Birder of the Year: Costa Rica, Friday 2
As 2009 Birder of the Year, Dianne Patterson of Columbus, Miss., received a Swarovski 8x32 EL binocular and an expenses-paid five-day trip for two to Costa Rica with Swarovski and WildBird hosts. She also received a Swarovski squall jacket as well as “Peterson Field Guide to Birds of North America” from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.
Dianne, her husband Jim, Clay Taylor of Swarovski Optik and I flew to Costa Rica in late May to bird with Clay's Costa Rican colleague, Alex Villegas. Aided by our driver, Rafael, we covered a fair bit of ground starting May 27.
We left Savegre Mountain Hotel in San Gerardo de Dota soon after finishing a good breakfast, but we didn't travel far on the gravel road up the valley before our driver stopped per Alex's directions. Alex had heard about a nest visible from this stretch of the road -- a Resplendent Quetzal nest. Could we find it and see a quetzal or two?
This is where we hoped to see the trogons with the special name that like to eat avocadoes. The quetzals measure 14 inches long, but the males sport some incredible uppertail coverts that grow up to 30 inches longer than the square tail. Contrary to popular belief, the flamboyant feathers aren't true tail feathers, according to Richard Garrigues.
Soon, Alex spied the nest hole in a tree fairly close to the road, and then he located a male Resplendent Quetzal. Distant and visible through dense leaves, the bird appeared to have food in its beak -- which the spotting scope confirmed.
Created with a Swarovski Optik STM 80 HD scope
with 20-60x eyepiece and Pentax K-x D-SLR with 50mm lens
Aren't those uppertail coverts extending to the bottom of the photo just incredible?! That shade of green looks so flashy in contrast to his deep-red belly. Who could resist the visual appeal of this trogon? No wonder the Guatemalans named their currency after this species.
A bus of British visitors stopped near us, and the men and women marvelled at the Resplendent Quetzal with us. The bird flew to a closer perch, and everyone's cameras clicked incessantly.
Then the quetzal flew to its nest hole, popped inside -- although its green streamers remained outside -- and then emerged without food. He created quite a stir among his admirers, and one rivetted British tourist almost missed the bus as it pulled away.
The dapper fellow flew to a more open perch, sat for a spell and preened while we continued soaking up his magnificence.
We felt quite fortunate to enjoy such good, prolonged looks at this beautiful species, considered "near threatened" by IUCN Red List of Endangered Species and listed in Appendix 1 (the most endangered species, threatened by extinction) by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Flora and Fauna.
Given our incredible sightings during the morning at Savegre, how could the afternoon at Rancho Naturalista hope to compare?