Tag: Rufous-collared Sparrow

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) #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 switchbacks  we 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.