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Birding Costa Rica weather

Advantages to birding Costa Rica in the wet season (it’s not 100 degrees)

It’s the wet or rainy season now and as I write, the cloudy sky is dumping its daily downpour that soaks the rich volcanic soils of central Costa Rica and turns the rivers into raging muddy torrents. Believe it or not, despite the dire weather description, this is a great time of the year to bird Costa Rica! Rain usually falls in the afternoon when bird activity is low anyways and mornings are often sunny.

The following are several reasons why you may enjoy birding Costa Rica in June, July, and August rather than during the dry season (January to early April):

  • No Boreal migrants. Although this isn’t a birding boon for non-North Americans, those birders from Canada and the USA won’t have to be concerned that the tiny bird they are straining to see in the canopy is just a Chestnut-sided Warbler, that the little yellow thing in highland brush is actually a Wilson’s Warbler, or that most raptors turn out to be Broad-winged Hawks. At this time of the year, just about every bird is a resident species not likely to occur in North America.
  • Cooler weather than the dry season. It’s still warm and humid in a lot of areas but the frequent cloud cover keeps things comfortably cool. This is especially the case for the Pacific slope where birding during the dry season can be a test of heat endurance. I usually fail this test during the blazing hot dry season but pass it with flying colors during the wet season.
  • Cooler weather than home. Going to the tropics to cool off? Sure, why not! I guarantee that even the hottest areas of Costa Rica won’t be as hot as the heat wave that is presently melting the northeastern USA. Costa Rica doesn’t even get as hot as average American summers and the mountains always have a crisp, cool climate.
  • Cloudy weather=awesome birding. Although cloud cover isn’t the greatest element for bird photography, it’s definitely the best weather for bird activity. The dimmer light conditions and cooler temperatures make birds forget that morning is over and they are active all day long! Really, birding on days like this are the most exciting. Due to overcast weather, on a recent day of guiding near San Ramon, we recorded 127 species!
  • It’s less crowded. There are still a number of tourists around but aside from Manual Antonio National Park, there are fewer people on the trails.
  • Green season rates. Fewer tourists means lower rates for lodging.
  • The July mini dry season. Yes, it is the wet season, but things get slightly drier on the Caribbean slope during July.

In conclusion, don’t be afraid to visit Costa Rica during most of the wet season. The exception is October and November when it can rain non-stop for days. It doesn’t always do that though, and last year was pretty dry so don’t become overconcerned about weather conditions for a birding trip to Costa Rica no matter what time of year you visit.

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