Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Costa Rica Birding, Day 1, Part 2 - Keener Garden

After a short breather, having just seen and photographed the Resplendent Quetzal out in the open (please see my previous blog) Cynthia and I decided to try the "Canto de las Aves" (song of the birds) trail. As we approached the trailhead, we first heard, then saw, a flock of parakeets fly by. This happened several times as the green birds flew back and forth until my wife's sharp ears informed her that the parakeets had stopped flying and were now screeching their hearts out not that far from where we were standing. As we turned a corner we came upon an apple orchard on a hillock.

"There!" my wife whispered as she pointed to several green objects gorging on some ripe apples. At first I had no clue as to what species we were looking at. Later that day we bought an illustrated guide to the highland birds of Costa Rica. 

What we saw were Sulphur-winged Parakeets!

It was nearing noon and as we rounded the corner on our way back, we encountered a Sooty-capped Bush Tanager and a Yellow-faced Grassquit by the wayside.

Sooty-capped Brush Tanager

Yellow-faced Grassquit
After lunch, we were approached by Marino Chacon, one of the owners of the hotel and an excellent guide, and offered to take us to the "Photography Garden" at a rate of US$10 per person. We agreed to meet up before 2 pm. At 2pm, we were at the garden sitting on the portable chairs brought by Marino and looking at some Blue-grey Tanagers.

"I'll leave you here and pick you up at around 4:30, OK? Enjoy the birds!" said Marino.

Indeed there were birds all around us, you just need to have some keen hearing and eyesight to see them. The highlights here were the tiny Volcano Hummingbird

and the constantly moving Slaty Flowerpiercer.

slaty flowerpiercer female

slaty flowerpiercer male
Here also we had better views of the Silver-throated Tanager.

One intriguing species we saw was the Large-footed Finch. Looking at the bird, we noticed that the feet were not really that exceptionally large. What's more is that this is not really a finch but actually a sparrow!

At around 4, Marino came with another birder, Mike Steffes. Marino asked if we had seen the Mountain Elaenia and we replied in the negative. "There it is!" he said pointing to a non-descript olive-brown bird. But it flew before we could even take its picture. "There!" Marino once again pointed at a bird in a different place. This happened several times until we finally got a shot. Reviewing our photos later that night, it turned out that we have already seen (and photographed) the Elaenia earlier. It was quite common, as a matter of fact.

"There's a White-naped Brush Finch down there," our enthusiastic and keen-eyed guide told us. We looked and saw nothing. Not even Cynthia's usual spotting ability was able to distinguish the bird from its surroundings. Marino then asked for Cynthia's camera and took several shots. Then he took my camera and made several shots as well. As we reviewed the photos he took we were now able to pinpoint the whereabouts of this seemingly invisible bird.

At 4:30 all four of us returned to the hotel. Cynthia and I rested a bit then had dinner at 6:30. It had been a remarkable first full day of birding for us in Costa Rica. The Resplendent Quetzal right off the bat. Imagine that!

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