What can you see in two days of birding in Costa Rica? Like anywhere, experience is a function of location. In the birding way of things, we also need to factor in weather, time, and local birding knowledge. Beyond that, what we see depends on how those birds want to roll.
In Costa Rica, how the birds roll is where a mixed flock happens to move (will it cross your path?), if birds feed within your field of view, and if the skulkers opt to come out and play.
During the past seven days, I was birding in the Poas and Cinchona area one day and at sites near San Ramon the next. There was some overlap but we saw a good bunch of birds. No surprise there, it happens when you visit quality habitats in Costa Rica.
In addition to sharing birds with a wonderful bunch of people, these were some of the other highlights.
Wren what? Thrush? Wren? What’s going on with that funny little bird! Wrenthrush is certainly unique but personally, I prefer using the one and only name for its genus, “Zeledonia”.
It’s a snappy sounding name, a one of a kind word for a one of a kind bird. It really is one of a kind too, I mean, has its own familia and everything. Yeah, what used to be an aberrant warbler is the only member of a bird family endemic to the highlands of Costa Rica and Panama.
And we had perfect looks at one on the road to Poas.
the bird’s not rare, I often hear them along that road and many other suitable spots but whether they let you see them or not, yeah, that’s another birding story.
Luckily, we had wonderful close looks at the orange-crowned, stub-tailed bird known as the Wrenthrush. I look forward to subsequent trips to wet highland forest where I can experience more of this special little bird.
Cabanis’s Ground-Sparrow near San Ramon
The skulky ways and scattered populations of the endemic ground-sparrow can present challenges to seeing one. You’ll do best if you look for them early, like 6 a.m. In common with all local birds, you also need to look for them in the right places.
One such place is a site just outside of San Ramon. In my Costa Rica bird finding book, this site is known as 4.1 a UCR Campus San Ramon. In looking at what I wrote, I think I need to edit it and say that you can see a surprising number of bird species on the dirt road along the southern edge of the campus.
This dirt road is also a great spot to find the ground-sparrow but in testament to its skills at hiding, we only saw one and it took some effort to see it. We eventually got great looks but it wasn’t easy!
This spot was also bouncing with other birds. Long-tailed Manakin, several wren species, various wintering warblers, a couple woodcreepers, and more, the birds kept us busy!
White Hawk at Close Range
After our successful date with the ground-sparrow, we checked some roadside cloud forest along the road that passes through the Reserva Valle de Los Quetzales. I was hoping we would see a quetzal but nope, instead, the birding was fairly subdued.
We still managed excellent close views of a White Hawk and saw some middle elevation species like Collared Trogon, Golden-browed Chlorophonia, and Scarlet-thighed Dacnis.
Coppery-headed Emerald, Black-bellied Hummingbird, and a Bunch of Other Mini Dazzlers
Between birding around Poas and sites near San Ramon, we had a good bunch of hummingbirds, 17 species in total. This included wonderful, detailed views of Coppery-headed Emerald, a svelte male Black-bellied Hummingbird, and miniscule Scintillant Hummingbirds among other species.
As usual, on Poas, the Fiery-throated Hummingbirds entertained while Volcano Hummingbirds did their bee-like thing. Crowned Woodnymphs also dazzled at the Cocora, and we took in the bright beauty of a Purple-crowned Fairy near Varablanca.
Speaking of hummingbirds, this classic spot delivered several species including Violet Sabrewing, the aforementioned Black-bellied, Coppery-headed Emeralds, and some other species.
It was also good for the other usual suspects along with a hungry Black Guan and occasional looks at Buff-fronted Quail-Dove down below. Northern Emerald Toucanet ghosted but maybe it will be there next time? Consolation happened with both barbet species, Crimson-collared Tanager, and other sweet birds in beautiful surroundings.
Despite poor weather on Poas and Cinchona, and windy, sunny weather near San Ramon, we still identified 150 species. Check out the eBird trip report. Two days birding is always good in Costa Rica, just about anywhere you bring the binos. Headed to Costa Rica soon? Practice using those bins and get ready for some major bird action!