Costa Rica: Off the Beaten Track
Explore hidden corners of this great birding country
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.
This trip is the perfect compliment to our easy-going Costa Rica Introtour. By extending the length of time in the field, visiting at a different time of year, and birding a wider variety of areas, it is possible to target most of the available Central American endemics. If you’re after Black-cheeked Ant-Tanager, Keel-billed Motmot, Tawny-chested Flycatcher, Nicaraguan Grackle, White-tailed Emerald, or the dazzling Snowcap, this trip is a must.
Day 1: San José. You’ll be met at the airport and transferred to Hotel Bougainvillea. While there, be sure to check the grounds for Costa Rica’s endemic (and very cool-looking) race of Prevost’s Ground-Sparrow.
Day 2: Braulio Carrillo National Park and Savegre. Cross your fingers, because this morning’s birding could produce some incredibly exciting birds. Since the tour targets the regional endemics, we’ll be listening especially hard for Lattice-tailed Trogon, Black-crowned Antpitta, Streak-crowned Antvireo, and Yellow-eared Toucanet. While here, we’ll also be sure to sift through the mixed flocks, which may contain Blue-and-gold Tanager, Carmiol’s Tanager, White-throated Shrike-Tanager, and even the mysterious Sharpbill. By late afternoon we’ll be entranced by the dazzling White-throated Mountain-gem at our hotel’s feeders in the famous Savegre Valley.
Day 3: Savegre. We have all day to target Costa Rica’s more challenging highland specialties. Silvery-throated Jay, Zeledonia, Peg-billed Finch, and Ochraceous Pewee will be toward the top of the list, but that doesn’t mean we’ll look the other way when a Flame-throated Warbler or a Resplendent Quetzal appears! The enchanting oak forest here makes the area a particularly pleasurable one to bird in.
Day 4: Savegre to Bosque del Rio Tigre. We have one final morning in the Talamanca highlands to look for any birds we missed the day before. A short stop above treeline may yield Volcano Junco. After that we’ll spend much of the day heading south, and down, to the Pacific coast. An entirely different avifauna awaits.
Day 5: Bosque del Rio Tigre. Tucked into the lush lowland rainforests of the Osa Peninsula, this charming lodge offers us access to some very special birds. One, the handsome Black-cheeked Ant-Tanager is found only around the tiny Golfo Dulce, and it is known to attend the lodge’s feeders! And don’t be surprised if a flock of Scarlet Macaws flies over while we’re waiting. The trails around the lodge are home to Marbled Wood-Quail, Black-hooded Antshrike, “Chiriquí” White-shouldered Tanager, and White-tipped Sicklebill.
Day 6: Around the Golfo Dulce. We’ll head off this morning to circumnavigate the Golfo Dulce. Along the way, we’ll stop at Yellow-billed Cotinga lek. Mangrove and Charming hummingbirds are often seen here too, and we’ll be sure to watch for Crested Oropendola and Brown-throated Parakeet in the open areas. We have two nights in Esquinas Rainforest Lodge.
Day 7: Esquinas. The loud trumpeting of Crested Guans is often the natural alarm clock at this community-owned ecolodge. Breakfast is often exciting, as four species of hermit may visit the heliconias next to our table. Thanks to the lodge’s location abutting Piedras Blancas National Park, we have easy access to some primary rainforest. Our main target here is the stunning Baird’s Trogon, but Baird’s Tapir is also a real possibility! Mid-story flocks here are usually led by a pair of White-throated Shrike-Tanagers, but of a noticeably different race than the ones on the Caribbean slope. Other possibilities include Uniform Crake, Black-faced Antthrush, Spectacled Antpitta, and Golden-naped Woodpecker. We also have access to some extensive lowland marsh habitat, where Slate-colored Seedeater is seen fairly regularly. Red-breasted Blackbird, Garden Emerald, and Sapphire-throated Hummingbird are also residents.
Day 8: Esquinas to San Vito. After another morning birding around Esquinas, we’ll head into the highlands along the Panamanian border. Once at our hotel in San Vito, we’ll be sure to spend some time on the balcony. White-crested Coquette and Snowy-bellied Hummingbird are both quite fond of the flowering trees just behind the grounds. Just outside of town there are marshes that provide habitat for the endemic “Chiriquí” Masked Yellowthroat.
Day 9: San Vito to Talari. Not far from San Vito we’ll bird a wide trail through the forest where Lance-tailed Manakins lek. White-ruffed Manakin is quite common here, but White-tailed Emerald is our main target. Black-chested Jay is also possible. In the afternoon we’ll travel to Talari, where we spend two nights.
Day 10: Los Cusingos: In the morning we’ll bird Los Cusingos, the well-planted home of the late Alexander Skutch. It’s a good site for Turquoise Cotinga and Orange-collared Manakin. Then it’s back to Talari for a relaxing afternoon. The fruit feeders attract Speckled and Cherrie’s Tanagers, and White-crested Coquette has nested there, so keep your fingers crossed!
Day 11: Talari to Heliconias Lodge. This is mostly a travel day, but we’ll have time for some birding en route. We’ll spend two nights in Heliconias Lodge.
Day 12: Volcán Tenorio and Caño Negro. We’ll spend the morning stealthily walking the trails around Heliconias Lodge. This wet volcanic slope is one of the best places to see Keel-billed and Tody Motmots, and the understory may yield Purplish-backed Quail-Dove or even an antswarm. Rufous-vented Ground-Cuckoo and Ocellated Antbird are perhaps the most exciting species that might be in attendance.The rest of the day will be spent traveling to and birding at Caño Negro National Refuge, which offers our only chance to see Nicaraguan Grackle.
Day 13: Volcán Tenorio to Bosque de Paz. We’ll have another morning to bird around Heliconias. In the afternoon, we’ll travel east to Bosque de Paz.
Day 14. Bosque de Paz to Rancho Naturalista. Expect to get up close and personal with some pretty neat birds here. The feeders right outside the rooms regularly attract Black Guans, and there’s even a chance for Buff-fronted and Chiriquí Quail-Doves. Other possibilities in the area include Black-breasted Wood-Quail, Black-banded Woodcreeper, and Sooty-faced Finch. We’ll have lunch at a scenic waterfall where feeders attract White-bellied Mountain-gem and Black-bellied Hummingbird. Evening will find us even further east, at Rancho Naturalista.
Day 15: Rancho Naturalista to San José. We’ll spend the morning on the verdant grounds of Rancho Naturalista, appropriately billed as “the home of the Snowcap”. Showy Green Honeycreepers and Violet-crowned Woodnymphs abound at the feeders, and the forest just outside the lodge is home to Tawny-chested Flycatcher, Ashy-throated Bush-Tanager, and Lanceolated Monklet. If we have time, we may visit either Volcán Irazú or Volcán Poás today. Each has an endemic population Volcano Hummingbird we’ll not have seen yet, as well as additional chances for such lookers as Fiery-throated Hummingbird and Long-tailed Silky-flycatcher. Alternatively, we may search for Spot-bellied Bobwhite and Prevost’s Ground-Sparrow near the airport.
Day 16: Departure. You will be taken to the airport this morning for your flight home.
CLIMATE: Hot and humid in the lowlands to quite cool above treeline. Rain is likely in the afternoons.
DIFFICULTY: This is a fast-paced trip, but only moderately physically difficult. There will be a few longer walks, but these are always optional.
ACCOMMODATION: Good to excellent. Singles are not available in all of the lodges.