Sunday, November 30, 2008


Saturday around noon we left Monteverde empty-handed, and headed out to our next site, Acosta.

Acosta is just an hour south of San Jose, but – unlike Monteverde – is not a major tourist destination. The weather was sunny and warm when we stopped for ice cream in a park in one of the towns along the way, where our Costa Rican assistant Pablo got me this life bird: Black-and-white Owl. What an awesome bird!

By the time we got to Acosta, the weather had changed to gloomy, overcast skies and moderately heavy rain. We were happy to get there nonetheless, because this site seemed the one with the most potential for encountering a Golden-cheeked Warbler. In Monteverde, despite several records of goldencheeks, we never really found suitable wintering habitat for this species. But Monteverde gets birded a lot, by birders of all skill levels, so those records may represent chance encounters with a really rare species through abundant coverage (the so-called Patagonian Pick-nick Table Effect), or they may represent misidentifications by less careful birders. Who knows? Females and immatures, after all, are quite similar to Black-throated Green Warblers, a species that does winter in Monteverde.

Around Acosta, however, we found ample suitable habitat, and we agreed that this was likely going to be our best site. If we don’t find them here, we’re not going to find them anywhere.

Two Tico birders, Adilio and Paola, graciously provided a place for us to stay, took us out to a concert at night, and got up with us at 5 AM the next morning, to help us look for our warbler.

Although still overcast, it was dry when we left their homes, the five of us all slightly hungover from the previous night. Soon after, it started raining, and steep, unpaved mountain roads turned into slippery mud baths, some of which were difficult to navigate even with 4WD. But at least it wasn’t windy, and light rain often makes for excellent warbler watching.

But then the rain became heavy, and birding became difficult, or pointless. We returned to the car for some coffee, and after one and a half hour in the car, tried to bird the area again.

Adilio took this photo of me, pointing to a non-existent goldencheek; Alberto, pointing to another one; and Pablo and Paola, both saying “oh yeah, sure, we see ‘em”. We saw some Black-throated Greens there, some Wilson’s Warblers, some Black-and-whites, a Summer Tanager, but no goldencheeks. Around 11 AM, we decided to return to the village and look for some food, instead of birds. We found a nice meal at great value, and even though we now had to leave our most promising site empty-handed again, at least we got to experience the warmth and the hospitality of the Costa Ricans we met here.

No comments: