The Hallowed Honeymoon Hummingbird Hunt - Costa Rica - Part 7 - Rancho Naturalista - Day 1

Birding began early at Rancho Naturalista, far earlier than dawn, as sometime around 3 a.m I was awoken by a singing Mottled Owl just outside the window. Grabbing my torch, I, ninja-like, slunk out onto the balcony, but despite the bird sounding as though it was right on top of me, I could not locate it in the dense trees.

I didn't get much sleep after that, half dozing until around 4.45, when I heard one of the staff hauling the prophesied coffee up to the balcony.

Mornings at Rancho Naturalista tend to start at the Hummingbird feeders with a giant mug of native, Costa Rican coffee in hand, and with the night's sleep I had, this sounded like heaven. It was 3 mugs in the end.

We mooched out in twilight and it wasn't long before Hummingbirds were flitting in to feed. 

Identifying Hummingbirds in dim light is difficult when dealing with all "dark" species, but our first lifer was obvious due to it's large white belly, White Necked Jacobin. These were abundant, with one male in particular being exceptionally tame, returning to the same perch in petting distance time and again.

 
White Necked Jacobin

Other species in abundance we're Crowned Woodnymph. We had seen a few of these stunners at Arenal, though high up in treetops. Here they performed beautifully.
 
 

 
Crowned Woodnymph 

Rufous Tailed Hummingbird, somewhat shier, was also present, as were numerous Green Mangos and then we had our first Snowcaps, a female and a subadult male. 

Rufous Tailed Hummingbird - Shy with humans, but aggressive to other hummingbird species

Snowcap was up top of the list of desirable species, but obviously we wanted an adult male, nonetheless these first examples were welcome. The adult males were mindblowing when we caught up with them. A stunning, stunning little bird.

Our first Snowcap - a cute, diminutive female
 
Female Snowcap - Cuteness made manifest

Male Snowcap

Next up was Black Crested Coquette, a surprisingly subtle species in subadult plumage, but an adult male eventually presented himself. Another stunning bird. 

Sub Adult Male Black Crested Coquette
 Adult Male Black Crested Coquette - And probably my best shot of a Hummingbird ever

Various tanagers, two species of Orpendola, Buff Throated Saltator and Black Cheeked Woodpeckers were visiting the fruit feeders and Keel Billed Toucans made an appearance in the trees on the hill. 

Buff Throated Saltator
 
Keel Billed Toucan - Another pint of guinness bird. Stunning

Seeing displaying Keel Billed Toucan, giving a performance, which I can only describe as sweetly and utterly ridiculous in it's amazing-ness, was one of the best birding experiences of my life, let alone the trip. I could have watched this all day. Just brilliant birds.

Chestnut Headed Orpendola

Olive Backed Euphonia

A Bicoloured Hawk kept watch on the whole proceedings. 

Bicoloured Hawk

After breakfast, which was superb by the way, we made our way out along some of the trails, seeing birds like Tawny Breasted Flycatcher, White Ruffed Manakin, and various other forest species en route.

Occasionally we crossed paths with a resident guide, Mercedes, who was hunting after Grey Headed Piprites for her, colossally high, Costa Rican Year list, and she was happy to point out calling birds such as Streaked Antpitta and Collared Trogon.

The area where the forest emerged into pasture was particularly productive, providing various passerines such as Sulphur Bellied flycatcher, Tropical Parula, Olive Woodpecker etc.

We made our way back for lunch at the lodge (again superb), and were told we should visit the garden belonging to the Lodge owners, just down the hill, for Garden Emerald and White Crested Coquette.

The owners were very obliging and we scored these two species easily, as well as Plumbeous kite, more Snowcaps etc.

Garden Emerald - A stunning green



White Crested Coquette

From here we made our way down to the river at La Mina.

Driving along the rough, pot-holed roads, we actually missed the experience of a 4.8 Earthquake as we bounced along towards our target of Sunbittern. We managed to find 3 different individuals and they did not disappoint. Another high priority bird, living up to it's full expectations. Stunners!








Sunbittern - another dream bird. Astounding in flight

Additional birds scored along the river included Green Kingfisher, more Black Phoebe and various egrets etc.

With many of our river targets seen, we made our way back up to the lodge, taking in the hummingbird pools before dark. These attracted in many species to wash and drink, including Dull mantled antbird, various flycatchers and hummingbirds.

Rain forest at Rancho Naturalista

We settled in for the evening with a great dinner and then it was off to bed, aiming for an early start with the moth light next morning

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