We stayed three nights at Rancho Naturalista, a birding lodge in the Central Caribbean foothills of Cartago province. Here is the main lodge, where we had our meals and where some of our group had rooms.
From the entrance, we could walk through to our dining area.
We ate outside on the covered veranda.
This is the lounge where we met to go over our birds lists. We saw over 130 species of birds around the lodge as well as in the general area.
Our room was in a separate cabin, a short walk from the main lodge.
Every morning, we would start our birding with our coffee or hot drink, up on the deck overlooking the garden.
Here’s a view of the garden and one of their hummingbird feeders. White-necked Jacobins were the most plentiful hummingbird.
The deck also overlooked the mountains and the valley below the lodge. This is a Crested Guan, which mostly stays in the trees which is surprising for its size. It was feeding on fruit in a tree about a hundred metres away from the deck.
This is a Lesson’s Motmot, a species we saw several times on the trip. Most motmots have long racquet-tipped tails which they swing like pendulums.
It was a treat to see this Crimson-collared Tanager because while they are fairly common throughout the Caribbean lowlands and foothills, we only saw them twice on the trip.
We saw many Golden-hooded Tanagers throughout the trip and enjoyed looking at each one with their distinctive colouring.
One morning after breakfast, we walked up farm roads to a more open pasture area.
We found a spot that had good views of the surrounding trees, because we were hoping to see a cotinga. We waited quite a while with nothing happening, so Wendy walked up a bit from the group, following the sound of a small flycatcher. She recorded its call so she could study the recording to help identify the bird. On a whim, she played the recording back and the bird responded by flying closer and perching nearby. Soon after, Doug joined her in the shade and she played the recording again. The Yellow-bellied Flycatcher perched close enough for Doug to get this photo. Yellow-bellied Flycatchers are the most common migrant empid. flycatcher around, spending its winters in the tropics and its summers in Canada, but they are not found southeastern BC where we live.
We spotted a Keel-billed Toucan way up in a tree along the skyline.
The toucan was so far away (about 200 metres) that the best view of it was through the scope. In the photo below, Wendy is taking a picture with her iPhone through the scope (digiscoping.) The photo was okay, but not as good as the one that Doug took with his telephoto lens.
We walked down from the pasture and along the road and then up to a house off the main road. They had planted verbena bushes to attract hummingbirds. Here is a photo of the photographers trying to get that perfect shot.
This is Doug’s photo of a Rufous-tailed Hummingbird, sipping from the purple verbena flowers.
This little hummingbird is aptly called a Snowcap. It’s a little smaller than the Rufous Hummingbird that we have in the summer in BC. It also liked to visit the verbena flowers and the perches of the nearby bushes. We also saw a Black-crested Coquette, but it was very skittish and difficult to photograph.
After lunch, we took a bus ride to the La Angostura Reservoir.
We saw a Collared Aracari in a tree alongside of the road. It is in the same family as the toucan but a little smaller (about 40 cm).
As we worked our way along the road, we had better views of the water. There were distant views of Great and Snowy Egrets, Great Blue, Little Blue and Green Herons along with a Limpkin (a new bird for us.)
These Black-bellied Whistling Ducks looked comical perched in a tree. They nest in large hollows or holes in trees and often perch in trees.
This female Ringed Kingfisher perched near the water. Ringed Kingfishers are the largest kingfisher in the Americas (about 40 cm in comparison to the Belted which is 33 cm).
After breakfast the next day, we stopped at a spot on the road that overlooked a ravine. We were almost even with the upper branches of a tall fruit-bearing tree. We waited for about half an hour before a cotinga arrived. This beautiful blue-coloured cotinga is called a Lovely Cotinga, and was a new bird for us. It’s a rather chunky bird, that is just a little shorter than an American Robin.
The bus took us to another birding spot where we walked on a road beside the Tuis River. There was one place where we could access the river and check for Black Phoebes and American Dippers. (which we saw)
This Black-and-White Warbler was feeding along the sides of a branch of a tree near the riverbank.
This Collared Trogan allowed us good views of its beautiful back, but we couldn’t convince it to turn around and show us its reddish belly.
On our way back to our lodge, the bus took us to another birding “hotspot;” a bridge crossing a small, swiftly moving stream. A pair of Sunbitterns had made a nest on a branch over the stream which was about thirty metres from the bridge. We also saw a pair of Torrent Tyrannulets foraging at the stream’s edge. We waited awhile, but the Sunbittern stayed on the nest. It was fortunate that the birds chose to build a nest so close to a bridge and we would have been extremely lucky if it also chose to display its beautiful wings.
Later that afternoon, we took a trail from behind the cabins into the rainforest surrounding the lodge and walked along the edge of a ravine.
Below us, our local guide spotted a pair of Rufous Motmots on a branch overhanging the ravine. Here’s a photo of one of them. Motmots tend to stay still for long periods while they scan their surroundings for suitable prey – large invertebrates and small reptiles and amphibians. It is unusual to take a photo of a bird from above and it was tricky to get a view that was unobstructed by leaves and branches.
Further along the trail, our guide found a spot where two Crested Owls were roosting. We were quite a ways from them on the trail so they weren’t bothered by us, although it might be hard to tell from their expressions. They were the same species that we saw two days before.
After seeing the owls, we headed down another trail to the “Hummingbird Pools.” The trail winds along the sides of a steep canyon and ends at a viewing platform where you can see the pools in the stream below. We saw a hummingbird (a Crowned Wood-nymph) bathing in the shallow pools, and other birds also came to drink at the stream, but it was too dark to take good photos.
The next day we headed to the Talamanca Highlands and our next blog will be about our next few days at higher elevations.