Costa Rica Trip Report Part (Part VII) – “Forget the Horses!!”

What are you looking at? White-nosed Coati at Celeste Mountain Lodge - Costa Rica 3-21-2015
What are you looking at? White-nosed Coati at Celeste Mountain Lodge – Costa Rica 3-21-2015

This is the seventh 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 VI) – A Day in the Life

Some days on a tropical birding trip are just more memorable than others, and this day happened to be one of them. That’s not to dis any of the days – they were each memorable, productive, exciting, and fun. This day was just kicked up a notch due to an unexpected sighting and the phrase “Forget the horses,” which none of the tour participants will ever forget. But, I’m getting ahead of myself…….

We woke for the last time at the Celeste Mountain Lodge; today, March 21st, 2015, we would be saying goodbye to heaven. If I haven’t made it clear yet, Celeste Mountain Lodge was a place I wanted to stay. So much so, that I did inquire with the owners about a job. But alas, I’m back in Wisconsin. Our guide Richard had tried to reserve rooms for a third night at this lodge, but they were already booked. So after some morning birding and one final delicious lunch, we’d be headed 15 minutes down the road to Heliconias Lodge.

Day 7 - To Heliconias Lodge
Day 7 – From Celeste Mountain Lodge To Heliconias Lodge 15 minutes down the road.

After some coffee and a bit of birding at the lodge feeders, we headed back across the street to the properties reserve for a pre-breakfast walk where we got excellent looks at a Dull-Mantled Antbird and fleeting looks at a Gray-chested Dove.

Dull-Mantled Antbird - Costa Rica 3-21-2015
Dull-Mantled Antbird – Costa Rica 3-21-2015

We returned to Celeste for breakfast and as would be expected, some birding at their feeders.

Green Honeycreeper (female) at the Celeste Mountain Lodge feeders - Costa Rica 3-21-2015
Green Honeycreeper (female) at the Celeste Mountain Lodge feeders – Costa Rica 3-21-2015
Golden-Hooded Tanager at Celeste Mountain Lodge feeders - Costa Rica 3-21-2015
Golden-Hooded Tanager at Celeste Mountain Lodge feeders – Costa Rica 3-21-2015

After breakfast we returned to the nearby road which we birded the day before. When we went to board the bus, an extremely tame White-Nosed Coati was wandering around the driveway. Michael learned just how sharp their claws are as it stood on it’s hind legs and put it’s front paws on his leg, like a friendly dog would. Quickly backing away, Michael let us know just how sharp they were, and he had the small hole in his pants to testify to it!

Michael & Tom investigating a White-Nosed Coati....or was the coati investigating them? Celeste Mountain Lodge - Costa Rica 3-21-2015
Michael & Tom investigating a White-Nosed Coati….or was the coati investigating them? Celeste Mountain Lodge – Costa Rica 3-21-2015
Broad-Billed Motmot near Celeste Mountain Lodge - Costa Rica 3-21-2015
Keel-billed Motmot on the left, Broad-Billed Motmot on the right. Near Celeste Mountain Lodge – Costa Rica 3-21-2015
Your's truly watching a Blue Morph Butterfly. Can you see the brilliant blue of the butterfly? Costa Rica 3-21-2015. Photo courtesy of Nancy at Bluestar Enterprises.
Your’s truly watching a Blue Morph Butterfly. Can you see the brilliant blue of the butterfly? Costa Rica 3-21-2015. Photo courtesy of Nancy at Bluestar Enterprises.

Although Michael & Nancy spent most their time birding, they were also on a family vacation as Nancy’s husband Lance and daughter Amanda were along for the tour. Most days while we were birding, Lance and Amanda would be off on their own excursions like visiting waterfalls, ziplining, or simply lounging around the lodge or pool. On this morning they were off doing a horseback ride, but little did we know they’d be following the same road we were birding. Around the bend comes Amanda and Lance – with Lance in a memorable pink helmet. Most of us were watching them when Richard uttered those now famous words – “Forget the horses!!” Those words were followed by Umbrellabird and immediately the horses were forgotten.

The Bare-necked Umbrellabird is endemic to Costa Rica and western Panama and is officially listed as endangered. According to Birdlife.org, the breeding population in Costa Rica is estimated at 190-330 mature individuals. Along with Panama’s population, the global population for the Bare-necked Umbrellabird is placed at 1,000-2,499 mature individuals. Stated another way – this is a hard bird to see and likely the rarest I’ve ever seen if global populations are below 2,500 individuals!

Forgetting the horses was easy as this usually hard to see bird sat content in a nearby tree for a good 7-10 minutes. Everyone in the group got excellent looks and Tom shot some amazing video through his scope. This bird deserves some love…..

If Elvis was a bird, he'd be a Bare-necked Umbrellabird. Costa Rica 3-21-2015
If Elvis was a bird, he’d be a Bare-necked Umbrellabird. Costa Rica 3-21-2015
Bare-necked Umbrellabird - Costa Rica 3-21-2015
Bare-necked Umbrellabird – Costa Rica 3-21-2015

I was also able to capture some video through my camera:

With smiles all around after getting killer looks of the Bare-necked  Umbrellabird, we boarded the bus in route to another nature reserve. Along the way we found one of my target birds for the trip – Bat Falcon.

Bat Falcon - Costa Rica 3-21-2015
Bat Falcon – Costa Rica 3-21-2015
Laughing Falcon - Costa Rica 3-21-2015
Bat Falcon – Costa Rica 3-21-2015

We also crossed a river where the water runs blue…….

Costa Rica 3-21-2015
Costa Rica 3-21-2015

Once at the nature reserve we were treated to some great looks at a host of birds and flowers. Although I didn’t get a photo of it, one of the highlights was hearing and seeing a nearby Laughing Falcon!

Summer Tanager - Costa Rica 3-21-2015
Summer Tanager – Costa Rica 3-21-2015
Banaquit - Costa Rica 3-21-2015
Banaquit – Costa Rica 3-21-2015
Social Flycatcher - Costa Rica 3-21-2015
Social Flycatcher – Costa Rica 3-21-2015
Flower – Costa Rica 3-21-2015
IMG_7232
Flower – Costa Rica 3-21-2015

It’s kind of fun traveling with the guide that everyone wants to have!! Multiple times throughout the trip Richard stopped to autograph copies of his book – and not just for birders, the other guides were also after signed copies!

Need a guide? Look no further than Richard Garrigues!!!
Need a guide? Look no further than Richard Garrigues!!!

After saying goodbye to the Celeste Mountain Lodge for the last time, we were off down the road to Heliconias Lodge.

Heliconias Lodge - Costa Rica 3-21-2015
Heliconias Lodge – Costa Rica 3-21-2015
A few from our room at Heliconias Lodge - Costa Rica 3-21-2015
A few from our room at Heliconias Lodge – Costa Rica 3-21-2015

One of the benefits of lodging at Heliconias is the hiking trails located right on the property. We spent the afternoon exploring these trails, which includes three suspension bridges – one of them a double bridge which wraps around a large tree.

Dar enjoying some birding near the canopy level on one of the suspension bridges - Costa Rica 3-21-2015
Dar enjoying some birding near the canopy level on one of the suspension bridges – Costa Rica 3-21-2015
IMG_7357 black-throated trogon
I apologize for the crappy, heavily cropped photo, but you can still make out the Black-throated Trogon in a nesting cavity – Costa Rica 3-21-2015

I know the photo below doesn’t do the bird justice, but at Heliconias we ticked off our 7th trogon in 7 days! And with the Resplendent Quetzal it was our 8th species from the Trogonidae family in the first week! Could we complete a trogon slam? Although there are two other trogons found in Costa Rica that we had yet to see, one was out of range from our tour, so that left just one more to find over the next 7 days. If you’re one of those inquiring minds that wants to know whether we got it, well you’ll just have to keeping following these trip reports to find out.

IMG_7323
Trogon species #7 – Lattice-tailed Trogon – Costa Rica 3-21-2015
IMG_7326
Plant – Costa Rica 3-21-2015
IMG_7434
Flower – Costa Rica 3-21-2015

I thought it would be nearly impossible to compete with our bird of the day – the 10 minute looks of a very cooperative Bare-necked Umbrella bird – but Richard found a way to try; ant swarm #2!! Some tours never come across a single army ant swarm and here we were enjoying our second. A couple of the birds brought in by the swarm:

IMG_7372 spotted antbird
Spotted Antbird right where you’d expect to find a bird with “ant” in it’s name, at an ant swarm – Costa Rica 3-21-2015
Spotted Antbird - Costa Rica 3-21-2015
Spotted Antbird – Costa Rica 3-21-2015
IMG_7397 zeledon's antbird
Zeledon’s Antbird – Costa Rica 3-21-2015
photo (3)
Your’s truly surveying the canopy on one of the Heliconias suspension bridges – Costa Rica 3-21-2015 Photo credits: Thanks to Dar (I think???) for this photo.

Bare-necked Umbrellabird, a second ant swarm, Laughing and Bat Falcons, if there is one thing this tour didn’t do, it’s disappoint! Spoiler alert – we’ll be leaving this area of Costa Rica in the next trip report; whole new terrain, lots of photos, and some magnificent birds! Bird It Up!

Since I’m sharing only a small portion of my photos, and since those only represent a small fraction of what we saw, below is a list of other notable species from day 7:

King Vulture

Common Pauraque

Bronze-tailed  Plumeleteer

Bicolored Antbird

Ocellated Antbird

Wedge-billed Woodcreeper

Scale-crested Pygmy-Tyrant

Tropical Pewee

Yellow-faced Grassquit

Scarlet Tanager

Montezuma Oropendola

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7 thoughts on “Costa Rica Trip Report Part (Part VII) – “Forget the Horses!!””

    1. Much appreciated Carol!! Your latest blog post with your first tour group brought me right back to CR! I’m picking photos for the next day and just browsing through them brings back so many good memories!

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  1. I am practically jumping up and down! Thank you so much for going through the trouble of putting this post together. The photos and stories…oh my. If I was 80% sold on Celeste, I am 100% sold now. His summer is looking good. Got to get passports for six…so much work to do.

    So, Matthew, how is it that you can come back to Wisconsin and work every day after THAT? It must be daunting. 😀 However, happy birding to you. Loved the little ‘yours truly’ shots and even the ‘crappy’ nesting bird. This post goes beyond.

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    1. Woohoo – thank you so much for the great comments Shannon!!! You will not be disappointed in Celeste!! Another nice thing about Celeste is that it’s close to where we went the following days – Cano Negro. It’s a whole different area with a completely different set of birds – I’ll be hopefully posting about our first day there next week.

      No doubt it was tough coming home! I was actually hoping maybe the volcano would blow again and keep me there for a few extra day 😉 Seriously though – be forewarned that Costa Rica will wet your appetite for foreign birding! So coming home to make some money in order to travel more is part of what drives me 😉

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