19 February - 09 March 2001
by Gerry Weinberger
Costa Rica is an absolutely wonderful country to visit and to bird. On this trip, (our second to CR: the first was in 1993) the first 5 days were just with my partner Neale, and our friend Bev L.; we then joined up with a birding tour group predominantly from Virginia for the final 14 days. This group is put together by 3 VA birders, and they have been running this tour almost annually since 1988. I totalled 351 species during the trip, 76 of which were Lifers, and 123 were new birds for CR. We received invaluable help for the first 5 days from fellow-Chatters Lynea Hinchman and Jose Calvo ("Indio") - thanks to you both. We had a wonderful time: CR has friendly people, fantastic birds, diverse and interesting habitat, and great food, especially fresh fruit, fresh fish, and gallo pinto (rice and beans) with a dash of Lizano Salsa. Oh, and terrific coffee, especially con leche. We can't wait to return. I'll try and give an itinerary and summary of high-lights; for a complete list and answers to any specific questions, please e-mail me privately.
1. -- We arrived at 1pm into the brand-new San Jose airport from Dulles via Miami, and spent the first night at the Hotel Bougainvillea just outside of San Jose. The Hotel was deservedly recommended by both Lynea and Jose, and we add our recommendations. Excellent facilities and great food, plus very good birding on the grounds. Highlight birds were: Melodious Blackbirds and White-eared and Prevosts Ground Sparrows, found exactly where Lynea said they would be. These 3 species were seen nowhere else on the trip.
2. -- The next 4 days and 3 nights were at Rancho Naturalista, mid-level Caribbean slope habitat. A great place: very nice rooms, superb food, great trails, and wonderful feeders to observe every am from the main building balcony (with coffee). The resident bird-guide, Matt Denton, is exceptional and very personable. Feeder highlights, every am, included: Gray-headed Chachalaca, Collared Aracari, both Oropendolas, Buff-throated and Black-headed Saltators, White-lined and Crimson-collared Tanagers, Cinn. Becard, Blue-crowned Motmot, Plain Wren, Black-cheeked Woodpeckers, and Rufous-capped Warbler. Hummers included: White-necked Jacobins, Snowcaps, Green-beasted Mango, and Violet-crowned Wood-Nymph. Walks on trails over 3 days produced, among many birds: Great Tinamou, Rufous Jacamar, White-crowned, White-ruffed, and White-collared Manakins, Broad-billed Motmot, Black & Yellow Tanager, Mottled Owl, White-throated Spadebill, Sulpher-rumped and Ochre-bellied Flycatchers, and Slaty Antwren, Dot-winged Antwren, Russet Antshrike, and Dull-mantled Antbird.
3. -- We joined up with our group and spent the night of the 23rd in San Jose, leaving the next morning for Poas Volcano NP, where high-lights included: Black-billed Nightengale-Thrush, Sooty-capped Bush-Tanager, Large-footed Finch, and Yellow-thighed Finch. Then on to Bosque de Paz, our home for the next 3 days and nights. On the way there we stopped at Rio de Paz Waterfalls where we found our only Green-fronted Lancebill.
4. -- Bosque de Paz is a new lodge and is terrific. The best accomadations of the trip, very good food, terrific trails at 5-7000 ft. altitude. and Federico, the son of the owner, is a superb birder and guide with a phenomenal ability to imitate bird song.
At their feeders in the am Black Guans were regular, as was Ruddy-capped Nightengale-Thrush, more Violet Sabrewings at one time than I have ever seen, Purple-throated Mountain-Gems, and Magenta-throated Woodstars. In the rushing stream outside the main building Dippers and Torrent Tyrannulets were regular. Trails over 3 days produced such dazzlers as: Black-faced Solitaires, Golden-browed Chlorophonias, Orange-bellied Trogans, Eye-ringed Flatbill, Azure-hooded Jays, Quetzel, Prong-billed Barbets, Bright-rumped Attila, and such raptors as Bi-Colored Hawk, black-hawk Eagle, and Great Black Hawk. Can't wait to return here.
5. -- Arenal Volcano for 2 days, staying at Los Lagos, with good and comfortable cabins and great birding on the grounds. On the way there we birded and took a boat ride on the Sarapiqui River, picking up Black-faced Grosbeak and my first ever Cotinga, the Snowy, plus the usual Kingfishers, including Amazon. At Los Lagos and around Arenal, which continues to be active, smoking, and spewing boulders which glow red, notable birds included: White-winged Becard, Band-backed Wren, killer looks at Squirrel Cuckoo, Slaty-tailed and Black-throated Trogons, Crested Guan, Laughing Falcon, Yellow-throated and Yerllow-crowned Euphonias, Rufous-winged Woodpecker, and several Gray Hawks.
6. -- Guanacaste Province for 3 days. People used to mainly stay at Hacienda La Pacifica, but they have closed, sadly, and plan to become a gambling casino. Thus we stayed in Canas at a clean but primarily functional hotel which permitted us to make good day-trips, the best of which was to a lodge called La Ensenada on a 985 acre farm developed for birding. We had lunch there, checked the rooms out, and based on our time there recommend it. Birding was great, highlights including: Plain-breasted Ground-Dove, Double-striped Thick-Knee, Spotted-bellied Bob-White, and Lesser Ground Cuckoo. Nearby Salt ponds added Scrub Euphonia and Panama Flycatcher, and after-lunch birding produced a female 3-wattled Bellbird, Black-headed Trogon, and Stripe-headed Sparrow.
8. -- Carara - on the way from Canas we stopped to bird at a bridge on the way to BahaMar and it's lagoons. At the bridge we had wonderful looks at Long-tailed Manakins and Banded Wren. Then on to Villa Lapas where we stayed for 2 nights, using it as our base to bird Carara. The hotel itself is excellent, fine rooms and very good birding on the grounds, including a nest outside the recption area in which sat an adult and baby Bare-throated Tiger-Heron, and Ferruginous Pygmy-Owl and Rufous-tailed Jacamar. Carara and the bridge over hte Rio Tarcoles were splendid, with highlights including: Collared Forest-Falcon, Double-tooted Kite, Plain Xenops, Fiery-billed Aracari, Bairds Trogon, Orange-billed Sparrow, Gray-headed Tanager, No. Bentbill, Royal Flycatcher nest-building, Orange-collared Manakin, Barred and Black-headed Antshrike, Dusky Antbird, Chestnut-backed Antbird, Black-headed Antthrush, and Black-bellied Wren.
9. -- Orotina - on the way from Carara to Savegre, our last stop, we stopped to see the Black-and-White Owls in the city plaza in Orotina (thanks Lynea and Jose for the tip). They have been evidently roosting here for the past 5 years, and this year we had an adult and 2 young owls all sitting close together and permitting spectacular and close-up views. A trip highlight.
10. -- Our last stop, for 2 nights, was Savegre Mountain Lodge at 7200 ft. with walks up over 8,000 ft. This is a very nice lodge with great birding and good likelihood of seeing Quetzels. We had wonderful and prolonged views of a pair excavating a nest-hole in bright sun-light. Breath-taking. Other good birds were: Flame-colored Tanagers (common) Green Violet-ear and Gray-tailed Mountain-gems at their feeders, Yellow-bellied Siskins, Black-thighed Grosbeaks, Sulpher-winged Parakeets, Black-cheeked Warbler, Ruddy Treerunner, and Black-capped Flycatchers.
It was hard to leave, and if you haven't been, don't wait to go. Hope this gives you a bit of the flavor, and we'll be happy to answer any questions.
Gerry Weinberger and Neale Smith Doswell, VA