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Costa Rica, March 2015

After traveling for many years to the central part of Costa Rica, we decided to explore new territory this year. Our trip took us from seventy feet above sea level in the tropical wet forests near Golfito to the pre-montane and lower montane forests of Tapanti National Forests and then up to 8,500 ft. of the Cerro de la Muerte Mountains. We covered quite a few life zones in pursuit of the 281 species we saw.
Our first major stop was in the montane forest of Tapanti National Park. During intermittent rainy drizzle, we were able to get good looks a few large mixed flocks that included Buff-fronted Quail-Dove, Crimson-fronted Parakeet, Golden-hooded Tanager, Redheaded Barbet, Bay-breasted Tanager, Black Guan, White-bellied Mountaingem, Spotted Woodcreeper, Spotted Barbtail, Rufous-browed Peppershirike, Spangle-cheeked Tanager, and the diminutive Scale-crested Pygmy-Tyrant . In all, we tallied over 60 species at this one stop.
Next, we had a two-day stop at Paraiso del Quetzal Lodge in the high mountains. Located at almost 9,000 feet, our goal was to see and to photograph the enigmatic Resplendent Quetzal. It was cold and sometimes windy, but well worth the effort.
We were fortunate to see a total of six Quetzals, both male and female. Along with this bonanza, we had great views at Long-tailed and Black and Yellow Silky- Flycatchers, Black-billed Nightingale-Thrush, Fiery-throated Hummingbird, Green Violetear, Volcano Hummingbird, Slaty-backed Nightingale-Thrush,Yellow-thighed Finch, Eye-ringed Flatbill, Mountain Elaenia, Dusky Nightjar, and fantastic photo ops of a dayroosting Costa Rican Pygmy-Owl. On the way to our next destination, we visited 11,000 feet to try for the Volcano Junco and Peg-billed Finch, both of which are found only at these elevations. While we dipped on the finch, we did have closeup and extended views of the Volcano Junco . However the thin air gave many instant headaches, so we did not stay long and quickly headed south and down 10,900 feet to the wet tropical forest of Esquinas Lodge.
Only staying one night at Esquinas, we nevertheless had killer views of Bare-necked Tiger-Heron, Spectacled Owl , Bright-rumped Attila, Crested Guan, Blackcheeked Ant-Tanager, Orange-billed Sparrow, Buff-rumped Warbler, Streaked Flycatcher, Pale-breasted Spinetail, and Fiery-billed Aracari.
Last but certainly not least was Wilson Botanical Gardens just outside of the town of San Vito. World renowned both for having the second largest collection of palms in the world and also for their research facilities, Wilson Gardens was also host to my two most sought-after birds to photograph: the White-crested Coquette Hummingbird and the Speckled-Tanager. We had many good looks at the female hummer, but the much-anticipated visit by the male was not to materialize on this trip. However, the Speckled Tanager did put on a show and allowed us many attempts to capture its unbelievable beauty as it posed on the rocks.
Not to be outdone by the stars of the show, we had many great views of Scarlet-thighed Dacnis, Red-faced Spinetail, White-crowned and Brown-hooded Parrots, Olivaceous Woodcreeper, Green Honeycreeper, Silver-throated and Golden-hooded Tanager, Rosethroated Becard, White-tailed Emerald, Charming and Crowned-Woodnymph Hummingbirds, Olivaceous Piculet, Golden Olive Woodpecker and many, many more.
Although we had to drag the photographers away from such a perfect place, we were on a very serious mission: one of the most sought-after birds in Costa Rica and for our tour in particular was the Turquoise Cotinga. Our guides worked hard by constantly calling other friends and guides in their network to pin down the most likely spot to try to find them. After three tries and three misses, we were directed to a nondescript neighborhood across from a soccer field and government offices where there were trees laden with mistletoe. After only ten minutes, our guide started jumping with excitement as he spotted one a hundred yards away in the top of a bare tree. Not long after, two more, both males in gaudy turquoise and purple plumage put on a show for us. Although not at a reasonable distance for photography, it was nevertheless an exciting end to another wonderful trip to Costa Rica.
Join us next year when we revisit the Quetzals and for a chance to see and photograph the astounding Golden-browed Chlorophonia.

Please visit the GALLERY for a glimpse of a few of this year’s birds.

Costa Rica, January 2014

257 birds in eight days, are you kidding?? No we are not!! In spite of some dark days and rain, we shattered our previous records of birds seen. Once again the endangered great green macaws put on a spectacular flight show. The slaty-breasted tinamou, which normally is heard rather than seen was caught by our guides as it was was calling repeatedly not twenty feet from us.
We started out the tour as usual, at the world famous Rancho Naturlista known for the enigmatic snowcap hummingbird, black-crested coquette and the secretive northern nightingale-wren. The wren puts in a five second appearance just before nightfall and then hops into its burrow on the side of the hill, not to be seen again until morning where it once again disappears into the underbrush.
Rancho yielded 17 hummingbirds and 19 species of tanagers as well as great views of a displaying sunbittern. As always this time of year, the trees are all fruiting and attract trogons, honeycreepers, toucans and over 15 species of North American warblers. We had more looks at golden-winged and mourning warblers than we ever did back home.
We then headed to the Sarapiqui region and Selva Verde Lodge. Surrounded by 500 acres of protected rainforest and close to La Selva Biological Research Station, we were treated to jungle walks that yielded black-capped antbird, olive-backed euphonia, three species of manakins, red-throated ant tanager, the weird but wonderful great curassou, broad-billed motmot and other rainforest denizens such as the agouti, collared-peccary, red-eyed tree frog and the docile but highly venomous eyelash pit viper and fer de lance snakes.
We took two boat rides on the Puerto Viejo River, where thanks to a fantastic boat captain, we were rewarded with stunning views of a sungrebe out of the water, displaying it’s comically striped feet. Green ibis, green and amazon kingfisher, giant iguanas, green basilisk lizard, spectacled cayman, fishing bats, howler monkeys and two toed sloths all showed themselves from the trees that line the river.
Though we could return here year after year and never tire of these two great locations, we are planning a new tour to southern Costa Rica for new and exciting species. Scheduled for sometime in early March 2015. Details and prices will be posted soon. This tour sold out within ten days of its posting this year and next years trip should be no exception. Call or write now to put your name on the list and then take a look at some of the new additions to the gallery.

Be sure to visit the Costa Rica Gallery to see this years highlights.

Costa Rica, January 2013


Bare necked umbrellabirds, great currasows, golden hooded tanagers and the critically endangered great green macaws were only a few of the 222 species seen on this years wild and wonderful Costa Rica tour.
We started out as usual, at the fantastic Rancho Naturalista Lodge. With only fourteen rooms, we had the lodge to ourselves for four glorious days of cool temperatures, clear blue skies and birds at arms length. The natural feeder setup near lush native flora allowed unobstructed views of collared aracari, melodious blackbird, passerini's and crimson colored tanagerssnowcap as well as fantastic looks at hummingbirds that include greenthorntail, green hermit, black crested coquette, the huge violet saberwing and the trademark hummer for Rancho Naturalista, the snowcap. Though its hard to leave the grounds, we took day trips to other locations and were rewarded with great looks at the sunbittern, both foraging and on the nest; as well as amazon and ringed kingfisher, bay wren, social flycatcher, boat billed heron and a surprise first for Costa Rica, clay colored sparrow.
Although we could have spent the entire time at Rancho, we pushed on to the lowlands east of San Jose to the Selve Verde Lodge and La Selva Biological Station for some different and exciting birding. This is the perfect time of year to visit, as all the various trees are filled with fruit. Mixed flocks of a dozen or more species were common. Paltry tyrannulets, blue dacnis, shining honeycreeper, white collared and white ruffed manakin, golden hooded tanager, squirrel cuckoo, olive backed euphonia and much much more were regular visitors to the fruiting trees. Walks guided by the research experts at the biological station yielded looks at the much sought after bare necked umbrellabird, crested owl, owlgray headed kite, great curassow, northern streaked woodcreeper as well as close up views of a boa constrictor and the very venomous eyelash pit viper. A boat ride later in the week resulted in an unheard of sighting of a sungrebe standing on a log showing those wild striped legs and feet. sungrebe It is always hard to pull away from such easy birding, but we were enticed by the possibility of other birds not seen at the lodge. Day trips rewarded us with killer looks at laughing falcon, masked and gray headed tityra, long billed hermit, keel billed and black mandibled toucan, gray lined hawk and stunning looks at king vultures on the roost.
To cap off a great trip, we were blessed to experience multiple sightings of the critically endangered great green macaws. With only 60 known macaws, seen only in Costa Rica, not only did we have multiple views of flying birds, but our sharp eyed guide and driver spotted a pair going in and out of a nesting cavity!!!
We are already planning next years trip and you wont want to miss it. With only 10 spots available and 4 folks already signed up, it wont take long to sell out this great birding experience.

Costa Rica, February 2012

Perfect weather, perfect guides and exceptional lodges were a great start to another fabulous tour to Costa Rica. Visiting first, the Sevegre Mountain Lodge nestled high in the Talamanca range(8-11,000 feet), we were treated to brief but great looks at Resplendent Quetzal, quetzal Spangle-cheeked Tanager, Collared Trogan, Volcano Hummingbird, Emerald Toucanette, Costa Rican Pygmy Owl, Fiery-throated Hummingbird and many others. A hundred species of birds in and around the lodge is not unreasonable.
From there, we came down out of the clouds to the Tuis-Turrialba region of the same Talamanca Range to Rancho Naturalista( 3,500 feet) The weather there was picture perfect with sunny, humid free days and cool clear nights. though not as "fancy" as Sevegre, Rancho offers clean, quaint and comfortable accommodations, with a staff that is second to none and birding to match. Billed as being "Home to the Snowcap" hummingbird, we were not disappointed. We saw no fewer than four adult male Snowcaps as well as the much sought after Black-crested Coquette, Green Hermit, Violet Sabrewing, Red-footed Plumeleteer and the Green Thorntail to name a few. If that wasnt enough, we were treated to crippling views of two Sun Bitterns ( one on the nest!!), Boat -billed Herons, Green Ibis, Barred Becard and spectacular Tanagers that included the Speckled, Emerald, Golden - hooded, Black and yellow, Passeriniʼs and the Stunning Crimson-collared. In just one short week of birding,we tallied over 200 species of fantastic birds, with good hiking conditions in a beautiful country. trips are limited to maximum of 10. Go to the gallery for a small sample of what you can expect when you sign up for the next trip.