Looking for the most elusive Costa Rica bird species
Costa Rica Focus is very excited to announce a new Costa Rica Birding Group Trip for 2019. Join us on this exclusive birding trip looking for some of the most elusive species of birds in Costa Rica. If Costa Rica Birdwatching is on your bucket list, you will want to be sure to be a part of our adventure. Since we only arrange small group birding trips, get in touch with us soon and secure your spot.
The dates of the trip are October 14 – 22, 2019. Since October tends to be very rainy on the Pacific side of the country, we’ll be focused on the Caribbean side, where weather will be better and the birding will be amazing.
This 8 night/9 day birding and nature trip to Costa Rica gives avid bird watchers the chance to see some of Costa Rica’s rarest and most exciting bird species, plus, enjoy some of the other fantastic activities that Costa Rica has to offer. This Costa Rica Birding trip is a great combination of excellent bird watching, culture, and nature. With your private naturalist birding guide, you’ll travel throughout the Caribbean side of the country and experience paradise at its best.
One of the things that makes Costa Rica such a special destination for birdwatching is the many microclimates throughout the country. This means, for birders, that just by changing elevation slightly or moving a few miles east or west, the chance to see new species is created. On this trip, we are going to target some of the country’s most elusive species, but of course, we will be looking for and logging the old favorites too.
Along with the daily birdwatching, our guests will have a chance to take part in fun and interesting activities. One night, the group will participate in a farm to table experience, seeing local produce and then joining the chef in the kitchen to prepare and cook a lovely typical dinner. Guests will also get the chance to visit the most significant archeological site in Costa Rica, Guayabo. Your guide, Rudy Zamora, had the pleasure of studying under the professor who discovered the Guayabo site, so he is ready to share insight and observations straight from the scientist who made this important find. Guayabo happens to be not just an amazing glimpse of history, but also a fantastic spot for birding. Along with these two activities, the group will visit a very important agricultural center, CATIE. CATIE is famous for its impressive collection of tropical plants, and the research done here leads the world in advances in sustainable practices in Tropical Agriculture. The group will have the chance to taste a wide array of tropical fruits, and of course, enjoy spectacular bird watching throughout the gardens.
October is a special month in Tortuguero too, as it wraps up the Green Sea Turtle nesting period. Along with bird watching the canals and rainforest of Costa Rica, our group will have the chance to see this incredible, once in a lifetime event, the nesting of the Green Sea Turtles. We will be looking for all the birds of Tortuguero too, but we will take time out one evening to try and see the turtles. The trip will finish with a visit to the majestic Arenal Volcano Area. This entire region is so rich in bird species, the group will spend most of the time in the gardens and trails around the Arenal Observatory Lodge, but we will take time out one evening to have a lovely soak in the thermal waters of the volcano. It is a special experience, one not to be missed in Costa Rica.
If you enjoy birdwatching in a small group atmosphere, with an exceptional naturalist guide to lead you and like-minded birders with you, you will love our “Elusive birds of Costa Rica Trip”. There are few Costa Rica Birding Group Trips that will target so many amazing species and show off the unique qualities of this beautiful country. We hope you can join us.
Check out part of our target list below.
Below is a sample of a privately guided Search for the Elusive Birds Tour:
Costa Rica Group Birding Trip: Search for the Elusive Birds
Dates: October 14 – 22, 2019
What is the difference between a birding tour and a birding photography tour?
At Costa Rica Focus we offer both bird watching tours and bird photography tours. Sometimes clients wonder which tour is best for them. Am I more interested in photography, bird watching, or a little bit of both? Many tours will satisfy the needs of both birders and photographers, but if you are intense about your birding or intense about your photography, you may want to consider choosing a tour that is hyper-focused on either interest.
Some of the qualities of both bird watching tours and bird photography tours are that they will include a variety of destinations so that you have the opportunity to see or photograph the most variety of species. Visitors should expect itineraries to offer journeys that encompass Caribbean and Pacific destinations (North and South). The month of travel will determine the best locations for each trip.
Some of the qualities that guests can expect on a bird photography tour in Costa Rica are:
If you are interested in taking a bird photography tour, Book our tour package #4
Our Newest Costa Rica Birding Tour
If you are interested in a Costa Rica Birdwatching Tour, please consider our newest birding tour, “Quest for the Agami Heron”. This fantastic trip can be arranged for individuals or if you prefer, you can join our scheduled group tour for June 3 –13, 2020. There are many birdwatching tours in Costa Rica to choose from, but we think this adventure is really special.
Bird Watching Tour Details
This 10 night/ 11-day package gives visitors a unique experience in a very off the beaten track part of Costa Rica called the Pacuare Reserve. The highlight of this birdwatching tour is the opportunity to see the rare nesting site of the Agami Herons. These beautiful birds gather along the banks of the river, in the private reserve, laying their eggs and tending their chicks. It’s a cacophony of sound and color. Beautiful burgundy adults, fluffy white chicks, and lush green foliage are the backdrop to the unique calls of the Agami Herons. If the local Howler Monkeys join in, it’s truly a symphony of nature.
As part of our stay at the Reserve, we will also be participating in a census of the endangered Leatherback Turtle. Each night, we’ll head to the beach with trained biologists to count any adults who come from the sea. This is a rare chance to see these prehistoric creatures in their natural habitat.
Our birdwatching in Costa Rica is not limited to the Caribbean lowlands though, this fantastic tour will also take us to the Turrialba area to concentrate on the mid-elevation species and on to San Gerardo de Dota for all those highland birds that are a must-see on any birdwatching tour. In this 10-night package, birding enthusiasts will be able to add many new birds to their species lists and enjoy a combination of habitats to really become immersed in the flora and fauna of Costa Rica.
Our June 3, 2020 departure guarantees the guiding services of our top Naturalist and birding expert, Rudy Zamora, but if you prefer to arrange your own trip, he is available for different dates as well. If you are looking for a similar itinerary but maybe not such an intense birdwatching tour to Costa Rica, we can also arrange a trip that utilizes local guides. For the very best of birdwatching in Costa Rica, contact us at Costa Rica Focus. We work with all types of visitors, any number of days, and a wide range of budgets.
The post Newest Costa Rica Birding Tour: Quest for the Agami Heron appeared first on Costa Rica Focus.
Wondering if you need a private guide for my birding adventure in Costa Rica?
Planning a birding trip to Costa Rica is very exciting. Whether it is your first time visiting Costa Rica, or maybe a return trip, the anticipation of seeing new bird species and enjoying the beauty of Costa Rica is exhilarating. One question that is often posed to us is, “Do I need a Private Guide?” There are quite a few details to consider in helping you answer that question for yourselves. We hope this article will help you decide.
Advantages of having a private birding guide in Costa Rica
Including a Private Naturalist Guide (one with a proven history of knowledge and skill) in your package is the best way to ensure that you see the species you want to see and learn the most about the natural history of Costa Rica. For smaller groups or couples, your guide will also act as your driver, with larger groups the guide will choose a vehicle and driver with experience driving for birding groups.
Having a private guide, exclusive to you, allows you the advantage of going to the unknown, off the beaten track birding sites, ones that are outside the realm of large noisy tourist groups. You will also be on your own schedule, you can stop anytime and any place you like (was that a Swallow Tail Kite soaring overhead? Let’s stop and check it out), you can stay as long or as short as you like at any given reserve or park, as it’s totally your trip, your time, with a trip tailor-made just for you. Your guide will find out what will make your birding vacation special for you and then make sure that everything you do aligns to your needs.
When you hire a private guide, you can send your target list in advance and your guide will consider the best places and best times to visit each area to give you the best chance to see the birds you want to see. Your guide will also be your driver. He will get you from point A to point B, he will take you to local restaurants, and to see any other sights you may want to see. There is an ease in knowing that all you need to do is arrive, and your guide is there to handle everything for you. If your interests expand beyond birds, to history, culture, plants, animals, etc., an experienced guide will be adept at answering your questions, telling tales of local lore, and pointing out the many interesting facts about the flora and fauna of Costa Rica.
Spotting birds and wildlife in the rainforest is tricky too. Camouflage in nature is incredible. We hear over and over in our guests’ comments, “We had no idea how Rudy spotted that bird!” “How in the world he could see that tiny bird in the thick trees!” Trying to find tricky species, in the rainforest is difficult. Having your expert guide with you, one who knows the habitats that birds like, the flowers or seeds they are attracted to, the elevation to find each species will allow you to spend more time in nature and less time looking through your guidebook trying to figure out what you just saw.
What is the protocol with private guides?
Some guests have asked us about protocol with guides too. Do we have to have every meal together? Is it rude to expect some time to ourselves? The answer to this is, it’s your vacation, you will not offend your guide if you let him know you would prefer a meal or all meals on your own or that you just want time to yourselves. Most guides will try to be stealthy, and gauge the vibes of their clients, but I think it’s important for guests to know that you can still have your own time, even if you hire a private guide.
What about the costs of hiring a private guide?
It is important to know that there is a cost associated with hiring a private guide. Guides will charge a daily fee for their services and guests will need to cover the per diem for accommodations and meals for the guide. Most hotels in Costa Rica do offer highly reduced rates for guides and often include their meals as well, to help keep the cost to guests as low as possible. Visitors can expect to pay between $100-$150 per day for the services of an excellent guide. This would be for an educated guide, who speaks fluent English, and most likely has a degree in Biology, Ornithology, Natural History or another related field. This will be for a guide who can talk about birds, habitats, relationships of flora and fauna, culture, and history. Most highly sought-after guides will book up their schedules a year or more in advance during high season months (December – April), plan early if you think having a private guide is the right choice for your birding vacation.
While we do recommend having a private guide for our avid birders, for visitors with a moderate or intermediate interest in birds and nature, we can suggest hotels that have decent local guides on staff. In most cases, guests will find local guides who are good at identifying the species of their areas and speak intermediate English. At most National Parks, guests will find free-lance guides for hire, waiting at the ranger station for visitors to arrive. Visitors can hire these guides by the day or hour. Costs range from about $10 per hour to about $75 per day. You can negotiate your own rate with the free-lance guides. Tours to popular birding spots (like Cano Negro, Hanging Bridges, Tarcoles River), will include a guide as well. Again, these guides will generally be good at the recognition of species and should be able to point out many different and interesting birds, mammals, reptiles, and plants.
Whichever type of birding vacation to Costa Rica you prefer, the important thing to know is that with a vacation in Costa Rica, you have choices. At Costa Rica Focus, we will talk with you about what you want out of your birding trip and we’ll help you make the best choices for you and your travel companions.
The post Do I need a private guide for my birding trip to Costa Rica? appeared first on Costa Rica Focus.
Birding and Beaches: Costa Rica Birdwatching Tour
Many birdwatchers think that in order to visit a destination and find many new species to add to their life bird lists, they will need to trudge for miles and miles through swamps, forests, jungles, and muddy trails. Costa Rica is such a special place for bird watching because it is easy to create a birdwatching tour vacation for the birder and the non-birder in the couple, family or group.
Last week, my husband and I left our home in the Central Valley of Costa Rica to visit the Guanacaste beach area, and then make a stop at the Los Angeles Cloud Forest in San Ramon. We are both avid birders, so yes, of course, we were planning on some bird watching, but this was the first get-away we have had together for a while, so we also wanted some downtime for beaches, pools, and cocktails. Like normal, we hugged the dogs goodbye, re-checked for binoculars, wished our dog sitter good luck (10 dogs, lots of work), and set out northwest to the Pacific Coast and the beautiful Playa Conchal area. We generally keep our eyes to the skies, even as we leave our house. This was not planned to be a birdwatching tour, per se, but being passionate about birds, and since it was migration time, we were hoping to see some new species to add to our year bird list. Many birdwatching tours in Costa Rica will skip over Guanacaste in favor of the Central and Southern Pacific regions, but if you have done the Central Pacific, and the Osa Peninsula, your next trip to Costa Rica should include Guanacaste.
Spotting the First Birds
Back to our trip, we bounced along in our good ol’ Toyota Four Runner, down the unpaved road taking us from our house to the main street outside our little town. We spotted turkey vultures, black vultures, rufous-naped wrens, yellow warblers, tropical kingbirds, Kiskadees, Steely-vented hummingbirds, and a short-tailed hawk (we were not even 1 mile away). We continued along the highway, spotting a lot of vultures of course, and a roadside hawk, until finally, we reached the coastal town of Puntarenas. There is a small mud-flat there, we stopped for a quick look and found a couple spotted sand-pipers but nothing else. It is a 3.5-hour drive from the Central Valley to Guanacaste, so we decided to keep moving, as we wanted to make it to the beach by sunset. The drive was uneventful, we did see a troop of Howler Monkeys in the trees overhead, and several flocks of orange chinned parrots (signaling the start of the dry season in Costa Rica), but for the most part, there were what we call “the usual suspects.” Kiskadees, tropical kingbirds, vultures, roadside hawks, grey hawks, cattle egrets, great egrets, and social flycatchers.
Playa Conchal: Admiring The Birds and Wildlife Too!
Arriving at our hotel at Playa Conchal, we were happy to see the sprawling golf course (great place for bird watching) and to find a map of the trails at the on-site reserve. In the morning, we planned to rise early and check out the property in order to see what we might see in the area. We did take the late afternoon to have a few cocktails, take a lovely swim in the clear warm water at Playa Conchal, and watch the sunset beautifully over the Pacific Ocean. Just walking around the resort property that afternoon, we were impressed with the wildlife we encountered. We saw Variegated squirrels, Coatimundis (with babies, so cute), white-faced capuchin monkeys, howler monkeys, an Armadillo, and lots of iguanas. The birding was great too because the resort has done a great job of maintaining lush green areas. The hotel also borders a 96-acre private wildlife reserve that includes a dry tropical forest, an estuary, and a mangrove swamp. This diverse array of habitats creates a fantastic place for birdwatching in Costa Rica.
A Perfect Day for Birdwatching in Central Guanacaste
Our first morning, we set the alarms for 5:00 a.m. (it gets light about 5:30) and were greeted by the hoots of owls, right outside our terrace door. Upon investigation we found two Pacific Screech Owls perched just a few feet away. That was a great omen to start the day. We headed through the grounds of the hotel, towards the golf course, and saw Clay-colored robins, white-winged doves, boat-billed flycatchers, and the gorgeous streak-backed oriole (to name a few). We continued to the golf course, and at the first pond, we were happily surprised to find two lovely Lesser Scaups. They were so pretty in the early morning sunlight. Under a large Guanacaste tree, we spied several double-striped thick knees and at the second pond a Ringed Kingfisher and a Tri-colored Heron. Next, we took a trail into the wooded portion of the reserve. There were Scrub Euphonias, a Thicket Tinamou, Lesser Greenlets, a Black Headed Trogon, Banded Wrens, and many Melodious Blackbirds. The trail looped us around to the paved road, which turned out to be successful as we encountered several mixed flocks. Tanagers were everywhere, Blue & Grey, Summer, Western, as well as a cute Brown Crested Flycatcher, Groove-billed Anis, Rufus Capped Warblers, Squirrel Cuckoos, and a long-tailed manakin. Continuing down to the beach we first visited the river mouth. There we found the spotted sandpipers, a Yellow Crowned Night Heron, Great Egret, Little Blue Heron, and mangrove swallows. Along the beach, we enjoyed both the Elegant and Royal Terns, and lots of Brown Pelicans. We had a very special sighting too, a White-necked Puffbird, perched on a bare limb, right in the open. We had a great look. We only spent about 2 hours around the hotel, on the trail, and then on the beach and we logged about 100 species. Imagine a day like that, at a beach hotel, that is why Costa Rica Birdwatching is so great.
Papagayo Peninsula: Relaxing and Birdwatching
The following morning, we left central Guanacaste to the Northernmost peninsula, The Papagayo Peninsula. Our hotel was located at the beach surrounded by the dry tropical forest typical of Guanacaste. Again, we chose well because the combination of resort amenities, beautiful pool and spa, natural beach, and the clear water of Culebra Bay PLUS the surrounding forest made us know we were in for a great time relaxing and bird watching experience. It was a typical hot Guanacaste afternoon so our first stop after check-in was the swimming pool. No sooner had we gotten in the pool when a huge troop of white face capuchin monkeys visited the pool. There were tiny newborn babies, clinging to their mamas, and juveniles chattering and playing with each other, jumping through the trees, chasing each other everywhere. It was really cute. I guess that one of the youngsters thought the pool looked pretty good, as he came to the edge of the infinity pool, and lay down, dangling an arm and a leg into the cool water. He lay there, looking at us like, “Yeah? What’s wrong with this?” “I’m just doing what you’re doing.” It was incredible. We were also visited by toucans, white-fronted parrots, Brown-hooded Parrots, and an Osprey. It was a great start to our visit on the Papagayo Peninsula. We spent the next day mostly relaxing by the pool. From the pool, we Coppery Emerald Hummingbird, a Great Crested Fly Catcher and a Rose-throated Becard. To make the day even better, I spied something moving mid-canopy, at first, I thought it was a monkey, but WOW, it was a Tamandua (Anteater). That was really special.
Los Angeles Reserve: Birding in the Cloud Forest
After two days enjoying the sun of Guanacaste, it was time for us to move on to our last stop, the cool misty cloud forest of the Los Angeles Reserve, just outside the town of San Ramon. We were greeted by a blanket of mist, and temperatures that dropped rapidly. It felt good to be in the cool fresh air after the heat of Guanacaste. The gardens at our hotel were alive with hummingbirds, sparrows, and wrens. The Violet Sabrewing (the largest hummingbird in Costa Rica) zoomed by, the charming little Bananaquits chirped in the verbenas, and the Mountain Elaenias came to check us out. When the fog got too dense and the afternoon too dark, we retired to the hotel lounge and sat in front of a roaring fire enjoying a glass of wine and one of our favorite typical dishes, Ayote Soup (Squash soup). We planned for an early morning walk into the cloud forest, so we went to bed early. Our quaint, rustic room included our own fireplace. We lit a toasty fire and fell asleep to the sound of the wood crackling, it was heavenly. The rain was our morning alarm, but we decided to brave the conditions and at least get an hour in the Cloud Forest. So, ponchos on, we made our way down an easy path through the mystical, magical cloud forest. There is no way to fully describe the cloud forest. You simply must experience it. The lushness, the depth of the greens, the smell of the earth, the plants and vines, and trees and the birds, Oh the birds. We only had about 30 minutes before the deluge came but, in that time, we spotted a Dusky Antbird, Red-Faced Spinetail, Rufous-Tailed Jacamar, Spotted Woodcreeper, Chestnut-sided Warbler, Wilson’s Warbler and much more (see full list below). We could have easily spent hours exploring the area but hard rain and the need for breakfast called us back to the lodge. With an unfavorable weather forecast upon us, we decided to pack it up and head back to the Central Valley. It was an amazing trip, and a great reminder of how amazing bird watching in Costa Rica truly is. Visitors can experience several different climate zones, and see a huge array of birds, even on a 5-night birding tour to Costa Rica.
If you are interested, here is the full list of birds we spotted on our trip:
When is The Best time of year for Birding in Costa Rica?
One of the great things about bird watching in Costa Rica is that every month is a great month for bird watching. With so many different micro-climates, avid bird watchers can find a great spot all year ‘round.
Here is a quick guide to some of the best places to visit and to avoid during specific times of the year. It’s important to note that there are two very distinct sides to Costa Rica (Pacific and Caribbean) and two very distinct weather patterns to go along with each side.
Let’s start with the Caribbean side, it’s easy. It rains every month of the year on the Caribbean side. There is very consistent rainfall every month, all year long, with a slight decrease during the months of August, September, and October. With this said, birding on the Caribbean side of the country is always good because there is a constant food supply (fruit, insects, reptiles, etc.) due to the consistent rain.
The Pacific Side
The Pacific side of the country follows a pretty predictable weather pattern, but keep in mind Costa Rica is a tropical country and even during the “dry season” rain is possible on the Pacific. Generally speaking, the driest months of the year are December – April. The rainiest months of the year are October and November. Those transition months of the year (May – September) are considered the best for bird watchers as being “off-season” the country has fewer tourists which means better conditions for bird watching in the National Parks. Fewer visitors, fewer crowds, less noise equals better bird watching.
It’s always best to talk about your vacation with a birding specialist. This way you’ll get a trip that will exceed your expectations.
Costa Rica Waits for Its Winged Visitors to Arrive
Definitely one of the most amazing events of Mother Nature is bird migration. After the Autumn Equinox on September 21rst, the northern hemisphere starts tilting away from the sun, literarily by the minute the days are getting shorter and the temperatures are dropping.
The birds know. It is now time to go south to the tropics. For birds, the trip requires a lot of preparation. They most double their weight, otherwise, they will not have enough energy to make it to their wintering grounds. Millions and millions of birds, after a long spring and summer of finding a suitable place to build a nest, incubating and raising their chicks in the northern latitudes are now ready to head South.
For the long journey, one would expect that the parents would guide their young ones, who are just a few months old, during their long trip south. Actually, the youngsters usually take off first, they know where to go, as their destination is imprinted in their genes. Handed down generation after generation in their species.
Costa Rica Bird Migration Times
Some birds migrate during the day. We humans can position ourselves to see the incredible gathering of thousands and thousands of birds, especially raptors, shorebirds, and swallows. The Caribbean Coast of Costa Rica, from mid-September through October, is one of the best places to see the spectacular raptor migration. Look to the skies on a clear day to see hundreds of thousands of hawks, falcons, kites, and vultures soaring overhead.
Most birds migrate only during the night. All of the little flycatchers, vireos, warblers, tanagers, and tiny hummingbirds will only take off in the middle of the night, a mile high above the trees, flying over entire oceans, mountains, and continents, for thousands of miles. What a feat for a little creature. Imagine, a Ruby-Throated Hummingbird weighs only 3 grams. The same tiny bird in my family backyard in Hershey, PA will end up in my backyard in Costa Rica. That same bird will return to the same spot in Pennsylvania and back to Costa Rica year after year.
Ornithologists have been banding birds for many years. We know that most birds will come to the same spot year after year. Their sense of orientation is incredible, and it’s still a mystery as to exactly how they do it. How do they manage to fly through dark nights, rain, wind, hurricanes even and return to the same spots over and over? (Especially when you think that we humans tend to get lost in a shopping center!)
Being a bird watcher in the tropics I wait for the Southbound migration with anticipation and excitement. When I finally see a little Ruby-throated Hummingbird visiting the Verbena plants in my garden, I wonder where it came from and what it went through in its long trip. How many obstacles did this tiny beautiful marvel face and conquer before he reached his winter home? I admire it and enjoy it, at least until March during the Spring Equinox when off it will go North again and a bird watcher in the North will feel what I am feeling now, gratitude!
Hunt for the Harpy Eagle
Darien Jungle, Panama
Most bird watchers (Including me) have a few species on their “most-wanted” lists. Those elusive birds that we’ve been looking for, for years. We imagine the number of times we passed by them, hidden on the trail, unseen. One of my most wanted species was the Harpy Eagle. Living in Costa Rica for 12 years, I always thought I’d have a better chance, but the truth is that the population of Harpy Eagles in Costa Rica has steadily dwindled. They can be seen deep in the Osa Peninsula in the Southern Pacific area of the country, but it’s very difficult. I decided to up my chances and travel to the Darien Jungle of Panama, where I knew the population was stronger.
With Rudy Zamora, our Naturalist Guide, and a group of fellow bird watchers we departed our home cities to meet in Panama City.
Here is our travelogue, I’m affectionately calling it: “Hunt for the Harpy”
Day 1 – March 10
Panama City » Hotel Bristol
Today was “gathering day” as our group flew in to Panama City from all around the U.S. and from Costa Rica. Besides a lost suitcase (that showed up later that evening), arrivals went as planned. Everyone tried to get a few hours’ sleep, as we had a very early a.m. departure for the Darien Jungle. Harpy Eagle, here we come.
Day 2 – March 11
Darien Jungle » Canopy Tent Camp
5:00 a.m. we depart Panama City, make a quick stop at a grocery store for some last-minute essentials (wine & vodka) and continue on the Pan American Highway to our destination, The Darien National Park. Of course, the bird watching begins immediately as we pass the mud flats in Balboa and look to the sky for raptors. We reach the small town of Akua Yala and Lake Bayano where we make a stop to stretch our legs and check the lake and surrounding area. It was a successful stop.
Highlight Birds: Pied Water-Tyrant, Cocoi Heron, Buff-Breasted Wren, Golden-Fronted Greenlet and Bat Falcon
Our trip continued to the town of Torti Medio, where we made a stop for lunch. The owner of the cute typical restaurant, being used to bird watchers traveling this route, had put up a nice array of hummingbird feeders. We were able to have a cold drink, and a good typical Panamanian lunch, watching the hummingbirds buzz through the feeders and flowering plants and bushes. We had great looks at the black-breasted mango, the Scaly-Breasted, the snowy belly, and the violet belly hummingbirds.
Hitting the road again, we continued through to the Canopy tent camp located outside the tiny town of Sanson. With stops, the drive was about 5 hours. It felt good to reach our home for the next 4 nights. Our greeting from David, the camp manager, was friendly and informative, as we were given the run down on how everything worked at the camp. We were assigned our tents and after a quick check on our accommodations, everyone was back to bird watching around the grounds of the camp. Our next greeting came from a troop of Geoffroy’s Tamarins. These adorable little monkeys seemed excited to see who was invading their jungle. They squeaked and peeped, jumped through the trees, checking us out for several minutes before disappearing into the treetops. Our next noisy visitors were the Oropendolas. A large tree beside the reception area housed around 100 individual nests. The Crested and the Chestnut-Headed Oropendolas gave everyone a fantastic show. The garden around the reception was full of tanagers, honeycreepers, hummingbirds, it was nice to relax in the rocking chairs and bird from the terrace.
Day 3 – March 12
Quebrada Felix » Canopy Tent Camp
This morning we took the van with our guide Eli and met our driver Oscar where we changed to a four-wheel drive truck. The truck had an open bed, outfitted with two long benches. This allowed us to bird watch from the truck as we navigated the dirt roads around the area. Our first stop was at Reserva Forestal Canglon. We walked a forested dirt road that followed Rio Quebrada Felix. We did two separate trails in this location
Reserva Forestal Canglon:
Highlight Species: Golden headed manakin, Golden collared manakin, southern bentbill
Rio Quebrada Felix Trail:
Highlight Species: Grey-cheeked Nunlet, white-bellied antbird, black ant shrike, black breasted puff bird
Day 4 – March 13
Darien Jungle » Canopy Tent Camp
Today we depart the tent camp very early as we need to get into the jungle as soon as we can, to increase our chances of finding the Harpy Eagle. We take the Pan American Highway to the very end, the actual ending point of the highway, the town of Yaviza. From Yaviza we board our dug-out canoes and travel on the Chucunaque river, to the Tuira River to the small town of El Real. In El Real, we all climb into the backs of two pickup trucks, and continue to the town of Pejivasal, where we reach the entrance to the Darien National Park. With our team of Kuna Indian guides, we start the 5-mile hike into the Darien Jungle. The jungle is alive with birds, but we keep a fast pace, hoping to reach the nesting site and catch a look at one of the world’s most amazing birds. The guides tell us that the site we are going to has been inhabited by a 2.5-year-old chick. Harpy’s tend to their young for up to 5 years, so finding a chick usually means Mama is in the area too, searching for food for her baby. We reach the nest to find it empty! The heat and humidity are oppressive, but the group agrees we’ve come this far we must wait. In the meantime, our trusty local Kuna guides set out to check other trees, and other sites in the area, with the hopes of helping fulfill our dreams of seeing the Harpy Eagle. A couple long, hot hours later, our guides excitedly return, and we grab our things and hustle down a winding trail that goes up and down, and up and down, ending in a small clearing in the forest. We have just enough room to squeeze in and there is our prize, a full view of our 2.5-year-old Harpy Eagle. It was a bit surreal, seeing something that was on my birding bucket list for so long. This majestic bird did not disappoint. We grabbed as many photos as we could, without disturbing this gorgeous creature, and set off back down the trail.
Highlight Species: Harpy Eagle, Red-throated Caracara, Speckled Mourner, stripe-throated wren, scarlet browed tanager, sirystes
Day 5 – March 14
Darien Jungle » Canopy Tent Camp » Local Guide: Eliecer Rodgriguez
Today we took to the Penitas Road through the small Embera Indian village called Nuevo Vigia. We did our due diligence and visited the village and then continued back to the lodge for lunch. The Penitas road was excellent yielding us the blue cotinga, spectacled parrotlet, mustached ant-wren, and the one-colored becard. After lunch, those of us who could withstand the heat went on our open-air truck to a dirt road called Lajas Blancas. This afternoon was incredible. We saw the common potoo, the 3 jacamars (dusky back, great, and rufous tail), russet winged schiffornis, the orange-crowned oriole, and the yellow-backed oriole. We will never forget the amazing sighting of the potoo by Eli from the truck. HOW DID HE SEE THAT? That evening we enjoyed our farewell dinner at the Tent Camp preparing for an early departure back to Panama City.
Highlight Species: Blue Cotinga, Spectacled Parrotlet, 3 Jacamars.
Day 6 – March 15
Darien Jungle » Canopy Tent Camp » Local Guide: Eliecer Rodgriguez
This morning we left very early to arrive at the San Francisco reserve for our last day of birding in the Darien region. We took a nice dirt road, starting our walk, and to our surprise encountered what was by far the best mammal of our trip. A mother jaguarundi with 2 cubs. We had an amazing look as they languished in the road, and then leapt into the forest. Wow! This area was rich for mammals as we also encountered a 3-toe slot and a tamandua.
Highlight Species: Stripe-cheeked woodpecker, Harrier, black-breasted puffbird
6 Costa Rica Book Recommendations
Have you bought the best “Birds of Costa Rica” book for your bird watching tour? or do you know which books to buy for your trip in the country? As your trip to Costa Rica approaches you may be thinking about which books you should be reading or bringing with you on your trip.
Let’s start with the best field guide. Our preference above all others is “The Birds of Costa Rica” by Richard Garrigues and Robert Dean. The book is in its 2nd edition. This edition includes all the updates and changes to the species list for the country. Richard has spent his entire life in Costa Rica, raised a lovely family of avid naturalists and birders, and is a passionate birder himself. He watched guides and birders struggle with the large cumbersome Stiles & Skutch field guide for many years and then decided to create a smaller, easy to carry version. The book is nicely illustrated and includes the ever-important distribution maps for each species. This way you can check your sighting and make sure you saw what you think you saw.
The back of the book includes a checklist for the birds of Costa Rica, but most guides will provide those for the members of their birding group. Our guides, with Costa Rica Focus, do provide those birding lists to everyone on the trip. I asked Birding Guide Extraordinaire, Rodolfo “Rudy” Zamora which guidebook he prefers, and he immediately answered, “Oh, no doubt the Garrigues book, The Birds of Costa Rica.” “It fits easily in my backpack, the illustrations are solid, and the distribution maps really help me if I’ve seen a highly uncommon bird, and I want to check to be sure it was what I think it was.” “I also like supporting a local person, who has lived his life an advocate for birds, animals, and conservation and ecology in Costa Rica.” So, pick up your own copy of the Birds of Costa Rica, by Richard Garrigues and Robert Dean. It will give you everything you need to help you identify the many new species you’re about to see during your trip to Costa Rica.
Other Costa Rica Book Recommendations:
A Neotropical Companion by John Kricher
If you have a keen interest in biology, and the relationships in nature, the Neotropical Companion is a fascinating read. It acts as an introduction to the ecosystems of the New World Tropics. Reading this book will give you a deeper appreciation and understanding of the world around you as you trek through the cloud forests of Monteverde or the lush tropical rainforest of the Osa Peninsula. This book helped me to see the tropics in a more complete way and understand the fragility and strength of the rainforest and its inhabitants.
A Naturalist in Costa Rica by Alexander Skutch
I recommend ANYTHING, and EVERYTHING written by Alexander Skutch. A renowned naturalist, Skutch lived 35 years in the Southern Zone of Costa Rica. His book “A Naturalist in Costa Rica” picks up where his memoir stops. His stories are rich with detail and charm. Skutch was a pioneer in Ornithology in Costa Rica and a true leader in ecology. He writes about his early days on his farm (which he called his sanctuary), and his studies of birds, butterflies, and animals. It’s a must read for anyone coming to Costa Rica.
Monkeys are made of Chocolate by Jack Ewing
The author, Jack Ewing, lived 3 decades in the Southern Pacific of Costa Rica. This book is his testament to the wonders of living in and around the Tropical Rainforest. It’s a collection of essays and observations on how people, plants, and animals interact with one another in the jungle. For the inquisitive traveler, the book will get you very excited to visit Costa Rica.
The Mammals of Costa Rica: A Natural History and Field Guide by Mark Wainwright
If you’re looking for the definitive guide to mammals in Costa Rica, this is the guide book for you. It’s small and easy to carry, includes accurate illustrations and solid distribution maps to aid in correctly identifying everything you see. The text is clear and entertaining, and the author includes local folklore and mythology. This is a fantastic book for animal lovers and naturalists alike.
Costa Rican Natural History by Dan Janzen
This is a great book for anyone who really wants to deep dive into the Natural History of Costa Rica. It reads more like a science book than anything else, but if you want the hardcore information without any prose or pretty pictures, this is the book for you. It’s a unique work from a committed naturalist. While not a page turner, it is filled with excellent information on all things natural in the tropics.
Top Tree Costa Rica Birding Hotspots
Do you know the top tree Costa Rica birding hotpots? Imagine a 7-night birding trip to a small country that is just 288 miles long and 170 miles wide and imagine seeing 400 plus birds in those seven nights. This is birding in Costa Rica. With twelve climate zones and a wide array of regions that include mountains, paramo, tropical rain forest, tropical dry forest, cloud forest, beaches and rivers, Costa Rica is home to over 900 species of birds. Whether with an experienced birding guide in Costa Rica or on a self-drive adventure, visitors can be assured of adding many new species to their life lists.
Here are some of our top picks for your 7-night birding adventure
Talamanca Highlands: The Talamanca Highlands parallel the Continental Divide and are covered by montane forest and at the highest levels a treeless paramo. This area is rich with high elevation bird species like the Resplendent Quetzal, the Volcano Junco, and the Yellow-thighed finch. Following the main road, Cerro de la Muerte, visitors can follow a utility access road to a flat area where they’ll find several radio towers. This is a great spot to stop and search out the unique species of the area.
Caribbean Lowlands: The La Selva Biological Station sits at the confluence of two rivers in the Northern region of Costa Rica. This hot, sultry area is teeming with tanagers, fly catchers, raptors, parrots, and trogons. For visitors who do not require much in the way of creature comforts, stays at the Biological station can be arranged, otherwise, there are several good hotels nearby. The trails around the station are well marked and besides birds, guests are sure to see a wide array of mammals and reptiles.
Central Pacific: The last but not least of the best Costa Rica birding hotspots is the Central Pacific which is located just 90 minutes from San Jose, Carara National Park is a “must visit” for bird enthusiasts and nature lovers. This park has one of the highest diversity of trees in the world, and its native trees are the favorite spot of the beautiful Scarlet Macaw. Visitors will want to be on the lookout for ant birds, hummingbirds, warblers, raptors and much more. The system of trails takes guests along ponds as well, a great place to see herons, kingfishers, and rales.
If you want to visit any of these top three Costa Rica birding hotspots, contact us and we can arrange a complete personalized tour.