We woke up this morning to the sounds of howler monkey in the distance, and after a cup of Celeste Mountain Lodge's delicious coffee, headed down the road for some birds. Before we even left the lodge, a pair of white hawks circled the hillside across from the valley. After we got off the bus about a half mile down the road, we were greeted by a snowcap, a small white-headed hummingbird, taking a quick bath in a pool of water that was all that remained of the stream we had parked next to. The snowcap was followed by a stripe-throated hermit and a crowned woodnymph, all bathing in the same spot.
White-faced Nunbirds, Photo Glenn Phillips
The call of a motmot pulled us away from the hummingbird bath. The pair of birds that eventually settled in to a tree over the road caused a little confusion, until we realized that one of the birds was a broad-billed motmot and the other was a keel-billed motmot. (One has a green head, while the other has a rufous head.) In this part of Costa Rica, the two often interbreed, as this is the only place where their ranges overlap. Someday taxonomists may tell us they are different forms of the same species, but for the moment, these two birds brought us up to four motmot species for our trip. Two more to go!
Black-cheeked Woodpecker, Photo Glen Phillips
After the motmots we got some good looks at black-faced grosbeak, carmiol's tanager, and lesser greenlet, before another collared aracari grabbed our attention. Our best bird of the morning, a pair of white-fronted nunbirds, cooperatively flew into the tree where we had watched the aracari.
After breakfast, we headed out onto the lodge's forest trail, a well-groomed path through a steep-sided canyon. Our first bird of the trail, a gray-chested dove, strutted across the path in front of us before disappearing in the understory. Further down the trail, a pair of olive-backed euphonias gathered nesting materials. Moments later we heard the first calls of the purplish-backed quail-dove, which obligingly showed up shortly after that. Also seen along the trail, slaty-tailed trogon,plain xenops, green hermit, scale-crested pygmy tyrant (a tiny flycatcher), black-cheeked woodpecker, and golden-crowned warbler.
While we enjoyed another delicious cup of coffee after lunch, a long-billed hermit systematically worked over the eaves of the lodge. We couldn't tell whether it was collecting spiderwebs for its nest, or just gleaning spiders and other small insects trapped under the eaves. The lodge's manager said we were the laziest birders he had met! We were possibly the most full after that wonderful lunch…
Thick-billed Seed Finch, one of three small black sparrows observed o our walk this afternoon.
After a short siesta, we prepared to hit the road again, delayed by another keel-billed toucan or two, and a pair of king vultures. We drove up the road to bird a patch of grassland and wetland just beyod the morning's location. Our first birds were among the most abundant at this location, dozens, if not hundreds, of variable seed-eaters. These are tiny little birds, which true to their name, feed on seeds, and are common in grasslands. Similar, and requiring careful observation to separate, were blue-black grassquit and thick-billed seed-finch. All three have black males and brown females, all three are tiny, a little smaller than a goldfinch, but each one has a different shaped bill, and a few other minor differences. Luckily, we have as our local guide, Richard Garrigues, author of Birds of Costa Rica, so we could easily tell them apart.
Digiscoped Laughing Falcon
As we moved deeper into the wetland area, our bus driver, Didier, found a laughing falcon perched in a tree, which everyone got a good look at. We also had good views of gray hawk, gray-crowned yellowthroat, olive-crowned yellowthroat, black-cheeked woodpecker and slaty spinetail. With some luck and good recording, we were able to entice a white-throated crake, a small rail, into view.
With the sun setting, we returned to the lodge. As we slowly rolled up the rocky dirt road, common paraques took flight and were visible as flashes of black and white wings in the headlights. Another delicious meal at the Celeste Mountain Lodge and a recap of the day's sightings closed out the day.
Red-legged Honeycreeper, Photo Glenn Phillips
Golden-hooded Tanager, Photo Glenn Phillips
Odd Couple? on the left a Keel Billed Motmot, on the right a Broad-billed Motmot