Category: Costa Rica (Page 1 of 3)

Costa Rica (2019) #6: Birding Savegre Hotel

Silver-throated Tanager at Melvin’s Garden

Birding Costa Rica: Savegre Hotel

As the calendar flipped to 2019, our amazingly awesome family trip to Costa Rica moved from the Pacific Ocean coast to the central highlands. Our drive would take us from sea level up over 10,000 feet, and then back down to about 7,000 feet. Our destination was the (birding and fishing) famous Savegre River Valley. The fishers come here for the trout. The birders come here for Resplendent Quetzals, Toucanets, Mountain-Gems, and Chlorosphingus.

The drive from Dominical was a show all by itself. We pulled off the highway at one spot for a delightful view of what looked like a cloud ocean. The steep road down into the valley was spectacular as well. It’s not as steep as the Burr trail switchbackswe drove in Utah this fall, but it was a descent to remember. 

Birding above the clouds on the highway to Savegre River Valley

We were staying at the Savegre Hotel Natural Reserve and Spa. We had a standard cabin that wasn’t much more than two beds, a couple of chairs, a table, and a bathroom, but it was all we needed. Because we spent almost all of our three days in the valley exploring.

The birding was magical from the moment of our arrival. Before we even made it into our cabin, our neighbors pointed out the White-throated Mountain-Gem nest around the corner from our front door. There were hummingbirds buzzing all around the flowery grounds of the hotel.  A dozen Sulphur-Winged Parakeets were flying noisily about. And all manner of identified and unidentified birds were moving through the bushes. 

White-throated Mountain-Gem Savegre Valley Costa Rica

White-throated Mountain-Gem, on nest, out of focus

There are a set of trails above the hotel that take you into the forest. I’ll recount our hikes up there in another post. And while you absolutely must get yourself up that hill, just wandering the grounds of the hotel produces a rainbow of tropical birds: the red of the Flame-colored Tanager, the orange of the Baltimore Oriole, the yellow of the Long-tailed Silky Flycatcher, the green of the Northern Emerald-Toucanet, the blue of the Blue-Gray Tanager, the indigo of the Blue-and-white Swallow, and the violet of Lesser Violetear. If black is your thing, there are Black Guans and Melodious Blackbirds around. And the Torrent Tyrannulet  sports the classy black-and-white look.

Long-tailed Silky Flycatcher Savegre Hotel Costa Rica

Long-tailed Silky-Flycatcher

There’s a great spot for some geri-birding right next to the Savegre Hotel known as Melvin’s Garden. Melvin is apparently a guide for hire at Savegre. And he’s set up a great spot for up-close views of the birds of the valley. There’s an admission fee, paid on the honor system. And it’s worth it. The Silver-throated Tanager shot at the top of this post was taken while casually sitting on a chair at Melvin’s Garden. Same for the Flame-colored Tanager above, and the Blue-Gray Tanager, Yellow-thighed Finch, and Lesser Violetear below. 

In addition to all the feeders in Melvin’s Garden, there are trails winding through the property, an apple orchard famous for the Golden-browed Chlorosphingus, and you can bird the roadside and the river. Or just sit in front of your cabin. One day on returning from a hike, a Ruddy-capped Nightingale-Thursh was hopping along the sidewalk in front of our cabin.

Yellow-thighed Finch Savegre Hotel Costa Rica

Yellow-thighed Finch rockin’ ridiculous puffy legwarmers

Lesser Violetear Savegre Hotel Costa Rica

Lesser Violetear

There are several different lodging options in the Savegre River Valley. I can’t speak for the rest – the grounds on and around all of them are undoubtedly great for birding. But I’d go back to Savegre Hotel in a hot minute. The cabins were comfy, the breakfast was plentiful and delicious, and it was the birdiest (and birder-iest) hotel I’ve ever visited.

Costa Rica (2018) #5: Birding Dominical beach and Rio Baru

Yellow-headed Caracara Dominical Costa Rica

Yellow-headed Caracara

Birding Dominical: The beach and Rio Baru

This is (finally) my last post about the week we spent in December 2018 in Dominical, Costa Rica. And for the first time, I’ll be talking about birds I saw somewhere other than at our villa property . During the week, we did leave the property. I never birded Hacienda Baru, which has an extensive (425 species) eBird list, except for the birds I saw without binoculars while doing an amazing zipline tour there. It seemed like pretty similar habitat to our villa, and you had to pay to bird there, so I just explored close to home. An afternoon trip to Parque Reptilandia was surprisingly unproductive for birds, but good for lizards.

I rounded out my area list in and around the little town of Dominical, which sits on the Rio Baru where it flows into the ocean. We did surfing lessons at Dominicalito Beach, and had delicious tacos in Dominical a couple of times.

Great Kiskadee Dominical Costa Rica

I’ve never seen the yellow stripe on top of a Great Kiskadee’s head before

The trips to the beach and river mouth produced 9 lifers: Melodious Blackbird, Mangrove Swallow, Southern Rough-winged Swallow, Bare-throated Tiger Heron, Ruddy Ground Dove, Lesser Greenlet, and the only trip sightings of Common Black Hawk, Amazon Kingfisher and Common Tody Flycatcher.  There’s a trail along the southern shore of the Rio Baru that heads from one end of town to the beach.

There were other familiar birds at Dominical. Indeed, much of my list could have just as easily been a 5MR list. We saw Brown Pelican, Willet, Sanderling, Spotted Sandpiper, Least Sandpiper, Royal Tern, Snowy Egret, Great-tailed Grackle and Osprey.

Sandwich Tern Dominical Costa Rica

Sandwich Tern

There were also plenty of birds around that I couldn’t find close to home. Sandwich Terns and Gull-billed Terns flew about. Laughing Gulls lounged on shore. A Tricolored Heron and Little Blue Heron fed in the shallows. And of course there were Tropical Kingbirds, which are ubiquitous in the area.  

Magnificent Frigatebird Costa Rica

Magnificent Frigatebird

We never made it to Parque Nacional Mario Ballena, a whale’s tail shaped beach south of Dominical. Nor did we go to Parque Nacional Manuel Antonio (monkeys and sloths, but we had those on the property, without crowds or entrance fees). If I was back in the area again (please let that happen), I’d spend a day checking out locations even further south like Sierpe and Gamba. I’d add a day trip to San Isidro del General, too, which is at a higher elevation and promises some different birds. 

And I’d go back to Dominical in a second. Laid back vibe. Not crowded. Easy to get around. Incredible scenery. And so many awesome birds.

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