Tag: Clay-colored Thrush

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.

Yucatan, Mexico #2 – Birding Chichen Itza

Platform of the Eagles and Jaguars Chichen Itza

Despite this documentation of an eagle devouring a human heart, eBird has no confirmed Maya-era sightings

Birding Chichén Itzá Amongst Roaring Jaguars

Our Yucatan adventure culminated in a stay at the Hotel Mayaland and a visit to the Maya archaeological site known as Chichén Itzá. It was one of the biggest Maya cities. Most of the structures have been excavated, and many have been restored. It has a huge ballcourt where you can do some awesome acoustic tricks, an observatory, and a picturesque pyramid. Unlike Cobá, where you can climb to the top of the pyramid, the ruins here are all roped off. And unlike Cobá, this place is expensive and crowded.

Because we stayed at the Mayaland, we were able to buy tickets and go through a side entrance. We were second in line in the morning, and enjoyed an hour or two before the crowds and trinkets sellers (roaring jaguars at every other booth) changed the feel. A handy little guidebook allowed us to learn about the buildings and temples and ballcourt and carvings as we wandered around.  Our sons bargained for momentos and t-shirts. My wife spent too much on a colorful Mexican blanket. I peered into the trees and bushes for birds.

Despite the crowds and the wide-open spaces, the area is surrounded by jungle and there were birds all around. My oldest son had the best find of the day – a lifer Turquoise-browed Motmot perched at eye-level just 20 feet away from us. Motmots wag their tails back and forth, which is often the way to spot them.

Turquoise-browed Motmot Chichen Itza

Turquoise-browed Motmot

We had good looks at a lot of birds. Yucatan Jays moved loudly all about. A group of Green Jays and Altamira Orioles were near the ballcourt. A Cinnamon Hummingbird posed for a nice photo.  There were poor looks at even more species, like the distant Bat Falcon perched on some tower and the lifer Gray-crowned Yellowthroat that vanished as quickly as it appeared in a bush right next to us.                                                                                                                                                           

Cinnamon Hummingbird Chichen Itza

Cinnamon Hummingbird

Birding at the Hotel Mayaland

For our visit, we stayed right next to Chichén Itzá in a bungalow at the Hotel Mayaland. It’s on the expensive side, but has lush grounds that are great for birding (and some swimming pools and a replica observatory/planetarium with a decent show about Maya sky-watching and culture). While walking the grounds, I had a Great Black Hawk flyover, lifer Grayish Saltators and Wedge-tailed Sabrewing, another Turquoise-browed Motmot, more Olivaceous Woodcreeper, and a Rufous-browed Peppershrike was in the same tree at dusk each night. At one meal, a brilliant red Summer Tanager joined us.

Bungalow Hotel Mayaland

Our Bungalow

Summer Tanager Hotel Mayaland

Selfie with Summer Tanager

Clay-colored Thrush Hotel Mayaland

Clay-colored Thrush

Rufous-browed Peppershrike Hotel Mayaland

Rufous-browed Peppershrike

One afternoon, I wandered over to the grounds of the Hacienda Chichen next door and added some more good sightings, including Groove-billed Ani, White-fronted Parrot, and a lifer Yellow-winged Tanager.