The sudden song of a Robin singing just outside my window jolted me awake. It took me a second to realize that I wasn't at home and that the Robin singing outside was not a Robin at all but a Clay-colored Thrush. Glancing at the clock, I saw the time. 3:45am. Cursing the vociferous, mud-colored bird, I dropped back against the pillow, attempting to savor what little sleep I had left before my alarm went off 15 minutes later. When the alarm finally did go off, I hauled myself up and out of bed, grabbed my binoculars and stumbled out the door. It wasn't even fully light yet. Though, whether the sun had just come up or was still below the horizon was impossible to tell due to the heavy layer of clouds that blanketed the forest as far as I could see. hovering just above the trees, they provided an effective barrier to any hopeful rays of light that tried to sneak through. Somewhere overhead, a Chestnut-mandibled Toucan confirmed that I was no longer in Kansas. I listened, inquisitively as Collared Aracaris called, Tanagers chipped and Honeycreepers made their presence known. It was all so different! Different from anything I had ever seen or heard before.
After breakfast, roughly an hour and a half later, we grabbed our gear and boarded the bus to the world famous La Selva Reasearch Station. The station owns land on the lowland outskirts of Braulio Carillo National Park. The park land extends clear up to the top of Volcan Irazul making the stretch of land from La Selva to the crater's edge one of the largest tracts of un-interrupted old-growth forest that stretches from the high mountain oak forest to the lowland rainforest below.
Our arrival at La Selva was greeted by the quintessential ingredient of lowland tropical forest. Rain.
Nonetheless deterred, we walked down the entrance road determined to get our first real lowland birding in. A flock of Tanagers stopped us cold in our tracks barely 50ft from the bus. The ever-present and gaudy Golden-hooded Tanagers reined over this flock.
A White-necked Jacobin perched high in a tree above us and a Slaty-tailed Trogon called from somewhere up ahead. Suddenly, a large, dark bird flashed by just over our heads. I caught the yellow in the tail as it vanished through the trees. Our leader, Dave Wolf, confirmed my suspicions by identifying the bird as a Montezuma Oropendola. Lifer!!!!!
It was one of the several birds that would go from lifer to "trash bird" in about 15 minutes.
As we walked farther down the road, the Trogon gave us excellent looks and photo ops. More Tanagers abounded all around us and Toucans and Oropendolas flew overhead. A singing Bright-rumped Attila (pictured above) gave us most excellent looks
Further down the road, Dave managed to locate a Great Antshrike. Finding the typical skulker wasn't easy, but with a bit of playback and some coaxing, he finally made an appearance:
It took about 3 hours, but we finally made it down to the station itself. It was there that we picked up the most species. Golden-hooded Tanagers, Rufous-tailed Hummingbirds, Masked Tityra, 3 species of Puffbird, Grey-crowned Flycatcher, Rufous-winged Woodpecker and many others.
The big one was a highly cooperative Broad-billed Motmot:
By my calculations, this was my 700th world lifer. I had seen my 600th lifer only 3 days before when a Rufous-naped Wren woke me up at the hotel in San Jose on day 1.
The local guide at La Selva took us back onto one of the trails. Here, the birds of the open edges left us and the birds of the interior rainforest took over. It was much quieter with far less activity. A calling Rufous Motmot held our attention for a time, but refused to come close enough to the trail to actually see.
Finally, a stunning Chestnut-colored Woodpecker perched on a conspicuous branch and gave spectacular views to all:
Returning to La Quinta, we had a special treat in store for us. The Red-legged Honeycreepers had finally come in to the bananas offered by the staff.
I don't know what it is about Bananas, but everyone likes them. Even the local birds! :)
The end of a long day of birding came quickly. Darkness set in fast and before I knew it, it was time for sleep. We all crashed after the long day. No idea what lifers were in store for us the next day.
As I fell asleep, the repetitive call of a Paraque echoed in the background.
Keeping alive the darkened forest and lulling me to slumbers and dreams of what amazing birds were to come.