Monday, December 21, 2015

Guatemala - GCity to Costa Rica - Puerto Viejo de Sarapiqui

Feb 13

With my flight scheduled to leave at 6am and Janice's leaving at 7, we were up around 330 in order to make it through customs on time. The owner of the hostel was very kind and gave us a ride to the airport at this indecent hour - although it was only a 2-min drive it could be quite sketchy to walk in the dark! When I went to check in I was informed that I would not be allowed to leave the country as I had no proof of intent to leave Costa Rica (apparently a plane ticket home from Panama City wasn't good enough), unless I booked a bus ticket right then and there. Since there wasn't much choice in the matter, I booked the $80 ticket from San Jose to Bocas del Toro and cleared customs. After saying goodbye to Janice (she was heading back home to Ontario), I boarded my plane to San Jose, only to discover that I had somehow managed to book a first-class ticket (the only option given on the website). The guy in the suit that sat next to me didn't seem too impressed with my stinky travel clothes but I was pretty happy with the big breakfast that got served! Once we landed in San Jose, I made my way through customs, only to find that the rental car company wasn't there to pick me up. After waiting around for a while, one of the taxi drivers made a call for me and the guy from the rental place came to get me. I was eventually sent on my way after paying way too much for insurance in a little Daihatsu Terios that would be my home for the next week and a bit. Heading north, I quickly added some common birds to the trip list (Blue-and-white Swallow, Rufous-collared Sparrow, Crimson-fronted Parakeet) on the way to my first stop, at the La Paz waterfalls. I quickly ticked off my target here (Torrent Tyrannulet) and had a bonus lifer Barred Hawk flying around over the river.

La Paz waterfalls

Barred Hawk

Back in 2006 I did a family trip to Costa Rica, where most of our time was spent in the central/northern part of the country (the Sarapiqui region, Arenal, Monteverde and some side trips to Carara, Orosi and Guayabo), so I had already seen a good chunk of the Caribbean slope birds, but many had eluded me on the previous trip so I figured it was worth another visit! Next up was lunch in Cinchona, where the restaurant has some nice feeders set up. I added 5 hummers to the trip list here, highlighted by my lifer White-bellied Mountain-Gem and the Costa Rican endemic Coppery-headed Emerald.

Coppery-headed Emerald

The food at the restaurant was good and cheap, but I suspect it was the source of my immense suffering for the next day and a half - more on that later.

A typical Costa Rican lunch

A midday stop at Virgen del Socorro was predictably slow given the sunshine but did yield my lifer Tufted Flycatcher along with Buff-rumped Warbler, King Vulture and Bay Wren. Further north, heading down into the Caribbean lowlands, traffic came to a halt for some construction. We ended up being stopped for about a half-hour, but in this time a couple of Wood Storks flew across the road, as did my lifer Bicolored Hawk, a species I was not really expecting to see, and what turned out to be bird #1000 on my lifelist! Eventually we were let through, and I made it to my destination at the Tirimbina lodge in time for some afternoon birding. New birds for the trip were mainly common birds such as Scaly-breasted Hummingbird, Piratic Flycatcher, Amazon Kingfisher and Green Honeycreeper, but an evening walk across the bridge yielded a calling Great Potoo - a quality bird indeed!

Virgen del Socorro

View from the bridge at Tirimbina
Running trip total: 429

Feb 14

My first morning in Costa Rica, and I was determined to make the most of it! I headed out early, with the intention of walking every trail within the lodge's property (which includes some nice forest on the far side of the river). About half way through this venture I started to feel a little off and by the time I made it to the last trailhead I decided I couldn't go any further. I was lightheaded, shaky and generally not feeling all that great, so I had a nap and a shower before I had to pack my things and head out. During the time before this hit I did have some great birding along the trails, learning the calls of a number of Caribbean-slope species and picking up some lifers and new trip birds. Highlights (for me) were Gray-rumped Swift, Rufous Motmot, Crowned Woodnymph, Rufous-winged Woodpecker, Black-crowned Antshrike, Checker-throated, White-flanked and Dot-winged Antwrens, Stripe-breasted Wren, Bare-necked Umbrellabird (heard-only...), and Tawny-faced Gnatwren, all of which were lifers.

 The rainforest at Tirimbina

Black-crowned Antshrike

In the late morning I was feeling a little better, and after checking out was on my way. Driving through Puerto Viejo de Sarapiqui I lucked out and saw 4 Great Green Macaws flying over the highway, a bird I had only heard the last time I was here. My main point of interest though was the El Tigre wet fields, a little south of town. After being informed by a farmer that visitors were not welcome anymore (I guess he's had bad experiences???) I scanned the fields from the road, managing to pick out one of my target birds - Nicaraguan Seed-Finch, a species that I think has expanded south out of Nicaragua recently. A quick stop along the La Selva entrance road was pretty slow given it was the heat of the day, although a Stripe-throated Hermit was new for the trip. I then headed back to PVdS to check in at my accommodations for the next 2 nights (Posada Andrea Cristina). This is a nice, relatively cheap alternative to staying at La Selva or Selva Verde (although you won't see as many birds), and the owner is very knowledgeable about the birds in the area. I met a couple from Washington (the state, not the city) here (Bob and Jan) - Bob was feeling ill but I had a nice chat with Jan and it turned out they were also birders and knew a few spots in the area to go. We agreed to meet up the next day for some birding and I retired to my room to rest up a bit. I ended up feeling worse and worse through the afternoon and ended up spending the whole rest of the day extremely sick (painfully so). Not fun, but I did hear a Short-tailed Nighthawk from my room just before managing to pass out for the night.
Running trip total: 452

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