Costa Rica Day 13, 18 February 2014 - Arenal area & Bajo del Tigre Childrens Eternal Rainforest

Today was the day we left the Arenal area to travel to the Santa Elena/Monteverde area. Despite looking close on the map it's not possible to drive the direct route due to there being no roads! Instead it has to be a long drive along the north shore of Lake Arenal and then around the west end and then south west, a drive of about 3 hours. As we left Arenal Observatory Lodge I made one final look at the river bridge and this time the Fasciated Tiger Heron was actually there - perseverance pays off! The gardens of the lodge had already revealed Short-billed Pigeon, Black-striped Sparrow and Smoky-brown Woodpecker so it was a happy car as we made our way past the Arenal Dam (which had 4 Amazon Kingfishers perched together, Great Blue Heron and Great White Egret) and began our winding long drive.

Fasciated Tiger Heron

Stopping for coffee and cake in Nuevo Arenal it rained pretty much all the way as we eventually hit the dirt roads for the final 15 miles to Santa Elena village where we'd booked 4 nights at the Arco Iris Lodge. The initial impression of the village wasn't great, very busy and noisy with constant roadworks and high winds and cold drizzle! After checking in and having some lunch in a restuarant in the village we decided on a walk around the nearby Bajo del Tigre Childrens Eternal Rainforest reserve and leave the 2 big reserves for the following days. This nice reserve has a mixture of dry and wet forest but in the first hour or so the high winds made the birding extremely difficult. Eventually the birds started to appear and first up was a White-throated Thrush quickly followed up with an incredible male Long-tailed Manakin, then Ruddy-capped Nightingale Thrush, 2 Lesser Greenlets and an Ovenbird running around on the path. 2 Violet Sabrewings, Wood Thrush and Spotted Woodcreeper followed before I got onto 4 Black-breasted Wood-Quails. We finished up with a lovely and very distinctive White-eared Ground Sparrow on the final loop before heading back to the small visitor centre.

Long-tailed Manakin

Black-breasted Wood-Quail

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