Monday, 5 August 1985

COSTA RICA July/August 1985: Braulio Carillo & Monteverde

Nick Preston and I were keen to revisit the Neotropics in 1985 but after an incident filled Peru trip in 1984 we felt a less challenging destination might be in order.  Costa Rica, helped by a superb trip report by Andy Goodwin, fitted the bill – it was a safe, small country with good public transport and many good nature reserves.  Colin Winyard, an excellent travelling companion, was interested too and we planned a trip for the three of us.  Both Nick and Colin were teachers but their holidays overlapped.  I was working but in those days the summer was a slack time in Universities, enabling me to get extra time off.  A bigger concern was not seeing my future wife, who I’d not long met, for six weeks but happily we survived.  In the end the plan was that I would go out with Nick for the first week, Colin would then join us and we’d spend 4 weeks in Costa Rica and travel down to Panama by bus.  After a couple of days Nick would return to the UK and Colin and I would stay on for another six days.  As usual this blog is constructed from notebook entries and digitised slides of varying quality and degredation.  I also no longer have my original field notebook, testing my memory further.  I took no photos at all during the first week of the trip.  Dark forest and low cloud being my excuse although I'm disappointed not to have got a few views.

20 July 1985:  Not a good start.  My bus from Brighton to Heathrow was delayed due to Brighton Carnival and I arrived at Heathrow over an hour late to find, just before getting off the bus, that I had brought my old passport.  It was in better condition that the new one but that was no excuse.  Nick was pacing around anxiously waiting for me as it was just under an hour before the flight left.  Nick’s relief at seeing me was short lived when I explained the passport situation.  We went to check-in in the hope that we could get on the next day’s flight (if not I’d have to wait a week as KLM only flew out on Saturday and Sundays).  Very luckily there was one place left on the next day’s flight, although the KLM assistant changed Nick’s flight rather than mine and found Nick’s seat had gone before she could put him back.  She then managed to switch us and Nick went off promising to find a hotel for when I arrived, or at least that was what I thought the plan was.  Nick’s flight was due to arrive on Sunday morning, mine at 10pm that night.  I caught the bus home and tore the cover off my old passport.

21 July 1985:  I caught the early bus up to Heathrow and the flight was on time.  We changed planes in Amsterdam and briefly touched down at Caracas where a White-tailed Kite was seen from the plane. In the check-in queue I befriended a volunteer who was going to Nicaragua and mentioned to him that my friend Nick was meeting me at San Jose airport and would hopefully have sorted out a cheap hotel nearby.  He was interested and with great expectation we were met by Nick.  It transpired that he had spent the day birding around the airport and playing football with local kids - a half built house by the airport being the best accommodation he could find!

22 July 1985:  After being disturbed at dawn by a rather surprised owner of the house we caught a bus into town and said goodbye to our Nicaraguan bound friend.  I’m not sure what he made of us but we probably saved him a taxi and hotel fare.  We found decent central hostel for the night (it seemed to be full of Peace Corps volunteers), found the office and booked for the three of us to stay at La Selva later in the trip and got a bus to University where we birded the surrounding area.  Birds seen included Cinnamon Hummingbird, Blue-crowned Motmot, Chestnut-capped Warbler, Yellow-throated Brush-Finch and White-faced Ground-Sparrow.

23 July 1985:  We left the hostel and got an early bus from San Jose to San Geronimo.  We then walked into Braulio Carrillo, over a ridge and across a river before putting up Nick’s tent by the old road at La Montura.  An excellent if rather tiring day.  Birds seen included Solitary Eagle, Black-breasted Wood Quail, Purple-throated Mountaingem, Green-crowned Brilliant, Collared Trogon, Emerald Toucanet, Prong-billed Barbet, Spotted Barbtail, Lineated Foliage-Gleaner, Streak-breasted Treehunter, Rufous Mourner, Black Phoebe, Torrent Tyrannulet, Tufted Flycatcher, American Dipper, Slaty-backed Nightingale-Thrush and Buff-rumped Warbler.

24 July 1985:  We packed up the tent, had a look around La Montura and slowly walked down the unfinished new road to the Braulio Carillo Ranger Station.  Here we were given a room by the very friendly rangers.  Birds seen included Crested and Black Guans, Broad-billed Motmot, Red-headed Barbet, Brown-billed Scythbill, Sharpbill, Dark Pewee, White-throated Spadebill, Ochraceous Wren, Grey-breasted Wood Wren, Mountain Thrush and Azure-hooded Jay.

25-27 July 1985:  We stayed at the Brauilo Carrillo Ranger Station where basic but very nice meals were provided.  It was amazingly cheap.  While there we birded the ridge trail below the Ranger Station and along the dirt road.  It rained very hard most afternoons/evenings and my most vivid memory was the amazing frog chorus as it got dark.  On our last day we got a lift in a truck back to the main road and from there a bus back to San Jose.  We returned to the ‘Peace Corps’ hostel we’d stayed in before.  While at Braulio we saw Rufous-fronted Wood Quail, Olive-backed Quail-Dove, Red-fronted Parrotlet, Green-fronted Lancebill, Purple-crowned Fairy, White-whiskered Puffbird, Red-headed Barbet, Yellow-eared Toucanet, Cinnamon Woodpecker, Spectacled Foliage Gleaner, Fasciated Antshrike, Streak-crowned Antvireo, Black-faced Ant-thrush, White-ruffed Manakin, Band-backed, Bay and Stripe-breasted Wrens, White-breasted Wood Wren, Pale-vented Thrush, Black-capped Nightingale Thrush, Long-billed and Tawny-faced Gnatwrens, Green Shrike-Vireo, Emerald, Crimson-collared, Tawny-crested and Black & Yellow Tanagers, White-throated Shrike-Tanager and Orange-billed Sparrow although best of all were three encounters with Oso hormigueros (Lesser Antbears).

28 July 1985:  We did a day trip to Volcan Poas on a tourist bus.  It was a bit frustrating stopping at touristy shops on the way when we just wanted to get there but once there we had to wait for a couple of hours before the low cloud started to clear.  We eventually saw Fiery-throated and Cerise-throated Hummingbirds, Slaty-backed and Black-billed Nightingale-Thrushes, Black & Yellow Phainoptila, Slaty Flowerpiercer, Black-cheeked Warbler, Sooty-capped Bush Tanager and Yellow-thighed and Large-footed Finches.  We returned to San Jose for a meal then went to the airport to meet Colin who was pretty much first out of the airport.

forest at Volcan Poas as the cloud started to clear
the rim of the crater looking like an open cast mine
Volcan Poas crater
we could smell it long before we could see it
29 July 1985:  We got a bus from San Jose to Puntarenas where we stayed in an expensive dive.  The town had little to recommend it but was a necessary stop for us to connect with the daily bus to Monteverde.  Previous reports mentioned seeing storm petrels off the point but we saw nothing.  The mangroves were more productive with Snowy Egret, Little Blue and Louisiana Herons, Yellow-crowned Night Heron, Wood Stork, Roseate Spoonbill, Collared Plover, Greater Yellowlegs, Spotted Sandpiper, Willet, Hudsonian Whimbrel, Short-billed Dowitcher, Laughing Gull, White-fronted Parrot, Cinnamon Hummingbird, Mangrove Swallow, Rufous-naped Wren and lots of mosquitoes.

view from Puntarenas, no sign of any hoped for petrels, next rain storm approaching
distant mudflats at Puntarenas
Green Heron at Puntarenas, the foreground of this image rather summed up my view of Puntarenas
young Yellow-crowned Night Heron
30 July 1985:  The bus from Puentarenas to Santa Elania was delayed and arrived as it was getting dark.  The nearer hostels were all full although we wanted to stay at Pension Flo Mar anyway as it was nearer to the reserve entrance.  They were full too but we were put up in an overflow room.

31 July-5 August:  Monteverde was a 20 minute uphill walk in each day from Pension Flor Mar which was a very nice place to stay.  Being cloud forest it was often wet and got quite chilly at night.  Around the pension and in the pastures we saw Laughing Falcon, Brown-hooded Parrot, Fork-tailed and Coppery-headed Emeralds, Stripe-tailed Hummingbird, Magenta-throated Woodstar, Resplendent Quetzal (common in pastures), Blue-crowned Motmot, Emerald Toucanet, Keel-billed Toucan, Red-faced Spinetail, Long-tailed Manakin, Three-wattled Bellbird, Sulphur-bellied Flycatcher, Plain and Rufous & White Wrens, Orange-billed Nightingale Thrush, Rufous-browed Peppershrike, Red-legged Honeycreeper, Golden-browed Chlorophonia, Yellow-throated Euphonia, Yellow-throated Brush Finch and White-eared Ground Sparrow.  We spent most time birding in the forested reserve (zone 4) seeing Barred Forest Falcon, Black Guan, Black Breasted Wood Quail, Rufous-breasted and Buff-fronted Quail-Doves, Violet Sabrewing, Purple-throated Mountaingem, Green-crowned Brilliant, Prong-billed Barbet, Ruddy Treerunner, Spotted Barbtail, Lineated Foliage Gleaner, Tawny-throated Leafscraper, Immaculate Antbird, Silvery-fronted Tapaculo, Yellowish Flycatcher, Eye-ringed Flatbill, Azure-hooded Jay, Black-faced Solitare, Slaty-backed and Ruddy-capped Nightingale-Thrushes, Black & Yellow Phainoptila, Slaty Flowerpiercer, Collared Whitestart, Wrenthrush (after much effort for Colin and I), Sooty-capped Bush Tanager, Yellow-thighed Finch and Chestnut-capped Brush Finch.

pastures between Flor Mar and Monteverde entrance
silhouette of a male Resplendent Quetzal, one of the main targets for the trip
slightly better image of a male quetzal, this one with a shorter tail
Monteverde at dusk
low cloud typical of our time at Monteverde
Purple-throated Mountaingen and Green-crowned Brilliant on a feeder at Monteverde
Green-crowned Brilliant by the feeder
waterfall in the forest at Monteverde
Blue-crowned Motmot
Emerald Toucanet
cloud and forest at Monteverde
more cloud and more forest
somewhat staged celebrations at Monteverde on day 3.  Colin (centre) and I (right) have just seen our first Wrenthrush.  Nick (left) looks on in amazement having seen two already.  I was as wet as I look, having just crawled out of the ravine behind us that I almost fell into following a wrenthrushes call.  In the process I almost strangling myself when I got a liana caught around my neck at the same time as a log I was standing on gave way.  Nick and Colin weren't much drier, it was that sort of place ...  Wrenthrush was probably bird of the trip, although they had some stiff competition.
sunset at Pension Flor Mar, Monteverde
one of the rare occasions when there was a significant break in the clouds

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