Thursday 9 June 2022

Costa Rica Day 14 - 26th March 2022

Several of us had been feeling under the weather since the altitudinal climb to Savegre and Dad had a particularly rough night and so I left him sleeping when I went out for my pre breakfast walk.  The Spotted Wood-Quails were vocal once again but tantalisingly out of view while I found the party of Rose-breasted Grosbeaks in the fruit trees with several Flame-coloured Tanagers. Mountain Elaenias, Wilson’s Warblers and Yellowish Flycatchers were foraging and Silkies flicked between the tree tops.

Flame-coloured Tanager

Long-tailed Silky Flycatcher

Volcano HB

Wilson's Warbler

Dad opted to stay behind today and so after Ramon had secured him some future lunch, we left the valley and made our way to Paraiso Quetzal. The Hummers were on fine form and we spent the first ten minutes ogling at the marvellous spectacle of Talamanca, Fiery throated, Green Violetear and Volcanos zipping past our faces. Getting them to catch the light is the trick and when they do they explode into colour.

Fiery throated HB

Green Violetear

Talamanca & Fiery Throated HB

Note that the female Talamanca has a decurved bill


Volcano HB

White-throated Mountain Gem - female


Our guide took us down into the planted formal gardens but the female Quetzal had been predated in the nest box overnight so we were without that opportunity but there were ample other rewards to be had.  Golden-browed Chlorophonia were calling up the hillside before eventually dropping down into the bushes in front to feed on the Mistletoe-like berries.  The greens are so vivid!  Getting a picture of one without a berry is a bit of a task though.

Golden-browed Chlorophonia 

We had been told that a couple of Peg-billed Finches had been seen in the same area but this species is seemingly almost mythical in the randomness of its high altitude appearances.  Lodge gardens are not normally the sort of place to look for them but suddenly one popped out in front of me and I quickly got Steve on to it. To all intents and purposes it looked like a Slaty Flowerpiercer without the hook tipped bill.

Peg-billed Finch

Black-billed and Ruddy-capped Nightingale-thrushes hopped around the borders with Large Footed Brushfinches, Slaty Flowerpiercers and Sooty, Mountain and Clay-coloured Thrushes.  Rufous Collared Sparrows, Blue & White Swallows and Mountain Elaenias were seen as we slowly walked back up the slope to the Lodge before being led into the forest trail alongside.

Black-billed Nightingale-thrush

Ruddy-capped Nightingale-thrush

Slaty Flowerpiercer

Sooty Thrush

Sooty Thrush

I was near the back and missed a Spotted Wood-Partridge on the path but very soon had seen a pair of Black and Yellow Phainoptila (they used to be the other Silky Flycatcher) and heard a Sooty Thrush. A Black-faced Solitaire was singing deeper in and a flock of familiar high pitched parroty calls eventually revealed themselves to be Barred Parakeets and the penny dropped as I used to have a small group of these starling size parrots back in the day.  They used to be called Lineolated Parakeets – and will always be Linnies to me.  Seeing them perched is nigh on impossible and I was just content to see them whizzing over the canopy like little green waders.

We tried unsuccessfully for Tapaculo before turning back and it looked like we had also missed out on Ochraceous Pewee again but then Sally said ‘What’s that Flycatcher?’ Ta dah! It looked like a big Tufted Flycatcher and is a real localised speciality of this area.

Ochraceous Pewee

A Fiery-throated HB zipped around my feet and was actually attending a very strange and alien plant that I presume is some sort of parasite.  It looked like a bunch of fat bloated purple fingers poking from the ground with a ring of tiny pink waxy flowers around each one.  

Corynaea crassa - hemi-parasitic - sometimes called Peruvian Viagra!

We had a nice light lunch and after some more quality Hummingbird time I decided to walk back down the slope into the gardens where I found two Peg-billed Finches feeding on small berries.  Given how rarely Steve has seen the species it seemed prudent to get in as much time as possible. Both Nightingale-thrushes were taking food to their prospective nests and Yellow-thighed Brush-finches crashed about a little way down the gardens.

Talamanca pushing off a Fiery-throated

Talamanca pushing off a Fiery-throated

Volcano Battles

Fiery-throated HB blazing

Green Violetear

Slo Mo HBs - volume up - all very odd!


Black-billed Nightingale-thrush

Black-billed Nightingale-thrush

Black-billed Nightingale-thrush

Peg-billed Finch

Peg-billed Finch

Peg-billed Finch

Ruddy Capped Nightingale-thrush

Ruddy Capped Nightingale-thrush

                                                           Peg-billed Finch

A shout from Jules had me scurrying back up the slope where she had found a dapper little Dunnock-like Lincoln’s Sparrow near the Hummer feeders.  Thankfully it was still there and was quite content in its fruiting elder.  It was not until we mentioned it to the guides on site that we understood just how rare a bird this was for Costa Rica.  They flew out of the door…  It seems like the last twitchable one was in 2010 and over the next few days birders travelled across the country to connect with this North American vagrant.

Lincoln’s Sparrow

With a few minutes left I went and sat on the roadside looking down into the forest where the male Resplendent Quetzal flew across the gap with his tail waggling behind and a movement at eye level revealed the head of a female Black and Yellow Phainoptila sitting on her nest just a few feet away.  The male came in and they did a nest change and so I left them to it which coincided with the ‘get on the bus!’ wave.

Black and Yellow Phainoptila - female on nest

Black and Yellow Phainoptila -  the male

Long-tailed Silky Flycatcher

The cloud was coming down and it felt like the rest of the day would be a write off but not far up the road we turned down a seemingly random track known as the Providencia Road.  It was raining quite persistently but we had coats and brollies and started to walk back up the road in an attempt to find birds in the dripping cloud forest and immense stands of swaying Bamboo.  Our first flock contained Sooty Crowned Chlorospingus, Ruddy Treerunners and Black-throated Green warbler and Band Tailed Pigeons were singing around us in the murk.

Mountain Thrush

Two Quetzals were singing either side of the road and one of the males came down to the slope where a Tapaculo sang and a Mountain Thrush perched up on an appropriately mossy branch. One of our targets was Bare-shanked Screech Owl and we could hear one ‘pooping’ up the slope and suddenly it appeared in the gap in front surrounded by dripping moss. It glared down at us with amber eyes before flying over our heads and set about preening on a branch in the gloom.  It was much bigger than I was expecting.  There were smiles all round at this unexpected encounter although I did get a full ten points from the group for my tumble, forward roll, protect camera, regain feet and keep jogging as I scurried up the slippery road to see it.  I was muddy but intact!

Bare-shanked Screech Owl

                             Bare-shanked Screech Owl - Ramon Vargas Monge

An imposing Black Guan was suddenly silhouetted against the sky in a tree at eye level before dropping off and zooming down slope in a rattle of stiff wing feathers – a welcome addition.  Suddenly a flock of passerines came down to the road and we spent the next half hour following them back and forth.  A Peg-billed Finch was an almost unsurprising start before we had to start going through the other birds with Wilson’s, Flame-throated and Black-cheeked Warblers, little gingery Ochraceous Wrens, Black-capped and Mistletoe Flycatchers, Ruddy Treerunners and a very plain Philadelphia-type Vireo without any yellow underneath appears to have been a Warbling.

A big Furnariid popped up from behind a trunk but I had no problems this time with its name – a Buffy Tuftedcheek.  This one was a real show stealer and we watched it rummaging around with its head buried in the heart of the bromeliads.  You could easily see how it got its name.

Buffy Tuftedcheek

Clubmoss I presume


With the cloud becoming more rain-like we got back on the bus and headed back to base but with one more stop before dinner – Miriam’s.  A most welcome cup of hot chocolate was taken while watching the active feeding station.  Acorn Woodpeckers came and went and Flame-coloured Tanagers, Rufous-collared Sparrows and Sooty Capped Chlorospingus were constantly on view along with Wilson’s and Tennessee Warblers and occasional drop ins from Sooty Thrush, Melodious Blackbird and even a pair of Yellow-bellied Siskins dropped in to feast on tiny berries. A Montane Squirrel also came in for a banana.

 Acorn Woodpeckers 

Flame-coloured Tanager

Rufous-collared Sparrow

Sooty Thrush

Melodious Blackbird

Sooty Capped Chlorospingus

Talamanca and Fiery-throated HBs were on the bottles and Slaty Flowerpiercers showed on the Cannas to just a few feet at times.  Large Footed Brush-finches shuffle-hopped below us and a Band Tailed Pigeon actually perched up where we could get a look at it and although it was a fair way off you could see the yellow bill and white nape crescent.

Slaty Flowerpiercer

Slaty Flowerpiercer

Yellow-bellied Siskin - Andy Reid

Band Tailed Pigeon

Red-tailed Squirrel Squirrel

Large Footed Brush-finch

Papaya fruit

Papaya flowers

The rain was still lightly falling as we made our way back down the rest of the valley to Savegre where dad was waiting to greet us up by the rooms.  It was good to see him back on his feet again.

Swirling White-collared Swifts screaming in the lowering cloud ended up another fine day.

White-collared Swifts 

New Birds: * = life tick ** = new to Costa Rica but previously seen elsewhere

79: Peg-billed Finch*

80: Barred Parakeet*

81: Ochraceous Pewee*

82: Lincoln’s Sparrow*

83: Warbling Vireo*

84: Bare-shanked Screech Owl*

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