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Rancho Naturalista Lodge, Costa Rica, or When Harry Met Mercedes – 10,000 Birds


    After a heavy pre-dawn rain, the morning was all misty and mysterious. I used to be greeted by omnipresent Gray-headed Chachalacas operating with such a targeted willpower, resembling these small, inexperienced procompsognathus dinosaurs (“Compys”) in Jurassic Park and making me assume that the CGI specialists should have been sitting at this similar veranda learning Chachalacas’ strikes.

    Blue flanks, black chest, yellow head… I’m within the birders’ heaven known as Rancho Naturalista Lodge in Costa Rica and am observing my first Golden-hooded Tanager of the journey. Situated inside its non-public premontane forest reserve at 3000 ft / 900 m a.s.l. inside center elevations of the Caribbean foothills biome, the lodge has 4 trails starting from 0.4 mi / 500 m (Pepper Street) to 1.6 mi / 2.5 km (Manakin Path). Inside 140 ac / 60 ha of Rancho Naturalista’s Reserve, there are 500 chook species – or 55% of the nation’s complete!

    Whereas I already visited Costa Rica as soon as, I don’t really feel overly-confident with its birds. But, with a espresso in a single and binoculars in my different hand, the way back realized classes began to return. I both knew the birds I used to be seeing, Collared Aracari, or White-necked Jacobins chasing Rufous-tailed Hummingbirds away, then White-crowned Parrot, Clay-coloured Thrush, Olive-backed Euphonia, Blue-grey Tanager… or I used to be simply IDing them by myself: Black-cheeked Woodpecker, Baltimore Oriole, Blackburnian Warbler, Crimson-collared Tanager, Scarlet-rumped Tanager. There was that one which I remembered from my first sighting in Selva Verde, a black-and-red thrush-like chook that I additionally remembered to be so poorly depicted in a subject information that IDing it from the e book was virtually unattainable.

    After which Rancho’s in-house information, Harry Barnard (cowl picture, standing), got here round with a mug of steaming espresso to substantiate my unstated, tip-of-the-tongue suspicion: sure, it’s a Pink-throated Ant-Tanager. Born in England and looking out like a younger Roger Daltrey of The Who within the movie model of the rock opera ‘Tommy’, Harry got here to Costa Rica for the primary time as an adolescent, on a chook tour along with his mother and father. Amongst different locations, they visited Rancho Naturalista. Some years later, he returned to Rancho for a couple of months as a volunteer. That’s when he first met Mercedes.

    I’m taking a sip of espresso, my eyes following an impossibly vibrant Kill-Invoice (Keel-billed) Toucan, flying in opposition to the background of the Irazu Volcano slopes and, farther to the proper, water-vapour ‘smoking’ Turrialba Volcano on the horizon. Round me, White-necked Jacobin bullies have been attacking any Topped Woodnymph, Inexperienced Hermit, Violet Sabrewing or Bronze-tailed Plumeleteer that will dare to strategy the feeder or the Verbena hedges. And Verbena attracts one other specialty chook and a regional endemic (from Honduras to Panama), the Snowcap. Tiny hummingbird, hued like purple wine and with a brilliant white cap, it normally seems for a brief time period and is well ignored!

    Extra simply noticeable birds to look at from the veranda additionally included Gartered Trogon, Lesson’s Motmot (usually the very first and the final chook of the day), Crimson-fronted Parakeet and Streak-headed Woodcreeper. As soon as a Peregrine Falcon flew above the veranda, whereas a number of distant King Vultures have been hovering above the valley. Ought to I add, the foliage in entrance of my casita (bungalow) window was often checked by White-collared Manakin.

    However I’m speaking birds solely! Fairly a couple of mammals come out within the open to steal bananas left for the birds. The most typical amongst them have been Variegated and Pink-tailed Squirrels (as much as half a dozen every), Central American Agouti (1 or 2), White-nosed Coati (above – by cellphone: a fatty who broke down the feeder tray it was climbing onto), adopted by unusual Dusky Rice Rat (to us from farther north, it appears extra like a cute fats mouse than a rat we’re acquainted with), with even a banana-eating Tayra coming to the feeder (massive consultant of the weasel household), and, apparently hardest to identify due to its nocturnal methods, Northern Raccoon popping out within the open only some metres from me (whereas it could be merely a nuisance to North American company, I’m from Europe and this one was a lifer to me!).

    Snowcap taken at Rancho Naturalista by Joseph C Boone / Wikimedia Commons

    Downhill from the principle lodge, however inside Rancho Naturalista Reserve, lies Rancho Bajo with a number of flowering timber and extra Verbena hedges, attracting Inexperienced-breasted Mango, Inexperienced Thorntail, each Black-crested and White-crested Coquettes, Topped Woodnymph and much more Snowcaps, in case you missed them uphill! Add Widespread Tody-Flycatcher and a number of other Hoffmann’s Woodpeckers and Brown-hooded Parrots to that image, amongst many others.

    My different information, Mercedes Alpizar, grew up close to the Rancho within the Turrialba space, graduated in Ecological Tourism and studied English on the College of Costa Rica. She began guiding at Rancho in 2016, solely to embark upon a Costa Rica Massive 12 months within the subsequent, 2017. Why go that far?

    Due to the internal ardour that drives her, however on a extra rational scale that’s probably the easiest way to kick-start one’s guiding profession. I met Mercedes throughout her Massive 12 months, when she was that brilliant new information at Rancho Naturalista. But, scoring greater than 700 species, Mercedes Alpizar quickly turned “Meche”, the chook information that we’re all acquainted with.

    However that’s not the factor I wished to let you know. Mercedes and Harry have been each guiding at Rancho for a while, however there have been no sparks between them. Now, this isn’t how they advised me the story, however how I see it. Use your individual judgment to determine do you have to belief me or not.

    By doing her Massive 12 months, with no plan, Mercedes additionally carried out the last word feminine show, excelling in Harry’s personal line of labor, much more, in Harry’s lifestyle. How may she not impress him? How may he presumably stay blind to her? Do you know that Annie Oakley, an American sharpshooter who starred in Buffalo Invoice’s Wild West present, outgunned an expert sharpshooter – after which married him? And sure, someday in 2018, Mercedes and Harry began courting. Now, they’re fortunately married.

    Even farther downhill, on the very fringe of the Rancho Naturalista property, there was a Sunbittern ready for me. Observing it from an in depth vary, I believed “it will be good in the event you’d unfold your wings now” and the cooperative chook fulfilled my request, taking a brief flight upstream.

    Earlier stage: Costa Rica on a relaxed birding tempo

    Subsequent: birding close to Rancho Naturalista