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The Rocky River Heron

Joan Jett of Blackhearts and The Runaways fame first sang, “I love rock and roll so put another dime in the jukebox baby!” Weird Al’s twist on that classic 80s rock tune says, “I love rocky road! So weren’t you gonna buy half a gallon baby?”

When visiting California Gulch or some roads in Costa Rica or so many other off beat places we go for birds, the song gets changed to, “I love rocky roads so put another wrench in the toolbox baby!” However, if the Fasciated Tiger-Heron could croon, if that rocky river loving bird could put words to the tune, it might say, “I love rocky flows so put another fish in the eddy baby!”

If you ever wondered what the Fasciated Tiger-Heron does, that lyric just about sums up how it spends most of its time. Unlike so many other herons, this species doesn’t visit marshes, doesn’t wade in estuaries or fly along any ocean shore. It doesn’t even stalk the shallows of slow, steady-flowing tropical lowland rivers. In the nations where our rocky river bittern ranges, those habitats are used by the related Bare-throated Tiger-Heron and the Rufescent Tiger-Heron. At some period in evolutionary history, we can only assume that in occupying and become more adapted to rocky forested rivers, the ancestor of the Fasciated became the bird that it is today.

Like other Trigrisoma herons (the tiger-herons), the Fasciated is a fair-sized bird with a thick, and powerful neck, sharp beak, and medium-length legs. In other birding words, its more or less shaped like a bittern, like a compact, modern dinosaur. However, unlike bitterns, the Fasciated and other tiger-herons don’t bother to hide themselves in the grass, don’t make any noises that sound like a water pump.

No, these birds are too rough and tough characters for any of that quaint country stuff. More in keeping with their dino ancestors, tiger-herons stalk where they wish, make growling noises that sound like some scary predator of the night, and eat baby crocodiles. At least the Bare-throated and Rufescent eat young crocs. The Fasciated doesn’t but I bet that’s only because saurians don’t inhabit the bird’s cold, rocky river habitats.

In fact, the Fasciated is so adapted to rocky streams and rivers, it just can’t seem to live anywhere else. Ranging from Costa Rica through much of the tropical Andes, the Fasciated Tiger-Heron uses rocky streams and rivers that flow through forested landcapes. As one might gather, this special heron also has a morphological feature or two that help it survive in its rushing river home. A bit stockier than other herons, like a feathered goat, it has shorter legs that may help it find better balance on slick river rocks. Its slightly blunter bill might help it catch more crayfish or other prey items peculiar to its cold, splashing home.

Although it’s far from being the only heron that patiently waits in place to eventually catch unwary prey, the Fasciated T. seems to be especially adept at practicing stillness. This river bird stands in place for so long, it can seem more like a garden statue, just another rock in the river than an actual living bird. With water constantly rushing and splashing past it, the heron seems to be making some natural Zen statement. Compared to herons of lowland tropical places, keeping still for long periods of time might be a necessary adaptation to catch enough food in places with fewer prey items. Being “Zen” also probably helps to avoid predators as does another of its characteristic features; its cryptic plumage.

Check a stream for this heron species and you might need to do a double take. Look carefully at the river with binoculars and don’t be surprised if one of those many “rocks” turns into a bird that was hiding in plain sight. Coupled with its art of being still behavior, the mottled gray plumage of the adult helps it blend in remarkably well with the surrounding river rocks and rushing water. The orange and black plumage of the juvenile is another story and raises the question of why the adult seems to be more camouflaged than young birds; a situation typically the other way around.

If you feel like pondering such questions while birding Costa Rica, come visit and scan rocky rivers and streams in rainforest for Fasciated Tiger-Herons. On account of the bird’s natural stealth and likely low density populations, it might take a while to find one. But don’t give up! Think like the heron, check the river with care because you can bet that the birds are somewhere on that waterway. They might be standing just around the bend, or keeping still on the other side of a big river rock, being Zen, hiding in plain sight.

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Lifer Benefits of Birding Costa Rica in Cabuya

Bird a place enough and the barrel of lifers gets emptied, bit by bit. Eventually, it only has room for the sneaky tough and unexpected birds; the ones you never imagine seeing, the species relegated to the rarest of blue moon birding moments.

Having birded Costa Rica for some time, that’s how it is for me and that’s Ok! Like others who have been birding for a lifetime, I find myself delving into bird behavior, moving further into the finer details of birding. Oh, I’ll still take those lifers any which way I can but I’m pleased to watch the Cliff Swallows fly high overhead and imagine what they see, the mountains and plains where they eventually go, to places where I once worked in Colorado, the sun blasted former territories of the Comanche people. I’m grateful to listen to the songs of wrens and watch tanagers forage in a fruiting fig. But, give me a chance to see a new bird or two, there’s a good chance I’ll take it.

A few days ago, I got that lifer chance on a pelagic trip out of Malpais. There were some chances for new birds but even then, they weren’t guaranteed. For me, the open seas hold several lifer possibilities but most of those choice birds are much further than the limits of a day trip. A 6 hour trip holds less promise of new birds but a few were still very much possible and the rest, well, since I hadn’t seen them in a while, they were much appreciated pseudo lifers.

I didn’t really have any chances at new birds on land but anyone new to birding in Costa Rica would have a ball around Cabuya. There’s a good amount of habitat and we had some wonderful birding. The following are some reasons for and highlights of birding around Cabuya:

Good Forest on the Road to Malpais

The next time I go to Cabuya (I do plan on going back!), I look forward to some early morning birding on the road to Malpais. It’s not the best of roads and you might have some serious issues during the wet season but even then, I would walk or bike it because the habitat along much of the road is very birdy. Near Cabuya, the road passes through edge and second growth and then eventually passes through some rare and beautiful mature forest.

During a brief bit of dawn chorus, we heard most of the expected species including Gray-headed Dove, Gray-headed Tanager, Red-crowned Ant-Tanager, and other species. A few days birding along that road would be some sweet tropical birding.

Northern Potoo, Middle American Screech-Owl and More

On the afternoon of our arrival to Cabuya, local birder Wilfredo Villalobos brought us to a side road that can be good for night birds. We stayed until dusk, listening to the calls of the later afternoon and even heard a Middle American Screech-Owl. When it got dark enough for the small owl to feel comfortable about moving around, it indeed popped into brief view. To make the birding even better, at the same time, a Northern Potoo started calling!

Before long, we were looking at that choice nocturnal species before it flew off into the night. Wilfredo told us that he also gets Black-and-white Owl on that road. Other fairly common owl species in that area include Pacific Screech-Owl, Mottled Owl, and Spectacled Owl.

Gray-headed Doves and Other Interesting Species of the Nicoya Peninsula

The avifauna around Cabuya includes a nice assortment of dry and moist forest species. That means lots of Banded Wrens, Ruddy and Ivory-billed Woodcreepers, Thicket and Little Tinamous, Red-lored Parrot, Gray-headed Dove, perhaps the rare Violaceous Quail-Dove, and much more.

Seawatching

On the way to Cabuya, we made a few stops along the coast to check extensive rocky outcrops and ocean waters. The rocks had Ruddy Turnstones and at lest one Wandering Tattler (a rather rare and local bird in Costa Rica), and the ocean had 300 plus migrating Franklin’s Gulls (!). The gulls were in a massive raft just offshore and eventually took to the sky to continue migrating north. Many had the rosy blush of breeding plumage and with their chattering, they seemed to be excited about flying back up to the northern prairies.

I would love to visit on days with stormy weather or just do some morning seawatching during migration; I bet some really good birds fly by that spot.

Digiscoped Franklin’s Gulls

Pelagic Trips

Thanks to Wilfredo Villalobos of Cabuya Bird Watching, a number of pelagic trips have been done in this area. What’s especially nice about these trips is that since Malpais is fairly close to deep water, the boat reaches the continental shelf in an hour or less. Since the boat captains are professional fishermen, they are in touch with other fishing boats, know how to find the fish, and therefore, the birds.

On our 6 hour trip, shortly after leaving the coast, upon hearing where the feeding Spinner Dolphins were, we made a beeline to that spot. Holy smokes. Try and imagine a few hundred Spinner Dolphins churning the water and jumping and spinning right next to the boat while being surrounded by hundreds of Brown Boobies, Wedge-tailed and Pink-footed Shearwaters along with smaller numbers of Galapagos Shearwaters, some Sooty Terns flying high overhead, and other birds joining the mix. On our wonderful day, those others included a few Arctic Terns, one Bridled Tern, a couple of Sabine’s Gulls, juvenile Long-tailed Jaeger, a few Brown Noddies, a few Pomarine Jaegers, some Least and Wedge-rumped Storm-Petrels, 1 Masked Booby, and 1 Red-footed Booby!

Lest I neglect to mention, oh yes and there was that one fantastic lifer, a White Tern!

This is a screenshot of picture taken by Diego Quesada, an excellent local guide and co-owner of Birding Experiences.

Also known as the Fairy Tern, this Snowy Cotinga looking seabird did us a favor by staying with the boat for a couple hours! I mean, we sort of almost got tired of looking at it. Not really, but we had to look away to keep checking for the other rare birds. Although we didn’t see them on that day, they were probably out there somewhere, we just had too many birds to check over too large of an area!

On the way back, we had more looks at storm-petrels and one sweet Red-necked Phalarope. You won’t see the same birds on every trip, as with all pelagics, they vary by season and other factors, BUT, you will certainly see something cool. To learn more about those trips, contact Wilfredo via his Cabuya Bird Watching page.

If you do manage to visit Cabuya for birding, make sure to contact Wilfredo Villalobos. He may be available to show you around, he and his wife have rooms for rent, and they also serve some tasty pizza!

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Strategic Birding in Costa Rica at Rincon de La Vieja- Rinconcito Lodge

Rincon de la Vieja is one of the more interesting places to go birding in Costa Rica. An active volcano that also acts as a 34,000 acre (13759 hectares) national park with tropical forest transitioning between dry, wet, and middle elevations…how could it not be great birding?

Maintained trails in the park provide access to chances at an entertaining array of species associated with a fine ecotone of habitats including such uncommon and rare birds as Violaceous and Purplish-backed Quail-Doves, Black-eared Wood-Quail, King Vulture and other raptors, Tody Motmot, and even one of the grail birds of the Neotropical region, the one and only Rufous-vented Ground-Cuckoo.

By nature of their very being, the visiting birder can’t always expect to see the rare ones, but toucans, White-fronted Parrots, Gray-headed Tanagers, Thicket Tinamous, and plenty of other species will still keep you smiling, especially when you can access key habitats in and outside the park. Accessing those different habitats is essential for seeing a healthy selection of bird species and no focal point is better for doing that than Rinconcito Lodge.

White-fronted Parrot

A small, cozy hotel situated just outside of the national park, these are the reasons why Rinconcito is located in the best spot for birding several habitats:

Access To Two Different Park Entrances

The lodge is right on a good road that leads to two different park entrances; Las Pailas and Santa Maria. The Las Pailas area has trails that access moist forest with a wealth of species. Whether birding, hiking, or both, this part of Rincon de la Vieja delivers. Santa Maria also offers similar excellent birding and hiking with better chances at Caribbean slope species like the uncommon Yellow-eared Toucanet, antbirds, and other species.

A Road To the Wet and Wild Caribbean Slope

For additional exciting Caribbean slope birding including chances at everything from rare raptors to Lovely Cotinga, take the road to Colonia Blanca and then on to Colonia Libertad. Rough enough to require four wheel drive, birders who enjoy exploration will love the rainforests along this route! The area hasn’t seen much birding but has a lot of potential. Surveys in the 90s by Daniel S. Cooper found all 3 species of hawk-eagle, and the mega rare Gray-headed Piprites among other species.

Watch for the weird and wonderful Sunbittern on streams.

The birding is great along much of this road, just be prepared for rain, good mixed flocks, and overall excellent birding.

30 minutes to Oak Savannah Habitats

The western flanks of the volcano host interesting, wind-blown oak savannahs. Although they aren’t the easiest places to bird on account of frequent windy conditions, this unique habitat could have some interesting avian surprises. It would be best visited in the early morning to look for Rusty and Botteri’s Sparrows along with an outside chance of finding Rock Wren.

A Bit Further To Wetlands and Other Dry Forest Sites

Although there are plenty of dry forest species at and near the lodge, additional dry forest sites such as Santa Rosa National park and Horizontes are anywhere from an hour to an hour and a half drive from the lodge. The same goes for the open field and wetland hotspots of Las Trancas and the Sardinal Catfish Ponds.

Birding at Rinconcito

But what if you don’t feel like driving anywhere? If you would rather go for an easy-going blend of birding, pool time, and drinks, Rinconcito delivers for that too! Orange-fronted Parakeets, White-fronted Parrots, Lesser Ground-Cuckoo, magpie-jays, and other birds are on and near the grounds of the hotel while trails can host Sunbittern and even Tody Motmot.

At Rincon de la Vieja, the windy weather of the continental divide can be a challenge but the birding is always good and there’s no spot more strategic than Rinconcito Lodge.

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Birding Costa Rica

Why Now Might be a Good Time to go Birding in Costa Rica

In normal years, times just a year ago and before then, this would be the high season. There would be a good number of people birding in Costa Rica, quite a few birders visiting for their first quetzal, to watch toucans in the treetops, and soak up the spectacle of tropical birds.

We do have some birders here now but as with every place, out of country visitors are the exception. I don’t blame anyone, I wouldn’t be traveling either because why take the chance? Why not wait for a vaccination and travel then? However, given the safety of airline ventilation systems, protection from double masks, and follow careful protocols, now might actually be a great time to visit Costa Rica.

And see birds like a Violet Sabrewing.

I know, right, are you crazy? But hear me out, this is why right now really is a good time to go birding in Costa Rica, at least for the following reasons:

Air travel is pretty safe

Despite the worries of sharing an enclosed space on a plane, modern ventilation and air filtration systems keep the air very clean. With everyone on board also wearing a mask, the risk of transmission should be pretty low. I would be more worried about the airports but even there, if everyone is masked and you are careful, chances of catching someone should be minimized.

Health protocols in Costa Rica

But what about Costa Rica, what about mask wearing? Well, although you may have seen some places requiring masks and others not so much, in Costa Rica, health protocol are very much enforced. Mask wearing is required for most or all enclosed places, and from what I have seen, hotels have been especially careful about social distancing in their restaurants, mask wearing, hand washing, and so on. Supermarkets and other places also count and limit the number of people in the store. They have to because if they get caught breaking protocols, they get shut down.

You of course still have to and should be careful but it certainly helps when most people you interact with are seem to be doing the same.

Plane ticket prices

Get this, there are some pretty cheap flights to Costa Rica! Especially if you are coming from the USA. I have never seen them so cheap (like $300 or even less for round trip from NYC) and there are of course obvious reasons for that but it’s still worth mentioning it.

You still need to buy certain health insurance and then get the pcr test in Costa Rica before returning home but those might be worth it if you can fly at half the normal price.

Plenty of space in hotels and plenty of space for birding

With fewer people, there is lots of rooms at every hotel and lodge and more than enough elbow room for birding too.

You might see a Yellow-eared Toucanet.

High quality birding

Not to mention, as always, the birding in Costa Rica is a top notch world experience replete with Resplendent Quetzals, dozens of glittering hummingbirds, mixed flocks, and so much more.

Local birders are taking selfies with a Rufous-vented Ground-Cuckoo

Even better, right now, local birders have been getting close look at super cooperative Rufous-vented Ground-Cuckoos (!). A few days ago, a few were spotted at an Army Ant swarm at the Pocosol Station in the Children’s Eternal Rainforest. Luckily, this ground-cuckoo family has stayed around to continue foraging at the swarm and several local birders have enjoyed some super rare moments with this rare and unpredictable species.

It’s a bird that’s always out there and at various sites but the main word here is “unpredictable”. That and “sneaky”. Based on years of looking for them, reading about them, hearing about reports, and my limited experiences seeing and listening them, I think I’m correct is saying that they are somewhat like cats. If ground-cuckoo don’t want to be seen, you aren’t going to see it! After seeing a ground-cuckoo quickly move through the understory without moving a single leaf, I figured that likely happens much more than we realize.

It seems that they can be a bit more tame in a family setting, and perhaps just because the juvenile is so much less experienced. In any case, there are some being seen at Pocosol, I wonder how long they will stay? On another note, two very experienced birders also recently saw this mega species at Rincon de la Vieja. Their account gives an idea of the challenges and strategies that can be used to find and see one.

If you go visit Costa Rica for birding these days, I’m not sure if the ground-cuckoos at Pocosol will still be around but it wouldn’t hurt to try. There are plenty of other birds to watch there too and in so many other parts of this beautiful, warm, tropical nation.

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5 Essentials for Birding on Your Own in Costa Rica

Planning a trip to Costa Rica? Think about it because although you might not feel good about traveling to watch quetzals today, in a couple of months, vaccination rates might change your mind.

Quetzals are always a good excuse to travel, even when they try to hide.

Since the best birding trips are planned well in advance, looking into information for a birding trip to Costa Rica isn’t just wishful thinking. The time to start planning a trip is now and although these ideas about what to bring to Costa Rica for birding are more for birding on your own, they could also come in handy on any tour:

The Birds of Costa Rica: A Field Guide

As with visiting any place far from home, a good field guide is worth its weight in gold. You might forget to bring a poncho, you might not be able to shave, in a sudden fit of absent-mindedness, you might even leave the flashlight on the hood of the car or next to the snowmobile. Forget those things and you can still go birding. Leave the field guide on the desk back home and well, I guess you could still go birding but you better go buy a notebook, pencils, and be ready to write some wicked field journals.

There’s nothing wrong with field journals (especially the wicked ones splashed with coffee and filled with illegible notes) but birding is always better when you have some fine reference material. Nowadays, although there are a couple of good books available, I still prefer the good old Garrigues and Dean. Lightweight, easy to use and well done, it’s great for studying before the trip and essential when birding Costa Rica, especially if birding by yourself.

So you can identify endemics like the Yellow-thighed Brushfinch.

Costa Rica Birds App

If you already have a field guide, why use a digital one? That’s a good question but I find that having both a book and a digital field guide is better for any birding trip. It’s fun to look at a book, especially when it has great illustrations and it’s also fun to interact with an app and check out photos of birds in flight, more postures, and so on.

Although you could go with the free Merlin app, it’s nice but it does have its limitations. With the full version of the Costa Rica Birds app, you can also:

  • Study bird sounds for more than 900 species while looking at various images.
  • See images for 926 species on the Costa Rica bird list, even rare species, and information and range maps for a few more.
  • See more accurate range maps.
  • See more up to date information about birds and birding in Costa Rica.
  • Personalize the app with target lists, check birds seen, make notes, etc.
  • Play with the filter to see birds grouped by region, family, and more to use it as a study tool before the trip and make identification easier during the trip to Costa Rica.
  • See 68 additional species not yet recorded in Costa Rica but possible.

These and other features make this app just as useful as a reference guide as it is in the field. To be honest, I will mention that I helped create and still work on this app but since I am a serious birder and want other birders to have the same sort of birding tool that I would like to have, you can bet that it’s going to have as much useful and accurate information as possible. The main downside is that it is currently only available for IOS devices. I would love to find a solution for that, if you know any Android coding birders, please let me know.

A Costa Rica Site Guide

For any trip, you obviously need to know where to go for the best birding. If this is a DIY birding trip, a site guide is imperative. Yes, you could plan the trip just using eBird but although that does show where various sites are and can give an idea of abundance, it won’t provide the types of on the ground details found in site guides. Not to mention, for eBird in Costa Rica, hotspots and other sites tend to be biased for sites visited on tours, and overlooked errors in identification on lists can give false ideas about what is truly present. I would still use eBird for some trip planning but the trip will be much better planned when done in conjunction with other information.

Although changes happen quickly, the information in How to See, Find, and Identify Birds in Costa Rica is still mostly up to date and useful for planning a trip (and will likely be updated soon!). It covers all parts of the country, gives ideas for itineraries, and also has insider information for finding and identifying birds in Costa Rica. Designed for birders doing Costa Rica on their own, it also has plenty of useful information for folks on tours. Not mention, every purchase supports this blog platform as a source of information for birding in Costa Rica.

A Good Flashlight and a Small Umbrella

Don’t forget to bring these items! A flashlight (torch) is handy for more than just searching for night birds. It also comes in handy when the lights go out and when you need to check the ground while walking at night (necessary).

A small umbrella is easy to carry and keeps you and your stuff dry. Along with packets of desiccant in plastic ziplock bags, it’s always good to have.

A Mobile Device with Waze

Or at least something with GPS. Google maps will also work but a heck of a lot of locals use Waze. If driving on your own, forget about a paper map, forget about looking for road signs (because they aren’t there and some might be wrong). Stick with Waze or something similar, you will need it!!

You could still visit Costa Rica now (some people are doing just that!) but if you would rather have a vaccine before making the trip, the time to plan the trip is still now. Start learning about the birds waiting for you in Costa Rica today because the departure date will be here before you know it. Get ready for some exciting birding, try to keep it Zen, I hope to see you here!

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What’s an Olivaceous Piculet?

I haven’t gone birding lately. Vehicle restrictions a la pandemic have kept me in place and far from the shorebirds of the coast, heavy biodiversity of humid forests, and other sites of rural birdiness. But hey, there’s still birds around here; the Grayish Saltator singing out back, the duet of Barred Antshrikes from the thick vine tangles, other neighborhood birds heard and glimpsed through the windows. Evidence of their presence reminds me that at least a few Yellow-green Vireos are still around and that the first migrant swallows are moving south.

I had a typically handsome Cliff Swallow on Sunday.

While gazing out the back window and wishing for Yellow-billed Cuckoos, I find myself thinking about other birds. The other day, between calls of hidden Cabanis’s Wrens and exclamations of Great Kiskadees, one of the birds that came to mind was the Olivaceous Piculet. It doesn’t live around the Central Valley and I wouldn’t expect it but it’s an interesting bird to ponder, least not, because of its sing-song name.

As with boubous, ioras, foliage-gleaners, and others with unfamiliar, confusing names, unless we already know what a piculet is, we have no idea what an Olivaceous Piculet looks like and might even pass it off as some artsy kitchen utensil. Fortunately, we have the Internet and field guides for Costa Rica to give us answers to all sorts of bird-related questions. In the case of the piculet, a search quickly shows that this is a name for any number of tiny woodpeckers, most of which occur in South America.

In Costa Rica, as with so many birds, thanks to the isthmus joining the North and South of America, one of those piculets lives here and its olivaceous. In normal language, that means that we have a small woodpecker-like bird with some olive in its plumage. Here’s some more information about the one and only piculet of Central America:

Like a Chickadee x Downy Woodpecker

As with other piculet species, the Olivaceous is a funny, miniscule bird that likes to hang off of twigs so it can peck at stems from odd angles. This Cirque du Soleli stuff is par for the course for piculets. Although they can also nearly perch upright, miniature acrobatic manouvers are their real thing.

In Pairs and Mixed Flocks

Olivaceous Piculets can be found on their own or they can join a group of birds. Either way, it’s impressive how adept they are at avoiding detection.

Easy to Overlook

On account of their small dimensions, unobtrusive, focused behavior, and high-pitched vocalizations, piculets can be very easy to overlook. For a while, surely because I didn’t know how to look for it, the Olivaceous was one of my Costa Rica bogey birds, I didn’t see one until my third trip to this birdy nation. I recall how easy it was to overlook another similar bird from Tambopata, Peru; the Fine-barred Piculet. Despite spending several birdy mornings in its river island habitat in the Peruvian Amazon, I didn’t notice that tiny woodpecker until I investigated a series of seriously high-pitched sounds emanating now and then from the dense second growth. That afterthought of a song turned out to be a pair of Fine-barred Piculets, a lifer easily hiding in plain sight. Another piculet species in that area, the Bar-breasted, lived in the canopy of the forest. Suffice to say, despite having spent more than a year birding in Tambopata and seeing everything from Harpy Eagle to Amazonian Parrotlet, I never laid eyes on it.

More Common Than You Think and Spreading

Since the Olivaceous Piculet is naturally evasive, it’s more common than a birder realizes. In fact, I think it’s way more common than we realize. Any time I go birding in edge or garden habitats from the Carara area and the Valle del General on south to Panama, I can usually find one or more pairs of Olivaceous Piculets. If I go birding up north in the Cano Negro area, I also find this species and nowadays, the same thing goes for birding in the Arena area. I have also had piculets at and near Finca Luna Nueva and if they use the same type of edge habitat with scattered trees elsewhere, then there must be thousands of those tiny woodpeckers and in more places than we expect. The key to finding them, to know how many are around, is knowing and listening for their high-pitched song.

It can be hard to pick out from the blend of wren calls, flycatcher sounds, and insect noise but once you do, you might start to hear them all the time.

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A Few Birds to Anticipate Watching in Costa Rica

More than 920 bird species have been recorded in Costa Rica. That would be a hefty list of possibilities for a country but when we are talking about a place roughly similar in size to West Virginia, Wales, or Denmark, yeah, that’s a heck of a lot of birds in a small area! Granted, a good number of those species are vagrants but at the end of the day, the size of the official bird list for Costa Rica hints at nothing less than fantastic birding.

That would be the type of birding where you see lifer after lifer after lifer, where the new birds keep popping up while enjoying more views of trogons, macaws, and toucans.

Black-throated Trogon

It’s birding that includes mega flocks of glittering tanagers, climbing woodcreepers, flitting flycatchers, and other species moving through your field of view.

Spangle-cheeked Tanager
Spotted Woodcreeper
Tufted Flycatcher

It’s watching an array of iridescent hummingbirds and testing the limits of photography as they zip back and forth.

White-bellied Mountain-gem

Thanks to protected areas in several major ecoregions, the birding opportunities in Costa Rica are both diverse and abundant. In terms of birds to look forward to, there are too many species to mention. Today, these cool birds came to mind:

Motmots

Broad-billed Motmot

Motmots are fair-sized birds that sort of look like rollers. Several have long tails with a racket-like shape and are plumaged in shades of green, blue, and rufous. Most love the shady side of life but since they also perch for long periods, they make great subjects for the lens. Six species occur in Costa Rica, visit the right places with a good guide and you can see all of them.

Turquoise-browed Motmot

Crowned Woodnymph

One of the 50 plus hummingbird species that have been recorded in Costa Rica, this sparkling bird is common in lowland and foothill rainforests! On a personal note, I can still recall the first time I saw this species. I was birding the parking area at Quebrada Gonzalez in Braulio Carrillo National Park at the end of 1992, looking at the second growth on the other side of the highway. In quick succession, I saw my lifer Buff-throated Saltator, Lineated Woodpecker, Smoky-brown Woodpecker, and Crimson-collared Tanager. Then, to top off the lifer cake, this glittering purple and green hummingbird, a male Crowned Woodnymph, zipped into my field of view. I have seen many more since then but that first woodnymph was the best.

Collared Redstart and other highland species

Collared Redstart

Costa Rica has wood-warblers, this ones entertains the eye in the highlands. Like several other birds of the mountains, it only lives in Costa Rica and western Panama.

Macaws and Toucans

Fantastic, large birds, thanks to protection and reintroductions, macaws and toucans are fairly common in various parts of Costa Rica.

Scarlet Macaw
Great Green Macaw
Keel-billed Toucan

Rufous-tailed Jacamar

Rufous-tailed Jacamar

Another fancy tropical bird, jacamars sort of look like bee-eaters, a living carnaval dart or hummingbird on steroids. It’s pleasing to know that the Rufous-tailed Jacamar is common in many parts of Costa Rica and loves the lens.

With 900 other birds on the list, this is a small sampling of birds waiting in Costa Rica. It’s worth mentioning that Resplendent Quetzals are here too. Want to know where to go and get ready for that eventual trip? Please support this blog by purchasing How to See, Find, and Identify Birds in Costa Rica, hope to eventually celebrate birds with you in Costa Rica!

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bird finding in Costa Rica Birding Costa Rica caribbean slope Costa Rica Beaches

A Weekend of Birding Cabinas Olguitas and the Gandoca-Manzanillo Area

I have mentioned from time to time how much I enjoy birding near Limon, Costa Rica. Also referred to as the Southern Caribbean zone, this part of the country still features a good deal of mature lowland rainforest, much of which is accessible. Not to mention, since the area is very much underbirded, there’s always a chance of finding something unexpected. Add forested streams, swamps, other wetlands and a migration corridor to the birding equation and we have an impressive bird list with nearly 400 species (see bird lists at the end of this post).

The only downside of the Southern Caribbean zone is that it is located around four to five hours by car from where I live. This prevents me from visiting more than once or twice a year, or staying for longer than a weekend. If the new road to Limon is ever finished (maybe in 4 years), it should be an easy, quick ride but until then, the long, slow haul keeps me from visiting more often. I sure wish I could though because the birding is always great and if a birder gets lucky with a good wave of migrants, the avian experience is fantastic.

This past weekend, I made my annual trip while guiding the local Birding Club of Costa Rica and, as with last year, we stayed at Olguita’s Place. Also known as Cabinas Olguita, this friendly spot offers tranquil accommodation in basic yet cozy and equipped cabins within easy walking distance of a beautiful beach and good birding habitat. If you don’t feel like cooking, dine at any of several good restaurants in the area and then look for Great Potoo and any of five owl species on the drive back.

The Black-and-white Owl sometimes occurs at Olguita’s.

Some other information from this recent trip:

Migration

On this trip, unfortunately, we more or less dipped on migration. We did have some Chimney Swifts and swallows flying over and some raptor migration on the way to Punta Uva but there were few other migrants. We may have done the trip a bit late or perhaps the good weather kept the birds on the wing long past Costa Rica but whatever the case, we had rather few migrant species and low numbers of the most common migrants; Red-eyed Vireo, Bay-breasted Warbler, and Swainson’s Thrush. There were quite a number of Eastern Wood-Pewees around as well as Alder/Willow Flycatchers but very few warblers and nothing rare. All of that said, we still saw some migrants and it was fun watching them.

If you feel like studying Eastern Wood-Pewees, visit Costa Rica in October.

Birding at Cabinas Olguita

The birding at Olguita’s was easy-going yet productive. Some Eastern Kingbirds flew into the surrounding trees, and we also saw other migrant species like Olive-sided Flycatcher, Empids (including a likely Least Flycatcher), Scarlet Tanager, and a few others. On good days, this place can see waves of migrants passing through the surrounding vegetation. As for resident species, the thick wet grass and hedgerows held Slaty Spinetail, Olive-crowned Yellowthroat, Canebrake Wren, and some other birds. The edge of the forest in back of the grassy area turned up White-necked Puffbird, Plain-colored Tanagers, and White-vented Euphonias among more common expected species.

Plain-colored Tanagers were common.

Paradise Road

One of a few roads that go up and over the nearby coastal hills, it provides access to the mature rainforests that occur there. Many species are possible even White-fronted Nunbird, interesting raptors and antbirds. We only had one afternoon to bird this road but we still did alright with looks at Pied Puffbird, Brown-capped Tyrannulet, Tawny-crested Tanagers, Double-toothed Kite, and Central American Pygmy-Owl among other species. A lot more is possible, I would love to spend a few early mornings just counting everything that calls and makes itself otherwise known. Does Great Jacamar occur? How about cotingas or Red-fronted Parrotlet? It would be fun to try to answer those questions via dawn birding.

Recope Road

One of the other classic sites in the area, this flat road passes through beautiful, tall forest, much of it former shaded cacao farms. We got in some birding there as well as on the main road between Punta Uva and Manzanillo. The birding was great with fine looks at Purple-throated Fruitcrows, toucans, Cinnamon Woodpecker, Black-striped and other Woodcreepers, White-flanked and Checker-throated Antwrens, and other species. I also heard Semiplumbeous Hawk. This was actually where most of our migrants were, I can’t help but wonder how many other migrants were out there in the forest? What rarities were hiding back in the woods?

Checker-throated Antwren

Manzanillo

On Sunday morning, I figured we would visit the town of Manzanillo as a last chance for migrants. This hardly worked out although we still saw both Cinnamon and Chestnut-colored Woodpeckers, Gray-cowled Wood-Rails, and a few other birds. We also saw that the official entrance to the wildlife refuge now has a bridge over the creek that we used to wade across, and that they charge an entrance fee.

Cahuita

As a bonus, our car made a quick stop in Cahuita on the way back, mostly to check for Black-chested Jay. We stopped at the Puerto Vargas entrance for that but even though we dipped, some last minute birding still managed to give us close looks at a male Snowy Cotinga, Gray-headed Chachalacas crashing through bushes, and White-faced Capuchins eating coconuts. After that, we went on an unsuccessful ice cream quest in mid-day Cahuita. Several bars but no ice cream! On the drive out, the jays still managed to elude us but we did get lucky with one final bird and a key one at that- Yellow-billed Cuckoo!

While driving out of Cahuita, I noticed the quick, sleek shape of a cuckoo zip into a tall tree. It was brief but I was sure it was a cuckoo. I stopped and after scanning the tree, sure enough, there it was, a Yellow-billed Cuckoo! Eventually, the stealthy migrant positioned itself higher up for a better view. One last bird for the trip, I was happy to see it before the long drive back.

Birds from the vicinity of Cabinas Olguita including
the beach and both resident and migrant species.
240 species
 
Little Tinamou
Blue-winged Teal
Gray-headed Chachalaca
Crested Guan
Pale-vented Pigeon
Short-billed Pigeon
Ruddy Ground-Dove
White-tipped Dove
Squirrel Cuckoo
Yellow-billed Cuckoo
Groove-billed Ani
Lesser Nighthawk
Common Nighthawk
Common Pauraque
Chuck-will’s-widow
Black Swift
White-collared Swift
Chimney Swift
Gray-rumped Swift
Lesser Swallow-tailed Swift
Band-tailed Barbthroat
Long-billed Hermit
Stripe-throated Hermit
Blue-chested Hummingbird
Rufous-tailed Hummingbird
White-throated Crake
Gray-cowled Wood-Rail
Black-bellied Plover
Semipalmated Plover
Whimbrel
Ruddy Turnstone
Sanderling
Least Sandpiper
Spotted Sandpiper
Lesser Yellowlegs
Willet
Greater Yellowlegs
Laughing Gull
Brown Noddy
Royal Tern
Wood Stork
Magnificent Frigatebird
Brown Booby
Neotropic Cormorant
Anhinga
Brown Pelican
Bare-throated Tiger-Heron
Great Blue Heron
Great Egret
Snowy Egret
Little Blue Heron
Tricolored Heron
Cattle Egret
Green Heron
White Ibis
Green Ibis
Black Vulture
Turkey Vulture
King Vulture
Osprey
Swallow-tailed Kite 
Double-toothed Kite
Tiny Hawk
Mississippi Kite
Plumbeous Kite
Common Black Hawk
Roadside Hawk
Gray Hawk
Broad-winged Hawk
Short-tailed Hawk
Swainson’s Hawk
Zone-tailed Hawk
Central American Pygmy-Owl
Mottled Owl
Black-and-white Owl
Slaty-tailed Trogon
Gartered Trogon
Ringed Kingfisher
Belted Kingfisher
Amazon Kingfisher
Green Kingfisher
White-necked Puffbird
Pied Puffbird
Collared Aracari
Keel-billed Toucan
Yellow-throated Toucan
Black-cheeked Woodpecker
Cinnamon Woodpecker
Chestnut-colored Woodpecker
Lineated Woodpecker
Pale-billed Woodpecker
Laughing Falcon
American Kestrel
Merlin
Bat Falcon
Peregrine Falcon
Olive-throated Parakeet
Great Green Macaw 
Crimson-fronted Parakeet
Orange-chinned Parakeet
Brown-hooded Parrot
Blue-headed Parrot
White-crowned Parrot
Red-lored Parrot
Great Antshrike
Barred Antshrike
Black-crowned Antshrike
Dot-winged Antwren
Dusky Antbird
Chestnut-backed Antbird
Northern Barred-Woodcreeper
Cocoa Woodcreeper
Black-striped Woodcreeper
Streak-headed Woodcreeper
Plain Xenops
Slaty Spinetail
Snowy Cotinga
Masked Tityra
Black-crowned Tityra
Cinnamon Becard
Ochre-bellied Flycatcher
Common Tody-Flycatcher
Black-headed Tody-Flycatcher
Yellow-olive Flycatcher
Yellow Tyrannulet
Yellow-bellied Elaenia
Paltry Tyrannulet
Bright-rumped Attila
Dusky-capped Flycatcher
Great Crested Flycatcher
Great Kiskadee
Boat-billed Flycatcher
Social Flycatcher
Gray-capped Flycatcher
White-ringed Flycatcher
Streaked Flycatcher
Sulphur-bellied Flycatcher
Piratic Flycatcher
Tropical Kingbird
Eastern Kingbird
Olive-sided Flycatcher
Eastern Wood-Pewee
Tropical Pewee
Yellow-bellied Flycatcher
Acadian Flycatcher
Alder Flycatcher
Willow Flycatcher
Least Flycatcher
Long-tailed Tyrant
Lesser Greenlet
Yellow-throated Vireo
Philadelphia Vireo
Red-eyed Vireo
Yellow-green Vireo
Purple Martin
Gray-breasted Martin
Mangrove Swallow
Northern Rough-winged Swallow
Southern Rough-winged Swallow
Bank Swallow
Cliff Swallow
Barn Swallow
House Wren
Black-throated Wren
Canebrake Wren
Bay Wren
Long-billed Gnatwren
Tropical Gnatcatcher
Veery
Gray-cheeked Thrush
Swainson’s Thrush
Wood Thrush
Clay-colored Thrush
Gray Catbird
Yellow-crowned Euphonia
Olive-backed Euphonia
White-vented Euphonia
Orange-billed Sparrow
Black-striped Sparrow
Chestnut-headed Oropendola
Montezuma Oropendola
Scarlet-rumped Cacique
Black-cowled Oriole
Orchard Oriole
Baltimore Oriole
Shiny Cowbird
Bronzed Cowbird
Giant Cowbird
Great-tailed Grackle
Ovenbird
Worm-eating Warbler
Northern Waterthrush
Golden-winged Warbler
Blue-winged Warbler
Black-and-white Warbler
Prothonotary Warbler
Tennessee Warbler
Mourning Warbler
Kentucky Warbler
Olive-crowned Yellowthroat
Common Yellowthroat
Hooded Warbler
American Redstart
Cerulean Warbler
Magnolia Warbler
Bay-breasted Warbler
Blackburnian Warbler
Yellow Warbler
Chestnut-sided Warbler
Buff-rumped Warbler
Canada Warbler
Dusky-faced Tanager
Summer Tanager
Scarlet Tanager
Red-throated Ant-Tanager
Black-faced Grosbeak
Rose-breasted Grosbeak
Blue-black Grosbeak
Blue Grosbeak
Indigo Bunting
Painted Bunting
Dickcissel
Blue-gray Tanager
Palm Tanager
Golden-hooded Tanager
Plain-colored Tanager
Green Honeycreeper
Blue-black Grassquit
Tawny-crested Tanager
White-lined Tanager
Scarlet-rumped Tanager
Shining Honeycreeper
Red-legged Honeycreeper
Blue Dacnis
Bananaquit
Variable Seedeater
Morelet’s Seedeater
Black-headed Saltator
Buff-throated Saltator
Grayish Saltator
Additional bird species that occur in the forests of Gandoca-Manzanillo, some may also show up at Cabinas Olguita. This makes for 383 species recorded from the Gandoca-Manzanillo area.
143 additional species
 
Great Tinamou
Northern Shoveler
Muscovy Duck
Great Curassow
Black-eared Wood-Quail
Least Grebe
Scaled Pigeon
White-crowned Pigeon
Blue Ground-Dove
Ruddy Quail-Dove
Olive-backed Quail-Dove
Gray-chested Dove
Mangrove Cuckoo
Black-billed Cuckoo
Short-tailed Nighthawk
Rufous Nightjar
Great Potoo
Chestnut-collared Swift
White-necked Jacobin
Bronzy Hermit
Purple-crowned Fairy
Green-breasted Mango
Bronze-tailed Plumeleteer
Crowned Woodnymph
Uniform Crake
Purple Gallinule
Sungrebe
Black-necked Stilt
American Golden-Plover
Collared Plover
Northern Jacana
Baird’s Sandpiper
White-rumped Sandpiper
Franklin’s Gull
Herring Gull
Black Tern
Common Tern
Sandwich Tern
Sunbittern
Least Bittern
Rufescent Tiger-Heron
Reddish Egret
Agami Heron
Black-crowned Night-Heron
Yellow-crowned Night-Heron
Boat-billed Heron
Roseate Spoonbill
White-tailed Kite
Hook-billed Kite
Gray-headed Kite
Black Hawk-Eagle
Black-and-white Hawk-Eagle
Ornate Hawk-Eagle
Black-collared Hawk
Crane Hawk
Snail Kite
White Hawk
Semiplumbeous Hawk
Middle-American Screech-Owl
Crested Owl
Spectacled Owl
Black-throated Trogon
Rufous Motmot
Broad-billed Motmot
Green-and-rufous Kingfisher
American Pygmy Kingfisher
White-whiskered Puffbird
White-fronted Nunbird
Rufous-tailed Jacamar
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker
Red-rumped Woodpecker
Rufous-winged Woodpecker
Barred Forest-Falcon
Slaty-backed Forest-Falcon
Collared Forest-Falcon
Red-fronted Parrotlet
Mealy Parrot
Fasciated Antshrike
Spot-crowned Antvireo
White-flanked Antwren
Checker-throated Antwren
Bare-crowned Antbird
Spotted Antbird
Bicolored Antbird
Ocellated Antbird
Black-crowned Antpitta
Black-faced Antthrush
Plain-brown Woodcreeper
Wedge-billed Woodcreeper
Buff-throated Foliage-gleaner
White-collared Manakin
Red-capped Manakin
Purple-throated Fruitcrow
Bare-necked Umbrellabird
White-winged Becard
Rose-throated Becard
Royal Flycatcher
Ruddy-tailed Flycatcher
Sulphur-rumped Flycatcher
Golden-crowned Spadebill
Black-capped Pygmy-Tyrant
Northern Bentbill
Slate-headed Tody-Flycatcher
Eye-ringed Flatbill
Yellow-margined Flycatcher
Brown-capped Tyrannulet
Rufous Mourner
Gray Kingbird
Green Shrike-Vireo
Tawny-crowned Greenlet
White-eyed Vireo
Black-whiskered Vireo
Brown Jay
Black-chested Jay
Scaly-breasted Wren
Band-backed Wren
Stripe-breasted Wren
White-breasted Wood-Wren
Song Wren
Tawny-faced Gnatwren
Yellow-billed Cacique
Yellow-tailed Oriole
Northern Parula
Black-throated Green Warbler
Wilson’s Warbler
Western Tanager
Carmiol’s Tanager
Rufous-winged Tanager
Sulphur-rumped Tanager
White-shouldered Tanager
Crimson-collared Tanager
Thick-billed Seed-Finch
Slate-colored Grosbeak
Other species that may occur or are very rare visitors in the area because they have been recorded nearby or because appropriate habitat is nearby.
66 species
 
Black-bellied Whistling-Duck
Lesser Scaup
Masked Duck
Pied-billed Grebe
Violaceous Quail-Dove
Striped Cuckoo
Rufous-vented Ground-Cuckoo 
Greater Ani
Common Potoo
White-chinned Swift
Rufous-crested Coquette
Gray-breasted Crake
Russet-naped Wood-Rail 
Sora
Yellow-breasted Crake
Paint-billed Crake 
Spotted Rail
Limpkin
Upland Sandpiper
Semipalmated Sandpiper
Western Sandpiper
Short-billed Dowitcher
Solitary Sandpiper
Wilson’s Phalarope
Red-necked Phalarope
Red Phalarope
Pomarine Jaeger
Parasitic Jaeger
Long-tailed Jaeger
Sooty Tern
Bridled Tern
Least Tern
Large-billed Tern
White-tailed Tropicbird
Red-billed Tropicbird
Masked Booby
Red-footed Booby 
Crested Eagle
Harpy Eagle
Barn-Owl
White-tailed Trogon
Great Jacamar
Red-throated Caracara
Streak-chested Antpitta
Scaly-throated Leaftosser
Blue-crowned Manakin
Lovely Cotinga
Blue Cotinga
Rufous Piha
Three-wattled Bellbird
Northern Schiffornis
Western Wood-Pewee
Cave Swallow 
Yellow-breasted Chat
Bobolink
Eastern Meadowlark
Red-winged Blackbird
Melodious Blackbird
Blackpoll Warbler
Black-throated Blue Warbler
Palm Warbler
Yellow-rumped Warbler
Yellow-throated Warbler
Prairie Warbler
Scarlet-thighed Dacnis
Nicaraguan Seed-Finch
Whistling Heron
Categories
bird finding in Costa Rica Birding Costa Rica

It’s 2019! Go Birding in Costa Rica

According to calendars and widespread celebrations, the New Year just happened. In an instant, 2018 was gone, done, history. It was a good year for me, one with many changes, one with improvements and among the best of the best were the many birds; more than 640 on my annual Costa Rica list. Counting the birds I saw during two visits to Niagara Falls and one very memorable bucket trip to Guatemala, I also had a bunch more! I thank my friend Alec Humann in Buffalo, NY for taking me birding during those visits (and for the timbits and coffee!), for the Birding Club of Costa Rica for having me as a guide in Guatemala and elsewhere, and for many days of fantastic birding with my partner Mary. I am also grateful for my family, friends, and for the days to come during another year of birding in Costa Rica.

The beginning of a new year is also one more excellent reason to visit Costa Rica, these are some other ones for making it to this beautiful, birdy place in 2019:

World class birding

World class birding is more than being a place that hosts hundreds of bird species. It helps when many of those birds are accessible, fairly easy to see, and in places with quality accommodation and service. Costa Rica fits the bill in these ways and more. As an example, during the past week, during a morning of guiding of roadside birding in the Poas area, we saw a male Resplendent Quetzal, Flame-throated Warblers, and a few dozen other species, many of those being highland endemics. The following day saw me guiding in the Carara area, we finished with around 150 species. All of that was also roadside birding and included Scarlet Macaws, Turquoise-browed Motmot, White Hawk, several hummingbirds, manakins, and many other species.

To see what else is in store for a visiting birder, just browse this blog.

Easy birding

Not every bird is easy to see, and Costa Rica is no exception. But, thanks to long term protection, a heck of a lot of birds here are fairly easy to see, especially ones like Crested Guan and Great Curassow. Throw in access to good habitat in many parts of the country, and the birding just gets easier.

Good infrastructure

Costa Rica has a good set of roads, accommodation, and restaurants. The water is potable almost everywhere, and most people who work in the tourism industry speak at least some English, many of them very well.

Good birding apps for Costa Rica

I admit, I helped develop one of them but I stand by it. Thanks to various contributors and our efforts, the Costa Rica Birds Field Guide app has become a great hand-held digital field guide that now shows:

-Field marks, range maps, and information for all species on Costa Rica bird list.
-Images for 905 birds (98% of species on list).
-Vocalizations for 671 birds (72% of species on app).
-Multiple images for most species, FREE updates with more additional images and sounds.
-Endemic and threatened species noted.

It can also be personalized with:
-Extensive search filters that can show birds by group, family, status, and more.
-Making lists of target species.
-Marking birds as seen, heard, not seen, and more.
-Making notes for each species.
-Marking birds as seen.
-Emailing lists in eBird format.

Accessible Quetzals, rails, and more!

Costa Rica has always been an excellent place to see one of the top bird species on the planet, the Resplendent Quetzal. That continues to be the case and nowadays more than ever. However, we don’t just see quetzals in Costa Rica, we have also developed good local gen. for many other species including tough ones like Yellow-breasted Crake and other rails, even Paint-billed Crake. Work with the right birding tour company and they should have options for everything from Unspotted Saw-whet Owl to Azure-hooded Jay and tanager photo opps.

Cabanis’s Ground-Sparrow, Mangrove Hummingbird, Coppery-headed Emerald

Four of seven country endemics occur on the mainland along with around 100 regional endemics.

Our really cool endemic towhee. 

Turquoise-browed Motmot, tanagers, Keel-billed Toucan and other common, beautiful birds

To sum things up, the birding is excellent and easy in Costa Rica, and there are well trained guides for birders of all levels and skills. If you would like to learn more about finding birds in Costa Rica while supporting this blog, please purchase How to See, Find, and Identify Birds in Costa Rica.

I hope to see you in Costa Rica soon!

Categories
Birding Costa Rica

Five Birding Ideas to Mark the Holiday Season in Costa Rica and Elsewhere

It’s the end of the year, a solstice just happened and a major holiday season is at its festive height. Celebrate with family, toast with friends, but most of all, go birding. Treat yourself to birds this holiday season and what better place to do so than the tropical birding paradise known as Costa Rica. For folks in North America, it’s closer than you think and there are literally hundreds of birds to see. Some ideas to bird your way from 2018 into 2019:

Try a short birding holiday– Costa Rica is an easy choice for a birding trip of a week or even just a few days of birding. Plan it right and three to four days of birding trips out of San Jose can yield 300 species including such birds as Resplendent Quetzal, various tanagers, the endemic Cabanis’s Ground-Sparrow, motmots, and so much more. Stay a week or more and there are more options and more birds.

Take an excellent tour run operated by local experts– This is the best way to see hundreds of bird species including key birds like Sungrebe, Great Green Macaw, puffbirds, trogons, owls, and the list goes on. Although the tours take place after the holidays, you can always give yourself a birding gift today by signing up for one of the exciting Lifer Tours scheduled for January, February, or March. Contact me to learn about these and other birding tours operated by local experts.

Photograph quetzals and other highland species– A lot of people come to Costa Rica for wildlife photography and with good reason. It’s easy to reach sites with quetzals and many other mountain species including photogenic birds like Yellow-thighed Finch, silky-flycatchers, and lots more. More than one key site for highland birds and lots of hummingbirds are a drive of two to three hours at most from the airport.

Focus on endemics– With more than 900 species on the list, there are literally hundreds of birds to see in Costa Rica. However, of those many birds, the best ones to focus on are the species that you aren’t going to see elsewhere. Head to the mountains for endemics as well as Carara National Park, the Osa Peninsula, and sites around Dominical.

Get excellent birding apparel and support endangered birds in Africa-Last but far from least, buy Wunderbird birding apparel before the end of the year and you can also support vulture conservation in Africa. Wunderbird shirts and hoodies are some of the only quality apparel designed for birding and make excellent gifts. These comfortable, unique shirts enhance the birding experience and since 15% of all proceeds until the end of 2018 will be donated to support saving vultures in east Africa, there’s no better time than now to buy a hoodie, the Kestrel shirt or the long sleeved Peregrine shirt.

I hope to see you in Costa Rica for birding!