It was a grey morning at AOL and rain was threatening but the Oropendolas were already tucking into their breakfast and I could hear the deep, almost Bittern-like boom of one of the male Great Curassows off into the forest.
Two early morning videos: You can just hear the booming of the Curassow in one and the Oropendolas give it a good go!
Despite the gloom we still headed out early before breakfast back to the river walk to see if it was any more productive. We were greeted by a troop of Central American Spider Monkeys in the canopy not far down the path but although we saw them well they eluded the camera. The wood was eerily quiet but the tantalising Thicket Antpittas and Nightingale Wrens were still singing from cover.
|Central American Spider Monkey - honestly!
White-breasted Wood Wrens popped out briefly and the Ochre Bellied Flycatchers were still present but with Olive-striped Flycatcher being seen in the same spot this time too.
A brown bird flicked along the path in front and fortunately liked the bank along the edge and stayed put for us to get a good look at a Tawny-throated Leaftosser – another of those wonderful names I had read in the book over the last year. Quite thrush-like some of the time but at others almost with actions more like Wryneck.
Spotted Antbirds came and said hello but it really was disappointingly silent and so with the onset of some rain we retraced our route stumbling on a pair of Great Curassows ambling up the path with the male stopping occasionally to drop his wings, slightly inflate and boom.
|Great Curassow - mid boom
|As soon as it started to rain the Leaf Cutter Ants just dropped everything and ran away leaving a trail of leaf fragments in their wake!
Back at the top on the road a fruiting tree was being ransacked by a whole bevy of birds with Carmiol’s, Golden Hooded and our first vivid Bay Headed Tanager making the most noise. A Rufous Motmot and three Crested Guans were also somehow hiding in the foliage.
Heading back through the gardens gave us a final chance of Brown Violetear Hummingbird but with no joy but the now usual suspects were as memorable as ever and had been joined by a flashing White-necked Jacobin.
|Rufous-tailed HB - Steve Cullum
Back for breakfast and then a final session on the veranda as I had already packed. It actually proved most productive with lots of Honeycreeper and Tanager action and some good visitations from the Brown Jays and Black-cheeked Woodpeckers.
|Black-cheeked Woodpecker & Red-legged Honeycreeper
|Red-legged Honeycreeper - just stunning - Steve Cullum
|Red-legged Honeycreeper - Steve Cullum
|Green Honeycreeper - Steve Cullum
|Passerini's Tanager - Steve Cullum
|Blue Grey Tanager - Steve Cullum
|Golden Hooded Tanager
|Five species to id...
|Bananaquit - Steve Cullum
|Black-cheeked Woodpecker - Steve Cullum
A Streaked Flycatcher dropped in briefly and the female Hepatic Tanager also reappeared along with the first visit from the Melodious Blackbirds. Chestnut-sided, Tennessee Warbler and Tropical Parula flitted through the canopy.
|Coati pile up
With just a couple of minutes before I had to go and get the bags up I re-found the pair of Scarlet-thighed Dacnis (a bit like the Red-legged Honeycreeper) that briefly visited ten minutes earlier. They did not linger long while a glance up produced our first (and only) Giant Cowbird flying over in the direction of where we had seen the nest of the Oropendolas (which this species parasitizes) and then a very large bird of prey with a huge bulge in the hindwing briefly circled before disappearing behind the trees. My gut said Ornate Hawk-eagle but it did not reappear.
A female Gartered Trogon gave us a final good hard stare before I headed off on my bag collection duties...
We said goodbye to the mighty Arenal and its wonderful lodge and started back down the long entrance road passing the Black Phoebes on the first river again and what we thought wrongly was our first Amazon Kingfisher on a long piece of bamboo over the next.
The track soon deviated and we cut through a track towards the lake beyond and stopped for a walk in the hot sunshine. A pocket of birds was found instantly with great views of two Plain Xenops along with dinky Smoky Brown Woodpeckers and beady eyed Black-headed Saltators.
A Golden Winged Warbler popped in and out and two Russet Antshrikes showed a little better than our first on the evening walk yesterday. There was also a mysterious dark olive green flycatcher-like bird with a stout bill that, despite showing well, completely flummoxed Steve and Gina. Perhaps this may jog their memories?
There were lots of Dragonflies in this hot alley, most of which fell into the Darter-ish type category and a good selection of non landing Butterflies that included Monarch for certain but at least I did get a shot of something this time!
Black and Turkey Vultures angled over and a Short-tailed Hawk did likewise.
|Black Pondhawk (Erythemis attala)
|Black Pondhawk (Erythemis attala)
|Brown Setwing (Dythemis sterilis)
|Red-mantled Dragonlet (Erythrodiplax fervida)
|A large bug
|Middle American Ameiva (Holcosus festivus occidentalis)
It was almost time to move on but not before Ramon had found another fine Keel-billed Motmot, that sat and watched us without a care in the world.
The track took us down to the dam at the lake but it was birdless so we quickly moved on as we had a way to go and a large part of the day was now spent heading through Costa Rican countryside. Grey and Roadside Hawks and the odd Swallow-tailed Kite were seen and there were a couple of good shouts once we started to climb again for Yellow-headed Vulture but we would hopefully see them better on another day. A brief stop at a supermarket for our picnic lunch supply gave us all the chance to stock up on coffee to take home as it was a quarter of the price to the lodges and gift shops we saw. Rufous Collared Sparrows sang from the tin roofs opposite.
Ramon is renowned for finding Laughing Falcon but I beat him to the first one but he got the second more showy one a little further up the road. It has a disproportionately big head and huge eyes and just stared intently at the ground the whole time.
|Laughing Falcon #1
|Laughing Falcon #2 - of course Ramon's was better
We stopped at a huge car park area with a multitude of flag wielding staff to guide you to a spot. It seemed to be a marshalling area for tourists before they headed off into the Tenorio park beyond. Once again we looked (but did not feel) overdressed compared to the ‘please bite me’ wiggly toed flip flops and lobstered sunburnt shoulders and backs of knees...
Our picnic spot was set up in the empty ‘rent your wellies here!’ shelter and we fine dined on avocados, re-fried beans, jalapenos, cheese squares and salami and despite Steve’s reservations it was great and we all loved it. A White Winged Dove came to say hello and a giant female Katydid had an unfortunate accident.
Spanish Ladies orchids danced out of the foliage and a Yellow-throated Vireo was jumping around the canopy but whichever tree the birds chose was always in the worst of the light. Steve ordered us all a coffee and we drank it whilst keeping an eye on the enormous Golden Orb spiders hanging around under the roof!
|Spanish Ladies orchids
|Golden Orb spiders
It was not far from here to our hotel – the Celeste Hideaway. Now, all of our accommodation had been superb and I have refrained from putting pictures of the rooms in the blog but this place was astonishing. I had certainly never stayed anywhere quite like it. It had an unassuming entrance but opened up into a flower strewn lobby with a central, open to the air Koi pool surrounded by orchids and bromeliads. We each had our own Lodge with a main room bigger than the floor plan of my house and two beds almost that size! I had to phone Dad to get him to put the lights on.
|'I can't see you Dad! Where are you!' 'Behind the Magic wall, son!'
The bathroom was also very grand with a shower big enough for a dozen really close friends and a pair of sliding doors led you to a small high walled courtyard (for snake free comfort) complete with an outdoors shower for some wondrously bizarre reason.
|However, you could be peered upon by a Capuchin!
However, I still did my usual and dumped the bags and headed outside where we all met up to talk about the rooms although quite how Angie got chocolates on the fluffed pillows of her voile draped four poster bed is unknown...
Just by the side of our Lodge were two paths – one up (Tapir) and one down (Armadillo). We chose the up path on the understanding that it was a simple circuit. Technically this was the case but it was slightly longer than we anticipated and it was a little rustic and slippy in places.
A male Great Curassow greeted us as we started but as usual afternoons are not the best time for jungle work and the trails were largely quiet but we did find a Broad-billed Motmot and got views of Stripe Breasted Wren in the undergrowth. Mealy Parrots, Yellow-throated Toucans and Gartered Trogons called high up. A Wedge-billed Woodcreeper showed nicely but it was hard work to be honest.
However, and there is always one of these, a casual glance back by Ramon from the middle of the line had us all quickly and silently reconvening to stare in awe at the beautiful Ornate Hawk Eagle that had just flown in. It was perched in the sunshine against a blue sky on a high dead snag. It was back on to start with before a quick jump and shuffle had it facing us and showing off the oversized monkey-grabbing feet and wickedly curved talons. We watch it and it watched us for the next twenty minutes or so before the ticking clock said that we should really press on. What an encounter.
|Ornate Hawk Eagle
Noisy, chattering Carmiol’s Tanagers moved through but with them was a new Tanager species – the Tawny Crested. Mostly they looked black but every now and then you would get a male perched up and the mustard yellow crown stripe would be flared taking it from quite dull to striking. While watching these I got lucky and saw a tiny Pygmy Squirrel slide down a branch and out of sight. It was so dinky and sorry I forgot to mention that Angie saw one at AOL the previous evening.
Our ‘up path’ became a ‘down path’ which meant at some stage we would a) meet the river and b) have to climb back up again but it was worth all the effort and slight trepidation about getting back in the dark if we were not careful as the Rio Celeste was just magical. It flowed effortlessly through its boulder strewn bed in a milky torrent that glowed with the aquamarine blue that I had only seen in pictures of glacial ice melt.
However, the colouring is not caused by a chemical substance tinting the water, but rather it is a perception created by the scattering of sunlight and reflected by the riverbed. Most of the rocks on the river’s bottom are covered by a substance composed of aluminosilicates – a combination of aluminium, silicon and oxygen – that are capable of absorbing all colours, except blue, present in sunlight. The rejected blue rays of sunlight create a visual sensation in the human eye of “blue water.”
The last bit of the climb back up was a bit of a slog in poor light but with the blue waters and the Hawk-eagle to sustain us it was just a pleasure to be out in the jungle. I was back marking and almost walked past a green Eyelash Viper curled on a leaf at about waist level right alongside the path. Just how the entire party had got past it without knocking the leaf I just do not know!
There was time to freshen up before a swanky dinner complete with waiter service and an attempt at haute cuisine. The food was great and I ordered a big fat steak which was done to perfection and served with half a grilled plantain, four taro chips and a couple of bits of fried spaghetti which was a little odd.
Time for the log and a half hearted attempt to look for frogs around the pond which revealed several pointy nosed ones that I now think are Rocket Frogs sitting on lily pads and a splodge of Treefrog eggs glued to the underside of an overhanging leaf. You could even see the micro tadpoles wiggling around.
Cicadas were going full tilt as usual and Dink Frogs incessantly called but sleep was, once again, not a problem.