Costa Rica Travel Diary p 2
Boat-billed Heron (65791 bytes)- Later
The owners of the lodge, Abram and his American wife Liz, are avid birders, scanning the sky for hawks and such even when guests aren't around.  In fact, staying here is like spending a few days with birding friends who have a really great place for birds - I've tallied nearly 100 species in a few days.
    Near the lodge is a small lake with a Boat-billed Heron rookery. Abram and I hike there in late afternoon when the light is good.  These birds, which range from Mexico to Argentina, use their large eyes for hunting at night.  And how about that oversized bill? One bird strikes what Liz later called a "little soldier" stance; after an easy 20-minute shoot, we adjourn to the lodge for a nice cold Imperial cervesa.

2 March 2004
Today I flew back to San Jose and picked up my rental car - I'm indulging in a Nissan with automatic transmission and A/C.  After working through the city megalopolis, I drive the Pan-American Highway up into the foggy Talamancas, arriving at Eddie Serrano's Mirador de Quetzales in late afternoon.   Tucked away at 8500' elevation, this is cloud forest, pleasant during the day and just plain cold at night. 

 Long-tailed Silky






3 March 2004
Ornithologist Alexander Skutch, about whom more later, noted the remarkable tameness of highland birds here.  The confiding ones are rather drab, but it's still nice to walk the trails and enjoy Sooty Robin, Black-billed Nightingale-thrush, Black-capped Flycatcher, and Sooty-capped Bush-tanager just a few meters away.    More shy is the graceful Long-tailed Silky, related to our desert Phainopepla.  Another common bird is the curious Slaty Flowerpiercer, who makes a living as a "nectar thief."  It uses the hooked tip of its upper beak to puncture corollas of Cavendishia flowers and then drinks the nectar without ever doing any pollination.  Fiery-throated Hummingbird, which guards each patch of Cavendishia, has tumbled to its game and of course tries to chase it away.





Slaty Flowerpiercer (60534 bytes)



But the bird that everyone comes here to see is the emerald green Resplendent Quetzal, considered by many the most beautiful bird in the neotropics. In the morning I join a group of French ecotourists as our guide takes us about 500 m from the lodge to see the quetzals.   Even with all the French talking at the same time, the birds obligingly fly back and forth among the laurel trees on which they feed, hovering to pluck an olive-sized fruit.  One never forgets the first sight of an elegant male, with his ribbon-like streamer tail feathers, winging across a fog-shrouded opening in the cloud forest.  Que bello!


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