Last weekend, I had some fun, easy-going birding on the other side of the mountains. For me, that usually means going over to the Caribbean slope but on this occasion, it refers to the mountains on the other side of the valley. Those would be the uplifted lands that lead to the humid forests of the Pacific slope, including the General Valley. This is where you go if you drive up and over Cerro de la Muerte. After looking for Volcano Juncos and Peg-billed Finches in the paramo, if you continue on, you eventually descend to San Isidro, a small important city in southern Costa Rica. Also known as Perez Zeledon (or just “Perez”), the area is also pretty nice for birding.
Although the rainforest that remains mostly occurs as small, scattered patches, those bits of forest can be pretty birdy, even right around town. There are also a few good sites just outside of the city including the one I visited last weekend while co-guiding a trip for the Birding Club of Costa Rica. Our destination was Talari Lodge, and, as usual for this spot, the birding was fun, easy, and fulfilling. Talari has been around for several years and protects a small area of old second growth along with some taller trees and access to a rushing river. The growing forest is filled with fruiting trees and bushes which, in turn, attracts lots of birdies.
It’s not a place for seeing big raptors, guans, and other deep forest species but the good service, food, and easy looks at a nice sampling of other species makes up for it. During our time at the lodge, we were treated to near constant activity in the fruiting trees around the lodge as well as at a fruit feeder that attracted Cherrie’s and Speckled Tanagers, Buff-throated and Streaked Saltators, Gray-headed Tanager, honeycreepers, several Rose-breasted Grosbeaks, White-ruffed Manakin, and other species.
Scoping distant tree-tops failed to turn up Turquoise Cotinga on this visit (often seen here), but did give us looks at Scaled Pigeon, tityras, toucans, and other stuff, while the undergrowth hosted Rufous-breasted and Riverside Wrens, and Orange-billed Nightingale-Thrushes.
Hummingbirds weren’t as diverse as other visits but we still managed nice looks at Long-billed Starthroat, the ubiquitous Scaly-breasted Hummingbird, and brief looks at a female White-crested Coquette.
The best field mark for the Scaly-breasted Hummingbird is the lack of bright colors. Instead, it sings all day long, mimicking other birds in the process.
Down by the river, we also got looks at Scrub Greenlet, distant Indigo Buntings, a couple kingfishers, and a distant fly-by Fork-tailed Flycatcher. Several other interesting species could also show in the young second growth by the river, it would be good to keep a close watch in that area for things like seedeaters, Pale-breasted Spinetail, and maybe a vagrant warbler or two.
When the sun came out, we finally got our expected Roadside Hawk and Pearl Kite (regular here), but the best bird of the trip was at a site near Talari. Thanks to co-guide Susana Garcia-Blanco and the local birding network in Perez, we got some sweet gen about Turquoise Cotingas frequenting a forested hillside at the university.
Since the university is on the road to Talari, but the viewing point is on the other side, it’s tricky to get there but, on our visit, it was well worth it because a big fruiting fig was attracting dozens of birds, the best being at least 4 Turquoise Cotingas! We soaked up prolonged views of male and female birds and envied the yard lists of homes overlooking the forest.
One of the cotingas sharing branches with less colorful birds.
Talari makes for a good stop when traveling through this area. If you stay for more than one night, it could also be easily used as a base to bird middle-elevation habitats on the road to Chirripo (check riparian zones for Costa Rican Brush-Finch), areas of older forest at Los Cusingos and Las Quebradas Reserves, higher elevation sites up on Cerro de la Muerte, and even savanna habitats further afield around Buenos Aires.