Costa Rica: A Relaxed & Easy Tour Nov 04—12, 2017

Posted by David Ascanio


David Ascanio

David Ascanio, a Venezuelan birder and naturalist, has spent 30+ years guiding birding tours throughout his native country, Colombia, Costa Rica, Panama, the Amazon River, ...

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The first night in San José welcomed us with a heavy downpour that lasted well after midnight. I am sure everyone was wondering if the rain would continue until the next morning, but actually the opposite happened: the day opened with a blue sky and wonderful birds in the gardens of the Hotel Bougainvillea. During our morning in these gardens we were accompanied by the scratchy voice of the Rufous-naped Wren and the explosive song of the Melodious Blackbird. Is there a better way to be welcomed to a country? Rufous-tailed Hummingbirds and Hoffman’s Woodpeckers were moving around, along with numerous Neotropical migrants including Blackpoll and Yellow warblers, Red-eyed Vireo,  Yellow-throated Vireo, and an unidentified Empidonax flycatcher. The birding in the hotel gardens closed with views of the brown-morph of the Ferruginous Pygmy-Owl, a pair of Cabani’s Wrens (Plain Wren), and a self-confident Lesson’s Motmot (split from Blue-crowned Motmot) perched inside the canopy of a small tree. After breakfast we drove to the Cerro de la Muerte and, along with good weather, good birding accompanied us, with views of the endemic Fiery-throated Hummingbird, Volcano Junco, and the always-hard-to-see Timberline Wren.

Resplendent Quetzal

Resplendent Quetzal— Photo: David Ascanio


The two following mornings were spent around Savegre in San Gerardo de Dota. This location is famous for the always-impressive Resplendent Quetzal. On our first morning we went to a site where a local farmer cares for a Persea sp. tree (wild avocado), which is indeed a magnet for quetzals. When we arrived at the viewing area, there were already two females, a young male, and two adult males, one with the superb elongated upper tail coverts. They were having a feast with these small avocados. What an experience! We enjoyed repeated views of these birds taking fruits in the air, periscoping from a branch to aim for a fruit, and flying in and out of the tree. As we enjoyed this lifetime experience, we discussed the origin of the word quetzal and enjoyed views of other birds, including the Townsend’s Warbler (rare Boreal migrant in Costa Rica) and Long-tailed Silky-flycatcher, in flight. Later in the morning we explored the trails of Savegre, and again we all froze when a Spotted Wood-Quail walked in front of us. We thought we had missed a chance to see it again, bub Barb pointed it out very close to her feet. Cowabunga!  We also came across an understory feeding flock and enjoyed views of Gray-breasted Wood-Wren. As if we hadn’t seen the wood-quail well enough, we came across it again and this time enjoyed lengthy views of this individual scratching the soil with its feet and picking arthropods. Altogether, we spent about 20 minutes with it. In the afternoon we visited another feeding station and added White-throated Mountain-gem and Large-footed Finch to our list. As we returned to our hotel, we made one last stop where we (luckily!) spotted a pair of Black Guans, a rare species here. Seeing this guan in the scope rounded up a succesful day in Cerro de la Muerte.

Read David’s full report in his Field List.