During my time in Costa Rica I saw many different bird species however, one species, in particular, stood out to me – the Ornate Hawk Eagle. This bird did not only stand out because of its beauty but, because of the journey that had to be made to see it. The Journey started when our class was staying at Heliconias lodge for just two days. The main purpose of this location was for my class to find some of the rarer species like the White Fronted Nunbird that could be found in that area. However, after the first day of hiking, we saw very little bird species. This disappointed some students because Heliconias was the first place we had visited where we did not see a wide variety of bird species on our hikes.
The next morning our guide talked to some of the local guides who worked at the lodge. The local guides told our tour guide the general location of where we could find a pair of Ornate Hawk Eagles who were currently raising a fledgling. Shortly after our guide came to us and said that this afternoon would be our last hike at Heliconias but, he didn’t prepare us for what came next. When the time of the hike came, we did not know what bird we were going after; only that we were looking for a bird’s nest. We began hiking on the trails when suddenly our guide just veered off into the forest telling us to follow him. This was the first time we had hiked off a beaten trail into the forest and some students were not prepared for it. The amount of slick leaves along with the mud and thick undergrowth made traversing the hillsides very difficult; especially for the students wearing tennis shoes and shorts.
After, hiking about 40 minutes in the forest where countless people had fallen and gotten muddy, we came to a spot where our guide told us to wait. After 10 minutes our guide came back and told us to follow him very quietly because he had located the nest. Finally, our guide told us what bird we would be seeing through the spotting scope he had set up for us on a little outcropping from the hill. However, we were advised that the outcropping was just big enough for 1 person at a time and that the path to it was very narrow; slipping would have resulted in falling off the hill into the ravine below. Once to the scope, I could see this beautiful white Ornate Hawk Eagle Fledgling. Luckily, I was able to quickly snap a few pictures through the spotting scope with my phone. This was because we only got one chance to look at the fledging before we had to move up the hill to allow the person behind us to see it. Overall, Heliconias did not provide many bird species for us but the ones it did provide were very memorable.