Friday, March 9, 2012

Costa Rica 2012 - Trip Report Part 1


WORLDWIDE BIRDING TOURS: Costa Rica 2012

February 2nd to 16th 2012

Brief Daily Account

Tour Leader: Peter Jones
Tour Guide: Steven Easley
Author: Peter Jones

A bird species list will appear as an appendix to the main tour trip reports, please see Trip Report Part 3. The tour trip report is posted in three parts, this the first part deals with our excursions in and around Rancho Naturalista and Savegre to our journey to La Selva. It was a fun packed group and we all enjoyed being in a superb country seeing such a wide variety of wildlife.


Pleasant climate, super food and wonderfully friendly people make visiting Costa Rica a real pleasure. However, as a tour leader working for Worldwide Birding Tours, then high on the priority list for making journeys with groups a success is diversity of habitats, stunning scenery and of course a wide variety of wildlife, not to mention the birds. A good variety to birdlife is what keeps fellow travellers involved each day and certainly Costa Rica never fails to deliver. We managed 417 species in our 2 weeks and heard another 24, so another successful visit and yet again a very happy group made the whole trip a memorable one.
On a personal note I managed 6 lifers and being well travelled that is no mean feat, so thanks to my pal Steven Easley for not only helping the life list, but for making my job so easy and relaxed. Steven is most probably the best birding guide in the country, so these journeys mean I can step back, listen and watch and be more like a guest enjoying the holiday, its another reason for me to always look forward to these tours.

Day One 2nd February

All of our party opted to spend the previous night at our hotel in San Jose and this enabled us to get an early start on our journey to the first destination Rancho Naturalista. Poor old Rancho has had a pretty rough press in previous years (not from us) and yet we have always felt it is an important place for us to visit. It offers many possibilities on various bird species hard or difficult to find elsewhere, also the upstair’s balcony is a wonderful place to down an early morning coffee whilst getting very close to hummers as they visit the impressive array of feeders. It is hard to remember any of our fellow travellers over the years not being impressed with Rancho. Now under a consistent and settled new management, I found even the staff had a smile on their faces this year. A few notable birds were seen on our journey and these included Crested Guan, Green Ibis, Sharp-shinned Hawk, Squirrel Cuckoo and at Rancho Mottled Owl, Blue-crowned Motmot and a host of other goodies including 11 species of hummingbird!

Day Two 3rd February

The balcony experience! Pre-breakfast coffee whilst being entertained by the many hummingbird species visiting the feeders on the upstair’s balcony was a reminder to me of why Rancho continues to thrill their guests and keeps many enthralled by the variety of birds also visiting the ground feeders. Some stars of the show were Collared Aracari and Keel-billed Toucan, whilst on our woodland trail I actually managed a lifer in the shape of Tawny-throated Leaftosser. Red-faced Spinetail and other great birds found their way onto an ever growing bird list, but another star turn for the group was discovered during our visit to the valley below Rancho, where we found Sunbittern on the river. Our visit at the base of Silent Mountain gave me another lifer! I’m not sure how it has evaded me on previous visits, but at last I caught-up with Tawny-crested Tanager, several birds were together in a mixed flock that included White-shouldered, White-lined, Summer, Golden-hooded and Black and Yellow Tanagers. Impressive day and to cap our return journey to the lodge we saw Common Pauraque.

Day Three 4th February

We had been fortunate with seeing 19 species of hummingbird at and around the areas of Rancho, with of course Snowcap and Garden Emerald attracting many an oooh and aaah, cameras went into overdrive and just about everybody were thrilled to digitally capture these beauties. Rancho operates a bug lamp and screen, so this morning we went to take a look around the lamping area. We were rewarded with the scarce Grey-crowned Yellowthroat and some great views of Red-throated Ant Tanager, a Golden-crowned Warbler flew around us searching for moths and other insects attracted to the screen. On our way out of the area we managed a few other species such as Yellow-faced Grassquit and a beautiful Olive-backed Euphonia. Our journey to Savegre was to include some stops along the way and one of these Cachi Dam produced some CR rarities including the first record of Canvas-back Duck and the rare Ring-necked Duck, later we stopped at the Lancaster Gardens and the lagoon close-by produced Southern Lapwing, American Coot, Northern Shoveler and other water birds. A superb birding day.

Day Four 5th February

After arriving the previous afternoon we managed some birding, but this morning we set-off to look around the local area for Resplendent Quetzal, the weather here was chilly and before leaving the lodge we saw Yellow-bellied Siskin and other local birds such as the ever present Scintillant Hummingbird, whilst Emerald Toucanet gave great views. Our local walk failed to produce a Quetzal, so we went for our drive to the high mountain area of Cerro de la Muerte and during a stop along the way we managed a female Quetzal and also the Long-tailed Silky Flycatcher. On our approach to the high mountains low cloud and rain hampered our efforts to find some local endemics, but after a hard slog we managed our target bird Volcano Junco and also saw Volcano Hummigbird. Our journey back was also improved by clearer weather and with the rain finally clearing we saw American Dipper and a real favourite of mine the Torrent Tyrannulet. Of course the area is rich in birdlife and we were anxious to find species we were unlikely to find elsewhere in Costa Rica, so it was a case of perseverance pays as we saw Spot-crowned Woodpecker, Mountain Elaenia, Tufted Flycatcher, Yellowish Flycatcher, Yellow-winged, Brown-capped and Philadelphia Vireo. The evening also gave views of Ochraceous Wren and Black-cheeked Warbler amongst a host of other species. Another super day’s birding.

Day Five 6th February

We ventured out before breakfast, braving the cold morning to yet again try for our Quetzal and yet again draw a blank. I have never found Resplendent Quetzal this hard here, apparently fruiting trees in the area had failed and this had caused the local population to disperse. We did locate a nest site where birds had been seen, but despite spending an age watching the site we never saw or heard a bird. Hard labour had its moments though with Collared Redstart following us around and we had great views of the beautiful Flame-throated Warbler. We decided to cut our loses and make our way to our next destination near La Selva, but not before a last throw of the dice by taking lunch at Paraiso Quetzal. Here we had always intended to stop, it is a good place to see Fiery-throated Hummingbird and a few other choice species such as Golden-browed Chlorophonia. An excited local guide greeted our group with the news of a pair of nesting Quetzals, so off the group traipsed being led by our newly acquired local guide, who was in constant contact with a colleague by mobile phone to say he had the birds in view! Well good news we found our targets and slumped to the ground in relief and took our time admiring this strangely beautiful bird.

Day Six 7th February

The previous day’s journey was a good and easy trip to our hotel near to the famous nature reserve at La Selva and as my old bones were a little chilled in Savegre, it was also good to get back to a warm temperature. The day was spent in and around the main reserve of La Selva. Here we were to see just so many species that it is hard to select which were stars of our day, but from a personal point of view, then Short-tailed Nighthawk and both Spot-fronted Swift and Rufous Motmot took some beating just for the close views we had, but Violaceous, Black-throated and Slaty-tailed Trogons were special. White-necked Puffbird together with Rufous-winged, Cinnamon and Chestnut-coloured Woodpeckers were another highlight, especially for me the Cinnamon Woodpecker. Our afternoon also proved a great success with a few target birds being found including Fasciated Antshrike and Black-capped Pygmy-Tyrant. Star for the day? Well for a few members of the group it was Spectacled Owl with a youngster! Not enough space here to mention so many other great species, phew what a day!

Day Seven 8th February

A bit of a red letter day for me today, a kind of personal quest to track down a bird I had never managed before on previous visits. I had heard it, seen fleeting glimpses afar and silhouettes in the distance, but never a view that meant I could honestly say ‘yes’ I’ve seen it. What bird? Well the beautiful and very large Great Green Macaw of course! We found a breeding pair and were able to watch the male tenderly feed his mate and then saw them fly from the nest to feed on a nearby fruiting tree, then with surprising elegance return to the nesting tree, Peter was one very happy birder. Having arrived with high hopes to Braullio Carrillo National park, we were greeted by decending cloud and rain. Not that liquid sunshine could stop our band of intrepid birders, but it certainly dampened bird activity, so we made our way to the nearby Old Butterfly Garden. Here we managed a few hummingbird species and the highlights were Snowcap and the beautiful Black-crested Coquette. Bay Wren, Yellow-rumped Warbler, Plain-coloured Tanager, Nigaraguan and Thick-billed Seed Finch made our stop at El Tigre marsh a worthwhile interlude as we made our way back to our hotel, the weather here was sunny and hot!

Part 2 and 3 to follow. See here for tour details

3 comments:

Mary Howell Cromer said...

Absolutely brilliant images and the commentary always very interesting as well. I only wish that the images were a wee bit larger, for each one deserves a very grand entrance. Well done as always~

Peter Jones said...

Thank you Mary, sorry for the delay, been busy compiling the species list for the blog entries on Costa Rica. I think you saw my answer on the picture sizes? Perhaps I ought to put a leader on the articles explaining that by clicking on them you get full size. Thanks as always for your kind comments. Peter

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