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I hope you will join in my adventures here in Humboldt County and elsewhere as I explore nature & people.

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Monday, June 25, 2012

Costa Rica Cloud Forest

 The second part of our Costa Rican adventure began as we departed Puerto Jimenez for Drakes Bay and then on to San Jose.

We were met by Pablo our driver and left San Jose driving over 2 hours through the city  ascending a steep narrow mountain road climbing 10,000 feet to the pass at Cerro de La Muerte toward our destination in the mountains near San Gerardo de Dota.
There were many slower trucks and buses and it was raining and foggy but that didn't stop our driver from passing them on this very dangerous winding road.
As we began to descend the Savegre canyon I was impressed by the different vegetation and life zones compared to the Rain forest. It reminded me of the Sierra Nevada foothills. 
 We stayed at this beautiful Sevegre Hotel De Montana

Gray-tailed Mountain-Gem (Colibri montanes coligris)
 Arriving at the Savegre Hotel and Reserve near San Gerardo de Dota we immediately noted a dozen birders with binoculars, spotting scopes and cameras surrounding the Hummingbird feeders that were placed near the hotel entrance.
 Our room at Savegre Hotel
Our newly constructed room was some distance from the main Lodge.
The rooms are large with both bathtub and walk in tiled showers and the lodge has a nice bar and large dining area with delicious buffet dinners and a variety of deserts.

Flame-colored Tanager (Piranga bidentata)
 It didn't take long for us to get out with camera and binoculars to search for birds.
Our first outing was lead by Melvin Fernandez who told us the story about how he got started as a professional "Naturalist Guide". 
He married one of the daughters of the Savegre Lodge owners and was employed in a large city as a welder.  His young wife was unhappy because she didn't like the city and was lonesome for her family. Melvin gave up his job and moved his family to the beautiful mountains near San Gerardo de Dota and worked in the orchards driving his "machine".  One day an elderly woman from the United States was out searching for birds and saw Melvin in the Orchard.  She asked him if he had seen any birds?  Melvin pointed out that there was a "bird over there and another over there"!  The lady
asked him why he didn't tell her the names?  Melvin answered "because I don't know the names".  The old lady handed Melvin her Field Guide to the Birds of Costa Rica and told him to learn the names and be able to identify at least 10 birds by the time she returned in a year.  Melvin learned his birds well and still has the book.  Today he can identify over 140 species that occur in the surrounding areas. 

Melvin Fernandez Naturalist Guide
Melvin is an excellent guide and he worked hard and diligently to find birds for us to see and photograph. This beautiful Long-tailed Silky- Flycatcher (below)is endemic to CR and western Panama.  It can be found in Cordilleras Central and de Talamanca, from timberline down to 6000 ft. elevation.

Long-tailed Silky Flycatcher (Ptilogonys caudatus)

Above the clouds from one of the highest spots in the Talamanca mountain range
near the continental divide.
Melvin drove us to this mountain top for the great veiws and to see the Volcano Hummingbird found only in the high mountains above 1200 m and is endemic to
CR and western Panama.

Volcano Hummingbird (Selasphorus flammula)
We also saw the Volcano Junco and this Green Spiny Lizard warming up on a rock in the sun.

Green Spiny Lizard (Sceloporus malachiticus)

We then drove down the mountain and stopped at another lodge called Mirador de Quetzals which had numerous hummingbirds at their feeders allowing for photo opportunities galore.
Fiery-throated Hummingbird (Panterpe insignis)
This hummingbird was amazingly beautiful and although difficult to get a good photo due to it's constant movement.

Magnificent Hummingbird (Eugenes fulgens) male

Resplendant Quetzal (Pharomachrus mocinno) male
 After considerable hiking up a  muddy road/trail in search of the Quetzal my wife Kimberley said calmly while peering into her binoculars "I'm looking at a Quetzal".
The highly sought after bird that we came to see was perched high in a distant tree in all of its beautiful glory.
That night we went out with Melvin after dark to look for Nightjars and owls.
After walking along a trail in the forest above the lodge we heard the call of the
Bare-shanked Screech-Owl (Megascops clarkii) which is fairly uncommon in the highlands and is endemic from Costa Rica to NW Columbia. 
After we looked and listened for more owls without success we were startled by a sound nearby. The sound turned out to be our guide playing a practical joke on us by tossing a rock into the brush above us.
Kimberley on the Sendero La Quebrada trail
                                               Black-capped Flycatcher(Empidonax atriceps)
                                   Yellowish Flycatcher(Empidonax flavescens)
The next day we hiked on the same trail and enjoyed the beauty of the mountain forests and it's many birds including the two flycatchers above. 

Flame-colored Tanager male (Piranga bidentata)
The more I try to capture quality photos of birds wherever I travel I realize and appreciate how difficult it can be often requiring much patience and more time than I usually have.
Collared Redstart(Myoborus torquatus)
Most of the birds that we saw were not photographed but I was fortunate to get a few good ones. The Collared Redstart above is endemic to CR and Panama and was photographed near the Sevegre river on our walk downriver to see the falls.
Collared Redstart
This beautiful little bird was very friendly allowing me to photgraph it a close range.

Black Vulture (Coragyps atratus)

Black Vultures roosting near hatchery along Rio Savegre
The Black Vultures were common and roosting along the Sevegre river near the Hatchery.  According to the locals the Savegre river is one of the cleanest rivers in Central America.
Green Violet-ear (Colibri orejiviolaceo verde)

 This was a place that I could spend weeks birding and fishing because of it's beauty and remoteness.  As we walked along this beautiful river we noted how peaceful it was far from the crowded cities with barred windows and heavy traffic.
The Hummingbirds were amazing and probably my favorites on this trip and this beautiful male Magnificent Hummingbird (Eugenes fulgens) was no exception.
The next afternoon we were driven to our last hotel a few miles north of the City of San Jose.
Flying out of Puerto Jimenez