Costa Rica is a fantastic place for birding and not only because more than 900 species are on the official list. The observation of the avian side of life in Costa Rica also earns five stars because so much habitat is accessible. A birder doesn’t need to go far or walk for hours to see lots of birds; dozens of hummingbirds, tanagers, and even hawk-eagles are within two hour’s drive from the main airport.
Violet Sabrewing- one of those hummingbirds.
Of those places where birds thrive in Costa Rica, some sites are better than others simply because more mature forest is present. These are the sites where more species occur, where the rare ones live, and where the excellent birding acts as a window to times when the country was cloaked in a heavy, incredibly complex array of biodiversity.
These remaining heavily forested sites can also act as key nodes for ecosystem corridors required to adequately conserve biodiversity. One of those nodes is the Children’s Eternal Rainforest, an area of middle elevation and foothill rainforest that connects the Monteverde area to Arenal. Named after donations made by children to purchase much of the land in this protected area, as one might surmise, these forests offer up fantastic birding. A few sites provide access to the Children’s Eternal Rainforest, one of them being the Pocosol Station.
Situated at 700 meters deep within the forests of the protected area, Pocosol is one of the better places to connect with Bare-necked Umbrellabird, Purplish-Backed Quail-Dove, and many other uncommon species. The birding is typically excellent, these are some reflections from a recent trip:
The station has improved
The rooms are basic but still good with nice hot showers, and the service continues to be very accommodating. Tasty, local food, early coffee, good trails, and lots of birds.
Great birding from the balcony
Since the buildings are surrounded by forest, you don’t need to go far to see a lot! Birding from the balcony is good for many tanagers, mixed flocks, and views over the forest. We even had Ocellated Antbirds, Northern Schiffornis, and other forest species calling right next to the main building. The balcony birding is especially helpful during rain (which thankfully gave us a break last week).
You don’t need to go far to see a lot!
Birding around the edge of the small clearing and along the entrance road is excellent. We had a lot of activity with various species coming to fruiting trees. The best was the mixed flocks and and other birds just 100 yards from the station. While watching tanagers (including brief look at Blue-an-Gold), White-throated Thrush, and mixed flocks with Brown-billed Scythebill and other species, we also had point blank looks at a small group of Yellow-eared Toucanets!
Trails that also lead from the station get into excellent forest right away and can turn up pretty much anything.
Good for owls
As with any site that features quality habitat, owls are present. Mottled, Spectacled, and Black-and-White were all heard from our rooms. The Black-and-Whites were also seen in the small clearing, they apparently often use the clearing to hunt bats.
Miradores Trail? Be prepared
There are a few trails at Pocosol and they must be visited to see some of the more reclusive species. One of the best areas is back on the Miradores Trail heading to the waterfall. On past trips, we have heard Great Jacamar back there and others have had the monklet, umbrellabird, and other rare species. On our trip, I unfortunately made the mistake of taking the Laguna Trail to go to Miradores. Although the forest was beautiful, the combination of three small creek crossings and up and down trudging was a bit too much. If you go that route, just be prepared.
We didn’t see much but any part of that trail has a lot of potential, especially early in the morning. As for the other trails, they are all exciting. Some of our better species included Purplish-backed Quail-Dove, Rufous-browed Tyrannulet, heard only Black-headed Antthrush, Song Wren, antbirds, and mixed flocks with Streak-crowned Antvireo, Tawny-faced Gnatwren, and a brief look at Buff-fronted Foliage-gleaner (!). We also saw Tawny-throated Leaftosser and heard Scaly-throated Leaftosser.
A dearth of raptors
One of the more surprising aspects of this trip was the lack of raptors. Although hawks and their taloned ilk are typically uncommon in Costa Rica, the places where they show more often are sites like Pocosol. Despite frequent scans of the sky and canopy, brief views of just one White Hawk along with a few vultures is worrisome.
Where were the oropendolas?
The other strange absence was that of the oropendolas. Whereas past trips have yielded a constant parade of Montezuma and Chestnut-headed Oropendolas, neither were present on this one! There were also far fewer toucans. Where are the large frugivores? I am guessing that they had moved to areas with more food.
Take the road to Pocosol north of the Penas Blancas River
With road improvements, visiting the station has become much easier but it depends on which road is taken. Avoid the old road that goes from La Tigra because there is a very rough section that leads to an old, very much one lane bridge that looks ripe for collapse. Instead, take the road that leaves from near San Isidro on the north side of the Penas Blancas. This one still has a few rough parts but nothing compared to the other one and its precarious bridge.
As with other tropical forest sites with high degrees of biodiversity, a birder could visit Pocosol for a week and keep seeing new birds every day. That said, a day visit is still worth the trip. If going that route, I recommend staying at Finca Luna Nueva because the birding is also great there, this organic farm and eco-lodge also acts as a good base to bird other sites in the area, and staying there also supports regenerative agriculture. Need help in setting up your birding trip to Costa Rica? Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org .