Trip report: Costa Rica Introtour (Feb 2013) by Tropical Birding

Guided by Michael Retter (with Sam Woods as co-guide).

Report written by Sam Woods.

Although this was titled an “Introtour”, this should not mislead you into thinking the tour did not go after the 70 or so endemics of the region found in this tiny Central American nation, and therefore this tour offered much for even “old hands” of the Neotropics, in addition to offering new “tropical birders” a satisfying first dip into the megadiversity of the region. To illustrate this extreme diversity, and how it offers much even to “hardened” tropical birders, Tropical Birding guide Sam Woods, was along to learn the ropes for this tour, and to experience for the first time why Costa Rica draws people back time and again. Having had substantial experience in the Neotropics, having lived in Ecuador for some 7 years or so, and also having traveled to five South American countries already plus Mexico, you would perhaps think this tour would offer little in the way of new birds; wrong. Central America, and most notably Costa Rica and Panama, share some isolated mountain ranges which yield more than 100 endemics in this region, around 70 of which are found in Costa Rica alone. For this reason, Sam walked away with more than 70 LIFEBIRDS, in spite of a long history of guiding (and traveling) in the wider region already.

This tour, while being short, actually covers a lot of ground, and visits a range of important avifaunal regions in the country, made possible by the fact that Costa Rica is small and very accessible, with good roads permeating the country, making it feasible to visit a number of different faunal zones in even a short time. We started on the middle elevations of the Pacific Slope (Braulio Carrillo NP), before dropping into the moist lowlands of the Caribbean Slope at La Selva. After La Selva we moved back over to the Pacific Slope and the absorbing highlands, scouring the Savegre Valley for both quetzals and the Chiriqui endemics. Then we moved down slope to the sweaty lowlands of the Pacific side, at Carara National Park, before taking in the highlands once more at the world famous cloudforest of Monteverde, before finally looping back to Costa Rica’s bustling capital, San Jose.

While you could be forgiven for thinking this tour is all about that one special bird, the Resplendent Quetzal, which, again, won the BIRD OF THE TRIP competition, there was a lot more besides this one spectacular bird…

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