The birding is always good in Costa Rica. Go birding where at least some forest or other native habitat is present and there will be more than enough to look at. Even so, some birding sites in Costa Rica host more birds and higher biodiversity than others, some sites host birds not found in other places. Some such birding hotspots are on the regular birding tour route but many other birding sites occur well off the main beaten path.
As with any region in our one and only planet, find the best habitat and you find the highest numbers of birds. The site known as Finca Luna Nueva shows that some of the best birding can also happen on a farm. However, no mere property used for cultivation will do, because, as Luna Nueva demonstrates, the farm has to be sustainable, surrounded by mature rainforest and second growth, and, most of all, organic.
That organic part of the equation is key, of this I am sure. I might not be able to see the difference in numbers of insects between a farm that kills insect and fungal competition with poison and a farm that does not but I can see the difference in birds. The difference in birding at Finca Luna Nueva is obvious. Crested Guans and toucans are up there in the trees, parrots, parakeets, and even Scarlet Macaws (!) fly overhead, and wrens, ant-tanagers, and so much more are calling from the vegetation.
Recently, I once again had the fortune of birding there for a bit. These were some of the more interesting observations from my morning of birding.
This big and beautiful owl might be regular at Luna Nueva but that never stops it from being a birding highlight. Weather permitting, do some pre-dawn birding and you will probably hear one. With some luck, you might also see one in the evening or just before dawn, even right by the lodge buildings. We had great views of one that continued to call well after dawn.
King Vulture Hide (!)
A new feature at Luna Nueva, the hide is easy to visit and is starting to attract a few of the local King Vultures that are often seen circiling high above the property. Sooner or later, pictures of this fancy scavenger taken from the hide will show up on Luna Nueva’s Facebook page.
The conservation success story for this fantastic bird in Costa Rica just keeps getting better. Over the past decade, populations of this spectacular parrot have become established in various parts of the Caribbean slope. A few years ago, some started showing up around Finca Luna Nueva and they have chosen a certain part of the property for roosting. Don’t be surprised if you see macaws on the drive in to Luna Nueva (as we did) as well as around the ecolodge. On a related note, Finca Luna Nueva seems to provide important habitat for Psittacids in general. In addition to the macaws, we had views of all 7 other expected species in just one morning of birding.
A tiny Tyrannid might not be as eye-catching as a big, red, yellow and blue parrot but this species isn’t nearly as easy to see as a macaw. It was also interesting to see this particular species at Finca Luna Nueva because the very similar Brown-capped Tyrannulet also occurs in this area. In fact, upon seeing the pair of tyrannulets near the bamboo tower, I assumed they would be Brown-cappeds. Luckily, excellent definitive views showed that they had gray crowns and were therefore, Yellow-bellied Tyrannulets.
Sightings of this species have also occurred near Arenal. It seems that, similar to the Olivaceous Piculet, forest fragmentation also also helped this species to expand south from the Cano Negro area. How will competition play out with the Brown-capped Tyrannulet? Only time and more focused birding will tell.
It was of interest to note that hummingbirds were commonly heard and seen throughout the morning. It seemed like we were constantly seeing one or more hummingbirds chasing each other around. Yes, there are lots of hummingbirds in Costa Rica but in many places, they don’t seem to be as common as they used to be. Without focusing all that much on hummingbirds, we still had Long-billed Starthroat, hermits, White-necked Jacobin, Blue-throated Goldentail, and several Rufous-taileds. I bet more species were present, I can’t help but wonder if organic farming is especially beneficial for these high energy mini-birds.
Healthy and Delicious Cuisine
If you enjoy quality cuisine made with fresh local ingredients, you will love dining at Finca Luna Nueva. I know I do! The food and smoothies are fantastic and locally brewed craft beer is also available. Even better, dining might also be accompanied by views of a sloth, wood-rails, toucans, and other birds.
Luna Nueva is the perfect place to blend tropical birding with delicious organic dining as well as visiting Costa Rica with family who might not watch birds as much as you do. As always, I look forward to my next visit to this special place. Happy spring birding!