do it justice at all...the long bill is entirely straight.  It was one of my favourite hummingbirds of the trip!
Very bad photo of the Green-fronted Lancebill

Waterfalls in the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve
Where we saw the Green-fronted Lancebill

Green-crowned Brilliant on nest
Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve

Eye-ringed Flatbill
Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve (2 Jan 2019)

Tawny-throated Leaftosser
Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve

Costa Rican Warbler
Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve (2 Jan 2019)

Slate-throated Redstart
Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve (2 Jan 2019)
Violet Sabrewing
Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve (2 Jan 2019)

On January 3rd we explored the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve again, but this time with the 4 friends we were travelling with.  On that day, a female Quetzal landed right beside us as we were exploring trails close to the waterfalls.

Female Resplendent Quetzal
Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve (3 January 2019)
We also saw more hummingbirds.

Purple-throated Mountain-gem
Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve

On January 4th, we did a walking tour in Selvatura Park with Juan Carlos Calvo, a great local guide that helped us learn about the flora, fauna, history and the impact of climate change on the Cloud Forest. The hike offered great views of the Cloud Forest from a series of hanging bridges.

On the Selvatura Park trail, I was able to see my first Spangle-cheeked Tanager and Silver-throated Tanager. We also watched 2 Red-faced Spinetails working on their big hanging nest. And of course, all that to the beautiful song of the Black-faced Solitaire.

Black-faced Solitaire
Selvatura Park, Monteverde Cloud Forest
One of the highlights of the Selvatura bridge walk was seing a male Resplendent Quetzal at eye-level from one of the bridges.  The beauty of Resplendent Quetzal is indescribable. It was in an avocado tree. The following photo shows the wild avocado fruits that were in abundance while we were there; it is one of the many fruits they like to eat (although sometimes they will also eat lizards and insects). 

Resplendent Quetzal (male)
Selvatura Park - Monteverde Cloud Forest
Resplendent Quetzal
Selvatura Park - Monteverde Cloud Forest
We watched the Quetzal for a while and then we saw it fly. As long as I live, I will never forget the beauty of the Quetzal flying with its long tail trailing behind.

One of the wild avocado fruits that I found on the ground
Monteverde Cloud Forest.

The cabin we were renting in Santa Elena had easy access to a series of trails, which was a great way to explore more of the forest after our morning tours.  The following birds were photographed right on the Los Pinos Cabins property:

Lesson's Motmots
Los Pinos, Santa Elena, Costa Rica
Northern Emerald Toucanet
Los Pinos Trails, Santa Elena
White-fronted Parrot
Los Pinos, Santa Elena
White-eared Ground-Sparrow
Los Pinos, Santa Elena
Hoffmann's Woodpecker
Los Pinos, Santa Elena

Black Guan looking at us
Los Pinos Trails, Santa Elena, Costa Rica

Black Guan
Los Pinos Trails, Santa Elena
Olivaceous Woodcreeper
Los Pinos Trails, Santa Elena
The Monteverde Cloud Forest was definitely the highlight of the whole trip for me, and I am hoping to have the opportunity to spend time in it again one day.

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Costa Rica (Part 1) Arenal Volcano area

I just came back from a 2 week trip to Costa Rica.  Although it was not a birding trip, I did try to see some interesting birds without annoying the other 5 non-birders in our group of 6.  We went to a few different locations, including Arenal Volcano / La Fortuna area, Cano Negro, Monteverde Cloud Forest, Palo Verde and Tamarindo.

It was my first time in Costa Rica and I was overall very impressed by everything. The respect the Costa Ricans have for the environment is inspiring.  There is lush vegetation everywhere and the people are proud of the abundance of trees and wildlife. The people were extremely friendly and the local foods were delicious everywhere we went.

Here are a few of the highlights for the first 3 days of our trip.

Arenal Volcano / La Fortuna area

We had a river running behind the hotel, with lush rainforest surrounding it.

River behind our hotel in La Fortuna

The vegetation was amazing. Here are just a few of the birds I found right on the hotel property during our 3 day stay in La Fortuna.

Montezuma Oropendola - I love their song!
La Fortuna - Costa Rica (Dec 2018)

Keel-billed Toucan
La Fortuna-Costa Rica

Black-crowned Tityra (F)
La Fortuna - Costa Rica

Yellow-throated Toucan
La Fortuna - Costa Rica

White-collared Manakin (F)
La Fortuna - Costa Rica

Olive-backed Euphonia
La Fortuna - Costa Rica

Streak-headed Woodcreeper
La Fortuna - Costa Rica 

Rufous-tailed Jacamar
La Fortuna - Costa Rica

Yellow-olive Flycatcher
La Fortuna - Costa Rica

Scarlet-rumped Tanager (Passerini's)
La Fortuna, Costa Rica

Bare-throated Tiger-Heron
La Fortuna - Costa Rica

We went for a nature tour that brought us to see Three-toed Sloths in the wild.  When our guide found out I was interested in birds, he was king enough to also stop at many places for birds and he was very knowledgeable. We did see lots of sloths: 1 Two-toed Sloth and about 6 Three-toed Sloths. And we also saw many birds that morning.

Three-toed Sloth with baby
La Fortuna area 
Black-cowled Oriole
La Fortuna / Arenal - Costa Rica

Gray Hawk - La Fortuna - Costa Rica

Squirrel Cuckoo - La Fortuna, Costa Rica 
White-necked Jacobin - La Fortuna, Costa Rica

Rufous-tailed Hummingbird
La Fortuna, Costa Rica

Green Thorntail
La Fortuna, Costa Rica

Green Honeycreeper
La Fortuna, Costa Rica

Grayish Saltator
La Fortuna, Costa Rica

Black-headed Saltator
La Fortuna, Costa Rica

Palm Tanager - La Fortuna, Costa Rica

Buff-throated Saltator
La Fortuna, Costa Rica

Red-throated Ant Tanager
La Fortuna, Costa Rica

Scarlet-rumped Cacique
La Fortuna, Costa Rica

Collared Aracari - La Fortuna, Costa Rica

Blue-gray Tanager - La Fortuna, Costa Rica 
Red-legged Honeycreeper
La Fortuna, Costa Rica

Cano Negro - Boat Tour on the Rio Frio

We did a boat tour on the Rio Frio in the Cano Negro region.  It was great to see lots of Caimans, Basilisks and Spider Monkeys. And of course, many bird species as well.

Spectacled Caiman - Rio Frio, Costa Rica

Basilisk - Rio Frio, Costa Rica

Basilisk, also called the Jesus Christ lizard
for its ability to run on the surface of water
Rio Frio - Costa Rica

Green Kingfisher, Rio Frio- Costa Rica

Spider Monkey - Rio Frio, Costa Rica

Sungrebe - Rio Frio, Costa Rica

Russet-naped Wood-Rail
Prothonotary Warbler - Rio Frio, Costa Rica

Ringed Kingfisher - Rio Frio, Costa Rica

Mangrove Swallow - Rio Frio, Costa Rica

Amazon Kingfisher - Rio Frio, Costa Rica

Great Potoo - Rio Frio, Costa Rica

Great Potoo

Northern Jacana - Road to Rio Frio 

We left the Arenal area on January 1st to go start the year in my favourite spot of the trip, the Monteverde Cloud Forest (coming up in Part 2)