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bird finding in Costa Rica Birding Costa Rica preparing for your trip

Why Get a Field Guide for Costa Rica Now?

With the world on hold, now might not seem to be the ideal time to plan a birding trip. It might not appear to be the best moment to buy a field guide, look into tours, and figure out which birds a birder wants to see the most.

The Ornate Hawk-Eagle is high on the target list of many a birder.

Although it’s arguably silly to plan a tour for a given date without knowing when the destination will be open, now is actually perfect to think about traveling for birding, buying field guides, and dreaming of target species. Here’s why:

Destinations Will Eventually Open

Any type of limbo can present serious challenges to seeing the end of the tunnel because in the absence of a definite time frame, it’s that much harder to envision when something will happen. We think of the future and it seems to be blocked by black velvet paintings of uncertainty, by what ifs and unforeseen problems. When that happens, we need to sit back, have a tequila or eat a donut or whatever you need to do to ground yourself and push the mental curtains of uncertainty aside to be able to look at things through realistic, hopeful eyes. In the case of world travel, it’s more than likely that countries will eventually open back up and when they do, they will be more than eager for visitors. It will be a fantastic time to travel and it will eventually happen. Nothing better to do that be ready for it!

It Pays to be Prepared for a Birding Trip

Speaking of being ready for a trip, birding trips require a special degree of preparation. Yeah, you could jump on a plane to Australia or Fiji at a moment’s notice but you wouldn’t be any bit of ready for the birding. You would have no idea what to look for, what to identify, where to go, nor where to stay. It would sort of be like some happy go lucky nightmare situation. Whether visiting Polynesia, France, or Costa Rica, it’s far better to be over prepared than wondering what you are looking at and lamenting about birds and cool places missed during and after the trip. The more time you have to study, the less stressful and more fulfilling the trip will be. With that in mind, start studying for Costa Rica now to have the best and most satisfying trip possible.

You don’t want to miss seeing an Emerald Tanager.

Get a field guide in advance and you can take as much time as you want to learn about the lifers you will eventually see. Learn about different families of birds, learn how to identify everything from woodcreepers to hummingbirds, pick the birds you want to see the most. In the case of a digital field guide, you can mark target species, study birds by region, by family, make notes, and listen to their songs while looking at images of the birds you hope to see.

Part of the Fun is Getting Ready for the Trip

Not to mention, a big part of going somewhere isn’t just being there for the experience. It’s also getting ready for the trip, looking into places, trying to get an idea, a picture of what to expect. It doesn’t just make for better preparation, thinking about that trip also gives you something to look forward to, life goals to meet, and most of all, birds waiting to be seen. Check out field guides, decide which ones to get and buy them. Once you have that book in hand, that digital field guide on your phone, you are already on your way to Costa Rica.

Time On Our Hands

If anything, during a pandemic, many a birder has more time on his or her hands. It’s a perfect time to look into and study for future trips. Use these days, these months, to get ready for birding far afield.

Supporting Tours is Support for Conservation

I should also mention that looking into tours now and maybe even signing up for one translates to support for conservation. Most birding tours actively support local conservation efforts either directly and/or indirectly. The sooner you can safely reserve or sign up for lodging or a birding tour, the sooner you will be making a difference for people who often act as the front line of protection for tropical forests.

Conservation for endangered species like the Great Green Macaw.

Think Positive!

Most days, the news isn’t exactly on the bright side of the spectrum but that doesn’t change the fact that many vaccines are being worked on, many people are doing their best to make it through this pandemic and safely open as soon as possible, and that this will eventually pass. Stay safe, support conservation and start planning for that trip, the birds will be waiting.

Want to think about birding in Costa Rica? You can’t go wrong with How to See, Find, and Identify Birds in Costa Rica, a 700 plus page e-book with information on where to go birding, what the birding is like in Costa Rica, and how to identify many of the species waiting to be seen.

Fancy birds like the Violet-headed Hummingbird.

As far as field guides go, the book I recommend is the handy and excellent Field Guide to the Birds of Costa Rica by Garrigues and Dean. The size of the book is right as are the excellent illustrations, information and range maps.

Since no modern birding trip would be complete without a digital field guide, I also recommend the Costa Rica Birds Field Guide app. Yes, I do work on it and because we want birders to have a trip of a lifetime, we have made a steady set of improvements since its inception. A birder can now customize their app with target lists, notes on birds, good range maps, and much more. Since the latest update includes information and range maps for every bird on the Costa Rica list, multiple images for 919 species, and sounds for 829 of them, this birding app is just as excellent for reference and planning for a trip as it is in the field (even I use it pretty much every day!).

Start planning a trip to Costa Rica today, birds like this Fiery-throated Hummingbird will be waiting.

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bird finding in Costa Rica Birding Costa Rica

High Season Tips and Suggestions for Birding in Costa Rica, 2020

The high season for birding in Costa Rica is here. If you are already in country or scheduled to be here soon, these suggestions and tips may help:

Support the Cinchona Cafe Colibri, Freddo Fresas, and other local bird friendly places

I hope you get a chance to visit the Cafe Colibri (aka Mirador Catarata San Fernando), it’s a beautiful birding oasis accompanied by tasty home-cooked cuisine. Black Guan has been showing lately along with both barbets and other birds, even the occasional visit from Buff-fronted Quail-Dove (!). If you do visit, please leave a nice donation in addition to ordering something from the menu and if you are looking for souvenirs, buy them at this spot. The owners have been supporting birds and birding for years, they deserve all the support we can give.

And there are a few good close birds too...

The same goes for other birder friendly locales, one of which is Freddo Fresas. During a recent conversation with the owners, I found that instead of rebuilding a house destroyed by the 2009 earthquake, they decided to reforest that same piece of land to expand and improve the biological corridor in the Poas area. Despite requiring a lot of work to make that happen, the site is free and open to the public, it’s the garden across the street from the restaurant.

Recent updates to the Costa Rica Birds Field Guide app

More updates have been made to the Costa Rica Birds Field Guide app in the form of more information, more images, and recent taxonomic changes. This digital field guide with more than 900 species is a great way to study for a trip to Costa Rica and can be personalized for your trip by marking target birds, taking notes, and more.

Recent addition to the Costa Rica list, the Choco Screech-Owl is also now on the Costa Rica Birds Field Guide app.

Rush hour in the Central Valley

The Central Valley means anywhere from Grecia to San Jose and Cartago. If you can, avoid driving there between 6 and 9 a.m. and then again between 3 and 6 p.m.

Night driving

While talking about driving, if you can, try to avoid driving at night. It’s not overly bad and depends on where you go but it’s no fun sharing narrow roads with other vehicles, bicycles and so on especially with poor visibility.

Be very careful with unattended vehicles

Just a reminder that goes for anywhere one travels. Don’t leave bags and optics in an unattended vehicle, especially at the Tarcoles Crocodile Bridge and even in national parks. Never ever leave that passport or money in the car and if you do have to leave something in the car, just make sure you keep the vehicle in sight or that someone is there to watch it.

Enjoy the birds!

Most of all, enjoy the birds! There’s lots to see even if you walk the same trail twice and always more to see no matter how much you look. That’s how the birding goes in the tropics and while you will see more with a qualified guide. If you want to have more than enough information about finding and identifying birds in Costa Rica, you can also support this blog by purchasing my 700 page e-book, How to See, Find, and Identify Birds in Costa Rica.