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Part 4:  La Paz Waterfall Garden

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Illustrated and Audio Bird List


I was really shot after this adventure, but it was a glorious day!  German was my driver, and because we had to leave so early to get to La Paz Waterfall Gardens by eight, I tried to talk him out of stopping for breakfast, but he insisted (“Just check this place out!”), and little did I know that it was gonna be a “soda” that was known for its feeders!  (Looking up EBird hotspots later, I think this was the Mirador la Cascada, based on pictures of the view I found on the Internet that were identical to mine J…)  We picked up Silver-throated Tanager, the endemic Coppery-headed Emerald, and Slate-throated Redstart for the trip!  (I suspected what I was hearing was the latter, so I played the app and he came shooting right in!)  Old friends such as Violet Saberwing and Rufous-tailed Hummingbird also showed up, along with Clay-colored Thrush and Blue-gray and Palm Tanagers, but not the hoped-for Emerald Toucanet.  But he spotted one of the best birds of the trip hiding “in the open” back in the trees:  a Buff-fronted Quail Dove!

View from Mirador la Cascada

What it looked like that afternoon when we returned!

German enjoys a cup of cocoa with the owner

Shooting a Green-crowned Brilliant with his IPhone

Once at La Paz he begged off going in so he could do some local birding (he really wanted that toucanet ☺), so he dropped me off and I explored the hummer area first, where I added Black-bellied Hummer, both White-bellied and Purple-throated Mountaingems, and Green Thorntail and Hermit to the list.  Green-crowned Brilliants were probably the most common, but there were also lots of Coppery-headed Emeralds and a few saberwings, but the Bananaquits were also getting into the act!  The staff girls came out with their little hand-held feeders (as that’s one of the big draws here), and I insisted they hold them so I could take pictures! J  After awhile the tourists and kids started to show up, and it was a hoot watching them feeding the hummers and taking pictures (I smiled at the thought that this little two-year-old being held by Daddy probably didn’t register that he was getting his life Black-bellied Hummer and Green Thorntail in his face)!  One of the things the staffers encouraged was holding the feeders in such a way that the hummers would sit on your fingers while drinking – that was a big hit!  I got a kick out the fact that as the staffers were invariably asked to take pictures for the tourists, they’d stick the little feeders in their pants pocket for safe-keeping, and the birds would still come and sneak a drink! J  Even when I would put my own down on the bench long enough to do some shooting, they’d take a “seat” on the bench themselves and sip away!

The friendly staff shows us how it's done!

No need for a telephoto lens here!  (With Green-crowned Brilliant)

This Violet Saberwing will grab a sip whether I'm holding it or not!

While the staffer is occupied taking a picture for some tourists, a Coppery-headed Emerald sneaks a sip...

Will this little guy remember his first Black-bellied Hummer and Green Thorntail??

Making friends with a female Brilliant

After having my fill of that (I think the big group of pre-teens came in at that point) I poked into the aviary, outside of which was a tray of fruit that was being attacked by a group of Common Chlorospingii and a Rufous-collared Sparrow!  (I gathered they left it there on purpose and it wasn’t a tray that a keeper forgot to take in, as it was still there later…)  Inside the aviary they had the famous tame toucans, Bob and Harry, so I got my “pet fix” while warning Bob not to even think about playing with my glasses J (and one of the staff insisted on taking my picture while “preening” Bob)!  The time in there was all too short, but other folks were coming in wanting their turn, so I ventured into the aviary proper, thinking that I’d get to the lower levels later (it was starting to drip), but never did; in the meantime I shot Golden-hooded and Bay-headed Tanagers and Red-legged Honeycreepers at the feeders (all their captive wildlife is native to Costa Rica).

A pair of Common Chlorospingus having a spat...

Getting a "pet fix" with Bob the Toucan

After that I tackled the La Paz and Fern Trails, which looked flat on the map – NOT!  They were beautiful, going through lush cloudforest habitat and giving great views of the roaring Rio La Paz, but they were all stairs!  (I didn’t think I’d need my stool as I figured a place like that, from its description, would have a lot of benches – not along these trails!  I was very glad I at least brought my stick!)  Down at the bottom there was a Dipper that posed for pictures, and a Louisiana Waterthrush that came tearing in to drive out a rival, and then he sang for good measure!  (Was really surprised I didn’t bag a Torrent Tyrannulet along there…)  Throughout the hike Slaty-backed Nightingale Thrushes were singing, and at one point one even hopped out on the path!  (I can see why they’d be mistaken for Sooty Thrushes, though:  even though the thing was at point-blank range, it looked all dark with a dark eye, but upon closer scrutiny you could make out paler coloration on the underparts, plus the fact that their ranges don’t overlap…)  I was thrilled to hear a Black-faced Solitaire at one point, and finally one of the many uncooperative feeding flocks came down to eye level which included Silver-throated Tanager and another chlorospingus, but the star of the show was a Spangle-cheeked Tanager!  A Gray-breasted Wood Wren suddenly exploded in song from the same spot and gave a very brief look, and at least heard the Sooty-faced Finch, so I could “tick” off all three of the highland endemic finches!  At the next rest stop (I finally started just sitting on the stairs) heard a distant Scale-crested Pygmy Tyrant, and at another rest stop a Slate-throated Redstart came in along with a furnarid that totally stumped me:  at first I thought it was a small woodcreeper, but it then became obvious it was one of those furnarids that like to creep around the trunks like a woodcreeper, but it looked streaked on the head and breast, and had a rather longish bill.  In all honesty, with its rapid movements, I couldn’t tell if it was truly streaked (Lineated Foliagegleaner) or spotted (Spotted Barbtail), and according to the Finding Birds in Costa Rica book, both can occur there (although he says the barbtail is more common, and I think that’s what my friend Pat had there, too); that’s the jewel that got away!

Heading down the hill towards the river

Rio La Paz

La Paz Trail

Was time for lunch after that, so after finally finding a restaurant that was open, got that taken care of, then went looking for the butter enclosure, shooting a Ruddy Pigeon on top of a tree in the process.  Got pretty turned around (and having to go up and down the hills constantly was a challenge; reminded me of the San Diego Zoo...), but eventually found the place and shot some more native species and played with their morphos; added Whitened Bluewing, Thoas Swallowtail, White-patched and Tiger Leafwings, Gray and Variable Crackers, and what I’m calling a Linnaean Owlet at this point to the photo list; most everything else they had I'd actually seen in the wild already!  Checked out the hummer area one last time, but it was getting more crowded, so after shooting some things that were regularly retreating to their perch (I had cottoned onto the fact that those make much better photos than the ones at the feeders, as the feeders themselves reflect too much light), I headed on up to the top.  German was already there, but he had dipped on the toucanet, so we stopped at the diner again, and this time the view was socked in!  After about 15 minutes no toucanet came in (although a Black-and-white Warbler made an appearance), so we headed on, but as he was talking on the phone he suddenly banged on the dashboard, hung up, and pulled over – he had spotted a brilliant White Hawk sitting in a tree at eye level!  What spotting!  (Actually, he admitted he had been expecting and looking for one along there for quite some time…)  At a gas stop down near the bottom we picked up Blue-and-white Swallows for the trip, and nearly ran down several Ruddy Ground Doves!

Main road

Another "pet fix" with a Common Morpho

 Part 1: Rancho Naturalista

  Part 2: Paraiso Quetzales

  Part 3: Selva Verde Lodge

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