Image

The Laughing Falcon and the Bellbird

Two birds that I was really looking forward to seeing on my Costa Rica trip were the laughing falcon and the three-wattled bellbird.

I remember looking back at a plate of the laughing falcon in my Belize animal guide and thinking, ” Now here is an interesting looking bird, I wonder if I will see it?” Of course I didn’t because I spend much of the time underwater looking at barracudas, queen angelfish, and whale sharks on my first trip to Central America in 2000.

The three-whattled bellbird seems like a species from another planet or a bird you would only see in a BBC documentary, accompanied by David Attenborough’s excitable narration.

Our guide Scott promised that we would certainly hear the raucous laugh of the laughing falcon but we might not actually see the raptor. Such are the ways of tropical birding. We did hear our first snake hawk on our first evening in La Selva. We crossed the suspension bridge in the fading light to see the silhouette of a falcon in the top of a riverside tree calling to the gathering night. I hoped we would get a better look at this tropical falcon.

We did indeed get a better look on our way to Carara National Park on the Pacific coast. Unfortunately I was in a feverish haze and was able to lift myself, get a bin full of the falcon perched on the power pole and get a few photos before I slumped down for another sweaty nap. Great bird.

Our last stop of the trip was the cloud forests of Monteverde and our main target bird was the three-whattled bellbird.

The forests of Montenegro at Curi-Cancha Refugio de Vida Silvestre was oddly silent, the “bonk” call of the male bellbird was absent. As the morning wore on in our final day in the field it became clear that the bellbird would not be on our trip list.

On our way out of Monteverde, we seemed to be taking a circuitous route out of town via some dirt roads (most of the roads in Monteverde were unpaved) through an residential part of town. Scott and our driver appeared to be up to something, but what?

We stopped in the middle of one street and Scott casually turned to us, paused, and said, “Bellbird.” The bus exploded into action as we filed out into the light rain and saw a male bellbird in the top of a fruiting aguacatillo tree. Three bellbirds flew across the street and we relocated then in a tree and we all got scope views of the male calling! What a great way to end our trip!