Saturday, July 15, 2017

Monteverde Cloud Forest

Here in the darkness, we'd search for Gordon's Resplendent Quetzal.  This is probably THE most difficult of birding conditions anywhere on the planet.  Not only was the forest dark, but we'd often be ambushed by clouds moving through the trees. 

For those of you wondering how we got from Arenal to Monteverde, well wonder no more.  This is where having a rental car would have been problematic for us since getting to Monteverde by vehicle would have added several hours to our day. A person can easily take a short cut across Lake Arenal(via the jeep-boat-jeep option) to the road that leads to Monteverde.  

Swallow-tailed Kite
Many of the dirt roads were washed out and bumpy and better left for the Tico drivers to handle. A couple hours later, we made it to the little town of Monteverde.  It was cool and cloudy.  

part of the Elephant beetle group that likes to eat bananas
This was one of my favorite locations on our trip because it allowed us to choose where we'd eat.  Monteverde has a lot of great eats.  Plus the town is super easy to navigate. 

A typical Costa Rican meal known as the Casona. 
We were here for one bird.  Although we'd find many other new birds, it was the Resplendent Quetzal that was a must see for Gordon and Micheal. For me, it was the Orange-bellied Trogons. 

The price into the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve was around 20 dollars.  Most of the tourists hired guides that stood near the entrance.  And to be honest, I highly recommend having a tour guide for this park.  The darkness and dense tropical vegetation make this a tricky place to bird. There's also a third obstacle, the clouds.  Dark and foggy conditions made finding birds very difficult. But I loved it!

Gray-headed Chachalacas were almost everywhere we went in Costa Rica.  It seemed that many of them were feeding young ones. 

Often birds would be heard calling in the forest, but when we got near the birds calling, they'd go silent OR a cloud would move into the area and mess with us.  At one point, I heard the Resplendent Quetzal call.  No.  That would be too easy.  Were they that close to the entrance of the park?

A pair of Yellowish Flycatchers danced around us as they foraged for food. 

I felt a chill as a cloud blew through the trees and fuzzed everything up around us.  

a family of Prong-billed Barbets preen one another
Micheal took out his phone and began recording bird calls.  Thanks to Gordon's help, we are now able to add audio to our ebird files. 

Sometimes we'd get a clear view of a bird.  But many times, they'd disappear into the darkness. 

White-throated Thrush
For example, it took me longer to get a good view of this bird below for proper ID.  It was a lifer but had I not been able to see it properly, I would have lost my chance to count the bird on my lifelist.  Often patience is required in these difficult habitat settings. 

Lineated Foliage-gleaner
I came to discover that many of the little birds flying through the branches were the Common Chlorospingus. 

Yes.  The name is up there with Euphonias and Chlorophonias.  These are often not words spoken in Arizona:) Probably never will be. But if it's one thing I've learned from birding, NEVER SAY NEVER. 

We continued on the dark trails.  It was really quite beautiful.  

Misty.  Cool.  Magical. 

Costa Rican Warbler
We actually did quite well birding on our own in the park, but where in the world was the Resplendent Quetzal?!  Supposedly, there were 4 of them. 

Slate-throated Redstart

As we exited the park, I became frustrated.  We had heard the birds call around the entrance.  I went up to the park ranger and we had a really nice discussion.  A friendly security guard to the park was also present and said, "Oh yes.  They are right here at the entrance, but now isn't a good time because they usually feed early morning and late afternoon. BUT I can show you where they like to eat.  As he pointed to the tree, we heard the adult male call.  Then we saw the female.  And then.....the juvenile male came and perched out in the open for Gordon and Micheal.  The security guard offered to snap pics of the bird with my camera.  I have seen the quetzal before in Guatemala and didn't mind him taking the camera to take pics. It was great watching him use the lens. Maybe they'd turn out but the chances were low. Still, he had fun trying to get the pics.  And he did get several shots of a blurry adult male Resplendent Quetzal. 

9-banded Armadillo family in Monteverde
I can't stress just how fantastic the service was at this park. The people were genuine and actually enjoyed having a conversation. This is where knowing a bit of Spanish is helpful. BUT, for the English speakers, there were plenty of bird guides who spoke English. I'd go back here again in a heart beat.  What a wonderful man for taking us to the spot and helping a bunch of strangers out! Mil gracias! There are 3 subspecies of Resplendent Quetzal and they may be split down the road. Apparently, each subspecies breeds in separate locations and we were told, differentiate in size. 

As we left the entrance to the park, or otherwise known as the exit, we got some lunch at the cafeteria, which by the way is excellent and cheap! But where was this hummingbird coffee shop that everyone had been talking about?  In our next post, we'll explore what many of you have been waiting for.....the hummingbirds.  Finally, our luck would begin to change.  On the next post, I'll have both of the checklists.  And I'll speak about the Selvatura Park that many people visit. Until next time......


  1. Hello, Chris! Another great report on your birding Costa Rica. I love all the birds and photos. Congrats on the sightings.

  2. Super post and photos Chris - your writing is so inspiring and I felt as though I was there with you on the trip. Loving this series of posts. The meal looks delicious too :)

  3. Enjoyed reading this and liked the info, too. Glad you got that REQU!

  4. What an adventure you were having in the forest and you finally found the bird you were looking for and probably many more for your life list. Thsi all brings back memoreis for me but we did not have tog o into a dark forest to see the Resplendent Quetzal. our guide took us along this road and there it was although not tremendous vviews of it from a photography point of view.


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