Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Costa Rica - Cerro de la Muerte to the Osa Peninsula

Feb 17

I was up well before dawn today, with one particular bird in mind. I had heard that this almost mythical bird could probably be seen here with some luck, and so I wandered down the trails in the pitch-dark, cold morning air. Once I was in the forest proper I played a tape, listened, and heard...nothing. Not really surprising considering it was a bit windy. I walked a little further and tried again, and off in the distance, I heard what sounded like a response! Getting a bit closer I played the tape again, and again got a response, seemingly a bit closer this time. Just then, a big gust of wind kicked up and the wind didn't die down again until after dawn - gahh. The bird in question was an Unspotted Saw-whet Owl, a bird of high-elevation cloud forests in Central America, with few records from anywhere! I spent the rest of the morning wandering the trails behind the Restaurante La Georgina, finding a fair number of the highland specialties (Wrenthrush, Silvery-fronted Tapaculo, Black Guan, Resplendent Quetzal, Buffy Tuftedcheek, Black-capped Flycatcher, Yellow-winged Vireo, etc). Partway through the morning, Flame-throated Warbler became #1000 on my AOU (North America) life list.

The bamboo at La Georgina

By mid-morning I figured I had exhausted the flocks that were moving behind the restaurant, so I grabbed some lunch and went off to explore some other areas. The Savegre lodge is one that gets a lot of attention as being a reliable place to see Quetzals as well as most of the other highland specialties, and so that is where I headed to spend the afternoon. They allow visitors to walk the trails for a nominal fee, so if you're on a budget you could consider doing something similar to me! Anyway, the birding here was fantastic; being at a lower elevation than La Georgina there is higher diversity, although you miss out on some of the birds of the super high-elevations. Birds here that I didn't add earlier at La Georgina included Purple- and White-throated Mountain-Gems, Barred and Sulphur-winged Parakeets, Streak-breasted Treehunter, Dark and Ochraceous Pewees, Black-and-white Becard and Golden-browed Chlorophonia (this last in the same bino view as a Swallow-tailed Kite!). I also had some fantastic looks at a family group of Spotted Wood-Quail at the very top of the trails.

The view from up above Savegre

Birding along the highest trail at Savegre

 The costaricensis subspecies of Red-tailed Hawk

White-throated (Gray-tailed) Mountain-Gem

After walking all of the trails on offer, I made a brief stop at the feeders near the lodge proper, where there were quite a few hummingbirds along with Flame-colored Tanager, Slaty Flowerpiercer and Gray-breasted Wood-Wren among others. By now it was getting a bit late in the day, so I headed back to the restaurant for some dinner while watching the hummer feeders before calling it a night.

Fiery-throated Hummingbird, one of my most-wanted hummers on the trip!
Running trip total: 549

Feb 18

Another early morning trying for the Unspotted Saw-whet behind the restaurant did turn up a Dusky Nightjar but unfortunately no owls. I walked the trails for a few hours, finding mostly the same birds as yesterday before it was time to head on to my next destination. One major highlight of the morning, however, was a Chiriqui Quail-Dove that I watched for about 30 seconds on the trail at dawn before it saw me and took off into the forest. This would be my last new highland bird for Costa Rica, as by mid-morning I was en route to the Osa. I also spent quite a while following a fairly tame Black-billed Nightingale-Thrush around, amused by its antics - it didn't seem to mind the company.

Black-billed Nightingale-Thrush

I should mention at this point that I had forgotten how much gas cars use at high elevations, and was pretty much out as I left the restaurant. Luckily, the 47km to the nearest gas station is 99% downhill, so I coasted almost the entire way! After gassing up I hit the road, making a few stops to take pictures of the view, check out the wader action in Domincal and grab lunch at the intersection of Hwy 2 and 245. Then it was on to the Osa proper, where I stopped off at the Rio Rincon bridge for the afternoon, and walked the highway up to the mangroves before heading a few km down the road to Drake Bay. Far and away the highlights of my (very hot) walk were White-crested Coquette (male) and Yellow-billed Cotinga, two species which I had hoped to see but was not expecting given the time of day! Other new species included some south Pacific specialties like Costa Rican Swift, Baird's Trogon, Fiery-billed Aracari and Riverside Wren, along with more widespread species such as Panama Flycatcher, Brown-throated Parakeet, Striped Cuckoo and Striated Heron (this last one rare in CR). After dinner I made my way back up the road a bit to the El Chontal campground for the night.

 Views on the way to the Osa
Running trip total: 570

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