Legends live in clouds
MORAVIA, COSTA RICA — You are in a place so still that a falling leaf makes you jump, so tranquil that a buzzing insect makes you flinch. You are breathing off bits of a cloud, for it is all around you. You begin to wonder whether the thunder really is coming from the sky you cannot see or instead from an invisible mountain across the valley, bidding goodnight to its neighbor. And there is birdsong, always there is birdsong, ethereal, strident, modest, wild.
Costa Rica. At last I had escaped the pressures and demands of travel for a private retreat in the Talamanca Cordillera.
I stayed at Savegre Mountain Hotel, which is very nice and recommended. They have a system of trails both up the mountain and down the valley, offering up-close access to excellent birds. I couldn’t afford both lodging AND food, but it turns out that electric coffee pots do cook ramen noodles pretty well. I hear their restaurant is good though, so try it if you can. You can explore on your own, as I did, or hire birding guides. Guides can probably help (or at least improve chances) with tough species that I missed, and they say that a guide is required if you want to ascend Cerro de la Muerte (Hill of Death) for the high elevation páramo species. I wasn’t able to afford that either, unfortunately.
I had a respectable 64 species during my three-day stay. This is high-elevation birding, so the diversity is not like the lowlands, but it’s still quite good. Even more important, huge numbers of the species in these mountains are endemic to the highlands of Costa Rica and western Panama. Over a third of the 64 species I saw are restricted to this very small region of the world. Here’s a complete trip list: Savegre Mountain Lodge 2008. Now for more photos:
Funariids (ovenbirds) and woodcreepers are members of the huge Neotropical assemblage of suboscine passerines. Woodcreepers look and behave rather like woodpeckers, even supporting themselves with their tails as they hitch up trunks and limbs, poking around in search of insects. Most ovenbirds in Costa Rica’s mountains are smaller but behave in similar ways, much like nuthatches and small woodpeckers, though members of the family further south are quite different. They are mostly patterened with rusty, buffy, brown, and white shades, not terribly difficult to identify but demanding attention to detail and observation of habits. Fun.
But there are colorful birds too — the brilliant tanagers, euphonias, and chlorophonias. I exclaimed out loud when I first glimpsed a lovely green, yellow, and blue Golden-browed Chlorophonia. And the Collared Whitestarts flit about looking for all the world like tiny clowns.
Are you still reading? Good. I could keep going and going, but I think I’d better point you off to my photo gallery if you’re still hungry for more. I’ve posted almost 90 photos — there are more quetzals, more hummingbirds, other birds, botanical wonders from lichens to tree ferns to heliconias, scenic shots, and even a fish. So have a look, enjoy, and marvel: Savegre Mountain Lodge photos.