Costa Rica was a destination on our bucket list for a good many years. We were there to see birds! Our flight landed in San Jose after sunset, so when we departed for Hotel Kokoro in La Fortuna the following morning, Bob and I were eager to see what species would constitute our first sighting of the trip.
The drive to our first week’s lodgings would take about 3 hours, so we just motored along and enjoyed the scenery of this Central American country. About 45 minutes into our drive, Bob noticed that the sky was darkened by a swirling mass of birds. It seemed that a kettle of Black Vultures was hovering over an area up ahead.
It turned out that the Black Vultures were zeroing in on some dead carcasses that had been dumped down a bank at the side of the road.
We pulled over and observed the group of Vultures. Feeding together as they were on the skeletal remains of several animals, the group of Vultures would be called a wake.
When we arrived in La Fortuna, Arenal Volcano dominated the skyline from every direction.
We made straight for Kokoro Lodge, our home away from home for the first week. The drive up the lane heightened our anticipation.
We were met with a fanciful, brightly-painted building that set the tone for our tropical retreat.
The open-air reception area was cool and breezy situated as it was in the shade of many towering trees.
Our cabin was set to the side of a flagstone walkway nearby. Our escort pointed out a Collared Aracari in the lush foliage up ahead.
Abruptly, the Aracari took flight and assumed a spot on a Palm Tree near the Lodge’s front gate. After getting settled, Bob and I moseyed down in that direction and found the Aracari feasting on ripe, globular fruit.
Our cabin looked out over the length of a grassy clearing that ended abruptly at a wooded ravine.
One morning, during our week-long stay, we hiked on a cowpath that descended down into the ravine, a trail used by staff members when walking to and from work at the hotel.
Always visible from our quaint cabin, Arenal Volcano sat proudly underneath a brilliant blue sky and spewed only a little steam just to remind everyone that it was still active.
We did not have to work hard at adding new birds to our Life List. Within the first couple of hours at Kokoro Lodge, we saw 18 species. In addition to the Collared Aracari, Crested Guans were frequently seen wandering the grounds.
Our first sighting of a Passerini’s Tanager (Scarlet-rumped Tanager) was on the gentle slope in front of our cabin deck. Its scarlet rump glowed against the backdrop of vibrant green vegetation. I was smitten and remarked on its blue bill.
Another flash of blue had me staking out a palm tree at the corner of our cabin and that rewarded me with a view of this bird, a pretty Blue-gray Tanager.
A humble Rufous-collared Sparrow was diligently foraging in the grass in the shadow of our front patio.
Set in lush surroundings, Hotel Kokoro was abuzz with bird life, and meandering the grounds made for a pleasant way to start and end each day.
Over the course of the week, each time we strolled to the outdoor dining room, we saw a Clay-coloured Thrush or two, the national bird of Costa Rica.
A raucous in the canopy of trees roused us from our slumber early one morning, and that is when we discovered a pair of Variegated Squirrels scampering about the branches of one tree that draped over our roof.
Variegated Squirrels are diurnal with most activity occurring during the early morning hours…hence our wake-up call. They primarily forage for soft, juicy fruits, flowers, nuts or seeds.
Unlike most squirrel species, Variegated Squirrels do not hoard their food so they do not contribute to the dispersal of seeds.
Not to be outdone by the Squirrels, a flock of Red-lored Parrots made a routine morning pass over Hotel Kokoro, their shrill, scratchy calls punctuating the silence as they moved from their nighttime roost to feed in the flowering trees beside our cabin.
These gregarious parrots always travel together, so when they arrived to feast on the blossoms gracing the tree above us, we were sure to know it each and every time.
The variety of flora at Kokoro Lodge includes many sizes, textures and colours of plants that enhance the tropical surroundings of the Lodge and encourage the presence of wildlife. What you see above is Ornamental Beehive Ginger.
Every creature warranted some attention. Late one afternoon, an Iguana lolled on a warmed tree branch a short distance from our front deck.
A Central American Whiptail Lizard scampered across the broad-leaved plants on the “lawn” bordering the dining room.
We spotted this Banded Peacock Butterfly soaking up some rays in the garden bordering the walkway. Everywhere we looked, there was something of interest, woodpeckers, hummingbirds, toads.
Bob and I looked forward to breakfast each morning overlooking a placid pool and a bird feeding station strategically placed and supplied with a bounty of fruits.
The usual suspects showed up like clockwork, birds like this Palm Tanager,
a Wood Thrush, …
and even one of the Gray-headed Chachalacas was enticed by the sweet aroma of the watermelon and papaya although the feeder was empty by the time it settled in for a bite.
It was as we returned to our cabin one day that a loud clatter of wings above our heads alerted us to some huge bird. Thinking it was another Chachalaca, I was about to continue into the cabin, but a glance towards the raucous revealed a bird I’d never heard of nor seen before. A Montezuma Oropendola! What a massive, boisterous creature, but it was there and then gone!
It was March when we traveled to Costa Rica, so a few species of birds were getting ready to nest for the season. A pair of Piratic Flycatchers,
and Yellow-throated Toucans were absorbed in courting behaviour,
while a pair of Social Flycatchers went about building a nest among the stout leaves of a tropical plant.
For long periods at a time, Bob and I would watch unobtrusively the repeated trips to and from the growing accumulation of plant matter that slowly took shape into a nest.
Hotel Kokoro was our base. After breakfast each morning in the outdoor dining room, we set off on a variety of day trips, some near, some far.
Bob and I used the time in La Fortuna to acclimatize to the sharp change in weather from at home in Ontario, Canada, and we were keen to photograph just about anything that moved. It was a great place to become initiated to Costa Rica.