A couple days after coming back to where summer reigns eternal, I did some guiding at the Talari Mountain Lodge in the Valle de el General area of Costa Rica. Not too far from where Alexander Skutch lived and carried out so many life history studies of Costa Rican birds, Talari is located about 10 minutes from San Isidro (Perez Zeledon) on the banks of the Rio General. Like much of the lower elevations of the valley, there is very little intact forest and the avifauna can’t compare to its former glory. HOWEVER, there are still a fair number of interesting, local species present at Talari which with the forest growing back, acts like an oasis for birds.
Talari Mountain Lodge, Costa Rica
Despite its name, Talari is not really located high up in the mountains although it is situated just off the road up to the village from which hikers depart to ascend Costa Rica’s highest mountain. The birding was alright at Talari for a variety of common species, a few rarities, and wonderful, close looks at a number of colorful species that visited their fruit feeders. Overall, I think it would be an especially good place for beginning tropical birders, or to use as a base for visiting various sites in the General Valley.
Buff-throated Saltator- a common Costa Rican bird that is a bit more reclusive than say a
I was impressed with how quiet and peaceful Talari was. Nights were cool, the sound of the river was soothing, and music in the restaurant was played at a low volume. The restaurant was pretty basic, expensive (although breakfast is included in the price), and guests have to give advance notice about taking meals there, but the action at the feeders just outside the restaurant is priceless.
There aren’t too many places where you can watch Speckled Tanagers at feeders.
Cherrie’s Tanagers are also very common,
The feeders were visited by stunning Green Honeycreepers. The male is the one with the black on the head.
Unfortunately, I missed a visit by Fiery-billed Aracaris and wasn’t quick enough to capture a Streaked Saltator that was also visiting the feeders. Red-crowned Woodpeckers, Baltimore Orioles, Red-legged Honeycreepers, and Tennessee Warblers were some of the other species that also enjoyed the bananas.
Away from the feeders, birding was very nice in the morning at two large Inga species that were laden with small fruits. As soon as it became light, the crowns of these important trees quivered with Clay-colored Robins, Great Kiskadees, TKs, Social, Gray-capped, and Boat-billed Flycatchers, Palm, Blue-gray, and Golden-hooded Tanagers, and a Rose-throated Becard, while Gray-headed Chachalacas clambered around the thick branches of the sub-canopy.
We had a great view of these trees from the cabins and spent much of two mornings scanning and scoping their crowns and the tops of adjacent trees. This kept us pretty busy and happy to find our main target species on both mornings- Turquoise Cotinga. No dove-looking scaly feathered female either but two vivid (as if Cotinga species be anything but vivid) males that shone like Navajo jewelry in the morning light. This regional endemic is more adaptable and thus more easily seen than the endangered Yellow-billed Cotinga but is never guaranteed because they move around in search of fruiting trees and are nearly silent.
Here is one of the males- a great way to start my 2010 list.
and here is another hanging out with a Masked Tityra.
Other interesting or local Costa Rican birds we had were:
Pearl Kite- two birds doing aerial displays and calling. They looked more like kingbirds than raptors!
Tropical Screech Owl- a common owl but owls are always noteworthy.
Charming Hummingbird- a few a these regional endemics around.
Long-billed Starthroat- a beautiful hummingbird that perched above the restaurant.
Snowy-bellied Hummingbird- a few of this General Valley specialty were around.
Olivaceous Piculet- a few around the lodge doing the typical inconspicuous piculet thing.
Pale-breasted Spinetail- if you think you hear a Willow Flycatcher, it’s one of these guys!
Orange-collared Manakin- several tough to see individuals frequented the forest patches.
Rufous-browed Peppershrike- a widespread neotropical species that often gets overlooked in Costa Rica.
Rufous-breasted Wren- I wish I had a photo of this handsome species.
Orange-billed Nightingale-Thrush- the gray-headed taxon was common in shady undergrowth.
Scrub Greenlet- another easily overlooked bird.
I think two days was enough to bird Talari itself but as I mentioned above, it would be a nice place to use as a base for birding a number of other sites, including Skutch’s Farm, “Los Cusingos”. The lodge costs $75 per night for a double (taxes and breakfast included) and is owned by a friendly, accommodating Tico couple who are making efforts to operate as green as possible.
Here is a view of the river and high mountains from the lodge property,
and this is their “green” jacuzzi that should be in operation by the time you visit.