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admin on March 18th, 2019

I live in the Central Valley of Costa Rica. Along with a couple other million folks, we share remnant green space with remnant populations of the endemic Cabanis’s Ground-Sparrow, Rufous-collared Sparrows singing in the streets, Blue-gray Tanagers, Great Kiskadees, and Gray and Short-tailed Hawks living the raptor life.

Other birds also live in the valley, including some that persist in the shade and steep banks of riparian green zones. These are birds like Gray-cowled Wood-Rail, Tropical Screech-Owl, and even Gray-headed Chachalaca. The additional flavor these and other species lend to the local birding scene is always welcome but does it compare to the avifauna of the Caribbean slope? Not quite. It’s much wetter over there on the other side of the central volcanic range and there’s more forest. Those two factors equate to a large and wonderfully diverse avifauna, a true birder’s delight.

This past weekend, Mary and I got in some of that delightful Caribbean slope birding. We also added a bunch of year birds, some of them uncommon species best seen now rather than later. We probably saw something like 150 species during a wet yet productive day of birding in the Arenal Obseratory Lodge area and a brief visit to Cope’s on the drive back home. These were a few of the highlights and observations:

Tiny Hawk– It might be small but that’s why this miniature raptor is so coveted (and tough to see). Seriously rapacious, this rainforest feathered weasel snatches hummingbirds and even species up to the size of Great-crested Flycatcher. Around the same size as a Turdus thrush, it can even look a bit like one in flight. That’s just what I saw while Mary and I birded one of the trails at the Observatory Lodge, a glimpse of a thrush or Myiarchus sized bird that flew and perched in the canopy. I knew that something wasn’t quite right about that bird, luckily, it stayed where we could see enough of it to discover that it was indeed a Tiny Hawk! Uncommon and always tough to see, this was an excellent find. It left before we could manage any pictures but not before we had it in the bag for 2019.

Great Black Hawk– It was a good day for raptors! We had close looks at this “forest black-hawk” from the Casona overlook at the Observatory Lodge. This site is a good area for this formerly more common species but it can still be easily missed. Other raptors seen by us that same rainy day were King Vulture (perched and in flight), White Hawk, and Harris’s Hawk en route.

The River of Raptors!– During a break in the rains on Sunday, we connected with this annual flow of birds heading north somewhere in the Caribbean lowlands. A brief stop had us marveling over hundreds of Broad-winged and Swainson’s Hawks that circled overhead, all flying north.

Guans and curassows– Thanks to long term protection, these large turkey like birds are easy to see at various sites in Costa Rica including the Observatory Lodge. As is usual for this site, we had several close views of Crested Guan and a couple of Great Curassows. Gray-headed Chachaalacas on the drive in rounded out the Cracid mix.

Fasciated Tiger-Heron– We had a close look at one at a classic site for this stream specialist- at the stream just before the entrance to the Observatory Lodge. No Sunbittern yet but there’s still plenty of time in 2019 to see that odd, intriguing bird.

White-tipped Sicklebill– I’m happy to report that the bird at Cope’s is still present! As often happens at this special site, we had close looks at one that perched and fed while being entertained by various other species visiting the feeder.

Keel-billed Motmot, Bare-crowned Antbird, Thicket Antpitta– What might these birds have in common? All are regular in the Arenal area and we got all three in quick succession. A fourth, the White-fronted Nunbird, failed to show but we’ll probably see it on another visit.

Although our three main target birds didn’t appear (Great Potoo, sapsucker, and Cape May Warbler), others made up for it. As with any area of good habitat on the Caribbean slope, the birding at the Observatory Lodge was fantastic. Many more species are possible, I wonder what we will see the next time Team Tyto birds on the other side of the mountains?

Do you want to see these and other birds in Costa Rica? Contact me at information@birdingcraft.com to set up your birding trip in Costa Rica.

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admin on March 12th, 2019

The number of bird species that occur in Costa Rica is kind of off the charts. Yes, Colombia has the most and Mexico even has a bigger list than Tiquicia but in terms of avian diversity per square meter, Costa Rica is hard to beat. Tired of seeing lifers in the bird-rich Caribbean lowlands? An additional suite of tanagers, antbirds, and others are a short drive away. Want more hummingbird? Head higher into the mountains and all the hummingbirds are new along with a healthy set of near endemics.

Near endemics like that bird with the bulldog look, Prong-billed Barbet.

Go to the other side of the mountains and more birds are possible. Suffice to say, in Costa Rica, a bonanza of birding awaits and good roads make it easy! I was thinking about just that while guiding a small group of friends two weeks ago. As we visited such sites as Tolomuco, the Dota Valley, and the Caribbean lowlands, the birds added up, and many were high quality, much desired species. During that time frame, more than 300 species were identified, and more than a few were added on the final days of the trip with another guide. Not only did we see around 300 species of birds during the first 6 days, but we also had many birds that were uncommon and/or difficult.

Birds like Great Potoo.

These are some of the highlights:

Resplendent Quetzal

One of the most spectacular bird species in the world can’t help but be a perpetual highlight. We had especially good looks at a roadside male in the Dota Valley. Lately, quetzals have also been showing on the road to Poas, it should get even better as the avocado fruit crop ripens in the next few weeks.

Other key highland species: Silvery-throated Jay

Although most of the high elevation birds are fairly easy to see, a few others can be a real challenge to find. One of those key rare species is the Silvery-throated Jay. Unlike some other Corvids, this small dark blue jay needs high quality primary forest and even then it’s not that common. With that in mind, finding two in the primary forests on Savegre’s Robles Trail was an excellent way to end a great day of birding.

31 species of Hummingbirds

And that’s not counting the Band-tailed Barbthroats that were heard nor the guide only Bronzy Hermit seen at Quinta de Sarapiqui! Thanks to feeders and flowering bushes, we had a fine haul of hummingbirds including White-tipped Sicklebill. Tolomuco was especially good and gave us sightings of Volcano, Scintillant, and Snowy-bellied Hummingbirds, White-tailed and Garden Emeralds, and other species.

Scintillant Hummingbird

White-throated Mountain-gem was also nice.

Great Green Macaws, Vermiculated Screech-Owl, and White-fronted Nunbirds in the Sarapiqui Lowlands

Birding in the Sarapiqui lowlands paid off with more than 150 bird species identified in one action packed day along with views of White-fronted Nunbirds, Pied Puffbird (plus White-necked heard), Chestnut-colored Woodpecker, White-ringed Flycatcher, and many more. Great Green Macaws were seen feeding at close range, and we finished the day with close views of Vermiculated Screech-Owl. All of our birding took place on the La Selva entrance road, another excellent birding road that loops behind the Selva Verde property, and roads near Quinta de Sarapiqui.

Cinchona, Guarumo, and Cope

Stops at various sites with fruit feeders rounded out the trip. Both barbets, Northern Emerald Toucanet, Buff-fronted Quail-Dove, and even Black Guan (!) showed at Cinchona. Guarumo, a rather new site near Cope’s places, had point blank views of both large toucans and various other lowland species, and Cope’s gave us the sicklebill and American Pygmy Kingfisher as soon as we arrived!

As far as the birding goes, it was pretty fantastic every day of the trip but as always, the biggest highlight was guiding people who truly relish the experience. Hope you have a good birding trip to Costa Rica!

A couple of final reminders-

If you are looking for a tour or need arrangements for your trip, I can help, contact me at information@birdingcraft.com

Get the Costa Rica Birds Field Guide app to study for the trip, make checklists of target species and bird with your own digital field guide.

Get my e-book How to See, Find, and Identify Birds in Costa Rica for 700 plus pages of information on where to find birds in Costa Rica and how to see them. Your purchase is much appreciated and supports this blog!

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admin on March 5th, 2019

March marks the final month of the high season for birding in Costa Rica. Although any time is a good time for birdwatching in this mega diverse country, most tours and birders pay a visit between January and April. Based on the number of birders I have recently seen at Carara, the Dota Valley, and other hotspots, a lot have opted for trips in February, 2019. We can expect a lot more birders in the next four weeks, if you are one of those lucky people, the following information might be of help:

Cope, Excellent as Always! But Make a Reservation…

A recent trip to Cope’s place turned up the usual assortment of quality bird species. Upon arrival, we were immediately greeted by some of the folks from Rancho Naturalista (Lisa, Harry, and two guests) who got us on to perched White-tipped Sicklebill and American Pygmy Kingfisher. Chestnut-headed Oropendola and a few other nice feeder birds quickly followed.

A bit further afield, he brought us to a roosting Spectacled Owl and a Great Potoo. Nothing like quality birds one after another in one or two short hours! I really wished we could have stayed longer, I would have loved to but we had to move on for more birding and our lodging for the night. The Cope experience is a must but before you decide to go, make a reservation. Otherwise, he might not be able to accommodate you and you could be turned away. To make a reservation, contact me at information@birdingcraft.com

Early Spring Migrants are Late

March migrants elsewhere might take the form of geese, huge flocks of blackbirds, or groups of thrushes moving from tree to fruiting tree. In Costa Rica, our early birds are Sulphur-bellied Flycatcher, Piratic Flycatcher, and Yellow-green Vireo. Since this country tends to have such a wet and productive rainy season, these tropical species come to Costa Rica to take advantage of it. Some usually arrive in January and most are gone by August or September. This year, they are definitely coming back later rather than earlier. While Harry Barnard, one of Rancho Naturalista’s excellent guides, was telling me that he has seen very few of these migrants so far this year, I realized that I hadn’t even had a Sulphur-bellied in 2019 and only one or two Yellow-green Vireos. At some point, they should arrive in force but at the moment, seem to be rather thin on the ground. Well, except for Piratic Flycatchers. More seem to be calling day by day.

Another Site for Cabanis’s Ground-Sparrow Bites the Dust

Or maybe I should say, “goes up in flames”?

Historically, Costa Rica’s newest endemic lived in a mosaic of brushy, semi-wooded habitats in the Central Valley. When coffee farms replaced much of those original habitats, it had to adapt to the new neighborhood. However, the species couldn’t help but draw a line with the latest changes to its already limited world. The nouveau habitat of asphalt, concrete, and housing might work for grackles and Rufous-collared Sparrows, but it just doesn’t do it for the local, endemic “towhee”. While this handsome sparrow does seem to persist in remnant bits of green space and riparian zones, it never seems to be common and is likely Near Threatened or even one step closer to being officially Endangered.

With that in mind, every bit of green space counts, especially when it’s a fairly large area of brushy habitat. Unfortunately, half of one such area is no more, a site where I have regularly seen and showed this species to people. Half of it was recently burned and on Monday, the blackened bits of field and vegetation were being eliminated with a tractor. This vegetation was also used by several migrants from the north. The other half of the site still retains a mix of coffee and brush but who knows for how long? To support conservation of this endemic species, please contact the folks at the Cabanis’s Project.

Great Green Macaws Feeding on the La Selva Entrance Road

It must be that time of year. Fruiting palms on the entrance road into La Selva are attracting macaws for fantastic close looks! They aren’t there all day but hang by those palms in the morning and you might get close looks of this spectacular mega.

Jabiru Show at Cano Negro

Low water levels have been concentrating the birds at Cano Negro. I’m not sure how long it will last but if your boat driver can bring you to one of those last remaining pools, you will likely be treated to several Jabirus among a few hundred other wading birds. When you take your eyes off the huge storks, take a careful look at the other birds, there might be something even rarer in there.

In addition to the species mentioned above, visiting birders can expect calling quetzals, birds building nests, fairly dry conditions, and the usual exciting birding found in Costa Rica. Have a great trip!

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admin on February 21st, 2019

Like most birders from the eastern USA, I became familiar with the Gray Catbird shortly after receiving my first binoculars. They were 7 x 32 Jason-Empires from Sears and had a fast focus lever. Although I can’t recall the moment, I must have used that focusing lever to get a close look at many a catbird during my first days of summer birding. It’s a common bird up that way, a species of sumac thickets and sweet scented vegetation of June mornings. They were easy to hear too, those sleek dark gray birds with their mewing calls.

On my last summer visit up north, I was surprised at how abundant they were in the thickets along the Niagara Gorge. Catbirds were probably always just as common, but since they are decidedly uncommon in Costa Rica, I had a new found appreciation for them. Those cool Mimids migrate south but most just don’t go quite as far as southern Central America. This is why it can be a tough one to add to a Costa Rican year list, one that many local birders still need, and a bird that you can’t just take for granted. With that in mind, Mary and I targeted Gray Catbird and a few other choice species during a recent morning of birding in the Sarapiqui lowlands.

You won’t see Luscious Green Honeycreepers in the Niagara Gorge…

A classic birding zone, Sarapiqui lays claim to such famous hotspots as the La Selva Biological Station, Selva Verde lodge, Dave and Daves, and other places that will give your binoculars a work out. Thanks to inspiration from Chris Fischer’s wonderful blog, , we tried for the catbird along with Yellow-breasted Chat and various resident lowland birds required for our year list.


We found our hoped for Rufous Motmot.

Starting at the Comandancia Road, we found suitable chat habitat that must have been the same spot where one had been seen in January. Although the chat failed to come out and play, Mary was successful in calling in a catbird! True to its name (and the sacrificial birder effect), when I went to fetch the car, she heard its mewing cat-like calls. Luckily, it stayed long enough for me to also see it. An excellent year bird, it was also a long awaited lifer for Mary. In fact, she had waited so long to see one, she could hardly believe it was a catbird when looking at it. She told me, “But it looks like a thrush, it looks dark, I have waited so long to see one, it just doesn’t seem possible.”

But it indeed was and our year Gray Catbird joined a very productive list that also included two species of macaws, brief looks at a Snowy Cotinga, and many other year birds including Slaty-breasted Tinamou, Semiplumbeous Hawk, Scaled Pigeon, Plain-colored Tanager, White-ringed Flycatcher, and other key species. We even heard Purple-throated Fruitcrows (!) a species I have never encountered at the edge of La Selva Biological Station.

With Gray Catbird in the bag, hopefully we can continue the trend of seeing species common up north but kind of rare in Costa Rica. Those would be birds like Yellow-rumped Warbler, Blue-winged Warbler, other warblers, a Sharpie and a Coop. At least if we don’t see them now, we can still look from them in November. In the meantime, we also have more than enough cool resident species to search for, species like nunbirds, antbirds, and a small owl that lacks spots.

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admin on February 13th, 2019

The second month of the year is one of the more popular times for visiting Costa Rica, especially for birders. The combination of dry season and a warm, sunny escape rightfully appeals. For birders from Europe, the deal gets sweetened by Prothonotary Warbler and other wintering birds from the north. It is good time to wear binos in the land of quetzals although it’s not the only time to visit.

Keep in mind that you can see just as many resident species and perhaps more easily at other times of the year. Hotels stays will also be cheaper and there won’t be any trouble finding rooms or experienced guides. But, it’s February now and these are a few things to expect:

More owl vocalizations

Well, I don’t know, maybe not because owls are so notoriously unreliable. But, I do feel like they call more right now, that was certainly the case when Mary and I heard several calling Mottled, Black-and-White, Crested, Spectacled, and a Tropical Screech Owl near Jaco in less than an hour before down! A sweet set of year birds, many more to come in 2019.

Sunny, windy weather

High pressure systems bring windy, sunny conditions to much of Costa Rica and especially in February. It makes for pleasant scenery but takes a bite out of birding. It can also get out of hand in Guanacaste with high wind speeds. If birding up that way, I would look for birds in sheltered spots and around water sources. Speaking of that…

Maybe an interesting migrant or two?

Admittedly of more interest to local birders than folks from up north, now is when we have a better chance of finding a Cedar Waxwing, Northern Parula, or some other rare visitor to Costa Rica. A good way to find rare warblers and other vagrants in Costa Rica during February is to search for them at any water sources in windy Guanacaste. I wish Mary and I were up there now actually waiting by some windswept remnant bit of water. Well, maybe only if something rare shows but I bet something would.

Lots of other typical, great birding

As usual, we can expect this on any visit to Costa Rica. The birding is fantastic, there is always a lot to see and identify with a birding app for Costa Rica. I hope you have a great trip!

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admin on February 7th, 2019

Year birding isn’t the same as every day birding. It can be but in general, if you want to maximize your year list, you have to think long term and use your time wisely. If a rarity appears, you might need to chase it. If you get a chance, a window of birding time to look for winter ducks, this might be your golden opportunity. Pass up the chances and you are less likely to reach your goal because that day scheduled for a bobwhite, booby, or Black-throated Blue Warbler might be too windy or rained out. You might suffer some accident between now and then or there might be a family emergency that pushes birding right out of the picture.

Bird any chance you get but work on the birds that are here now rather than later, go for the tough species and the other ones will fall into place. That’s sort of what Team Tyto (Mary and I) have been doing since January 1st. We go birding when we can and will hopefully, eventually, get to enough places to surpass 700 before the end of 2019. Recently, we added a few nice ones here and there during sojourns to Jaco, Poas, and in the Central Valley…

Northern Potoo

Picking the best one first, we were very pleased to get this species for the year! It’s not easy and would have required a trip to Guanacaste likely accompanied by frustrating times as we listened for it in vain. Luckily, our year tick (and lifer for Mary!) happened while looking for shorebirds at night around Punta Morales (don’t ask). After having pretty much given up on the potoo responding to playback, a chance drive down a dike road to look for Boat-billed Herons brought us straight to the nocturnal prize. It was perched up on a lone post, looking all the while like some sculpture of a weird bird. This year bird gift was right in front of us and gave us walk away views. No Boat-billed Heron on that night but we’ll take Northern Potoo for 2019!

Resplendent Quetzal

What year in Costa Rica could ever be right without adding this star bird during the first few months? We got a pair up on Poas and hope to see more at other high elevation sites over the next several months.

Slate-colored Seedeater

It was good to likewise add this rare bird early in the game. I know a good site for it but who knows how long they will be there? Point blank looks at several of this local seedeater were some of the highlights during a long, fine day of birding. The Jaco area also yielded Yellow-crowned Tyrannulet, Baird’s Trogon, and a bunch of other cool birds.

Owls

Although we only saw one of these nocturnal predators, we still heard and counted several Crested, Mottled, Black-and-White, Spectacled, Tropical Screech, and Pacific Screech-Owls during some pre-dawn owling near Jaco!

Ground-Sparrows

Closer to home, it was satisfying to get both ground-sparrows at the same time. Although we will likely see them again in 2019, the endemic and endangered Cabanis’s Ground-Sparrow is always a treat. The White-eared doesn’t look too shabby either.

Some good year birds for Team Tyto! We hope to find a lot more, now I just need to convince Mary to brave the freezing cold on Irazu to get that Unspotted Saw-whet Owl…

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admin on January 29th, 2019

Since a fair part of my life revolves around birding, I can’t help but apply the lifestyle to various aspects of this personal journey through time and space. For example, I sometimes wonder what things would be like if birders were in charge and birding was this highly important, sacred thing carried out by many more millions of people than it currently is. Like what if the folks in charge were all about birding and had like-minded support from the masses?

I daresay we would take much better care of this biosphere, that we would make much better efforts to live sustainably instead of doing a massive, full scale Russian roulette with life on our only home (that “life” would include good old Homo sapiens). Perhaps we would have large scale events that welcome the migrants back to town, maybe we would have all the owls staked but with very serious fines for those who dare disturb them. Once the birding religion was established, would there by a major schism between photographers and birders without cameras? Might folks get a bit too fanatic about listing or feeding birds? At the very least, we would have lots more birding news right on prime time TV. I sure would love that but in the meantime, before birders take over, I can at least provide some sort of birding news for Costa Rica right in this here post:

Good Bird Activity on Poas

Sometimes the birds on Poas can be slow. This wasn’t the case last week. Despite it being a sunny usually birdless mid-morning, we saw quite a few species including chlorophonias with nesting material, many Mountain Elaenias, Sooty Thrushes, and much more! On one of those days, we also had looks at a male quetzal. The following day, great looks were had at a Costa Rican Pygmy-Owl! Even better, we watched the small rare owl get mobbed by everything from Fiery-throated Hummingbirds to Flame-throated Warblers.

This is not just a Eurasian Blackbird with a pale eye.

Cinchona is Also Kicking Into Gear

The Colibri Cafe (aka Mirador Catarata San Fernando) is usually wonderful but lately, it has been especially good. During a recent mid-day visit, we were entertained by both barbets, toucanets, a Buff-fronted Quail-Dove, and other birds. The following morning had a Slaty-backed Nightingale-Thrush briefly show below the feeder. Not so many hummingbirds though…

The nightingale-thrush.

Hummingbirds?

Speaking of small aggressive surreal creatures, very few were at Cinchona and I just don’t see nearly as many as I used to pretty much everywhere. I fear that the consistently direr conditions have had a negative effect on hummingbird populations in Costa Rica (along with several other birds). There was a similar near dearth of hummingbirds at the Freddo Fresas garden although we did manage to see Magenta-throated Woodstar. Keep an eye out for feeders and any flowering trees and please eBird your results.

Cano Negro Just Gets Better

This hotspot is always good but as water levels continue to go down, it’s bound to be even better in February. Low waters concentrate the birds and makes it easier to see a bonanza of storks, ibis, Jabirus, and more. Go with Chambita and you also have a chance at other local specialties like Bare-crowned Antbird and crakes!

Thanks to Barnaby Romero (aka Chambita), I saw this Green and Rufous Kingfisher.

Fortuna Birding – Awesome as Ever

Although I have yet to bird this wonderful area in 2019, others have been seeing the usual good set of species including crakes at Bogarin, umbrellabird at the Observatory Lodge, and the monklet on the Fortuna waterfall trail. The birding is always good around Fortuna!

A Good Year for Cooper’s Hawks and Blue-headed Vireos?

While these birds might not garner much fanfare up north, only the lucky see them in Costa Rica. They are here each winter but are always scarce. Based on the number of recent sightings, I can’t help but wonder if more are actually present this winter or if there are just more birders out in the field? In any case, I hope that Mary and I can see these and other scarce migrants on our path to 700 species in 2019.

A Big Day with 280 Plus Species

No, not my birding team, but a recent birding binge carried out by guides Meche Alpizar, Johan Fernandez, Jason Hernandez, and author Noah Strycker. On January 20th, they recorded 281 species on a trip that took them from the cold heights of Irazu to the lowlands of La Selva, then back over the mountains at Poas before heading down to the Carara area. And yes, they saw some pretty good birds along the way including their first of the day, the mega Unspotted Saw-whet Owl!

Bellbirds are in Monteverde

There have been a few reports of bellbirds in Monteverde. It seems a bit early but perhaps because of weather conditions, at least a few are present, maybe more will show in February?

That’s about it for now, I hope these tidbits of information help with every birding trip to Costa Rica. For more detailed information on where and how to see birds in Costa Rica, support this blog by purchasing
How to See, Find, and Identify Birds in Costa Rica. You can also prepare for your trip with the Costa Rica Birds Field Guide app, a digital field guide with images for more than 900 species and sounds for more than 670. Hope to see you birding in Costa Rica!

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admin on January 17th, 2019

Like most countries, Costa Rica has more than one type of major habitat, more than one bio-region. Habitats such as the tropical dry forests in the northwest and the cloud forests of the highlands are clearly different in appearance, location, and elevation. Others, like the rainforests of the southern Pacific and the Caribbean lowlands, look similar at a glance but reveal differences upon closer inspection.

These ecological differences are why never see Charming Hummingbirds and Fiery-throated Hummingbirds fighting over the same food source, why more species are seen on birding trips that visit both sides of the mountains and different elevations, and why Cano Negro is one of the major key birding sites in Costa Rica.

This wetland area associated with Lake Nicaragua is where a birder has to go to see Nicaraguan Grackle. It’s where Spot-breasted Wren and Gray-fronted Dove can be easily added to a trip list, and where several other species are more readily encountered than in other parts of Costa Rica.

You won’t see this grackle slumming it up in some urban zone.

Thanks to increased diligent birding by a few guides who live in the Cano Negro area, most of those specialties are now much easier to find than in the past. These include birds like Yellow-breasted Crake, Nicaraguan Seed-Finch, Bare-crowned Antbird, Agami Heron, and even Green and Rufous Kingfisher!

Yellow-breasted Crake- essentially an aquatic, big-toed sparrow.

Thanks to boat and birding guide Barnaby “Chambita” Romero, Team Tyto (that would be Mary and I), and several other fortunate birders enjoyed a quick yet very productive day and a half of birding in the wetlands of the north. Even more impressive was the fact that we actually spent just an afternoon and a morning of birding and still managed to see most of our targets.

Beginning in Medio Queso, a late afternoon boat ride was punctuated by good look at Pinnated Bittern.

It wasn’t very close but this first of three or four Pinnateds gave us excellent looks.

We also scored with fine views of the smallest and most local heron species in Costa Rica, the Least Bittern. Other targets included a couple of Nicaraguan Grackles, Yellow-breasted Crake seen very well, a Sora (a regular yet challenging migrant and fantastic year bird!), and a few other bird species while we were entertained by the acrobatics of Fork-tailed Flycatchers.

The following morning saw us on a boat shortly after 6 a.m. in the Cano Negro Wildlife Refuge.

With certain targets in mind, Chambita skillfully traversed the fallen logs of the Rio Frio to get us in touch with such fine birds as Snowy Cotinga, a fantastic Green and Rufous Kingfisher, Limpkins, and from the tower, a mega distant yet identifiable Jabiru in flight!

It was quite the successful trip and impossible to choose a best bird from so many candidates but given the amount of time and effort some had undertaken to unsuccessfully see Sungrebe in the past, and the fantastic looks we had at two of this awesome feathered weirdo, I think the odd duckish thing with the clown socks takes the prize.

In terms of Team Tyto’s Big Year, it was also an excellent start, I wonder what we will see next?

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admin on January 11th, 2019

Costa Rica isn’t just known for being one of the top birding destinations on the planet. This small mountainous country is also known for producing some of the best beans in the world. Although anyone who has breakfasted in Costa Rica is aware of the central gastronomic role played by black beans, the leguminous varieties aren’t the “beans” I’m talking about. The beans of note up in here are the dark roasted, coveted ones. The special seeds that give forth an enticing marvelous aroma. They are the ones with caffeine, the beans that are of course used to make coffee.

And coffee in Costa Rica is no small matter. The coffee in my adopted country is so damn good, I never corrupt it with milk or sugar. I prefer it black and the aroma is so delicious, even drink it cold. It’s a heck of a smooth cup and this is one of the reasons why coffee tours are so popular. One of the sites for those tours is also excellent for birding. Located on the lower reaches of the Via Endemica, the aptly named “El Cafecito” offers access to some quality foothill forest, an overlook into a forested canyon, and some aquatic habitats that can host Russet-naped Wood-Rail, Sunbittern, and a few other birds that require aquatic habitats.

A Sunbittern from another day.

Being a fan of quality coffee and nice tropical birding, I was pleased to do some recent guiding at and near this little visited foothill site.

On the way there, a stop at Cinchona gave us both barbets, Northern Emerald Toucanet, and some other birds that relish bananas and papaya. The hummingbird action wasn’t as good as other days but still offered close views of the endemic Coppery-headed Emerald and some other species.

On the road to Cafecito, fruiting figs offered up some fine birding action. Tanagers such as Bay-headed, Silver-throated, Blue-gray, Palm, Scarlet-rumped, and Crimson-collared were joined by Scarlet-thighed Dacnis, Green Honeycreeper, Golden-browed Chlorophonias, and other more common species. The action was non-stop, I wonder when a cotinga will make an appearance? Hopefully on Monday when me and the other member of Team Tyto drive by that spot.

Raptors were also in evidence, our best species being Barred Hawk, Laughing Falcon, and a sweet male Merlin giving admirable views.

Down at Cafecito, the birding was actually kind of slow. Nevertheless, we were still greeted by Yellow Tyrannulet, calling Band-backed Wrens, Crimson-collared Tanagers, and two female Black-crested Coquettes. Better yet, the coquettes foraged at very close range in the Porterweed that borders the main path!

Further down that path, things were much slower than I had expected but we still managed wonderful close looks at a male White-collared Manakin and a few other birds feeding in a fruiting tree. On previous visits, that same tree and adjacent area has turned up various tanagers, toucans, chachalacas, Crested Guan, and other species.

We left after lunch but if we had stayed there for the afternoon, I’m sure we would have found many more species. The habitat is there and easily accessed by a few short trails. Wait long enough and the birds eventually show. Expect a good selection of foothill species, maybe even some rare ones. Since this is an underbirded site, don’t be surprised if you find something good! If you don’t, the birding will still likely be easy-going, productive, and if a birder doth wish, can also be accompanied by some damn fine coffee.

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admin on January 1st, 2019

According to calendars and widespread celebrations, the New Year just happened. In an instant, 2018 was gone, done, history. It was a good year for me, one with many changes, one with improvements and among the best of the best were the many birds; more than 640 on my annual Costa Rica list. Counting the birds I saw during two visits to Niagara Falls and one very memorable bucket trip to Guatemala, I also had a bunch more! I thank my friend Alec Humann in Buffalo, NY for taking me birding during those visits (and for the timbits and coffee!), for the Birding Club of Costa Rica for having me as a guide in Guatemala and elsewhere, and for many days of fantastic birding with my partner Mary. I am also grateful for my family, friends, and for the days to come during another year of birding in Costa Rica.

The beginning of a new year is also one more excellent reason to visit Costa Rica, these are some other ones for making it to this beautiful, birdy place in 2019:

World class birding

World class birding is more than being a place that hosts hundreds of bird species. It helps when many of those birds are accessible, fairly easy to see, and in places with quality accommodation and service. Costa Rica fits the bill in these ways and more. As an example, during the past week, during a morning of guiding of roadside birding in the Poas area, we saw a male Resplendent Quetzal, Flame-throated Warblers, and a few dozen other species, many of those being highland endemics. The following day saw me guiding in the Carara area, we finished with around 150 species. All of that was also roadside birding and included Scarlet Macaws, Turquoise-browed Motmot, White Hawk, several hummingbirds, manakins, and many other species.

To see what else is in store for a visiting birder, just browse this blog.

Easy birding

Not every bird is easy to see, and Costa Rica is no exception. But, thanks to long term protection, a heck of a lot of birds here are fairly easy to see, especially ones like Crested Guan and Great Curassow. Throw in access to good habitat in many parts of the country, and the birding just gets easier.

Good infrastructure

Costa Rica has a good set of roads, accommodation, and restaurants. The water is potable almost everywhere, and most people who work in the tourism industry speak at least some English, many of them very well.

Good birding apps for Costa Rica

I admit, I helped develop one of them but I stand by it. Thanks to various contributors and our efforts, the Costa Rica Birds Field Guide app has become a great hand-held digital field guide that now shows:

-Field marks, range maps, and information for all species on Costa Rica bird list.
-Images for 905 birds (98% of species on list).
-Vocalizations for 671 birds (72% of species on app).
-Multiple images for most species, FREE updates with more additional images and sounds.
-Endemic and threatened species noted.

It can also be personalized with:
-Extensive search filters that can show birds by group, family, status, and more.
-Making lists of target species.
-Marking birds as seen, heard, not seen, and more.
-Making notes for each species.
-Marking birds as seen.
-Emailing lists in eBird format.

Accessible Quetzals, rails, and more!

Costa Rica has always been an excellent place to see one of the top bird species on the planet, the Resplendent Quetzal. That continues to be the case and nowadays more than ever. However, we don’t just see quetzals in Costa Rica, we have also developed good local gen. for many other species including tough ones like Yellow-breasted Crake and other rails, even Paint-billed Crake. Work with the right birding tour company and they should have options for everything from Unspotted Saw-whet Owl to Azure-hooded Jay and tanager photo opps.

Cabanis’s Ground-Sparrow, Mangrove Hummingbird, Coppery-headed Emerald

Four of seven country endemics occur on the mainland along with around 100 regional endemics.

Our really cool endemic towhee. 

Turquoise-browed Motmot, tanagers, Keel-billed Toucan and other common, beautiful birds

To sum things up, the birding is excellent and easy in Costa Rica, and there are well trained guides for birders of all levels and skills. If you would like to learn more about finding birds in Costa Rica while supporting this blog, please purchase How to See, Find, and Identify Birds in Costa Rica.

I hope to see you in Costa Rica soon!

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