Costa Rica Trip Report (Part VI) – A Day in the Life

Sunrise over the Celeste Mountain Lodge 3-20-2015
Sunrise over the Celeste Mountain Lodge 3-20-2015

This is the sixth post in a series documenting my Costa Rica birding trip from March14-28, 2015. To read the previous post, click here: Costa Rica Trip Report (Part V) – A Trip to Heaven

After arriving in heaven, i.e. Celeste Mountain Lodge, late in the afternoon the previous day, the morning of March 20th gave us our first morning birding the lodge grounds and our first full day in the surrounding area. Since we overnighted here again on March 20th, I thought this would give me an opportunity to breakdown a day in the life on the tour when we did not move to a new destination. So with that in mind, let’s get on with it……

Day 6 – Overnight at Celeste Mountain Lodge – 3-20-2015
Day 6 – Overnight at Celeste Mountain Lodge – 3-20-2015

5am Wakeup: Brush the teeth, throw on some clothes, gather my gear and head out the door.

5:25am: With sunrise arriving at 5:44am, it’s still dark as we make our way toward the dinning area for coffee. Over the next 30 minutes the entire group is sipping coffee or juice and saddling up to the bar overlooking the property as the grounds crew fills the feeding platform with a variety of fresh fruit. From 5:45-6:15am we “bird by coffee” from the comfy confines of the lodge – this gives us ample opportunity to get acquainted with some of the familiar birds in the area.

Although we were familiar with the Variable Seedeater from our first days at Hotel Villa Lapas, this species at Celeste is quite different looking – hence the name “Variable”. From northern Costa Rica and extending into southeastern Mexico, the Variable Seedeater is primarily black except for a white spot at the base of the primaries.

Variable Seedeater (Caribbean race)3-20-2015
Variable Seedeater (Caribbean race male) 3-20-2015

As you continue south, the same species looks quite different. Below is the Variable Seedeater we saw while at Hotel Villa Lapas in the Pacific lowlands; same bird, completely different markings.

Variable Seedeater 3-16-2015.
Variable Seedeater (Pacific race male) – Hotel Villa Lapas 3-16-2015.
Variable Seedeater (female) - Celeste Mountain Lodge 3-20-2015
Variable Seedeater (female) – Celeste Mountain Lodge 3-20-2015

Around 6:15am we walked across the road to a private reserve owned by the Celeste Mountain Lodge. The reserve is made primarily of transitional rain-to-cloud forest and we spent approximately 80 minutes birding the trails.

The trails and steep hillside of the private reserve owned by the Celeste Mountain Lodge. This mountainside trail is yet another reason to stay at Celeste; besides enjoying the birding on the grounds, the short 5 minute walk to the reserve is home to a host of other species.

The highlight of our morning walk at the reserve was the Black-throated Trogon seen below. This was our 6th trogon species in 6 days!!!

By 7:35am we were back at Celeste having worked up an appetite. We would be leaving the lodge at 8:45am so we had time to eat breakfast, cleanup, and of course do some more birding. As I mentioned in the previous post, the meals at Celeste are first class, which caused consternation as I swayed between trying to enjoy my breakfast and stuffing my face in order to get back to the birds.  See – even the dilemmas in heaven are delightful; do I spend more time looking at the specular avian wildlife or do I continue to gorge on an incredibly delicious breakfast? My choice – do both at the same time!

Squirrel Cuckoo 3-20-2015
Squirrel Cuckoo – Celeste Mountain Lodge 3-20-2015
Passerini's Tanager & Buff-throated Saltator 3-20-2015
Passerini’s Tanager & Buff-throated Saltator 3-20-2015

We also had our first looks at a Collared Aracari on the property grounds!

We left the grounds around 8:45am and Carlos drove us down the road for some late morning birding. We stopped along the road side and bird from approximately 9-10:35am. Below are some of the highlights:

Scarlet-rumped Cacique 3-20-2015
Scarlet-rumped Cacique – near Celeste Mountain Lodge 3-20-2015
White-fronted Nunbird 3-20-2015
White-fronted Nunbird – near Celeste Mountain Lodge 3-20-2015
Black-crested Coquette 3-20-2015
Black-crested Coquette – near Celeste Mountain Lodge 3-20-2015
The Costa Rica crew – you know it’s a tough ID when Stuart is driven to consulting his field guide! Near the Celeste Mountain Lodge 3-20-2015
Buff-throated Foliage-gleaner – near the Celeste Mountain Lodge 3-20-2015
Blue Morpho Butterfly – near the Celeste Mountain Lodge 3-20-2015

From the roadside we took a drive to a nearby property where we hiked in and birded from 11am-12:45pm. Birding through what is normally considered lunch hour, it’s a great time to remind everyone to pack some snacks when touring; keeping the energy levels up is of utmost importance, especially when birding with Richard who takes every advantage of daylight to squeeze in a few more species.

Birding near the Celeste Mountain Lodge 3-20-2015
Great Kiskadee nest building near the Celeste Mountain Lodge – 3-20-2015
White Hawk soaring near the Celeste Mountain Lodge 3-20-2015
Olive-crowned Yellowthroat near the Celeste Mountain Lodge 3-20-2015
Blue-black Grassquit near the Celeste Mountain Lodge 3-20-2015

We got back to Celeste around 1pm and would have ample time to enjoy lunch, pickup a few new birds on the grounds, and some free time to catch a quick nap, clean some clothes, or just relax with a cold beer.

Lunch at Celeste Mountain Lodge 3-20-2015

During lunch we got our first looks at one of the most stunning birds in Costa Rica, at least in my opinion, Crimson-collared Tanager.

Crimson-collared Tanager 3-20-2015
Crimson-collared Tanager at Celeste Mountain Lodge 3-20-2015

I also shot this short video from the birding bar viewing area on the side of the lodge. In the video you can see the feeding platform where many of the photos in this post were taken and to the left is the mountain where the lodge has its reserve, and where we hiked pre-breakfast.

After lunch, at approximately 2:45pm, we headed back over to the Celeste reserve located across the road from the lodge. After seeing the male Black-throated Trogon in the morning, we got great looks of the female in the afternoon.

Black-throated Trogon (female) 3-20-2015
Black-throated Trogon (female) – Celeste Mountain Lodge reserve 3-20-2015
A view of the Celeste Mountain Lodge from the reserve across from the property – 3-20-2015

By 5pm we were back on the lodge grounds birding in comfort during the last hour of daylight.

Black-striped Sparrow at Celeste Mountain Lodge 3-20-2015
Black-striped Sparrow at Celeste Mountain Lodge 3-20-2015

The morning started with “birding by coffee,” the night started with “birding by beer.” Does it get any better than birding by beer while watching the sunset over the mountains in Costa Rica?

Sunset view from the Celeste Mountain Lodge 3-20-2015
Sunset view from the Celeste Mountain Lodge 3-20-2015

With the sun setting at 5:50pm, it was time for the nightly ritual. Over an adult beverage we gathered to go over the days birding checklist. This was followed by a fantastic meal, another adult drink, and a quick check of email. By this time it was around 9pm and most of us went to turn-in. After a  shower to clean off the grime and sunscreen, getting gear and clothes organized for the following day, it was lights out around 10pm. Six days in and I still netted 31 lifers! Yes, if there is a heaven, this is it!

Bird It Up!


8 thoughts on “Costa Rica Trip Report (Part VI) – A Day in the Life”

  1. I can see why it took you so long to post this, Matthew. What an amazing trip! There are just too many birds that made me gasp and jump up and down with excitement. To see many of them right there at the feeder…wow!! Now we really want to go. Thanks for putting e hard work in. I will revisit these posts again and again. 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Shannon!!! Hopefully now that the bulk of migration is winding down I’ll be able to get the rest of the trip posts up in a timely manner. I started working on the photos for the next one so hopefully next week 😉

      You’ll definitely want to spend some time at Celeste Mountain Lodge if you go – such a great place to bird, relax, and unwind 😀


      1. I’ve already been in contact with them. That is most likely where we’ll stay to maximize birding. Of course, the kids will want to see the volcanoes and the ocean, so I am still shopping those areas too!

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Shannon – that is so cool that you are already looking at them. I’ll a post on our trip to Poas Volcano which is near the end of the trip. The other area you might want to consider is La Selva Biological Reserve – this is another one I’ll post on at the very end, but spoiler alert – it was perhaps my favorite overall place – the pricing is great and the grounds are incredible. This is also a place where if you wanted to hire a guide, it would be worth it (especially our guide Richard who I can’t say enough good things about).

    Anyway, I know you’ll stay tuned so I’ll have more to say on La Selva and Poas.

    Liked by 1 person

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