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Part 1:  Arrival at Hotel Buena Vista and the trip to Braulio Carrillo National Park

All photographs ©2018

 

This excursion to Costa Rica was a little different in that it involved a bona fide tour, and different still was the fact that it centered around odonates (damselflies and dragonflies for the uninitiated...)!  Sunrise Birding Tours was the outfit that put it together, and Dennis Paulson (author of the definitive field guides to odes for both eastern and western North America) was our guide to the odes while Tom Bird (the actual leader of the tour) kept the birders happy! Dennis had helped me tremendously after the last trip in IDing the handful of odes I was compelled to photograph (I kept telling myself during that trip to ignore the odes because there was no field guide available, but that didn't work... J), so I was thrilled to discover he was actually leading an ode-based tour to Costa Rica!  So I (and a bunch of others) jumped on that opportunity post haste!

 

I have to say the flight was a lot easier this time around than two years ago!  (Using three smaller bags instead of one BIG one made all the difference...)  The flight to Houston was uneventful, but the plane that was scheduled to take us to San Jose had mechanical problems, and the substitute plane was stuck in Guatemala due to fog, so we had a loooong layover!  Back at the waiting area, I finally met up with Ann, one of the participants (she actually found me – the butterfly hat worked J) and had a great chat – we agreed to stick together so we'd both catch the shuttle to the hotel!  Customs was a breeze, and as we stepped outside, there was a lady with a sign with our names!  It was drizzling a bit, but our driver got us to the Hotel Buena Vista with only two ID-able birds to show for it (grackle and White-winged Dove)…

Once there, it was a big reunion for Ann, as she knew several of the people from previous trips!  Dennis introduced himself right away, and I quickly met the rest of the crew (at least those who had already arrived; several would wander in later that night):  Tom, Linda (nicknamed “Stick”), Nancy, Marla, Netta (Dennis' wife), Sarah, RT, Steve, and Lora were already perusing pictures from their excursion to La Paz Waterfall Garden that day (some arrived a day early), and Elena and her friend Betty wandered in later, along with Karen, Jay, and Susan.  Bill, a friend of Dennis' (and odonator extraordinaire) who lives in Costa Rica, joined us for the duration of the trip.  The gang that went to La Paz apparently did get caught in a rain squall, and Dennis mentioned that they got swarmed by the hummers as the staff hadn’t arrived with the feeders yet! 

We retired to dinner, had great conversation, then unpacked a bunch of stuff and hit the sack.  The next morning I woke up to something I didn’t recognize, but later narrowed it down to a Yellow-throated Euphonia.  A mellow whistle turned out to be a Grayish Saltator, and what I thought was a pygmy owl at first started adding some odd sounds before the higher notes, and I realized I was hearing a Gray-cowled Wood Rail!  After QT I found my way out back where several others had their coffee and were enjoying the view of San Juan; we had Yellow-green Vireos singing along with Clay-colored Thrushes, but some big tree-top birds in the distance turned out to be chachalacas, and a couple of Central Valley specialties – a Hoffmann’s Woodpecker and Rufous-naped Wren – showed themselves, along with a pretty Variegated Squirrel!

View of San Jose from the hotel's garden area

Tom and Betty enjoy early morning coffee in said garden

Before long the whole gang is enjoying the morning!

San Jose on the way to Braulio Carrillo

After a great breakfast we headed to Braulio Carrillo NP.  Before we started on the trail our driver Ramon spotted both a sloth an a howler monkey!  We initially took a great loop trail, even though that was cut short due to trail closure (a woman had been killed by a falling limb due to the heavy rains, so they closed that portion of the trail).  We had a local guide named Alfredo who was pointing out chattering Common Chlorospingus, but in the process of trying to get on a feeding flock (and hence losing the group), I missed another flock the gang had found that had Tawny-crested and Black-and-yellow Tanagers! L  But Dennis pointed out all sorts of cool stuff, including a Pug-headed Anole that bit him pretty good!  A White-faced Capuchin got upset with us invading his territory and provided comedy relief, and the Lord actually brought by a couple of pretty good butters:  the first was one of those lenmark-type things that decided to land under a leaf that both Steve and I were able to shoot, and upon closer inspection turned out to be a Red-spotted Hemmark!  But the star was a White-signed Morphet that, again, I had the hardest time spotting, but once I did, he was right there!  What a beauty!

   

Once at Braulio, we're ready to tackle the trails!

Park map

The group photographs some interesting volcanic rock (also below)

A happy Dennis shows us a not-so-happy Pug-headed Anole!

We weren’t seeing any ode action to speak of, but Dennis was actually pointing out something else when he noticed an Arch-tipped Shadowdamsel right in front of him – he was afraid to move!  On the way back Tom spotted a Great Tinamou in the brush, and many of us were fascinated by this goo that was dripping off the hanging stems!  Dennis showed us these leaves with red spots on the undersides designed to attract hummingbirds!  After finishing that up we checked a bridge back in the parking lot that had more action, best of which was both kinds of Flatwings, which was something I really wanted to see!  We also had an Oculate Dancer, but he wasn’t very cooperative for photos, as it was pretty dark in there…

Jay photographs this goo that was dripping off the vines (also below)!

Odes are water-dependent, so streams are good places to look for them!

This plant produces a blood-like stain in order to attract hummingbirds!

We stopped for lunch at a place called Rancho Roberto's with great food and some interesting birds, as many of us wandered outside to look (before the heavens opened); a Palm Tanager was making a nest in the covered table area, and in the wooded area next to the property a Southern House Wren sang, we saw our first Variable Seedeaters, a couple of Pale-vented Pigeons sat in the distance, and a Common Morpho drifted by!  But the best bird was a soaring King Vulture that Jay spotted! 

We then picked up Jose Perez (aka Cope) and he took us to several stakeouts, the best of which was a pair of Bat Falcons that was totally unfazed by all the people gawking at them from the bridge (and not just us, either)!  On another road a baby Great Potoo was a hit, and along that same road we had three toucan species, Mealy Parrots, Melodious Blackbirds, and a female Gartered Trogon with a huge katydid!  But Dennis found the prize:  a Chiapas Stripestreak!  I was very jazzed with that!  Karen and I shot a few other butters; one I had completely forgotten about until she sent me her version, but after going back and forth between Glassberg's book (the new Butterflies of Mexico and Central America, which now includes Costa Rica) and the Butterflies of America (BOA) website, we finally settled on Cloudy-eyed Whitemark.  A pretty little scintillant superficially looked like a Red-bordered Metalmark, but I would think I would recognize that one (since they occur here in South Texas), but after more discussion we again settled on Cloaked Scintillant, especially after a bug on the BOA website matched it to a T!

Cope then wanted to take us to his staked out Spectacled Owls, and on the way he showed us the cute little Honduran White Bats that make their tents under leaves, and Dennis found us Red-and-black Flatwing!  I pointed out a Tropical Gnatcatcher to Jay, but after awhile the trail got too dicey so I turned back; on the way added Orange-billed Sparrow and Elegant Euphonia, neither of which would show themselves… L  Once on the road I poked around for more butters but didn’t find anything, but the gang got their owls, so that was great!

Back at the house Cope shared his photos and artwork with us, then we spent the remainder of the time at his wonderful feeders, which JC had brought me to two years ago on the way to Selva Verde!  A Crimson-collared Tanager showed briefly, plus five hummer species and a Russet-naped Wood Rail!  But we had to leave all too soon if we were gonna make it to Selva Verde at a decent hour! 

Cope shares his history and artwork with us!  (Photo ©2018 by Nancy McIntyre)

  Part 2: Selva Verde Lodge

  Part 3: La Selva Biological Station

  Part 4: Laguna del Lagarto Lodge

  Part 5: Arenal Observatory Lodge

  Part 6: Return to Hotel Buena Vista

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