Guided by Sam Woods. This was a set departure tour.
Costa Rica is consistently one of the most popular destinations for overseas birding, the country is small but packed with birds, with distinctive bioregions offering different suites of birds. We covered most of these, including the foothills and lowlands on the Caribbean slope, lower mountains and upper highlands too, plus some time in the lowlands on the Pacific side of the mountains that cut horizontally through the middle of the country. The tour started out with rain causing some problems as we visited several sites in the lower foothills of the Caribbean slope near La Union. However, by the day’s end we had seen three species of owl (including Crested and Spectacled), a roosting Great Potoo, and watched feeders packed with tanagers, toucans, hummingbirds and honeycreepers, and a Russet-naped Wood-Rail stomping around below them as more than ample compensation!
Continuing into the lowlands on the same side of the mountains, we visited the legendary La Selva Biological Station, where highlights included Snowy Cotinga, Purple-throated Fruitcrow, Rufous-tailed Jacamar, Keel-billed Toucan, three species of trogon, two species of motmot, five species of woodpecker, including Pale-billed, Cinnamon and Chestnut-colored Woodpeckers, and absurdly tame Semiplumbeous Hawk and Great Tinamou, as well as a sloth and several Strawberry Poison Frogs. From there, we moved uphill to the highlands around Savegre, where feeders were bursting with Fiery-throated and Talamanca Hummingbirds, and plentiful montane specialties were found, such as Long-tailed and Black-and-yellow Silky-Flycatchers, Yellow-thighed Finch, Flame-colored and Spangle-cheeked Tanagers, Collared Redstart, Flame-throated Warbler, the elusive Wrenthrush, and a Volcano Junco at the upper extremity of the tour, at nearly over 9,800ft (3,000m). However, all of these were arguably overshadowed by the area’s star avian attraction, the must see Resplendent Quetzal, a gorgeous bird daubed in emerald green and vermilion red. From there, we headed downslope again, but this time into the Pacific lowlands around Carara. On the way there, we spent a quality few hours in open country near Orotina, where local guide Alvaro led us from one great bird to another, starting out with a daytime Pacific Screech-Owl (one of 6 owls seen, all during the daytime), the jaw-droppingly beautiful Turquoise-browed Motmot, several statuesque Double-striped Thick-knees, and a late show from a Lesser Ground-Cuckoo, not long after we added Black-headed Trogon to the list there too. Once in Carara, we enjoyed Scarlet Macaws, Collared Forest-Falcon, a cooperative Black-faced Antthrush, a long, long time with an extremely popular Sunbittern, and American Pygmy-Kingfisher, Bare-throated Tiger-Herons and Boat-billed Herons on a boat trip that also included Roseate Spoonbill and Black Skimmer. Mammals in that area included capuchins and spider-monkeys, and a surprise Green-and-black Poison Frog was also popular, as was an ivory white Northern Ghost Bat hanging from an overhead palm.
Our last stop came in the lower mountains, in the area around the world famous cloudforest of Monteverde. As we arrived there, the striking White-throated Magpie-Jay blocked our way to the lodge, as did a nearby White-fronted Parrot perches at eye level; while our time in the forests featured Prong-billed Barbet, Collared Trogon, extreme close ups of Lesson’s Motmots around our lodge, Long-tailed Manakin, and a wonderful collection of hummingbirds, like Magenta-throated Woodstar, Purple-throated Mountain-Gem, Violet Sabrewing, and Coppery-headed Emerald. We did well for warblers on this trip, with more than 20 warbler species, and our final one being added there in the shape of Costa Rican Warbler, which was seen nearby a few Golden-winged Warblers too. Special mention should also go to our driver, come secret bird guide of the tour, Luis, whose good humor constantly entertained us, navigation around the complex city of San Jose impressed us, and eyes found us more than a few key birds, like a pair of Black-and-white Owls roosting in the Tarcoles area, and the rare Ochraceous Pewee in the highlands.
At the tour end, we took the usual vote to try and narrow down our bird list to a simple top five birds of the tour, and as is very normal for this tour, there were many contenders put forward by the group. 24 species were highlighted by the group, most already mentioned above, but also others like Purple Gallinule, Gartered Trogon, Yellow-throated Toucan, Slaty-backed Nightingale-Thrush and Orange-billed Sparrow. After all the votes were in, the premier birds of the tour were decided to be…
TOP FIVE BIRDS OF THE TOUR:
1 SUNBITTERN, Carara National Park
2 RESPLENDENT QUETZAL, Savegre Valley
3 TURQUOISE-BROWED MOTMOT, Orotina
4 BLACK-AND-WHITE OWL, Tarcoles
5 SLATY-BACKED NIGHTINGALE-THRUSH, Monteverde
Full TROPICAL BIRDING Costa Rica The Introtour Trip Report Feb 2020 (13.1 MB PDF file).