Friday, January 30, 2009

Osa Good

We made it, we´re in Panama, phew, woop woop, hurrah etc.

From San Jose we stopped at the highest point on the PanAmerican Highway at the lovely little cabins at La Georgina, just below the Cerro de la Muerte. It rained for the entire time we were there but we still picked up most of cool stuff around; Fiery-throated and Volcano Hummers, Sooty Thrush, Large-footed Finch, Flame-throated Warbler to name but a few, oh yeh ,and ZELEDONIA, and great views of this little skulker too, bouncing around in the bamboo just feet away from us.

Next stop was golfito, down on the pacific coast, a quick look around in the evening gave us a stunning male Prothonotary warbler in the mangroves, along with Panama Flycatcher. 5am the next morning we took a launch across the gulf to Puerto Jiminez on the peninsula de Osa, from where we took a collectivo taxi up to Dos Brazos, and then hiked up into the junlge to stay at La Bolita Hostel on the edge of Corcovado NP. This place is truly excellent, its very rustic (and very ´eco´) but comfortable and set right in the woods, i dont have time to list everything we saw but this list should give you an idea of how bloody good it is: Black-cheeked Ant Tanager, Great Currassow, Barred Forest Falcon, Bicoloured and Chestnut-backed Antbird, Little Tinamaou, Blue Ground Dove, Turquoise Cotinga, Fiery-billed Aracari............
Get the idea, i´ll be writign more about this place for sure when I have the time, as its a mut do for any Costa Rica itenary and currently seems to be a bit underwatched.

ANyway, we´re in David in Panama now, having crossed the border a few hours ago. Only 11 days of the trip left until we fly out of Panama City. We plan on spending it around Boquete, Santa Fe and finally Panama City and the legendary Pipeline road.

Shoule be good.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Costa Rica

After a few days chilling in Granada, we once more pushed on South. We boarded the passenger ferry in Granada at 2pm, arriving on the other side of Lago Nicaragua at 7am the next morning, probably one of the most uncomfotable nights of my life (after the horrific Nepal-India bus ride this tiem last year). We had planned to spend a few days at in intriguing site near San Carlos but found that we would have to wait a few days for a boat out there, so instead decided we might as well move straight on to Costa Rica. We jumped on the next boat to the border, which turened out to be an excellent trip, as we saw a Sungrebe skulking down the side of the river almost immediately after we crossed the borderline. A flyover Muscovy Duck was our first genuine bird of this species too.

After sthe most painful border formalities of the trip so far, we got a bus onwards to Ciudad Quesada, and then to La Fortuna as night fell.

First thing next morning we caught a taxi up to the access to road to Arenal Observatory Lodge. We walked the last few km's of the track to the lodge, seeing Southern Rough-winged Swallow, Bay wren, broad-billed motmot, Buff-rumped Warbler, Emerald Tanager, White-ruffed Manakin and Fasciated Tiger heron, among others. The lodge didnt open its grounds to visitors until 8 30am so we had a quick look down the Tucanes trail, where 2 Spotted Antbirds gave very good views and a Green Hermit buzzed around.
Entering the lodge grounds, we went straight to the feeding station outside the restaurant, where Green Honeycreeper, Black-striped Sparrow, Olive-backed Euphonia and an assortment of Tangers all showed well.

After a quick walk around the lodge grounds, we headed down the waterfall trail. we struggled at first in the heavy rain, hardly seeing a bird ,but suddenly came across a busy flock containing Orange-billed SParrow, streaked crowned Antvireo, scale crested pygmy tyrant and strip breasted Wren, and a bit further along, a Rufous Motmot. Thats just the way rainforest birding goes, you work for ages seeing nothing and then it all becomes worthwhile when you are totally surrounded by great birds.

After La fortuna, we took a Jeep-boat-jeep trip across lake arenal and up to monteverde, staying in the small town of Santa Elena. on the first afternoon, we went up the cerro tres amigos trail (one of the few free trails in the area), we saw absolutely nothing on the way uo but the way down produced Prong-billed Barbet, Azure-hooded Jay and Black-thighed Grosbeak.

Next day we took the first bus of the morning up to Santa Elena Cloud forest reserve. again it rained heavily nearly all day, but we still picked up some good birds like Barred Becard, Red-faced Spintail, Black Guan, Magenta-throated woodstar, Green thorntail, Ruddy-capped and slaty-backed nightingale thrushes, brown-billed Scythebill and Yellow-thighed Finch. That night, we took a guided night hike at the Santamaria reserve which was a great experience, as we got superb views of a two-toed Sloth with baby and an orange-kneed tarantula at its burrow, along with roosting Emerald Toucanet, Wood Thrush and Yellow-throated Vireo.

On our last morning in monteverde, we too kthe bus out to the monteverde reserve for a quick look at the Hummingbird Gallery. I wsa expecting it to be a bit dudey and contrived, and it was, but it was absoulutely awesome, with hummers like Coppery-headed Emerald, Violet Sabrewing, Green-crowned brilliant and purple-throated mountain gem feeding just inches away, I bloody love hummers, and i'm seriously contempalting trying to smuggle some back to England to introduce them.

We're now in San Jose (which, like most capital cities, is a shithole), having spent a night here after getting a bus down from monteverde yesterday, and we will shortly be heading off to the Cerro de la Muerte (literal translation: Moutain fo Death) for a few days before spending our last few days in Costa Rica on the Peninsula de Osa, before crossing into Panama for our last week before flying home.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Tikal yer fancy?

Yes, I know, ages betwen updates again. I'll be keeping them fairly brief and hopefully will write full trip reprts for some of the more interesting sites that we've visited once I get back home.

Ok, Tikal.

What a fantastic place, infinitely better than Palenque. Its a much bigger site, with temples and pyramids spread over several kilometres, and all covered in prime rainforest. We arrived in the afternoon and first off took a walk down the track towards the old airstrip. Despite looking fairly ordinary scrubby stuff we saw a stunning male White-collared Manakin, Blue-crowned Motmot and a skulky White-browed Wren. Walking back to the campsite, we came across the bizarre sight of a group of Ocellated Turkeys strutting around the car park. We bought our tickets for the Archaelogical Site itself after 4pm, allowing us a quick evening visit before closing time at 6pm but also giving us entry for the following day. Whizzing around as much as possible we caught up with several groups of Crested Guan and a Ruddy Woodcreeper. Getting back to the campsite at dusk, a pair of Paraques were hanging around the edges of the reservoit near the entrance booth.
Dawn the next morning saw us back at the reservoir, where we picked up the hoped for Bare-throated Tiger Heron. The woods around the ruins were vrey productive for woodcreeprs, with SPot-crowned, Tawny-winged, Barred and Ocellated all giving good views. Undoubted bird(s) of the day were 3 Orange-breasted Falcons, a pair and a young bird hanging around the magnificent Templo IV, where they appeared to have nested. On our last full day at Tikal we again went down the Airstrip track, where we scored superbly, with a showy Pheasant Cuckoo feeding right next to the track, making a crazy sound as it shook its body, apparently in some kind of display as it fed. This isnt written in any of the books we have but the noise it was making is really difficult to describe, like an uneven static hiss, it was damn wierd. A thicket Tinamou also gave us excellent views before creeping off back into the scrub. To end the day, a pair of Grey-necked Wood Rails were feeding around one of the crocodile pools at the end of the track.

The next day saw us catching a bus down to Rio Dulce in south Guatemala, where after staying a night we got on a fast boat to take us to the town of Livingstone, on the Carribean coast, seeing several Fork-tailed Flycatchers on the way. From Livingstone we caught another boat across the bay to Puerto Barrios, from where we took a bus to the Honduras border, crossing that nice and quickly and staying the night in the beachside village of Omoa. Next day we took a bus SOuth to Lago Yojoa, slap bang in the middle of Honduras, where we camped at the excellent D&D Microbrewery, set up by an Oregonian Brewmaster. What a great idea, set just off the edge of the lake, with several good walking trails close by, this place offers good cheap accomodation (even cheaper when your camping!) and allowed us to tasts some real beer, for the first time since, ironically enough, we visited some brewpubs in Portland Oregon. The porter and Amber ales were really very good, and the Raspberry and Apricot Ales were very interesting, and much nicer than they might sound, similar ot Badger Breweries peach flavoured Golden Glory. We were very disappointed that the Mango Ale was not available though. From the brewery, we went up into the Santa Barbara National Preseve for a few days, and stayed at the small village of San Luis Planes, right on the edge of the cloud forest. Birding around the village was excellent, seeing the regional endemic Bushy-crested Jays, the 'white-faced' race of Prevosts Ground Sparrow ( a cracking bird with cool sideburns) and Rusty Sparrow. The cloud forest was as tropical forests generally are, mostly birdless but with a few hidden Gems. What was one of most exciting moments of the trip came when we picked out a stunning male Resplendant Quetzal sitting on an exposed perch above the canopy, with wispy cloud drifting past, it peformed several little flight off the perch revealing just how long its incredible tail streamers are. Some of the regional field guides claim that this is the most beautiful birds on the world, i'm not quite sure about that, but its certainly right up there with the best of them. Other good birds up there included Black-banded Woodcrepper, Violet Sabrewing and Green-throated Mountain Gem.

After Lago Yojoa, we continued South, crossing the border into Nicaragua, and stopping at the Nicaraguan coffee capital of Matagalpa. Feeling the need for more cloud forest, we took a bus up to the swanky Selva Negra lodge to use their trails for the day. We forst got the feeling that this wa a good site as we walked down the access track from the road, seeing Ornage-billed Nightingale Thrush and Rufous-browed Wren. The lodge has an excellent network of trails covering a good variety of habitats and it felt criminal to only spend one day there, seeing such excellent birds as Grey-collared Becard, White-faced Quail Dove, Emerald Toucanet, Green-breasted Mountain Gem, White-ruffed Manakin, White-winged Tanager and Slaty Antshrike.

From Matagalpa, we took a bus down to the fascinating town of Granada, where we are now, on the shores of Lago Nicaragua, a huge inland waterbody. The town is full of great old colonial buildings ad feels totally different to anywhere we've been so far on the trip. Walking around the square yesterday evening we were more than slightly surprised to see flocks of Scissor-tailed Flycatchers flying low over the rooftops, presumably on their way to roost nearby.

We have a few more days here, then the plan is to catch a ferry across the lake to the town of San Carlos, where we will explore a very underwatched and potentially very interesting area, before crossing over into Costa Rica.

Sunday, January 04, 2009

I don't Belize it!!!

No, i've not joined the horders of bloggers deciding to call it a day, i've jsut been too busy to update this lately.
Since the last post we've been racing around all over the place, seeing shitloads of birds and generally having a good time.
First stop was Palenque, after a hideous 24 hour bus journey across Oaxaca, Tabasco and Chiapas states. It was definately worth it though. We spent 4 days camping in the jungle nearby to these amazing Mayan ruins. Brief summary of highlights: Being woken up by Howler Monkeys on Christmas Day, sitting on top of the highest temple and watching Lovely Cotingas and Keel-billed Toucans flying across the ruins site. Walking the cascades trail, just outside the site, and seeing Mexican Anththrush, Giant Antshrike, Red-capped Mankain, and thrillinglyl but frustatingly, a sublimanl glimpse of a big spotty cat that almost the trail in front of us!!!
After Palenque, it was up to the Yucatan Peninsula and the island of Cozumel, cycling around the island (70km) one very hot day, getting shockingly sunburnt but seeing the endemic Cozumel Emerald and Cozumel Vireo, plus other Yucatan specialties like Yucatan Vireo, Black Catbird etc.

New Years saw us just down the road at Tulum, joining a very international crowd from the hostel, mainly europeans in getting incredibly drunk on the beach before being moved on by the police becasue some poor soul had taken a badly judged swim and not made it back, very sobering indeed.

The last couple of days we've been travelling down to here at San Ignacio, in Belize, pretty much on the Guatemalan border. The plan is to cross into Guatemala tomorrow and spend a few days at the legendary site of Tikal, before moving swiflty on to South-east Guatemala and Honduras.

I[ll get my excuses in early this time, I probably wont have internet for quite some time, so there will just be a half-hearted rush job of an update next time I have the chance, just like this.