Will we see a quetzal?

Published: April 27th 2014
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I was the only one whose hand shot up to pay a little extra to have a local wildlife guide for our trip to the Curi Cancha Reserve. Sadly Brian can't get hold of a guide for just me so the pressure is really on for him to find us an ellusive resplendent quetzal. He knows how much I want to see this amazing bird and gets as much information from the reserve wardens as he can about where they are nesting at the moment. We set off up the hillside into the reserve. It's noticably different vegetation in the cloud forest, more like a mossy, ferny European woodland, apart from the different tree species and birds of course!

I finally get to find out the name of the massive tree with butresses like I'd seen at the La Selva Biological Station - it's the STRANGLER fig - so it was a fig after all! And it was Brian our regular tour guide who cleared up this mystery not a specialist wildlife guide - go Brian :-)

We hear a distinctive bird call the whole way through the reserve - it sounds a lot like the mocking jay in The Hunger Games film. Brian says it's the three wattled bell bird. Later a different guide we come across says it's a nightingale, so take your pick.

We get to an opening in the forest trails and can see way across the hills to the sea from here. There is a tree in the clearing with humming bird feeders strung up in the branches. There are so many little humming birds flitting about coming to feed on the sugary water in the feeders. Looking up at the feeders from underneath you can see the humming bird's tiny little tongues dipping into the liquid. Amazing little birds. We spend quite a long time here taking photos and videos, but Brian is on a mission to find us a quetzal and we carry on along the trail.

We stop at a viewing platform that looks out over the cloud forest canopy in the valley below us. It's quite windy here and the mist is almost rain now. The mist creates an almost ethereal feel to the forest, timeless and haunting. It's really quite beautiful.

A bit further on we reach a barrier saying no entry unless with a guide. Brian goes off slipping and sliding down the slope on a hunt for the quetzal while we wait. It seems the wardens hadn't given him the good enough directions as he comes back looking worried as he's not been able to find them. Luckily we meet some people coming back along a different blocked off path who say they've seen the quetzals so we hurry off to see if we can get a glimpse too. We get to a very muddy section of the footpath which must be where the other group had been standing and so begins the long wait to see the elusive quetzal. We wait and wait. Brian goes a bit further up the track to have a look just in case we're wrong. He is trying really hard to make sure we see this bird. I get a feeling some of the group are getting impatient with stopping so long in one spot so I'm really grateful that Brian keeps us there longer. Another guide appears with a small group and phew, he knows where the nest is and points out the tree with a lazer pointer beam. I spot the triangular entrance hole and keep my eyes fixed on this spot.

Then all of a sudden a little green head is poking out of the hole. Quick, camera focus, focus! Suddenly there's a flash of green as he flies out of the nest. Wow we've actually seen the amazing resplendent quetzal with its huge long tail flowing behind him. He perches just long enough in a tree for me to get a quick photo and then is gone again. Soooo happy. I give Brian a big hug for being so patient and persistent in giving us enough time to see this fanastic sight. We eventually head back the way came, getting another glimpse of the quetzal much higher up in the canopy and then he's gone.

This isn't the end of our new wildlife sightings though as some of us get to see an armadillo scooting across the path ahead and into the undergrowth. Much too quick for a photo sadly. We also see another of the large, tailess rat-like American agutis and just as we are getting back to the entrance to the reserve we see a gorgeous white nosed coyote ferreting about the roadside looking for food. We also get a proper good view of a toucanette just before we are leaving. What a great morning's wildlife viewing. Didn't need a proper wildlife guide after all - and Brian beathes a sigh of relief - job done.

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