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“2014” Expectations and Hopes for Birding in Costa Rica

We are now officially in what a fair portion of humans on the planet refer to as “2014”. Yep, 14 years after the milenium and if you haven’t been to Costa Rica yet for birding, what are you waiting for? The birding is great, the weather is great, and there’s a quetzal with your name on it!

Does this quetzal have your name on it?

So, whether you are on your way to Costa Rica or are itching to plan a trip, here are ten things to expect in 2014:

1. A smooth ride between Varablanca and Cinchona: Finally, the road is paved! Ever since 2009, this fine birding route was wacked up pretty bad by the Cinchona earthquake. It has been slowly paved ever since and the last stretch was finally completed a month ago. I’m looking forward to checking it out because I have had a lot of fine birding on this road and am sure that it holds a few hidden surprises here and there. It’s also kind of close to home and is on our Big Day route so that helps too.

The view from the Cinchona- Varablanca area.

2. Great bird photography at the Nature Pavilion along with a big sit done at that site: This rather new birding site in Sarapiqui continues to be one of the best places for bird photography in the country and keeps getting better as the owners plant more trees on their property. I plan on doing a big sit on their deck to see how many species show up. Not sure when I will do it but I can’t wait!

This Collared Aracari was at the Nature Pavilion.

3. An Ochraceous Pewee: It’s about time for me to actually see this uncommon, high-elevation endemic. I have heard them a couple of times but have yet to see one! I keep putting it off because a day trip up to Cerro de la Muerte is kind of a long one for me. The bird is way overdue though so I need to start planning a trip now.

4. A major Big Day: For those whom I have guided, it’s no surprise that I plan on breaking the Big Day world record. A lot of factors need to fall into place but it can be done in Costa Rica and I hope this year is the one. Like Eric B and Rakim, I’m thinking of a master plan and with better preparations and scouting, it just might happen.

A scene from last year's Big Day.

5. Lots of hummingbirds: You have to bird with your eyes closed to not see lots of hummingbirds when birding Costa Rica. Those little glittering sprites are pretty easy to see in many parts of the country, and especially so at a variety of sites with feeders and flowering bushes that are planted to attract them.

The local variety of the Magnificent Hummingbird is pretty common at high elevations.

6. Want antbirds? Go to the right sites!: If you want to see more antbirds, bird more often in quality forest. The Pacific slope species are regular in places like Carara National Park and the Osa Peninsula, but the best sites for Caribbean slope species seem to be the Arenal- Monteverde forest complex (especially at sites around Arenal, at and near Pocosol Research Station, and Lands in Love), and the northern forests (Laguna del Lagarto and nearby).

7. More raptors: Who doesn’t want to see more raptors? I hear about the apparent scarcity of raptors from birders than any other bird related commentary and they are right, raptors are rather scarce in Costa Rica. It has to do with them being at the top of the food chain, competing with other raptor species, many needing large areas of quality forest, and way too much edge habitat. This is why one sees more Gray and Roadside Hawks, and caracaras than other species. However, look long enough and in the right places and things like hawk-eagles, Gray-headed Kite, and other rainforest raptors eventually show.

8. Lots of antswarms!: Ok, so this is every neotropical birder’s wish but that’s what I’m hoping for. Best chances are places with high quality forest (hmm, seems to be a theme there…). For those who are unaware, the beauty of a bunch of hungry Eciton burchellii ants is that they attract all sorts of birds. In addition to those cool little antbirds, you can also get woodcreepers, tinamous, forest-falcons, foliage-gleaners, antpittas, ground cuckoos, and who knows what else coming in to the swarm.

9. Using the Costa Rica Birds Field Guide app: The newest version has more than 575 species and is now available for Android in addition to being available in the iTunes store. We should be able to push the number of species above 600 in 2014.

Costa Rican Brush-Finch-one of the species on the Costa Rica Birds Field Guide app. This image was taken by Linda Scott.

10. A book on birding in Costa Rica: I’m working on it…

Hope to see you in Costa Rica!

8 replies on ““2014” Expectations and Hopes for Birding in Costa Rica”

“10. A book on birding in Costa Rica: I’m working on it…”

Yep, Pat, you need to do that. “A Bird-Finding Guide to Costa Rica” helped us on our trip but your blog is a better resource and the book is a bit dated even though it isn’t all that old.

“A smooth ride between Varablanca and Cinchona”

We took this route on Jan 2 and it was great. Maybe the best road in Costa Rica now. The hummingbird restaurant was a lot of fun even if we only had 45 minutes of sunlight.

“Great bird photography at the Nature Pavilion along with a big sit down at that site:”

This might be my favorite place in Costa Rica. Dave and Dave are good people and the photography is mind numbing. If you get there on anything other than a busy day they will not care a bit about the 1.5 hour time limit. We would have spent most of the day if we hadn’t needed to push on to the Arenal Observatory Lodge. They deserve a plug too since it was just an outstanding stop.

“I plan on breaking the Big Day world record” I sure hope you pull that off. Good Luck!

It was good to meet you and thanks again for the guiding. It’s going to take a while to get our report in to eBird for Carrara and the nearby mangroves. Good grief, that was an absurd bird count for the day and I honestly have no idea what the tally was beyond “huge”.

Steve and Megan
Georgia, USA (sigh)

I’m looking forward to some of these myself! Hope to get some good antbirds with you in March, and of course would love an antswarm.

We’re very much looking forward to our trip, and birding with you!

I’ve been enjoying your blog for a couple of months sine I found it. I’m heading for Costa Rica at the end of the week and have found your app very useful as I try to become a little familiar with your birds, so thank you. Most of the families are different to those in Australia so it is a bit of a challenge, but I’m looking really forward to it (especially the hummingbirds which we don’t have.

@Sonja- Glad to hear that you are enjoying the blog and the app. Hope to see you out in the field!

@Paul- Yes, hopefully we will get lucky with those! Looking forward to sharing Costa Rican birds with you as well.

@Steve- Yes, a memorable, birdy day! Hope to see you and Megan again in Costa Rica some day.

I check your blog regularly and appreciate all of your insights. We are very much looking forward to meeting you in late February. Good birding!

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