With Bellbird safely tucked away in our troosers we were able to leave Santa Elena by 8.30am on March 15th, and were back on Highway One by 9.35am, allowing us to rag north up the dirt roads to La Ensenada, through hot, dry country, full of parched fields and dessicated trees.
Got to the pool at Ensenada by 10.15am in time to play with a whole new bag of birds in the dry Pacific lowlands.
Green Heron, Western Kingbird, glorious Scissor Tailed Flycatchers (see above), Panama Flycatcher, Red Eyed Vireo and American Redstart were in the trees around the pool, or in the case of the heron, fishing among the water lilies.
Really hot down here, with the temperature racing up to 32+, but the birds didn't seem too bothered.
The salinas at Ensenada were particularly good for a wader lover deprived of long legged sandpipery things for a fortnight - hordes of wintering Yanks, with herons, residents and raptors overhead.
Hudsonian Whimbrel, Black Necked Stilt, Western Sandpiper, SemiP Sand, Least Sand, Lesser and Greater Legs, Willet, Stilt and Spotted Sands, Snowy, SemiP and Wilson's Plover all fed in the shallow water of the saltpans.
Above us the usual TVs and Black Vultures were joined by Osprey, Mangrove Hawk, a fine Snail Kite, both Caracaras, and best of all, a stonking Plumbeous Kite - all elegance and red wing flashes.
Shame my record shots as it sailed overhead are just blurred shapes - what a bird!
Plenty of typical Central American "heronry" stuff here too - egrets, Little Blue Heron, Wood Stork, Roseate Spoonbills, all feeding or roosting in the deeper waters.
With time at a premium (we had to get the 4x4 back to Dollar Car Hire by San Jose airport that afternoon), we ignored the "entry prohibited sign" and drove on up through the baking cattle fields to the lodge at La Ensenada.
Once we'd bought some beer and coffee, any initial frostiness over our blatant trespassing evaporated, allowing us to admire the ridiculously tame White Throated Magpie Jays here, and Streak Backed Oriole, before walking down for a last look at the Pacific at high tide.
The jetty beneath the lodge was thronged with panting Royal Terns, Laughing Gulls, a Sarnie Tern, Hudsonian Whimbrel and Willet.
Fine birds, with Brown Pelican and the inevitable Magnificent Frigatebirds patrolling the shallows.
With the clock ticking, we drove back out of the lodge and up to Sendero 5, a track that led to a freshwater pool which held Blue Winged Teal, Northern Jacana, Purple Gallinule (the Yankee one, not our big purple chicken), Grey Crowned Yellowthroat and Anhinga.
La Ensenada is a superb location, just a shame we didn't have more time to hammer it properly, but we were back on the track Jack and heading back toward the central valley by 1.20pm.
Another heroic drive through the tortuously slow-moving world of the Mack truck by Tropical had us dumping the wheels by 4.30pm.
All that was left to do was enjoy a fabulous chilli steak and many Imperials at the Restaurant Mirador above Alajuela that night before the "red-eye special" flight home from San Jose via transfers at Houston and Newark.
Costa Rica was worth the jetlag tho'....what a country!!
LA ENSENADA LIST:
Blue Crowned Motmot, White Naped Brushfinch, Inca Dove, Common Ground Dove, Green Heron, Western Kingbird, Tropical Kingbird, Panama Flycatcher, Scissor Tailed Flycatcher, Barn Swallow, Wood Stork, Red Eyed Vireo, Black Headed Trogon, Baltimore Oriole, American Redstart, Rufous Tailed Hummingbird, Hudsonian Whimbrel, Black Necked Stilt, Western Sandpiper, Semipalmated Plover, Lesser Yellowlegs, Greater Yellowlegs, Great White Egret, Little Blue Heron, Collared Aracari, Squirrel Cuckoo, Turquoise Browed Motmot, Least Sandpiper, Spotted Sandpiper, Willet, Stilt Sandpiper, White Ibis, Belted Kingfisher, Turkey Vulture, Black Vulture, Osprey, Magnificent Frigatebird, Snail Kite, Plumbeous Kite, Mangrove Hawk, Snowy Plover, Wilson's Plover, Semipalmated Sandpiper, Crested Caracara, Yellow Headed Caracara, Sandwich Tern, Brown Pelican, Hoffman's Woodpecker, Royal Tern, Groove BIlled Ani, Boat Billed Flycatcher, Laughing Gull, Mangrove Swallow, Cinnamon Hummingbird, Streak Backed Oriole, White Throated Magpie Jay, Orange Chinned Parakeet, Blue Winged Teal, Northern Jacana, Purple Gallinule, Anhinga, Snowy Egret, Grey Crowned Yellowthroat, Red Lored Parrot, Rose Throated Becard, Roadside Hawk, White Winged Dove.
Eyes to the skies everyone, eyes to the skies...