Costa Rica Trip Report - Part 4/7 - Selva Verde and La Selva

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Subject: Costa Rica Trip Report - Part 4/7 - Selva Verde and La Selva
From: "Paul Dodd" <>
Date: Sat, 26 Jan 2013 21:19:55 +1100
We had a late breakfast back at the hotel before leaving mid-morning. We
stopped off at Restaurant La Georgina to have another look at the
Fiery-throated Hummingbird, before driving to our Caribbean lowlands
destination, the Selva Verde Lodge on the Sarapiquí river near to the
township of Puerto Viejo. This lodge has a botanical garden abutting an area
of secondary rainforest and has extensive trails through primary rainforest
on the south-eastern side of the river. The lodge boasts its own suspension
bridge crossing the river. The restaurant overlooks feeding stations where
staff place fruit each morning attracting Chestnut-mandibled Toucan,
Keel-billed Toucan, Collared Aracari, both Montezuma and Chestnut-headed
Oropendola, Gray-headed Chachalaca and many other fructivorous species. The
river banks and ponds also attract Sunbitterns, but unfortunately not during
our stay. Red-throated Ant-tanagers tend to like the covered walkways at the
lodge, and are easy to see here. Mantled Howler Monkeys screamed from around
5am, and we had good views of this species during the following days.


We arranged to meet Roger Melendez Pereira, our guide at 6am and at the
nominated time he was there! Roger was recommended to us by a birding-aus
subscriber as ?a good guide and a good bloke?, and he certainly is both.
Selva Verde is another one of those places that caters for birders by having
coffee and biscuits available well before breakfast. Our pre-breakfast
birding was in the botanical gardens over the road from the lodge (although
still part of the same property). We managed to see a number of new lowland
species before breakfast, including Wood Thrush, Band-backed Wren, Cinnamon
Becard, Black and White Becard, Yellow-crowned Euphonia and Giant Cowbird.
We returned to the lodge for breakfast before continuing birding. Roger had
suggested that since we had a full-day?s guided birding booked at a local
biological station, La Selva, the following day, we should concentrated on
more open-area birding rather than primary forest birding. With that,
though, our first walk after breakfast was through the secondary rainforest
just beyond the botanical gardens. We had distant, and somewhat unsatisfying
views of Yellow-margined Flycatcher (we saw this well the following day),
and good views of both Black-capped Tody Flycatcher and Black-throated
Trogon. We also had a glimpse of a Central American Agouti ? rather like a
large guinea pig with long legs!


We spent a while trying to find a Slaty-breasted Tinamou that was calling
nearby. The previous evening and into the early hours of the morning it
rained heavily (I did mention that the Caribbean side was the wettest) and
the tracks were muddy. I had been thinking that this mud was different to
the mud that that we waded through in Borneo that stuck to everything ?
instead of being sticky, this mud was very slippery. And that was my
undoing? In walking down a steepish path I slipped and landed on my camera
and 300mm lens. The camera had gone lens-down into the mud and I landed on
top of it, collecting the camera on my left-hand side, towards the back and
just under the ribcage. The pain was excruciating and I could not move ? I
knew I had hurt myself quite badly. Ruth was worried of course and Roger,
our guide. Both counselled me to lay still for a while (I wasn?t going
anywhere). After about 10 minutes of lying in the mud, I managed to start
moving, and with assistance managed to stand ? but walking was going to be a
challenge as every step jarred and caused me pain. There was no way I could
raise my camera ? just carrying it was a challenge. But, being the extreme
birders that we are, I decided that all I could do was grin and bear it ? I
certainly hadn?t travelled halfway around the world to be put off by a fall
? besides I could still walk, barely, and still use my binoculars, barely.


After lunch Roger decided that we would visit some much more open areas and
took us to an area north of Puerto Viejo ? here we found Thick-billed
Seed-finch, Bay Wren (near a bridge over one of the rivers), Paltry
Tyrannulet ? one of the tiniest flycatchers, and one we?d missed earlier at
Savegre. Perhaps the best new bird here as Slaty Spinetail ? this is usually
a difficult bird to see as they forage for insects in dense, tangly scrub ?
this one, however decided to pop up and show itself to us. It even flew to
another spot and still showed itself! Nearby we got good views of
Tawny-winged and Black-striped Woodcreepers. We also managed a good view of
White-collared Manakin, a bird that we?d seen previously. We found at least
two Hoffmann's Two-toed Sloths, so that meant that we?d seen both species of
Costa Rican sloth.


With the sun going down we moved to a different road with a tree that Great
Green Macaws were known to roost in. We?d seen the Macaws fly over earlier
in the day, and had heard them, but we weren?t entirely satisfied with our
views. The road that Roger directed us along was poor ? potholed, deep mud
and lots of water ? I?m glad that our hire car had 4WD, because I wouldn?t
have attempted it in a normal vehicle. We pulled up alongside an almond
plantation and waited. Within a few minutes we heard Macaws and saw them
land in the roost tree. We realised that we could get closer so we drove
nearer and had great views and photographs.


The following day we had a full-day?s guided tour booked at the nearby La
Selva Biological Station (part of the Organization for Tropical Studies ?
OTS). Our guide was Lenin (no kidding!) and he was absolutely excellent. We
started walking the main driveway ? which is famous for its birds ? and
shortly encountered Plain-brown Woodcreeper, Northern Barred-woodcreeper and
Olive-striped Flycatcher (we also got much, much better views of
Yellow-margined Flycatcher). We saw Hooded Warbler, Canada Warbler and
Scarlet-rumped Cacique ? but perhaps the best bird of the driveway was a
Gray Catbird. Lenin told us that he?d heard it before, but this was the
first time he?d seen it here, and only the second time he?d seen one. We
entered the forest from about half-way along the drive way and found that
many of the forest tracks were actually paved ? in fact, La Selva has about
16km of paved tracks through the forest (and a further 45km of unpaved
tracks). Now we were looking for tinamou ? ground-dwelling birds ranging in
size from 22cm to 44cm in length, a little like a large quail through to a
small turkey. Shortly we had a Little Tinamou calling ? Lenin called it and
it came closer after a few minutes, to the point that we could see the
foliage moving but never got a look at the bird. We were luckier with the
next-size-up as shortly afterwards we heard a Slaty-breasted Tinamou and got
good clear views of it. I had already decided that due to my injuries I was
not going to carry my camera ? but Ruth managed some pictures.

After lunch we continued with our walk, starting near the researchers?
compound. We were searching for Great Tinamou ? and incredibly found one
within minutes of looking. Back on the grassed area near the compound we
found a number of native pigs, Collared Peccary ? we encountered these again
deeper in the forest a little later. We headed into the forest, this time
along a trail beside the river. Reasonably quickly we found another
Hoffmann's Two-toed Sloth, this one carrying a baby.


We found Rufous and Broad-billed Motmot and Rufous-tailed Jacamar ? all
brilliant-looking birds. Amazingly we (and I used the term ?we? loosely, as
it was all Lenin) found first a Crested Owl and then a Vermiculated
Screech-Owl both without the use of any sort of playback. From an open area
we saw vultures circling and one of them had the distinctive white
leading-edge and body of a King Vulture ? the one and only that we saw
during the trip! We managed to see another Central American Agouti, this
time with much better views ? strange looking creatures with their long legs
and a rodent body on top! In another clear area we saw Gray-rumped Swifts
circling and also caught sight of both a Hook-billed Kite and a Gray Hawk.
Heading back to the canteen we had to cross the suspension bridge over the
river. The day before a Sungrebe had been seen, and photographed, here ? but
unfortunately not today. We were entertained by a troop of Mantled Howler
Monkeys climbing along the cables of the bridge, though. Back at the canteen
we sat down for a coffee and Lenin told us that a White-ruffed Manakin had
been seen in the vicinity in the morning. Thinking he had heard it, we
headed outside to have a look ? we found a White-collared Manakin, but not
the other one, so headed back inside to finish our coffees. As we were
sitting there, I said, ?What exactly does a White-ruffed Manakin look like?
Is it kind of deep blue-black with a white throat, like that bird out
there?? (looking out the window) ?Where?!? Asked Lenin, turning around.
?YES! That?s it!?, he yelled, dashing outside?


After leaving La Selva we stopped off in Puerto Viejo at a medical clinic as
it was clear that I was going to need assistance and wasn?t going to get
better in a hurry by myself. On arrival I think the clinic was about to
close as there was no-one there except for the nurse ? she spoke no English,
and my Spanish was very limited. Somehow using a combination of limited
Spanish and gestures I managed to convey that I had had an accident and
needed to see a doctor. She managed to convey that she?d called the doctor
and that he?d be here in about half an hour. While waiting for the doctor, I
had to be weighed and measured and my details entered on a form that I
needed to fill out ? unfortunately the form was completely in Spanish, and
the only field I could identify was ?nombre? or name. When the doctor
arrived he could speak reasonable English, thankfully ? how arrogant of me
to expect people in their home country to speak my language! Anyway, he
checked me over and said that he didn?t think that I had broken a rib, but
that I had severe trauma to my abdomen ? so he prescribed some
anti-inflammatories and some painkillers. In addition he said that I needed
to get a ?Faja? ? he didn?t know the English expression, but indicated that
it was something that I should wrap around my chest, ?Ah! Compression
bandage!? ?Si! Si!? Meanwhile I wasn?t going to escape so easily, the doctor
said that I must have two injections ? different anti-inflammatories ?
before leaving, and that the nurse would administer them. I had to go back
to the room that I waited in, and with an audience of the doctor and Ruth, I
had two injections in my backside. I must say that I didn?t feel immediately
better like I?d hoped! Our next challenge was to find the pharmacy and have
the prescription filled, which went reasonably smoothly, except that the
doctor had made a mistake so I needed to convey to the pharmacist what had
happened to me so that she could figure out whether she needed to give me
anti-inflammatories or antibiotics!


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