A Travellerspoint blog

Day 6: The Quest For the Quetzal, Part 3

all seasons in one day 75 °F


This is the report about my sixth day on my recent trip to Costa Rica, which was Sunday, July 19. I will post a report about day 7 later today (July 25) and post about days 8-10 tomorrow (July 26). Then, on Monday, July 27 I will leave for my annual 3-week trip to Idaho with my family, so I will post daily about that starting then. Before reading any further, remember that my #1 target bird for the trip to Costa Rica as a whole was the Resplendent Quetzal, the main target bird I missed when I visited Panama in 2013. I will remind you of this fact at the beginning of every post because this bird was in the back of my mind every moment of every day during the trip, so we'll have to wait and see if I find it sometime!

Again, italics will indicate copied journal entries from the journal in which I wrote during the trip. Enjoy!


For those of you loyal readers who have been following this blog ever since I visited Panama in November 2013, you may understand the significance of the title of this post. For more recent readers, here are parts 1 and 2 of my quest for the Resplendent Quetzal (in Panama):

Part 1: http://worldbirding.travellerspoint.com/17/
Part 2: http://worldbirding.travellerspoint.com/20/

My roommate Andrew and I woke up for breakfast at 7:00am in the beautiful dining room with fantastic views of the mountains stretching all the way to the Pacific Ocean.

(This view was actually from our room):

I managed to squeeze in a bit of birding before breakfast. PALM TANAGER:

After breakfast, the group was split up into two smaller groups where one group would do a nature hike in the morning and the other would have a horseback ride, and vice versa in the afternoon. Alexa and Mario said that the preserve where we would take the hike, Curi Cancha Wildlife Refuge, is famous for Resplendent Quetzals, so I could do the hike in the morning as well as the afternoon if I don't find them in the morning. My excitement mounted as we bussed to the preserve, and it was a short ride and we soon were arriving at the parking lot - I was the first one off the bus, of course, and I immediately started intensely birding.



I was absolutely getting bird species after bird species when, not even 10 minutes into the hike, we stop beside a large group of people on the trail and Mario, our nature guide for the trip, points up into the trees. Without him even giving word of direction, my eyes fall on a large, plump green and red bird perched about 75 feet up in the middle level of the cloud forest. My heart skips several beats as I lay eyes on the bird I have wanted to see ever since I became a birder in February 2012: the RESPLENDENT QUETZAL!!!!!!!!!!!


As well as this well-photographed adult male Quetzal, we also spotted an unphotographed female and juvenile male Quetzal.

Here is a "selfie" with my new favorite bird: the Resplendent Quetzal. To find the bird, follow the main tree trunk on the right side of the photo up until a large limb on the left forms an approxiamate right angle with the trunk. The Resplendent Quetzal is the small, reddish dot right inside that angle.

What an ethereal bird! I was absolutely dancing for joy when I found it! The Resplendent Quetzal is absolutely the best and most beautiful bird I have ever seen, and like I mentioned, it has effectively replaced the Hooded Warbler as my #1 all-time favorite bird species.

The rest of the hike yielded more great birds and wildlife as well, and under perfect weather conditions for birding...cloudy (but not too cloudy) skies and temperatures in the 70's.

There was a fantastic hummingbird station set up along the trail that attracted a wealth of hummers. Here is a GREEN VIOLETEAR:

There were a lot of other interesting birds in the general vicinity, as well, such as this MOUNTAIN ELAENIA:



A gorgeous male VIOLET SABREWING, which was in my opinion the most beautiful hummingbird of the trip:

The hummingbird on the right is a rare COPPERY-HEADED EMERALD. This may perhaps be one of the rarest bird species I found in Costa Rica because it is endemic to the country, meaning it is found in no other country in the world, and given the extremely small size of Costa Rica, that is quite a small geographic range for this bird. Curi Cancha Wildlife Refuge is one of the only locations in the world to reliably find this species.


A beautiful SILVER-THROATED TANAGER; this is a species I saw in Panama but was not able to photograph well, so I was very pleased that I obtained this photo:

There were some absolutely gigantic trees along the cloudforest hike, and looking up their trunks really gives one a perspective of the majesty of this ecosystem:

We hiked all the way to the Continental Divide; the place where water flows down to the Caribbean Sea on one side and to the Pacific Ocean on the other.

We found Large Forest-floor Millipedes such as this one to be surprisingly common on the ground in the cloudforest:

Here is a photo of Mario and me after our success in finding the Resplendent Quetzal:

Other astounding but unpictured bird species identified on the cloudforest hike included THREE-WATTLED BELLBIRD and ORNATE HAWK-EAGLE.

Coati near the parking lot of Curi Cancha Wildlife Refuge:

After the hike, our group walked with Mario to a local ice cream parlor. Mario and I both got mint chocolate ice creams in celebration of seeing the green Quetzals. Then, we walked over to a souvenir store run by local women where I bought a quetzal stuffed animal for my little sister, Pearl, and coffee with quetzals on the coffee bag for my parents.

After I purchased those items, Mario suddenly ushered me outside the store and to my absolute amazement and delight - there sat a FOURTH RESPLENDENT QUETZAL - a young male bird whose uppertail covert feathers had not yet grown out - right over the parking lot!!!


After the entire group got to see this Quetzal, we all bussed back to the lodge for lunch where I managed to fit in a bit more birding:




After lunch back at the lodge, the other group of kids did the cloudforest hike while mine spent the afternoon on horseback. Although it was raining the entire time, it was so much fun! My horse was named Cubano (pronounced Cuvano) and I led the line of horses through the long, windy, steep mountain trails for the afternoon. The instructor rode on his horse right behind me and everyone else followed behind him. I can definitely say that my horse, Cubano, was the most well-behaved horse in the group. It was also super fun to lead everyone, and I picked up on how to control my horse's direction very quickly. Also, the birding was fantastic from horseback but I didn't bring my camera because otherwise it would have been soaked and it would have banged against my chest the entire time as we trotted along. Some of the avian highlights were COMMON PAURAQUE, PRONG-BILLED BARBET, and ORANGE-BELLIED TROGON, but the standout was my 5th RESPLENDENT QUETZAL OF THE DAY that flew across the path in front of me while on horseback! I was absolutely awestruck yet again by this wonderful bird!

After horseback riding, an hour of free time back at the lodge was rejuvenating and then at 5:15pm, the entire group bussed back to Curi Cancha Wildlife Refuge for a night hike (it was already getting dark so early because Costa Rica is very close to the equator). It was awesome, our best night hike of the trip, and we saw everything from bioluminescent tree bark to tarantulas!

Here is a cool red bug we found:

The highlight of the night hike for me was seeing a 6TH RESPLENDENT QUETZAL...SLEEPING(!) that was pointed out to us by the leaders of the hike.

It was hard to obtain photos with no flash on the camera, so this is the best I managed of this female bird:

WOW!!! 6 Resplendent Quetzals in one day after that species being a "nemesis bird" after two years is absolutely unprecedented!


A green viper snake found alongside the path was another super cool animal on the night hike:

An interesting caterpillar:

This cute, little mouse sitting on a twig alongside the trail was a nice surprise:

A large Wolf Spider - not a tarantula, although we were looking for them, as well:

Sleeping GOLDEN-CROWNED WARBLER, life bird!

Sleeping BROWN JAYS, life bird!

Then, towards the end of the night hike, our guide spotted the orange legs of a Pinktoe Tarantula sticking out of its burrow. Creepy, but cool nevertheless!

We had a late dinner back at the lodge and then a portion off the group played cards in the common area right outside our rooms. We turned in for a night when a scary man from across the street yelled at us for being too loud...at 9:00 in the evening...(?!?!)

Anwyway, when we returned to our rooms there was another brilliant lightning storm miles away over the Pacific Ocean which provided for some nice last views of the day.

WHAT A FANTASTIC DAY! 59 avian species, 25 life birds, and 6 of my conquered-nemesis and now new favorite birds - RESPLENDENT QUETZALS!!! WOW!!!

Great birding and stay tuned for more stories from my adventures in Costa Rica!

World Life List: 855 species (exactly 100 life birds in Costa Rica!)

59 avian species including 25 life birds on Sunday, July 19:

Black Guan LIFE BIRD
Ornate Hawk-Eagle LIFE BIRD
Southern Rough-winged Swallow
Violet Sabrewing LIFE BIRD
Green-crowned Brilliant LIFE BIRD
Stripe-tailed Hummingbird LIFE BIRD
Coppery-headed Emerald LIFE BIRD
Steely-vented Hummigbird LIFE BIRD
Green Violtear
Purple-throated Mountain-Gem
Rufous-tailed Hummingbird
Red-billed Pigeon
Band-tailed Pigeon LIFE BIRD
Ruddy Pigeon LIFE BIRD
White-tipped Dove
Orange-chinned Parakeet
Squirrel Cuckoo
Black Vuture
Turkey Vulture
Common Pauraque LIFE BIRD
Blue-and-White Swallow
Orange-bellied Trogon LIFE BIRD
Prong-billed Barbet
Emerald Toucanet LIFE BIRD
Keel-billed Toucan
Spot-crowned Woodcreeper
Red-faced Spinetail
Streak-crowned Antvireo LIFE BIRD
Mountain Elaenia LIFE BIRD
Olive-striped Flycatcher LIFE BIRD
Dusky-capped Flycatcher
Great Kiskadee
Social Flycatcher
Tropical Kingbird
Three-wattled Bellbird LIFE BIRD
Orange-billed Nightingale-Thrush
Slaty-backed Nightingale-Thrush LIFE BIRD
Black-faced Solitaire
Clay-colored Thrush
Rufous-and-White Wren
Plain Wren
House Wren
Gray-breasted Wood-Wren
Rufous-browed Peppershrike
Slate-throated Redstart
Three-striped Warbler LIFE BIRD
Blue-gray Tanager
Palm Tanager
Silver-throated Tanager
Yellow-faced Grassquit
White-eared Ground-Sparrow LIFE BIRD
Rufous-collared Sparrow
Melodious Blackbird
Great-tailed Grackle
Golden-browed Chlorophonia LIFE BIRD
Yellow-throated Euphonia LIFE BIRD
Golden-crowned Warbler LIFE BIRD

Posted by skwclar 14:15 Archived in Costa Rica

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Incredible sightings!!!! So happy for you!

by Ann Gunkel

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