Trip report: Costa Rica Custom tour (Feb 2015) by Tropical Birding

Guided by Sam Woods and Pablo Cervantes Daza.

This custom tour followed the itinerary of our popular COSTA RICA: THE INTOTOUR, but did not visit one of the sites, Monteverde.

This tour was an abridged version of our popular Costa Rica Introtour, cut down, to ensure the two people who joined the tour, and who had limited time, were able to enjoy the best avian fruits of Costa Rica in just a week in this mega birding destination. Thus, it followed the same itinerary as our Introtour, but did not visit Monteverde, focusing, instead solely on Savegre for much of our mountain species. Costa Rica is a small, but outstanding, birding country. No country, worldwide, compares with the exceptional levels of diversity displayed by this Central American nation; it boasts the highest diversity per square kilometer, on the planet. The country is merely the size of the US state of West Virginia, but lays claim to more than 900 bird species within its narrow borders! Costa Rica is a progressive country, at odds with many others in the region, with a vibrant economy, and has become a world leader in conservation and eco-tourism; it also boasts the highest percentage of protected land area of any country in the world, standing at an impressive 28%, and that only covers the nationally protected areas, not taking into account the myriad private reserves that pepper the countryside.

With such a vast array of choices, even in this small nation, the obvious question arises, as to where to go on such a short trip, with serious time limitations? And that is where the modest size of Costa Rica is another boon; it is easy to cram in several key sites in a short time, as many are very easily accessible, with just hours of the capital/airport. The country consists of lowlands on the northern, Caribbean side, and southern, Pacific side, separated by several mountain chains, which, themselves host a number of endemic species (mostly shared with western Panama only). Thus, in order to rack up a decent bird list, we dipped into the dry, open country of the Central Valley (where the airport and capital are located); middle elevations of the Caribbean; and also covered the lowland jungle of the Caribbean side too; before rising up into the Oak and cloudforests of the mountains, where the resplendent, Resplendent Quetzal resides; and finished by birding the steamy lowlands in the central Pacific, which gave us a varied and impressive bird list; in just 8 days of birding we managed to find 344 species (322 seen).

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