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Go birding in Costa Rica and there will be birding highlights. With so many possibilities, it’s a given no matter how many times a birder has been here. A first trip will, by nature, be nothing but high points from start to finish whereas folks with challenging targets can enjoy trip highlights by going to the right places and hiring a knowledgeable guide. For someone who has been birding in this country for several years, the highlights can come in the form of rare migrants, personal bogey species, antswarm action, or whatever happens to float your birding boat.

For me, most of all, highlights take the form of helping people see their targets. I also enjoy watching, listening to, and experiencing pretty much every bird I come across but the excitement is at its best when people I am with see their first quetzal, when a Yellow-breasted Crake creeps into the open, or when a seasoned guide adds one more key species to their life list. My lifers in Costa Rica may be hard to come by but the highlights still happen every time I go birding, especially when I am guiding. These are some of my highlights from three recent days of guiding in Costa Rica:

During a visit to Cope’s place, close looks at a bunch of birds are always nice, especially when some of those are usually living 100 feet above the ground.

Scarlet-rumped Cacique at eye level was really nice. 

Several other birds also showed including American Pygmy Kingfisher and Bronze-tailed Plumeleteer but the best highlights might have been the views of roosting Crested and Spectacled Owls.

Roosting owls are sort of like seeing ten lifers at once. 

At El Tapir, Snowcap is always a treasure but the golden highlights of a female Black-crested Coquette were especially cool. I think they even trumped the brief views of a Tiny Hawk from that same morning. King Vulture and high flying Ornate Hawk-Eagles were also awesome.

This is an Ornate Hawk-Eagle hiding in plain sight.

Tanagers at the San Luis Canopy were fantastic. Constant close views were the best live show and included super close looks at Emerald, Bay-headed, Speckled, and other species.

One of several Emerald Tanagers.

Coppery-headed Emerald at Cocora Hummingbird Garden is expected but the glowing plumage of the male is always a treat. So were several other hummingbird species there.

On Cerro Lodge Road, good looks at a Collared Forest-Falcon were a fine way to start the birding day. This was followed up by patches of dry forest ringing with the calls of various species including the barking notes of Gray-headed Kite, the train whistle calls of Turquoise-browed Motmot, and the tooting of Ferruginous Pygmy-Owls. We saw a couple of those species along with several others.

In Carara National Park, a close Great Tinamou was memorable and many other birds showed including small flocks of White-shouldered Tanagers, Sulphur-rumped Flycatcher, manakins, and other species. However, the best highlight may have been the final one, an antswarm accompanied by Gray-headed Tanagers, Bicolored Antbirds, Northern Barred Woodcreeper, and a couple of Tawny-winged Woodcreepers– for myself, year bird #704.

Too many highlights to mention during three days of wonderful birding in Costa Rica. Imagine how many happen during two weeks of birding in Costa Rica?

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