Anyways, the longest commute of our trip was this next one, Laguna Del Legarto to Paraiso Quetzal Lodge, it started on board a rickety old bus, the same one that had brought 20 students and their teachers over the night before, good timing since we had had the lodge pretty much to ourselves the whole 3 nights. The bus was perfect for plowing down the rocky road back to paved earth, this guy didn't take it slow, which was fine with me.
We transferred buses in San Jose but kept the same driver, the new Mercedes commuter van was pretty plush compared to old rickety.
Soon we were on our way up Cerro De La Muerte to Paraiso, our mountain lodge for the next 2 nights.
We arrived at around 2pm and checked in, they offered us a free cocktail while checking in too, i said i'd rather have a cerveza but they said, well no, cocktail only.
it was starting to rain and the wind was picking up (and i could feel the cocktail kicking in at the altitude we were at) but i could see the hummingbird feeders were full of hummers, and nobody else around. So i introduced myself the the throng of hummingbirds and shot away under the small roof of the covered observation spot while the rain and wind picked up pace.
a very small hummingbird, i gotta say.
The fiery throat was actually kind of hard to capture, it was quick, like Pow! and then gone.
Only 4 species this time of year, which was a bit of a disappointment considering i hadn't done much hummer shooting yet. Still, the 4 species present were all amazing.
Paraiso has "no flash" signs up in the hummingbird viewing area and i asked Jorge jr. (our guide the next morning) about it, he said it wasn't really a problem this time of year because there are less people shooting but when there are like 20 people all using flash at the same time it becomes a bit of a gong show, yeh, i could understand that, he went on to say however that for getting those sweet flight shots we always see, a multi flash setup was the best, so sounds like some flexibility on the matter.
Ok, it was starting to get cold, the wind and rain had us running for our fleeces and rain jackets pretty soon. Our cabin was no sanctuary from the cold either, the bathroom window had been open cooling the small room considerably, a fact we didn't realize until later.
The small electric heater didn't do much but at least there was a ton of blankets on the bed, a noticeable change from the thin cotton sheets we were using at previous lodges.
I studied Liron's Cost Rica trip a lot and checked out his trip video on youtube before our trip so knew what to expect up here. The air was thinner indeed and just walking up and down the steep path from dining area to cabin caught me off guard the first time. We got used to it pretty soon though.
After dinner it was dark and pouring rain and windy, downright cold, at least there was a hot shower waiting in our cabin, or so i hoped. The showers in the other lodges were always lukewarm at best, which was fine in the heat and humidity but i sure hoped the water was at least warm up here, tonight especially...
No! it ran cold, we could see some exposed electrical cable above the shower head so knew that it should heat something up but it just wouldn't happen for us, so cold showers on a cold night, in a cold cabin :)
The next morning we were to meet Jorge jr. (pronounced with the J like Jerry, unlike my friend Jorge, who pronounced the J like H like Harry) at 6am to first drink a coffee, and then go look for quetzals :)
My friend Alex Vargas had said i should get Jorge to take us out as he knew where to find the birds. This time of year, as Liron knows, they can be hard to find, however Jorge said the 2 birders that were checking out when we arrived had seen both male and female yesterday in a fairly reliable location. Cool.
We arrived at the location, a farmers field on a steep hill, strawberries were the main crop and they looked delicious.
We saw a Black-throated trogon to begin the walk but i didn't post it since it was obscured in the trees.
A bit later however, Jorge got excited about this mountain species and i was able to get a few shots off at it came briefly into view.
We headed down a steep path and eventually onto a hilly spot next to a covered strawberry patch, i had to adjust the tripod legs quite a bit to stay somewhat level.
The location was kind of dark though, more importantly, there were no quetzals.
We stayed put for a while while Jorge scouted around the area.
We were joined by a young guide and two english travellers in rubber boots, they were staying at the same lodge but not really birders, i could tell. They spoke in hushed tones at least, respectful of the pursuit at hand.
While i waited i noticed a small bird flitting about on the ground in front of us, i took a couple of shots of what turned out to be the only bird we saw there.
Jorge had a couple of other spots in case this one was a dud and we walked back up the steep hill to get to the vehicle, this one was tough with the 500mm lens i gotta admit :lol:
We drove down another dirt road on the caribbean side of the mountain while before we were on the pacific side, an interesting divide.
This time we all got lucky as a female quetzal was spotted and i was able to get a few shots off.
Resplendent Quetzal - female.
Of course the female is not as fancy as the male but just to get a shot of the species was a highlight for me, it wasn't over yet.
Well, the guided quetzal walk was over for the british travellers and their guide and it probably would have been for us too but Jorge decided to try a bit more to get us a male, we appreciated the effort a lot.
Paraiso lodge has a thing going with the local farmers that encourages the growing of wild avocado and allows him access onto their fields when guiding a group. he puts a call out to various farmers to watch for birds on their property and to give him a call on his cell when they do and that's what happened with us. We were soon on our way to another location and Jorge said he really hoped to see a male with us, we did too.
As luck would have it we did finally see a male, actually two but they were always some distance from us and it was very hard to get a decent shot or two.
The only full-tail looks of a mature male i got were the last looks of the day before the bird flew off, the lighting was tough and i blew it, had there been more time and maybe a different angle it could have been better but i'll take this one anyways, just to say i've seen it.
It seemed like a long morning but in reality it was only a few short hours we were out, my Costa Rican friends had gotten some amazing shots of quetzals at nest a few months earlier at the same lodge but they also had the luxury of being there at the right time and spending more than a few hours at it, to even see these beautiful birds in the short time we were there was pretty amazing, the proverbial cherry on top.
We went back to the lodge and had lunch and checked out the hummingbird display again.
I took the shot above of my wife as sort of a joke, you see, while packing for the trip i happened to spy a copy of the North Shore News next to suitcase and threw it in, with the intention of doing one of those reader trip shots with newspaper in hand at some touristy location that they like to publish every now and then.
I didn't know this shot was going to be the most popular shot of the trip though.
It even made Explore on Flickr. :lol:
Ironically, my wife was disappointed that i didn't get the shot when a hummingbird landed on the paper's edge, hey, at least i took a shot.
The hummingbirds were ridiculously "tame" by the way, my wife would put out a finger next to feeder and the tiny birds were more than happy to fly up and perch while sipping, too cool.
i admit, even i tried the finger perch technique and was amazed to have such a small bird so close at hand.
We were told that in 1987 they put the first hummingbird feeder up and had 1 bird come to visit. Since then of course the feathery visitors have grown in number, as have the human visitors to shoot the spectacle. The feeders are all very well setup by the way, attractive perches are everywhere, and they even attach the colourful flowers to certain feeders for those flight shots where it looks like the bird is feeding naturally.
the covered observation area.
In the afternoon Jorge agreed to take us out once again specifically to do some shooting.
He took us to Miriam's, a small restaurant down the road aways from the lodge.
Miriam has been putting out rice for the birds out back for something like 25 years and the perches are quite nice, as are the birds that come in to feed. If you want to shoot there it's polite to buy a lunch or small $ donation, we had lunch with Jorge and the food just kept coming, i needed to shoot though and was soon out back hoping to nail a few of the commoner species i had seen on the ground and around but needed better shots of. This location was pretty sweet, Acorn Woodpecker is a specialty there, as was Flame-colored Tanager.
This finch really reminded me of our towhees the way it kicked up the ground when foraging.
This bird reminded me of a big chickadee.
On the way back to the lodge we drove by this bird, i made Jorge stop so i could get a shot, i didn't have it yet!
Back at the lodge, this was it, our last night and then back to Hotel Bougainvillea (and hot shower) for our final night before flying out the following morning.
There were still a few specialties of the lodge i hadn't yet photographed and i remedied that soon.
a distant shot of a very small bird.
That's a wrap!
Our last full day in Costa Rica was spent travelling back to Hotel Bougainvillea and later a walk out for pizza near the hotel. A thunderstorm rolled in then and soaked us.
You can see the dark thundercloud layer ominously in this shot.
I feel refreshed and actually eager to get out shooting again locally, i was not shooting as much as i would have liked before the trip i gotta admit.
Thanks for looking and reading!