Costa Rica Travel Diary p 4|
6 March 2004
This afternoon my goal is to photograph one of the
valley's nice warblers, the Collared Redstart. Just as I set up for a photo, the Redstart
flies up to within 8 feet of me, too close for the camera to focus. I scuttle
backward to get it in view, but the little twerp just flies in too close again.
What's going on?! We repeat this dance several times. Never has a bird beaten
me by coming too close! Eventually we arrive at his favorite perch and there I get a
In talking with other birders at the lodge, it seems the Redstart
doesn't really want to make a new friend, rather to catch insects that are scared up as I
walk along. In similar fashion, a Bare-crowned Antbird once became Alexander
Skutch's regular companion on his forest strolls, pouncing on insects that flew up as he
walked. In fact, Skutch's cheeky little cohort would grow impatient and scold him if
he stopped too long in one place to make observations.
7 March 2004
I'm now at Talari Mountain Lodge, near the town
of San Isidro del General. The lodge is set amid a fruit orchard and is run by a
Belgian, Jan, and his son Pieter. Meals are a delight, the best I've had, with fresh
tropical juices, home-made cheeses, and great evening courses prepared by Jan. Our
morning bird walk turns up Olivaceous Piculet, Barred Antshrike, Slaty Spinetail, Common
Tody, Rufous-browed Peppershrike, and a host of others characteristic of semi-open
areas. Actually, a good way to bird is to just find a comfortable chair and watch
the parade, especially in the poró tree, whose brilliant orange flowers
attract hummers, orioles, euphonias and honeycreepers.
Later I photograph a flock of Blue-gray Tanagers feeding avidly on the
flowering spikes of a Piper tree. This is one of the commonest birds in
Costa Rica, quite pleasing in its pastel blue shades.
9 March 2004
The greatest ornithologist to ever study
neotropical birds is Alexander Skutch. For over 6 decades he has described in great
detail and with affection the life histories of tanagers, jacamars, trogons, and the
myriad other forms of bird life that populate tropical America. Born in the U.S.,
Dr. Skutch has lived and carried out research in Costa Rica since the 1930s. Today
I make a pilgrimage to Los Cusingos, the 160-acre parcel that has been his home since
1942. Dr. Skutch is just a few weeks from his 100th birthday now, quite frail, but
still living there. Los Cusingos contains some of the best forest remaining in the
San Isidro area, and is now a neotropical bird sanctuary run by a private organization,
Centro Cientifico Tropical. Visitors can tour the area and hike the forest trails.
Fitting for one who has written so well on nature's beauty, Dr.
Skutch's fruit feeders are attended by some true avian jewels: Speckled, Bay-headed,
Golden-hooded, and Cherrie's Tanagers. My favorite is Green Honeycreeper, a relative
of tanagers - the male's aquamarine plumage just glows in the tropical sun.