ALL DAY IN THE SAN GERARDO DE DOTA VALLEY
It was very chilly at 6am when we met at the hotel reception, we were all wrapped up warmly. The sky was clear blue with no wind, perfect for birding. Both :Large-footed Finch and Yellow-thighed Finch flitted about in the gardens with Rufous-collared Sparrows and a few hummers fed in the shrubs, we noted Volcano Hummingbird, Lesser Violetear and Rufous-tailed Hummingbird,
We walked up through the gardens and onto the woodland trail which was very quiet at a viewing platform we turned around and went back down the track, we did see Black-cheeked Warbler and Sooty Thrush but not much else. From there we took the main approach track away from the lodge and at the gate we found a pair of Torrent Tyrannulets. Along the main road we walked a short distance but only noted Mountain Thrush and not much else.
After that we walked back to the lodge for breakfast, some of the group lagged behind and decided to look at the river to look for American Dipper but found instead a Louisiana Waterthrush, a great find. A Resplendent Quetzal was calling from the forest adjacent to the lodge as we made our way back.
One of my favourite parts of this trip is the forest trail walk in this lush valley, the San Gerardo de Dota, today we did just that. We drove 3km down the valley to the Savegre Lodge and waited in the car park for our ‘jeep’ ride to the top of the mountain. Near the main reception we noted a few species but only Long-tailed Silky Flycatcher was new for us. It takes about 10 minutes to drive some 500 meters in altitude up the steep track to the forest trails and it took us nearly 4 hours to walk back!
I love it up there and today was just as good as ever, a lovely azure sky with warm sunlight breaking through the canopy and bird song coming from all directions. We found an Acorn Woodpecker straight away and then we began our walk down the track.
Acorn Woodpecker taken by Ray Marsh at the feeders
It wasn’t long before we bumped into a feeding flock of birds, we saw Ruddy Treerunner, Spot-crowned Woodcreeper, Wilson’s Warbler, Barred Becard, Ochraceous Wren, Yellow-winged Vireo and few tanagers. This is how our birding went as we dropped down towards the lodge, we could walk for twenty minutes and not see a bird then suddenly there were many.
We added a few flycatchers to our list, the lovely Tufted Flycatcher was a crowd pleaser, but we also saw Ochraceous Pewee, Olive-striped Flycatcher and Mountain Eleania. Several good birds were seen individually such Wrenthrush, Ruddy-capped Nightingale-Thrush, Black-faced Solitaire, Spangled-cheeked Tanager and we also listed Summer Tanager, Black-and-White Warbler, the gorgeous Black-throated Green Warbler and several Chestnut-sided Warblers.
A Spoot-crowned Woodcreeper
We emerged back onto the main track a few hundred meters from the lodge, now we could see the sky and we quickly found Red-tailed Hawk, both Black and Turkey Vultures, White-collared Swift and Blue-and-White Swallows. A grassy bank produced a flurry of birds, many Tennessee Warblers were feeding on the ground with both Lesser Goldfinches and Yellow-bellied Siskins and Rufous-collared Sparrows. We then had a short encounter with a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker before it flew off.
Johan led us to an apple orchard where a flock of Sulphur-winged Parakeets were feeding and then we watched a bird feeding station for a while where tanagers, woodpeckers, warblers and hummers were feeding.
For lunch we drove up to the head of the valley where a tiny restaurant had a viewing platform with feeders, the food was good and the better great. Many species were visiting the feeders, none of them new for us but it delightful to see them as such close-quarters, unperturbed by our presence.
After an hour long break back at the lodge we made our final walk of the day, this time we drove right down the valley to the end of the main road and then walked a track along the river to some waterfalls . It had clouded over and as we set off light rain came down. It was dull in the forest but many birds were seen. We added Brown-capped Vireo, Hairy Woodpecker, Black-faced Solitaire, Dusky-capped Chlorospingus and many birds already listed. An American Dipper was found near the waterfall and three Spotted Wood-Quails were on the track on the way back to the bus.
It was nearly 6pm and getting dark when we returned to the bus but we continued birding. After a 40 minute drive back up to the head of the valley we got off the bus in the dark. Johan called out a Dusky Nightjar which appeared within seconds it flew around us and perched on a power line, we had great views of it, a smashing bird to end a very successful day.
We had seen 39 new species today bring our total to 442, tomorrow we head off to Tapanti National Park for our last two days.