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Birding Costa Rica birds to watch for in Costa Rica high elevations

The Unspotted Saw-whet Owl becomes Spotted in Costa Rica

The Northern Saw-whet Owl is a tough bird to see. While growing up in western New York, I was lucky enough to live in an area where, if you were patient enough, they could be readily seen. Finding a Northern Saw-whet involved a careful inspection of every pine and spruce in sites on the southern shore of Lake Ontario during Spring migration. That meant carrying out the search during the still cold months of March and April. We sometimes found them during the winter too but Spring was the best time to look.

Those taloned, wide-eyed sprites migrated along the lake shore instead of flying out over the evening waves and hid themselves in dense conifers to avoid daytime predators like Red-tailed Hawks. However, just because I lived in a “good” area to see Saw-whets didn’t translate to dozens of sightings. You could search for hours and come up with nothing but pine needle pricks and the encouraging yet disappointing signs that other owls had come and gone. It was always a great day when you could find at least one Saw-whet and it always helped to have more than one person looking.

Away from lake shores and known stake-outs, I have heard Northern Saw-whets in such places as Algonquin Park in Ontario, Canada, the Adirondacks, Washington State, and the upper peninsula of Michigan. But why talk about a bird that doesn’t live in Costa Rica? Why bother with a bird that can’t be seen in southern Central America?

I mention the Northern Saw-whet because as difficult as it is to see that cutest denizen of mixed hardwood forests, a lot more birders have laid eyes on it that one of its southern cousins. In fact, a lot of birders probably aren’t even aware that a Saw-whet Owl sans spots exists. That’s perfectly reasonable given the difficulty in seeing the Unspotted Saw-whet Owl. Compared to the Northern Saw-whet, I bet that it’s at least ten times more difficult to see if not a hundred times more difficult. Unlike the small spotted owl of northern forests, ye olde Unspotted does not provide us with the luxury of sizeable migratory populations. As far as is known (and that is precious little), it stays put in high elevation habitats of southern Mexico, Guatemala, Costa Rica, and Panama.

This means that if you want to find one, you have to head on up to the cold, often rainy places where it occurs, and stumble around at night while repeating a short whistled “toot” over and over. Yep, an endeavor reserved for the stout of heart or folks inflicted with bird-crazy foolishness. I would like to claim that I am of the former ilk (because that sounds more heroic) but I know in my heart that it’s probably the latter category that pushed me to walk around the cold, dripping, dark night forests on Cerro de la Muerte and move to another country far from home. To find the Unspotted Saw-whet, it seems like you have to not only be bird-crazy but also have about 100 times the patience and determination needed to see its northern sister.

In keeping with their mysterious nature, Unspotted Saw-whets haven’t been prone to turning up in the same places where they are found. Whether because they have moved on or because they only call and respond to calls at some unknown time of the year, you just can’t waltz on up to the exact place where one was seen several years in the past and refind them with a whistle or two. Well, at least that hasn’t been the case until recently.

After five years (!) of searching on and off for the near-mythical Unspotted Saw-whet Owl, guide and pro birder Ernesto Carman located two Unspotted Saw-whet Owls on Turrialba Volcano and at least one on Irazu Volcano in September, 2012. Not only was he happy to share the information, but he also offered to accompany myself and a few other people to try and see it! Although he hadn’t been seeing it on every visit, this was certainly the closest thing to a staked out Saw-whet ever since a nest had been studied several years ago (at Paraiso de Qetzales) so we jumped at the chance.

That “we” was myself, Robert Dean (who wanted to head up there immediately since this was his number one wanted species), Susan Blank, Johan Kuilder, and Ineke van Leeuwen. We had also planned on meeting up with a South African friend of ours but somehow missed him by a matter of minutes. In any case, after a bit of caffeinated beverages and baked goods at a bakery in Pacayas, we drove the scenic winding road on to the village of La Pastora and met up with Ernesto and his wife (I am ashamed to say that I don’t remember her name) at 5 PM.

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The start of the road up to Turrialba Volcano at La Pastora.

Up the road towards Turrialba we went as dusk fell. We got out at one of the sites (a park-like area of scattered trees and pasture at 2,400 meters elevation) and were serenaded by Dusky Nightjars and Bare-shanked Screech-Owls as day turned into night. For the next hour and a half, we listened and whistled for the owl at two areas where he had the birds with nary a response. At one point, the rain started falling and all of us had private thoughts of failure. I was almost ready to try and be happy with the Barn Owl we had glimpsed until the sky cleared up and the air grew still. When that happened, we drove back to the first site and were immediately greeted by the faint yet distinct sound of an Unspotted Saw-whet Owl!

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Searching for the Unspotted Saw-whet Owl. Sorry about the lack of photos. Looking for owls at night doesn’t work so well for digiscoping.

Practically running up the road in pursuit, the vocalizations grew in volume and buoyed our hopes. Would it stay long enough to see it? Please don’t fly!! The tooting suddenly stopped but then quickly started up again before disappointment could grab us and we followed Ernesto’s lead as he strode down into a pasture. Stumbling and falling over cow-chewed hummocks, logs, and wet grass, we tracked the bird down into a gnarled highland tree. One light then two were shining up into the branches but like its northern relative, it was hidden in the densest bunch of sticks. No matter where we shone the lights, we still couldn’t see it and then all of a sudden, there is was as it flew mothlike into the air!

A small tawny, uniform owl fluttering around in pursuit of some insect, there could be no mistake. That was the incredibly tough Unspotted Saw-whet Owl and realization set in that some of us could claim it as a seen lifer. Realization also set in, though, that not everyone in the group had seen it nor did we want to merely see it in flight. Heck, we didn’t even see its face or watch it stare at us with mesmerizing, predatory eyes!

Fortunately, the owl decided to hang around and call and Ernesto quickly got onto it with a beam of light. This time it stayed and all of us got prolonged, 15 minute, solidly soaking views of the Unspotted Saw-whet Owl! It called. It looked at us, We oohed and ahhed over its whitish brows, long wings (down to the tip of the tail), dark eyes, and possibility of it being a young bird searching for territory. Ernesto recorded its song and after we got our fill of this super tough and little known bird, we marched back up through the pastures to the cars and celebrated with champagne.

Ok, so the champagne is a fib but Robert did at least celebrate with 2 bottles of Guinness Stout that he so graciously shared with us. We thanked Ernesto, gave him a donation for his efforts and to support any possible Unspotted Saw-whet Owl projects, and then it was back down the mountain with a major tick and unforgettable experience under our belts.

Will the birds stick around? I don’t know but Ernesto is keeping an eye on them. Maybe we can find more on Poas and Barva? I am pretty sure I heard one call on Poas in similar habitat earlier this year…

Birding Costa Rica caribbean slope Costa Rica Beaches

Why It’s Worth it to Visit Manzanillo when Birding Costa Rica

Manzanillo is almost as detached from the typical Costa Rican birding circuit as you can get without leaving the country. Tucked way off in the southeastern corner of the country, it seems silly to drive there when you can see most of the same birds in the Sarapiqui region. If given the option, though, I would much rather bird Manzanillo, sites near Puerto Viejo de Talamanca, and forested areas near Limon than La Selva and the like. Why drive four or five hours instead of two to get to an area that offers much of the same as Sarapiqui? Maybe it’s because it doesn’t exactly offer up the same birding experience as Sarapiqui. In fact, it might even be better while costing less.

While “better” depends on what you want to see, Manzanillo and a lot southeastern Costa Rica is one heck of a birdy place for one big reason: habitat. While pasture and chemical-ridden pineapple fields take up most of the space outside of protected areas in Sarapiqui, you won’t see those avian dead zones around Manzanillo. Most of the habitat there is old cocoa plantations converting back into lowland rainforest (helped by the presence of many old growth trees), rainforest that was never used for cocoa, some brushy fields, and wetlands here and there. Add on beaches, estuaries, and a healthy supply of vegetated ditches and streams and you end up with a darn birdy region.

In addition to habitat that harbors most of the Caribbean lowland species, Manzanillo and other coastal sites are situated right in the middle of a migration pathway that makes the birding extra exciting for Costa Rican residents. That was one of the main reasons why I organized and guided a trip to Manzanillo this past weekend for the Birding Club of Costa Rica and although the bulk of migration may have happened earlier this year, we still saw a fair number of migrants along with a bunch of quality local birds.

We stayed in Manzanillo at the Cabinas Bucus and Cabinas Sumaqtikaq. Accommodation was basic, clean, and cheap, there are several other places to stay in town, and more upscale hotels along the birdy road between Manzanillo and Puerto Viejo.

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I stayed at the cozy Cabinas Sumaqtikaq pictured above. While no owls responded during my stay, I heard Mottled calling in the distance and am sure that other species could show up right by the cabins and other areas in the village (not to mention all expected species in nearby forested areas).

We got down to birding shortly after arrival and the constant flow of Barn, Bank, and Cliff Swallows reminded us that migration was happening above and through town. It ebbed and flowed a bit from Thursday to Sunday and although we seemed to have arrived at the tail end of Fall migration, we were still entertained by quite a few birds. Occasional kettles of TVs, Broad-wings, and Swainson’s Hawks flew over the village, we saw a few Peregrines, one Merlin, and one kind of late Mississippi Kite, a few flocks of Eastern Kingbirds, a good number of Scarlet and Summer Tanagers, Rose-breasted Grosbeaks, Swainson’s Thrushes, Bay-breasted Warblers, and a few other migrants along with dozens of Eastern Wood-pewees (most common bird around). As boring as this will sound for American and Canadian birders, I was happy to see a couple of Gray Catbirds and Common Yellowthroats, and one of our best birds of the trip was Least Flycatcher (a rare migrant in CR)!

Oh, we did see a good number of resident tropical species too. One of the best was Tiny Hawk.

birding Costa Rica

Tiny Hawk in Manzanillo.

While birding the edge of the village on Thursday afternoon, I realized something was up upon hearing mobbing calls from small birds and seeing Black-cheeked Woodpeckers and Buff-throated Saltators perched as still as can be high up in some thin snags.

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Waiting out the Tiny Hawk.

A suspicious looking, thrush-sized bird at the top of a tall tree turned out to be the Tiny Hawk that was causing a ruckus. It let us watch it for several minutes as it was harassed by hummingbirds, Tropical Gnatcatchers, warblers, and honeycreepers.

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Tiny Hawk watching and waiting for an unwary hummingbird.

The good birding didn’t stop as we checked out brushy fields and edge of the nearby forest. Although it was kind of far away and just for a moment, I’m pretty sure that I heard White-fronted Nunbirds call in the distance, we saw Mealy, Red-lored, and Blue-headed Parrots, got great looks at Mourning Warbler, heard Slaty Spinetail, and saw a bunch of other more or less expected species. The Least Flycatcher also turned up there on the following day.

The trees in the village itself were active with migrants, Slaty-tailed Trogon, Black-cowled Oriole, Gray-headed Chachalaca, Long-tailed Tyrant, Pale-vented and Short-billed Pigeons, toucans, and other species. As we birded the more forested edge of the village and road heading to Puerto Viejo, there were so many birds that we hardly knew where to look! Blue-chested Hummingbirds buzzed low, flowering bushes, Long-billed, Stripe-throated, and Bronzy Hermits were all pretty common, Golden-hooded, Plain-colored, and Passerini’s Tanagers kept us busy, while Dusky and Chestnut-backed Antbirds, and Striped-breasted and Plain Wrens called from the undergrowth.

birding Costa Rica

Olive-backed Euphonias were pretty common and we also got White-vented as the edge of the village.

A late afternoon visit to the Gandoca reserve was quiet as expected but still turned up White-whiskered Puffbird, toucans, and a bunch of Tawny-crested Tanagers. I would love to head into the reserve before dawn and bring enough water and food to spend the entire day there. I bet you would see some preeeetty good birds (like maybe Slaty-backed Forest-Falcon, other raptors, uncommon antbirds, and who knows what else). As a side note, there may be some entrance for paying an entrance fee somewhere but we didn’t see it and just walked right on in.

A late morning visit to the botanical garden near Puerto Viejo failed to turn up Spot-crowned Antvireo and Black-chested Jay, but it was still nice and birdy with Tawny-crested Tanager, Black-headed Tody-flycatcher, trogons, lots of migrant activity, Short-tailed Hawk, Checker-throated, Dot-winged, and White-flanked Antwrens, and other species.

We had some of our best birding along the RECOPE road. This is the first road north of Manzanillo and is signed for a retreat used by RECOPE employees. It goes for maybe 3 ks through semi-open forest and more closed canopy rainforest. Espying birds as they forage in the crowns of the huge trees is a challenge but the road has lots of potential. In addition to a healthy dose of migrants, we also had Black-headed Tody-Flycatcher, Black-capped Pygmy-Tyrant, Pied Puffbird, Bat Falcon, woodcreepers, Band-tailed Barbthroat, Bronze-tailed Plumeleteer, Black-faced Antthrush, Purple-throated Fruitcrows, toucans, parrots, parakeets, Crested Guan, and other species. Our best sighting was an unbelievable Crested Owl that perched right out in the open on a log like some kind of open-air zoo! At least that’s how we felt as we walked up to it and took as many pictures as we wanted.

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That amazing Crested Owl.

A close shot.

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I took this with a hand-held camera!

I spent as much time in the field as possible but as usually happens with tropical areas with good habitat, I felt like I barely scratched the surface. There was quite a bit of good forest along the road between Puerto Viejo and Manzanillo that we didn’t bird, nor did we check the forested ridge, bird the botanical garden in the early morning, or spend more time looking for jays and other species around Kekoldi (not to mention visiting the excellent forests at Hitoy Cerere). Lots to see around Manzanillo, Puerto Viejo, and nearby, the habitat is very accessible, and you can get in a lot of great birding right around hotels and from public roads. As always, I can’t wait to go back and hope I can head back there soon on a family trip.
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My family will love the beach…

biodiversity Birding Costa Rica caribbean slope migration

The Peregrine Falcon known as Island Girl is in Limon, Costa Rica

Costa Rica is a fantastic place to watch Peregrines during migration. No doubt a lot of birders would respond with a shrug of the shoulders accompanied by a “So what? I see them on skyscrapers at home and if I go to Costa Rica, I’m going to be looking for Scarlet Macaws and Resplendent Quetzals, not for Peregrines.” If you feel that way, that’s alright, I understand but it wasn’t that long ago when seeing a Peregrine in North America was a pretty big deal. When I started birding back in the 70s and 80s, our only hope of seeing one of these master falcons was getting lucky with one that happened to migrate by a hawkwatch. That’s actually how I saw my first one and I can still picture the hooded, grayish adult as it flew towards us on a sunny day April day while hawkwatching at Braddock Bay, New York.

Since then, Peregrines seem to have bounced back all over the place thanks to the ban on DDT and lots of dedicated reintroduction programs. Apparently, a lot of the birds that migrate from the arctic cliffs and artificial canyons in the temperate zone wing past Costa Rica. If you spend any time on the Caribbean coast in Costa Rica during October, you can’t miss the Peregrines as they fly past one after another. In fact, the hawkwatch at Kekoldi set the seasonal record for Peregrine numbers when 3,219 birds were counted in 2004! Although that record might get broken this year by counters in Florida, maybe the Kekoldi counters will match it by the end of the season.

Some Peregrines pass the winter along both coasts in Costa Rica but most just keep going until they reach estuarine habitats and coastal areas in South America. Several Peregrines even fly all the way to Chile and the Falcon Research Group has put tracking devices on several females to study their migration routes as part of their Southern Cross Project. One of those birds was  tracked to Limon, Costa Rica last year and was actually tracked again to Limon and photographed by Marco Saborio yesterday as she perched on a cell tower. He knew where to find Island Girl because the people at the Falcon research group gave him the GPS coordinates for her!

Since I am headed down to Manzanillo for the nest few days, who knows, maybe she will be one of the many Peregrines that we will see flying along the beach?

Thanks goes out to Gerardo Obando of the AOCR for giving me a heads up about Island Girl being tracked to Limon.

biodiversity Birding Costa Rica caribbean foothills

What Happened at Costa Rica’s First Birding and Biodiversity Festival

Time flies just like the migrants that zip through Costa Rica. Although I haven’t listened to the night skies as much as the previous year, the Spring Peeper-like notes of Swainson’s Thrushes have drifted down from the dark on several occasions. Fall migration has been happening here as it usually does- fast and furious. Thousands of Bank, Barn, and Cliff Swallows stream overhead in many parts of the country (how many Cave, Tree, and Violet-greens get missed?). Eastern Kingbirds, Scarlet Tanagers, and Red-eyed Vireos come through in droves. Although I haven’t been lucky enough to connect with cuckoos (can you tell that I’m a birder?), others have seen several Yellow-billed and Black-billed.

Thousands of shorebirds have been foraging in the rich estuarine habitats of the Nicoya Pensinsula since August and raptors are beginning to come through in numbers. Warblers also migrate through the country but we don’t get near as much diversity as the eastern USA and Mexico. Nevertheless, we make up for lesser numbers of warbler species with high numbers of Prothonotary, Blackburnian, Tennessee, and Canada Warblers to name a few. One of the other birds that passes through Costa Rica in fair numbers is that sky-blue rarity known as the Cerulean Warbler. In fact, so many are sighted during migration that Juan Diego Vargas and Ernesto Carman, a couple of young, eager Costa Rican ornithologists, are trying to figure out what the birds need in terms of food and habitat. They are also trying to understand why more Ceruleans seem to show up in a small area on the Caribbean flanks of  Turrialba Volcano compared to other sites.

A little more than a month ago, I learned about many of their observations and hypotheses at Costa Rica’s first Biodiversity and Birding Festival. The festival was held at the Maquengue Finca and Hotel in Alegria, Siquirres and included lectures given by the Costa Rican “Don” of ornithology, Julio Sanchez, Juan Diego and Ernesto, guided birding walks at the nearby Las Brisas Reserve, and an excellent herp-focused night walk led by Brian Kubicki, one of Costa Rica’s foremost herpetologists.

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The view from the hotel. Great site to watch migrant raptors!

The site of the festival wasn’t picked by chance. It sits smack in the middle of what appears to be a migration hotspot. According to field work carried out by Juan Diego and Ernesto, for whatever reason, the Las Brisas Reserve seems to be especially good for migrants, the Cerulean Warbler included. When they mentioned that it seems to be the best site to see Cerulean Warblers in Costa Rica, I admit that my first thought was “but who is checking other sites at similar elevations in Costa Rica?” However, that silent question was promptly answered when they explained that coordinated counts carried out at the same time in various similar sites have so far, always turned up far fewer Ceruleans than at the Las Brisas Reserve. Even counts on nearby ridges turned up no Ceruleans while several were seen at the Las Brisas Reserve. This isn’t to say that you can’t see Ceruleans elsewhere in the country, just that there seems to be more consistently seen at Las Brisas.

It’s a tough hypothesis to test but one thing is certain. The Las Brisas Reserve is the most guaranteed site for Cerulean Warbler in the country if visiting from the last two weeks in August to the first two weeks in September. The old secondary forests and ponds in the reserve also happen to be excellent birding in general with very impressive mixed flocks, and a healthy array of uncommon species. These be birds such as Uniform Crake, White-tipped Sicklebill, Crested Owl, Royal Flycatcher, Tawny-chested Flycatcher, and a host of other species.

Although I was only able to partake in festival activities on Saturday evening and Sunday morning, here are some of the highlights that I witnessed:

  • Mississippi Kites: As in flocks of these graceful raptors flying by at eye level and kettling overhead. I could have sat back and watched their airborne antics for days while trying to pick out vagrant swallow species from the constant stream of Hirundines that zipped by from north to south.
  • Ernesto and Juan Diego’s Cerulean Warbler Project talk: How often do you get to hear about the findings of field ornithologists studying Cerulean Warblers as they migrate through Costa Rica? Yeah, like never so this was a real treat! One interesting hypothesis they have is that Ceruleans may be migrating straight from the highlands of Belize and Guatemala to the Las Brisas Reserve in Costa Rica and are using that as an important stop over point. This idea is in part based on only seeing Ceruleans at Las Brisas after 10 AM. Since that mid-morning hour coincides with the amount of time it would take for Ceruleans to fly from Guatemala and Belize, they wonder if the birds may be flying non-stop from those places to the Las Brisas area. Now before you say that the birds are just being inconspicuous, keep in mind that the people making these statements are highly competent field birders (trust me on that!) who have spent hundreds of hours at Las Brisas and elsewhere, nearly always starting their observations at dawn. With that in mind, one does have to wonder why they only see Ceruleans after 10 in the morning.

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  • The night walk at Las Brisas: The ponds at the reserve make it one of the best sites for frogs in Costa Rica. We saw something like 8 species, a Cat-eyed Snake eating a frog, and heard Tropical Screech, Mottled, and Crested Owls.

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A cool Cate-eyed Snake.

  • The Cerulean Warbler count of course!: Our little team was tasked with looking for Ceruleans at middle elevations up the road from the hotel. The only one we saw was a female observed at the lower part of our counting area (and which seems to coincide with the upper elevational limits of their range) but we also had birds like Collared Trogon, Spangle-cheeked, Black and Yellow, Tawny-crested, Speckled, and other tanagers, Dark Pewee, several Black-bellied Hummingbirds, White-bellied Mountain-Gem, and Rufous-browed Tyrannulet. Much of the road passes near a forested canyon and the higher parts access good middle elevation forest. I would have loved to have camped out in those forests! Another highlight of the count was meeting a local farming couple who were enthusiastic about and interested in protecting biodiversity. People like them give me hope for the future and when they described having seen a male Lovely Cotinga, we realized that the area has a lot of birding potential!

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One of the friendliest Collared Trogons I have ever known.

  • The participants: Around 70 people showed up for the festival and all of them were people who reside in Costa Rica.

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Some participants of the 2012 festival.

Although this year’s festival was in Spanish, the festival organizers plan on holding a a bigger one next year that also includes English speakers. Expect to see a lot more than Cerulean Warblers, more birding trips, and more celebration of biodiversity!

Birding Costa Rica Introduction

Thinking of Birding in Costa Rica? Sign up for a Natura Birding Tour!

When taking a birding trip to Costa Rica, there are two basic ways to do it. Either (1), do the trip on your own, or (2) take a birding tour. The first option guarantees adventure and that’s why a lot of people opt for the latter. It’s easier to let someone else take care of logistics, accommodation, and transportation in a foreign country, especially if you don’t speak the local lingua franca. For those reasons, a lot of folks go the tour route even if they aren’t birders but people who would rather focus on seeing as many species of glittering hummingbirds, trogons, and tanagers as possible have yet another major incentive for taking a tour.

When venturing into uncharted birding territory, a birding guide helps you see more birds. That’s true for any place on the globe but especially so in tropical regions such as Costa Rica. You see, the birdwatching dynamics aren’t the same as in the temperate grasslands, coniferous forests, and hardwood forests you may be familiar with. As with  most tropical forests, while there are hundreds of bird species in Costa Rican habitats, the birding comes with a subtle but definite catch. Instead of coming out of the underbrush with a simple spish or revealing themselves every 2 minutes, most of those species are naturally rare because they occur in low density populations. Add that natural rarity to shy, unobtrusive behavior along with a natural penchant to stay hidden, and a lot of those birds can very hard to find!

Seeing them requires time, patience, and luck but the odds will be upped in your favor if you bird with someone who knows where to look for them, how to recognize the scarce resources they use, and perhaps most of all, someone who recognizes their vocalizations. Bird with someone like this and you will certainly see a lot more bird species than birding on your own for the first time in Costa Rica. Of course, to see certain targets and maximize species, you also have to visit a key set of sites. I mention all of this because in February, 2013, I am going to help guide a Natura Tours Birding Tour to Costa Rica.

I normally stick to guiding clients on day trips and short tours on my own, but what can I say, I like this company! Set up by an enthusiastic Canadian naturalist who knows Costa Rica quite well, Natura Tours is serious about making efforts to run tours in an ethical, sustainable fashion. A portion of the proceeds for each tour go to local conservation efforts, and the company also has a set of ethics and values that are followed.

The tour will visit classic sites such as Carara (south Pacific rainforest, wetlands, and dry forest), Monteverde (dry forest, moist forest, and cloud forest), La Selva (Caribbean lowland rainforest), San Gerardo de Dota (high elevation forest), and Braulio Carrillo National Park (foothill rainforest). While these sites are visited on many other tours, what those other tours don’t have is someone on the ground who can extensively scout out the trip beforehand to see where rarities are hanging out, where fruiting and flowering trees are attracting the birds, and other tidbits that result in a higher number of bird species during the tour. Yes, I will be doing just that. It’s something I do on a regular basis anyways but I will be putting some extra time and effort into it in the two weeks before the tour.

While I probably won’t guide the entire tour, I will be there for much of the itinerary. The tour will also be co-led by friend and fellow birder Steve Pike. Steve started out at a young age like myself and it shows in natural, excellent fieldcraft honed from years of birding and guiding at Point Pelee. Dedicated to seeing as many birds and experiencing as much of the natural world as he can, Steve has traveled extensively and taken thousands of pictures of birds wherever he goes. Since he is also one of the more positive individuals you will probably ever meet (no exaggeration!), he makes for an excellent, always helpful tour leader

While the complex nature of birding in the tropics always makes it tough to hazard a guess at the numbers and species of birds to be encountered on any tour, the following represent some of the more exciting birds that will probably be encountered. I base that statement on having birded those sites for several years as well as knowing stakeouts for species mentioned:

Costa Rica birding tour

Sunbittern: A very good chance at this bird during time in Sarapiqui.

Costa Rica birding tour

Bat Falcon: Uncommon but I know at least a few reliable sites for it on the tour.

Costa Rica birding tour

Crimson-fronted Parakeet along with at least 12 other parrots, macaws, and parakeets.

Costa Rica birding tour

28 or more species of hummingbirds including the surreal Snowcap.

Costa Rica birding tour

R. Quetzal.

Costa Rica birding tour

The gorgeous Turquoise-browed Motmot.

Costa Rica birding tour

Collared Redstart

Add a litany of tanagers, trogons, wrens, toucans, woodpeckers, and flycatchers and it’s going to be a fantastic, bird-filled trip! To see testimonials from birders I have guided, please see the comments for this post. Hope to see you on the tour in February!