As part of our Costa Rica trip, we had booked a package trip to Savegre Lodge (in the Talamanca highlands) and Selva Verde Lodge (in the Caribbean lowlands). The package included transfers to and from San José and between the two lodges, which was great for us because we didn’t have our own transportation.
March 9, 2013
We checked out of our San José hotel and waited for our driver, who was supposed to pick us up at 11 am for the two-hour drive into the mountains. Finally at 11:20 a taxi pulled into the driveway, and to our surprise this was our ride! Well, why not a taxi? There was only the two of us and the trip was prepaid.
After we struggled through the horrific city traffic, we got out onto the Interamericana highway which climbed up and up and then followed the Continental Divide through the Talamanca Cordillera. The views would have been spectacular except that we were in clouds for most of the way. Finally we reached the turnoff to the village of San Gerardo de Dota. The road down to the village was very steep with switchbacks and mostly unpaved. At one point we met a tour bus coming up the hill, so our driver had to back up the hill until there was a place where two vehicles could pass.
Our room at the lodge was a very large suite. It had 12-foot ceilings and a huge bathroom with both a bathtub and a shower. We figured it was larger than all of the bathrooms in our house combined.
After lunch we went for a walk down the road to the waterfalls. Along the river there were people fishing, and there were several small trout farms along the road. Farther down there was a large professional-scale trout farm, and the waterfalls trail continued past that into a forested area which was very birdy. We met a group of friendly Collared Redstarts, which we soon learned were very common as well as being very pretty. The waterfalls weren’t much, but at least they were a destination.
On the way back we met a large group of people staring intently at a broken-off tree with a nest hole in it. They were waiting for its occupant, a Resplendent Quetzal, to come out, which eventually it did.
March 10, 2013
This morning we were up at 6 am to get ready for our half-day birding walk. It had been rather cold last night and we were glad we had brought sweaters with us. We met with our guide, Melvin, at the reception desk. He asked if we minded if his son came along for the morning. It was no problem for us, so he went and got him. Julian was 11 years old and was interested in becoming a guide, and he spoke English surprisingly well for an 11-year-old.
We loaded into Melvin’s 4×4 and set off up the road to find the Resplendent Quetzal. We parked in front of the school near where there were a lot of people with binoculars and scopes. It wasn’t long before we find the male quetzal in all its glory, although it was hidden quite well in its tree. We looked around that area a bit more, finding birds like Acorn Woodpecker and Yellow-bellied Siskin, and then we headed back to go walking in the lodge’s private reserve.
We climbed to about 2100 metres elevation and then continued on foot. Melvin had a good eye for birds and so did Julian. Melvin could spot a small bird in the top of a tree and get his scope pointed at it in seconds, faster than we could do it with binoculars. Forest birding is difficult, but we did find a few species. Wilson’s Warbler was very common, and perhaps some of them are the same birds which will be in our back yard in May.
But our main objective was the Costa Rican Pygmy-Owl nest which Melvin had located previously. We went up there and waited, and soon we heard an owl hooting. Before long the male owl flew in and perched on a branch high above us, and amazingly it had a small bird in its claw! As it sat on the branch it was pulling the feathers off the bird. By now two other guides with their groups had arrived so we all enjoyed watching the little owl. And then the female owl popped out of the nest hole and changed places with the male! This was quite a display of owls.
Later in the afternoon we discovered that a pair of Rufous-collared Sparrows had a nest in a tree right outside our cabin. It was interesting to watch the parents bring food to the nest, which they did more and more frequently as it started to get dark.
March 11, 2013
We had another morning of birding with Melvin today, so up at 6 am. Today we had another couple joining us, a couple from Colorado. So off we went up the road to find the quetzals again on their behalf. Only today the quetzals weren’t cooperating. After about an hour we moved farther up the road, near the Bailey bridge. From here we could see a male quetzal, except that its head was in the nest and its tail was fluttering in the breeze. Melvin did the quetzal call several times and eventually the male came out of the hole and flew away in a flash.
That was enough quetzal-hunting, so we headed back to the lodge and up to the Sendero La Quebrada. We started out with a flock of parakeets as we went up the trail, and then we started to find many of the birds we had found on yesterday’s walk. But the Rufous-browed Peppershrike and the Gray-breasted Wood-Wren were good-looking birds we hadn’t seen before. And even when we weren’t seeing birds, it was lovely walking along the leaf-strewn trail. We met the owners of the hotel out for a walk on the trail, so Melvin stopped and chatted with them. They had purchased the property in 1954, even before the road was built.
We saw quite a few Collared Trogons on this trail. Although the quetzals seem to choose nest holes at least two meters about the ground, the trogon nest that we saw was right beside the trail and not even at waist height. Melvin tried hard to coax a Wrenthrush out of the bushes in the stream gully, but it didn’t want to show itself. We said goodbye to Melvin and gave him our little Spanish-English dictionary as a learning resource for his son.
Later in the afternoon we walked down to the river, looking for Torrent Tyrannulet, which we still hadn’t seen. Still no luck with that, but on the road we did manage to find a Slaty Flowerpiercer on some red flowers. The lodge had the same red flowers, but for some reason it didn’t have any flowerpiercers. On our way back down the road Julian passed us on his way home from school and thanked us for the book.