Almost immediately I found a White-winged Kite and then target bird no.1, a superb male Red-breasted Blackbird and in the open habitat the birds followed thick and fast (in stark contrast to forest birding!) - several Groove-billed Ani, 3 Red-winged Blackbirds, several Bronzed Cowbirds, Giant Cowbird, c12 Ruddy Ground Doves and a scattering of Thick-billed Seed Finches. At a wetter reedy area were 3 American Purple Gallinules and Great White Egret. Despite the lack of water Mangrove Swallows were particularly common. With a guy on horseback gesticulating and rattling on in spanish we decided to quit the scene and start the drive to Arenal.
Ruddy Ground Dove
After a painless drive to La Fortuna near Arenal with White-collared Seedeater bagged on the way we stopped for a coffee before negotiating the 11km dirt road around to the Arenal Observatory Lodge where we were able to check in despite it being early afternoon. The lodge is superbly situated with direct views of the cone of Volcan Arenal, gardens that offer excellent birding and some very nice and varied trails. It does have problems though - the rooms and balconies at the main area look out over a communal area and the restaurant so aren't very private, the restaurant is very over-priced and not great and the reception staff are surly and not very helpful. The lodge is pretty remote too so you have to eat on site in the evenings unless you fancy a 30 minute rough drive to anywhere else.
The entrance track yielded both Roadside Hawk (by the road funnily enough!) and Grey Hawk.
After settling in we decided to walk the River Trail that but it was intially hard to move on from the garden where it was crawling with birds - loads of Montezuma Oropendulas, Violaceous Trogon, Brown Jays, Blue-grey, Palm, Silver-throated, Spangle-cheeked and Summer Tanagers, Red-legged Honeycreeper, Violet-headed Hummingbird and Rufous-tailed Hummingbird.The trail itself is steep and very uneven underfoot, this means you have to keep your eyes down which wasn't very helpful for birding. Once down at the river there were some birds around, notably a small group of Carmiol's Tanagers, Stripe-throated Hermit and Bay Wren On the sweaty walk back up the trail a flock moved through and I was able to get some lovely views of Long-billed Gnatwren, Buff-throated Foliage-gleaner and Streak-headed Woodcreeper. Then, amazingly a female Great Curassow wandered out onto the lodge lawn to feed and at one point had a go at a Long-nosed Coati!