This blog is an account of our two night stay at Talari Mountain Lodge near San Isidro de El General.
We left Trogon Lodge and worked our way south on the Inter-American highway. Our first birding stop was on a roadway to a communications tower at about 3400 metres, near Cerro de la Muerte. This area was close to treeline and was covered with shrubs and dwarf bamboo. Clouds enveloped the surrounding hills.
This area was home to the Volcano Junco. The yellow eyes of this endemic bird made it seem angry.
This Black-cheeked Warbler lived in the same habitat, and is also an endemic bird to the region. It also shared the “angry bird” look when viewed head-on. (See the second photo)
After trying to persuade a wren to show itself, (it was not cooperative), we hopped back on the bus and headed south to lower elevations. We stopped at a small lodge called Bosque del Tolomuco. The owners have worked hard to cultivate bushes and plants that attract birds, especially hummingbirds. In the photo below, some of the group is walking down the steep driveway from the main area.
In the trees down by the hut, we saw a group of these Elegant Euphonias. This is one of the males.
The bushes on the side of the driveway were full of hummingbirds. Here’s a small White-tailed Emerald, a hummingbird that is only found in Costa Rica and Panama.
Here’s a male White-throated Mountain-Gem. (There was a photo of the female White-throated Mountain-Gem in the previous blog.)
This Scintillant Hummingbird is very small, only 5 – 11 cm long. The male has a beautiful orange-red throat.
The garden was home to many hummingbirds that are only found in this region, and this female Volcano Hummingbird is another one of them.
Green-crowned Brilliants prefer to perch to feed rather than hover.
This Violet Sabrewing zipped in and out so much that it was difficult to get a photo. Its wings were really pointed.
This is a Silver-throated Tanager which liked to visit the fruit feeders.
The bird on the left is a Speckled Tanager.
A Rose-breasted Grosbeak also visited the feeder for a few moments.
And we were lucky enough to see these capuchin monkeys, grooming each other in a tree near one of the outbuildings.
The next stop was lunch at a rustic restaurant (Traphiche de Nayo). Here’s a photo of our Cranbrook friends with their freshly squeezed pineapple juice.
And here we are with a view of the other side of the restaurant. Behind us are artifacts and a poster explaining the traditional ox-driven sugar cane press.
Doug chose the “Costa Rican” plate with chicken. The only concern we had about the food throughout the whole trip was that the portions were so big. We resorted to sharing a lunch on some of the days.
That afternoon we reached Talari Mountain Lodge. The rooms were simple, yet comfortable. The signs were made of reused tires, which were cut into shapes and decorated.
We ate in a huge open air room. Here the group is getting ready to go over our daily list of bird sightings.
The next morning, we went out birding as usual.
Perhaps the photographers were trying for a photo of a Long-billed Starthroat in the photo above.
A couple of Scaled Pigeons were also nearby. Here’s one of them.
Also up in the treetops was a Turquoise Cotinga.
We had never seen a White-crowned Parrot before coming here, although they are fairly common in the lowlands and middle elevations of Costa Rica.
Talari Mountain Lodge is on the Rio General, so we could look down at the riverbank. Here is a Crested Caracara. It was competing with a Black Vulture for some sort of prey and at this moment, the vulture was the one with the food.
We found this Pale-billed Woodpecker in a tree near our cabins. It is similar in shape and size to the Pileated Woodpeckers that we have in Canada. Its distinguishing characteristics are its pale bill, its red head and the white “V” on its back.
This Streaked Flycatcher was gathering nesting material.
The dining room was situated on a hillside that gave us views of the forest on two sides. We spent some time looking for hummingbirds in the flowering bush below, but only caught glimpses.
After breakfast on the first morning at Talari Mountain Lodge, our bus driver drove us a short ways to Los Cusingos Bird Refuge.
We saw outdoor hand-washing stations everywhere we went in Costa Rica. The one at the entrance to the refuge was unique.
This morning, a grasshopper caught our attention.
The forest at Los Cusingos was full of these peculiar-looking trees. They are Socratea exorrhiza, the walking palm or cashapona, and they have unusual stilt or buttress roots. The roots allow the tree to cover a wider area for collecting nutrients in the nutrient-poor tropical forest soil, and they prevent the tree from falling over.
Near the canopy of the forest, our guide spotted this Rufous Piha. The piha is in the cotinga family.
This Brown-billed Scythebill is a kind of woodcreeper, with a strongly decurved bill.
This Golden-crowned Spadebill also has a name derived by the shape of its bill. Its an uncommon flycatcher in Costa Rica, so we were lucky to see it.
Here’s a photo of the group taking pictures of the Golden-crowned Spadebill. You can see how tricky it is to get a camera focussed on a small bird with so many trees and people nearby.
After our forest walk, we spent some time looking at the former home of Dr. Alexander Skutch, a pioneer researcher of neo-tropical birds. His whole 78 hectare (192 acre) tropical forest property has become a bird sanctuary and his home has become a museum.
The simple house was built in the 1940s and didn’t have running water until the 1990s. Dr. Skutch was almost 100 when he died in 2004. His house has been left the way it was when he died. There were bookshelves in almost every room.
Near the back of the house, we noticed a Streak-headed Woodcreeper investigating an opening in a hollow tree.
This Grey-headed Tanager was in the front yard.
When we were working our way up the road towards the parking lot, we had a quick glimpse of a Swallow-tailed Kite. (This photo, however was taken the next day, when the bus stopped by the side of a road on our way to our next lodge.)
That afternoon we were back at Talari Mountain Lodge, and went up the mountain trail that starts right beside this shed with a old sugar cane cart.
We saw Heliconia plants in many place in Costa Rica. Heliconia rostrate, the hanging lobster claw or false bird of paradise is a perennial plant native to Costa Rica and is also found in parts of South America.
Towards the end of our birding hike in the afternoon, we noticed a number of hawks high in the sky. Soon the sky was filled with thousands of Swainson’s Hawks migrating north from their winter homes in South America. There must have been a thermal above the lodge, because the hawks circled around for several minutes before heading north. The photo below only captures a fraction of the sky.
Here are three of the hawks from a cropped and enhanced photo that Doug took. These are all showing “light adult” plumage.
We headed to Esquinas Rainforest Lodge the next morning, which will be the topic of our next blog.