Category: Costa Rica (Page 1 of 5)

Costa Rica (2019) #10: Birding the Orosi Valley

Orosi Valley and erupting Irazu Volcano

Our balcony view of the Orosi Valley, and distant erupting Turrialba Volcano (small white plume left of the weird tower)

Birding the Orosi Valley in Costa Rica (2019)

Our last stop during our 2018-2019 winter trip to Costa Rica was the village of Orosi. The Orosi Valley is notable for its coffee farms and lush mid-elevation mountains.  The town has the oldest functioning church in Costa Rica, and it quaint little museum. We rented two-story, 3-bedroom villa with a balcony that turned out to be an amazing little spot. It’s called Casa Blanca, at the Orosi Lodge. It was cheap, had a gated parking space for our rental car, a nice view of town and, in the far, far distance, we could see the Turrialba Volcano actively erupting. Costa Rica is so awesome.

In contrast to our stays in the forest near Dominical in the Selva Escondida (big birds, small birds) and in the Savegre Valley  at the Savegre Lodge amongst quetzals, this was meant to be more of a small-town-centered travel experience. We walked around, ate at restaurants and browsed shops,  watched the local kids play soccer, and crossed a huge suspended pedestrian bridge over the Rio Orosi. The town was the most local-dominated spot of our vacation, and felt really down to earth.  Just sitting on our balcony eating fresh pineapple produced a nice list of birds including Red-billed Pigeon, Gray Hawk, Montezuma Oropendola, Bananaquit, and Social Flycatcher.

Blue-and-white Swallow Orosi Costa Rica

Blue-and-white Swallows roosting on our balcony

We watched this Rufous-tailed Hummingbird while we ate pizza for lunch.

Rufous-tailed Hummingbird Orosi Costa Rica

Our biggest adventure during our time in Orosi was to visit Monte Sky, a private reserve a few kilometers outside of town. It’s a great place that I highly recommend. To get there, you turn off the paved road and drive down a gravel road until you hit a parking lot. Then, hike to a “cabina rustica” that serves hot cocoa and has benches and an amazing view. Then walk further up the hill to a big waterfall. All the while, keep your eyes peeled for birds.

Rufous-collared Sparrow Orosi Costa Rica

Rufous-collared Sparrow

There were gardens, and forest edge around the cabin, so we saw a bunch of good birds. My only Bay-headed Tanager of the trip to Costa Rica was moving around the bushes here. They aren’t rare, but I was delighted to see the odd combination of dark red, blue, and green on a bird. The Green Thorntail pictured below was indifferent to our presence as it worked the flowers that grew on the outer wall of the cabin.

The trails had their share of wonder too. I added 3 lifers during the day – the two birds pictured above, along with Purple-throated Mountain Gem. And, of course, there was a collection of birds with long, luxuriant names like Ochraceous Wren, Long-tailed Silky Flycatcher, and Sooty-capped Chlorosphingus 

Golden-belllied Flycatcher Orosi Costa Rica

Golden-bellied Flycatcher on the trail to the waterfall

We didn’t have time in our schedule to visit the nearby Tapanti National Park (eBird reports 482 species seen there, 361 in January alone!). It was with a large amount of sadness that we packed up the rental car, left our awesome rental, and made the drive to San Jose. We had an early morning flight out, so we arranged to stay the night in a nearby hotel. This being Costa Rica, even the airport hotel offers quality birding opportunities. We stayed at the Hotel Aeropuerto in Alajuela, just a short ride form the airport.  The grounds looked pretty promising. When we arrived, there was just enough late afternoon light to spy a Gray Hawk perched in a tree, Clay-colored Thrushes in the bushes, a Baltimore Oriole, a couple Tennessee Warblers, my first House Sparrow of Costa Rica, and a tropical send-off from a Lessen’s Motmot. We all loved Costa Rica and would go back in a hot minute.

Lessen's Motmot San jose Costa Rica

An airport hotel Lessen’s Motmot

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.

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