Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Costa Rica: The Hummingbirds of Monteverde

We visited 2 spots in Montverde that had hummingbird feeders for people to watch and enjoy the various hummingbirds.  The first spot we visited was the feeders at the cafe/coffee shop just outside of the entrance to the Monteverde Preserve.  The second spot we visited was the feeders at Selvatura which is another great birding spot near Monteverde.  However, this location also caters to tourists and zip-lining was probably one of the more popular activities they offered.  Some of the hummingbirds at Selvatura were very friendly and showed no fear on landing on your fingers while feeding at the feeders.  That in itself, is worth the visit.  

 Green-crowned Brilliant - Male

 Green-crowned Brilliant - Male

 Green-crowned Brilliant - Male

Green-crowned Brilliant - Female

 Lesser Violetear

 Purple-throated Mountain-gem - Juvenile

 Purple-throated Mountain-gem - Female

 Purple-throated Mountain-gem - Male

Purple-throated Mountain-gem - Male

Purple-throated Mountain-gem - Female

 Violet Saberwing

 Violet Saberwing

Violet Saberwing

 Coppery-headed Emerald

 Coppery-headed Emerald

Coppery-headed Emerald

 Green Thorntail - Female

Green Thorntail - Male

Green Hermit

The hummingbirds are definitely friendly!

Here are a couple of videos that show how friendly and trustworthy these hummers can be at the feeders.  Definitely a highlight in my life to have hummingbirds perched on my hands!  Unfortunately, the zipliners occasionally passed overhead at these feeders, so there is some unwanted and distracting zipping sounds in these videos.

Monteverde is definitely a place to put on your list if you have any plans to visit Costa Rica in the future.  I will have more, but different, hummingbirds coming up in some later posts from some places we visited elsewhere in Costa Rica.   

Monday, July 24, 2017

Costa Rica: Arenal to Monteverde

Our third 3-night destination was Monteverde, which is reality not far from Arenal Lodge Observatory as the crow flies.  However, traveling there would have taken about 8 hours on a bus.  But we found that there is a method that can shorten that distance to about 3 hours or so.  At Arenal Lodge, we signed up for the Jeep-Boat-Jeep trip.  This was really a fun option as it took us from Arenal Lodge to a spot on the shore of Lake Arenal where we boarded a boat that took us across the lake to another makeshift landing spot on the other side of the lake and then another transport over land on some back roads that eventually led us to the small community of Monteverde which is situated in the mountain cloud forests of Costa Rica.

Monteverde is well known for its Resplendent Quetzal, a bird that has been on my wish list, since forever!  So this stop was a must for me and was the focal point for our visit to Monteverde.  Located in mountain cloud forest meant that clouds rolled in and out creating foggy conditions throughout the day.  Our first morning was a trip to the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve, a known location for the quetzal.  We took the trail that was recommended and we found many other birds of interest but not the quetzal.  Once we returned to the beginning, Chris visited with one of the security guards there and he generously took some time to take us back in the forest and sure enough, he helped us find the Resplendent Quetzal.  My photos are of a juvenile and not an adult and with poor lighting, I had to concede that calendar photos were not going to happen, but just seeing the bird was a big thrill!

Resplendent Quetzal

Here are a few other species that we found in the Monteverde area.

Common-Tody Flycatcher

 White-eared Ground-Sparrow

White-eared Ground-Sparrow

Gray-breasted Wood-Wren

 Yellowish Flycatcher

Slaty-backed Nightingale-Thrush

 Common Chlorospingus

 Costa Rican Warbler

Orange-bellied Trogon

Red-crowned Ant-Tanager

However, I did add one more life bird to my list on this Jeep-Boat-Jeep trip, the Swallow-tailed Kite.  Hope to eventually add this species to my United States and ABA list, but for now I will take it!

Swallow-tailed Kite

Was going to include the hummingbirds from Monteverde, but think I will have to do an exclusive post on just the hummingbirds.  That will be completed much faster than this last post. I got a bit side tracked with other commitments, so hope to do better in the future to get this trip completely posted.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Costa Rica: Cano Negro Wildlife Refuge

During our stay at Arenal Observatory Lodge & Spa, we took advantage of a day trip to Cano Negro Wildlife Refuge that located about 2 hours north and is very close to the border with Nicaragua.  This is an amazing place of slow moving rivers and marshes and lagoons and it is prime habitat for many water birds.  This day trip was actually listed as a wildlife/nature trip.  The 3 of us along with 13 others boarded a bus (very comfy by the way!) and traveled through the countryside where we saw fields of pineapples and plantains among other crops.  We made a stop about midway in the small town of Muelle San Carlos.  We had a chance to visit the local restaurant Centro Tuistico Las Iguanas.  Just that name will tell you what this place is famous for: Iguanas!  As we were making our way to the bridge to view the iguanas in the trees, we were treated to a male and female Red-Legged Honeycreepers.  This bird was quickly becoming a favorite of mine!

Red-legged Honeycreeper - Male

Red-legged Honeycreeper - Female

But the iguanas were very impressive themselves!  They are quite large and the locals call iguanas 'chickens of the trees', because (get this!), they taste like chicken!!  These are Green Iguanas.

After this stop we headed on to Cano Negro Wildlife Refuge and once we arrived, we embarked on a boat ride on the slow moving Rio Frio.  What we quickly discovered was the fact that we were the only birders on board this boat.  The rest of the 13 were just interested in wildlife, especially mammals, which we did encounter as you will see.  But they got very intrigued with some of the birds that we saw and observed.  Always great to get others enthused about our avian world.  

 Amazon Kingfisher


Black-headed Trogon

 Golden-hooded Tanager

This next bird was a highly prized bird for me on this trip, a Great Potoo.  It is nocturnal, but during the day it will perch on a tree snag and freeze and look just like an extension of the tree snag or branch.  Would be very easy to overlook for many people.  When nesting they lay a single egg on the top of a snag and that is where it is incubated and the chick is hatched.  How they manage all of that without the egg or the chick falling off is incredible. 

 Great Potoo

 Mangrove Swallow

Red-billed pigeon

As I mentioned earlier, this trip was a wildlife adventure and focused on a lot more than just birds.  Now you get to enjoy the mammals and a few reptiles that we also got to see on this boat ride.

We had Mantled Howler Monkeys at many spots in Costa Rica, but our guides were quick to get us onto this one in this location.  It is a red color morph of this species and they claim that there are only 2 known red-morph howler monkeys in Costa Rica; this one and another in the southwest on Osa Peninsula. The vibrant color of this male was outstanding and he did have a normal colored female with him.  My 4th photo of the howler monkeys show the normal color, however that photo was taken elsewhere.
 Mantled Howler Monkey - Red morph

Mantled Howler Monkey - normal coloration

We also were treated to a fairly large group of White-throated Capuchin monkeys.  They were a lot of fun to watch as they moved through the forest, occasionally showing themselves and it included at least one female with a baby.

 White-throated Capuchin

The third and final monkey species that we got to view was this Spider Monkey.  It was sleeping on a branch and not showing any activity.  Might say it was acting a bit like a sloth.

Spider Monkey

Speaking of sloths, our guides knew exactly where to find one and point it out to us.  We had to look quickly to make sure it did not get away from us and hide in the trees!  HaHa!  Have always wanted to see a sloth and it really is cool.

3-Toed Sloth

This next mammal is one that we never would have seen without our very experienced guides.  These are Probiscus Bats and they are nocturnal.  They spend their days on the undersides of tree trunks and branches where they are hanging upside down.  Very well camouflaged.  

 Proboscis Long-nosed Bat

In the reptile department, we got to see a few Green Basilisk Lizards.  They are really cool and note their extremely long tails.  They are nick-named the 'Jesus Christ Lizard' for their ability to 'walk on water'.  They can run across the surface of water for quite a long distance.

 Green Basilisk Lizard

This is also an area where Spectacled Caiman are common.  They can lie in the water almost undetected such as the one in the first photo.  Occasionally, they will bask in the sun on the banks.

 Spectacled Caiman

This day trip was outstanding for birds and mammals and reptiles and was well worth the cost.  If you ever get to Costa Rica and get the opportunity to make a visit to Cano Negro, I would highly recommend it.