A Travellerspoint blog

July 2015

Day 9: Last Full Day in Costa Rica

all seasons in one day 83 °F


This is the report about my ninth and second-to-the-last-day on my recent trip to Costa Rica (also our last complete day within the country), which was Wednesday, July 22. I will also make a post combining my Costa Rica trip recap and day 10, my travel day home, later today (July 26). Then, tomorrow (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. Again, italics will indicate copied journal entries from the journal in which I wrote during the Costa Rica trip. Enjoy!


It just dawned on me that this might be among the last times I journal while actually in Costa Rica. I have been so immensely changed forever by this trip to this phenomenal country of Costa Rica so that now I am a "responsible global citizen" who shows compassion not only for the environment but for other people and cultures.

I woke up at 6:00am for a bird walk around the "cabinas" property in the beautiful little town of Corozalito on the Pacific Coast of Costa Rica. That bird walk with Mario, our last one of the trip, as well as with four other people from the group, was great and very productive and we saw quite a few high-quality avian species...



Female HOFFMAN'S WOODPECKER, probably the most common woodpecker during this trip:

I was absolutely delighted when Mario pointed out this fabulously beautiful TURQUOISE-BROWED MOTMOT perched on a nearby wire - what a stunning life bird!

GREAT KISKADEE, an omnipresent bird throughout Costa Rica because of its adaptability to many different habitat types:

ROSE-THROATED BECARD - life bird! (the Central American subspecies lacks the rose-colored throat)

At one point, we crossed a very lovely and tranquil stream:

INCA DOVE, a species that is expanding its range into Costa Rica from the north:



After breakfast, our last meal at the familiar restaurant in Corozalito, we headed back to the "cabinas" to get ready for the short, but steep hike to the place where we would have our "closing ceremonies" circle meeting.

Before we left for the hike, I snapped this photo of the boys' "cabina," the mostly-obstructed yellow structure behind the miniature palm trees:

Although it was hot outside and the trail had steep footing, the group cherished our last hike in nature in Costa Rica. We soon arrived at a magnificent giant fig tree, but it, surprisingly, was not the one where we would have our closing ceremonies.

Soon, the group arrived at the appointed tree, which was equally impressive, and we all squeezed onto a semi-circle of rough wooden benches that were under the shade of the giant, reaching branches of the fig tree.

Some cattle came in from the nearby pasture and decided to join us for our meeting:

The closing ceremonies were extremely special and touching; we started by closing our eyes and simply listened to the sounds around us, which included many things like the rustling and breathing of the nearby cattle as well as the distant lap of the waves on Corozalito Beach - a moment I will never forget. After that, we ripped out a sheet of biodegradable paper from our journals and wrote a wish to the world and a promise to ourselves regarding ways we would change our lives in order to create a better world. After sharing those wishes and promises with the group, we walked back to the "cabinas" in silence, taking in the nature around us and thinking about what we had just discussed and written during our closing ceremonies.

Then, we packed up, bid farewell to the trusty Corozalito "cabinas," and started our day-long bus trek back to the city of San Jose.

A pretty church along the drive - over 70% of the Costa Rican population is Catholic:

Our first stop was impromptu when Mario and Alexa spotted a troop of Howler Monkeys in the trees and wires hanging over the road. The group laughed when, after I had gotten out of the bus, a monkey scared me by jumping to a branch just five feet over my head!

The monkeys presented fantastic photo opportunities:

We spent most of the morning part of the bus ride sleeping, however things got very exciting when the people sitting in the back half of the bus had to get up and stand in the aisle in the front in order to balance out the bus because all of the luggage was underneath, in the back. We had to balance out the bus because there was a bridge that was being repaired over a river, so we had to use the alternative "road" and ford the river! Our awesome and always-reliable bus driver, Louis, forded the river like a pro and we were soon safely back on pavement.

The group had a very late lunch at the exact location where I found the Scarlet Macaws on the way into Corozalito and then we bussed to an ice cream parlor with absolutely delicious ice cream. I got a cone with one scoop of chocolate almond and one scoop of mint chocolate chip.

The bus ride the rest of the way to San Jose was really fun with a lot of singing, laughter, and planning of the thank-you surprises for Alexa, Louis, Mario, and Mr. Farley. We stopped at one souvenir store and then, in the evening, we arrived back at the hotel in San Jose; in fact, the same one as the one in which we stayed the first night of the trip. When we checked into that same hotel, a wave of bittersweet nostalgia hit the entire group as we realized that we started this fantastic, life-changing trip from this very place. In order to celebrate this accomplishment, we had our last evening circle meeting of the entire trip in the lobby of the hotel, where the group presented Alexa, Louis, and Mario with thank-you cards and gifts; and the boys and girls even had a sing-off by changing two pop songs' lyrics to "Costa Rica thank-you" lyrics and performing the songs for the three of them.

The group posing for a photo with Mario:

Alexa and me:

The girls performing their thank-you song for Louis and Mario:

Mario (left) giving an appreciation speech to the group about what a fantastic time he had:

Our super talented staff from left to right:
Louis - bus driver
Mario - nature/birding guide
Mrs. Nelson - teacher from OPRF High School
Mr. Farley - group teacher/instructor
Alexa - expedition/main trip leader
Ms. Smith - teacher from OPRF High School

After the lovely group meeting, the group bussed to a great dinner at a restaurant in San Jose. I had a tasty nacho dish and enjoyed lively conversation with all of my friends. We also presented Mr. Farley with a cake because after this trip, he would not be a teacher at OPRF anymore because he would be moving to St. Louis to be closer to his family.

Before we knew it, it was time to drive back to our hotel for our final night in the enchantingly beautiful land of Costa Rica.

Good birding,

World Life List: 855 Species (exactly 100 life birds on the Costa Rica trip!)

26 avian species identified on Wednesday, July 22 including 5 life birds:

Black-bellied Whistling-Duck
Great Egret
Cattle Egret
Black Vulture
Turkey Vulture
Roadside Hawk
Blue-and-White Swallow
Rufous-tailed Hummingbird
Red-billed Pigeon
White-winged Dove
Inca Dove
White-tipped Dove
Orange-chinned Parakeet
Scarlet Macaw
White-fronted Parrot LIFE BIRD
Groove-billed Ani
Black-headed Trogon LIFE BIRD
Turquoise-browed Motmot LIFE BIRD
Hoffman's Woodpecker
Great Kiskadee
Boat-billed Flycatcher
Social Flycatcher
Rose-throated Becard LIFE BIRD
Long-tailed Manakin LIFE BIRD
Rufous-naped Wren
Great-tailed Grackle

Posted by skwclar 12:18 Archived in Costa Rica Comments (0)

Day 8: Corozalito

sunny 90 °F


This is the report about my eighth day on my recent trip to Costa Rica, which was Tuesday, July 21. I will also make posts about days 9 and 10 later today (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. Again, italics will indicate copied journal entries from the journal in which I wrote during the Costa Rica trip. Enjoy!


Please note that I did not have my camera with me for most of this day for logistical/safety reasons, so this is not a photo-heavy post despite the group having spent a good part of the day at the very photogenic Corozalito Beach. Also, I focused all of my energies on this day towards the group activities so, apart from spotting a flyover MAGNIFICENT FRIGATEBIRD, I did not do any birding on this day.

The boys awoke at 7:30am to go to breakfast at the beautiful, small, open-air restaurant where we ate all of our meals during our stay in Corozalito. I had rice and beans (the staple food in Costa Rica), cheese, and toast

From the "cabinas" where we were staying, it took a beautiful, short walk down a dirt road, which included fording a shallow stream, to get to the restaurant:

After breakfast, we walked back to our "cabinas" to gather the last of our personal donations which we had prepared for children who we would visit in a one-room schoolhouse later in the morning which was literally right next door to the "cabinas."

Once all of the donations we were gathered, we waited for the staff and had one of our last "free times" of the trip:

Then, we walked over to a one-room schoolhouse right next to our lodge. We met the 6 4th-6th grade kids who were having school in the morning (9 1st-3rd grade kids would replace them in the afternoon) and immediately started playing with them. It was a fantastic experience to play with and connect to these children (Corozalito is a very small, poor town) by playing games such as duck-duck-goose and heads-up-seven-up with them. After forty five minutes or and hour, we gave the children our personal donations and said our goodbyes...for the morning (we would later play with them in a soccer game in the evening).

Next, we got changed and bussed to the nearby Corozalito Beach where we saw the stars and sea turtles the previous night. I immediately wished I had brought try camera because it is a beautiful beach surrounded by rolling, green bluffs. Soon after we arrived, the group was split up into smaller groups of 2's and 3's, each group was given a garbage bag to fill with litter from the beach, and Alexa told us we had 30 minutes (until 11:23am...how do I remember that?!) for each group to pick up as much litter as possible in order for the winning group to earn an ice cream treat.

Riley and I ran up and down this beach carrying our garbage bag on our backs, sweating in the 90-degree-heat, but having a fantastic time cleaning up SO much rubbish from the beach...when we returned after 30 minutes, we had the fullest garbage bag and had won the game!

After that, the group went swimming in the Pacific waves and we had a BLAST. The entire group was on a huge positive high from this the rest of the day. The water was like warm bathwater, the weather was hot and sunny, and the waves were just high enough to have a lot of fun but not to be dangerous.

After swimming, we had a picnic lunch on the beach and then bussed back to the lodge, where most of the group used our afternoon free time to swim in the hotel pool (immediately after returning from the beach!). It was so much fun; definitely something to remember in the cold Chicago winter...

After refreshing in our cabin, the group came back together and we walked over to Corozalito's soccer field, a mere ten paces from the "cabinas." We split half of the about 15 local children present into two teams, and half of our group joined one team, and half, the other. It wasn't my personal favorite activity of the trip because I am not great at soccer; however, I kept a positive attitude and tried my best because I knew playing this game would be overcoming a "personal barrier" of mine because of this, and also it would be transcending a "group barrier" because, since both groups knew how to play soccer, we didn't have the need to use language for most of the game - so we connected through both groups giving their all in the game and always smiling. It was a great experience.

After soccer, we returned to the school house that we visited earlier and we listened to a fairly interesting lecture on the locally nesting sea turtles from the local nonprofit that studies their nesting habits.

Then, at 6:30pm (it was already dark by then), we walked down the trail and forded the stream to have our last dinner at the restaurant. Dinner was spaghetti and it was pretty good. Then, we had one of our last group evening circle meetings on the chairs and benches set up under a covered common area next to the pool back at the "cabinas." It was another heartfelt meeting where we discussed our trip, the impacts of us on Costa Rica, and we made a rough outline of the most important events of the trip in our journals. It was another powerful and meaningful meeting and we were all feeling a bit nostalgic because it was our penultament circle meeting and they have been great hallmarks of our amazing journey.

After our meeting, we returned to our rooms for our second-to-last night in the stunning country of Costa Rica. We worked on our thank-you gifts/presentations for Mario (our nature guide), Louis (our bus driver), and Alexa (our expedition leader) that we would finish on the long bus ride back to San Jose the next day. These three special people were fantastic the entire week and were always making sure that we had a safe but also exciting and fun-filled trip. Thank you so much Mario, Louis, and Alexa!

Here is my thank-you card to Alexa:

And a really special thank-you presentation my friend Justin made for Mario, Louis, and Alexa.

We finally retired to our beds well after midnight, having already started our last full day in Costa Rica before we were asleep.

Good birding,

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

Posted by skwclar 06:52 Archived in Costa Rica Comments (0)

Day 7: From Ziplining to Stargazing

all seasons in one day 90 °F


This is the report about my seventh day on my recent trip to Costa Rica, which was Monday, July 20. I will 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. Again, italics will indicate copied journal entries from the journal in which I wrote during the trip. Enjoy!


I awoke at 6:10am to the striking sounds of the very uncommon Three-wattled Bellbird calling from the cloudforest behind the lodge in which we were staying in Monteverde. At 6:30am, I joined our guide Mario and a select group of people for a guided bird walk around the lodge property. Although we didn't see the hoped-for Bellbirds, we did find some other neat things...






Next, the group had our last meal at Monteverde; breakfast in the dining hall at 7:00am. Before we bussed to go ziplining at 8:00am, I managed to photograph some of the hummingbirds frequenting the lodge's great feeder display.

There was also a beautiful rainbow providing for great photo opportunities from the luxurious balcony of the dining hall:



By 8:00am, we had left for ziplining. I did not take any photos from this because our group leader, Alexa, wisely advised me to leave my camera on the bus due to safety issues presented by bringing it ziplining. After a bit of waiting around in lines and taking a while to attach all of the necessary gear to ourselves, we were finally ready to go and soon I was zipping down the first wire, gliding over the fog-shrouded cloud forest and, for a few precious moments, only seeing the trees and clouds below and around me. It was SO much fun and very thrilling - even better than the fantastic ziplining I did in the cloudforest of Panama! There were 16 courses that take one from one treehouse in the canopy of a large cloudforest tree to another, and the ropes themselves were super long - a few appearing to completely disappear into the clouds from the perspective of someone waiting on the platform. It was mind-boggingly beautiful.

Towards the end, I came to a platform that was 30 feet high and from that platform, you are attached to a rope which was attached to another platform in front of you. After one is attached, you are pushed off the ledge by one of the employees and are in free-fall for a frighteningly long time until the angle of the swing catches you a few feet above the ground and you start to swing wildly back and forth. It was scary, but so much fun!

The afternoon was spent on a long and bumpy but fun bus ride to our next destination: the town of Sarapiqui on the Pacific Coast side of the Nicoya Peninsula in northwest Costa Rica. We had many pitstops along the way in order to make the ride bearable, and one place was an easy way to see SCARLET MACAWS (where they feed them), an elusive species elsewhere in the country.

I also got my life bird RUFOUS-NAPED WREN there:

An unplanned stop was to admire a rare DOUBLE-STRIPED THICK-KNEE in a pasture alongside the road:

I also spotted a female EASTERN MEADOWLARK at this location:

Finally, in the late afternoon, we made it to the one lodge in Corozalito where we would be staying for the next two nights. We were happy to be off the bus!

I wrote this entry right after eating dinner: We walked to dinner, a restaurant/outdoor family dining area of a house accessed from the lodge via a dirt road, which included fording a shallow stream to get there - very cool! I am having a fantastic time and never want this trip to end!

After dinner, our night activities were at the local Corozalito Beach where we stargazed and watched nesting sea turtles: When we arrived at the beach in the pitch blackness of nightfall, the group layed in a circle on the beach with our backs on our beach towels and our heads facing towards the center of the circle. For an hour, we gazed up into the vast, milky canvas of the night sky which cultivated a very meaningful and "deep" group conversation about the night sky, its importance in the natural world, and why it is such an obvious natural wonder but somehow seemed foreign to us Chicagoans. Whenever one felt the spirit, one would start a sentence with the phrase "I wonder" - and we kept this up for well over forty five minutes. It was an awe-inspiring and truly thought-provoking experience made even better by the fact that while we were laying down in the circle, a huge Olive-ridley Sea Turtle lumbered by us on her way to dig a burrow in which to lay her eggs under the beach. After she passed, we slowly got up and watched, with our nocturnal-friendly red headlamps, the mother, as well as a second mother, sea turtle lay dozens upon dozens of eggs in the sand. Then, we watched as one of the turtles slowly covered her eggs back up, lethargically turned back towards the ocean, and we followed her on her mighty trek across the sand all the way to the water's edge, where she paused for a few moments and then disappeared into the Pacific Ocean - never to be seen again by us.

Since we were only allowed to use our red headlamps on the beach, I only managed two very poor-quality photos during the evening, but here they are, nevertheless.

A log swarming with snails:

The dark patch to the upper right side of the patch of light is the faint silhouette of one of the mother Olive-ridley Sea Turtles seen that evening:

It was a truly life-changing evening and the group was back at the rustic lodge in the town of Corozalito at 11:00pm, successfully exhausted and eager to retire for the night.

What another fantastic, inspiring day in the beautiful country of Costa Rica.

Good birding,

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

48 avian species identified on Monday, July 20, including 7 life birds:

Black-bellied Whistling-Duck
Black Vulture
Turkey Vulture
Blue-and-White Swallow
Violet Sabrewing
Green-crowned Brilliant
Steely-vented Hummingbird
Rufous-tailed Hummingbird
Green Violetear
Purple-throated Mountain-Gem
Red-billed Pigeon
White-winged Dove
White-crowned Parrot LIFE BIRD
Scarlet Macaw
Groove-billed Ani
Emerald Toucanet
Hoffman's Woodpecker LIFE BIRD
Yellow-bellied Elaenia
Dusky-capped Flycatcher
Great Kiskadee
Boat-billed Flycatcher
Social Flycatcher
Streaked Flycatcer LIFE BIRD
Piratic Flycatcher LIFE BIRD
Tropical Kingbird
Three-wattled Bellbird
Slaty-backed Nightingale-Thrush
Rufous-naped Wren LIFE BIRD
Plain Wren
House Wren
Gray-breasted Wood-Wren
Blue-gray Tanager
Palm Tanager
Yellow-faced Grassquit
White-eared Ground-Sparrow
Rufous-collared Sparrow
House Sparrow
Melodious Blackbird
Bronzed Cowbird
Great-tailed Grackle
Yellow-throated Euphonia
Stripe-headed Sparrow LIFE BIRD
Common Ground-Dove
White-tipped Dove
Ruddy Ground-Dove
Eastern Meadowlark
Double-striped Thick-Knee LIFE BIRD
Bare-throated Tiger-Heron

Posted by skwclar 21:04 Archived in Costa Rica Tagged mountains trees animals birds Comments (0)

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 Comments (1)

Day 5: Journey to the Land of Quetzals

all seasons in one day 75 °F


This is the report about my fifth day on my recent trip to Costa Rica, which was Saturday, July 18. I will post reports about days 6-7 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!


6:30am - the boys wake up for a 7:00am breakfast, I pack quickly, and then go birding/apply sunscreen and bug repellent on the back porch of our beautiful cabin at Don Juan's Farm near the town of La Fortuna, Costa Rica.

Here is the forested view from our back porch:

I took photographs of the surrounding views and birds at the open-air dining area during breakfast. The view overlooked a beautiful stream in a dense rainforest:



After breakfast, the group had a listening activity in the surrounding rainforest led by our expedition leader, Alexa, where we heard many sounds including: birds, insects (esp: cicadas), our hearbeat, our breathing, cows in the nearby pasture, the wind in the trees, and the nearby stream.

Then, we left Don Juan's for the morning and departed by bus. We stopped by a grocery store and had to pick up groceries for the orphanage we would later visit. We were divided into groups of 4-5 kids and each group had to purchase all of the food from a certiain list in 30 minutes, coming as close to $100.00 USD as possible without going over. This involved converting colones to dollars (w/an exchange rate of 525 colones to the US dollar) and adding sales tax on certain items. Then, we visited an orphanage in La Fortuna where we dropped off our groceries, donated our personal gifts we brought with us during the trip, and played with the kids for about 45 minutes on their outdoor playground. I felt awkward because the language barrier was hard for me, however it was just another barrier I needed to overcome so I put on a positive attitude, tried my best to engage the kids, and ended up having a good time with them and feeling satisfied that hopefully in some little way, I made their lives a bit better. They were good kids and loved playing with us, constantly with smiles on their faces.

After lunch back at Don Juan's Farm for the last time, we spent the afternoon transiting to MONTEVERDE! Monteverde is one of the foremost places in the world to find my nemesis bird for the last two years: the Resplendent Quetzal. This is a very large trogon about the size of a large parakeet or small macaw with iridescent blue-green plumage, a bright red belly, and four truly resplendent extended uppertail covert feathers on the male birds that extend behind the bird nearly 2 times the length of the quetzal itself. It is truly a spectacular animal and my #1 hope for this trip is to see one of these.

From Don Juan's Farm, we took a half-hour bus ride ride to a 45-minute boat ride across the beautiful Lake Arenal, a reservoir and the largest lake in Costa Rica.

Here is another nice view from the bus:

RINGED KINGFISHER from the boat:

MANGROVE SWALLOW from the boat:

BRONZED COWBIRD from the boat:

The group played a game of "Costa Rican trivia" while on the boat and I won this coconut-flavored lollypop for knowing that San Jose's airport is not in San Jose proper, but in the city of Alajuela.

While on the boat, we were afforded breathtaking views of the mountains, including the amazing Volcan Arenal, formerly one of the most active volcanoes in the world.

ANHINGA drying its wings:

While we boated across the lake, our bus driver, Louis, braved the long and bumpy road that twists alongside Lake Arenal. We beat Louis and did not expect to see him until we arrived at Monteverde in the evening simply because the road is so terrible. Once on the shore, we had a quick bathroom break and then boarded two shuttle buses for the extremely long and very bumpy road up to the town of Monteverde.

While at a pit stop along the drive up the mountains, we suddenly heard a honk on the road and it was Louis and our nice bus! He had made record time and we got to drive up the bad road in the comfortable bus the rest of the way to Monteverde! We treated Louis like a celebrity the rest of the trip because this is truly an unprecedented driving feat - he made "No Barriers' history," as our expedition leader, Alexa, put it!

Once we arrived at the beautiful lodge at Monteverde in which we would stay for two nights, I birded a bit on the grounds which turned out to be SUPER productive.

Here is a SOCIAL FLYCATCHER I found:

Andrew, my roomate, and I are in a deluxe room with an awesome balcony with beautiful views of the surrounding mountains that stretch for miles all the way to the Pacific Ocean! It is a great place. It is also much cooler here, in the 70's during the day as opposed to the 90's, because we are in the higher mountains and with higher elevation comes lower temperatures.

Views from the common area in the lodge:

Views from our hotel room:

The group was in very high spirits that evening.

After dinner at the lodge, we ended our day with the No Barriers' "Mid Trip Meeting." We were all in fantastic moods, we discussed the trip, had so many laughs, played a game of musical chairs where I provided the music by singing, and played many other team bonding games. Although we had such a great time, it was at that "Mid Trip Meeting" that our first wave of nostalgia hit us in that this fantastic trip was already half-way over - unbelievable!

After the meeting, all of us boys went to the other boys' room and watched part of a movie. Then, Andrew and I returned to our room and I managed one okay photograph of a spectacular lightning storm that we saw from our balconies but miles away over the Pacific Ocean:

I am SO excited - tomorrow is my one and only chance to find my #1 target bird for this trip, the Resplendent Quetzal!

The full avian species list for the day is below. Stay tuned and good birding!

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

34 avian species, including 4 life birds:

Bay Wren
Giant Cowbird LIFE BIRD
Buff-rumped Warbler
Orange-billed Sparrow
Blue-gray Tanager
Turkey Vulture
Black Vulture
Tropical Kingbird
Great Kiskadee
Red-billed Pigeon
Rufous-tailed Hummingbird
Groove-billed Ani
Crested Guan
Neotropic Cormorant
Green Heron
Great Egret
Mangrove Swallow
Southern Rough-winged Swallow
Red-billed Pigeon
White-winged Dove
White-tipped Dove
Ruddy Ground-Dove
Orange-chinned Parakeet
Ringed Kingfisher
Keel-billed Toucan
Golden-olive Woodpecker LIFE BIRD
Swallow-tailed Kite LIFE BIRD
Variable Seedeater
Yellow-faced Grassquit LIFE BIRD
Shiny Cowbird
Melodious Blackbird
Great-tailed Grackle
Rufous-collared Sparrow

Posted by skwclar 07:56 Archived in Costa Rica Comments (0)

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