Tag: Golden-bellied Flycatcher

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) #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