Costa Rica: The Introtour
Never been to Latin America? Well, take a look at this.
We also have an 11 day Pacific Costa Rica tour from 21 June – 1 July 2013. This tour will be led by Scott Olmstead and run in conjunction with Tucson Audubon. Please email us at email@example.com or phone us at (800)348-5941 for more information.
While it may be an ecotourism cliché, the outrageously beautiful quetzals, great lodges, and friendly people are just some of the reasons why people come back to Costa Rica again and again. This tiny Central American country has more than its share of beautiful scenery, not to mention a rich assortment of birds unequaled by any other country of its size. This short tour takes in the top birding spots in comfort and style, and is timed to maximize your vacation time. The easy trails, great lodges, and fantastic birds make this a great introduction to the addictive wonders of Neotropical birding.
Day 1: San José. You will be picked up at the airport and taken to Hotel Bougainvillea for the night. If you arrive early enough you could enjoy some birding in the hotel grounds; keep an eye out for White-eared Ground-Sparrow, Blue-crowned Motmot, and even Gray-necked Wood-Rail.
Day 2: Braulio Carrillo NP. Our first morning will be spent in the lower ranges of this enormous national park. Our main targets are Caribbean foothills specialties like Lattice-tailed Trogon, Blue-and-gold Tanager, and Streak-crowned Antvireo. We have a chance of finding the amazing Black-crested Coquette, the striking Snowcap, and lots of other spectacular hummers. Antswarms here can be very exciting, especially if a Black-crowned Antpitta is in attendance. In the afternoon we shall drive to La Selva, our base for the next two nights. On some tours, we stay in another lodge a few minutes’ drive away from La Selva.
Day 3: La Selva. Bird activity around the headquarters of this famous research station can be so intense in the early morning that it is hard to make any progress down the trails, and often the morning is over before you know it. Montezuma Oropendolas, White-crowned Parrots, and Keel-billed and Chestnut-mandibled Toucans are some of the more impressive species, but the smaller and more brightly-colored birds are also mesmerizing. Passerini’s, Crimson-collared, and Golden-hooded Tanagers, Blue Dacnis, several euphonias, and Rufous-tailed Jacamar are all usually easy to see here. Venturing farther into the reserve, we get into tall rainforest where we’ll search for shyer species like Semiplumbeous Hawk, Ocellated Antbird, Black-faced Antthrush, Chestnut-colored Woodpecker, and Nightingale Wren.
Day 4: La Selva to Savegre. After another morning at La Selva, we will drive through the central valley and up into the Talamanca Mountains, stopping at some often productive feeders en route. We’ll spend two nights in the Savegre Valley, where feeders attract Scintillant and Volcano Hummingbirds, Green Violet-ear, and Gray-tailed Mountain-gem.
Day 5: Savegre. The Savegre Valley is surrounded by magnificent oak forests, home to many species restricted to the high mountains of Costa Rica and western Panama. Mixed species flocks here can be fantastic, with many of these special birds moving together, including Collared Redstart, Black-cheeked and Flame-throated Warblers, Ochraceous Wren, Ruddy Treerunner, Flame-colored and Spangle-cheeked Tanagers, Spot-crowned Woodcreeper, Mountain Thrush, and Yellow-thighed Finch. The real star of Savegre is the astounding Resplendant Quetzal, without a doubt one of the world’s most spectacular birds. There are usually several stakeouts in the valley, and nowhere else do we stand a better chance of finding Costa Rica’s flagship species.
Day 6: Cerro de la Muerte. Today we’ll concentrate on the stunted treeline forest and grassy páramo above 10,000 ft (3000m). The weather can be forbidding, and only a few hardy birds, like Volcano Hummingbird, Timberline Wren, and Volcano Junco, can make a living up here. We’ll stop at a nearby restaurant where we should see the lovely Fiery-throated Hummingbird, and a quick jaunt down a short but steep trail may give us a chance at the incredibly loud Zeledonia. Later on, we have a three hour drive to the Carara area on the Pacific coast, where we’ll stay two nights in a resort hotel with forested grounds. We’ll break up the drive with a stop at some feeders that often host Speckled Tanager and Red-headed Barbet.
Day 7: Carara NP. This park and its surroundings provide arguably the best birding in the country. The forest can be pumping throughout the day, and shy birds seem easier to see here than elsewhere. There are a number of specialties shared only between southwestern Costa Rica and nearby Panama, including Black-hooded Antshrike, Fiery-billed Aracari, Beryl-crowned Hummingbird, Riverside Wren, and Orange-collared Manakin. An afternoon boat ride on the Río Tárcoles and into nearby mangroves offers the chance to see a variety of birds: shorebirds, herons, Turquoise-browed Motmot, American Pygmy Kingfisher, and even the impressive Scarlet Macaw.
Day 8: Carara NP to Monteverde. We have another morning to bird at Carara, trying a different trail to look for Black-faced Antthrush, White-whiskered Puffbird, Chestnut-backed Antbird, and other shy species. The lower Pacific slope mountains have some drier habitat with different birds, and we might see Rufous-naped Wren, White-fronted Parrot, or the spectacular White-throated Magpie-Jay. The vegetation becomes lush and green as we climb higher into the mountains, eventually arriving at Monteverde, a small mountain town on the Pacific slope near the Continental Divide, where we stay for two nights.
Day 9: Monteverde NP. This untouched cloud forest with enormous trees is amazing to walk through, and the trails are easy going. We’ll spend much of the morning looking for Azure-crowned Jay, Black-faced Solitaire, Black Guan, Golden-browed Chlorophonia, Prong-billed Barbet, Orange-bellied Trogon, and Emerald Toucanet. The nearby hummingbird garden is worth a stop after lunch, as the feeders and flowers here bring in swarms of birds, including Violet Sabrewing, Stripe-tailed Hummingbird, Coppery-headed Emerald, Purple-throated Mountain-gem, and Green-crowned Brilliant. In less humid forests lower down we’ll look for Long-tailed Manakin; though we’ll be lucky to see it, the spectacle of several males lekking together has been known to turn non-birders into fanatics on the spot.
Day 10: Monteverde to San José. We have another morning at one of the reserves in the area before packing up and heading back to San José for the night.
Day 11: Departure. The tour ends this morning as you are taken to the airport to meet your flight.
CLIMATE: Hot and humid in the lowlands to quite cool at Cerro de la Muerte. The tour is timed for the dry season, but it is not unusual to get an occasional burst of rain.
DIFFICULTY: Easy. Even the mountain trails are not difficult. There is one optional short but relatively steep trail. This is a slower-paced trip designed for newcomers to the Neotropics.
ACCOMMODATION: Good to excellent throughout. Some rooms at La Selva have shared bathrooms, though we will do our best to obtain quarters with private bathrooms.