Tag: Rufous-tailed Hummingbird

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 (2018) #3 – Birding Dominical: Small Birds

Golden-hooded Tanager Dominical Costa Rica

Golden-hooded Tanagers add sparkle to mixed flocks

Birding Dominical: The Tiny Birds

In a previous post , I covered the big birds we saw from the property at Villa Chill near Dominical, Costa Rica.  In this post, I’ll cover the small birds I identified (think tanager and smaller). The rate of identified birds per bird seen was much lower here than with the toucans and hawks and such. Many were moving quickly at the tops of trees or moving quickly through dense cover. Some were calling but never seen. Others were calling, and staying perfectly still. There are many ways to detect but not identify a bird. And I succeeded in them all.

The first full day we had on the property, I got up at the crack of dawn and wandered around. I thought at times I’d never make it back to the house. At nearly every turn, you could stand still for five minutes and a dozen birds would be moving all around you. Some were easy to ID. The easiest were the familiar birds, like Summer Tanager, Chestnut-sided Warbler, House Wren and Rose-breasted Grosbeak. I had also studied up, so I was ready to identify birds I’d never seen before. Great places for prep work on Costa Rica bird knowledge: Patrick O’Donnell’s blog about birding Costa Rica, and the best (and delightfully compact) field guide to the birds of Costa Rica.

But nothing can prepare you for your first big mixed flock in Costa Rica. It happened to me about 45 minutes into my walk. And it was like being a kid in a candy store. We don’t get fallouts on the West Coast. And this surely wasn’t anything close to a big fallout. But I’d never seen so much activity in a single tree. All told, I found in the same damn tree all of the following: Golden-hooded Tanager, Scarlet-rumped Tanager, Palm Tanager, Scarlet-thighed Dacnis, Blue Dacnis, Green Honeycreeper, Philadelphia Vireo, an apparently unusual Blue-headed Vireo, and countless other unidentified birds. A nearby row of brush held a Mourning Warbler, Blue-black Grassquit, and a Riverside Wren. This is the reason you come to Costa Rica.

A family scene from a birder’s dreams (they’re actually pointing at spider monkeys)

It really didn’t matter where I wandered. The bushes and trees around the property were buzzing with activity. Regular small visitors to the backyard included Variable Seedeaters, Scarlet-rumped Tanager, Bananaquit, Blue-gray Tanager, and Palm Tanager (so apparently boring I never even took a photo of one), (not to mention the hawks and whatnot soaring overhead, and the woodpeckers, cuckoos, tityra and flycatchers coming to and fro).

Costa Rica has over 50 species of hummingbird. But they aren’t all called hummingbirds. There seem to be nearly as many names for hummingbirds as there are species of hummingbird. There are sicklebills, hermits, barbthroats, lancebills, sabrewings, jacobins, violetears, mangos, coquettes, emeralds, woodnymphs, goldentails, plumeleteers, snowcaps, thorntails, mountain-gems, brilliants, fairies, starthtroats, and woodstars. The property didn’t have any hummingbird feeders, so it was up to mother nature herself to bring in the hummers.

A few were easy to identify. The White-necked Jacobin‘s blue head and clean white lower body made it obvious. Same with the long tail of the Long-billed Hermit. The orange-red bill of the Blue-throated Goldentail helped seal the ID. But many hummingbirds zipped past and disappeared into the foliage,  gone in an instant. All told, I managed to identify 8 species on the villa property. I only managed to photograph three.

Band-tailed Barbthroat Dominical Costa Rica

Band-tailed Barbthroat

There’s nothing like being in a foreign bird land to make plain the power of bird call knowledge. Mysterious sounds abounded, Was I hearing a single bird with a repertoire like a Northern Mockingbird? Or are there seven species of something in that row of bushes? Frequently, I’d track one curious call for minutes to no avail, only to begin tracking down the source of another strange sound. The small birds are a challenge, but I loved every minute of it.

Red-legged Honeycreeper Dominical Costa Rica

Red-legged Honeycreepers were welcome regulars on the property

Tropical Gnatcatcher Dominical Costa Rica

Tropical Gnatcatcher on a big tropical leaf