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Fitness and Photography for Fun - A blog on staying fit by hiking and doing photography by David Mendosa

The Highlands

April 24th, 2013 · 2 Comments

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The morning of the fifth day in Costa Rica took us from sea level to the cloud forest. Niño drove the seven of us participants and our guide Glenn in his comfortable new tour bus, which offered each of us a seat by a big window.

After passing through San Jose, which is Costa Rica’s capital, we took a section of the Pan-American Highway. Then, we turned off onto a steep dirt road in the highlands of San Gerardo de Dota. We stopped for lunch at the aptly named Quetzal Lodge, where a local guide told Glenn that a pair of Resplendent Quetzals was nesting about three miles back.

This was the bird that all of us most wanted to see in Costa Rica. Since the Resplendent Quetzal is near threatened, I didn’t really hope to see this beautiful bird, which many people consider to be of the world’s greatest beauties. It is sacred to the Mayas and is the national bird of Guatemala.

So right after lunch we drove back as far as possible and then hiked about a half mile down a steep path. The male, which has exceptionally long and beautiful tail feathers, was sitting on the nest, while the female was off somewhere else enjoying her lunch. But all that we could see was his tail feathers, because the nest was on the opposite side of the tree from us. Just in case that was all that we could see of the quetzal, I took several shots and waited. And waited. Probably half an hour.

We expected to see the female fly in so the male would leave to eat. But with no mate in sight, all of a sudden he flew off. We were able to follow him to four locations, at all of which I got adequate shots. Finally, he flew back to near the nest. There I got the photo that I went to Costa Rica to capture.

We weren’t able to use flash, so I cranked up the ISO to 3200, which I had to do in the dim light of the forest. Since I wasn’t using flash (which takes time to recharge after every few shots), I was able to take a lot of pictures — 157 of them to be exact. Of course, the exposure was grainy, but my software took care of it quite well.

A Male Resplendent Quetzal (Pharomachrus mocinno) Was What I Most Wanted to See in Costa Rica

A Male Resplendent Quetzal (Pharomachrus mocinno) Was What I Most Wanted to See in Costa Rica

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At this point I told Glenn that as far as I was concerned we could stop the trip because I had already seen far more than I had hoped to see in Costa Rica. Nevertheless, we drove on. At once stop a little bird got in a fight with itself.

A Sooty-capped Bush-Tanager (Chlorospingus pileatus) Fights with its "Rival" in the Rear View Mirror of our Bus

A Sooty-capped Bush-Tanager (Chlorospingus pileatus) Fights with its "Rival" in the Rear View Mirror of our Bus

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I think we witnessed this fight at the place where we saw this little fellow below that always makes me smile. Somehow, this bird reminds me of a little old man wearing a red skull cap.

An Acorn Woodpecker (Melanerpes formicivorus) Looks Back

An Acorn Woodpecker (Melanerpes formicivorus) Looks Back

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The Collard Redstart (Myioborus torquatus) is Endemic to Costa Rica and Western Panama

The Collared Redstart (Myioborus torquatus) is Endemic to Costa Rica and Western Panama

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Our residence for the next three nights in Costa Rica was Savegre Hotel, a lovely ecolodge within the Los Santos Forest Reserve at about 7,300 feet. Bird feeders surround the lodge.

A Male Flame-colored Tanager (Piranga bidentata) at One of the Hotel's Bird Feeders

A Male Flame-colored Tanager (Piranga bidentata) at One of the Hotel's Bird Feeders

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We passed the flower below several times as we hiked a trail down from the hotel.

This Bright Flower Grows in the Dark Forest Just Below the Hotel

This Bright Flower Grows in the Dark Forest Just Below the Hotel

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One sunny day when several tour participants hiked high in the mountains, I felt like being alone. So I walked down the river from the hotel.

The Savegre River is the Most Pristine Stream in Costa Rica

The Savegre River is the Most Pristine Stream in Costa Rica

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On another day when we took a hike in the mountains above the hotel the clouds rolled in.

Sometimes the Clouds Covered the Mountains Above the Hotel

Sometimes the Clouds Covered the Mountains Above the Hotel

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The hotel is so high in the mountains that we had to heat our rooms. But one day we even went much higher. In one of Costa Rica’s national parks, we drove up to 11,379 feet, near the peak of a dormant volcano. We walked around a little bit, but the elevation made breathing difficult for those of us who don’t live in the mountains. We didn’t see another person, but we did see this appropriately named bird.

The Volcano Junco (Junco vulcani) Is Endemic to the High Mountains of Costa Rica and Western Panama

The Volcano Junco (Junco vulcani) Is Endemic to the High Mountains of Costa Rica and Western Panama

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I still don’t know how Glenn does it. But he spotted this little owl high in the dense canopy of the forest.

The Costa Rican Pygmy Owl (Glaucidium costaricanum) is Found in the Mountains of Costa Rica and Western Panama

The Costa Rican Pygmy Owl (Glaucidium costaricanum) is Found in the Mountains of Costa Rica and Western Panama

Click on the picture above to enlarge

After a day in Costa Rica’s major metropolitan area, three days on the Pacific Coast, and then three more days in the highlands, we had seen a great variety of this country. But much more was to come.

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Posted in: Costa Rica

2 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Beverly Williams // May 1, 2013 at 7:46 pm

    David, you provide us with the most beautiful pictures and expose us to birds, flowers, and fauna that we might not have the opportunity to see otherwise. Thank you so much!

  • 2 Ruth Conner // May 2, 2013 at 8:03 am

    I am pushing 83, have diabetes and work out knees. Life on 2-1.2 acres, still tending vegetables & flower gardens. Many a time I have been cheered and delighted by the countless birds we attract. We feed them plenty, from humming birds to the occasional eagle, and lots of vultures. God bless you for cheering many with your gorgeous photos.

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