Wednesday, 25 April 2018

Savegra Lodge, Costa Rica - Quetzals and the gardens

We arrived at Savegra late afternoon on 19th March and booked the early morning quetzal tour for the next day.
Getting up at 5.00am was a bit of a shock to the system as was the temperature - it was absolutely freezing. We had all got sweaters, fleeces etc but no one had thought to pack gloves. A significant oversight.
It was still dark when we met our guide Melvin Fernandez who was brilliant, endlessly patient and is  acknowledged as a contributer to  "The Birds of Costa Rica" by Richard Garrigues et al. For the first hour it was slow to say the least with only a few quetzal calls to keep up hopes but then a male, showed distantly and Melvin was immediately onto it with his scope. Eventually there were 2 males in the area which not only provided better static views but also some fantastic flight views.
The birds were always a little too distant for the shots I would have liked but for those with iPhones Melvin took shots through his scope - remarkably good they were too....on the phone; not so good on the computer.

Also seen whilst we were waiting was mountain thrush (no picture), black guan and a real bonus in the form of a bicoloured hawk.

Black guan

Bicoloured hawk

On returning to the lodge Melvin parked up at his house (in the lodge ground, up the hill behind the barns) and showed us his bird feeding station inviting us to use the place whenever we wanted. I went there quite a lot. There is a box for donations to help fund the station and he has a copy of the Birds of Costa Rica hanging up for anyone to use.

Tennessee wabler, magnificent, scintillent and stripe-tailed hummingbird, green violetear, white-throated mountain gem, silver throated tanager, Baltimore oriole and rufous collared sparrow were almost omnipresent with blue-grey and summer tanager, red headed barbet, melodious blackbird and bronzed cowbird being less regular visitors.

Tennessee warbler

Silver throated tanager

Rufous collared sparrow

Baltimore oriole

Melodious blackbird

Red-headed barbet

Bronzed cowbird

In the gardens we photographed emerald toucanet, mountain elaenia, band-tailed pigeon, slatey flower piercer, long-tailed silky flycatcher, spangled tanager (though these were very mobile).

Emerald toucanet at it's nest hole.

Mountain Elaenia

Slatey flowerpiercer

Long-tailed silky flycatcher

Spangle cheeked tanager

(Very) High overhead as the day warmed up were numerous vultures, red-tailed kite and very distant white-collared swift. Lower down were resident blue and white swallow who also could be found perched on the wires near Melvin's feeders.

Turkey vulture

Red-tailed hawk

Blue and white swallow

We only had rain for around an hour during our second day at the lodge but even this period productive as we sat outside our room photographing hummingbirds some 8 yards away using the flash. In addition a spot-crowned woodcreeper landed on the tree you can see in the picture below.

Our rooms/cabins. The red hot poker is behind the tree on the left.

Spot-crowned woodcreeper

I'll do a separate posting on the hummingbirds and one on our walks outside the hotel grounds.

Wednesday, 18 April 2018

Costa Rica March 15-31st. Part 5 Miriam's Quetzals

The drive from Selva Verde to Savegra Lodge is quite long (~5 hrs) and requires traversing San Jose to get on to Highway 2 and heading south west. This road slowly climbs until it enters the Quetzal national Park (at ~8000 ft).  There are a number of hotels along this road but we needed to turn off onto a road/track that drops steeply down eventually to Savegra Lodge. A few miles into this decent one will find Miriam's Quetzals, a café/restaurant with a famed feeder station (it is marked on Google Maps if you want to find it).
After the disappointment of Dave and Dave's we stopped there for coffee to check the place out late(ish) afternoon (3.30-4.00) rather than drive back up from Savegra another day to see whether it was any good.
Anticipating the worse we actually went into the café without the camera gear but immediately we saw the feeders we rushed back to the car to get our kit. There were birds everywhere and I'd probably fired off over a hundred shots before Miriam came out to take our orders.

On the path leading to the terrace were large footed finch and rufous necked sparrow, on the flowers beside the terrace were hummingbirds and slatey backed flower piercer. On the fruit feeding station blue grey and flame backed tanager (male and female in various stages of moult) plus acorn woodpecker and around the hummingbird feeder there was magnificent and volcano hummingbird, green violet ear and white throated mountain gem though only the female of the latter.

Slatety flower piercer(female)

Large footed finch

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Acorn Wooodpecker
Volcano hummingbird

Flame coloured tanager

Flame coloured tanager (female)

Sooty Thrush

Magnificent hummingbird

White throated mountain gem

Other visitors to the feeding station area were sooty thrush, yellow thighed finch, long-tailed silky flycatcher and Wilson's warbler.

yellow-thighed finch

Long-tailed silky flycatcher

We only had half an hour there but it was so good we went back the next day for lunch. It was somewhat quieter for our lunch visit (around 1pm) and this second visit didn't add many new species though red headed barbet came in and 2 swallow-tailed kites circled overhead for a few minutes. What it did do is allow us to get more quality shots of the birds listed above.

Swallow-tailed kite

Miriam's was undoubtedly one of the highlights of the holiday.

I'd read that Miriam has charged for people to be there but I suspect it was because they outstayed their welcome and didn't buy much from the café. After our coffee stop I donated $10 to the feeder fund and Miriam was extremely grateful; on our second visit we had lunch and a drink or two so I thought our patronage was suffice.

If you are in the area stopping at this place is a must!

Thursday, 12 April 2018

Costa Rica (15th-31st March) Dave and Dave's and Selva Verde Lodge.

18th March.
Due to the lack of activity at the feeders at Selve Verde it was decided to pay a visit to Dave and Dave's Nature Park which is famous for it's feeders and allowing you to get close to the action though it costs a whopping $40 per person..
We arrived at 8.00am and was told we had to go on the guided tour. There was little action around the feeders so off we went. Dave senior was our guide and he told us how the reserve was re-wilded from a plantation. Whilst the talk was interesting the walk wasn't very birdy with buff rumped warbler, orange billed sparrow, long billed hermit and white collared manikin being the only birds we saw - though I must admit we had great views of the manikin though it was very dark.

Buff-rumped warbler

Orange-billed sparrow

White collared manikin using flash

White collared manikin using natural light

After the tour (which took nearly 2 hrs) we were told we could stay longer for an additional $20 per hour (each). This we declined because whilst standing around waiting for a cup of coffee it was clear that next to nothing was visiting the feeders though I did manage a few decent shots of the pair of jacobins visiting the hummer feeders.

White-necked Jacobin (female)

White-necked Jacobin (female)

Whilst waiting Dave Jnr told us that at this time of year (mid March) the feeders go quiet and a lot of the birds get down to breeding and look for more protein rich food............I wish they'd told us that before we stomped up $40 each.
After the tour I had another couple of turns around the grounds of Selva Verde getting some improved shots of red-throated ant tanager, grey capped flycatcher and great kiskadee and record shots of stripe throated hummingbird.

Stripe-throated hermit

Grey Capped flycatcher

Collared Aracari

Black Phoebe

In the evening we went on the night tour of the rain forest where we saw a number of frogs and bugs including bullet ants - which are absolute beasts and not to be trifled with.

Red-eyed tree frog

Night walk bugs
Our last morning I tried my luck in the grounds across the road from the main site where I saw several new species but most were in the tree tops and I only managed record shots at best.

Black cheeked woodpecker

Cinnamon Becard
Black-crowned tityra

Despite being woken by them at 5.20 every morning I only  managed distant shots of howler monkeys.

Overall I was a little disappointed in Selva Verde, especially the feeding stations and very disappointed with Dave and Dave's though it seems we may just have got the timing wrong.