When we arrived at the refuge it was very similar to the one we had stayed in at Sarapiqui on our previous visit to Costa Rica, that one though being on the Caribbean side of the country. We met with our guide Deiber, and to start with we concentrated around the garden of the lodge. Tall trees and flowering shrubs were the order of the the day, and as we watched the birds started to wake up.
A very distant hummingbird perched out in the open was another White-necked Jacobin.
Tanager could be seen in the trees, the commoner Blue-gray Tanager, and Golden-hooded. Clay-coloured Thrushes were also present as were the usual Inca and Ruddy Ground Dove. A Chestnut-mandibled Toucan was just visible at the top of the trees, but as we strained to see it clearer, it was joined by a much more showy Fiery-billed Aracari.
This was a much better view than the distant one we had the previous day, and here you could really appreciate the colours on the bill, and chest that give the bird its name. Like all toucans they have a fairly catholic diet, dominated by fruit, but will take insects, small mammals, birds and reptiles.
The larger flycatchers such as Kingbirds and Streaked Flycatchers could be seen at the top of the trees, but a small drab flycatcher was of interest, and was positively identified by Deiber as an Eastern Wood Peewee. the eastern and Western are very similar, but the eastern is considered to be a paler grey with a whiter breast.
We were now wandering amongst the flowering shrubs. A House Wren gave some excellent views close by. It looks very similar to our wren. I learnt an interesting fact, the continent of America is where all the wrens in the world I found, all but one, the European Wren.
Yesterday we had seen the male Cherri's Tanager, today we came across the female. Orange brown in colour, but with the same greyish blue bill that the male has.
There was in fact a gathering of these Tanagers, a couple of males and two females that were feeding juvenile birds. The males kept themselves well hidden, and were a challenge to photograph, but I did manage to pin one down.
From the gardens we set off onto one of the many trails around the refuge. The Hacienda Baru refuge consists of 330 hectares of wetlands and secondary rainforests in the lowlands to primary rainforest on the highland coastal ridge and in it there are eight kilometres of walking trails.
We stopped to watch a Golden-naped Woodpecker hammering the hell out of a dead tree. It was high up, and against the morning sky, so I ended up with just a silhouette. Our guide pointed out many calls, but it wasn't until we reached a look out point that we had a chance to see some birds. A Green Heron flew in,and sat amongst the grass. It wasn't clear if there was water there, or it was just waiting for frogs or lizards.
A little earlier a Collared Peccary had run across the track, but as we left the view point we stopped to stare down another. It was dark and we could just make it out, but as it barked and snorted at us we could definitely smell it!
Their musky odour is always evident, and people often smell a peccary long before they see it. They frequently rub their oil glands against rocks and tree trunks to mark and defend territory. They are much more common than the white-lipped peccary, Costa Rica’s other peccary species. Though pig-like in appearance and behaviour, the peccary is not classified in the pig family, and is more related to the Old World pigs.
We came to another clearing where there were high trees, but at the back dead ones where Tropical Kingbirds used the dead branches as perches to launch atrtacks on the passing insects. Some vigourous tapping close by gave away the presence of a Woodpecker, and a large one, the Lineated Woodpecker.
As is always the case if you stand still then birds appear, and a small flycatcher was busy athe bottom of the branches on a tree in front of this. It was lemony in colour, and as always without any real distinguishing markings, but had a rather fanciful name, the Southern, Beardless Tyrannulant.
the walk then took us back into the denser region f the forest trail, again birds were about we could hear their calls, and there would be movement above which would require neck-aching spells looking longingly into the branches. I did manage to find this Barred Antshrike
Males have a black crown, mid back, wings and tail with an olive-green rump. The rest of the head, neck, breast and upper back are orange, and the belly is more yellow. It occurs in the lowlands and foothills of the Pacific slope up to 1100 m, being replaced on the Caribbean slopes of tropical Central America by the closely related white-collared Manakin,
The Orange-collared Manakin, like other manakins has a fascinating breeding display at a communal lek. Each male clears a small patch of forest floor up to 120 cm across to bare earth, and leaps to and fro between thin upright bare sticks, giving a loud wing snap. When a female is present males jump together, crossing each other above the bare display court.
All we had today wast this male calling a clear "cheeuuu" quite loudly.
Another clearing and we came across a small hummingbird singing from a prominent branch. This was a Blue-throated Goldentail, yet another new hummingbird. The light and distance away was not good, and it is difficult here to appreciate the bird
However, through the wonder of digiscoping, and someone who knew how to do it properly we were able to get a video of the Blue-tailed Goldetail, singing from it perch.
Our time was about up, the walk had probably turned up more birds that we would have seen in Corcovado in the forests, the early morning start being the best time to find them. It also meant that we could be back at Kura in time for breakfast.
As we pulled into the hotel grounds I noticed a large black and white bird sitting on a branch by the side of the path. At first I though kingfisher, but in fact it is a White-necked Puffbird.
Puffbirds are tropical tree-dwelling insectivorous birds that are found from South America up to Mexico. Together with their closest relatives, the jacamars, they form a divergent lineage within the order Piciformes. Lacking the iridescent colours of the jacamars, puffbirds are mainly brown, rufous or grey, with large heads, large eyes, and flattened bills with a hooked tip. Their loose, abundant plumage and short tails makes them look stout and puffy, giving rise to the English name of the family.
The White-necked Puffbird is one of the largest and most widespread of the family and with its massive bill, it feeds on large insects, frogs, and lizards.
back at the hotel we had breakfast, and then caught up on the various insects that had appeared overnight. Yet another Red-winged Giant Grasshopper, this time sitting on the glass balustrade with a dark background providing the mirror effect.
Later in a mad dash to try and scan the soaring vultures I brushed into it, and it flew off in a frantic manner.
It was a lovely morning, blue sky and plenty of sunshine and the vultures were out and soaring all around us. I picked up a King Vulture below us, cruising over the tops of the trees that followed the river leading down to the ocean. As I watched it was joined by another.
I watched the two of them moving around and through the trees, but they were still a fair way off.
A little later I picked up another at eye level soaring a distance out, but as it gained height it also drifted, and the drift was bringing it towards me.
The last day and my wish had come true, the King Vulture came closer and closer, giving me some excellent views, and able to fully appreciate the colours on the head. The head is bald, with the skin colour varying, including yellow, orange, blue, purple, and red. The king vulture has a very noticeable orange fleshy caruncle or wattle on its beak.
These wattles are often an ornament for courting potential mates. Large wattles are correlated with high testosterone levels, good nutrition and the ability to evade predators, which in turn indicates a potentially successful mate. As well as the wattle there is also a bare area around the crop just below the throat.
The King Vulture is a true scavenger and it often makes the initial cut into a fresh carcass. Both the turkey and Black Vultures do not have the bill to allow them to do so, they have to wait for the carcass to decompose. It will also displace the Turkey and Black Vultures from a carcass, leaving them to wait their turn.
I watched the King circle some more above us, and then drift away towards the west and over the valley, finally dropping away and out of sight. Over the course of the last three days the views have significantly improved ending with the close fly past today.
As with the previous days, the heat of the early afternoon quietened things down, but that didn't stop me being on the look out, even in the pool.
Late afternoon, the cloud rolled in once again, and with it a few drops of rain, we went for a short walk around the grounds once again. This pink heliconas reminded us everytime we walked past it of a flamingo.I am not sure what it is, maybe a young iguana, or one of the Anole lizards.
And as we looked at the flowers, this small lizard sat watching us on a Banana plant leaf.
And as we looked at the flowers, this small lizard sat watching us on a Banana plant leaf.
We wandered down the hill, and I picked up a large bird flying over the top of the trees. It settled at the top of a tree just outside the grounds, but it was close enough to get a good view of a Yellow-headed Caracara.
Smaller than the Crested Caracara, it is mostly buffy-yellow, with a narrow dark eye line, dark brown upperparts, and dark brown banding on the tail. It can be found on agricultural land, grassland, savanna, marshes, and successional growth along river courses. It feeds on an assortment of items including carrion, arthropods, amphibians, and fruit, frequently feeding on the ground. It stayed for a short while before lifting off and heading back down the valley.
As we watched the caracara there was movement in the the trees closer, this was under the large leaves, and was down to two species of woodpecker, the Golden-naped Woodpecker.
And the larger Pale-billed Woodpecker.
Similar in size to the Lineated seen this morning, it differs by the red head, whitish bill and all black upper parts.
There was a pair of these impressive woodpeckers, and they would chase off the smaller Golden-naped.
We walked up to the upper deck to take in the view for one more time, and once again away to the east a rainbow was present as a small shower moved through.
With much more cloud about we didn't stay for the sunset, but headed back to the villa. As we walked down the steps I disturbed a Green and Black Frog, the first one we had seen. We had them and the Blue Jeans Frog, but had only managed this sighting.
Back in the room, the sky did turn impressive, after the sun had set.
And so our time in Costa Rica was coming to an end, tomorrow we were heading back, a four hour drive to San Jose to catch the flight back to Gatwick. When we got up in the morning, a Chestnut-mandibled Toucan was sitting in the tree outside the villa. A fitting goodbye as I packed the camera away
This trip has been completely different from our previous one five years ago. Then it was all about seeing as much as we could, making sure we found all the Costa Rican specialties. This time it has been about focusing on a relaxing holiday, while finding what was missed last time. On this trip we have only seen one species of monkey, the Howler, and we did not see a Sloth, the bird count was only 140 against the 220 of last time. We have though seen many more butterflies, and of course experienced whale watching here, something we did not achieve last time. Of the 140 birds seen 26 were lifers for me. Our target birds were always the hummingbirds, and here we managed 17, of which 7 were lifers.
Costa Rica is a wonderful country, the people are very friendly, and excited that you are visiting, they want to share everything about their country and are always open to talk about it with passion. The country has a wide array of different habitats, that always keep you interested, there is no monotony. We still have much more to see here. I would like to spend more time in the Monteverde area, Quetzel remains a target bird. The Highlands south of San Jose offer the opportunity for many more hummingbird species, and of course there is Corcovado, we would like to find out if it is as beautiful as everyone says.
All the hotels and resorts we stayed in on this trip were wonderful. The facilities the food and the staff. Our transfers were all on time, and other than the bag mishap a very pleasant way to see the country
We will return, "Pura Vida"