Category: Costa Rica (Page 1 of 5)

Costa Rica (2019) #9: Birding at Miriam’s Restaurant

Slaty Flowerpiercer pausing between piercings 

Birding During Lunch at Miriam’s Restaurant

Birders need food just like anybody. Combining eating time with casual, or even spectacular, birding is about as good as it gets for the hungry birder. For those birders who trek to the Savegre River Valley in Costa Rica and inevitably develop a growling stomach, head to Miriam’s Restaurant (aka Comidas Tipicas Miriam). Seriously, where else can you sit on a bench and have a chance at seeing a Resplendant Quetzal while sipping on your fresh-squeezed guava juice? 

My family went there for lunch twice during the 4 days we were in the valley, and it didn’t disappoint. The food was affordable and delicious (order the casada, order the trout, get the juice of the day, whatever it is). And the birding was great and easy.

Clay-colored Thrush

An incredibly dull-looking choice for the national bird of Costa Rica

The easiest spot to see birds is on the feeders out back. Whatever the time of day, there will be a load of food out there, and a stream of birds coming and going. In addition to three kinds of thrushes (Clay-colored, Sooty, and Mountain), there were Flame-colored and Silver-throated Tanagers, Hairy and Acorn Woodpeckers, Large-footed Brushfinches, and a Rufous-browed Peppershrike. My only sighting the whole trip of Golden-browed Chlorophonia was at Miriam’s–a lime green tennis ball flying past the back deck. Blue-and-white Swallows and White-collared Swifts circled overhead. 

This being Costa Rica, there were, of course, hummingbirds. We saw five kinds at the feeders and buzzing around: Scintillant, Talamanca, and Volcano Hummingbird, plus White-throated Mountain-gem and Lesser Violetear.  The birds were so plentiful and easy to spot that even the boys got into the photography action.

All told, I picked up 6 lifers while we ate lunch. But Miriam’s isn’t just about the birds, or the delicious food. You’ll inevitably be seated near some birders who’ll offer you tips on where to go to see target birds like the Volcano Junco and Resplendent Quetzal, and other good sightings. The back porch also provides a stunning view of the valley.

Costa Rica (2019) #8: Above and around Savegre Hotel

Always bring (extra) binoculars

Birding the trails above and around Savegre Hotel

It certainly isn’t ideal to recount incredible days of birding more than 2 years after they happened. But it has been a delight to revisit our trip to Costa Rica, and to drag it out over these many months of varying degrees of isolation. As I’ve mentioend, there are amazing birds on the grounds of the Savegre hotel itself. And the Resplendent Quetzal is just a short drive up the road. But that’s just a part of the astounding birding in the Savegre River valley. The miles of trails above and around the Savegre Hotel are not to be missed. I mean, did you know there is a kind of bird called a chlorosphingus? And that it used to be called a bush tanager, but is now thought to be a brush finch? Buckle up, because there are many more long bird names ahead.

The first morning in Savegre Valley my son and I headed up the trails above the lodge. I thought this was the way to the quetzal. But it wasn’t. It nevertheless was good birding. The trail starts as a road, and the hill is a bit steep heading up from the hotel. But it’s not far until a trial or two branches off the road into the forest. We took the first offramp, for the Canto de Aves trail, which loops back to the road. From there, we explored a bit of the Quebrada trail, but didn’t do the whole loop. Each are magical trails full of birds. As everywhere else in Costa Rica, there were lifers around every curve. We saw a Spangle-cheeked Tanager and a Black-cheeked Warbler, a Flame-throated Warbler and a Black-capped Flycatcher. Yellow-thighed Brushfinches worked the edges of the trail. Our best find of the hike, the relatively short-named Highland Tinamou, rumbled through the brush down a steep slope. It evaded being photographed, but I got good looks through the binoculars.

The Quebrada Trail’s beauty brought my wife to tears

Later that afternoon, we took a family hike down the Sendero Catarata (waterfall trail). This trail leads from the hotel downstream. It’s a great, level hike with a cool bridge and a rewarding waterfall. The boys climbed a cliff covered in vines. And, of course, more birds. I added 5 lifers on this hike, including Mountain Elaenia, Yellowish Flycatcher, Yellow-throated Vireo, Ruddy-capped Nightingale-thrush (I told you the names were long!) and Yellow-bellied Siskin. I even got my first ever photograph of, and only my second ever look at, a Golden-winged Warbler.

Root climbing along the Sendero Catarata

We went back to the trails above the lodge the next day, this time as a full family hike. The highlights included the Northern Emerald-Toucanet, and tracking down a  Collared Trogon. We heard the trogon calling from the forest along the trail, but couldn’t find it. One of us walked down the windy trail until he was sure he was past the bird. I walked the other way until I was sure I was past it. Then, our sharp-eyed 12 year old searched in the middle and, as he always does, found the bird. It took nearly 15 minutes to get eyes on the bird. It always amazes me how birds can call out repeatedly, from 10-20 yards away, and remain hidden. In the thick forest, moving just a foot or two left or right can reveal, or obscure, a bird perched in the canopy.

All around the hotel, the trails are great. In a couple of places, you come across suspension bridges like this one. Not only are they thrilling to walk across, they put you at the top of the canopy, for clearer views of birds you otherwise strain your neck to see. 

Collared Redstart Suenos del Bosque Costa Rica

An up-close encounter on the bridge with a Collared Redstart

If you ever make it to San Gerardo de Dota and the Savegre River Valley, allocate 2-3 nights to allow yourself to take it all in and a proper pace. And if you are into fishing, or eating delicious trout, this spot is world-famous for that, too.

Yellow-winged Vireo Savegre Lodge Costa Rica

Yellow-winged Vireo

« Older posts