The next port of call was Arenal Observatory Lodge, a great lodge and welcomed so much more this year after our last lodge. It really is a stunning location and we were extremely lucky to get wonderful views of the semi active volcano for the second year running. The weather cleared and we were back into sunshine again! We did the hanging bridges again, but it is proving perhaps too popular with tour parties and not necessarily those with an interest in wildlife. We tended to focus on the area immediately surrounding the lodge and these trials can be fantastic with canopy flocks normally providing highlights to our walks. The feeders here always entertain and this year was no exception, with the White-nosed Coatis still persevering in their attempts to mount the feeders, we managed the ever present Emerald Tanager, a beauty amongst a spectacular family.
Tour Guide: Steven Easley
Trip Report Author: Peter Jones
Day Two 31st January - Savegra
Day Four 2nd February - Savegre, Caerago, Lancaster Ponds, Tapanti National Park and Rancho.
Before heading for our next destination, Rancho, we took a pre breakfast stroll along the track beside the Rio Savegre. Well who could resist a final seek and find mission for Resplendent Quetzal? Luck was with us and we found a pair, plus we managed a few other species including Summer Tanager. Our Great Egret was still in the area, plus a Red-tailed Hawk, Sulphur-winged Parakeet, White-collared Swift, a Hairy Woodpecker at last after hearing them previously. We managed a few others and notable among these were Immaculate Antbird, Tropical Pewee, Golden-bellied Flycatcher, Northern Rough-winged Swallow, Plain and Ochraceous Wren. Slate-throated Redstart was seen and gave us our only viewing of the tour. Flame-coloured Tanager greeted us back at the lodge and this would be the last time we would gaze upon this beauty during the tour, as was true for a number of species seen during our time at Savegre. We made our way in leisurely fashion to Caerago and passed through the town to visit the nearby Lancaster Ponds. We always think it a worthwhile place to pick-up some waterbirds. We were soon scoping Black-bellied Whistling Duck, Blue-winged Teal, Least Grebe, Little Blue Heron, Common Moothen, American Coot and also some other pluses such as Broad-winged Hawk, Kildeer, Northern Jacana and Spotted Sandpiper. On a nearby tree we had Crimson-fronted Parakeet showing well. Continuing our journey we passed and stopped in the area of Tapanti National Park. We soon had good views of White-crowned Parrot and White-collared Swift. Around here we also had Barred Forest Falcon and our first of many Crimson-collared and Passerini’s Tanager, Variable Seedeater, Green-fronted Lancebill (our only one of the tour), Yellow-faced Grassquit, Black Guan and Buff-throated Saltator. We continued on and reached Rancho in time to get cleaned up and have time to watch the hummer feeders. In no time we added Snowcap, Green Hermit, White-necked Jacobin, Green-breasted Mango, Green Thorntail, Voilet-headed Hummingbird, White-bellied Mountain Gem and other species hardly noticed as we gawped at the sheer beauty and numbers of Hummingbirds. Welcome back to Rancho!
Day Six 4th February - Rancho, Guapiles, La Selva.
Guess what? Yep it was raining. Our hotel was such a great place, that it failed to put-off our group for a single moment. At least temperatures were good and for breakfast we could enjoy superb food whilst also watching the feeders. Here we were full board, so we could make short forays to the surrounding area and always have the comfort of our base close at hand. Mid morning we headed for the park entrance and sure enough the way was blocked, and the park closed, by swollen rivers. No putting these guys off though, we walked a little ways from parking our bus and were soon picking-up some good birds. Both Pale-vented and Red-billed Pigeon put in their first showing of the tour and then our only sighting of Blue Ground Dove. Olive-throated Parakeet got everyone in the groove and soon we also had Orange-chinned Parakeet with both Brown-hooded and Red-lored Parrot in the woodland fringe of the park, we spotted our first Squirrel Cuckoo. After lunch we headed along to El Tigre Marsh and the surrounding wetlands (which were getting wetter by the hour). Great Egret, hosts of Snowy and Cattle Egret and Green Ibis were our first birds and soon we had a few raptors including White-tailed Kite, Roadside Hawk, Broad-winged Hawk, Grey Hawk and Crested Caracara, but a fly past by a Bat Falcon was to be our raptor for the day. Purple Gallinule and Northern Jacana were common as too were Groove-billed Ani. Nearby we again saw Violaceous Trogon, Keel-billed Toucan, Yellow Tyraanulet and Yellow-bellied Elaenia. Further along the main road, a dodgey place to do your birding, we saw Tropical Pewee, Yellow-throated Vireo, Mangrove Swallow, American Redstart, Buff-rumped Warbler and my bird for the day (dipped on previous tours) Nicaraguan Seed Finch. Some bonus birds we saw on returning to the main marsh were Red-winged Blackbird, Melodious Blackbird, Giant Cowbird and Black-cowled Oriole. We had time in the late afternoon to wander around the hotel grounds and watch the feeders and again were able to add a few species including Bronzy Hermit, Long-billed Hermit, Rufous-tailed Jacamar, Cocoa Woodcreeper (heard only), Southern Rough-winged Swallow, Band-backed Wren, Plain Wren, Wood Thrush and Olive-backed Euphonia.
Day Eight 6th February - La Selva, Rio San Jose, Rio Caristo
Umm, rain anyone? Liquid sunshine interspersed with dry periods! By now of course we were veterans of what to do and where to go when it was raining. In fact, because the reserve remained closed, we explored the area more than normal and found some really worthwhile and new sites (assuming an old fella like me is able to remember them for next year). We walked along a track near to the entrance of the reserve and managed a few notable species and certainly Chestnut-coloured Woodpecker added to what was to be an impressive list for our tour total for Woodpeckers. We added Chestnut-mandibled Toucan, White-winged Becard and Olive-crowned Yellowthroat to our tour list. The visit on the riverside track of the Rio San Jose disappointed and was made to feel worse by heavy showers! After lunch we headed for the track and wetland area near and next to the Rio Caristo. Soon we added Anhinga, Great Blue Heron, Laughing Falcon, Ruddy Ground Dove, Crimson-fronted Parakeet, Lesser Swallow-tailed Swift, heard a Lesser Greenlet and saw Thick-billed Seed Finch. Back at the hotel we added Lesser Nighthawk and heard Common Pauraque, Green Kingfisher, Streak-headed Woodcreeper, Chestnut-backed Antbird and Mourning Warbler. Although we had seen them the previous day it was good to get Black-cowled Oriole and Olive-backed Euphonia again. The day ended with a semblance of clear skies and what held a promise that tomorrow could be a better weather day! We also knew we were headed for Caño Negro the next day and it was a new destination for me in Costa Rica, so I looked forward to what lay ahead.