Tomorrow I will guide a small group from the Birding Club of Costa Rica at one of my favorite and most frequented sites when birding Costa Rica- Quebrada Gonzalez in Braulio Carrillo National Park.
I have walked the trails through the old growth foothill forests of this Caribbean slope site on countless occasions since 1992 but that never takes away from the excitement I feel before each visit. I can’t help but look forward to walking into the mossy forest, breathing in the scented, humid air, peering up into the high, epiphyte laden canopy, and carefully listening for avian life.
I don’t deny that these feelings are partly related to my first impressions of the place. On my first visits, I saw striking target birds such as King Vulture, White Hawk, and White-necked Jacobin, the shy Black-headed Nightingale-Thrush, and amazing mixed flocks of glittering tanagers. It’s easy to see how I could be biased about birding here but I’m also the first to admit that it can be as challenging as playing Jeopardy with Alex Trebek, or as painfully slow as watching a 500 meter sloth race.
I often hear Black and Yellow Tanagers and Cinnamon Woodpeckers somewhere up in the canopy but the dense vegetation hides them or they just don’t venture close enough to see, understory birds are for the most part, shy ventriloquists that detest the limelight, the Lattice-tailed Trogon “laughs” while you search the abundant foliage in vain, and mixed flocks appear to follow a frustrating policy of traveling deep into the forest (and out of sight) as soon as they are detected.
Yes, the birding is challenging at Quebrada Gonzalez, but it’s invariably rewarding IF you spend an entire day there. The mixed flock that stayed behind the curtain of leaves in the morning might cross the trail in plain view in the afternoon. Lattice-tailed Trogons could reveal their square-tailed selves by hover-gleaning for fruit. An Olive-backed Quail-Dove might scurry along the trail up ahead, and a horde of fantastic tanagers just might come down from lofty branches to feed on berries at eye level.
There are also other, more fantastic possibilities such as Black-crowned Antpitta deciding to come out and play on the trail, Rufous-vented Ground-Cuckoo snapping its bill at an antswarm, Bare-necked Umbrellabird making an appearance, or a Tiny Hawk pretending to be a thrush as it perches high up in some rain forest tree.
All of these and more are possible- I wonder what we will see tomorrow?
Here’s a checklist for Quebrada Gonzalez (scroll below the tour details).