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Birding Costa Rica

Birding Costa Rica in the Clouds- Some Tips

Birding trips to Costa Rica can be scheduled during the dry season but, if you want to see a quetzal and hundreds of other species that live in the highlands and haunt the wet, lowland rainforests, expect precipitation. It might come in the form of a light mist, pouring rain, or birding in the middle of a cloud. Just be prepared for it and everything will be alright. Doubt may grow when the sky neglects to turn off the faucet for a few days but what are you gonna do? Get back on the plane? Hell no! This is Costa Rica! You go birding dammit! You might go crazy but hey, you still gave it the good old college try. You can also follow these tips if you find yourself birding in the clouds or dealing with near constant rain:

  • Be Prepared: Don’t let hopes and positive thoughts lull you into complacence about the rain. Dry season or not, when four meters of rain per year is a normal occurrence,  no amount of positive thinking will dissipate those clouds. It’s going to happen at some point so be ready for it with an umbrella for the hot lowlands, and a poncho for birding in the highlands. Get enough dry bags for your equipment, and listen to The Who’s “We Won’t Get Fooled Again” while packing your stuff.
  • Bring waterproof binoculars: Most quality binos these days are waterproof and fogproof. If your’s aren’t, seriously consider an upgrade before the trip because this is a must when birding in wet Costa Rica.
  • Practice birding with an umbrella: On many occasions, birds are active in light rain and misty weather. Don’t miss birds by venturing back into the hotel during such typical cloud forest weather. Learn how to hold an umbrella and binos at the same time, and see more birds.

    Birding with an umbrella in cloud forest.
  • Bird in the pouring rain:  When birding in the clouds, don’t be surprised if the water all around you coalesces into soaking, pouring rain. If that does happen, wait under an umbrella for ten minutes or so to see if it lightens up. It’s worth the wait because if the rain does stop or turn back into mist, this is often followed by a sudden burst of bird activity. If the pouring rain keeps coming down, head back to shelter, get a wonderful cup of coffee (always fantastic in Costa Rica), listen to bird sounds on the Costa Rica Birds Field Guide app, and watch from there. There won’t be so many birds but a few things might come into view.

    You might end up seeing a Juvenile Blue and Gold Tanager.
  • Watch hummingbird feeders: At least the hummingbirds tend to remain active. Enjoy the feeder action from a sheltered spot.

    This Coppery-headed Emerald was enjoying the cloud forest mist.
  • Head to Guanacaste: If you just can’t take the constant mist and rain any longer, you can always go to the dry habitats of Guanacaste!

Expect rain and birding in the clouds no matter when you go to Costa Rica. Be prepared and you can also still expect a lot of cool birds.

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