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Costa Rica 2019

Part 5:  Talari Mountain Lodge

All photographs ©2019

  Illustrated and Audio Bird List

The lodge...

You come down a steep entrance road with thick jungle on either side, and halfway down is the manager's residence and the open-air restaurant, which also doubles as registration!  Carlos Senior was very attentive, as was Carlos Junior (he was a year old at the time of the Big Earthquake we experienced at Las Cruces back in 1983), and Alicia the cook was fabulous!  Carlos #1 (there would be three eventually J) directed us further down the hill to my room (#16), which was part of a two-story building and had a wonderful "back yard"!  The room was spacious (as was the bathroom - another walk-in shower), with a floor-to-ceiling glass door that looked out onto the "back yard"!  The room also had a small fridge, which was perfect for keeping water bottles cool and freezing one for long hikes!  It didn't have a coffee-maker, but since I had an electric kettle with me and my own "brew" it really didn't matter (although Carlos offered to get me one).  There was also a tiny flat screen TV mounted up near the ceiling (when he asked if I was going to be using it I replied, "Are you kidding?!  I'm here to bird!"), and a little oscillating fan also mounted to the ceiling; at first I was wondering if that was gonna be enough to cool me down, but I was pleasantly surprised to discover that the overnight temps were in the 60s, so that little fan was perfect for keeping the room cool (and it didn't get all that hot during the day, either - I was expecting sweltering heat along the lines of the Caribbean lowlands)!  Since I was the only one there for a day or two, I did get a chance to peek into some of the other rooms across the street, most of which looked considerably smaller, so I would definitely recommend my room!

The bungalow (my room is on the left)

My patio

My "back yard"

As mentioned, Alicia was a fabulous cook; we negotiated the meal times (since she had to come from her home a couple of miles away) and settled on 7:00 AM, noon, and 6:00 PM.  Breakfast was different each day but always consisted of fresh fruit, toast and jelly, an egg dish of some kind (one morning I got an omelet), breakfast meat, and even some cheese!  (Oh, and musn't forget the juice and great coffee! J)  Carlos would put the fruit out on the feeders so the birds could have their breakfast as well (he said they tended to prefer the bananas J), so I got distracted by "Cherrie's", Blue-gray, Palm, and Gray-headed Tanagers, Red-legged and Green Honeycreepers (the former were in their non-breeding plumage, so that was kinda cool to see), and even Red-crowned Woodpeckers!  Lunch and dinner were similar in that they consisted of some kind of meat (she'd ask you what you preferred ahead of time), sautéed veggies, and potato (and sometimes a little salad), and they were to die for:  the chicken breast melted in your mouth (and that's saying something from someone who generally dislikes white meat), the fish was oh so tasty, and the tenderloin was cooked on the BBQ just the way I like it (in fact, she was afraid it was too rare)!  And the desserts - oh, my word!  A warm banana with chocolate sauce and ice cream was my favorite, but she also served a lime (?) icee type thing with a dribble of chocolate sauce, and I was surprised as how tasty that was (as I normally don't care for a mix of fruit and chocolate)!  Believe it or not, I actually did lose a little weight on this trip... J

Restaurant snuggled into the hill

Open air restaurant

View from the deck

Carlos stocks the feeder (and it's not as high as it looks - even I could reach it!)

Beehive Ginger (Zingiber spectabilis), an exotic plant from Thailand!

They also have a pool and Jacuzzi that I didn't bother using (I'm birding, remember? J), but I did catch Carlos #1 cleaning the pool one morning, as they had a group of high school kids from the US coming in who were doing community work.  Down by the pool area is a wonderful, sheltered overlook of the El General River (see view above), and up near the top of the entrance road is an enclosed tennis court (that definitely was popular), but I don't know if that's under their management or is just a public court.

The routine...

The map shows three wonderful-looking trails looping through the property, but there were a few issues that pretty much kept me to the entrance road and other "walkable" spots.  First, the Riverside Trail started off great, with an easy trail through the woods that often had Orange-billed Nightingale Thrushes, Buff-rumped Warblers, and a glasswing butterfly that finally stopped and allowed an ID (Paula's Oleria)!  But once in the open area it suddenly came to a drop-off; turns out that Hurricane Nate totally destroyed most of the trail that went alongside the river!  So for that "loop" I ended up poking around the overlook area and eventually looping the back way to my building.  The other two trails (when I finally found the entrances J) had parts that were negotiable for me but quickly started going steeply uphill at an angle that (for me anyway) could have caused me to lose my balance and fall (especially if I found I had to turn around and come back down).  So I figured that since I had to go uphill anyway, the main road was safer! 

Having devotionals in the room pre-dawn was perfect, as with the open windows you could sometimes hear Pauraques, Tropical Screech Owls, and even a Common Potoo!  About a half hour before sunrise I would move to the patio and just wait in the dawn; the usual suspects were Lesson's Motmots, "Southern" House, Rufous-breasted, and Riverside Wrens, and the ever-present "Cherrie's" Tanagers (one morning I had a Bay-headed).  At dawn I would start poking along the main road but in the vicinity of the cabanas, down to the pool area, along the cliff face, then taking a grassy pathway back to my building, sitting for five at select spots.  After breakfast I'd first depart from the main road and explore the grassy areas near the older rooms, where a lek of Orange-collared Manakins often hung out, and on a couple of occasions a Streaked Saltator sang.  I'd then take a little bit of the Fruit Trail that went by a pasture before it started going uphill; this could be quite birdy, with Gray-headed Chachalacas, Brown Jays, and Boat-billed and Social Flycatchers showing up regularly, and on fewer occasions Fiery-billed Aracaris, Yellow Tyrannulets, a Lineated Woodpecker, and even a Smooth-billed Ani!  The wooded area there often had a pair of Black-hooded Antshrikes duetting, along with White-winged Becards, Streak-headed Woodcreepers, and a singing Orange-billed Sparrow.  I would then backtrack and poke along a small creek back to the main road and down to the start of the Riverside Trail, bird that (although cool butters were a distraction, like Luna Phantom Satyr, Disturbed Tigerwing, and White-leading Ticlear), and just before the aforementioned drop off (where we had Variable Seedeater chowing down once) you can climb a small embankment that takes you up to the overlook area where you can check the river for stuff; a truly black Black Phoebe was somewhat regular, and at various times had Neotropic Cormorant, both Green and Ringed Kingfishers, and a Spotted Sandpiper bobbing along.  The trees across the way were worth checking out, as on my last day there I had an immature Turquoise Cotinga perch out in the open!  Poking through the wooded area there to the "back path" to my room had more butters than birds; both Plain and Double-white Satyrs were out the yin yang, and the "twin sisters" Erato and Tragic Heliconians sometimes played hard to get when it came to showing you the length of that white stripe on the hindwing that separates them!  The star butter along this stretch was the Violet-patched Eyemark, a stunning little thing!  Even a few odes showed up:  mostly Oculate Dancers, but also a Racket-tailed Rubyspot, a Green-eyed Dancer, and a teneral shadowdamsel that even Mr. Ode himself, Dennis Paulson, took the Fifth on! J  I'd finish by resting in a chair on the back side of my building, which seemed to be a raptor magnet with flyover Roadside Hawks, Yellow-headed Caracaras, and even a King Vulture!  I also had a Streaked Flycatcher that would make a fuss every once in awhile.

Peeking into one of the orchards that the manakins liked

Grassy path near the main road

View of the neighbor's pasture from the Fruit Trail

Easy part of the Fruit Trail

Pasture view closer to the old rooms

Woodsy part of the Riverside Trail

El General River looking towards the east

Path between my building and the river overlook area

From there I'd tackle the main road where I had special (read: flat) spots to rest at, but getting to them presented problems only in that the butter action along the road was nuts:  compared to the four species I logged at Savegre, here I logged over 60 species of butters (provided I ID'd them correctly J)!  Some were old friends (like Banded Peacock, Common Morpho, and Black-bordered Tegosa, plus many specialties that we also get in South Texas), but some of the highlights for me included Silvery Sombermark (what red legs it has!), Chiapas Stripestreak, Nicolay's Metalmark, Golden-headed Bolla, Spade-marked Underskipper, and Orange-banded Pixie!  A wide area across from Carlos' house had Piratic Flycatchers early on, a Black-crowned Tityra sitting in a dead tree, a flyover Short-tailed Hawk joining the Turkey Vultures, singing Yellow-throated Toucans on my last day, and a pair of Blue Dacnises on another occasion!  A highlight at the next stop was actually a Variegated Squirrel that was so striking that I wasn't even sure it was a squirrel!  Up near the tennis courts is a shelter, and even when the courts were busy the birds seemed to be as well, where I picked up my life Speckled Tanager, along with Golden-hooded Tanagers, Rufous-capped Warbler, Lesser Greenlet, and even both Crested and Yellow-headed Caracaras!  On one occasion I went almost up to the main highway, where the only unique bird I added was a Rufous-collared Sparrow, but because it was so noisy at that stop I didn't include it in subsequent hikes.  On the way down I'd stop at the restaurant and just watch the canopy for awhile, where I had a Buff-throated Saltator ripping apart some kind of fruit on a tree, but even here the butter action stole the show, with Blomfild's Beauty, Stoplight Catone, and a Red Cracker sneaking sips at the fruit feeder!  Both Julia and Least Heliconians would bat around below the railing as well.

Looking up the main road from the lodging area (it's steeper than it looks...)

Top of the entrance road

Entrance sign near the tennis courts (this is also where the shelter was and where the Woodland Trail dumps out)

First resting spot on the way down (where the squirrel was)

Resting spot across from Carlos' house

After siesta, the first couple of afternoons I would do the pre-breakfast walk "backwards", but soon abandoned that plan as the rains would often come and the bird and butter action would lessen considerably, so I opted to just go ahead and spend the afternoons on deck at the restaurant, which was very relaxing (and prevented you from getting dumped on right when it was time to walk up to dinner)!  Found another pair of Speckled Tanagers that way, and a Scaly-breasted Hummingbird often gave his squeaky concert from an exposed tree limb!  Sometimes I just enjoyed the antics of the "Cherry Tanagers" (as one of the kids was calling them J), who by that time were old friends!  Even at dinnertime some things would sound off, like the Gray-cowled Wood Rail pair (one of which was actually walking down the road towards me one afternoon)!  And I noticed that the Pauraques had a little different accent than ours here in South Texas! J

The "Off-campus" trip...

...is detailed in Part 6!

  Part 1: Hotel Bougainvillea

  Part 2: Irazu and Ujarras

  Part 3: Savegre Lodge

  Part 4: Bosque del Tolomuco

  Part 6: Los Cusingos

 Illustrated and Audio Bird Lists

 Butterflies

 Dragonflies and Damselflies

 Herps, Mammals, and Other Critters

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