Sunday, September 8, 2013

Pura Vida Costa Rica, Part III: Savegre Mountain Hotel, Preserve and Spa

Cloud Forest Birding Paradise                                                                       16 July 2013 

Magnificent Hummingbird, Savegre Reserve

As I kid, I had always dreamed of birding in tropical Central American cloud forests.  These forests hold the riches in iridescent birds, and I had often heard of tremendous mountain abundance and diversity of tanagers and hummingbirds.  Despite all I had heard and read, I hadn’t been expecting so very much abundance and diversity.  I was bowled over when we reached the expansive forest preserves of Savegre.   These forests exceeded my wildest dreams of avian richness. 

Sooty-capped Bush-Tanager

Slaty Flowerpiercer

Flame-throated Warbler

Tufted Flycatcher

Elegant Euphonia

Band-tailed Pigeon

The Chacon family has invested a tremendous amount into creating a vast and sustainable eco-lodge, preserving large stands of contiguous cloud forest, and Marino Chacon is as expert in his ornithology as he is passionate about sharing the beauty of birds.   A word of advice to you—If you go to Costa Rica, spend a few days at the Savegre Mountain Hotel and Preserve, and be sure to request the company of Marino. 

Resplendent Quetzal, female with Avacado

Resplendent Quetzal, male

Emerald Toucanet

There is something strangely familiar to me in tropical forests.  Though I have spent so little of my life there, a part of me always feels immediately at home when surrounded by the bromilliads, mosses, and lianas.  

An epiphytic flower

Acorn Woodpecker

This is where most of Wisconsin’s bird life spends more than half of each year.   When I am in this part of the world, I am able to check the background stories on familiar Wisconsin species as I study their long-lost ancestors.   Subtle behaviors of familiar birds are suddenly revealed in great depth as I watch so many of their tropical kin in action--warblers, tanagers, finches, and hummingbirds.  

Collared Redstart, the “Amigo de Hombre” or “Friend of Man”

Hummingbirds are tenacious, often aggressive members of our summertime temperate bird communities.  In Wisconsin, we have just one species—the Ruby-throated Hummingbird.  Ruby-throats show up on my bird surveys, almost always with a series of scolding notes.  I always assumed detection of this species was lucky happenstance, but a trip to Costa Rica reveals otherwise.  Hummingbirds make a living showing up to scold danger first, ahead of the tropical crowd.  On so many hikes, hummingbirds of many species went out of their way to fly in and give a good scolding.  I now realize that a hummingbird in Wisconsin will always show up to defend an investment.  The data that rolls in isn’t luck but a product of hummingbird nature.  This kind of subtle insight into the lives of Wisconsin’s tropical birds is amplified with so many more tropical examples of a phylogenic group.  I am sure you have experienced this when meeting a sibling of a friend for the first time, that moment where you see a behavior, an expression of genetic continuity, and you say, “Ah HA!  Now I get it! I understand you now.”

Magnificent Hummingbird

White-throated Mountain Gem, female

Green Violet-Ear

Recently, jaguars have been found in the forests of the Savegre preserve.  Resplendent Quetzals are common, and many Costa Rican mountain endemics are seen daily.   Clouds push unexpectedly into the valley, filling the forests and valleys with mist and life-giving rain.  Comfortable lodging, cool mountain air, and the constant and soothing sound of rushing water, of pure mountain rivers, make this birding paradise feel like home.  Marino Chacon quickly found his way into our hearts.  If home is where the heart is, I guess we have another home! All images were made using a refurbished Canon 7D and a Canon 300mm f4L IS lens.   

A Costa Rican hemiptera species