The show goes on

by Diego Quesada, February 10th 2021

Rufous-vented Ground-cuckoo

Yesterday I went back to Children’s Eternal Rainforest and took clients with me this time. They are enthusiastic bird and nature photographers who definitely got what they went for.

Birdwatchers from all over Costa Rica are coming to see the Cuckoos

We left San Jose before sunrise and arrived by 8:30 am. To my surprise and delight I encountered many of my birding friends and colleagues – Ernesto Carman, Paz Irola, Jose Pablo Castillo, Tamara Rojas, Luis Barrantes, Jorge Gabriel Campos, Mario Cordoba, Donald Alpizar, Marvin Araya, Esteban Mendez and his family (including his young son Dilan who, at only 7 years old, may be the youngest twitcher to get this mega bird). Just yesterday more than 50 people visited and saw the cuckoos. What a privilege to be part of this community of nature lovers and bird enthusiasts. 

Dilan Mendez age 7, getting a picture of his Lifer Cuckoos

The birding community in Costa Rica is something to be proud of. You could feel the positive energy at the reserve. Everyone was happy and smiling. What a place to be and what an amazing moment to share. If only we could hug and celebrate like in the old days as «love was in the air!» 

One thing to point out is the great economic input visitors are given to the Children’s Eternal Rainforest. A much-needed breath of fresh air to the financial situation of such great organization. That right there is ecotourism at its best. 

Yesterday the ant swarm was still active and the many individuals of several species of antbirds were there, as well as the stars of the hour. Early comers were treated to close views of the cuckoos by the side of the trail. Cuckoos being cuckoos, chasing each other and hunting for the insects that were desperately trying to escape from the ever-growing flow of deadly ants. 

As we approached, the cuckoos were not in sight, but not 5 minutes later the second act began with the main characters of the play making their ninja moves across the trails and then back into the safety of the dark thick vegetation. 

Female Rufous-vented Ground-cuckoo

Then it was show time and suddenly, out of nowhere, they were out in the open. An adult female preened and displayed the magnificent iridescent colors of her back plumage. Soon Lorenzo (the juvenile) joined her and both started to forage again. Making sudden movements when a potential prey was spotted, Lorenzo shook his wings and snapped his bill to ask for food (being totally ignored, by the way). 

Lorenzo (juvenile) perched right next to me

At least 20 people in two separate groups along the trail were watching. The lucky ones down trail had the best light and background conditions. Hence the next picture, taken by my good friend Jorge Gabriel Campos. Jorge is a young and passionate birding guide, who I met about 8 years ago when he was still in high school and who was kind enough to pay attention to my talks about birding and conservation. 

© Jorge Gabriel Campos, what a shot!

Not long after Lorenzo arrived, we all were rewarded with the presence of what we believed to be the a male. He was a bulkier bird with a wider and more marked chest band, a fully formed blueish crest, and more colorful and brighter iridescent plumage. The behavior of this male was more reserved than the others. He tended to stay on the edge of the trail, watching over the rest of the family, more cautious of what was going on around them. But he didn’t pass up the opportunity to feed. Every time a possible prey was spotted, he would swiftly move to catch it, several times even taking it from his other family members. The majority of the time he would not stay in the open for long, but would retreat to the forest edge.

Presumably the male of the group

The show lasted for at least half an hour. Eventually the ant swarm started to move up the hill and inside the forest as the birds followed them. The crowd began to disperse as a few of us waited a while longer to see if a third act was on the schedule. 

Enjoying the moment

Eventually we decided to check the other trails. At the lake we spotted three Least Grebes doing their usual dives and chasing each other. A little farther down the trail we found a mixed flock with White-throated Shrike-Tanagers, Streak-crowned Antvireos, Spotted Woodcreepers and Rufous-tailed Jacamars, just to name a few. We got word of a female Bare-necked Umbrellabird spotted not far from us, but when we arrived it was gone. However, we got very good views of a male Yellow-eared Toucanet. So not bad, right?

Waiting for the antbirds to come out

After a couple more hours of birding, rain was on its way so we called it a day and started the drive back home. What a day, what an experience!

Did I mentioned the landscapes are unbelievable?

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