Trip report: Costa Rica, The Introtour Group 2 (Feb. 2017)

Guided by Fito Downs and Keith Barnes. This was a set departure tour.

Costa Rica is a small Central American country with an excellent reputation for birdwatchers, naturalists, and nature photographers from all over the world. With an excellent infrastructure and a wonderful national parks system, visitors can feel and enjoy nature almost everywhere.

This Introtour took place in mid-February, combining the breeding season for many of the resident species with the visit of many wintering North American migrants.

This country is home to more than 900 species of birds. During our tour we were amazed by the incredible diversity of habitats, excellent local cuisine, friendly people, and (of course) a great number of species seen in just 11 days!

We visited four major life zones, from the world famous Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve we moved to the Central Pacific Coast of Carara National Park, and then from the Highlands of the Talamanca Mountain Range to visit the paramo at the top of Cerro de la Muerte to the lush Tropical Rainforest of the Caribbean lowlands of the Sarapiqui Region.

Highlights:
After our first night in a hotel near the San Jose International Airport we spent two nights at Monteverde Cloud Forest Preserve. There, we had the opportunity to explore some of private preserves in search for middle elevation species such as, White-eared Ground Sparrow (below) Orange-billed Nightingale-Thrush, Emerald Toucanet, and a couple of hummingbird feeders to see the local Magenta-throated Woodstar. In addition, we encountered a small army ant swarm on one of the forest trails, with the rare Ruddy Woodcreeper, and also saw the shy Barred Forest Falcon for over 10 minutes! On the second day, we saw our first Resplendent Quetzal feeding on the wild avocado fruits.

Our visit to Carara National Park was full of surprises, including our first close up encounter with the Great Tinamou found right next to a forest trail. Another army ant swarm was found near the trail and gave us a real show of “ant followers” such as Black-faced Antthrush, Tawny-winged Woodcreeper, and Bicolored Antbird. A pair of Scarlet Macaws was found attending a nest by a small river inside the park, and the boat trip on the Tarcoles River was incredibly productive with specialties like, Boat-billed Heron, Common (Mangrove) Black Hawk, Yellow-naped Parrot, and the inconspicuous Panama Flycatcher. Our last morning in the park gave us a great view of a Northern Ghost Bat at the only reliable place for it in the country.

The Talamanca Mountain Range are the highest mountains in Costa Rica, and the ones with the biggest concentration of regional endemic species, including the local Volcano Junco that we saw very well, Peg-billed Finch which can be absent sometimes, but we were lucky to see it numerous times during our visit to their Paramo habitat; and other attractive birds seen during our stay here included Spotted Wood-Quail, Acorn Woodpecker which was a favorite bird for some of the participants, and the rare Ochraceous Pewee seen for a long time in the oak forest reserve above the lodge.

Our last region of the tour was the Sarapiqui lowlands and the foothills of Braulio Carrillo National Park. A pair of Great Curassow gave us the welcome upon arrival to our rooms at the former! And then, we were immediately surrounded by a pair of Short-tailed Nighthawks soaring above us for a long time. Our last days here were a delight for new birds of the trip; some of the memorable species included Snowcap, Great Potoo, Black-crested Coquette, and Thicket Antpitta.

Full TROPICAL BIRDING Costa Rica The Introtour Feb. 2017 GROUP 2 Trip Report here (pdf format; 4.6 MB size file)