DIY Birding (and more) in Costa Rica 2003
February 14th - March 7th 2003
For CC Costa Rica had been a dream destination for many years. After many trips to Southern Europe, Turkey and North Africa, in which birdwatching has featured strongly, this was the first trip for both of us outside the Western Palearctic area. We considered using a professional birding tour company, as we were fortunate enough to have a reasonable and flexible budget, but decided that we might both be essentially anti-social and so the idea of spending such a long period in the company of other birders could be too much. We have nothing against organised tours and know many people who have had excellent holidays of this nature, and we?re sure that had we had constant access to professional guides, we would have seen more species than we did, however, we wanted to do it ourselves. There seem to be limited resources covering DIY holidays to Costa Rica from a Northern European perspective, so hopefully this will be of some help to anybody considering something similar.
Our budget, from UK airport hotel to UK airport hotel was £6200. We actually spent about 90% of this. However we stayed in some good quality accommodation throughout the holiday and had 13 days car hire with full insurance cover and two internal flights. You could do it for much less. We saw a great deal of accommodation in Costa Rica in the $20 - $30 (prices are usually in US dollars, per room, often with breakfast) range and lots of the establishments looked quite nice.
Major expenditure was as follows:
Flights - KLM/Martinair - Heathrow - Amsterdam - Miami - San Jose return x 2 - £1060 inclusive.
Booked about 10 months in advance, but prices didn?t see to change much. Could have flown direct to either Houston or Miami from Heathrow for a few hundred pounds more, but these were the cheapest flights we found.
Le Meridien Hotel, Heathrow - 2 nights accommodation (including an executive suite upgrade one night!) and up to 28 nights parking for £210 - a real bargain in an upmarket, if rather ?corporate? hotel. We will definitely stay there again.
Hire car - Daihatsu Terios 4x4 for 13 days - about £640
5 nights at Delfin Amor, Bahia Drake, including 2 pelagic trips and a guided walk in the Corcovado National Park - about £920
2 nights in the 'Matrimonial suite' at the Arenal Lodge Hotel, with a bottle of overpriced Cava (the Moet & Chandon was about 5 times the price you would pay in the UK) - about £300.
We decided to book some of our accommodation in advance, having identified a number of locations we wanted to visit from other trip reports, guide books etc. but also decided to leave some time towards the end of the holiday unplanned. We also decided to visit Tortuguero and Delfin Amor (about which more later) back to back, early in the holiday, as both places were roadless, therefore meaning that we had been in Costa Rica for 9 nights before we needed a car.
We used a travel agent in San Jose called Selva Mar to book several items for us, as they were recommended by Delfin Amor (I think Delfin Amor now offer this service themselves) and found them quite helpful. They booked us a package to Tortuguero, including transfer from San Jose, flights from Tortuguero to Bahia Drake and arranged our car rental, including pick up. They also overcharged us for one item and promptly refunded this when it was pointed out.
Everything else we arranged for ourselves, mostly over the internet. The main inconvenience was the requirement of many places to have a faxed signature with credit card details for pre-payment or deposit/security. This may be a legal requirement in Costa Rica.
Some useful tips
We took a pocket dictation machine with us for field notes, knowing that we would see a lot of birds whose families would be unfamiliar and which we might have difficulty identifying. This turned out to be much more useful than expected and I would guess that our evening sessions replaying our recordings and checking what we'd seen against the field guide resulted in us successfully identifying some 30 to 50 species that we might otherwise have missed. In some areas, particularly Tortuguero and Bahia, the climate and humidity are rather hard on paper. Of course it?s difficult to do field sketches on magnetic media.
If you're planning a pelagic trip, take the highest spf sun cream you can find. The staff at Delfin Amor use factor 35, and they're out in it all the time. High factor protection is also a good idea at altitude.
Take some insect repellent - those containing Deet are reckoned to be the most effective, but don't worry unduly about bugs. We didn't use the repellent very often, and were amazed to find that it was unnecessary in places like Delfin Amor, where we sat out each night for several hours, and Corcovado.
Telescopes - we took one each and with the tripod for the camera as well, this meant a fair bit of weight to carry around. We used the 'scopes around the soccer field at Delfin Amor, at Tarcoles, both for the crocodiles and around the river mouth/Tarcol Lodge area and at Palo Verde. We also used them to observe the lava flows at El Arenal, but apart from that, they were dead-weight most of the time. If we were to repeat the trip, then probably one 'scope with tripod would be enough.
Left Heathrow at about 06:30 - arrived San Jose about 22 hours later (just after dark). Easily found our taxi (arranged by the hotel) and drove for about 90 minutes to the Orosi Lodge, near Paraiso. The trip can be much shorter than this but we hit the Friday evening rush hour, which was worsened by lots of traffic going into the city for St. Valentine's night.
We chose Orosi Lodge because it was not too far from the airport, but well away from the urban sprawl of the Valle Central. We would definitely recommend this to other birdwatchers as an alternative to a San Jose or airport hotel, for the simple reason that there are birds here. On top of that, the owners are very pleasant and the cabinas extremely attractive. Despite the long journey, we had enough energy to get a meal in Orosi village and on the walk back heard a bird calling from inside the little thermal resort which adjoins the lodge, which we decided might be a nightjar species, probably Common Pauraque.
Orosi Lodge - Irazu Volcano - Tapanti National Park
Waking up just before dawn here was a magical experience which perhaps can only happen once to a birdwatcher. CC was probably woken by the very first bird calls, but a few minutes later there were large numbers of birds from a number of different species making a lot of noise - and none of them sounded anything like birds we had heard before. Daylight arrived quickly and CC stepped out onto the balcony. Despite an honourable intention of being lazy and sleeping ?til lunch time, JD soon joined him and we identified our first bird in a new continent - appropriately Costa Rica?s national bird, Clay-coloured Robin. We then spent a long time identifying Great Kiskadee, a pair of which were visiting the Lodge?s Garden and our third bird was one of our target species, a stunning male Snowy Cotinga, in the trees in the thermal resort.
After a pleasant breakfast we decided to take a walk in the village, noting the similarity of some of the local hirundines to Sand Martins and spotting a few more common species as we walked. On the main street we bumped into an American ornithology student who was studying in the area. He confirmed our Common Pauraque and the likelihood of Snowy Cotinga, and spotted a flock of White-crowned Parrots and then took us back up the street to the junction with the road to Orosi Lodge and showed us a Green-breasted Mango on a nest, on the telegraph wires. We had walked right past it.
Arranging a hire car for a day in Orosi had proved difficult so the Lodge arranged a taxi for us, as we wanted to visit the Irazu Volcano, Costa Rica?s highest. Carlos arrived with his pick-up at 9 a.m. and took us around for the rest of the day, probably for less than the cost of a day's car rental.
On the drive up the volcano, as we passed through the Cartago/Paraiso area we saw our 19th species (ignoring a few that got away) and the first one that was even vaguely familiar - a Black-shouldered Kite.
The summit of the volcano is over 3400 metres above sea level and the road goes right to the top. CC was surprised to experience some symptoms of altitude sickness (slight shortness of breath, mild headache), despite having spent many hours in the gym concentrating on cardio-vascular equipment in the preceding months. 20-a-day JD was unaffected. We had hoped to find Volcano Junco here but were disappointed. However, Volcano Hummingbird, Scintillant Hummingbird and Yellow-billed Cacique were quite easy to find (mostly in the vegetation at the back of the area overlooking the crater lake), although Sooty-capped Bush-Tanager took some work before we were certain of its identification.
NB - the air at this altitude is very clear. Use high-factor sun block and wear a hat. CC didn?t and got sunburn on the top of his head.
After the drive down we invited Carlos to have lunch with us. He understood that we were interested in birds and took us through Orosi, on the road to Tapanti National Park, to the Albergue de Montana, situated in a delightful riverside spot. On Carlos? recommendation we ordered the trout (delicious) and then noticed that the restaurant had a bird table. Although it was frequently deserted, the table had some excellent visitors, with Blue Grey, Red-rumped and Silver-throated Tanagers and a Buff-throated Saltator all present together, and a Chestnut-headed Oropendula visiting several times.
With only a couple of hours of daylight left, Carlos then drove us to the Tapanti National Park and agreed to wait until we returned. We followed the main track and then the Sendero Oropendula. Although there weren?t many birds about, what we did identify was good quality, with a Black Guan, a Violet-headed Hummingbird, a probable female Black-throated Green Warbler and best of all a Scaled Antpitta. By the time we got back to the car it had been dark for 20 minutes and we had been accompanied by hundreds of fireflies. On the drive back to Orosi Lodge, Carlos caught two nightjars on the road, in his headlights. One was clearly Common Pauraque but the second appeared smaller and showed no obvious white on wings or tail when flushed. It remains a mystery.
Orosi to Tortuguero
It?s worth mentioning at this point that much of rural Costa Rica lives by the sun. At this latitude, sunrise is usually around 6 a.m. and sunset 6 p.m. People get up early and most activity finishes around sunset. People eat and then go to bed. The Valle Central and parts of the Caribbean coast seem more inclined to night life, as do the self-contained tourist resorts. This lifestyle will probably suit most visiting birdwatchers because it means that most of the available daylight can be utilised. So, we had an early start, being picked up by taxi at Orosi Lodge at 5 a.m., stopping in Cartago for a cash machine (all non-functional!) and then going to the Hampton Inn near the airport to get our coach to Tortuguero.
The coach belonged to the Laguna Lodge, where we were staying and we were met by Daniel Hernandez who was to be our guide for the duration of our stay in Tortuguero. Typically for lodges like Laguna, a package including meals and tours is bookable. Our view is that this represents good value for money, especially if you get a guide as proficient as Daniel.
The coach drove out of San Jose, through the Braullio Carillo National Park and across the Caribbean lowlands before we transferred to a boat at the village of Cano Negro. We saw a few birds from the coach, including Grey-breasted Swallow at Siquerres, were we stopped to pick up some more Laguna Lodge clients, and Pink-Billed Seedfinch near the banana plantation 'town' of Carmen Uno. A couple of odd looking grackles were almost certainly Nicaraguan Grackles and Daniel spotted a Laughing Falcon in a tree. New species were seen quite quickly from the boat, with the highlight being a Common Potoo. In addition to the birds we saw Three-toed Sloth, Spider Monkey, Howler Monkeys, Long-nosed Bats, Emerald Basilisk, Green Vine Snake and several Blue Morpho butterflies.
Laguna Lodge is attractively situated on the narrow strip of land between the Tortuguero 'canal' and the sea. It is well laid out, with plenty of large trees and open areas, including an open air butterfly garden.
There is a good patch of woodland to the north of the lodge's grounds and the area is well worth a few hours attention. Highlights included several tanagers, Slaty-tailed Trogon, Long-tailed Woodcreeper and Yellow Warbler. Common birds included several heron species, with close up views of Yellow-crowned Night Heron and lots of Brown Pelicans and Magnificent Frigatebirds overhead. The beach is worth checking for waders - Sanderlings and a Grey Plover made us feel at home, although the coconuts on the sand didn?t remind us of Norfolk!
In the evening, walking around the grounds we found a Crab-eating Racoon and a large Bullfrog, near the swimming pool.
Tortuguero River and National Park
After a pleasant early breakfast we were straight into the boat and out on the river. Good birds appeared almost immediately, with Amazon and Ringed Kingfishers. A pair of toucans in a riverside tree turned out to be one of each - both Keel-billed and Chestnut Mandibled. Daniel picked out a distant Summer Tanager, and then found a Great Potoo. Mealy Parrot, Cinnamon Woodpecker, White-necked Puffbird and Grey-necked Wood Rail were all identified and good close up views of a couple of Bare-necked Tiger Herons were enjoyed. A Tropical River Otter catching shrimps from a raft of Water Hyacinths didn?t notice our approach.
Back to the Lodge for lunch and a stroll round the gardens, were we found an immature Black Hawk Eagle right outside our cabina and several Collared Aracaris nearby, and then we were out in the boat again, exploring a different part of the park. More kingfishers (4 species on the day) were found and Daniel located Purple-throated Fruitcrow and Plain Brown Woodcreeper. JD's sharp eyes noticed some movement on the forest floor which turned out to be a pair of Great Curassows and a Tayra (a large member of the weasel family) was surprised as we drifted down a quiet backwater.
We returned to the Lodge for a 'rest' and found White-collared Manakins and Common Tody Flycatchers in the butterfly garden, whilst the Black Hawk Eagle by our cabina had been supplanted by a stunning male American Redstart.
Also seen during the day were Green Iguana, Brown Vine Snake and Howler Monkey (all Laguna Lodge), Three-toed Sloth, Spectacled Caiman and Black River Turtle. On the second boat trip, whilst manoeuvring to get a better view of a juvenile Anhinga we came face to face with a troop of White-faced Capuchin Monkeys, one of which was so surprised to see us it almost fell into the boat.
Tortuguero - Bahia Drake (Delfin Amor)
Another early start saw us arrive at the Tortuguero airstrip at about 7 a.m. for the short flight to San Jose, before transferring to a plane to Bahia Drake. Internal flights are quite inexpensive and also rather good fun. The airstrip at Tortuguero is just that. There are no buildings and the only ?infrastructure? appeared to be three traffic cones. The flights allowed some excellent views, although the hour wait at the San Jose airport (not the international airport at Alajuela) was rather dull. We were also running very low on cash, not having been near a bank with a working cash machine for days. Needless to say there are no banks or exchange facilities at the airport. Fortunately, credit cards are accepted widely.
When we arrived at Bahia Drake airfield a pair of Scarlet Macaws flew past as we stepped down from the 'plane and we realised that our plans had come unstuck. Although this was much the closest airfield to Delfin Amor, we had wanted to arrive via Palmar Sur, to take the boat transfer from Sierpe. We had been booked on a flight to Bahia Drake in error. There were a couple of vehicles waiting to pick up the half-dozen or so tourists on the flight and luckily one of the tourists was on his way to Delfin Amor, so we hitched a ride with them.
There are no roads to Delfin Amor, so we were dropped off at the small village of Agujitas were we had to take off our boots and socks to get into the Delfin Amor boat.
What to say about Delfin Amor? Firstly, we chose it because we were impressed by their website and the evidence of the conservation work that they are doing - they are working towards having an international marine reserve set up in the area. They cannot be described as inexpensive, but they did offer the chance to get quite a long way off-shore, which in turn might mean seeing birds that would not be encountered inshore, and they project a philosophy which seems geared to preserving the ecology and the beauty of the area.
That said, birds are by no means the number one priority at Delfin Amor. Pride of place goes to cetaceans and it is whales and dolphins that most people come for. This is where things get a little tricky. CC and JD do not describe themselves as 'spiritual' - indeed we might admit to having the coldest, darkest souls imaginable. Dolphins attract people who are enthused by the spiritual links between man and dolphin and who feel 'connected' in some way.
Swimming with dolphins is their reason for being here, but they get something out of this experience which is beyond our comprehension. This has a definite downside, because it seems to create something of an elite at Delfin Amor (you?re either ?in?, or you?re not) and has some rather interesting side effects. To our pragmatic or cynical minds we saw a big discrepancy between what was being preached and what was practised, particularly by some of the more spiritual guests, who would happily promote sharing, oneness, respect and similar concepts but forgot all of that as soon as the first dolphin was spotted, when they didn?t mind who they stood on or in front of to ensure that they got a good view.
As we've said, spirituality is not our thing, so our opinions are probably coloured by this, and it would be unfair to suggest that we had anything other than a marvellous time at Delfin Amor. What they are doing is worthy of the support of anyone who has an interest in wildlife. The lodge has a beautiful setting and although quite costly represents real value for money. The cabinas are comfortable and surrounded by forest. The food is superb - vegetarian (including lots of fresh fish) and a trip there should be unforgettable. If you can leave your cynicism at home, you might become converted, and of course not all the other guests will have psychic connections to Flipper. More about this later.
After installing ourselves in our cabina and enjoying lunch, we took a stroll south along the 'main road' - a track suitable for people and horses which follows the coast. After about 10 minutes we arrived at a school with a soccer pitch, were we spent a few hours over the next few days, as it seemed to be rather productive for birds. Hoffman's Woodpeckers were always present, in a couple of palm trees near the northern goal posts. Yellow-headed Caracara was also here pretty much all the time. Other species identified in the area included Red-legged Honeycreeper, Golden Olive Woodpecker, Black-hooded Antshrike, Smoky Brown Woodpecker, Chestnut-backed Antbird, Yellow-throated Vireo and Black-and-White Warbler, some of which were in deeper cover, along the path either side of the school.
Pelagic trip, Bahia Drake
After breakfast we boarded the boat for a full day on the Pacific. We headed rapidly out to sea and saw very few birds initially. There were pelicans and frigatebirds inshore and a few Laughing Gulls, with the occasional Brown Booby (this turned out to be the most frequently seen species on the two trips we enjoyed). The first item of note was an Olive Ridley Turtle which seem unperturbed by the boat. Roy, the Delfin Amor biologist confidently identified a passing gull as Bonaparte's. If the Costa Rican birders 'bible' is to believed, this may have been an exceptional record, but the book is well in need of a major revision and the species status may have changed. Our best observation was that the bird somehow 'felt different' to the Laughing Gulls we had seen, causing us to look more carefully at it as it passed.
Our next encounter was with a small group of Pan-tropical Spotted Dolphins, which gave us the chance to find out if Delfin Amor's claims to put the animals? interests foremost were genuine. After watching the dolphins for a short while, Roy's assessment was that they were resting and should not be disturbed, so we moved on.
The boat is a fast one, so observing birds whilst in motion was difficult, however that was not much of a problem because for quite a long time there were no birds to see. However after we lost sight of land we started to see a few shearwaters and probable skuas, but we were moving too quickly to identify them.
Our next stop was for a large (c500) pod of Common Dolphins. We watched them for a while but they showed no interest in the boat and soon moved off.
Shortly afterwards we crossed the path of a pod of Bottlenosed Dolphins. These came close to the boat and showed no signs of moving off so Roy agreed that it would be a good time to get in the water. We?d bought snorkels and masks for our stay on Bahia Drake, so now seemed a good time to use them.
It is undeniable that swimming in the same water as wild dolphins is exciting. The Pacific at 8 degrees north is warm and crystal clear. The pod again numbered about 500 and it seemed as though there were cetaceans all around, in family groups of up to a dozen or so, with adults, juveniles and very small infants. With one's head underwater it was possible to hear the clicks and squeaks that these animals use to communicate with each other.
After some 20 minutes the Bottlenoses moved off slowly and we got back into the boat and followed them. Some dolphins rode the bow wave, although we were not travelling quickly and Roy decided that we could try to get in the water again. Just as we were getting in, the pilot shouted 'Pilotas' and we noticed some smaller, black fins in the water ahead.
Although separated by about 50 metres of water, JD and CC had very similar experiences in the next few minutes.
After moving away from the boat we looked around to see where the nearest fins were - according to the Delfin Amor staff, in a group of dolphins about 10% will be on the surface at any time - some of the black fins were a short distance away so using our face masks we looked under the water to be confronted by a wall of black - a large group of Pilot Whales swimming perhaps 20 abreast and maybe 3 or four layers deep, heading straight for us. As these mammals weigh up to four tons and might reach 6 metres in length, and were swimming so that they were touching each other with few gaps between them, this was quite a daunting sight, but we couldn?t get out of their way so just remained still in the water and the whales parted to avoid us.
Behind this first group were more Pilot Whales - the pod was estimated as being about 1000 strong - and they were travelling slowly so for the next 30 minutes or so we were able to swim alongside or behind them at very close quarters. An exhilarating experience.
On returning to the boat, we followed the Pilotas for some distance, at low speeds so as not to disturb them, and during this time we were able to get a better look at the birds which had appeared in the area. Wedge-tailed Shearwaters kept well away from the boat and took some work to identify, and some darker shearwaters were even harder to get a good look at, but Pomarine Skuas were quite numerous and much easier to be certain of. There where quite a few terns about and we were happy that some of them were Black Terns but were unable to identify the paler species - possibly Sandwich Terns - that we saw. Pride of place, however, went to two separate birds which were reminiscent of the Great Skuas we get off the coast of Europe. Fortunately we had been looking at the field guide to check on the Pomarine Skuas and had looked at South Polar Skua at the same time, because this is what these birds were, with pale heads and no extended tail feathers.
Apart from the above, a couple of Sailfish leaping high out of the ocean were the only other sightings of note.
Delfin Amor south to Rio Clara
We had no tours booked this day and were therefore at liberty to explore. After watching the morning vulture exodus (hundreds of Black Vultures roost in and around the grounds of Delfin Amor) and identifying a Long-tailed Hermit from the breakfast table, we set off to walk south towards Rio Clara. The short walk took over two hours because of frequent stops for birdwatching.
Although birds were not particularly numerous, the variety was good, with pigeons and doves, Whimbrel and Lesser Yellowlegs, Chestnut-backed Antbird, Smoky-brown and Lineated Woodpecker, warblers, honeycreepers and others. Scarlet Macaws were seen at close quarters in several places. After wading across the Rio Clara, we found a man with canoes for hire, so we took a paddle up the river, which has a very gentle current and after only a short distance has the feel of being completely remote and isolated, with nothing but steep, forested hillsides and the river itself. Amazon and Ringed Kingfishers were seen frequently and both Northern Waterthrush and Buff-rumped Warbler were common, although the latter species proved difficult to match to the field guide description, possibly because the buff on the rump appeared bright yellow in the strong sunlight and it was only when we saw more of these birds in the Corcovado National Park the following day that we were certain of what we?d seen.
After an enjoyable and cooling swim in the river, CC managed to break the little toe on his right foot, whilst climbing on the rocks. Painful but fortunately trivial enough to not create too many problems later in the holiday.
Corcovado National Park
A boat trip south saw us arrive at the National Park quite early with our guide for our day, Lucia, also known as ?the bat lady? because of her ongoing studies. Sadly we didn?t see huge numbers of birds on our two walks in the park, although there were several good species (Black-throated Trogon, Rufous Piha, Wedge-billed Woodcreeper) but the park itself is beautiful and there is plenty of other wildlife. We saw a couple of Agoutis and the three large species of monkey and then followed a Coati which had been running along the beach, into the forest, where we found a large family group, lounging about and playing in the trees. Talamancan Dart Frogs and several types of lizards added to the interest.
We had a break for a swim in a river, whilst a fresh coconut was prepared for a quick snack (Lucia is a an expert on all things wild and edible in the forest), overlooked by a Bare-throated Tiger Heron.
In the afternoon we followed a stream inland and had another refreshing swim in a pool beneath a small cataract. The boat trip to and from the park took us close to some rocky islets where Magnificent Frigatebirds were resting.
Our second trip out to sea was a completely different experience to the first. The weather had changed, with the clear blue skies and calm seas being replaced by overcast conditions and a grey, choppy ocean. None of the terns and skuas (apart from a single Pomarine) that we?d seen on the previous trip were present, but as on the first day the first cetaceans we saw was a small group of Spotted Dolphins. After an hour or so when the main items of interest were the large numbers of flying fish, which were reminiscent of flocks of small waders flying over the waves, CC sighted a large flock of birds a couple of miles away. These appeared to be fishing, so we headed towards them. As we got closer we could see that the water was boiling with activity. The birds, a pod of Spinner Dolphins and a large number of Yellowfin Tuna had found a shoal of ?sardines?. For the next few hours we were in the company of hundreds of dolphins and fish (the tuna are huge and frequently jump 10 feet clear of the water) including the occasional sailfish and marlin, and lots of birds. The Spinners are so called because they twist around when they leap out of the water and they were living up to their name. The boobies, like gannets, dive with wings folded in pursuit of prey, the shearwaters are less dramatic but came within feet of the boat if it was over the sardine shoal, allowing us to confirm that the darker species we'd seen on the earlier trip were, as we?d suspected, Sooty Shearwaters. Mixed in with the Brown Boobies were occasional adult and juvenile Red-footed Boobies.
On return to land we took a short walk north from Delfin Amor, where a troop of White-faced Capuchins were threatening havoc around the kitchen, and found a couple of Plain Xenops and Orange-billed Sparrows.
Incidentally, we were told by a knowledgeable French guest at Delfin Amor that Blue-footed Boobies had been seen on the trip to Cano Island the day before and that staff/helpers at Delfin Amor claimed that Black-capped Petrels were frequently seen on pelagics. Just about everyone staying there also saw Humpback Whales during our stay, but we were unlucky.
So do we recommend this place or not. Quite simply, yes. They deserve our cash if it helps them to realise their aim of the creation of a marine conservation area. You might have to suspend your cynicism a little, or bite your lip, if you don?t share the spirituality of some of your companions, but you might find the experience rewarding.
And the interaction of dolphins and man - we didn?t really see any, which was contrary to the claims of some of the people we were with. Our view is that you will get more from a dog, or indeed a baby three-toed sloth than from a cetacean. We felt that their reactions to us fell into one of three categories - complete disinterest, mild but short lived curiosity and possibly dislike - some species departing very quickly. A few wanted to use the boat?s bow wave as a playground and that was the limit of interaction that we observed. Plenty of people will disagree with us and our observation is limited two day trips and who knows, in a few years time a dolphin might just tell everyone how wrong we are.
Delfin Amor to Punta Leona
We left Delfin Amor in the morning and took a boat over the sea and then up river to Sierpe, where we were to pick up our hire car. This all went very smoothly and the hire company that Selva Mar had made the arrangements with had a representative ready to meet us. The river trip was quite fast, but we added White Ibis to our list. However there were plenty of birds around Sierpe, which had a rather rakish charm. We identified Lesser Swallow-tailed Swift but didn?t have time to study several other hirundine species that were around, as we had offered a ride to one of the Delfin Amor guests who was leaving that day.
We drove the coast road to our next stop, Punta Leona near the Carara National Park. The road is good in places, poor in others, although no problem for a high wheel-base vehicle, and passes through some pretty countryside.
Crested Caracaras where quite easy to see, with several observed from the car. Just north of Quepos a small pool/flooded area had a variety of water birds including a single Roseate Spoonbill and a few Blue-winged Teal. Scaled Pigeon was also seen in this area.
We checked in at the Punta Leona Resort, which was considerably different to our last stop. Upon check-in we were given charming pink bracelets to wear, to allow the security ?team? to establish our right to be there. The resort is very much the North American idea of a self-contained unit and it is easy to be critical, but the rooms are comfortable and well appointed and if the resort?s claims for itself are to believed there seems to be a commitment to conserving the environment in which it the hotel is located - although presumably some of it suffered when the place was built.
With only a couple of hours of daylight left we took the short drive to Tarcoles Bridge, famous for its American Crocodiles. There were about 25-30 in the area, most of them an impressive 4-6 metres long.
Birds flying down-river looked like MotMots, presumably going to roost, but despite there being large numbers of them we couldn?t seem to get a decent view of any.
Driving back to Punta Leona, along the long track from the main security gate we caught a nightjar species in the headlights. When flushed this bird flew down the road in front of us for a while. It showed little or no white in the wings and only a small amount in the tail and wasn?t at all like the Common Pauraque we?d seen previously. Whip-poor-will seems the most likely candidate, but this is described as a 'casual to very rare' winter visitor in the field guide.
Walking to the bar later on we crossed the path of a pair of racoons which were cautious but not unduly concerned by our proximity.
Carara National Park and Tarcoles
We started off with a short walk around the grounds near to our apartment in Punta Leona. There were plenty of birds around and we had fun identifying Rufous-naped Wren, Streaked Flycatcher, Buff-throated Woodcreeper, Northern (Baltimore) Oriole and Rose-Fronted Becard. A hummingbird was almost certainly Red-footed Plumeleteer, although this does not appear on the resort?s bird list and was out of range as per Stiles and Skutch.
A quick visit to the Tarcoles bridge (closest parking to the Mangrove Lagoon Trail) produced Orchard Oriole and an Osprey, then we walked along the road to the trail, having paid for entry to the park at the main office.
The Mangrove Lagoon trail (formerly called La Vigilancia) starts about a ? mile south of the bridge. Just inside the entrance to the trail, on the left, was an area where a fallen tree had produced a small clearing, which was becoming overgrown. This small area held a large number of birds, including Black-tailed Flycatcher, Black-striped Woodcreeper and Prothonatory Warbler. A Violet Sabrewing was highly visible. Stiles & Skutch describe this as a bird of higher altitudes, sometimes descending to 1300 feet, but the reserve is probably only a few feet above sea-level. Interestingly the bird list at Punta Leona, at a similar altitude, also includes this species.
Lineated Woodpeckers were using a hole in a dead tree near the start of the first real clearing and White-shouldered Tanagers and Scarlet Macaws were seen along with Ctenosaurs (a large lizard) and Coatis.
The temperature rose significantly during the morning and we turned back before reaching the end of the trail. We had foolishly taken only a litre of water and we were beginning to feel rather dehydrated by the time we got back to the car.
The afternoon saw us stopping for a cold drink in the village of Tarcoles before spending some time around the river estuary. White-throated Magpie Jay and Willett were soon added to our list and a passing birdwatcher pointed out a Pacific Screech Owl in a tree in the grounds of the building opposite the Tarcol Lodge. We picked up our scopes and joined another birder who was studying the wetland and mud visible from the same area. A variety of waders and herons were seen along with huge numbers of Brown Pelicans (over 1000) and a few raptors. The birder, who was from Finland, had seen several Mississippi Kites and a flock of Black Skimmers. We were quite keen to see the latter, which he thought might have landed around the bend in the river, downstream, so we found our way down to the beach, back through the village, and tried to get a view of them. We didn?t find the but did get some good close-ups of Willett along the shore and watched an Osprey fishing (successfully) in the ocean.
Punta Leona - Palo Verde
We wanted to spend some time on the Palo Verde reserve in the drier north-western part of Costa Rica. The best way to do this seemed to be to stay at the OTS station on the reserve itself. We had been able to reserve beds over the internet (they are available for visitors if not already booked for researchers) with 3 meals per day and one half-day guided tour for $50 per night each. Accommodation is spartan but clean, with bunk beds and shared cold showers, and the food is excellent, served communally just after dark. There is very little alternative accommodation in the area, so this would seem to be the best option for a visit.
We had found out about a reliable site for roosting Black and White Owls in Orotina, which was a small detour en route and also decided to visit the shrimp ponds at Chomes. For the owls, if approaching Orotina from the south, turn left when you see the metal tracks which cross the road and find the town park. In the centre of the park is a bandstand and the owls were in one of the two largest trees in the park, about 20 feet up. We were pleased to find a two-toed sloth in the other large tree. If you can?t find them, then ask around - apparently the man who runs the kiosk across the road is always pleased to point them out.
Chomes is down a side road off the Inter-Americana. The road is in poor condition and it is quite a slow drive. We arrived there at midday and the sun was intensely strong, to the extent that we feared burning if we stayed out in it for any length of time. We decided not to explore this area, which looked to have potential. It would be more appropriate to an early morning or late afternoon visit.
The road to Palo Verde from Bagaces leaves the south side of the village. There is a reasonable sign for the reserve and a kiosk on the corner. The road is mostly a rough track but it is not too difficult to drive, and there are good birds to be seen. Three kilometres from Bagaces we were pleased to find an American Kestrel in a tree set back from the road, and we noted several White-throated Magpie Jays. By the school (Escuela Falconia) we found a Red-winged Blackbird and at about 14 kilometres from the junction we found both Orange-fronted Parakeet and White-fronted Parrot.
We arrived at Palo Verde just before sunset which gave us time to admire the thousands of Black-bellied Whistling ducks and several Limpkins (although we didn?t identify the latter until the following day, having assumed initially that they were juvenile ibises).
As dark descended we sat outside the dining room watching a dozen or so Howler Monkeys settling down for the night and the bats which were just waking up.
The Howler Monkeys awoke just before us. No alarm clock is necessary when Howler Monkeys are waking up 20 yards from your bedroom and they even drowned out the calls of the Whistling Ducks which had been active all night.
One of Palo Verde?s claims to fame is its population of the endangered Jabiru and we hoped to see some on our morning guided walk. We followed the Guayacan trail through the forest and quickly found a Collared Forest Falcon - a quite spectacular bird. Further on a group of at least 5 hummingbirds were feeding in a tree top. Both genders were present and everything about them said Magnificent Hummingbird, except their location at less than 100 metres asl. Magnificent Hummingbird is a species of the highlands. We saw several more examples of this species in more suitable habitat later in the holiday and were struck by their similarity to these birds, however correspondence with a US hummingbird expert has led us to believe that we were actually seeing Scaly Breasted Hummingbirds.
Our guide wanted to show us Jabiru in a spot where he?d seen the first thing in the morning, but they had moved on, but a scan over the extensive marsh produced lots of interesting birds in huge numbers, including three ibis species and lots of Roseate Spoonbills. In fact Palo Verde held the largest concentration of birds that we saw in the whole country.
In the late morning, by which time the temperature was rising sharply, we took a drive along some of the reserve?s trails, finding our way to the Rio Tempisque. Bird activity was minimal so we retreated to the relative cool of the shaded frontage of the reserve office, where we sat for a couple of hours drinking 'Tropical Mora' (blackberry) juice and watching a group of White-faced Capuchins.
In the late afternoon, as the intensity of the sun reduced, birds started to appear again and we spent some time watching the tree in front of the office, which attracted Streak-backed Oriole, White-fronted Magpie Jay, Mangrove Cuckoo and Turquoise-browed Motmot. This latter bird posed obligingly for photographs.
Our guide in the morning had recommended a spot for Muscovy Duck, another of our target species but had warned that we wouldn?t see the until after 4 p.m. On the way to this location we were pleased to see a Gray Hawk sitting in a tree a few yards back from the trail. The ducks themselves were easy to see, as they were returning to roosting sites in trees in a marshy area.
NOTE - as this is a research station, it has no formal facilities, so if you plan to enjoy a night-cap or two, then take your own beer, wine or spirits. You'll almost certainly find someone to share them with. Soft drinks and water are available.
Palo Verde to Arenal Lodge
An early morning stroll around the reserve centre added Yellow-naped Parrot, Rufous and White Wren, Bronzy Hermit and Ferruginous Pygmy Owl to our list and after breakfast we set off for El Arenal. This is a long but pleasant drive, although the road along the north side of Lago de Arenal is in poor condition.
On the road to Bagaces we found a roadside Scissor-tailed Flycatcher, another target species and then we drove through to Lago de Arenal were we stopped to watch a gorgeous American Swallow-tailed Kite - yet another target. At this point there were several small birds in dense roadside foliage. Yellow-tailed Oriole was easy to identify along with Lineated Woodpecker and several common tanagers. A small vireo like bird with a very distinct white eye ring and no white wing bars defeated us. There was nothing in the book like it, and we were flipping through the vireos, warblers and flycatchers whilst watching it. We were about to give up on it (in truth we had given up on a number of vireos and flycatchers over the preceding few days) when we glanced at the final plate of 'Hypothetical Species and Recent Editions' in Stiles and Skutch. At the top of the page was a bird which looked exactly like the bird we were looking at - Nashville Warbler.
The trouble is that up to 1989 there had only been two records of this species in Costa Rica and in many years of birdwatching the nearest that either of us has found to a rarity was a Rough-legged Buzzard in Norfolk. Nonetheless the bird gave every appearance of being Nashville Warbler at the time and the field notes we had taken before we suspected what it was supported this.
Further along the lake road we recorded our 200th species, White-collared Seedeater.
We missed the turn-off for Arenal Lodge, which is just to the west of the dam and stopped at the eastern end of the dam, where we watched another pair of Yellow-tailed Orioles. We then drove the 20 or so minutes to La Fortuna where we had an inexcusably large lunch in Luigi's Pizza Restaurant.
We decided to check in at the hotel, which meant driving back to the dam. The lodge is situated on a terrace well above the lake with an uninterrupted view of El Arenal Volcano. Access is along an extremely steep but well made 2.5 kilometre track. As we had been roughing it at Palo Verde we had reserved the Matrimonial Suite at the lodge. This was actually a large bungalow with an enormous bed, a hot tub and a large picture window looking straight out to the volcano over a small pond. Not cheap but very comfortable and really quite good value for money.
We returned to La Fortuna in the afternoon for a bit of shopping, as this was really the first proper settlement we had seen since Orosi (ignoring 30 minutes in Orotina and a few places passed through on the road). In the late afternoon we ended up on a road next to the river that flows past the supermarket in La Fortuna (turn right where the road becomes impassable because of a one-way system, then left at the bottom and park near the bridge with the railed off pedestrian crossing). There were lots of birds here and we spent a couple of hours over the two evenings that we stayed in the area. Highlights included Fasciated Tiger Heron, Orchard Oriole, Grayish Saltator, Buff-throated Saltator, Louisiana Waterthrush, Bay-headed Tanager, Gray-capped Flycatcher and Black-faced Grosbeak. All of these were seen in the hundred or so metres either side of the Rio Burio, between two bridges. There is a bullring on the other side of the river and if you find this you are in the right area. We watched a Rufous-tailed Hummingbird for several minutes trying to feed at all the blue painted rivets in the walls of the bullring.
Arenal Lodge/La Fortuna
The first bird of the day was a Rufous-tailed Hummingbird which we could watch without getting out of bed. A large kingfisher further down the garden prompted us to set up the scopes and we were able to confirm our first impression that this was in fact Belted Kingfisher, the only one of the trip, and not a bad 'garden tick'.
Breakfast was included with the room so we went down to the restaurant where we found several bird tables well stocked with fruit. These were constantly visited by the commoner tanagers and new birds included Palm Tanager and Scarlet Tanager. An American Swallow-tailed Kite drifted past whilst we demolished our omelettes.
The hotel has a trail which started behind our suite, so we set off on an early morning stroll. We descended to the first mirador and shortly below it took a track left which headed towards a well wooded stream. For the next couple of hours we covered about 150 metres of track and had some of the most exciting birdwatching that we?d ever had. Birds seemed to be everywhere and our first interesting species was a Crested Guan which stayed for the whole time we were in the area, about 30 feet up in the canopy. Crimson-collared Tanager, Common Bush Tanager, both Jacamar species, Green Hermit, White-breasted Wood Wren, Buff-rumped Warbler and both Black-headed and Buff-throated Saltators all put in appearances. A White Hawk drifted overhead whilst a Keel-billed Toucan crashed about in the tree tops. Finally we spent about 15 minutes watching a breathtaking pair of Golden-winged Warblers - a species that Stiles and Skutch really does not do justice to.
We spent the afternoon at the Tabacon Resort, messing about in the absurdly hot volcanically heated pools, with the volcano itself rumbling and smoking just above. We found a Black Phoebe here but not much else.
In the evening the view across to the volcano was fairly clear, unlike the night before, and we set up our scopes on our patio and spent an hour or so watching lava flows and huge glowing boulders rushing down the mountainside.
Arenal Lodge to Monteverde
Around the suite we finally got a good look at the wren which we had seen several times over the preceding days foraging around the entrance to the hotel reception. Unsurprisingly it was a House Wren. A couple of White-throated Shrike Tanagers were hanging around ?our? pool and we also saw Black-cowled and Northern (Baltimore) Oriole, and Brown-capped Tyrannulet before breakfast. A similar range of tanagers were at the bird tables but a visit from a Tayra, which tried unsuccessfully to climb the bird table poles, was unexpected. One bird which caught our eye was assumed to be an aberrant Clay-coloured Robin. It was mainly like the others present, with a pale bill, but it had a distinct division between the breast, which was the normal dull brown and the belly which was much paler. It was a little like Pale-vented Robin although the paler belly was much more extensive.
We set off early for the drive to Monteverde - a short distance on the map, but several hours in the car. On the road along Lago De Arenal we added Bronzed Cowbird and Yellow-faced Grassquit to the tally. We had expected the road to Monteverde to be poor, but after taking a wrong turn in Quebrada Grande CC found himself on a very steep track uncertain if he would be able to stop. The car was brought to a halt by purposely stalling it, then eased down the last 40 feet very carefully. The roads to Monteverde are poor, but everywhere at least two cars wide, usually more. If you end up on something narrower, you might have missed a signpost.
We had been unable to book our first choice accommodation, Finca Valverde, before leaving for Costa Rica, so we booked ourselves into the Arco Iris Lodge in Santa Elena (both locations can easily be found on the internet). They had no single bedroom accommodation left so for an extra $5, at a very reasonable $65 per night, we had a two-bedroomed cabina. There are birds in the grounds (Squirrel Cuckoo, Emerald Toucanet, Brown Jay, White-throated Robin, Keel-billed Toucan, Blue-crowned Motmot), which are pleasantly laid out and the buffet breakfasts are very good indeed. Highly recommended.
After booking in we drove up to the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve to book a walk for the following morning and then spent some time at the famous Hummingbird Gallery, just outside the reserve entrance.
Hummingbirds in Stiles and Skutch - this book is excellent in many respects, but the hummingbird plates are not one of them. Clearly it is very difficult to reproduce the iridescent colours of these birds on paper, but most species only merit one illustration and the poses used suggest that the illustrator had not seen these birds in life. We had to work very hard with the large numbers of hummingbirds at the gallery to identify most species. Violet Sabrewings were easy, and Magenta-throated Woodstars not too bad once the description of their hovering mode was checked, but we took some time to identify Green-crowned Brilliants, and Purple-throated Mountain Gems.
Exciting visitors to the feeders about half an hour before sunset were a pair of Olingos, a relative of the Kinkajou and about a metre long. These had apparently been coming to feed at the hanging feeders for some weeks and a professional wildlife photographer was waiting (for the 3rd afternoon in succession) to get a decent shot of this seldom seen and normally nocturnal creature. Unfortunately as soon as they arrived at the feeders, most of the tourists present rushed closer to them to try to get their own photographs. Strangely this frightened them off and I doubt that anyone got a decent shot. The birdwatchers present had remained still and would certainly have had prolonged close up views had everyone else followed suit. If nothing else, this episode gave us the chance to get an insight into how this sort of event is experienced by ?the ordinary tourist?. One member of a group of a group of English speakers asked what it what and their 'expert' proclaimed rather loudly 'It's a common thing like a squirrel, called a Coati Mundo. There are lots around here.' Sadly this seemed to satisfy them all.
We decided to take a Twilight Walk - there are several available in the area. We saw another Black Guan, identified by the guide as a Chachalaca, and roosting Slate-throated Redstart and Fork-tailed Emerald. These latter seemed undisturbed by our presence but we were uncertain about the wisdom of shining torches on sleeping birds. We also encountered several Orange-kneed Tarantulas and a few Agoutis
An early start saw us at the entrance to the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve where we watched a brief video about the history of the reserve and its importance as a conservation site. Returning outside we found a Coati loafing around the picnic tables and a pair of Orange-bellied Trogons, which were easily photographed. Apparently they are often to be seen in this area, having realised that there is a plentiful and accessible supply of insects that are attracted during the night to the visitor centre lights. This was also the 250th species of the trip, which meant that we had reached our original goal.
There were surprisingly few birds around for the first half hour, when we looked for Quetzals in an area they had been feeding in recent days, but JD saw some movement just off the path which turned out to be one of the birds we really wanted to see, Black-faced Solitaire. Actually these were unexpectedly common, being seen in ones and twos on quite a few occasions during the day. A number of interesting species were seen over the next few hours, with highlights including Bare-shanked Screech Owl, a brace each of wrens and woodcreepers and some superb views of beautiful Golden-browed Chlorophonias from the suspension bridge, where they were building a nest within a few feet of the passing tourists, and presenting an opportunity for some photographs.
Another known Quetzal site was tried and CC spotted a female whilst the rest of the party had gone ahead to the target tree. There was a male in this tree but it flew away soon after we arrived and was only seen in flight by JD and CC.
After the walk we returned to the Hummingbird Gallery, where new species included White-tailed Emerald, Coppery-headed Emerald and possible Plain-capped Starthroat.
Driving back to Monteverde in the early afternoon we stopped near the Cheese Factory to have a look at the river and the pine trees by the roadside. The only bird of note was a small warbler-like bird which was showing quite well about 15-20 feet up in the conifers. From the illustrations we were convinced that this was a male Hermit Warbler but Stiles and Skutch describe this as 'Very rare migrant' on the plate. Coupled with the Nashville Warbler from a few days previous, this was beginning to sound a little suspect, however we turned to the main description and noted that the bird is seen 'mostly' in foliage of conifers, especially 'Guatemalan Cypress' and 'several sightings at Monteverde'. Further research on return to the UK revealed that a Hermit Warbler had been seen in the conifers by the Cheese Factory in the winter of 2001/2002, which gave us even more confidence in our identification, although there are actually few confusion species.
Monteverde to Cerro De Muerte
After breakfast we followed the 'cemetery' walk described in 'A Travel and Site Guide to Birds of Costa Rica' by Sekerak and Conger. For the first 10 minutes we saw virtually nothing but then as we passed the Clinic we heard a loud and extraordinary call. We felt sure that this was the 'bonk' of the
Three-wattled Bellbird, although it didn?t have the accompanying whistle. Unfortunately the call was coming from the wrong side of a tall tree, behind a house, in a farmyard. We shuffled around for a while, unsure of the protocol (or the guard dogs) when a voice asked 'Have you seen him yet?'. When we said we thought it might be a Bellbird, the speaker, who said she was an ornithological guide on her way to pick up her clients, confirmed that it was and suggested that it would be OK to enter the farm. We spotted the farmer and were able to ask for permission, which was readily given and found the bird quickly. It shared the tree with a Blue-crowned Motmot, an Emerald Toucanet, a Keel-billed Toucan and a Masked Tityra.
More birds were seen on the rest of the walk, with Yellow-throated Euphonia, Rufous-capped Warbler and a Grey-crowned Yellowthroat, looking rather more robust than the textbook illustration, being additions to our list.
We set off for Cerro De Muerte before lunchtime and stopped for a while at the bridge on the Monteverde side of Guacimal, where we saw our second Broad-winged Hawk and our first Social Flycatchers, although these may have been overlooked.
The drive to Cerro De Muerte was long and made longer by a detour back to Punta Leona, where we thought we had left our fleece jackets (a wasted 90 minutes!) and passed through San Jose, which is motoring hell. We may have missed an important signpost, because we ended up driving in heavy traffic through built up areas, but after several detours and abortive attempts we found our way out on the Cartago side and started the long climb into the mountains. Incidentally, our exit from San Jose was made easier when we found a bus bound for Cartago, which was on our route, and followed it for several kilometres.
The drive into the mountains was quite surprising. It was not as bleak as we?d expected, although frequently foggy, and the road was actually well maintained. There are several sodas and restaurants along the route and shops at the village of Empalme, an easy 10 kms from our hotel.
We had failed to contact the Savegre Mountain Lodge, which looked rather nice on its website, so ?phoned ahead to the Albergue Montana de Tapanti, recommended in Sekerak and Conger. The owners have changed and the couple who have taken the hotel over were unaware of (but delighted by) their inclusion in the book. The rooms, especially the newer bungalows, are spacious and well maintained and the meals although limited in choice are fresh and well prepared. Recommended, although there are several good alternatives in the area, the Finca Eddie Serrano being one that looked to have potential and which had Quetzals within its boundaries.
Albergue de Montana Tapanti, Georgina?s, Cerro de Muerte Paramo and Finca Eddie Serrano
Early morning at altitude was pretty chilly, but a short walk around the hotel was rewarding, with Spotted Crowned Woodcreeper, Long-tailed Silky Flycatcher, Flame-coloured Tanager, Ruddy-capped Nightingale Thrush, Black-throated Green Warbler and Flame-throated Warbler all fairly easy to find.
After breakfast we drove to the high point of the road (completely missing the famous 'Georgina?s' caf?t the first attempt). The site guides recommend a couple of tracks in this area, but these seem to have been closed off. However there were tracks from the caf?tself (ask for access) so after a coke and half an hour watching the hummingbird feeders we went for a walk.
The feeders merit some attention. They are located at the back of the caf?overlooking some tanks containing enormous trout. The most numerous birds there were female Volcano Hummingbirds (no males) with Band-tailed Barbthroats, Green-crowned Brilliants, Blue-throated Goldentail (but see notes - this species is unlikely here) and Scintillant and Magnificent Hummingbirds present in varying numbers. One tricky species had us scouring the field guide. We had pretty much decided that it was Fiery-throated Hummingbird, despite being unable to see the coppery-orange throat, and stood up to leave. Unbelievably the throat colouring became visible as soon as we were standing, confirming the suggestion in the book that it is visible ?mainly from above?. A difficult, but surprising and often delightful family.
We tried the trails behind the cafe and found them to be worth a visit. The Sendero de Descanso seemed pretty good. To get onto it, it was necessary to pass through a sort of lean-to pig sty and then cross the tiny but foul-selling stream behind the cafe.
We were pleased to see more Long-tailed Silky Flycatchers here and even more delighted with the tiny Ruddy-tailed Flycatcher at the edge of the woods. Within the woods themselves there were several Black-bellied Nightingale-Thrushes and a variety of other species, but the sound that we had assumed to be a large mammal or two moving through the undergrowth actually turned out to be a pair of Large-footed Finches.
Next we drove the rough track towards the masts on the summit of the mountain. We quickly found a pair of Volcano Juncos that posed obligingly for photographs. These birds looked incredibly bad-tempered.
Lunch beckoned so we drove north, down the mountain and eventually pulled in to the Finca Eddie Serrano. The trout here was good and we noticed a Slaty Flowerpiercer in the bushes below the dining area. There were a few birds around and several signs referring to guided walks to see Quetzals. We hired a guide at a very reasonable rate and he took us up the hill behind the buildings on a steep trail and quickly found us a pair of Quetzals which gave much better views than those at Monteverde, so that this time we felt that we really had seen them. He then took us for a wander around the trails, which were very reminiscent of much of upland Britain. Apart from the elevation we could easily have been below the tree line in parts of the Lake District or Mid Wales. Plenty of birds including Ruddy Treerunner, Yellow-thighed Finch and a Blue-crowned Woodnymph. We tried hard to make a second Slaty Flowerpiercer into a Peg-billed Finch but it wasn?t interested.
The cabinas at this Finca looked quite nice, although not as spacious as those at Albergue Montana Tapanti, but we got the impression that this would be a good place for bird watchers to stay for a couple of days. It is higher up the mountain than the Albergue, but the road is so good that this should not make too much difference.
Cerro de Muerte - Aviarios Del Caribe
The last two days of our holiday were the least planned. We had decided that the southern Caribbean coast was accessible because our flight was due to leave San Jose in the evening. We were uncertain how long it would take to get from the hotel to the coast, but we were resigned to a long drive.
A few minutes around the hotel before departure let us add Mountain Elania to the trip list, and CC saw a Ruddy-capped Nightingale-thrush (JD had already seen one the previous day). We decided to take the slower route to the coast, via Turrialba, because this had the advantage of avoiding San Jose and the prospect of a few birding stops, the main highway being rather busy. Finding the Turrialba road through Cartago seemed to be dependent upon instinct. We drove as far along the main road as we could and then turned left and then back right on ourselves. There may have been road signs but we didn?t see any that were helpful. There were signs for the volcano (Irazu) and we followed these as they seemed to take us in the right direction, before finally finding a meaningful sign post for the towns we would pass through on the way. We had several stops and found little of note, although the countryside was very pretty and the drive pleasant, until we halted at an obvious iron bridge a couple of kilometres past Pacayas. In a tree on the north-east side of the bridge (assuming the bridge runs east-west, which it may not), just up a short track we found several very noisy Red-headed Barbets. There were also Golden-winged Warblers and Hepatic Tanagers in the area and our first male Wilson?s Warbler, although we had seen several females over the preceding few days.
The drive was actually not too bad, despite being stuck behind a couple of large trucks for the last 30 kilometres down to the Limon highway and by mid-afternoon we were pulling into Aviarios Del Caribe where we were pleased to discover that they had vacancies. This establishment is run as a hotel set just off the road on the banks of the Rio Estrella, in its own nature reserve. Its main raison d?etre is as a rescue centre for injured and orphaned sloths. If we were only allowed to recommend one location for visiting birdwatchers to Costa Rica to stay, then we would probably opt for this one. The location is delightful, the owners extremely welcoming and committed to their cause, the rooms airy and comfortable and well maintained and the staff, including their marvellous security guard, Juan are some of the nicest people we met in our three weeks in the country. Add to this the wildlife (monkeys, caimans on the river bank at night, a huge heron/egret roost and some excellent birds) and the boxes full of beautiful baby sloths wrapped around their surrogate mothers (teddy bears) and Buttercup, the star of the show, and you have the makings of a memorable experience. By staying here, you will be contributing financially to the work they are doing, so if you get the chance, go.
After checking in we drove the short distance Cahuita for a late lunch and then returned to the Rio Estrella bridge and walked along one of the nearby tracks. There were several hirundine species here, including some evidence of migration, with a flock of Chimney Swifts and a single Purple Martin overhead. Tawny-crested Tanager and Black-cheeked Woodpecker added to the interest.
Aviarios do breakfasts but not evening meals so we returned to Cahuita for an excellent dinner in a village that is unlike any other place we had visited in Costa Rica, with a very relaxed Caribbean style. We finished the evening off being shown the Caimans by Juan, who picks out numerous reptiles along the river bank with his torch.
We began our last full day with a 6 a.m. canoe trip from Aviarios, with Cali taking the oars. Cali knows the local birds rather well, so be sure to tell him that you?re interested if you're lucky enough to be guided by him.
The first part of the trip follows the tranquil backwater that leads inland from the little dock. This is almost Hollywood style jungle and very relaxing. Quite a few birds around but we didn?t identify anything we hadn?t seen before. Back out onto the main river and we suddenly noticed that there were hundreds of Barn Swallows about, all heading steadily northwards. We had seen only one in the preceding three weeks. The first 'new' bird was an Olive-crowned Yellowthroat, and then Cali informed us that the calls we were hearing belonged to White-throated Crake. A Squirrel Cuckoo clambered, squirrel-like, through the canopy and then flew across the river just behind us. Lots of Common Black Hawks were in the area with numerous heron species and an assortment of New World and (to us) more familiar waders. A Giant Cowbird was pottering about at the water?s edge whilst an Osprey patrolled the estuary, and Least Bittern and Tricolored Heron were two new Ardeids for us. Eight herons before breakfast was, we thought, good going. An Orchard Oriole showing nicely in a riverside bush was a new bird for Cali. We were unreasonably excited by the brief appearance of a Common Gallinule (Moorhen) as this was, we thought our 291st species of the trip, so 300 was getting tantalisingly close.
Breakfast was ready when the canoe returned to Aviarios and then we spent a few minutes in the woodland within the hotel grounds, At the point where the trail enters the trees there is a footbridge over a stream. CC went back to the room to get the by now indispensable dictation machine whilst JD tried to get a decent photograph of the Scarlet-rumped Tanagers which were common here, visiting the fruit bushes and bird tables nearby.
By the time CC returned, JD had realised that some of the Tanagers were actually Red-rumped Caciques and that there were a couple of birds in the stream which looked unfamiliar. It took us a few minutes to get a decent view of them (there were lots of birds coming down to forage in the stream) but we were eventually rewarded with a good look at a pair of Rose-breasted Grosbeaks. A Summer Tanager was also showing well in the area.
We drove to Puerto Viejo with a detour to drop off a couple of hitchhikers at Bris Bris and pick up some cash (the bank has an ATM) and then dropped in at Puerto Viejo for lunch. Not many birds were around but an offshore Osprey entertained us whilst we had a stroll down the beach.
As we had a few hours of daylight left we decided to carry on southwards to the Gandoca-Manzanillo National Park. The road from Puerto Viejo is not as bad as some guidebooks suggest. It is heavily pot-holed in parts but there seems to have been a fair bit of work done on the coast road south of Limon in the last couple of years. It was easily passable in the Terios and could probably have been driven in a car with a lower wheelbase with care.
The park was easy enough to find - just follow the coast road and tracks until you run out of road. There is a small river to cross at the park entrance but we managed to get across this dry-shod. We met a Dutch birdwatcher a few 100 metres into the park who was watching a small flock of birds. He had seen a Euphonia species but we couldn?t relocate it. There were Prothonotary Warblers and Tawny-Crested Tanagers and a parrot flew in but couldn?t be seen after it landed in a palm tree.
The track through the park was quite rough and there were several steep sections. As it was also rather warm we were on the point of turning back when we met a North American birder who told us he?d seen an Antwren sp, several Antshrikes and Bay Wrens a few hundred metres further along. We decided to push on a bit, and soon found a nice troop of Howler Monkeys. Shortly after we heard a call that was rather reminiscent of the Laurel and Hardy theme. We checked Bay Wren in the field guide and decided that this was what we were hearing but we couldn?t get a look at it. A much smaller bird hopping about in the tree tops was a Dotted-winged Antwren. This put us on 295 species (we thought) and was the last new bird that we saw that day. A bird calling repeatedly had been identified by the American as 'one of the Antshrikes' and although there were several calling in the area, and we could hear them for some distance as we walked back to the car, we didn?t get a single glimpse and the call, usually one note repeated 9 times, was not described in Stiles and Skutch.
Our last day. A walk before breakfast along the Aviarios trails allowed us to get a reasonable look at Bay Wrens (we remembered the calls from the previous day) but several birds high in the trees were much more challenging. Our first guess was that these were rather like European Wrynecks and we watched them for quite some time before piecing all the glimpses together and coming up with Banded-backed Wrens. Of course after the detective work was done they did finally come out into the open to give us clinching views. A really nice bird.
We then walked out of the grounds of Aviarios, as we had heard a fair bit of bird song from across the road, whilst walking the trails. There is a small shop/snack bar called Pulperia Las Brisas just opposite the entrance and a dead tree behind it held a pair of Long-tailed Tyrants - another target bird which, though apparently quite common, had eluded us until then. A pair of Black-crowned Tityras were also in this tree and with the Blue-headed Parrots that flew in, we were suddenly on 299 species. More puzzling were a pair of Woodpeckers using a hole in this tree, presumably as a nest hole. We looked at these birds for quite some time. With strongly contrasting black and white facial markings, Black-cheeked Woodpecker was ruled out. We took fairly extensive notes on these birds but on checking the field guide over breakfast both candidates seemed unlikely, Yellow-bellied Sapsucker because it is a rare winter visitor and does not breed in Costa Rica, and Acorn Woodpecker, which these birds most closely resembled, because they are described as a bird of middle and upper elevations occasionally straying down to 3000 feet. It was only when we got back to the UK and listened to our tapes that an almost throw away comment ?err ? pale eye? allowed us to completely rule out the Sapsuckers (and indeed every other woodpecker species found in Costa Rica except for Pale-billed, which is much larger and probably unmistakable). Unless there is a very similar species that has recently colonised Costa Rica, these were Acorn Woodpeckers. A rather unexpected 300th species.
In truth we had forgotten to include both Least Bittern and Common Gallinule in our records, so we had actually comfortable past the 300 mark that morning, and we had a few species that we thought we might eventually identify, but we left Aviarios believing that we had seen 299 species, with a ?plane to catch and a real desire to see another allegedly common bird, Eastern Meadowlark.
The Dutch birder we?d met had told us that he had seen this species near the bus stop to the Lankester Gardens in Paraiso so we thought we?d try and find this location. The drive back to the Valle Central was quite easy and we stopped for lunch at the first restaurant after the Braullio Carillo NP, hoping that there might be a few birds in the area - there weren?t. We then missed the turn off on to a road that should have past San Jose to the east and ended up driving right into the middle of the capital. We spent an unbelievable two hours trying to find our way towards Cartago/Paraiso before deciding that we risked missing our flight and turning back. The traffic was horrendous and road signs non-existent so we navigated by the sun and after a number of wrong turns finally found a motorway which we followed for ages before finally finding a sign for the airport.
Our final experience in Costa Rica was at the airport itself. Our car rental company gave us a ride to Departures and as soon as we got out we were surrounded by people wanting to sell us exit visas. We asked our driver if this was normal and he said it was, so we parted with about $30. The immigration official at the entrance took these visas and said they were probably fakes (they are being sold within about 5 metres of the door!) but after a rather unscientific scrutiny allowed us in. We had intended to sort out our hand luggage in the airport but were given no opportunity to do so as we were directed straight to the check-in desk. This meant that we took our binoculars and field guides with us in our hand luggage but had no warm clothing for the flight. Hardly the end of the world but a minor inconvenience that could easily have been avoided with advance notice.
305 species (303 recorded, plus Bank Swallow and Northern Rough-winged Swallow) of which all but 16(JD)/19(CC) were new birds to us. On an organised tour with specialist guides larger numbers are likely over three weeks and we were disappointed to miss a few species that we had hoped or expected to see. Few Cotingas, Manakins and Antbirds were seen and Eastern Meadowlark was a bird we?d really hoped to find. Against that there is the pleasure derived from identifying species ourselves and the opportunity to tailor the holiday to our own preferences.
If we were to return to the Costa Rica (and the only thing stopping us is the long list of other places we want to visit), we might spend time in another part of Corcovado because the dolphin trips, although very rewarding and allowing to see a handful of species that we would never have seen from land, were mostly bird-free days. We?d like to spend more time at Aviarios and a night at Siquerres might be fun. We would not advise against visiting any of the areas that we went to. Palo Verde is well worth the effort. In truth on a break like this you will spend a fair bit of time travelling, so might try to plan a few birding stops when undertaking long journeys. We didn?t drive at night very much. It?s obviously an option if you don?t want to waste daylight, but from our limited experience, not one that we?d recommend. All in all though, if we return to Costa Rica we?ll almost certainly do it ourselves again.
Bird List for Costa Rica
In the following list, the birds English (US) and scientific names are used. The details in brackets indicate the order in which the birds were seen, where possible the number of days on which it was recorded and for species that were found/identified for us, either by a guide or another birdwatcher, the letter G . Thus, Pacific Screech-Owl - Otus cooperi (164,1,G) was the 164th bird seen , was seen on only one day and was located for us by another birder.
WEDGE-TAILED SHEARWATER - Puffinus pacificus (113,2) - seen on both Bahia Drake pelagics.
SOOTY SHEARWATER - Puffinus griseus (138,2) - less common than above and only positively identified on the second trip.
BROWN PELICAN - Pelicanus occidentalis (70,14) - seen daily at coastal sites, often in very large numbers.
BROWN BOOBY - Sula leucogaster (109,3) - much the commonest Booby, seen on both Pelagics and close to shore from the boat to Corcovado.
RED-FOOTED BOOBY - Sula sula (137,1) -small numbers, mostly juveniles seen on the second pelagic.
OLIVACEOUS (NEOTROPIC) CORMORANT - Phalacracorax olivaceus - (55,6+) - quite common at coastal sites. Possibly under-recorded.
ANHINGA - Anhinga anhinga (62,6) - also quite common at coastal sites .
MAGNIFICENT FRIGATEBIRD - Fregata magnificens (50,8) - seen at most coastal sites. Very common around Punta Leona/Tarcoles area where several flocks of Frigatebirds and Pelicans containing hundreds of birds were seen.
LEAST BITTERN - Ixobrychus exilis (294,1) - 2 seen at close quarters on the Aviarios canoe trip.
FASCIATED TIGER-HERON - Tigrisoma fasciata (220,1) - single bird noted along Rio Burio, Fortuna.
BARE-THROATED TIGER-HERON - Tigrisoma mexicanum (88,4) - seen at Tortuguero, Bahia Drake, Tarcoles and Palo Verde, often at close quarters.
YELLOW-CROWNED NIGHT HERON - Nyctanassa violacea (75,4) - quite common were present. Seen at Tortuguero, Tarcoles and Aviarios.
CATTLE EGRET - Bulbulcus ibis (25,10+) - common and widespread - seen at most coastal sites and middle elevations.
STRIATED HERON - Butorides striatus (76,5) - examples of both variants seen. Possibly under-recorded, as we have the impression that we saw lots of this species'
LITTLE BLUE HERON - Egretta caerulea (59,8) - usually quite common - seen at most coastal and lowland sites.
TRICOLORED HERON - Egretta tricolor (293,1) - only seen during the canoe trip from Aviarios.
SNOWY EGRET - Egretta thula (51,5) - common around Tortuguero and Aviarios.
GREAT WHITE EGRET - Casmerodius albus (Egretta alba?) (48,7) - seen at most coastal/wetland sites. Often quite common.
GREAT BLUE HERON - Ardea herodius (53,4) - several individuals seen Tortuguero, Tarcoles, Palo Verde and Aviarios.
WOOD STORK - Mycteria americana (49,4) - Several seen from boat to Tortuguero. Common around Palo Verde.
GREEN IBIS - Mesembrinibis cayennensis (185,2) - present at Palo Verde where probably quite common.
WHITE IBIS - Eudocimus albus (141,1) - seemingly fairly common around Sierpe, Tarcoles and Palo Verde.
GLOSSY IBIS - Plegadis falcinellus (186,1) - a few seen at Palo Verde.
ROSEATE SPOONBILL - Ajaia ajaja (144,3) - one seen on small pool north of Quepos. Good numbers at Palo Verde.
BLACK-BELLIED WHISTLING DUCK - Dendrocygna autumnalis (181,3) - only seen at Palo Verde, where numerous. Sadly the Fulvous Whistling Ducks previously reported from this site are no longer seen recorded there.
MUSCOVY DUCK - Cairina moschata (193,1) - Palo Verde - ask the staff for directions and timing.
BLUE-WINGED TEAL - Anas discors (145,4) - several on small pool north of Quepos. Quite common at Palo Verde.
TURKEY VULTURE - Cathartes aura (24,20) - very common and widespread.
LESSER YELLOW-HEADED VULTURE - Cathartes burrovianus (37,15) - not quite as common as Turkey Vulture but seen more frequently and in a wider range of habitats than Stiles and Skutch suggest.
BLACK VULTURE - Coragyps atratus (17,21) - very common and widespread. Seen daily, often in hundreds.
OSPREY - Pandion haliaetus (131,4) - Corcovado, Tarcoles (where several seen), Aviarios and Puerto Viejo.
AMERICAN SWALLOW-TAILED KITE - Elanoides forficatus (200,2) - one easily identified from the car near river crossing east of 'La Mansion', Lago De Arenal and a second over flew Arenal Lodge.
BLACK-WINGED KITE - Elaneus caeruleus (19,1) - a single bird near Paraiso.
WHITE HAWK - Leucopternis albicollois (215,1) - single bird seen from the trail at Arenal Lodge.
COMMON BLACK-HAWK - Buteogallus anthracinus - (61,8) - apart from the vultures, the most frequently seen raptor, present at most coastal sites and particularly numerous around Aviarios.
GRAY HAWK - Buteo nitidus (192,1) - a single bird perched in a roadside tree on the track to the Muscovy Duck site at Palo Verde was observed for several minutes..
BROAD-WINGED HAWK Buteo magnirostris (10,2) - one seen over Orosi village and another near the Guacinal bridge on the road from Monteverde.
black hawk-eagle - Spizaetus tyrannus (90,1) - a juvenile in a tree right outside our cabin at Tortuguero posed obligingly for photographs. This surprised the guide at the Lodge, who had not recorded this species there before.
CRESTED CARACARA - Polyborus plancus (143,4) - easily seen whilst driving along the Pacific coast, when several seen between Sierpe and Punta Leona, and then between Punta Leona and Palo Verde. Often seen on the ground.
YELLOW-HEADED CARACARA - Milvago chimachima (105,5) - fairly common on Pacific coast. Seen during every visit to the Playa Lapa Rojo soccer pitch. Also at Tarcoles (4 together on mud flats) and near Tilaran.
LAUGHING FALCON - Herpetotheres cachinnans (47,4) - several seen around Tortuguero and at Palo Verde.
COLLARED FOREST FALCON - Micrastur semitorquatus - (182,1,G) - a stunning pale phase bird was found by our guide at Palo Verde.
AMERICAN KESTREL - Falco sparverius (177,1) - one found about 3 kms from Bagaces on the Palo Verde track. A very pretty bird.
PEREGRINE - Falco peregrinus (188,1) - a single bird seen several times hunting over the Palo Verde wetlands.
CRESTED GUAN - Penelope purpurascens (209,1) - a single observed for a considerable amount of time in the canopy on the Arenal Lodge trail.
BLACK GUAN - Chamaepetes unicolor (35,4) - one seen in Tapanti National Park. Quite common around Monteverde/Santa Elena where seen on the night walk, in and around the Cloud Forest reserve and several in a large tree between Santa Elena centre and the soccer pitch.
GREAT CURASSOW - Grax rubra (96,1) - a family party glimpsed for a few seconds from the boat, Tortuguero.
LIMPKIN - Aramus guarauna (184,2) - several at Palo Verde. Easy to find once identified for the first time.
GRAY-NECKED WOOD-RAIL - Aramides cajanea (87,1,G) - a small group seen from the boat, Tortuguero.
WHITE-THROATED CRAKE - Laterallus albigularis (290,1,G) - several calling from deep cover during Aviarios canoe trip.
COMMON GALLINULE - Gallinula chloropus (291,1) - Moorhen did not require a guide for identification. A couple seen during Aviarios canoe trip.
PURPLE GALLINULE - Porphyrio martinica (187,2) - relatively easy to see at Palo Verde and at Aviarios, where a couple were seen running across the tended lawns. Stiles and Skutch give this full species status and do not make reference to the European/African Porphyrio porphyrio.
NORTHERN JACANA - Jacana spinosa (60,11) - common at wetland sites, such as Tortuguero, Palo Verde and Aviarios.
BLACK-NECKED STILT - Himantopus mexicanus (52,2) - reasonable numbers seen on boat trip to Tortuguero and at Aviarios.
BLACK-BELLIED PLOVER - Pluvialis squatarola (74,3) - single birds seen on the beach at Tortuguero and at Tarcol River mouth.
SEMIPALMATED PLOVER - Calidris pusilla (168,1) - several around the mouth of the Tarcoles river, as viewed from Tarcol Lodge.
WILSON'S PLOVER - Charadrius wilsonia (169,1) - quite numerous around the mouth of the Tarcoles river, as viewed from Tarcol Lodge.
WHIMBREL - Numenius phaeopus (117,3) - a single birds were on beaches near Delfin Amor on two days and several were seen around the Tarcoles River mouth.
LESSER YELLOWLEGS - Tringa flavipes (56,2) - several seen on boat trip to Tortuguero and one on beach near Delfin Amor.
WILLETT - Catoptrophorus semipalmatus (164,2) - several seen on beach at Tarcoles and around Rio Estrella estuary, Aviarios.
SPOTTED SANDPIPER - Actitis macularia - (57,4) - quite numerous around both Caribbean sites. Common along the beach at Puerto Viejo. Also at Rio Tarcoles bridge.
RUDDY TURNSTONE - Arenaria interpres (170,2) - seen at Tarcoles River mouth and at Aviarios.
SANDERLING - Calidris alba (73) - numerous on the beach at Tortuguero. Also present at Tarcoles and Aviarios. Stiles and Skutch suggest that this species is uncommon before mid-March but there were over 100 in several flocks on the kilometre or so of beach north of Laguna Lodge.
WESTERN SANDPIPER - Calidris mauri (172,1) - several seen at Tarcol River mouth were the only representatives of this species described in Stiles and Skutch as the commonest 'peep'.
LEAST SANDPIPER - Calidris minutilla (171,1) - as above.
SOUTH POLAR SKUA - Catharacta macormicki (112,1) - two seen on pelagic trip from Delfin Amor.
POMARINE SKUA - Stercrocarius pomarinus (111,2) - fairly common well offshore on first pelagic from Delfin Amor. Only one seen on second pelagic.
RING-BILLED GULL - Larus delawarensis (?,1) - at least one seen, Bahia Drake. Possibly a couple more seen in same area.
LAUGHING GULL - Larus atricilla (133,5) - much the commonest gull, but only observed on the Pacific coast.
BONAPARTE'S GULL - Larus philadelphia (110,1G) - a single bird identified by the Delfin Amor biologist a couple of miles offshore.
BLACK TERN - Chlidonias niger (114,1) - quite good numbers of winter plumaged birds seen on the first Bahia Drake pelagic. The only tern species identified on this trip, although several other pale terns were seen that were not Black Terns.
ROYAL TERN - Sterna maxima (54,3) - seen from boat to Tortuguero (Rio Parismina) and at Agujitas, Bahia Drake.
SCALED PIGEON - Columba speciosa (146,1+) - seen in several places between Sierpe and Quepos. Most pigeon and dove species were probably under-recorded, with only one species recorded between Arenal, Monteverde and Aviarios.
PALE-VENTED PIGEON - Columba cayennensis (97,3+) - seen in Tortuguero and Bahia Drake.
RED-BILLED PIGEON - Columba flavirostris (15,? ) - seen in Orosi area, and possibly elsewhere.
RUDDY PIGEON - Columba subvinacea (268,2) - around Albergue de Montana Tapanti.
WHITE-WINGED DOVE - Zenaida asiatica (175,2) - seen in Orotina, where quite common and on Pacific slope when driving from Monteverde to Cerro de Muerte, e.g. in Nuevo Arenal. Despite notes in Stiles and Skutch, this species was only seen in settled areas. A rather nice bird.
SHORT-BILLED PIGEON - Columba nigrirostris (101,3+,) - seen and heard in Tortuguero NP and Aviarios, at least.
RUDDY GROUND-DOVE - Columbina talpacoti (44,3+) - quite common along road through plantations en route to Tortuguero. Also on Sierpe to Quepos road and on road from Arenal to Monteverde.
INCA DOVE - Columbina inca (166,4) - perhaps the most pleasing of the pigeons we saw. Quite common on Pacific coast from Tarcoles north. Numerous around Palo Verde.
BLUE GROUND-DOVE - Claravis pretiosa (104,4+) - first seen on beach at Agujitas and in several locations thereafter.
WHITE-TIPPED DOVE - Leptotila verreauxi (116,3) - seemed fairly common, Bahia Drake around lodges (not Delfin Amor) and at Palo Verde.
SCARLET MACAW - Ara macao (102,4) - common and easy to locate around Bahia Drake/Corcovado. Several pairs seen around Carara NP.
ORANGE-FRONTED PARAKEET - Aratinga canicularis (179,1) - a couple of small flocks in leafless thickets around about 14 km from Bagaces on the Palo Verde track.
WHITE-CROWNED PARROT - Pionus senilis (8,1,G) - a flock of about 30 seen above Orosi, identified by the US ornithology student we met.
BLUE-HEADED PARROT - Pionus menstrus (301,1) - a couple of birds in the tall dead tree behind Pulperia Las Brisas, opposite the entrance to Aviarios.
WHITE-FRONTED PARROT - Amazona albifrons (180,1) - see Orange-fronted Parakeet.
YELLOW-NAPED PARROT - Amazona auropalliata (194,2) - fairly regular around the Palo Verde study centre, often high in the tall trees along the 'football pitch'.
MEALY PARROT - Amazona farinosa (83,1,G) - Tortuguero NP.
MANGROVE CUCKOO - Coccyzus minor (191,1) - in the tree outside the Palo Verde visitor centre.
SQUIRREL CUCKOO - Piaya cayana (289,1) - seen from the canoe, Aviarios. JD probably also saw this species briefly at Arco Iris, in the lodge gardens.
GROOVE-BILLED ANI - Crotophaga sulcirostris (43,3) - almost certainly under recorded. Common along road to Parismina River for boat transfer to Tortuguero. Numerous along Rio Estrella and around Aviarios.
SMOOTH-BILLED ANI - Crotophaga ani (173,3) - quite common in pasture land around Tarcoles. Also at Palo Verde.
PACIFIC SCREECH-OWL - Otus cooperi (165,1,G) - pair roosting in trees in front of the building opposite Tarcol Lodge.
BARE-SHANKED SCREECH-OWL - Otus clarkii (247,1,G) - single bird located by guide at presumably a regular roosting tree, Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve.
FERRUGINOUS PYGMY-OWL - Glaucidium brasilianum (196,1) - the only owl species we found ourselves, in a tree top near the Palo Verde visitor centre.
BLACK AND WHITE OWL - Ciccaba nigrolineata (174,1) - a pair in a well-known roosting spot in the park in Orotina. Ask locals for directions if you can't find them.
GREAT POTOO - Nyctibius grandis (82,1,G) - Tortuguero NP.
COMMON POTOO - Nyctibius griseus (63,1,G) - Tortuguero NP.
COMMON PAURAQUE - Nyctidromus albicollis (5,3) - in a sense our first Costa Rican bird, as one was calling when we went to bed on the first night, but not identified until discussed with the US ornithology student we bumped into the following morning. Seen subsequently on road from Tapanti NP after dark, accompanied by another small nightjar which we could not identify. Also seen on road to Arenal Lodge.
WHIP-POOR-WILL - Caprimulgus vociferus (147,1) - a nightjar caught in the car headlights on the private road to Punta Leona was observed for some time and almost certainly this species.
WHITE-TAILED NIGHTJAR - Caprimulgus cayennensis (225,1) - also caught in the car headlights on the private road to Arenal Lodge. Prolonged views were obtained but sadly the photographs we took we completely over exposed due to the headlights.
CHESTNUT-COLLARED SWIFT - Cypseloides rutilus (91,1) - seen from the boat in Tortuguero NP. Stiles and Skutch advises that this bird of middle altitudes rarely forages down to sea level and then only mentions locations on the Pacific coast, but we were quite confident that we had identified the right species and Daniel, our guide, agreed that the bird we spotted was not one he had seen before in Tortuguero.
CHIMNEY SWIFT - Chaetura pelagica (288,1) - a flock of about 20+ over Rio Estrella bridge.
LESSER SWALLOW-TAILED SWIFT - Panyptila cayennensis (142,1) - several noted along the river near Sierpe.
BRONZY HERMIT - Glaucis aenea (197,1) - one seen at Palo Verde might have been north of usual range.
BAND-TAILED BARB-THROAT - Threnetes ruckeri (269,1) - at least one on the hummingbird feeders at Georgina's. Stiles and Skutch gives much lower altitudes for this species. Sekerak suggests that the birds seen at Albergue de Montana Tapanti must be near the limit of their range. Our visit to Georgina's, a few kms from the Albergue and somewhat higher above sea-level was on a delightfully warm day and the feeders are a guaranteed food source for hummingbirds, so perhaps this record is not so surprising.
LONG-TAILED HERMIT - Phaethornis superciliosus (115,2) - several locations in grounds of Delfin Amor, including from dining area and in flowering bushes along coastal path.
GREEN HERMIT - Phaethornis guy (214,2) - seen in forested valley near Arenal Lodge trail. Also at the Monteverde Hummingbird Gallery.
SCALY-BREASTED HUMMINGBIRD - Phaeocroa cuvierii (183,1) - a group of five at Palo Verde were initially identified as Magnificent Hummingbirds (they are superficially similar to the females) but the latter species is only found at altitude.
VIOLET SABREWING - Campylopterus hemileucurus (162,3) - the easiest of the hummingbirds to identify. Seen at Carara and common at Monteverde, with many visiting the Hummingbird Gallery.
GREEN VIOLET-EAR - Colibri thalassinus (232,2) - a common visitor to the Monteverde Hummingbird Gallery.
GREEN-BREASTED MANGO - Anthracothorax prevostii (12,1,G) - a pair nesting on telegraph wires on the main street through Orosi.
FIERY-THROATED HUMMINGBIRD - Panterpe insignis (271,1) - several birds at Georgina's appeared to be this species, except that we could not see any evidence of the copper-orange throat. As luck would have it, as we stood up to leave one of these birds was at the feeder. The 'fiery throat' appeared almost as if by magic when viewed from a standing position, looking down on the bird (see Stiles and Skutch) thus clinching identification.
[BLUE-THROATED GOLDENTAIL - Hylocharis eliciae (270,1) - a bird which matched the description of this species seen at Georgina's. Subsequent discussions with hummingbird experts suggests that this lowland species would be highly unlikely at altitude and the 'golden' tail would probably be as a result of pollen, in which case identification of this bird remains a mystery.]
VIOLET-HEADED HUMMINGBIRD - Klais guimeti (33,1) - Tapanti NP.
FORK-TAILED EMERALD - Chlorostilbon canivetti (238,1) - one seen on the evening walk at Monteverde.
CROWNED WOODNYMPH - Thalurania colombica (281,1) - a couple around the building at Eddie Serrano's Finca.
RUFOUS-TAILED HUMMINGBIRD - Amazilia tzactl (14,7) - much the most widespread hummingbird and probably under-recorded as no mention in our notes for the final 10 days of the holiday.
WHITE-TAILED EMERALD - Elvira chionura (252,1) - Monteverde Hummingbird Gallery.
COPPERY-HEADED EMERALD - Elvira cupriceps (254,1) - an endemic and one we had really hoped to see. None had been present during our late afternoon visit to the Monteverde Hummingbird Gallery on 1st March but they were quite easy to see on the following day, at an earlier time.
PLAIN-CAPPED STARTHROAT - Heliomaster constantii (253,1) - a very mobile hummingbird at Monteverde Hummingbird Gallery appeared to be this bird, although it may have been at higher than usual altitude.
RED-FOOTED PLUMELETEER - Chalybura urochrysia (152,1) - a pair observed in suitable habitat for some time at Punta Leona. However Stiles and Skutch make this a purely Caribbean slope bird. However there is a similar species, Bronze-tailed Plumeleteer, in western Panama (may actually be a sub-species). Bit of a puzzle, really.
PURPLE-THROATED MOUNTAIN GEM - Lampornis calolaema (234,2) - a common visitor to the Monteverde Hummingbird Gallery.
GREEN-CROWNED BRILLIANT - Heliodoxa jacula (233,2) - a common visitor to the Monteverde Hummingbird Gallery and Georgina's.
MAGNIFICENT HUMMINGBIRD - Eugenes fulgens (272,1) - on feeders at Georgina's and around Finca Eddie Serrano.
MAGENTA-THROATED WOODSTAR - Calliphlox bryantae(235,2)- a common visitor to the Monteverde Hummingbird Gallery.
SCINTILLANT HUMMINGBIRD - Selasphorus scintilla (21,2) - several around the Visitor Centre, Irazu and also at the Albergue de Montana restaurant and Georgina's.
VOLCANO HUMMINGBIRD - Selasphorus flammula (20,2) - both males and females quite common around the summits of Irazu (especially near the Visitor Centre) and Cerro de Muerte. Females only on the hummingbird feeders at Georgina's.
RESPLENDENT QUETZAL - Pharomachrus mocinno (250,2) - a female found by CC at Monteverde followed by a brief view of a male located by the guide were bettered by the pair located by the guide at Finca Eddie Serrano that allowed prolonged, clear views.
SLATY-TAILED TROGON - Trogon massena (69,3 ) - much the most frequently seen Trogon, at Laguna Lodge, Punta Leona and Aviarios. Common around the grounds of Laguna Lodge.
ORANGE-BELLIED TROGON - Trogon aurantiiventris (251,1) - a pair by the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve visitor centre were apparently regular visitors, feeding on the insects attracted by lights left on at the centre overnight.
BLACK-THROATED TROGON - Trogon rufus (129,1,G) - Corcovado NP.
RINGED KINGFISHER - Ceryle torquata (78,4 ) - fairly common on lowland fresh water. Seen at Tortuguero, Rio Clara (Bahia Drake), north of Quepos and Tarcoles Bridge, often at close range,
BELTED KINFISHER - Ceryle altion (205,1) - seen from our chalet at Arenal Lodge, where there is a small artificial pool.
AMAZON KINGFISHER - Chloroceryle amazona (77,4) - quite common at Tortuguero and Rio Clara. Also seen at Rio Burio, Fortuna and Aviarios.
GREEN KINGFISHER - Chloroceryle americana (95,2) - Tortuguero and Aviarios.
GREEN-AND-RUFOUS KINGFISHER - Chloroceryle inda (93,1) - Tortuguero.
TURQUOISE-BROWED MOTMOT - Eumomota superciliosa (190,2) - Palo Verde visitor centre.
BLUE-CROWNED MOTMOT - Momotus momota (257,1) - Arco Iris grounds and Santa Elena 'cemetery' walk.
RUFOUS-TAILED JACAMAR - Galbula ruficauda (213,1) - seen in forested valley near Arenal Lodge trail.
GREAT JACAMAR - Jacamerops aurea (212,1) - as for Rufous-tailed Jacamar.
WHITE-NECKED PUFFBIRD - Bucco machrorhynchos (85,1,G) - Tortuguero.
RED-HEADED BARBET - Eubucco bourcierii (283,1) - adjacent to iron bridge, 2 kms east of Pacayas.
EMERALD TOUCANET - Aulachorynchus prasinus (235,3) - quite common around Monteverde/Santa Elena area, including grounds of Arco Iris.
COLLARED ARACARI - Pteroglossus torquatus (89,3) - Tortuguero and Aviarios/Cahuita area.
KEEL-BILLED TOUCAN - Ramphastos sulfuratus (79,5) - Tortuguero, Arenal Lodge, Arco Iris, Santa Elena and Aviarios.
CHESTNUT-MANDIBLED TOUCAN - Ramphastos swainsonii (80,1) - only one seen at Tortuguero.
ACORN WOODPECKER - Melanerpes formicivorus (303,1) - the last bird that we identified, but despite the unlikely location, a pair at sea level in a dead tree behind Pulperia Las Brisas, Aviarios, we are confident that we correctly identified this species.
BLACK-CHEEKED WOODPECKER - Melanerpes pucherani (287,2) - Rio Estrella bridge and Aviarios.
HOFFMAN'S WOODPECKER - Melanerpes hoffmanii (103,4) - much the commonest woodpecker, and a very attractive bird. Seen on beach side palm trees at Agujitas, on every visit to Playa Lapa Rojo soccer pitch, at a variety of random roadside stops and Santa Elena. Possibly under-recorded.
RED-CROWNED WOODPECKER - Melanerpes rubricapillus (155,1) - one seen at Punta Leona where prolonged observation was required to separate from Hoffman's Woodpecker, that was also present.
SMOKY-BROWN WOODPECKER - Veniliornis fumigatus (119,1) - Playa Lapa Rojo soccer pitch.
GOLDEN-OLIVE WOODPECKER - Veniliornis rubiginosus (107,1) - Playa Lapa Rojo soccer pitch. With the Lineated Woodpecker further along the coastal track, this was a productive area for woodpeckers.
CINNAMON WOODPECKER - Celeus loricatus (84,1,G) - Tortuguero NP.
LINEATED WOODPECKER - Dryocopus lineatus (125,3) - seen along track from Delfin Amor to Rio Clara, in Carara NP where a pair appeared to be feeding young in a dead tree near the start of the first partially open area and at Lago de Arenal, just east of La Mansion.
PLAIN-BROWN WOODCREEPER - Dendrocingla fuliginosa (94,1) - Tortuguero NP
LONG-TAILED WOODCREEPER - Deconychura longicauda (71,1) - Laguna Lodge (in trees north of the lodge boundary).
WEDGE-BILLED WOODCREEPER - Glyphorhyncus spirurus (134,1) - Corcovado NP.
BUFF-THROATED WOODCREEPER - Xyphorhyncus guttatus (150,1) - Punta Leona.
BLACK-STRIPED WOODCREEPER - Xyphorhyncus lachrymosus (127,2) - seen along track from Delfin Amor to Rio Clara and at Carara NP.
SPOTTED WOODCREEPER - Xyphorhyncus ertythropygius (240,1,G) - Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve.
SPOTTED-CROWNED WOODCREEPER - Lepidoclaptes affinis (263,2) - seemingly quite common around Albergue De Montana Tapanti. Also seen at Finca Eddie Serrano.
SPOTTED BARBTAIL - Premnoplex brunescens (249,1,G) - Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve.
RUDDY TREERUNNER - Margarornis rubiginosus (280,1) - Cerro De Muerte (Finca Eddie Serrano).
LINEATED FOLIAGE-GLEANER - Syndactyla subalaris (244,1,G) - Monteverde Cloud Forest NP.
PLAIN XENOPS - Xenops minutus (140,3) - coastal path just north of Delfin Amor and Carara NP.
BLACK-HOODED ANTSHRIKE - Thamnophilus bridgesi (108,4) - fairly common, Bahia Drake. We called this the 'wipe-out' bird because its song sounded rather like the opening of the song 'Wipeout' (by The Surfaris?).
DOTTED-WINGED ANTWREN - Microrhopias quixensis (298,1) - Gandoca-Manzanillo NP.
CHESTNUT-BACKED ANTBIRD - Myrmeciza exsul (118,2) - also quite common, Bahia Drake, seen along the path in either direction from Delfin Amor.
SCALED ANTPITTA - Grallaria guatimalensis (34,1) - one watched for several minutes foraging by the path near the river on Sendero Oropendula, Tapanti NP. In the rather gloomy late afternoon light it appeared not unlike a tailless juvenile European Robin.
ROSE-THROATED BECARD - Pachyramphus aglaiae (156,1) - a pair in the grounds of Punta Leona.
MASKED TITYRA - Tityra semifasciata (36,5+) - fairly common, widespread and easy to see. Seen on roadside wires just east of Braullio Carillo NP, at Bahia Drake, Punta Leona, Arco Iris, Santa Elena cemetery walk, and probably at other locations as well.
BLACK-CROWNED TITYRA - Tityra inquisitor (302,1) - in tree behind Pulperia Las Brisas, Aviarios.
RUFOUS PIHA - Lipaugus unirufus (132,1,G) - Corcovado NP.
SNOWY COTINGA - Carpodectes nitidus (3,1) - one of the species that we had hoped to see, during months of studying Stiles and Skutch before going to Costa Rica, we were surprised to find it early on our first morning, in Orosi. We asked the American ornithologist we met later that morning about their status and he confirmed that he had seen the species around the village. Sadly our only sighting of this beautiful bird.
PURPLE-THROATED FRUITCROW - Querula purpurata (92,1,G) - one overflew boat in Tortuguero NP.
THREE-WATTLED BELLBIRD - Procnia tricarunculata (258,1) - we were extremely pleased to find this species ourselves, in trees opposite the clinic, on the Santa Elena cemetery walk.
WHITE-COLLARED MANAKIN - Manacus candei (98,2) - several around the butterfly garden at Laguna Lodge were the only Manakins we saw. Finnish birders we spoke to at Tarcoles reported seeing several species in Tapanti NP on the trail between the park offices and the Mangrove Lagoon trail, at a site well-known for this family. On reflection an hour or two here would have been more productive than our side trip to Chomes.
BLACK PHOEBE - Sayornis nigricans (219,1) - one seen in riverside trees outside the Tabacon Resort, Arenal.
LONG-TAILED TYRANT - Colonia colonus (300,1) - like Snowy Cotinga, a bird we had hoped to see, but unlike the Cotinga, one of the last species we identified, behind Pulperia Las Brisas, Aviarios.
SCISSOR-TAILED FLYCATCHER - Tyrannus forficatus (198,1) - one seen in roadside trees between Palo Verde and Bagaces.
TROPICAL KINGBIRD - Tyrannus melancholicus (13,10?) - rather common and widespread. Seen in Orosi, at Tarcoles Bridge and Aviarios. Definitely under-recorded. Perches on roadside wires. Several similar species are possible but good views can be obtained, making it fairly easy to differentiate the different types.
WESTERN KINGBIRD - Tyrannus verticalis (153,?) - again fairly common - large American flycatcher species (the Kingbirds, Kiskadees, and Flycatchers) were present in most areas and seen daily and as a consequence didn't always make it into our field notes.
WHITE-RINGED-FLYCATCHER - Coryphotriccuss albovittatus (39,3) - first seen at Siquerres, quite common around Laguna Lodge, also at Tarcoles Bridge. Probably under-recorded.
BOAT-BILLED FLYCATCHER - Megarhyncus pitanagua (154,2) - only positively identified at Punta Leona and on the Santa Elena cemetery walk. Doubtless we saw many more of this species but we would have spent too long separating them from Great Kiskadees so mostly ignored them. The Kiskadee is probably commoner and easy to identify by its distinctive call.
BRIGHT-RUMPED ATTILA - Attila spadiceus (86,1,G) - Tortuguero NP.
STREAKED FLYCATCHER - Myiodynastes maculatus (149,2) - seen at Punta Leona and Palo Verde.
SOCIAL FLYCATCHER - Myiozetetes similis (262,1) - almost certainly overlooked, our only record of this common and widespread species was at the Guacimal Bridge on the way from Monteverde to the lowlands.
GRAY-CAPPED FLYCATCHER - Myiozetetes granadensis (222,3) - La Fortuna, near Rio Burio bridges and at Aviarios and the Rio Estrella bridge.
GREAT KISKADEE - Pitangus sulphuratus (2,12+) - perhaps the first 'exciting' bird we saw, with a pair around Orosi Lodge about 5 minutes after first light on the first day. Common in all lowland areas except Bahia Drake and one of the most frequently seen birds of the trip.
TROPICAL PEEWEE - Cantopus cinereus (167,1) - Tarcoles village.
BLACK-CAPPED FLYCATCHER - Empidonax atriceps (278,1) - Cerro De Muerte (Finca Eddie Serrano).
RUDDY-TAILED FLYCATCHER - Terenotriccus erythrurus (273,1) - at the edge of the forest, Sendero de Descanso, Georgina's, Cerro de Muerte.
BLACK-TAILED FLYCATCHER - Myiopius atricaudus (160,1) - Carara NP.
COMMON TODY-FLYCATCHER - Todirostrum cinereum (99,8+ ) - quite common and seen in many locations including Laguna Lodge butterfly garden, La Fortuna, Arenal Lodge, and Aviarios.
MOUNTAIN ELAENIA - Elaenia frantzii (282,1) - in the pine trees next to the entrance to Albergue de Montana Tapanti.
BROWN-CAPPED TYRANNULET - Ornithion brunneicapillum (229,1) - Arenal Lodge
PURPLE MARTIN - Progne subis (286,1) - a single bird overhead, heading north, at Rio Estrella bridge. This area was quite productive for hirundines.
GRAY-BREASTED MARTIN - Progne chalybea (38,1,G) - several on wires had been identified by another group of birders when we stopped at Siquerres on the way to Tortuguero.
CLIFF SWALLOW - Hirundo pyrrhonota (285,1) - Rio Estrella bridge.
BARN SWALLOW - Hirundo rustica (176,2) - a single bird seen at Caldera on the road between Punta Leona and Palo Verde, and hundreds on the canoe trip at Aviarios, on passage.
SOUTHERN ROUGH-WINGED SWALLOW - Stelgidopteryx ruficollis (161,5) - quite common. Seen at Carara NP, Lago de Arenal, on the road west of Turrialba and at Rio Estrella bridge.
NORTHERN ROUGH-WINGED SWALLOW - Stelgidopteryx serripennis (?,1) - this species did not make it into our field notes but was definitely seen, although we're uncertain where. We do remember a prolonged debate about its identification and seeing Southern Rough-winged Swallow soon afterwards.
BLUE-AND-WHITE SWALLOW - Notiochelidon cyanoleuca (11,4) - fairly common around Orosi, Arenal Lodge and Finca Eddie Serrano .
BANK SWALLOW - Riparia riparia (x,1) - Not given a number, this was probably the 4th species we saw, at the start of our walk in Orosi village. We commented on the similarity to Sand Martin (which is the English name for this species) but could not get decent views. However on checking our photographs of Blue-and-White Swallows on returning to the UK we have no doubt that some of the supposed Blue-and-Whites were actually Bank Swallows.
MANGROVE SWALLOW - Tachycineta albilinea (58,7+) - probably the most frequently seen hirundine. Common around Tortuguero, seen over the sea at Bahia Drake, at Rio Tarcoles Bridge, Rio Tempisque (Palo Verde)and probably other locations as well.
WHITE-THROATED MAGPIE-JAY - Calocitta formosa (163,4) - a target species, seen at Tarcoles, just outside the village, around Palo Verde and around La Fortuna.
BROWN JAY - Cyanocorax morio (30,4) - just outside Tapanti NP, at Punta Leona and fairly common around Arco Iris/Santa Elena.
BANDED-BACKED WREN - Campylorhynhus zonatus (299,1) we had to work quite hard for this species, which were present high in the trees on the hotel side of the small reserve at Aviarios, but they were well worth it, being the most interesting of the wrens that we saw in Costa Rica.
RUFOUS-NAPED WREN - Campylorhynhus rufinucha (148,5) - quite common along the Pacific coast, though not seen at Bahia Drake. Present at Punta Leona, Tarcoles, Chomes and Palo Verde. An attractive and noticeable species.
PLAIN (CANE-BREAK) WREN - Thryophorus modestus (65,2) - fairly common around the Caribbean boundary of Laguna Lodge.
RUFOUS-AND-WHITE WREN - Thryophorus rufalbus (195,2) - Palo Verde, in woods around bunk houses and at Arco Iris.
BAY WREN - Thryophorus nigricapillus (297,2) - this species has a song that reminded us of the Laurel and Hardy theme tune. We first heard it at the Gandoca-Manzanillo NP but were unable to get a view of it and Stiles and Skutch don't mention Laurel and Hardy, but on our final morning we first heard and the saw this species in the grounds of Aviarios.
HOUSE WREN - Troglodytes aedon (226,2) - around the main Arenal Lodge reception entrance. Probably seen on all three days that we were at the lodge, but only positively identified on the last morning. Also seen on the Santa Elena Cemetery walk.
OCHRACEOUS WREN - Troglodytes ochraceus (245,1,G) - Monteverde Cloud Forest NP.
WHITE-BREASTED WOOD-WREN - Henicorhina leucosticta (215,1) - in the wooded stream valley near the Arenal Lodge trail.
GRAY-BREASTED WOOD-WREN - Henicorhina leucophrys (242,1) - Monteverde Cloud Forest NP. Locally nicknamed the 'R2D2 bird' because of its distinctive song.
WHITE-THROATED ROBIN - Turdus assimilis (239,2) - in the grounds of Arco Iris Lodge and at Stella's Bakery, Monteverde.
CLAY-COLOURED ROBIN - Turdus grayii (1,15+) - Probably seen every day. Very common and widespread. The first one we saw was on the steps of Orosi Lodge when we opened the front door on the first morning.
MOUNTAIN ROBIN - Turdus plebejus (264,2) - in the grounds of Albergue de Montana Tapanti.
SOOTY ROBIN - Turdus nigrescens (32,2) - Tapanti NP (Sendero Oropendula) and just south of Villa Mills, Cerro de Muerte.
BLACK FACED SOLITAIRE - Myadestes melanops (241,1) - seemingly quite numerous in Monteverde Cloud forest NP, where seen in at least 6 different locations. One of our target birds.
RUDDY-CAPPED NIGHTINGALE-THRUSH - Catharus frantzii (266,2) - seemingly regular in the grounds of Albergue de Montana Tapanti.
BLACK-BILLED NIGHTINGALE-THRUSH - Catharus gracilirostris (274,1) - Sendero de Descanso, Georgina's, Cerro de Muerte.
TROPICAL GNATCATCHER - Polioptila plumbea (124,1) - one in the wooded area just south of the soccer pitch, Bahia Drake.
LONG-TAILED SILKY-FLYCATCHER - Ptilogonys caudatus (265,1) - quite easily seen in the grounds of Albergue de Montana Tapanti, Sendero de Descanso, Georgina's, Cerro de Muerte and at Finca Eddie Serrano.
YELLOW-THROATED VIREO - Vireo flavifrons (120,3) - as per Tropical Gnatcatcher. Also at Monteverde hummingbird Gallery and probably on the Santa Elena Cemetery walk (this last bird was not showing well). To our considerable surprise, this was the only Vireo species positively identified.
BANANAQUIT - Coereba flaveola (16,12+) - very common in many areas, for example Orosi, Tortuguero NP, Corcovado NP La Fortuna and Aviarios. Visits hummingbird feeders as at Monteverde Hummingbird Gallery.
BLACK-AND-WHITE WARBLER - Miniotilta varia (121,1) - one or perhaps two in the wooded area just south of the soccer pitch, Bahia Drake. This area was quite productive and produced several species that we didn't see elsewhere. From memory the path came down to the beach, possibly by a small stream.
PROTHONOTARY WARBLER - Protonotaria citrea (158,3) - we were quite pleased to record this gorgeous species in several different localities, including Carara NP, Palo Verde and Gandoca-Manzanillo NP.
GOLDEN-WINGED WARBLER - Vermivora chrysoptera (218,2) - in the wooded stream valley near the Arenal Lodge trail and by the iron bridge 2 km west of Pacayas on the old road to the Caribbean coast from Cartago.
NASHVILLE WARBLER - Vermivora ruficapilla (199,1) - at roadside on north side of Lago de Arenal, about 2 km east of La Mansion, just past river crossing. We'd stopped to watch an American Swallow-tailed Kite when we found this bird. Stiles and Skutch gives this as a major rarity but correspondence with regular Costa Rica birdwatcher suggests that the species has been seen quite frequently in recent years.
FLAME-THROATED WARBLER - Parula gutturalis (267,1) - in the grounds of Albergue de Montana Tapanti. Apparently fairly common but a good reason to stay at this hotel.
YELLOW WARBLER - Dendroica petechia (72,3) - fairly common. Seen at Laguna Lodge, Tortuguero village (several around the open area near the village -centre'), Delfin Amor and possibly other locations.
YELLOW-RUMPED (MYRTLE) WARBLER - Dendroica coronata (45,3) - very common at Laguna Lodge, where probably the most numerous passerine.
BLACK-THROATED GREEN WARBLER Dendroica virens (31,2) - a probable female at Tapanti NP and a definite pair at Albergue de Montana Tapanti.
HERMIT WARBLER - Dendroica occidentalis (255,1) - a single bird well observed in conifers near the entrance to the Monteverde cheese factory.
NORTHERN WATERTHRUSH - Seiurus noveboracencis (126,3) - a quite common bird in wet areas. Seen along the Rio Clara, Bahia Drake, Carara NP, and Aviarios.
LOUISIANA WATERTHRUSH - Seiurus motacilla (221,1) - one along the Rio Burio, La Fortuna.
OLIVE-CROWNED YELLOWTHROAT - Geothlypis semiflava (203,2) - Arenal Lodge and canoe trip, Aviarios.
GRAY-CROWNED YELLOWTHROAT - Geothlypis poliocephala (261,1) - Santa Elena Cemetery walk.
WILSON'S WARBLER - Wilsonia pusilla (243,3) - quite common at higher altitudes, seen in Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve, Cerro de Muerte, including the Paramo area and Sendero de Descanso. The first male we saw was near the iron bridge east of Pacayas.
AMERICAN REDSTART - Setophaga ruticilla (100,1) - a male in riverside trees at Laguna Lodge.
SLATE-THROATED REDSTART - Myioborus miniatus (237,2) - a roosting bird found on the Twilight Walk, Santa Elena, more in the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve.
COLLARED REDSTART - Myioborus torquatus (256,2) - several in the Elfin Forest, Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve. Also present Sendero de Descanso and at Eddie Serrano's Finca.
THREE-STRIPED WARBLER - Basileuterus tristriatus (248,1) - Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve,
RUFOUS-CAPPED WARBLER - Basileuterus rufifrons (260,1) - Santa Elena Cemetery walk.
BUFF-RUMPED WARBLER - Phaeothlypis fulvicauda (130,3) - Rio Clara, Bahia Drake, Corcovado NP and stream near trail, Arenal Lodge.
CHESTNUT-HEADED OROPENDULA - Psarocolius wagleri (28,3) - one on the Albergue de Tapanti bird table, several around Punta Leona and another seen along the Lago de Arenal road.
MONTEZUMA'S OROPENDULA - Psarocolius montezuma (18,6+) often quite common where present, from Valle Central to the Caribbean lowlands. Noisy and noticeable. Common around Orosi, present at Laguna Lodge, nest seen at Palo Verde may have been artificially introduced. A large colony in roadside trees east of Santa Cruz on road to Caribbean coast from Cartago via Turrialba. Often seen from car on eastern side of Costa Rica.
SCARLET-RUMPED CACIQUE - Cacicus uropygialis (296,1) - several around the small patch of forest with trails in the grounds of Aviarios, near the small footbridge at the entrance to the trails.
YELLOW-BILLED CACIQUE - Amblycercus holosericeus (22,1) - several near the summit of Volcan Irazu.
GIANT COWBIRD - Scaphidura oryzivora (292,1) - one of these rather odd looking birds was foraging on the mud at the edge of the Rio Estrella, near it?s mouth.
BRONZED COWBIRD - Molothrus aeneus (231,1) - only one seen between Nuevo Arenal and Tilaran en route to Monteverde.
GREAT-TAILED GRACKLE - Quiscalus mexicanus (4,20) - very common. Seen everywhere except on Cerro de Muerte.
NICARAGUAN GRACKLE - Quiscalus nicaraguensis (46,1) - a couple noted from the coach in the wetlands west of Cano Blanco on the way to Tortuguero.
ORCHARD ORIOLE - Icterus spurious (157,3) - a possible at Rio Tarcoles bridge and definites at the Rio Burio bridge, La Fortuna and along the Rio Estrella, during the canoe trip.
BLACK-COWLED ORIOLE - Icterus domicensis (228,3) - Arenal Lodge (in the large trees outside Reception) and at the Rio Estrella bridge, and Aviarios.
YELLOW-TAILED ORIOLE Icterus mesomelas (201,1) - seen at a couple of sites along the Lago de Arenal road, including in the dense roadside growth at the eastern end of the dam.
NORTHERN (BALTIMORE) ORIOLE - Icterus g. galbula (151,3) - singles at Punta Leona, Palo Verde and Arenal Lodge.
STREAKED-BACKED ORIOLE - Icterus pustulatus (189,1) - one near the visitor centre, Palo Verde.
RED-WINGED BLACKBIRD - Agelaius phoenicius (178,1) - in roadside bushes, just past Escuela Falconiana, on the way to Palo Verde.
GOLDEN-BROWED CHLOROPHONIA - Chlorophonia callophrys (246,1) - a pair nest-building by the canopy bridge at Monteverde were easily photographed. Several more of this species were seen around Stella's Bakery.
YELLOW-THROATED EUPHONIA - Euphonia hirundinacea (259,1) - a couple seen on the edge of Santa Elena on the cemetery walk were, sadly, the only Euphonias seen.
SILVER-THROATED TANAGER - Tangara icterocephala (29,3) - several visited bird tables at Albergue de Montana, near the Tapanti NP and at Arenal Lodge, where they can be photographed, albeit through the windows.
GOLDEN-HOODED TANAGER - Tangara larvata (67,2) - in the grounds of Laguna Lodge, and along the road north of Sierpe.
BAY-HEADED TANAGER - Tangara gyrola (224,1) - a pair near the Rio Burio bridge, La Fortuna.
GREEN HONEYCREEPER - Chlorophanes spiza (123,2) - several just south of the soccer pitch, Bahia Drake. Also on the Arenal Lodge trail, near the stream.
RED-LEGGED HONEYCREEPER - Cyanerpes cyaneus (106,6) - quite common around the soccer pitch, Bahia Drake and also seen in Corcovado NP. Present at Punta Leona and frequent visitor to the Arenal Lodge bird tables.
BLUE DACNIS - Dacnis cayana (122,1) - same location as Green Honeycreeper.
BLUE-GREY TANAGER - Thraupis episcopus (7,15+) - common and widespread.
PALM TANAGER - Thraupis palmarum (207,2) - regular visitor to bird tables at Arenal Lodge. May also have been seen elsewhere and not recorded.
PASSERINI'S TANAGER - Ramphocelus passerinii (26, 12+ - see also Cherrie's Tanager) - common and widespread. This species, together with Cherrie's Tanager, have recently been split having previously been called Scarlet-rumped Tanager.
CHERRIE'S TANAGER - Ramphocelus costaricensis (128, 5) - common around Delfin Amor.
CRIMSON-COLLARED TANAGER - Phlogothraupis sanguinolenta (210,1) - Arenal Lodge trail, near the stream.
SUMMER TANAGER - Piranga rubra (81,2) - Tortuguero NP and on bird tables at Aviarios.
HEPATIC TANAGER - Piranga flava (66,2) - Laguna Lodge grounds and at iron bridge east of Pacayas.
SCARLET TANAGER - Piranga olivacea (208,1) - Arenal Lodge bird tables.
WESTERN TANAGER - Piranga ludoviciana (135,1) - Corcovado NP.
FLAME-COLORED TANAGER - Piranga bidentata (9,2) - in Orosi Village and in the grounds of Albergue de Montana Tapanti.
RED-THROATED ANT-TANAGER - Habia fuscicauda (68,1) - in the grounds of Laguna Lodge.
WHITE-THROATED SHRIKE-TANAGER - Lanio leucothorax (136,2) - Corcovado NP and around the small ornamental pool, Arenal Lodge.
WHITE-SHOULDERED TANAGER - Tachyphonus luctuosus (159,1) - Carara NP on La Vigilancia trail.
TAWNY-CRESTED TANAGER - Tachyphonus delattrii (284,2) - Rio Estrella bridge and Gandoca-Manzanillo NP.
COMMON BUSH-TANAGER - Chlorospingus opthalmicus (211,2) - Arenal Lodge trail, near the stream and in Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve.
SOOTY-CAPPED BUSH TANAGER - Chlorospingus pileatus (23,2 ) - seen in several places near summit of Volcan Irazu and at Eddie Serrano's Finca.
BLACK-HEADED SALTATOR - Saltator atriceps (217,1) - Arenal Lodge trail, near the stream.
BUFF-THROATED SALTATOR - Saltator maximus (27,4) - visiting the bird table at Albergue de Montana, at Rio Burio bridge, La Fortuna, Arenal Lodge trail, near the stream and a probable at Aviarios.
GRAYISH SALTATOR - Saltator coerulescens (204,3) - Rio Burio bridge, La Fortuna and Arenal Lodge bird tables.
BLACK-FACED GROSBEAK - Caryothraustes poliogaster (222,1) - Rio Burio bridge, La Fortuna.
ROSE-BREASTED GROSBEAK - Pheucticus ludovicianus (295,1) - Aviarios, in small stream at edge of forest trail.
YELLOW-FACED GRASSQUIT - Tiaris olivacea (230,2) - along road on north side of Lago de Arenal and at iron bridge east of Pacayas.
WHITE-COLLARED SEEDEATER - Sporophila torqueola (202,1) - on road on north side of Lago de Arenal.
VARIABLE SEEDEATER - Sporophila aurita (64,4+) - very common at Laguna Lodge, Tortuguero and seen at Carara NP. Almost certainly under recorded.
PINK-BILLED SEED-FINCH - Oryzoborus nuttingi (41,1) - on fence near Carmen 1 'village' in the banana plantations on way to Tortuguero.
BLUE-BLACK GRASSQUIT - Volatinia jacarina (42,10+) - very common in many areas where agriculture present.
SLATY FLOWERPIERCER - Diglossa plumbea (277,1) - several around Eddie Serrano's Finca.
LARGE-FOOTED FINCH - Pezopetes capitalis (275,1) - a pair, Sendero de Descanso, Cerro de Muerte.
YELLOW-THIGHED FINCH - Pselliophorus tibialis (279,1) - several in the grounds of Eddie Serrano's Finca.
ORANGE-BILLED SPARROW - Arremon aurantiirostris (139,1) - on path past the front of Delfin Amor, on the edge of Delfin Amor grounds.
VOLCANO JUNCO - Junco vulcani (276,1) - around the summit area of Cerro de Muerte.
RUFOUS-COLLARED SPARROW - Zonotrichia capensis (6,8+) - very common at altitude, often in gardens.
HOUSE SPARROW - Passer domesticus (40,4) - one seen at Siquerres, common around La Fortuna.
Costa Rica is rich in wildlife. Wild mammals are seen much more frequently than in, say, the UK, and various reptiles are common in many places. There are lots of gorgeous butterflies, and identification books are available, and other fascinating invertebrates. Highlights included:
Greater Fruit-eating Bat
Eastern Cotton-tail Rabbit
Black Howler Monkey
Short-Finned Pilot Whale (c1000)
Pantropical Spotted Dolphin (c50)
Common Dolphin (c500)
Bottle-nosed Dolphin (c500)
Spinner Dolphin (c700+)
Olive Ridley Turtle
Common Slider Turtle
Black River Turtle
Green Vine Snake
Brown Vine Snake
Talamancan Dart frog
Leaf Cutter Ant
Stick Insect sp.
Blue Morpho Butterfly
Golden Orb Weaver
Purple Morpho Butterfly
Flying Fish sp.