Last weekend, I finally made it to a place I have heard about for many years. Although I have birded most corners of Costa Rica on more than one occasion, I still need to get to a few places. The high quality forests of Las Alturas near San Vito are at the top of my Costa Rica bucket list along with Isla Chira in the Gulf of Nicoya, Pacuare Lodge, and a couple other choice sites. One such site recently removed from my bucket list as of this past weekend is Selva Bananito. Although this lodge can be literally translated as, “little banana jungle”, the only bananas are on part of the drive in, and the place is anything but small.
The small pond at Selva Bananito
Selva Bananito is a working farm and property that protects a huge area of forest, some of which includes the watershed that provides the city of Limon with potable water. Many thanks to the current owners, that primary forest still stands because they convinced their father to leave it instead of cutting it down. Since then, they have also reforested part of the property and strive to work in a sustainable manner. If that wasn’t enough reason to stay there for a few nights, these birding tips might do the trick:
Enjoy the Snowy Cotingas: Once you get south of the Siquirres area, Snowy Cotinga seems easier. Watch a forested hillside in the afternoon and you might find six of more of these snow-white birds perched in the canopy. At Selva Bananito, it’s actually hard not to see this dove-like wonder bird. We had sightings every day, right from the lodge and elsewhere, maybe eight in total.
A male cotinga hiding in a tree.
Check out the colors on the Great Jacamar: This beautiful bird is much easier in Amazonia but it never hurts to admire the iridescence in Costa Rica! When rainforest covered the Caribbean lowlands, this species was certainly more widespread. In the current times of disconnect and deforestation, in Costa Rica, the Great Jacamar is much more of a challenge. Although you can find it at a few sites here and there, the most reliable is Selva Bananito. It’s not common there either but it does seem to occur in larger numbers at Bananito than elsewhere. We had very good looks at one on our first morning.
The colors were kind of like a combination of a motmot and quetzal!
Keep an eye on the skies: In Costa Rica, lots of forest can equal a variety of raptors. Black-and-white Hawk-Eagle is regular (although we missed it), we heard a Black Hawk-Eagle, saw Short-tailed Hawks, King Vulture, heard a Semiplumbeous on the road in, and marveled over incredible kettles of migrating Swainson’s and Broad-winged Hawks.
Stay overnight deep in the forest: There are trails that go way back into the forest. To make it easier for guests to access those remote areas of the property, there are two platforms where you can spend the night. This sort of adventure thing that provides immersion in high quality bird habitat is right up my alley, I cannot wait to do this on my next visit to see if I can find Black-eared Wood-Quail, Scaly-throated Leaftosser, Slaty-backed Forest-Falcon, and other species of the deep forest. Who knows what else might be back there?
Do some night-birding: Before dawn on the first morning, I heard Mottled Owl, Crested Owl, Spectacled Owl, Central American Pygmy-Owl, and Great Potoo within an hour, right from my comfortable cabin. Common Potoo is also present, I would bet that Vermiculated Screech-Owl is common, and Black and White should also be around.
Bird the road to the lodge: On the drive out, I realized that we should have spent some time on that road. Part of the track passes through old cocoa cultivations with big trees and there are a few streams. In other words, it looks excellent for a wide variety of lowland species and could be easily birded with a group, including at night. I hope to do just that both while guiding groups, and during bird surveys.
Most of all, enjoy your time at Bananito. The owners were very accommodating and friendly, if you don’t want to hike the trails, you can see a lot of good birds from from the lodge, and the knowledgeable, friendly local guides can bring you to sites to look for the jacamar and maybe even Red-fronted Parrotlet. Check out my eBird list from Saturday.
If you get tired of looking at lowland forest birds, Jurgen, one of the owners, also offers rides high above the lodge in a gyrocopter!