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Part 1:  Rancho Naturalista

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Illustrated and Audio Bird List


Getting there...

Costa Rica Gateway picked me up at the airport and shuttled me to Rancho, and also shuttled me to Selva Verde Lodge when the time came.  Sonia did a great job in setting everything up, and it turns out that her hubby Juan Carlos was the driver!  The first official bird of the trip was a White-winged Dove (not very exotic when you live in South Texas), but a short stop at a shade-grown coffee plantation run by Ernesto and Linda, where we added Rufous-capped Warbler as our first "non-US" bird (well, not commonly found in the US, anyway...)

"JC" at the coffee plantation

Scene on the way to Rancho

The turnoff...

The lodge...

I was initially the only one there, and Lisa Erb (the proprietess) had put me in the Sunbittern Room, which is the one with the private deck.  But there seemed to be more action bird-wise on the main deck, so she suggested I move to the Cotinga Room, which opens right out onto the main balcony.  This worked out great, because that's also where the coffee bar was, and since they prepped the coffee machine every night, all you had to do was step outside and hit the button on the coffee-maker, no matter how early you wanted to get up!  The room itself was very spacious and comfortable (as was the bathroom), and the deck had several comfy chairs and side tables from which you could relax and watch the hummers fight over the feeders!  They also had a couple of stools at each corner of the deck, which were handy for sitting and watching the feeders down below.  The tasty meals were served promptly at 7:00am, noon, and 6:00pm, where the "dinner bell" would be rung to let you know to "come and get it"!  Since I was the only one there, Lisa and/or her hubby Mario would come keep me company.  The meals were varied and tasty with a lot of fresh fruit, but be sure to ask for the fried eggplant!

Lisa displays one of her painting in the open-air dining area!

The gourmet at work!

View from the deck chair

With afternoon clouds rolling in...

A little shower doesn't bother the hummers!

The routine...

They have a great moth light that they'll turn on the night before if you want to go down pre-dawn and check out the cool moths, and then the birds that come in to breakfast!  I did this every morning at 5:00am (except for the day we went to the mountains) and stayed put till about 6:45, when it was time to get ready for breakfast.  Apart from being blown away by the wonderful moths, regular visitors included Buff-throated Foliagegleaner, Red-throated Ant Tanager, Orange-billed Sparrow, White-breasted Wood Wren, up to four different types of woodcreepers, the signature Tawny-chested Flycatcher, and a migrant/wintering Yellow-bellied Flycatcher.  Other less common visitors included Plain Antvireo, Dusky-capped Flycatcher, Bright-rumped Attila, and what's I'm assuming was a Rufous Mourner at this point.  One-time wonders included a Mottled Owl and a Purplish-backed Quail Dove!  Unseen vocalists were a-plenty, including Keel-billed Toucan, Rufous Motmot, Dusky Antbird, Stripe-breasted Wren, Montezuma Oropendola, and two raptors:  Bicolored Hawk and Barred Forest Falcon!

The famous moth light

After breakfast I'd survey a route that would take me up to lunchtime or thereabouts:  the first route went up into the forest and basically followed the main Pepper Road Trail (the Manakin and Quail Dove Trails were too dicey for my liking).  The protocol was to hike for ten minutes and sit for five, and the vast majority of the birds logged along this route were understandably heard-only, but occasionally something would come over in response to pishing, or else a feeding flock decided to be cooperative and come down to viewing range!  One such flock had a Tawny-capped Euphonia and Olivaceous Woodcreeper, and on another occasion a flock at the end of the trail had Bay-headed Tanager and several Scarlet-thighed Dacnis!  The first morning a Crested Guan showed up overhead, and on two separate days both a male and female White-ruffed Manakin gave good views.  The signature Dull-mantled Antbird sang well but wouldn't come out for a look, whereas the skulky Scaly-breasted Wren sang right next to the trail and allowed a fleeting glimpse as he darted across the trail!  Toucans and oropendolas were always vocalizing, and other heard-only birds included White-collared Manakin, Slaty Antwren, and a surprise Chiriquui Quail Dove, which (if the recordings I studied are diagnostic) was giving a sad, rising and falling woe-OH-oh! song.  The familiar (from South Texas) White-tipped Doves were also around, and one even poked around along the trail!  There was one sunny spot that was great for butterflies, and regulars included Red-washed and White-banded Satyrs, Black-bordered Tegosa, Blue-patched Eyemark, and several types of heliconian wannabes like Common Ticlear and Smudged Crescent.  The LBJs were about as well, and I could only make "best guesses" on their identity, but one was definitely a Saliana of some kind.  Butters that liked the deeper woods included Grinning Heliconian and a Tiger Beauty.  For the most part the trail was relatively easy, but there was one spot where you cross a gully where the step up is pretty tough; coming back I actually had to sit down rather than step down! 

Mystery feather someone stuck in the hand rail...

Main trail shortly after entering the forest

Mirador Pasture

Pepper Road Trail after that dicey gully crossing...

The other post-breakfast route was the entrance road, which gave great views of the surrounding countryside (as well as Turrialba Volcano spewing ash) and produced birds more associated with that kind of habitat.  I would start outside the lodge building and not get very far ☺, as the trees held Golden-hooded Tanagers, a Variable Seedeater that liked to show off, and any number of surprises, including a brilliant Crimson-collared Tanager!  There was a great bench just before the road headed downhill which had a marvelous view, and while nothing crossed my field of vision, my only Palm Tanager and Collared Aracaris of the area showed up here.  A Roadside Hawk had his perch staked out, and a couple of House Wrens were in competition with each other.  Most feeding flocks were up high, so to avoid "warbler neck" I focused on the birds that came down to me, and those included Rufous-capped Warbler, Bananaquit, and Social, Gray-capped, and Boat-billed Flycatchers.  There was a little open area about halfway up that a Green Ibis liked to feed in occasionally.  I never made it all the way to the bottom, but closer to that point there's a little stream where the Bay Wrens would hang out.  Butterflies were varied and included Gray-based Crescent, tons of Banded Peacocks and Hermes Satyrs, Wedge-spotted Cattlehearts, a Camouflaged Skipper, and a pellicia of some kind (best match seems to be Dark).

View from the bench at the top

Heading down the hill...

Turrialba Volcano spewing its stuff (it closed the airport the day after my arrival)!

Habitat closer to the bottom...

If I made it back to the lodge before lunch, I'd check out the verbena around the buildings, which were usually loaded with skippers:  some were straight forward, but others were "best guesses", including Cobalt and Teleus Longtails, Small Mellana, and these dark brown grass skippers with no field marks whatsoever (of which there are apparently several species)!  The easy ones included Frosted and Two-barred Flasher, but you had to be careful that you weren't so focused on the butters that you'd be startled by the Snowcap or Black-crested Coquette that appeared in your face!  Siesta was spent on the deck, from which you could enjoy the hummer show (Green-breasted Mango and White-necked Jacobin were most common, followed by Rufous-tailed Hummer and Green-crowned Brilliant, plus the occasional Violet Saberwing and Brown Violetear; had one visit by a Bronze-tailed Plumeleteer).  Down below, when the fruit was put out, it would be quickly raided by Gray-headed Chachalacas, Montezuma Oropendolas, Melodious Blackbirds, and Brown Jays (the Blue-gray and Passerini's Tanagers had to be quick ☺), and on one occasion a Black-striped Sparrow showed up.

View of the feeder area from on high

The afternoon hike (from 3:00 to 4:30) was always down to the famous pools; I was a little concerned about the steepness due to my asthma, but it turned out fine - between the handrails and the walking stick (and taking it slow) they were no trouble at all (and in the more open area you had a chance at spotting the Keel-billed Toucan pair)!  The overlook is quite high (some of the on-line videos I had seen made it look like you were right there at the pools), and there was one particular pool on the left that seemed to be the favorite of the bigger birds, while the Snowcap (which was really reliable) liked the pool a couple of pools to the right...  Different birds came in each time, it seemed, and the list included Zeledon's Antbird, White-shouldered Tanager, Sulphur-rumped and Slaty-capped Flycatcher, Golden-crowned and Canada Warblers, and the hoped-for Tawny-throated Leaftosser!  (The only other hummers to show were Violet Saberwing and Crowned Woodnymph...)  You're surrounded by forest, so you had a good chance at seeing feeding flocks as well, although again, most of the birds were heard-onlies; one memorable flock included a troupe of upset Carmiol's Tanagers!  The best butter to show up was an Orange Daggerwing, but a little bait spread along the trail attracted a Common Ur Satyr and a huge Banded Owl Butterfly!

Stairs down to the pools

Coming back up from the pools!

Long-suffering Danny who retrieved my trekking pole that slipped through the railing at the observation deck!

  Part 2: Paraiso Quetzales

  Part 3: Selva Verde Lodge

  Part 4: La Paz Waterfall Gardens

Illustrated and Audio Bird Lists Index Page

Butterflies and Moths

Dragonflies and Damselflies

Herps, Mammals, and Other Critters

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