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Costa Rica 2019

Part 3:  Savegre Hotel & Environs

All photographs ©2019

  Illustrated and Audio Bird List

What a wonderful place to spend a week!  Temps were deliciously cool, and except for one short "dump", it didn't rain at all (and this is the "rainy season")!  Birds were ridiculously tame around the property as well!

The lodge...

My room was in the "lower" area, which was an easy walk to reception and the restaurant.  Rooms were close together, but separated from each other so you had no "adjoining walls", which was nice!  Each porch had its own "shields" so you didn't feel like you were encroaching upon your neighbor (or vice versa), although from my room I could easily see the folks across and to the left of me.  The gardens were substantial, with lots of cute little benches and tables, and these made for great places to sit and just let the birds come to you!  My room was huge (I think it was actually a handicap-access room, as the bathroom was certainly set up that way, with a wonderful walk-in shower), with two beds (a smaller one to throw all my junk on J), a sofa and coffee table, a desk with a coffee maker, and an old-fashioned "wardrobe".  They also had a small space heater, which you really needed up there, as it got a little nippy overnight (I actually needed two extra blankets)!  My only disappointment was that the bench outside the room (and every room had one) wasn't really designed to be sat in for long periods of time:  I ended up swiping a small pillow from the bed to use as a cushion, and bringing my carry-on out to use as a footstool, but I eventually ended up spending siesta in the room on the bed!

View from my room (mine looked similar to these)

Garden outside my room

A buffet breakfast was included, but lunches and dinners were "pay as you go" off a menu (except for the odd times they prepared a buffet for large groups coming in; at one point the joint was totally booked with tour groups, individuals such as myself, and families).  The restaurant staff was great and very professional; I usually camped out by the window so I could keep an eye on the Long-tailed Silky Flycatchers coming in to eat their own lunches on the berry bushes!  My favorite dishes (and I confess I haven't gotten into the habit of photographing my meals like everyone else has J) were the Green Pepper Tenderloin and the Almond Trout, in addition to the baked chicken legs they had during one of their buffets!  Some of the desserts were a little on the dry side, but that didn't keep me from devouring them (especially if they were chocolate J)!  They even put one in my room the last day as a thank-you for staying with them! 

They have a spa (which I didn't visit except to pay for my trip to Batsu Gardens), along with a Quetzal Research Center, the grounds of which they told me were okay to bird.  There was some confusion on the feeder situation:  I initially couldn't find any, and when I asked about that, the guy behind the front desk tried to explain as best he could that the government was cracking down on feeding birds!  But I noticed later that there was a "cage feeder" near one of the offices that got stocked with bananas and rice, plus a hummingbird feeder that was suddenly cleaned and filled!  And it didn't take long for the birds to find it:  a Talamanca Hummingbird delighted some tourists by flying right up to each one of them in turn, and both Flame-colored and Silver-throated Tanagers and an Acorn Woodpecker stuffed their faces at the main feeder!  But truth be told, the gardens had plenty of natural food, and the birds right in my little "patch" were incredibly tame:  Lesser Violetears competed with the Talamancas (and the occasional Stripe-tailed, Fiery-throated, and Volcano Hummer) over the Bottlebrush, and there were these trees with berries right outside my room that kinda reminded me of the Anacuas here in South Texas, that were visited by the silky flycatchers, a friendly Spangle-cheeked Tanager I dubbed "Spanky" (and his Mountain Elaenia buddy I called "Monty"), and of course the Clay-colored Thrushes, devouring those berries just like they do the Anauca berries here in the Valley!  But what really surprised me was that on the warm, sunny days, there were no butterflies to speak of; I pinned down a Florida White in "my" garden one day, and on another day while chatting with new birding buddies David and Cathy from Britain, a beautiful Magnificent Swallowtail batted around above us and perched long enough for us to swing our cameras up before taking off without a picture! L

The routine...

I wanted to find a somewhat quiet place to listen for night birds pre-dawn, and I eventually discovered the "upper parking lot" that was surrounded by tall trees (could have been cedars) and had a view up into the mountains.  Struck out in that department (the night birds), but it was a great little spot to bring in the dawn, with Rufous-collared Sparrows all over, and a distant Barred Forest Falcon, Collared Trogon, and what we finally figured out was the dawn song of a Mistletoe Tyrannulet singing from the hillsides!  Closer to the parking lot, Ruddy-capped Nightingale Thrushes, a Black-faced Solitaire, Ochraceous Wrens, and on one occasion a Chestnut-capped Brushfinch all joined the dawn chorus!  After sunrise I'd work my way back down to my garden, spending five minutes at every bench in between, enjoying more silkies and thrushes (including a Mountain on a couple of occasions), flyover Sulphur-winged and Barred Parakeets, and in the lower parking lot a juvie Black-billed Nightingale Thrush that was like clockwork (and he almost jumped in my lap as well)!  Besides the battling hummers, my own "patch" often had tame Flame-colored Tanagers, Sooty-capped Chlorospingus, Slaty Flowerpiercers, and the occasional Black-thighed Grosbeak!

Tourists near the upper parking lot enjoying a Collared Redstart (circled)!

Rooms in the upper area 

Of course, Savegre is most famous for its "upper trails", and this became the post-breakfast hike after I finally figured out what parts of the trails I could handle! J  You can bum a ride up the steep Los Robles Road for a nominal fee, and I ended up doing just that for three of the four "full day" mornings, but the first morning I actually tackled hiking up the thing, and by going slow and resting for five at ten-minute intervals, it wasn't that bad (and I noticed that most of the tourists were hiking up rather than riding up - unless they had their own vehicle).  What got to be a joke after awhile was the fact that so many folks (birders and non-birders alike) were just "running into" Quetzals along this road (and getting fabulous photos to boot), and I never even heard one the whole time! L  But they have a special Quetzal Tour you can take if you absolutely have to see one or you're gonna die...

Los Robles Road 

Scenes looking back into the valley on the way up

Getting up into the woods

I was advised that if I wanted to try for Silvery-throated Jay, I needed to take the Los Robles Trail (the actual trail, not the road), but I didn't get very far on that one as it became too dicey for my liking (and one section had eroded down to a width of about one inch due to hikers taking a shortcut rather than the switchback L).  I did happen to log Golden-bellied Flycatcher and a distant Costa Rican Pygmy Owl along this section, however!  But also at the very top of the road is the Pioneer Trail, which is an easy, wide trail that takes you down to the main road and the upper end of the Quebrada Trail, which loops around and dumps you off further down on the main road.  Both the upper and lower ends of the Quebrada Trail are wide and easy, but the middle section runs along a creek and was a bit dicey (but I saw a lot of tourists, some older than me L, who seemed to get through that part fine), so my final "routine" ended up getting a ride to the top, taking in the chorus up there for five, then working the Pioneer Trail to the upper section of Quebrada, come back out and come down to the wonderful overlook shelter they have there (they even have restrooms with a view!), then poke down to the lower end of Quebrada, then bird that until it was time to head down to lunch, birding the main road (it took me two hours to crawl up that thing the first morning, and only one hour - with distractions J - to get back down)!  Daily fixtures up at the top included Ruddy Pigeons, Mistletoe Tyrannulets, and Acorn Woodpeckers, and one morning a mystery bird call turned out to be a White-winged Tanager according to Vernon!  The Pioneer Trail hosted my one and only Rough-legged Tyrannulet one morning, and at the "dump off" point, Golden-browed Chlorophonias were singing on at least two of the mornings! Feeding flocks along the Quebrada Trail included Flame-throated and Black-cheeked Warblers, Ruddy Treerunners, both Brown-capped and Yellow-winged Vireos, and of course the ubiquitous Sooty-capped Chlorospingii!  A grown Buffy Tuftedcheek was still begging from momma, and a pair of Lineated Foliagegleaners allowed a very fleeting glimpse one day (but would call beautifully)!  A Silvery-fronted Tapaculo would sound off unseen, although they were closer to the trail down by the creek.  A Tufted Flycatcher would perform well, and on two occasions the Emerald Toucanet pair either called or showed!  A  male White-throated Mountaingem preened down by the creek, while I'd encounter the females more often on the easy trails.  A pair of Large-footed Finches performed the "Towhee Shuffle" at one spot, and both Ruddy-capped and Black-billed Nightingale Thrushes would bop along the trail.  But the best trail encounter was on the first morning when a family of Spotted Wood Quail calmly came towards me from the opposite direction!

Pablo (aka "Jack Bauer" J) is one of the friendly staff who will give you a ride to the top!

Part of the dicey Los Robles Trail

The Pioneer Trail was more my speed!

Easy part of the Quebrada Trail

Getting down into the dicey part...

Along the creek

Getting back up to the easy part...

View from the overlook

Even the ladies' room has a view!

The main road could be very birdy as well:  groups of Elegant Euphonias would happen by, and there was a Buff-fronted Quail Dove that would sing regularly off in the woods.  There were some huge logs just down from the overlook where a pair of Collared Redstarts hung out (and lived up to their nickname of "Friend of Man" because of their tameness J), and on one occasion a Tufted Flycatcher fed right over the road!  Down closer to the staff homes I would regularly pick up Yellow-faced Grassquits and even Lesser Goldfinches.  The other loop-around trail (Canto de las Aves) was too dicey at either end, so I skipped that one altogether (although that's where one couple had seen their Quetzal).  My one and only identifiable butterfly during this routine was a Golden-banded Dartwhite that perched near one of the staff homes.

Giant logs where Collared Redstarts hung out (arrow)

Someone missed the curve...

Start of the "Songbird Trail"

The "post siesta" hike (from 3:00 to dinnertime) consisted of the "Sewer Pond Trail" that actually started next to my room and went through deep woods, past their treatment ponds, and down into the property of another lodge (Suenos del Bosque; apparently "trespassing" was okay or the staff wouldn't have told us to go that way...) before dumping on the main road, where you would then pick up the Cataratas Trail, which was a lovely, wide trail (road, really) going through more woodland habitat along the Savegre River.  The road part ends at the fish hatchery while the trail continues for another couple of miles, but again, it quickly got too dicey for my liking, so I turned around just before the hatchery.  There are other trails past the treatment ponds that I didn't explore thoroughly (had another family of wood quail back here), but the Bosque property had some nice things, including Common Chlorospingus and a flock of Band-tailed Pigeons.  Even the main road was quite birdy; checking the river almost always nailed a Torrent Tyrannulet, and there was a pair of Acorn Woodpeckers nesting in a dead tree!  Hummingbirds and Slaty Flowerpiercers loved the residents' gardens, and Rufous-collared Sparrows loved the pastures.  Sooty-capped Chlors were everywhere!  It was usually too noisy on the actual Cataratas Trail to hear anything, but there was a Yellowish Flycatcher that was quite friendly, and one day a juvie Bicolored Hawk blasted down the river and actually landed!  David and Cathy would report bagging a Quetzal on that trail, but on the "dodgy" part as she called it...  Instead of going back up through Bosque I'd return by way of Savegre's entrance road, where they had a nice bench right there overlooking the river (again, the Torrent Tyrannulet was almost a constant fixture), and the plantings around the buildings sometimes had Gray-breasted Wood Wrens, Spot-crowned Woodcreeper, Melodious Blackbirds, and even the toucanets!  On my last afternoon I broke with tradition and hiked the main road to a restaurant where quetzals were being reported; no banana, but I did discover a great bird-feeding area at Cabinas Quetzales where they only charge a buck if you wanna sit and enjoy the show!  (I suggest giving them five at the very least!)  Here you got in-your-face looks at all the regular hummers, plus Acorn Woodpeckers, and Flame-colored and Silver-throated Tanagers!

"Sewer Pond Trail"

Cabaña at Sueños del Bosque

Path with "Hens and Chickens" plants

Sueños del Bosque garden area

Savegre River from their entrance road

Hazy scene along the main road

Entrance to the Cataratas Trail

Said trail...

Savegre River from the bridge

Looking the other way

Where the trail continues past the fish hatchery

Acorn Woodpecker living dangerously along the main road!

Entrance to Savegre

Savegre River from the entrance bench

Entrance road

The main road going up towards the Pan American Highway

Feeder area at Cabinas Quetzales

In a last-ditch effort for night birds, I signed up for a walk with Melvin, one of their local guides.  While we dipped on the Dusky Nightjar, we got incredible views of the Bare-shanked Screech Owl back up at the Los Robles Trailhead!

The "Off-campus Trip"...

...was to Batsu Gardens, a spot that Sonia at CRG highly recommended!  It was actually run by Felipe, the manager with whom I had been corresponding (we actually stopped at his house to get the food for the feeders J) and was actually within walking distance of Savegre, so after I had had my fill of the place (and I had it all to myself) it was an easy walk back "home"! 

The shelter (which was quite open) overlooked the “feeder tree” and the valley where Felipe stocked the place with fruit, rice, and even mealworms!  The hummer feeders were going great guns of course, and he told me which trees to keep an eye on for the chlorophonias, and where to watch for the brushfinches.  He also pointed out the “short” trail that looped around, and then left me to enjoy; it was an absolutely gorgeous, sunny day, and managed some nice looks at Flame-colored and Silver-throated Tanagers (the latter was feeding its grown baby), a baby Sooty-capped Chlorospingus, Rufous-collared Sparrows, and Clay-colored Thrushes.  The hummer show consisted of Lesser Violetears, Talamancas, Stripe-tailed, Fiery-throated, the little Volcano, and the occasional White-throated Mountaingem and Green-crowned Brilliant.  Yellow-faced Grassquits trilled behind me, and a Lesser Goldfinch called on the tippy top of a tree, showing the blacker head than our birds show.

Felipe fills the feeders!

After an hour I decided to tackle the trail; it was quite steep going up, but I didn’t think much of it as Felipe had promised me it was a short loop trail.  Well.  I get to the top, and I have a choice of three trails!  A pair of cute Collared Redstarts seemed to beckon me up the one that went straight up (which was probably the right one), but I chose the “decent” one that also appeared to loop, and since it was called “Something Memorial Trail”, I figured I was on the right track.  The first rest (with a real bench) had a beautiful view of the forest, where I added a calling Dark Pewee, Ochraceous Wren, Tufted Flycatcher, and Mistletoe Tyrannulet.  After another dicey hill I saw to my chagrin that the trail dead-ended at a little waterfall L!  I didn’t even bother to rest there; I immediately turned around, but the downhill portion (first one) wasn’t as bad as anticipated!  At the rest stop I thought I heard a chlorophonia (a real one this time, not a tin-horning Elegant Euphonia J), so I played the tape, and here he came!  (Way up in the tree, but hey; he was identifiable… J)  Cha-ching - that was one life bird I really wanted to see!  At the same rest stop added Gray-breasted Wood Wren and Hairy Woodpecker for the day.  And the really steep part I was worried about got negotiated fine!  (And in case by this time people are wondering about my aversion towards "dicey" trails that the average person manages fine, it's due to balance issues...)

View of the feeder area from the trail

The trail

After a five-minute rest at the feeder area it was time to tackle the “finch spot” (which was a little piece of bare ground near the road); I was a little dubious at first that all these skulky-things would come out in the open in this little patch, but I gave it 15 minutes, and after a while, a black and white shape showed up in the shadows:  the White-naped Brushfinch!  Next thing I knew three fat Large-footed Finches showed up and started the Towhee Shuffle, and suddenly there was the Chestnut-capped Brushfinch out in the sun!  The White-naped was the most skittish of all of them, but eventually he posed for the camera, along with the ubiquitous sparrows!

After that I just chilled at the feeders until it was time to go; a nice Stripe-tailed Hummer made the rounds by the restroom, and I was really surprised there weren’t more butters around with the great weather; something that looked like it could have been a Magnificent Swallowtail batted below, but I couldn’t get a good look.  What interesting butters did bat by, both there and on the trail, never stopped L...

Started down the hill at 11:00, and it only took me ten minutes to get to the bottom!  There was some butter action at Felipe’s house, but it was just a Cloudless Sulphur – at any rate, it was the only cooperative one so far!  It wasn’t far to Savegre, either, where another pair of goldfinches bounced along and a lovely female mountaingem said hello!  Added Tropical Kingbirds for the day on the wires, and sat at the “Torrent Tyrannulet Bench” for five; while the tyrannulet was a no-show, what should land in my face but the Spot-crowned Woodcreeper!!  Back at reception Felipe came in and I told him all about the experience – well worth every penny!

Road from Batsu Gardens to the main road

  Part 1: Hotel Bougainvillea

  Part 2: Irazu and Ujarras

  Part 4: Bosque del Tolomuco

  Part 5: Talari Mountain Lodge

  Part 6: Los Cusingos

 Illustrated and Audio Bird Lists

 Butterflies

 Dragonflies and Damselflies

 Herps, Mammals, and Other Critters

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