New England Coastal BIrds

New England Coastal BIrds

Monday, October 31, 2016

Krausman's Woodcarving Studio 2016 Costa Rica "Pura Vida" Birdcarving Extravaganza!!

                     Pam and Jim Krausman's  Woodcarving Studio's 25th Anniversary-
                                                              Costa Rica!!

     September 29 - October 07 through Oct 14, 2016-   This class/seminar became an inspiration (and a dream of mine) when Jen and I first visited Costa Rica sixteen years ago!

      First, I would like to Thank Everyone who made this Costa Rica Workshop so successful!

   My beautiful wife Jen, for all her hard work behind the scenes scouting locations, and working with Beny in the planning stages during her business visits to Costa Rica. To Pam and Jim for deciding it was time to make this happen, and for your time consuming coordinating with Savegre, Beny and everyone who attended. For our dear friends Beny, Vanessa, and his staff for scheduling the pick-ups, driving and tours flawlessly! To Marino, Felipe, and Rolando Chacon from Savegre, every detail was perfect! To Chef Lorena Chacon and her kitchen/dining room staff.....Magnifico!

    A little History, the idea is born.........Sixteen years ago on our first visit to Costa Rica, Jen and I and our traveling friends Richard and Carole walked out of the Juan Santamaria airport in San Jose into the steamy morning tropical air. We were greeted by our driver Miguel Vinicio Chavarria Umana (aka "Beny") who greeted us with a big pleasant smile, a "Hello" and a handshake! Beny spoke very good English and he was real easy to warm up to! Richard had been to Costa Rica twice before, going deep sea fishing with friends to the fishing town of Quepos on the mid Pacific coast (aka hot and humid)! He and his friends always hired Beny to drive them, and after spending just a few minutes with Beny, I could see why. Jen and I hit off right away with Beny, and we became friends. After eight trips to Costa Rica, Beny and his family are beyond friends to us, they are family!

    On our first trip to Costa Rica, we were interested in seeing the country, experiencing their culture, enjoying their cuisine, but also to experience their beautiful rainforests and cloudforests, and their many species of birds. Even though Costa Rica boasts an incredible list of  915 species of birds, it was the Resplendent Quetzal and Toucans that were mine and Jen's main interest! After reading about them and looking at pictures of them for so long, finally we would experience them in person. Next day, before dawn we were heading up into the Southern highlands of the Cerro de la Muerte (Mountain of the Dead) in the Talamanca Mountains to an elevation of 8,500 ft. This is the area that we will see Quetzals in late September. The drive south (but up the mountain) of the Cerro de la Muerte was breathtaking, incredible views...........

     As we headed farther south along the Pan-American Highway it was like driving through a tunnel in the cloudforest, stunning tropical flora in all directions even better than all the books had illustrated, it was amazing!

         Two and a half hours after leaving San Jose we arrived at a small dirt road which had a small handmade sign at the beginning which read "Mirador de Quetzals" (place with a panoramic view to see Quetzals). We drove down this bumpy gravel road for quite a distance until we came to a closed gate across the road. A short distance through the gate, we arrived at a small Finca (farm) was very beautiful and quite remote. We met the farmer, a young man in his twenties named Carlos Serrano; he was our guide. On his property, Carlos had ten small rustic cabins with plenty of warm blankets.

      After introductions, we all started our hike upwards into the continuing cloudforest along a well used trail. We had just walked a few meters into the forest when Carlos began whistling perfectly tuned Quetzal calls. A little smile came over my face as I thought to myself "OK, lets start calling to amuse the Gringo tourists"! :^) But a magical moment took over as a Quetzal answered him back! But even more surprising, the Quetzal was perched on a large tree limb 6 meters over my head! I looked up to see the Quetzal looking down at me. Right then and there, I was hooked on Costa Rica!

     Carlos spoke very little English, so Beny assisted me. The idea came to me right at that moment to hold a carving seminar at Carlos' place. He had several "rustic" cabins and a small gift shop/restaurant that just might be perfect for a small workshop. We walked with Carlos through the morning, and returned to his house to have breakfast. This was my first ever typical Costa Rican desayuno (breakfast) consisting of scrambled eggs, gallo pinto (typical Tico black beans and rice), plantains, milk cheese and hot chocolate; this is getting better and better!

After discussing the possibilities and details with Carlos about having a carving workshop at his place, we said our good-byes. This is the original entry in my journal that morning.-

 With our week long vacation ended, we were back home in CT, But the thought of that seminar was still in my mind! However, since Carlos didn't speak English, and he didn't have a phone.....that presented a few problems!

     The idea evolves......It wasn't until two years later in late September that Jen and I returned to Costa Rica, and I was still ambitiously pursuing the idea about having a birdcarving seminar in Costa Rica. I even went as far as having flyers printed up advertising this seminar. I really wanted to do this, but logistically. it wasn't coming together, (at least not yet)! Here are the original flyers I had printed up advertising the workshop.-

     Beny drove us back to visit Carlos. However it was raining (it was the rainy season) that morning, but I decided to take a hike with Carlos just the same. Jen did the smart thing and stayed behind with Beny in the warm dry restaurant while Carlos and I took our hike. We walked for an hour and a half in the steady rain, but didn't find one Quetzal. It was a little difficult communicating since Carlos spoke very little English and I only knew a few words of Spanish. When we got back to the restaurant for breakfast, he and Beny had a conversation. Carlos told Beny (who told me) that because of the high altitude of his farm, it is the perfect area for Quetzals to nest. However since Quetzals are attitudinal migrants, the birds head down the slopes right after the young have fledged.

     Carlos suggested a location a little farther to the south about thirty kilometers away that was located in the lower river valley. Quetzals are found there year round, and it was one of the best locations in Costa Rica to see them at any time of the year. The little Mountain Lodge was located along the banks of the Rio Savegre, it was called the Savegre Mountain Lodge. Carlos suggested that when we get there, I should contact Marino Chacon, one of the sons of the founder of the Lodge; Don Efrain Chacon. Carlos also said that Marino is probably Costa Rica's leading expert of the Quetzal and he will guide Jen and I privately. That was incredibly generous of Carlos to offer this information, so off we went!

     We drove south once again on the Pan-American highway heading up and up to a much higher altitude. Beny's little Toyota van/bus struggled a bit, but the high torque diesel engine and low-geared transmission handled it nicely. When we reached the peak of the mountain road, a sign on the right pointed to the Savegre Mountain Lodge 10 km. The road wound quickly downward along the river twisting and turning in sometimes corkscrew sharpness. But the scenery was absolutely breathtaking! After about 20 minutes, there was the Lodge, and it was better than I had pictured it!

     We checked in to our charming room which had a wonderful fireplace! I was quite anxious so I went back to the office and asked if I could hire Marino to take us out for Quetzals. The nice young man at the desk said, absolutely, here he comes. Marino was a very friendly and charming man just a couple years older than I was. When I mentioned that I was interested in Quetzals, he lit up with a robust smile, "let's go"!! :^) We agreed to go out after lunch and we would meet back in the restaurant.

     Since I have been a professional decoy and bird carver for 40 years, most of the carving that I have done in my career is carving and making the early years for waterfowl hunters, and then later for decoy collectors as the price of my decoys increased. I still like to make a few decoys that are used in the field. However this has changed from waterfowl species to now decoys to lure in the birds closer for photography such as Shorebirds, Owls, Songbirds, Seabirds, Alcids and now Tropical Birds! I really enjoy making Toucan, Oropendola, and Quetzal decoys. On this trip to the mountains, I made a male Resplendent Quetzal decoy (as well as a pair of Toucans that would be used in the Caribbean lowlands).  After lunch I met Marino, and showed him my decoys. I could tell by the look on his face that he had never seen anything like this before. He stood there silently holding my Quetzal decoy rolling it over and over in his hands and examining it. He was so proud that I took the time to honor the bird that he loved, their "Sacred Bird of the Mountains" in my art. While he was admiring the decoy, I told him that I wanted to place the decoy in a fruiting tree to see if it would attract the real Quetzal.

     Marino called my Toucan and Quetzal decoys "El fingir queridos" which means "the pretending ones" at first, but then after a little coaching from me, he started calling them "dee-Coyz-a". :^) Marino told me that most of the aguacatillo (little wild avocado) trees were not fruiting.....but he knew of one across the river and up the hill and many "Quetzalli" were coming to it to feed. I looked over as he pointed up the very steep orchard to a small tree near the top (about another 800 feet higher)! Marino wanted me to meet his Father and show him my Quetzal decoy. He walked over to the hermosa casa (beautiful house) near the office and returned a few minutes later with his Father. It was such an honor to meet him, and Senior Chacon, really loved my decoy!! :^)

                               Marino (left) and his Father Senior Don Efrein Chacon (right)

     After a short conversation and a mutual "mucho gusto" handshake, Marino, Beny and I started walking up that very steep hill. The elevation was nearly 8,000 feet. Since I live at nearly sea level in CT, I was doing a little huffing and puffing from the steep walk uphill (Beny was amused by that)! :^) But after 20 minutes, we arrived at the tree. As we got closer, I could see Quetzals coming and going from the tree. I could not reach one of the lower branches.  With Beny's help (I lifted him up a little) we were able to hang my Quetzal decoy.

     Did the decoy work? Well, its hard to say really.....since the birds were coming into the tree anyway. But a beautiful male did land just above the decoy on a large branch.

      When the Quetzal landed it brought a huge smile to my face! This was only enhanced by Marino saying "Look at that Keet, the Quetzalli like your dee-Coya"?? By this point Costa Rica had completely won me over! Since I was standing next to the most renowned Quetzal expert in Costa Rica, with great respect and admiration I wanted to know what he knew about the Quetzal! Marino and I engaged in a wonderful conversation. I was asking him all about the life history of the Quetzal, and Marino was asking me about my art. He said that while he was looking at my decoy hanging in the tree, he started to understand how the natural shape of the bird was "Art within itself" and "How I would take those shapes and find the same shapes in the trees and plants and put them together"! It was an amazing conversation. We stood on that hill for hours talking until it started getting dark. On the walk back down the hill I mentioned to Marino about my ideas for a birdcarving workshop in Costa Rica. Marino was genuinely interested in my ideas about the workshop, but since he had never heard of anything like this before he was fascinated with the concept. He said Savegre would be the perfect place for this art workshop.....and I agreed!

     When Marino and I got back to Savegre's restaurant we met Jen (who was just a bit worried about us returning after dark) :^). The restaurant and Bar area at Savegre at that time was quite small......not nearly enough room to hold a workshop. Beny, Jen and I tried to make the area work, but it was too small. Marino let us know that they were planning a renovation of the Hotel in the near future and it would be much larger. I kept that thought in the back of my mind!

    It's getting closer........ In late September 2014, after three more trips to Savegre over the years, Jen and I were excited to see that the (former) Savegre Mountain Lodge, now known at the Savegre Hotel, Natural Reserve and Spa had expanded, and it was spectacular! The Restaurant area was opened up and quite large. The Bar was now moved to the other side of the building and now included a large comfy lounge with fire pit! But what really got me excited was the outside deck! There was a covered walkway along the backside of the restaurant which led to a large covered outside deck which connected to the Lounge. FANTASTIC! I had now found what I had been searching for in Costa Rica for years.......the absolute perfect location and the perfect set-up to hold my workshop! Ten years earlier, Marino introduced me to his son Felipe. Now he was in charge of the Hotel's operations. When I talked to Felipe on this trip and I told him about my proposed workshop and asked him if Savegre be interested in holding my workshop there? After going over the details, Marino and Felipe were just as excited as I was! Maybe this just might happen!

     Over the last half-dozen years, I have been talking with Pam and Jim about this idea of mine, and they did seem interested. However, I don't think they were ready......just yet! I knew it would be a lot of work and take tremendous dedication, just not yet!

     I kept (pestering)/discussing this with them and although they were warming up to the idea, not ready yet!

     Last year during my June class with them, Pam sat down next to me at lunch and said "Tell me about your ideas for the Costa Rica seminar". "We will be celebrating the Krausman's Woodcarving Studios 25th Anniversary in business next year, and we want to do something really special to celebrate this", "I think we are ready"!!

     This just may now become a reality.......I told Pam and Jim that I envisioned a spectacular workshop/seminar extravaganza where EVERYONE attending would ENJOY as much as possible that Costa Rica had to offer! I didn't want this workshop to be just another same ole'/same ole' workshop where you paint your birds and go home. I wanted everyone to experience and enjoy Costa Rica instead of flying in to paint their birds and then fly home. We would have spectacular day trips including zip-lining, boat tours, birding, hiking, coffee plantation tours, culture tours, etc. Every person attending the workshop would have the freedom to go on these trips if they chose to, and I would get them caught up when they come back to class. I already had the classroom picked-out where everyone would be painting in the outdoors experiencing the weather, temperatures and the surrounding environment. I also wanted everyone to enjoy the typical cuisine of Costa Rica all while we are located in a magnificent remote tropical cloudforest paradise.....what could be better than that!
Since Jen and I have friends/contacts in Costa Rica, and the location was chosen, and the Hotel management was on board, the logistics were less daunting,  Pam and Jim said, "Yes, Let's do it"!

     They asked me which species of bird I would like to teach, and I had a few choices in mind. Since the workshop was going to be held at Savegre, there are a few species of birds that come to mind that are symbolic of the Hotel. Probably the most well-know symbol species of Savegre was the Quetzal! I really wanted to have the Quetzal be the subject bird for the class, but with those long tail streamers and delicate long wing coverts it would be a real problem packing that carving in your suitcase to travel. But the Quetzal is stunning with that iridescent green and blood-red plumage, a real symbol of the Savegre cloudforest. My second choice was a "Quetzal-like" bird called the Collared Trogon. It belongs to the same family as the Quetzal and is equally as brilliantly plumaged. The colors are similar, and also has the added appeal of the barred tail and wing coverts. And what makes it as equally appealing, it shares the same habitat as the Quetzal, often seen feeding side-by-side in the same fruit trees. And.......I have photographed many all around the grounds of the Hotel. Here is a male I photographed in 2014 near the Hotel. What a spectacular bird! Pam and Jim thought it was a stunning bird and great choice. Collared Trogon it is!

     Costa Rica workshop here we come! As I mentioned at the top of this report, it was a ton of hard work by myself, Jen, Pam and Jim to put this workshop/seminar together. It took many hours on the phones with Felipe, Beny, and others to just get it started. Jen did a large amount of leg work with Beny when she was in Costa Rica. Pam and Jim spent hours coordinating on the phones and emails with Beny, Felipe and everyone who would be attending once we advertised this! Beny had to schedule all the pick-ups with his driving staff and also coordinate the day trip locations most of which opened up especially for us since most were closed due to it being the quietest part of their off-season in Costa Rica. My hat goes off to all of them, Thank You!

     Pam and Jim know and understand how I teach painting, the use of a full color palette designed through color harmony and theory, and how to introduce these color fundamentals, dynamics and knowledge to the carved birds.  As in all my seminars/workshops I was going to carry-on with my usual painting style which is to teach art, using a full palette of colors.......just like artist's do when painting on canvas. All the painting I do in my workshops is based purely on art fundamentals and methods of applying color through color theory concepts, not a simple paint-by-number paint application using a few basic colors. That style would just not reflect the vibrant alive colors of this magnificent brightly plumaged bird in its tropical paradise home! And to continue on with the realistic light influenced plumage variations, I will be showing everyone how to paint their birds showcasing the realistic light and shadow variations and effects on its plumage......just as everyone will see and experience from the birds around the Hotel.

   The theme of my workshops and seminars is to paint, and to paint properly and correctly using lots of color!! :^) I design my teaching in a two-part method: 1)- Scientifically, this is accomplished by a complete and total understanding of the chemical, structural and compositional make-up of color and paint, and 2)- Inspirationally- using this color structure knowledge as a foundation but allowing your mind the freedom to administer and apply the paint and colors purely by how you perceive the overall subject.

    In my classes, the students carve their birds ahead of time throughout the year prior to the class. I give a well articulated and detailed step-by-step home carving course which includes many, many  images and very detailed carving instructions that allows the student to carve at their pace free from the pressures of unrealistic regular seminar time-frames and deadlines. For this Trogon class, we would start this immediately which would allow a year or more to complete the carving at home.

          With everything on schedule, the Costa Rica write-up was posted on their website:

  To wrap up our 25th Anniversary Jim and I decided we wanted to do something really special! We mentioned it to Keith and without hesitating he said “Costa Rica”!!! In our continued efforts to bring to you the absolute finest in birdcarving seminars, we are now hosting the most exciting birdcarving experience imaginable…….an amazing birdcarving and nature experience in the magnificent highland cloudforests of Costa Rica! The seminar will be held at the charming Savegre Mountain Hotel ( )…..and who better to teach this tropical birdcarving seminar than Keith Mueller!

Keith and Jen have been to Costa Rica many times and have made many friends there. They have stayed many times at what they consider “one of the most amazing places on earth” the Savegre Mountain Hotel in the mountains of Southern Costa Rica. The Savegre Hotel is a charming Eco-Lodge and is known around the world as the best place in Costa Rica to see the Resplendent Quetzal year round. The bird species Keith selected for this very special class/experience is a male Collared Trogon. The Collared Trogon is also a common bird around the lodge.

Keith has also put together a beautiful five page report on Costa Rica and the Savegre Mountain Hotel including the scenery and birds around the Hotel on his blog: New England Coastal Birds Because this class is so special, the Hotel is offering an incredibly special room rate/pkg for everyone attending. You will be responsible for taking care of your flight arrangements arriving in Costa Rica on October 1st & departing on October 8th. This will give you 6 days of painting. No renting cars- we will have drivers for everything including picking you up & returning you to the airport. Depending on what you take part in, the fee for the drivers & guides will be extra & charged to you at the conclusion of the trip.

The hotel is located three hours south from San Jose in the southern Talamanca Mountain highlands in its remote location along the Savegre River in the magnificent Savegre Valley in the small village of San Gerado de Dota. Savegre is Keith and Jen’s favorite location in Costa Rica. Keith calls Savegre “magical”! “There are no sounds of cars or planes to spoil the natural beauty of this isolated and remote location….you can actually hear the passing clouds brushing up against the moss-covered centuries-old Oak Trees”! Savegre Mountain Hotel is a nature lovers and birder’s paradise, a place to become in tune with nature and natural surroundings. Savegre is known as the best location in Costa Rica to see the stunning Resplendent Quetzal throughout the year, usually with multiple daily sightings. Other species of birds abound at Savegre: Emerald Toucanet, Black Guan, Sulfur-winged Parakeets, Acorn Woodpeckers, Long-tailed Silky-Flycatcher, many beautiful highland Hummingbird species, and the beautiful Collared Trogon, the subject bird for this seminar!

You don’t have to be an artist or a birder to enjoy this beautiful and peaceful location. You and your significant other can also enjoy the Hotel’s charming “remoteness” by relaxing on the outside patio watching the clouds pass through the magnificent highland slopes or getting lost in the Hotel’s Spa! Enjoy and admire the beautiful tropical plants and flowers at the Hotel’s tropical gardens full of butterflies. Take leisurely walks along the many trails that are located throughout the area leading along the river and creeks filled with Rainbow Trout, or meandering through the thick and lush tropical forest where the trees are laden with colorful bromeliads and orchids, or winding through the higher elevation virgin Oak Forest Reserve. The walk along the gravel and dirt road leading to the Hotel is amazing….with incredible views, and great birding! Bring your cameras! Also the highlands mean no snakes, mosquitoes, or biting insects……well, there are a few honey bees and wasps flying around! :^) 

Keith and Jen’s friend Beny who has a driving service called “American Service” will pick everyone up at the airport in San Jose and bring you up to the Hotel and back to the airport at the end of the seminar. (Although rental cars are available, Keith doesn’t recommend renting one). Beny will also be available (with advanced notification) for the spouses for sight-seeing, adventure or shopping. There are many things to do, see and experience in Costa Rica, and Jen will accompany and help guide everyone on the day trips. The possibilities are endless including one of the most popular activities: “zip-lining”!! There are many locations for zip-lining in Costa Rica, but the best location for zip-lining which is highly recommended by Beny is Turu Ba Ri Nature and Adventure Park ( ). This is also shown on Keith’s blog……although Keith chickened out with the zip-line! :^) Because of the remote location of Savegre Hotel, traveling time to San Jose, Turu Ba Ri, and other locations are three to four hours driving time. A few “day-trip” suggestions from Keith and Jen include: starting your day at the Turu Ba Ri zip-lines and/or comfy cable tram in Orotina. After enjoying the hair-raising zip-lines head over to the beautiful small town park in Orotina center and search the trees for the resident pair of Black and White Owls and Two-toed Sloths that make the small park home. Since Orotina is the mango capital of Costa Rica, stop at one of the many fruit stands and enjoy some fresh local fruit and refreshments. From there head down to the coast along the shores of the Gulf of Nicoya. Stop at the souvenir and gift shops and enjoy the local crafts and gifts.

 These gift shops are right before the bridge over the Rio Tarcoles. Walk out the sidewalks on the bridge and look below! There you will find the Nation’s largest Crocodiles basking in the sun on the mud flats just fifty feet below you. These enormous Crocodiles are nearly 18 feet long, amazing!! But keep your ears and eyes open….this stretch of highway is one of the best locations in Costa Rica to see wild flocks of Scarlet Macaws that fly overhead and also stop to feed in the many Almendro trees that line the road along the beach…..this is truly an amazing sight to see and experience. This area can also be seen on my blog. If time allows, and since you are in the area of the Tarcoles River, a ride on the Crocodile Tour boat might be a good way to end the day: ( ).
Another day trip suggestion: Spend the day in the San Jose area. Shopping in San Jose is quite diversified from jewelry to local art, to just about anything you can imagine. One of the small art shops that Keith and Jen usually go to when in Costa Rica is Galaria Namu ( ). This is a wonderful little shop featuring native Costa Rican art and crafts. Keith collects Brunka Masks and this is the shop where they purchase them and this shop stocks the best made masks in Costa Rica. A trip to the National Museum should be on your list: ( ). On the outskirts of San Jose is a wonderful zoo called Zoo Ave (not Zoo Avenue, but “Bird Zoo”) ( ) . A tour of a Coffee Plantation is a must!
A “third” day of touring/sightseeing in the Cartago/Turrialba areas could include a visit to the National Monument at Guyabo ( ) which is Costa Rica’s “Mayan-type early Spanish civilization ruins. How about white water rafting on the Rio Turrialba? The possibilities are endless & you can customize them to your specific interests! A complete list of sight-seeing, cultural and other activities will be furnished later.

How does this seminar work? It’s easy! The species Keith selected for this seminar will be a beautifully shimmering male Collared Trogon, a bird that is common to the Savegre Hotel area and one that should be readily seen during the seminar. The male Trogon will be perched on a small moss-covered branch highlighted by a few orchid leaves all recreated in tupelo. The seminar will be six days and take place in early October 2016. This bird will be painted in acrylics featuring iridescent colors. As in all of Keith’s classes, you will carve the bird in advance at home under Keith’s instructions and bring the completed carved and textured bird with you to Costa Rica. The painting sessions will be four-five hours a day allowing you plenty of “down-time” to enjoy this beautiful place. Since the seminar will be a relaxed and spontaneous format, even the class time painting can be adjusted to offset the weather or sight-seeing or day trip adventure requests. All paints will be furnished by us so you won’t need to bring any with you. You can bring your brushes with you, or we will have some available at the seminar. That’s it, it’s that easy!
If you are interested in birding, Keith’s plan is to start at dawn for a brisk morning birding walk near the grounds of the hotel.

 Legendary birding and Naturalist guide Marino Chacon (one of the family owners of the Hotel) will be available for custom birding hikes throughout the week. Marino is Keith’s friend and Keith considers Marino not only an expert on the Resplendent Quetzal, but the best guide in Costa Rica. His knowledge of birds, the environment and conservation is unmatched. The first few hours of the morning is when the birds are most active offering the most productive birding. Around 8:00 am, we will all return to the hotel for breakfast. After breakfast, we will start painting. But Marino will be available for the spouses and will lead you through the cloud forest explaining all about the birds, trees, plants and this magnificent eco-system. When you have a chance….ask Marino how the Savegre Mountain Hotel came to be. You will be fascinated with that story!

This will be an amazing bird carving event and experience like no other! Come join us for this most unique and amazing bird carving experience!

     With an exited and robust initial sign-up, we had half-filled the class in just half an a very short period of time, the class was full! Twenty-five names appeared on the list which more than doubled with spouses and significant others, and friends added to the list! With the list secured, the dates settled and the subject bird established, we are on our way to Costa Rica for early Oct. 2016!

     The detailed step-by-step carving lessons for the subject Trogon bird began through internet connections. Every two weeks an additional set of images and instructions arrived to continue the carving process.............

      .....the carving slowly started to take shape.......

        ...........soon, the details were added to the roughly-shaped bird.

           Finally, the feather details and stoned textures were added......

         .......leading the way to the finishing wood burning.

           After nearly a year, over 1500 detailed carving images, and over 100 pages of instructions, the Collared Trogon carvings were ready to be sealed/primed and Grisaille steps added. The birds are ready for Costa Rica!

          COSTA RICA!!!!!  Day One- Thursday, September 29, 2016-  After a long year of carving instructions, phone calls, emails, leg work and just about anything else we could imagine, we are on our way to Costa Rica! Jen and I coming from Hartford, Pam and Jim coming from Michigan met up in Atlanta and are now on the jet ready to take off for Juan Santamaria airport in San Jose, Costa Rica........or were we? For the last two weeks, the Turrialba Volcano has been erupting and spewing ash which has been causing a few problems in Costa of them being that San Jose was covered with a layer of volcanic ash which caused them to close the airport! Normally the Volcano is not a problem, but because of the building Hurricane in the south Caribbean, the winds had shifted to the east. Because of these unusual winds, and San Jose being due West of the Volcano, the plume of ash was drifting perfectly on line towards San Jose.

     The week before we were scheduled to leave we watched the Costa Rican weather closely, and seeing the airport closed was not a pleasant sight. In fact Delta had cancelled all their flights which continued a few days later. Even though the airport was re-opened, Delta was still not flying into San Jose. The volcano continued to erupt and Delta continued to cancel and reschedule flights. As the days grew closer to the time when we were scheduled to leave, we were all very concerned......but something inside kept telling me it would be OK. The volcano continued to erupt, but the winds changed to a southerly direction making the ash blow northward and away from the airport.......phew!! :^) Jen wasn't too concerned, she had been in Costa Rica a few months earlier for business when the Turrialba Volcano started its eruption cycle. Here is an image she took as the Volcano just started erupting-

      Our flight was scheduled to leave from Atlanta at 10:00 am (EST) and was scheduled to arrive in Costa Rica at 11:59 am (CST) which was around a 4 hour flight from Atlanta. All four of us were flying first class and were lucky enough to have the entire front row. I was on the aisle seat which gave me a good view into the cockpit before they closed the doors. As the flight crew was making its final preparations just before we were ready to taxi down the runway.....I saw the Captain unbuckle his seat belt! Oh no, that's not a good sign! Than those ominous words came over the pa system from the Captain.....the flight is being delayed for two hours! The Turrialba Volcano is angry again this morning, there is ash on the runway in San Jose! Which made it even worse......"We don't have any information on the condition of the runways or if they are cleaning it up"!! Everyone was allowed to disembark the plane for an hour and a half or stay on, it was our choice.

     Since we have a few connections in Costa Rica, Jen and I called Beny! :^) He lives in San Jose and he can go check and see what the condition was! After a half an hour Beny's un-official report came back to us in a phone ash on the ground or in the air. The winds shifted again from the south and the sky was clear! What a relief! A few minutes earlier, there was talk from the attendants that Delta may cancel the flight! When we told the attendants (tongue-in-cheek) that our connection in San Jose gave us the all clear sign, they laughed a little and said they would pass on the info to the Captain. Maybe a little fun coincidence, but just after that around 12:15 pm , the Captain came back into the Jet, back into the cockpit and I saw him buckle-up his seat belt! Wow, that was a big relief! The announcement came that the airport was open, and we were on our way! Now we could all relax!

     Within fifteen minutes were were in the air!


       Around 2;00 pm, we descended out of the thick cloud cover, and looking out the window there was that beautiful sight: Costa Rica!

       Our jet landed just before 2:15 pm, now all we have to do is get our (many) bags and through the lines at customs! We were able to get our bags quickly at the baggage claim and even though the lines were long at the customs booths, we made it through in good time. When we walked outside into the warm afternoon sun, there was our friend Beny! It was so great to see him again!

     Did I mention that we had a lot of bags? Since we were packed for two weeks in Costa Rica which included supplies for an art class, cameras and photography equipment, and of course I had to have a bunch of decoys with me.........we had a dozen suitcases and a half dozen handbags and computer cases between us! The vehicles in Costa Rica are small to mid-size which presented a little problem for space for all this luggage and us! Plus we were going to pick up four others (and their suitcases) that were already in Costa Rica. Beny (as always) had it worked out........Beny's Mom Carmen was going to join us and use her Mitsubishi Montero for all the luggage!

     During the luggage gathering we commandeered a very nice porter who probably didn't know what he was getting in to especially when Beny told him to get two carts! When he saw all the suitcases, he smiled and told Beny "Pura vida" (aka not a problem, everything is OK)! In the airport parking garage we met Beny's wife Vanessa, their daughter Amanda and their son Miguel. When all the suitcases were loaded in Carmen's SUV, we all piled in the two vehicles and off we went. At that point I think we all let out a big sigh of relief, we were now on our way to Savegre! The first stop was to a nearby Boutique Hotel to pick up Sam and Judy, and Sam's Sister Karen and Brother-in-Law Dave. Sam is a faithful student and friend of mine and has attended many of my seminars at Pam and Jim's. Dave and Karen came for a little vacation since this would be their first time to Costa Rica. Within fifteen minutes we had picked them up and only one last stop: Walmart for personal supplies and all the supplies for the seminar.

     After a half-hour of shopping at Walmart, and our suitcases and our supplies "packed" into the two vehicles.....we were on our way to the small and very remote southern mountain village of San Gerado de Dota and the Savegre Hotel about two and a half hour drive.!

     Along the way we enjoyed the beautiful sights in San Jose from the stores, shops and haciendas. Jim and I smartly unpacked our camera bags and  readied our Canon cameras with the 100 to 400 mm zoom lens' because I wanted to teach him the fine art of drive-by-photography! I learned through all my trips to Costa Rica that a good photo-op could be just about anywhere! And for me, it is certainly drive-by-bird photography! In the cities here in the US, you will find large populations of Pigeons, Starlings, English Sparrows and a few other species. In San Jose, that large bird population is made up of mostly of Crimson-fronted Parakeets, Orange-chinned Parakeets, White-crowned Parrot, and  occasional Mealy or Red-lored Amazon Parrots! And that is just what we found along the ride.......

                Crimson-fronted Parakeets land in a Palm Tree while we are stopped at a traffic light.

      We all talked about the Turrialba Volcano and how close we came to not making it today to Costa Rica.  While we were driving Beny pointed out the window to show us the erupting Volcano way off in the distance.-

     About an hour later we had passed through the outskirts of Cartago (the former Capitol city of Costa Rica) and are starting to climb the steep mountains on the Pan-American Highway. Beny's bus climbed forever upwards and into the clouds. With the cities behind us, the mountainous cloudforest views were breathtaking!

     If the flight had not been delayed by two hours we would have made it to Savegre about 3:30 pm which would have given all of a little time to check in, take a walk around the place and Jim and I a chance to take some pictures. The road to Savegre is as I described it above: a long, windy, curvy and descending mountain road that follows the Rio Savegre. The views are nothing less than spectacular, and the birding can be exceptional along that road. Unfortunately, we arrived at the Savegre road turnoff at dark, so no sightseeing or birding today!

     After about a twenty minute ride we arrived at Savegre..........this was very exciting! We made it......Volcano and all. I was so glad to be back, Costa Rica is one of my favorite places to be. For me, it consumes me with  a very profound sense of endless inspiration and ignites my creativity. I have always told everyone that the rainforests and cloudforests are paintings, sculptures and carvings with every new step and in every direction you look! I hoped that Pam and Jim and the others would love it too! We checked in, brought our luggage to our rooms, and met back at the restaurant for dinner.

          Savegre has always had outstanding food; both "typical" Tico cuisine and American favorites! Their menu always includes fresh native Trout, Chicken, fresh vegetables and fruit, gallo pinto, salad bar and an amazing desert table! This year the food was beyond exceptional with the addition of a new head chef. After a wonderful dinner and great conversation, it was time to turn was a long day made longer by the added Volcano drama!! :^) Beny's daughter Amanda ( now a Doctor) and his Mother Carmen had to go back to San Jose. Everyone else would be arriving in Costa Rica in a few days. Beny and his staff of drivers would be picking up and bring everyone to Savegre in three shifts.

                                      Buenas nochas, nos vemos manana mis amigos!

      (From left to right) Vanessa (chief of Operations), Dr. Amanda, Beny, and his Mother Carmen

         Back in the rooms, time to unpack, light a fire in the fireplace, take a shower, and zzzzzzzzz!
As always, I made a bunch of decoys to bring with me. I wanted to place them in the trees where we were having our outdoor workshop. Hopefully they would create some interesting reactionary interactions with the birds, and to also decorate the workshop area. The decoys were also available for sale to anyone attending the seminar for a memento souvenir of the Krausman's Costa Rican adventure or also to the ones that have a collection of my work. I made species that were very common in the area around the Hotel: a male resplendent Quetzal with an aguacatillo fruit in its gape), an Emerald Toucanet, a pair of Long-tailed Silky-Flycatchers, a Costa Rican Pygmy Owl, a Mottled Owl, a male Collared Trogan and a Barred Forest-Falcon with an Acorn Woodpecker prey.

       Traveling with fragile wood carved birds and decoys is always a concern of mine....especially with those "gentle" baggage handlers. Since I was also packing my decorative Trogon class bird, paints, books, paint brushes, journals, and much more, I use a hard covered suitcase to transport the decoys safely. I painted a pair of Toucans to make it more recognizable on the baggage claim conveyor!

     Time to turn in, a busy day tomorrow! Buenas nochas!.................

         On a map of Costa Rica; showing the locations of the Juan Santamaria airport in San Jose (red arrow) and the Savegre Hotel in San Gerado de Dota (blue arrow).

     Day 2, Friday, September 30, 2016- The class started Sunday morning. A few people would be arriving late tonight, but most everyone would be here on Saturday afternoon. Today and tomorrow morning would offer us an opportunity to enjoy this beautiful mountain paradise, and do a little birding, walking and photography. After a (much needed) good night sleep, and I being anxious (as usual) to greet the new day just before dawn, Jen and I were up and out before the sun was! In that last half hour before dawn it is a good time to listen for Pygmy and Mottled Owls, Dusky Nightjars and Pauraque. However this morning the air was quiet, but the morning was glorious! Jen and I walked down the trail behind the cabins which followed the river. On our last visit to Savegre two years ago, the trees behind the cabins were laden with ripe fruit of several species including aguacatillo (little wild avocado) one of the favorite food sources of the Resplendent Quetzal. And these trees were being visited by hungry Quetzals and Emerald Toucanets. Since we arrived last night after dark, Jen and I weren't able to scout out the area for ripe aguacatillo and Quetzals. I was hoping that we could find a group of feeding Quetzals to show everyone when they arrived at Savegre.

    A short time into our walk on the trail, it started getting light as the sun was peeking over the tops of the high peaks surrounding the Savegre Valley. Just after dawn is a good time to locate Quetzals by calling them. Quetzals become very active just after dawn when the sun is starting to brighten the valley and of course, the fruit trees. Jen and I were standing on the trail and I started moth calling the soft melancholy sounds of its mating-type call. Just after I stopped the short procession of calls, I got an answer! The female's call came from a distance down the hill by the river. Jen looked at me and whispered "A female answered you"! I called again with a short grouping of calls, and the female answered me again, but now much closer! Jen pointed to an area a little farther down the trail. We slowly walked down and around the curve of the trail. I called once more, and suddenly the rushing of wings and the rapid-fire calls of a departing Quetzal. The female Quetzal had flown into a tree within twenty feet of us, and we never saw it. We did however see it when it flew out of the tree a few yards in front of us! That was exciting! Jen said, "At least we know they are here"!

   We walked down to the cloudforest/waterfall trail which follows a rolling stream. At the beginning of this trail is a small arbor which is encrusted with a mat of twisting vines and flowers. Under this small arbor, Jen spotted a Scintillant Hummingbird feeding on the small flowers. Suddenly the Hummingbird landed on a leaf. We looked closer and discovered that this leaf was its nest. The nest was tiny, about the size of half a brussel sprout. This is the first Scintillant Hummingbird nest we have ever seen.

      It was getting close to 6:00 am which is when we agreed to meet Pam and Jim, Sam and Judy and Dave and Karen. Jen and I were nearly back to the cabins to meet everyone. We started looking in the trees that usually hold Quetzals, and sure enough, Jen spotted one! A beautiful adult male with a fairly long set of covert plumes. It was perched high in the upper branches of a tree with small violet-colored fruits. At least we have one here to show everybody!

      Suddenly, I caught a movement in the trees over my head....another one! This was a fledgling male in flight grabbing a fruit from the branches and then flying back to its perch to digest.

       And then another young male flew into the trees.......that made three!-

      These three males were soon joined by two different females......that made five! We hurried back to meet the others who were just starting to assemble at the meeting point. We excitedly told them of the five Quetzals and we all went back to see and enjoy them!

      While we were enjoying and photographing the Quetzals, other local and very common species few in and out of the trees with the Quetzals including:

                                                          Spot-crowned Woodcreeper

                                         Clay-colored Robin/Thrush -Costa Rica's National bird

                                                       Long-tailed Silky-Flycatcher

                                      Hairy Woodpecker (Costa Rican subspecies)

                                                                   Acorn Woodpecker

     After enjoying the Quetzals for quite some time, we all took a walk down the trail which led to the cloudforest/waterfall trail. For me, this is a spectacular winds uphill along a stream through a classic montane cloudforest lush with tropical vegetation. Its spectacular!


                 The trees festooned with brightly-colored Bromeliads and exotic species of Orchids-

     After a nice and refreshing walk along the cloudforest trail, we were all starting the get a little hungry.............we all headed back to the Hotel around 8:00 am for breakfast.

    The Tico breakfast featuring, papaya, pineapple, mango, eggs, gallo pinto, plantains, cheese and coffee was delicious made especially delicious by the fresh air, the morning walk, and of course the excitement of seeing five Quetzals behind cabin #141! We had a wonderful time, it was so wonderful  being here at Savegre! After breakfast, Felipe Chacon arrived and he was very welcoming! We discussed the seminar and walked out to the outside deck where I wanted to have the was perfect!

    Pam, Jim, Jen and I started planning the class and making sure all our paint and supplies were in order. I was really excited, I couldn't wait! With every detail in order, we all took a walk in the beautiful gardens of the Hotel......very peaceful and tranquil.-

        And we saw a few new common birds that also were enjoying the gardens-

                                                              Boat-billed Flycatcher

                      Many species of Hummingbirds including this Magnificent Hummingbird

                                                                   Blue-gray Tanager

                                                                  Slaty Flowerpiercer

                                                            Flame-colored Tanager

     After lunch I suggested we take a ride up the Savegre road so everyone could see and enjoy the spectacular scenery that they couldn't see last night in the dark. We could also do a little "road birding" while Beny drove us up and down the road-

                 Beautiful views along the Savegre road following the Savegre River!-

     Since we were enjoying a nice ride on the ten kilometer long Savegre road, I started looking for aguacatillo trees (Ocotea, Nectandra, Persea, Cinnamoniam, Phoebe, etc. species) with ripe fruits. This of course would mean a chance for hungry Quetzals and Toucanets. Everywhere I looked on both sides of the road I did find many aguacatillo trees, but unfortunately the fruits were only starting and far from being ripe. I learned from Marino that often these trees are only fruiting every five or six years....and some even longer. Many of the aguacatillo trees we had visited in the past with ripe fruit were either not fruiting or in the early stages of fruiting such as this nectandra tree which was fruiting six years ago when I was there.-

This Ocotea tree which was next to the outside deck where we would have our class was two or three months away from being ripe-

        These are fully ripe Ocotea aguacatillo fruits showing the comparative size between these and the image above showing early development fruit.-

 Later when we were getting ready for dinner, Felipe asked me where my carvings were? I laughed and said that they were still packed in my suitcase in my cabin....he just smiled and said "Well. I would like to look at them"! :^) When I placed them out on the table, Felipe immediately reached for my Quetzal! At a nearby table two Costa Rican birding guides that were at the Hotel leading a birding group came over to the table full of my decoys. They really admired them. One of the guides spoke English and he asked me about them. He was fascinated by not only the decoys/carvings themselves, but also how my decoys and carvings are being used by Ornithologists in Costa Rica for their studies. He also liked the Royal Flycatcher decoy which I made for another Ornithologist/birding guide in Costa Rica. (Felipe left)

      After a short time, Felipe said he was going to call his Father, (and my friend) Marino who had just arrived at the Hotel. A few minutes later Marino walked into the restaurant and after a warm and friendly hug, I introduced him to everyone. It was good to see him again, He was talking with everyone and offering his usual warm and friendly welcome, but he was  a little distracted by my decoys that were spread out on the table. He also reached over and picked up the Quetzal decoy! :^) Honestly, I figured he would.....Quetzals had a very special place in his heart! Marino introduced us to his younger Brother Rolando, the General Manager of the Hotel. Rolando picked up my Barred Forest Falcon decoy....he later told me he likes Hawks.

                                                    Rolando (left), Marino (right)

         Marino told us all a little history about the Quetzal, and as always he is charming and fascinating.....we listened to him for quite a while. Shortly after, he said Good-bye and would see us tomorrow. Since it was the end of the rainy season, as usual, the clouds would move in in the afternoons and it would start raining.-

     We enjoyed our dinner and talked for a while..........

    ........... and then decided to sit in the lounge by the fire pit to continue our conversations over drinks, cappuccino and hot chocolate.

           Several people were scheduled to arrive very late tonight so Pam and Jen were going to wait up for them......Jim and I and everyone else turned in for the night!

                Krausman's 25th Anniversary Costa Rica "Pura Vida" Birdcarving Extravaganza continues with Day 3, Saturday, Oct 01, 2016.........just click on "Older Posts" below right>