In search of the Resplendent Quetzal

Monteverde Cloud Forest, Costa Rica.

Written May 2018

A hummingbird flew right onto our veranda today.  Hovered, as they do, around Ella’s glass wind chime equal in bright colours to that of its own feathers, then darted off.

Birds are surprising, they often appear out of nowhere, without warning. Our travels in Costa Rica have brought many birding surprises: a solitary small Toucan on our morning walk behind our house, with purple flowers stuffed in its long bill- no camera to hand I’m afraid.  An impulsive turn off the main road up to Monteverde national park and we were face to face with a large turquoise Mot-Mot, there perched in the trees-it’s beauty captivating and for some reason shocking.

Although our long walks through the cloud forest of monteverde were accompanied by bird song we just couldn’t see any! Hikers walking towards us asked if we’d spotted anything …nope we answered. Until our last walk back from a small water fall.  All I could really see was a turquoise streak high in the trees that a local guide was pointing at. As he moved quickly to get a better view, my eyes steadied and tried harder to focus high into the canopy above, but nothing appeared. Eventually a small crew turned up unioculars in hand, their focus intense.

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Since neither of us had binoculars, I boldly asked one of the bird-watchers if I could look through her view piece to take a photo. After a surprised look of uncertainty and a split second decision she said yes and there it was, clear as day.  We had seen our first Quetzal, the pride of monteverde and a birders dream come true.  I’m sure David Attenborough would have been pleased.

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Now you might be thinking what could a newly turned one-year old like about bird watching in the cloud forest? Good question.

Although the the journey to monteverde was long-almost five hours from Nosara- with the last 45 minutes on unpaved, stoney, dusty roads, it brought coolness in the air and rain and a much needed change in climate. This fresh, moving air meant long walks for Ella and she was thrilled.

At the humming bird cafe, just before the park entrance, we saw more humming birds than you can imagine, their buzzing sounds like a Star-Wars light sabres swishing around us.  Ella saw the humming birds too.

She saw the large blue butterflies accompanying us down the roads where we walked. She saw flowers and tall trees which she seemed to love. She made friends on the trails. She enjoyed a royal view from her back-pack carrier, perched like a little Indian princess!

She even bought a stuffed felt Ketzel- her choice-  a future reminder of her Costa Rican adventures.

So, yes bird watching is definitely possible with a baby. Of course there were some trails we couldn’t walk because the Pram (buggy) was too wide or the trail too muddy, but we felt well catered for by nature.

 

Monteverde was our first planned weekend away from the beaches of Guanacaste and well worth it. The town is small with good restaurants and cafes. Our favourite for lunch was the tree house with a huge tree growing through its centre. Just down the hill is the Orchid Cafe where we indulged in an afternoon tea type of ritual- delicious coffee with passion fruit cheesecake two days in a row!

There are many great places to stay. We chose the Trapp family lodge the last accommodation on your way up the road to the park. It was perfect and just a ten minute walk to the park entrance which is ideal if pushing a Pram.

Definitely pack a rain coat, long trousers and long tops.  And you’ll need sun screen as it gets hotter during the day and a hat if you’d like age well!  We didn’t find mosquitoes a problem but repellent is useful to have.

If you are not a birder I recommend hiring a guide, we didn’t but would the next time. They knew the sounds of birds and were astute to the slightest movement giving away a bird’s location.

If you are a resident of Costa Rica the entrance to the Reserve is seven dollars otherwise it’s 22 dollars.

Tap water is drinkable, so don’t forget your water-bottle.

Running shoes are fine-even white ones -although a lot of people were in hiking shoes or boots.

Would I go back? Yes, and next time with binoculars and a birding book and maybe a pair of proper hiking shorts and boots.

I forgot to mention the local father and son artists- Robert and David Wessen- whose prints will be a reminder to Ella, when she’s older, of where she has travelled. You can find them in the Orchid Cafe.

Happy Travels and I hope you make it to Monteverde!

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