Rio Tigre

We had scheduled three days at the Bosque del Rio Tigre lodge, which is very much a birding lodge. And we had booked ourselves in for 11 hours of birding walks, which is a lot of birding.

We flew from San José’s Pavas Airport to Puerto Jiménez on a Twin Otter aircraft. Although the Twin Otters were built something like 30 years ago, they are still in the air. The flight itself was very interesting, because we flew quite low. We sat in the first row of seats, so we were able to watch the pilots do their pre-flight checks. From Puerto Jiménez we were picked up by a taxi and driven up the paved road, then up the dirt road. The track got progressively narrower until we drove across the river to the Bosque del Rio Tigre lodge.

March 16, 2013

The owners, Abraham and Liz, met us and Liz took us for a tour of the place. The lodge runs on solar power, so the electricity isn’t on all day. The house consisted of four rooms with a central shared bathroom. Our room was at the back of the lodge, and it was open to the outside air, so we could look directly into the surrounding lush forest. There was a mosquito net around the bed, but its main purpose was to keep random critters out of the bed in the daytime. There were also a few bats roosting in the lodge.

At 2:30 pm our guide Ulises arrived to take us on an afternoon bird walk. It was up the river, so we wore our sandals. Parts of the trail were on the land and other parts involved walking in the river. Right away we saw a pair of Slaty-tailed Trogons at their nest, which was built inside a termite nest. The female was on a branch next to the nest, and then the male popped out of the nest to join her. Farther up the trail was a Baird’s Trogon, and then we saw two pairs of Scarlet Macaws flying over. Our first Scarlet Macaws!

At the top of the trail the river narrowed into a deep gorge, a good place for swimming. The water was quite warm and very refreshing, and it must have been nearly three metres deep in some places. Paul swam up to the second pool and there just above the falls was a Fasciated Tiger-Heron.

There were a lot of other birds along the trail as well. We decided that we were looking for “dark birds in a dark forest”. We spent quite a bit of time looking for a Uniform Crake (and getting our ankles nibbled by mosquitoes) and we did find it, which was quite an achievement.

March 17, 2013

This morning we were up at 5 am, so we would be ready to leave for our early-morning bird walk at 5:40 am. We didn’t have to tiptoe around, though, because everybody else was getting up then as well. The others were going down to the village for birding, and they left before we did.

Abraham led us out of the back of the lodge and up the trail into the forest. The first thing we saw was a White-nosed Coati in a tree, but otherwise the forest was pretty quiet. And we did find several of the dark-coloured forest birds we had seen yesterday. But soon we got onto an old road which led up to a pasture area above the forest.

Here we could see a long way, and it was open country. Instead of craning our necks to look at birds overhead we could look down on them. There were five species of parrot, from Scarlet Macaw on down, and a beautiful Turquoise Cotinga. And there was a whole host of more prosaic species like Philadelphia Vireo and Plain Xenops to be seen. Abraham said the road went a long way to nowhere in particular in now, so there was nothing to see if we followed it.

On the way back down we were lucky to see a Tiny Hawk—only 20 cm long!—and near the lodge we found the famous Black-cheeked Ant-Tanager. It’s famous because it’s one of the few species which is endemic to Costa Rica, and not only that, it’s only found in a very small part of Costa Rica. When we got back to the lodge we had breakfast.

We were rather tired from the heat and the humidity, so we rested in the lodge instead of scheduling a walk for this afternoon. After the other group came back from their afternoon walk, Abraham told us that he had just found an eyelash viper a short distance up the trail. So he took a small group of us along the trail to see it. And there it was, still coiled up on a tree next to the trail only about 20 meters up from the lodge. It was a very handsome red and green specimen. And besides that there were tent bats roosting in a palm tree just out front. (They bite the leaves of palm fronds so that they fall down and form a sort of tent for them to roost in.) And we found out that the things which were crashing in the bushes last night could have been spiny rats, which we saw crashing in the bushes this afternoon.

The meals here are really good. Tonight we had grilled fresh tuna, which tasted nothing like the canned tuna.

March 18, 2003

Again we were up at 5 am for an early-morning bird walk. This morning Abraham took us through the lower trails of the lodge, past some ponds and down towards the village. We headed off down the Boat-billed Heron trail, and first we passed a big tree with many birds flitting around in the top. Abraham pointed out something like a dozen species, but we could hardly even see the birds let alone identify them. So that was very frustrating. But soon we passed some reedy ponds. We had hoped to find a Pygmy Kingfisher there, but none appeared. However at the second pond we did see the Boat-billed Heron just before it flew away.

After a while we came to some open fields at the back of the village. This was easier birding because the birds weren’t concealed in the tops of tall trees. We found quite a few species of birds there, including a Red-rumped Woodpecker which is hard to find in the area. And there was a field with a lot of different butterflies, which Rosemary spent quite a while trying to photograph. We were back at the lodge for breakfast.

After breakfast Liz asked if we would like to go on a walk looking for poison-dart frogs. So we donned rubber boots and off we went with Ulises. This involved walking up the Rio Tigre a bit and then walking in the water up a narrow side creek. The walking was very rocky and you definitely had to watch your step because some of the rocks were slippery. These weren’t just any old frogs; these were the endemic Golfo Dulce poison-dart frogs. We saw two of them, and they were elegantly coloured dark blue with orange markings. One of them was carrying tadpoles on its back. Also at the head of the creek was a lovely waterfall plunging down a mossy slope into a pool.

Later in the morning we decided to go back and look for the Pygmy Kingfisher which was supposed to be at one of the ponds we had passed this morning. It took a few minutes extra to get there, because of unmarked trails we hadn’t expected, but when we got there the kingfisher showed up almost right away. It was very hard to see, because it hid in the reeds and bushes between dives, but we did get good looks at it.

We spent the remainder of the morning sitting and periodically seeing some birds go by. The highlight was when suddenly a Fiery-billed Araçari flew down and landed on the bush in the middle of the yard. In that bush was the nest of a Cherrie’s Tanager, and the araçari snatched an egg from the nest and carried it away! You wouldn’t think that a toucan could carry an egg in its beak without breaking it, but a toucan can. We had been watching the female on the nest since we arrived, so it was a bit sad to see the egg taken. But the Cherrie’s Tanager is a very common bird so one less would not make any difference.

Our late-afternoon walk was the White-tipped Sicklebill walk. The White-tipped Sicklebill is a “hermit”, which means it’s a hummingbird which stays in the forest to feed. If you stood next to the Heliconia flowers which it prefers then you might be lucky enough to see it for two seconds as it comes in to feed, so finding it on a perch is much better. The guides had watched this bird and found out where it came to roost for the night, and then they could lead people there in the late afternoon to see the bird. And so it was today that we observed the bird at its usual time after it came to roost for the night.

We walked down to the village and then splashed up another creek for a considerable distance until we reached the sicklebill’s roosting place. Walking up the creek was tedious and once again you needed to watch your footing. We went by several gold-mining pits before we reached our stopping point. Here we sat and waited until the hummer showed up. Ulises located the bird, then we waited until it stopped bobbing its tail. Luckily we had the small camera with us, so Ulises took several photos and a video of the bird. It was worth the trip because it’s such a cool-looking bird.

Dinner tonight was dorado, which is a very meaty fish. Two of the guests who had originally been with us had departed today, and there were two new guests, father and son Dmitri and Alex. Surprisingly they weren’t birders but were here to try their luck finding gold.

March 19, 2003

We were leaving Bosque del Rio Tigre today, but there’s no rest for the wicked. We set the alarm for 4:50 am and by 5:30 am we were on the road to the mangroves. Ulises was our guide and Andy the German immigrant was driving us in a taxi. We drove down into the village and stopped by some fields which were supposed to harbour some interesting birds like Black-bellied Wren and Great Antshrike. And we did see those birds, but only after a lot of work. The antshrike was very spiffy when he appeared. The others were hiding in the dense undergrowth.

Next we stopped by a field which had a Pearl Kite roosting in a tree and Red-breasted Blackbirds in the grass. Both of them were also very spiffy birds. After a quick stop at the soccer field to find seedeaters, we arrived at our destination, Sandalo Beach. This was a beach with mangrove trees, and we were on the track of the Mangrove Hummingbird, which is only found in mangroves on the Pacific coast of Costa Rica. We did find it, and we also found the “Mangrove” variety of Yellow Warbler, which is resident in Costa Rica and doesn’t migrate.

On the way back to the lodge Rosemary spotted a spoonbill in a field beside the road, so we jammed on the brakes and backed up to see what else was there—a variety of herons, it turned out. Back at the lodge our breakfast was ready and we enjoyed a great omelet, gallo pinto, and fresh fruit. After breakfast we packed our bags and said goodbye to the other guests who were there, and then we got into Andy’s taxi for the trip to Carate, our next destination.

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Next: Carate

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