Los Quetzales (Costa Rica #1)

To its everlasting credit, the small nation of Costa Rica constitutionally abolished a standing military force in 1948 and pursued the goals of better education, healthcare and democracy. Progressive social and environmental programs are a hallmark of the current day, inviting global visitors of every stripe including yours truly. I was pleased to have the summer guidance of my daughter, who engineered many of the details through our countrywide journey, along with my wife who offered consolation as our rental vehicle bounced along some perilous mountain roads and who hiked the jungle and the cloud-forest trails with confidence.

our first cabin…

Los Quetzales National Park was located close to our first major stop in Costa Rica, some 80 kilometers south of San Jose, the country’s capital and largest city. Los Quetzales was the first of nine or 10 national parks we visited (the country, slightly larger than the state of West Virginia, has about 30 wilderness parks, many of them established after the 1990s when the process of deforestation in this Central American nation was reversed).

female Resplendent Quetzal
Emerald Toucanet…

The highlands of Los Quetzales, drained by the Rio Savagre (a fascinating mountain stream where I wound up catching wild rainbow trout on a fly) are a special place for birdwatching, and yes– I had studied that potential for months in advance. The iconic and nearly endangered Resplendent Quetzal draws binoculared tourists from around the world, and I was lucky to view and photograph several of these beautiful creatures. The diversity of the park’s flora and fauna is astounding. Summer starts the rainy season in Costa Rica, and it rained a lot through our 17 afternoons and evenings in the land, but the weather was primarily cool and comfortable, and the tourist crowds were mostly absent.

Rio Savagre…
mountain view from cabin site…
I eventually identified 15 of CR’s 50 hummer species…

Watching the magnificent bird life really kicked into gear at our cabin near Los Quetzales and progressed through our following stops as we moved toward Panama and then back north again. I had told myself that identifying 50 life birds in Costa Rica would have made my preparations very worthwhile. I eventually saw and/or heard 145 species in my visit to CR, of which 126 were “life birds,” or first-timers. Pretty darn good, for an amateur.

on the trail at Los Quetzales…
breakfasting at Merriam’s…
Acorn Woodpecker…
Sooty Robin…
Rufous-collared Sparrow, familiar singer…
female Resplendent…

Up soon, Pacific boat ride to the Osa Peninsula and the Corcovado wilderness.

About rivertoprambles

Welcome to Rivertop Rambles. This is my blog about the headwaters country-far afield or close to home. I've been a fly-fisher, birder, and naturalist for most of my adult life. I've also written poetry and natural history books for thirty years. In Rambles I will mostly reflect on the backcountry of my Allegheny foothills in the northern tier of Pennsylvania and the southern tier of New York State. Sometimes I'll write about the wilderness in distant states, or of the wild places in the human soul. Other times I'll just reflect on the domestic life outdoors. In any case, I hope you enjoy. Let's ramble!
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20 Responses to Los Quetzales (Costa Rica #1)

  1. Once in a lifetime thrills! And who would have thunk it? Rainbow trout in Costa Rica!

    • Indeed! I was surprised to learn that wild rainbows inhabit some of the remote mountain streams, having become established by U.S. military personnel in nearby Panama who longed for the Kamloops species about a century ago. Thank you!

  2. Visiting there was an excellent idea. A tropical paradise.

  3. alex55manta says:

    Looks like a great start of several posts we may get to experience as you share them! Great birds and a trout to boot! It’s a great feeling to catch a trout in some far-away place I believe. Great pics and story. Look forward to the next. UB

    • I’m glad I brought a 4-piece fly rod to the mountains. It began to rain like crazy when the first fish came to hand, but the site was beautiful & the river stayed clear, thanks to the lush surroundings. More to come. Thanks UB!

  4. Brent says:

    What an inspiring and magical trip! I have to say, your camera work there is truly worthy of the upgrade in equipment. It must’ve taken a lot of patience to capture birds in those poses.

  5. Jet Eliot says:

    Oh boy oh boy. 145 species! Costa Rica is such an incredible country, for so many reasons. I appreciated the opening here, Walt, and your highlighting the priorities of CR. Great to hear about part of your adventures, and looking forward to hearing more. And so super duper great that you got to see the female resplendent quetzal, one of the most beautiful birds we have on this planet. To have seen that many birds is a testament to your studied research and intrepid travels. Great photos too.

  6. tiostib says:

    A magnificent adventure! Thanks for sharing.

  7. plaidcamper says:

    Progressive social and environmental policies? No standing army? Resplendent quetzals?! What a place! Enjoyed this colourful piece Walt (some outstanding photographs) and very much looking forward to reading more – thank you!

    • Doesn’t sound real in this world, does it…but there seems to be a blend of both tradition & desire for sustainable future living here that almost seems… dare I say it… HOPEFUL? Maybe I’m just dreaming, Adam, but if so, it’s quite a pleasant dream…. Thanks, my friend.

    • Dear Walt Franklin,

      I concur with plaidcamper. Thank you for featuring my colourful avian colleagues so commendably through the fruitful results of your bird-watching and excellent photography in Costa Rica.

      Happy September to you and plaidcamper!

      Yours sincerely,

  8. Bob Stanton says:

    Amazing! Truly a trip for the ages. And of course, Walt Franklin tallies not only an impressive bird count while straddling two continents, but catches a trout on a fly. ”Have fly, will travel” should be your unofficial motto. My daughter absolutely fell in love with Costa Rica when she ventured there two years ago – the land, the flora, the fauna, but mostly the people in this incredible anomaly of a country. In fact, I’m forwarding her the link to this post. Can’t wait to hear more, my friend.

    • Wow, glad to hear that your daughter had an excellent time there, as well. I’d be curious to know a few of her favorite locales. And yes, the people of CR were so amiable & abiding & helpful. Very strict about virile preventatives &, for the most part, very close to the land & its possibilities. Thank you, Bob.

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