Costa Rica in October? Isn’t there like, a lot of rain? Don’t people go to Costa Rica in January, February or March? The answer to all three of those questions is “yes” but I could also say that October is just as a good a time to come to Costa Rica as other months, that there is rain but not everywhere nor all of the time, and although the high season is mostly so folks can get a respite from the northern winter, you might actually see more birds in October.
Wait a second, more birds in October? Yes, a birder could easily see more or the same number of species in October because the cloudy weather boosts the bird activity, there are more migrants moving through and arriving for the winter, and the same cool resident species seen during the high season aren’t going anywhere. The birding is going to be exciting no matter what time of the year you visit including October. As a telling side note, Serge Arias of Costa Rica Birding Hotspots has said that October might actually be his favorite month to bird in Costa Rica.
Along the same train of thought, there aren’t many birding sites better or worse in October than other times of the year. Bird in good habitat and you will see a lot no matter when you visit Costa Rica. Nevertheless, if I had to choose a few sites for October birding, I might lean towards these spots or regions:
The South Caribbean
This would be any of the sites south of Limon. The infrastructure at Cahuita National Park has improved and includes a boardwalk, the birding is typically great right around most lodging choices and along roads near Puerto Viejo de Talamanca, and the Manzanillo-Gandoca area is also worth a visit. The birding is always good in and near these sites but in October, you also have the chance to see active, fantastic bird migration. Most of the species are common birds from North America but what’s not to like about seeing dozens of Eastern Wood-Pewees, Bay-breasted Warblers, and flocks of Scarlet Tanagers as groups of Eastern Kingbirds fly overhead? Yeah, it’s pretty cool and there’s lots more along with chances at seeing Purple-throated Fruitcrows, Great Potoo, and a couple hundred other species.
As a bonus, my friend Robert Dean, co-author/artist of the Field Guide to the Birds of Costa Rica and other publications, told me about a recent visit to a promising hotspot in the Gandoca area known as Cabinas Colibri. Over the course of a weekend, he and some local birders had excellent birding in that area including Red-fronted Parrotlet, Great Potoo, Rufous Nightjar, Short-tailed Nighthawk, and a vagrant Gray Kingbird among other species. I really need to check that spot out!
Irazu and Cerro de la Muerte
Heading from the hot humid lowlands up into the cold temperate zone, October is a good time to visit the high mountains. The resident day birding is pretty similar all year long but the main reason to visit Irazu National Park now is because Unspotted Saw-whet Owls seem to vocalize more often from September to perhaps December. They can still be heard any time of the year but a birder might have a better chance at seeing one right now. Laying eyes on one of these mega mini owls would still require owl-time in the cold night but isn’t that why we have jackets, gloves, and other cool weather gear?
The Pacific Coast and waters offshore
This is a good time to hit coastal habitats because tons of shorebirds are there, both moving through and already set for the winter. Bird Chomes, Punta Morales, and other sites and you can also see quite a few dry forest species and with luck, Mangrove Rail and Rufous-necked Wood-Rail. Take the ferry, visit Isla del Cano, or arrange a pelagic trip and you could see migrating Sabine’s Gulls and phalaropes along with Bridled Tern, Brown Noddy, storm-petrels, Galapagos Shearwater, and other cool birds of the offshore waters.
These are just a few suggestions but I wouldn’t worry too much about where to go birding in Costa Rica during October. Hire a guide to bird the best habitats and you will always have better chances at seeing more no matter when you visit. Want to know more about places to bird in Costa Rica along with target lists and how to look for and identify them? Support this blog by purchasing the 700 plus page e-book, How to See, Find, and Identify Birds in Costa Rica. Have a great trip, hope to see you in Costa Rica!