<%@LANGUAGE="JAVASCRIPT" CODEPAGE="1252"%> Avian Adventures Tour reports
Costa Rica
The Gambia

Spanish tour
Costa Rica Tour Report, Thursday, 11th to Saturday, 27th March 2004

Day 1: Thursday, 11th March

Our Continental Airlines flight from London Gatwick left at around 10.30 a.m. bound for Newark, New Jersey where we arrived eight hours later at 1.30 p.m. 

Our onward flight to San José, scheduled for 4.55 p.m., was a few minutes late taking off and it wasn’t until about 9.40 p.m. that we finally arrived in Costa Rica.  Simon Ellis of Birdwatch Costa Rica and driver, Santiago met us at Juan Santamaría International Airport and an hour or so later we were in our hotel and ready for bed.  We had altered our watches to read 11.00 p.m., but our bodies knew that it was actually 5.00 a.m. GMT and that it had been a very long day!

Day 2: Friday, 12th March

This morning the six hour time difference worked in our favour and it was little effort to be ready when Santiago (a veteran of countless birding tours) arrived for a 6.00 a.m. departure to the Cerro de la Muerte area of the Talamanca Mountains.
There had been heavy rain overnight and it was still raining when we left San José.  After a journey of about an hour and a half, we arrived at Finca Mirador de Quetzales and the rain was still coming down.  We quickly went inside for breakfast, gallo pinto, our first rice and beans. 
We spent the morning with resident guide, Jorgé, walking mainly woodland trails.  Unfortunately the rain continued, making birding difficult, and eventually we opted for an early lunch.  However, this was not before we had seen quite a reasonable selection of birds, including ‘the stars of the show’, a total of at least six, close-range Resplendent Quetzals.  Even in such dismal conditions, it was impossible not to be impressed by these stunning birdsOther highlights were Yellow-thighed Finch, Volcano, Magnificent and Fiery-throated Hummingbirds, Black-and-yellow and Long-tailed Silky-Flycatchers, Sooty and Mountain Robins, Black-billed Nightingale-Thrush, Black-capped Flycatcher, Flame-throated Warbler, Ruddy Treerunner, Black Guan, Spangle-cheeked Tanager and Slaty Flowerpiercer.  For some there was also a brief view of a Large-footed Finch. 

After lunch, we drove the short distance to the beautiful San Gerardo Valley and made our way down to the grounds of the Hotel de Montaña Savegre at the bottom.  Gradually the weather improved and, as we stopped on the way, the day was further brightened by a very obliging Flame-coloured Tanager.  At the hotel, we spent most of the time at the hummingbird feeders where Scintillant and Magnificent Hummingbirds, Green Violet-ears and White-throated Mountain-Gems were numerousBy now the sun was shining and American Swallow-tailed Kites and both Black and Turkey Vultures were soaringA Red-tailed Hawk also flew low overhead and an Acorn Woodpecker was in a tree close to the parking area.

Flame-coloured Tanager Flame-coloured Tanager: Photo by Graham Searle

The improvement in the weather proved to be temporary.  As soon as we left the valley, we drove straight back into rain and low cloud and the journey back to San José was horrible, with visibility very poor through a windscreen almost as wet on the inside as it was outside. 

Day 3: Saturday, 13th March

An early departure from the Hotel Ambassador enabled us to be at Tobías Bolaños Airport at Pavas well in time for our scheduled 6.00 a.m. flights to Tiskita Jungle Lodge.  We took off in two separate planes with some of us having a direct flight, taking just over an hour, while the others had to change planes at Puerto Jiménez making the journey a little longer.  Either way we had wonderful views of the country from the air and it seemed no time at all before we were coming in off the Pacific towards Tiskita's tiny airstrip.

Scarlet Macaw Scarlet Macaw: Photo by Graham Searle

After breakfast we spent a few minutes acquainting ourselves with the lodge and then took a short walk on one of the forest trails while we waited for our rooms to be serviced.  Already we were well used to seeing Scarlet Macaws flying about and these spectacular birds were a constant feature of our stay at Tiskita, being the subjects of a long-term reintroduction project that has been in progress for several years.  Eleven birds are now free-flying and self-sufficient.  Also seen overhead this morning and regularly throughout our stay were Black and Turkey Vultures, American Swallow-tailed Kites, Brown Pelicans and Magnificent Frigatebirds.
Our walk produced quite a variety of birds, most of which we were to see again later, and several butterfly species.  We saw our first Black-hooded Antshrike, Violet-crowned Woodnymph, Blue-crowned Manakin and Grey-headed Tanager and we soon became accustomed to seeing and differentiating between Tennessee Warblers and Philadelphia Vireos, both of which were numerous.
Luis Varga, the resident bird guide at Tiskita, had been missing when we arrived, but after lunch and a short mid-day break during which we saw a beautiful adult White Hawk, we met up with him for another forest walk.  We became so occupied by the Squirrel Monkeys and birds in the trees by the lodge that it was some while before we actually set off into the forest.  The birds included our first Green, Shining and Red-legged Honeycreepers, Golden-naped Woodpecker, Blue Dacnis and Piratic Flycatcher while overhead we watched two Broad-winged Hawks and an immature King Vulture.
Even when we began our walk, progress was slow as we watched Red-capped Manakins, Plain Xenops, Riverside Wren, White-shouldered Tanager, Dot-winged Antwren, Chestnut-backed Antbird, Cherrie’s Tanager and others.  We were in the forest for a little over two hours returning in time for a shower before sitting down to dinner at 6.30 p.m.  By this time there was plenty for us to talk about! 

Day 4: Sunday, 14th March

We gathered at 6.00 a.m. for some early pre-breakfast birding just outside the main lodge and without having to move more than a few yards saw plenty of birds.  Once again there were plenty of Tennessee Warblers and Philadelphia Vireos moving around.  New species included Stripe-throated and Long-tailed Hermits, Spot-crowned Euphonia, Ochre-bellied Flycatcher, White-necked Jacobin, Blue-throated Goldentail and Red-eyed Vireo.

We had breakfast at 7.30 a.m. and an hour later headed off into the forest again with Luis.  We were out for about three hours, our route bringing us back to the lodge through an orchard where he pointed out to us some of the 100 or more varieties of fruit that grow at Tiskita.  Again we saw plenty of birds, including Black-throated Trogon, Short-billed Pigeon, Wedge-billed and Cocoa Woodcreepers and Bright-rumped Attila, but we saw a lot more besides – Howler Monkeys, Two-toed Sloth, Jesus Christ Lizard, Anolis Lizard, Ameiva Lizard and numerous butterflies including Blue Morpho.  We also learned about the association of ants with Cecropia trees!  Close by the lodge we found a pair of Golden-naped Woodpeckers at a nest hole and Streaked Flycatchers feeding young in a nest.
After lunch and a break during the warmest part of the day when there was comparatively little bird activity, we spent some time watching a magnificent adult King Vulture soaring above us and two more Broad-winged Hawks also appeared.  Eventually we set off for our afternoon walk, which took us down the main driveway to the airstrip and the beach.  Scrub Greenlet, Common Tody-flycatcher and Black-striped Sparrow are all species we expect to see at the bottom of the drive and today was no exception.  Just along the road that leads to Punta Banco Luis pointed out a tree where numerous (he said 29!) large Green Iguanas were stretched out and then along the beach we found a number of shorebirds - a Willet, a Whimbrel, a couple of Spotted Sandpipers and 10 Semipalmated Plovers.  Most of us were so absorbed looking through telescopes to ensure that only Semipalmated Plovers were present (and not Wilson’s) that we completely missed the three Brown Boobys that flew past!  Later we did all see a number of Royal Terns out to sea and a Mangrove Black-Hawk that was sitting in the top of one of the coconut palms.

Day 5: Monday, 15th March

Once again we gathered this morning at 6.00 a.m. for early birding.  Highlights included two Pale-billed Woodpeckers, Chestnut-mandibled Toucans and a Dusky-capped Flycatcher.  We also saw an Agiope spider breakfasting on a butterfly and an interesting Anole lizard that was extending its red dewlap.  We had a short walk in the forest where the most interesting finds were the roost site of a number of Common Tent-making Bats and an Agouti.   
After breakfast we set off on a rather longer walk into a higher part of the forest.  We had gone only a short distance when we came upon a Double-toothed Kite with a small Green Iguana that was still alive, but about to become a meal.  Perhaps the poor reptile had been disturbed by the troop of Squirrel Monkeys that were nearby.
Highlights of the morning included Pale-billed Woodpeckers excavating a hole, a Three-toed Sloth with a young one clinging to it, more Howler Monkeys and a particularly striking orchid later identified as Hexisea bidentata.  We heard a Rufous Piha, but unfortunately couldn’t track it down.
Later, our afternoon walk took us through the orchard again.  Birds seen included Yellow-headed Caracara, Wedge-billed Woodcreeper, Blue-black Grassquit and Orange-billed Sparrow.  We also had our best views yet of a Three-toed Sloth and an Owl Butterfly.  

Day 6: Tuesday, 16th March

After a light breakfast, we left Tiskita this morning, the first of our flights leaving at 7.00 a.m.  There is no doubt that several of us would have been happy to stay longer!  Notable amongst birds seen before our departure were Thick-billed Euphonia and Lesser Elaenia and those of us waiting for the second flight also found a Plain Wren lurking at the back of ‘Terminal A’.

At Pavas we were met again by Simon Ellis and Santiago and by 9.00 a.m. we were on our way, heading for Hacienda Solimar and due to be there by lunchtime.

Our first stop on the way was at a dam that we looked down on from the roadside high above.  Birds below included about 20 Least Grebes, 40 or so Blue-winged Teal, a Green Heron, two Anhingas and a single Northern Rough-winged Swallow.
Our next stop seemed a most unlikely place to find any birds – a small park in the centre of the town of Orotina.  Here we quickly found a Two-toed Sloth and realised that this was no ordinary park!  The main attractions here, however, are the Black-and-white Owls

and the local people using the park are always ready to point them out.  On this occasion there were two, sitting in trees some way apart.  While we were watching and photographing these delightful birds, Santiago went looking for the park’s other attractions and he quickly returned having located a pair of Ferruginous Pygmy-Owls in a tree only a short distance away.  Also here were a pair of Rufous-naped Wrens - our first.

Our only other stop was at Caldera for restrooms and here Sandwich Terns were the only birds.  We arrived at Solimar at about 1.30 p.m.
After lunch and a short break, we set off in the bus with local guide, Demetrio, to the nearby Estero Madrigal, a small wetland that always produces impressive numbers of birds.  We stayed there until the light began to fade, by which time we had seen Jabirus, Wood Storks, Limpkins, Bare-throated Tiger-Herons, Great, Snowy and Cattle Egrets, Black-crowned Night-Herons, Boat-billed, Green, Little Blue and Great Blue Herons, White Ibises, Anhingas, Black-bellied Whistling Ducks, Muscovy Duck, Purple Gallinules, Northern Jacanas and Ringed Kingfisher.  Thirty or more Snail Kites came in to roost for the night and more were still arriving when we left.  Away from the water, highlights included White-fronted Parrots, Orange-chinned Parakeets, Turquoise-browed Motmot, Black-headed Trogon, Roadside Hawk, Lesser Nighthawk and our first American Crocodiles.  All in all it was an excellent afternoon and early evening.
Later, after dinner, Santiago came in to say that he had found a Pacific Screech-Owl in a tree only just outside the lodge’s main door and we all had excellent views of the day’s third owl species.

Day 7: Wednesday, 17th March

Pre-breakfast, in the trees outside the lodge, Hoffman's Woodpeckers, Spot-breasted and Streak-backed Orioles, White-throated Magpie-Jays, Rose-throated Becard and Groove-billed Anis got the day off to a good start.

At about 7.00 a.m., we set off for the morning's birding, heading for woodland and a lagoon on the adjacent property, Hacienda San Joaquin de Aberangeres.  When we arrived there, Demetrio began by imitating the call of Ferruginous Pygmy-Owl in order to attract birds into trees at the woodland edge.  This proved to be a very effective technique and we were soon seeing American Redstart, Baltimore Oriole, Dusky-capped Flycatcher, Northern Beardless Tyrannulet, Lesser Greenlet and Yellow-bellied Elaenia in the canopy above our heads.
We walked for about 20 minutes through the woodland to a large wetland area that had a terrific array of herons, egrets and ibises, as well as Black-bellied Whistling Ducks, Northern Jacanas, Limpkins and Snail Kites.  We spent quite some time looking through all these and were rewarded with the first Tricoloured Heron of the tour.
On the way through the wood, Demetrio had been trying to attract a Collared Forest-Falcon by imitating its call and on the way back he continued this, eventually giving some of us brief views of this almost Buzzard-sized raptor.  We also flushed a superbly camouflaged Pauraque, but the star bird of the morning was undoubtedly the magnificent Spectacled Owl that sat in full view, peering back at us.  One or two of us also saw White-faced Capuchins in the same area.
Just before returning to the bus, Demetrio took us to a spot where he often sees Lesser Ground-Cuckoo and, sure enough, we had great views of this often rather secretive bird.  Another Turquoise-browed Motmot was close by.
We returned to Hacienda Solimar for lunch and then went out again at about 3.30 p.m. to spend the rest of the birding day at the salinas just outside the nearby town of Colorado.  Although our visit coincided with low tide, there were still plenty of birds, including about 50 Black-necked Stilts.  Other waders present were Least Sandpipers, Willets, Whimbrels, Spotted Sandpipers, Lesser Yellowlegs and just one Pectoral Sandpiper.  In the mangroves we found Scrub Euphonia and Mangrove Yellow Warbler and as the light began to fade hundreds of Tropical Kingbirds and Scissor-tailed Flycatchers came flying in to roost and Lesser Nighthawks were flying.

Day 8: Thursday, 18th March

An early breakfast enabled us to leave Hacienda Solimar at about 5.30 a.m. for the drive to Carara Biological Reserve, where we enjoyed an excellent morning.

Carara, located at the mouth of the Rio Tarcoles and covering an area of 4700 hectares, is the northern-most tropical wet forest on the Pacific coast.  It is probably best known for its Scarlet Macaws and we had good views of several of these wonderfully colourful birds, some high in the trees and others flying over in pairs, seemingly always in conversation with each other.  Along the forest trail other highlights included: Great Tinamou (heard), King Vulture, Squirrel Cuckoo, Western Long-tailed Hermit, Scaly-breasted Hummingbird, Purple-crowned Fairy, Baird's, Slaty-tailed and Violaceous Trogons, Pale-billed Woodpecker, Barred Antshrike, Orange-collared Manakin, Piratic Flycatcher, Slate-headed Tody-Flycatcher, Rufous-and-white Wren, Tropical Gnatcatcher, Lesser Greenlet, Northern Waterthrush and Buff-throated Saltator.
We walked the trail to a point that gave a view over a lagoon where Boat-billed Heron and Anhinga were in trees at the water’s edge.  We could also see a Little Blue Heron, a Bare-throated Tiger Heron and a Roseate Spoonbill and, directly opposite, a Solitary Sandpiper was living up to its name.  Mangrove Swallows showed their white rumps as they skimmed over the water, taking insects and a Green Kingfisher sat perfectly still waiting for a meal to swim by.  At the same time, a Boa Constrictor was squeezing the life out of a Green Iguana.
We took our picnic lunch down to the estuary of the Rio Tarcoles.  The tide was high and most of the birds quite distant, but shorebirds included Whimbrel, Semipalmated Plover, Willet and Least Sandpiper.  On a sand bar there were numerous Royal Terns and some Laughing Gulls; Brown Pelicans and Magnificent Frigatebirds were flying and an Osprey was perched on a tree stump across the river.
After we had eaten, we walked a short distance to the edge of the mangroves that fringe the estuary, but didn’t have much success.  However, a short while later, after enjoying a cool drink at Tarcol Lodge, we returned to the same spot and quickly found a Panama Flycatcher.  At the lodge itself we found two Prothonotary Warblers and a Mangrove Yellow Warbler.

The afternoon was spent walking another forest trail in the Carara Biological Reserve.  At this time of day birds were rather less active, but species seen included Broad-winged Hawk, Mealy Parrot, Keel-billed Toucan, Buff-throated Foliage-gleaner, Dot-winged Antwren and a strikingly patterned Black-striped Woodcreeper.
On the drive back to Solimar we saw Grey Hawk and several Lesser Nighthawks from the bus. 

Day 9: Friday, 19th March

We were woken this morning by the now familiar sound of Howler Monkeys.  They sounded as though they were just outside the window and for some of us they really were!
After breakfast we left at 7.00 a.m. and spent the morning with Demetrio in an area of gallery forest only a short distance from Hacienda Solimar.  It was a particularly good morning for birds of prey with Grey Hawks, Laughing Falcons, Hook-billed Kite, Collared Forest-Falcon and Ferruginous Pygmy-Owl amongst the highlights.  There were also a number of species seen for the only time on the tour – Thicket Tinamou, Orange-fronted Parakeets, Long-tailed Manakin, Greenish Elaenia and Yellow-throated Vireo.
As we drove back for lunch, we stopped to look for Plain-capped Starthroat at a spot where Demetrio often finds them and we were lucky to see both a male and a female.  We also saw a Green-breasted Mango in the same area.

We left Solimar at about 1.00 p.m. for the short, but rather tortuous journey to Monteverde.  There were few stops on the way and few birds of note, although a Blue Grosbeak was an exception.  However, the journey was memorable for the spectacular views over the Gulf of Nicoya and for the brightest, most perfect rainbows any of us had ever seen.
The rainbows were, of course, a sign that it was raining and, by the time we reached the Hotel de Montaña, not only was it raining but there was also a strong wind blowing – in fact typical Monteverde weather some might say!  Our arrival was greeted by a Blue-crowned Motmot just by the hotel entrance.
Undeterred by the weather, we set off only a short while later to explore the hotel grounds, which include an interesting woodland and a small lake.  Our walk took us through a banana plantation where we stopped to wonder at the Leafcutter Ants and their enormous nest.  A continuous procession of worker ants were carrying neatly cut portions of leaves back to the colony along wide trails that looked as though they had been cleaned with a vacuum.  It is estimated that an established colony like this one might hold as many as five million ants.
The weather made birding difficult – add very poor light to the wind and rain – but species noted were White-eared Ground-Sparrow, Black-and-white Warbler, Slate-throated Redstart, Three-striped Warbler, Wood Thrush and Brown Jay.   

Day 10: Saturday, 20th March

After an early breakfast, we set off from Hotel de Montaña to drive the short distance to the Monteverde Rainforest Reserve where we had arranged to meet local guide, Melvin Leitón.  Unfortunately, Melvin had been delayed, so while we were waiting for him we made a brief visit to the Hummingbird Gallery.  We also returned to the Hummingbird Gallery later to eat our picnic lunch and to try out our photographic skills at the hummingbird feeders.  Species seen here on both visits were Bananaquit, Green-crowned Brilliant, Green Violet-ear, Violet Sabrewing, Magenta-throated Woodstar, Purple-throated Mountain-gem, Stripe-tailed Hummingbird and Coppery-headed Emerald.  All were seen at very close range and it was an excellent opportunity to get to grips with their identification.
The rest of the day, either side of lunch, was spent on various trails in and around the wonderful Rainforest Reserve with its fantastic array of ferns, epiphytes and vines and amazing diversity of trees.  This is probably the best known and most visited of all Costa Rica's wildlife reserves, but visitor numbers are regulated so that it seldom seems over-crowded.
Most notable amongst the many birds seen were Green Hermit, Orange-bellied Trogon, Prong-billed Barbet (with its car alarm call), Emerald Toucanet, Smoky-brown Woodpecker, Olivaceous Woodcreeper, Red-faced Spinetail, Spotted Barbtail, Ruddy Treerunner, Lineated Foliage-gleaner, Grey-throated Leaftosser, Silvery-fronted Tapaculo (just the briefest glimpse!), Yellowish Flycatcher, Eye-ringed Flatbill, Olive-striped Flycatcher, Azure-hooded Jay, Ochraceous Wren, Grey-breasted Wood-Wren, Black-faced Solitaire, Golden-winged and Black-throated Green Warblers, Golden-browed Chlorophonia and Common Bush-Tanager.
We were back at the hotel by 5.00 p.m. and so, with daylight remaining, we walked down to the lake again.  This time we did the circuit through the wood and the banana plantation in a clockwise direction, but birds were few.  

Day 11: Sunday, 21st March

Most of us were out early, birding in the hotel grounds and were rewarded with Emerald Toucanet, Philadelphia Vireo, Baltimore Oriole and our first Yellow-throated Euphonia.
After breakfast, we set off at 6.30 a.m. to spend the morning at the Santa Elena Cloudforest Reserve.  Once again Melvin was with us and on arrival there he did his very best to find a Barred Becard that could be heard at the edge of the car parking area.
Next we spent a few minutes watching the hummingbird feeders where Green-crowned Brilliants were the most numerous species.  A Green Hermit did its best to feed but was repeatedly chased off by an aggressive Violet (Violent?) Sabrewing.
The remainder of the morning was spent walking the trails in the Cloudforest Reserve.  Melvin showed us a roosting Bare-shanked Screech-Owl that was in its regular tree, but for most of us the Black Guans and Black-breasted Wood-Quail were the highlights.  The Black Guans took little notice of us as they fed on berries and went crashing through the foliage from one tree to another.  In contrast the Wood-Quails slipped quietly across the trail in front of us.  Also seen were Collared Redstart, Slaty-backed Nightingale-Thrush and Golden-winged Warbler and a troop of Spider Monkeys. 
After a brief interlude at the Visitor Centre and its shop, we set off back to our hotel for lunch.  A Swallow-tailed Kite on the way was the first we had seen for several days.
By 2.30 p.m. we were ready to go out again.  This time Santiago dropped us off at the junction of the road that leads out to San Luis and we set off down there to be picked up later.  It was a warm and sunny afternoon, but with quite a strong wind blowing which made birding difficult.  We did find one sheltered spot and spent quite a while there watching Rufous-and-white Wren, White-eared Ground-Sparrow, Buff-throated Saltator, Yellow-throated Brush-Finch, Summer Tanager and Wilson’s Warbler all in quite a small area.  Other highlights of the afternoon were Olivaceous Woodcreeper, Canivet’s Emerald, Golden-browed Chlorophonia, Black Guan, Mountain Elena, Paltry Tyrannulet, Keel-billed Toucan and Band-tailed Pigeon.

Day 12: Monday, 22nd March

We left Monteverde at 7.40 a.m. headed for Selva Verde Lodge, but made a number of stops on the way and spent most of the day getting there. 
We had travelled only a short distance beyond Santa Elena when Santiago stopped to get permission and directions for us to walk up a gently sloping hillside to a wood at the top.  Here we enjoyed one of the best moments of the entire tour when, after some searching, we found ourselves standing just beneath a Three-wattled Bellbird.  There had been several occasions when we were with Melvin that we heard the distinctive ‘BONK’ call of this bird in the distance, but we had all but given up on the idea of seeing one.  Now here was a superb male just above our heads!  We could hardly have wished for a better view.  This was a real bonus and an unexpected one at that!
We covered the first 40-km from Monteverde to Tilarán on a road that if anything was rougher than the one we travelled up on Friday.  From there on the road improved, although there were still stretches where the tarmac ran out or was pitted with holes.  Our route took us around Lake Arenal and past the Arenal volcano.  As seems so often to be the case, the top of this famous Costa Rican landmark was unfortunately obscured by cloud.
Highlights among the birds seen during the journey were several Crested Guans, Northern and Southern Rough-winged Swallows, Ringed, Amazon and Green Kingfishers, Greyish Saltator, our first Passerini’s Tanagers, Black-cowled Orioles and Grey Hawk.
We made a short diversion from our route to the small town of Muelle to see the gathering of Green Iguanas there in trees along the river.  Known by the locals as ‘chickens of the trees’ these reptiles are said to make good eating, but here are protected and fed on scraps.
We arrived at Selva Verde Lodge at about 4.00 p.m. and within half an hour we set out to explore the grounds.  On our walk we saw Ringed Kingfisher and Spotted Sandpiper along the river.

Day 13: Tuesday, 23rd March

Selva Verde Lodge is situated in 200 hectares of primary and secondary lowland tropical forest alongside the Rio Sarapiquí.  We met up at 6.00 a.m. for a pre-breakfast session around the lodge and then spent the whole day walking trails through this area with local guide, Yehudi.

The morning was spent mainly in the primary forest across the suspension bridge from the main lodge.  After lunch we visited the butterfly garden, before walking along the main road and then taking a track that crosses the river into an area of mixed farming - cattle on one side, crops on the other.
It was an excellent day's birding which produced the following species not seen previously on the tour: Semiplumbeous Hawk, Ruddy Ground-Dove, White-crowned Parrot, Short-tailed Nighthawk, Bronze-tailed Plumeleteer, Collared Aracari, Barred Woodcreeper, Cinnamon Becard, Rufous Mourner, White-collared Manakin, Black Phoebe, Wood-Pewee (probably Eastern), Banded-backed and Stripe-breasted Wrens, White-breasted Wood-Wren, Yellow-crowned and Olive-backed Euphonias, Red-throated Ant-Tanager and Blue-black Grosbeak.  Other highlights included Peregrine and Osprey and a passage of Turkey Vultures and Swainson’s Hawks.
During the ‘lunch interval’ back at the lodge, some saw Orange-billed Sparrow, some saw Scarlet-rumped Cacique and most saw a pair of Slaty-tailed Trogons that were hanging around by a termite nest.

Day 14: Wednesday, 24th March

We set off this morning at 5.30 a.m. for La Virgen del Socorro, an area of middle elevation Caribbean rainforest.  We arrived at 6.45 a.m. to find that the construction work, which had been started more than a year ago in this once tranquil valley, was still in progress.  In spite of all the activity, we set off to walk down to the bridge at the bottom that crosses the Rio Sarapiquí.  Although there was some noise from vehicles, the disturbance didn't seem to be having any significant impact on the birds and in three hours we recorded a good list of species - and, for once, it wasn't necessary to be looking high into the canopy to see them!
As we began our walk back up the steep road, we were pleased to see that Santiago was bringing the bus part way down to meet us.  Highlights were: King Vulture, two Barred Hawks, one of which perched briefly in a roadside tree until it was flushed by a passing truck, Black Guan, Tufted and Yellow-margined Flycatchers, Tropical Parula, Blackburnian Warbler, Rose-breasted Grosbeaks, White-ruffed Manakin,
Little Hermit, Emerald, Bay-headed and Silver-throated Tanagers, American Dipper and Torrent Tyrannulet.  Several American Swallow-tailed Kites were soaring overhead, occasionally coming low enough to tempt the photographers amongst us.
From here we drove to Mirador Catarata, otherwise known as Vera's Café, where it was 10.00 a.m. when we finally ate our picnic breakfast, at the same time enjoying a spectacular view of the La Paz waterfall.  The feeders here attract a good variety of hummingbirds and these included Brown Violet-ear and Green Thorntail seen for the first time on this tour.  The star bird, however, was a dazzling Red-headed Barbet.  Two ‘pets’ here also proved to be quite an attraction - a tarantula and a Mealy Parrot, the latter shouting ‘Holá’ every 30 seconds or so throughout our stay.
Next we drove down the road to the waterfall where American Dipper and Torrent Tyrannulet were quickly found, the latter feeding young.  The target bird here, though, was Green-fronted Lancebill and we were on the point of giving up when Yehudi spotted it sitting on a favourite perch above the rushing water.
We returned to Selva Verde Lodge for lunch and a siesta.  During the time there, two lucky members of our group were in the right place at the right time when a Sunbittern paid a brief visit to the lodge. 
When we went out again at about 3.00 p.m., our first stop was along the entrance road to La Selva Biological Station where we had an excellent hour’s birding.  The highlight was probably a Great Potoo, but Pale-vented Pigeon, Black-cheeked and Chestnut-coloured Woodpeckers, Black-cowled, Yellow-tailed and Baltimore Orioles, Yellow-billed Cacique, Snowy Cotinga, Rose-breasted Grosbeak and Olive-backed Euphonia confirmed this to be one of the best sites in Costa Rica.  And if these weren’t enough, at the same time, hundreds of raptors (Turkey Vultures, Broad-winged and Swainson’s Hawks) were passing over.
From there we drove for about another 15 minutes and then entered a marshy field where we simply stood for over an hour.  The were lots of birds here, including six Green Ibises, Purple Gallinule, Northern Jacana, Green Heron, Black-bellied Whistling Ducks, Red-lored Parrots, Thick-billed and Pink-billed Seed-Finches, but an excellent day got better when a Pinnated Bittern flew in and settled in full view.

Day 15: Thursday, 25th March

The day was devoted to visiting La Selva Biological Station, situated only about 20 minutes drive from Selva Verde Lodge.  La Selva is a protected area of almost 1600 hectares of premontane wet tropical rainforest and home to a biological research station run by the Organisation of Tropical Studies.  We were there just before 6.00 a.m. and started by walking the entrance road that we had partly covered yesterday afternoon.  This time it took us well over two hours to cover less than half a mile to the reception office and again the birding was top quality.  Species seen for the first time on the tour were Olive-throated Parakeet, Grey-rumped and Lesser Swallow-tailed Swifts, Violet-headed Hummingbird, Rufous-tailed Jacamar, Rufous-winged Woodpecker, a pair of Slaty Spinetails at a nest, Long-tailed Tyrant, Crimson-collared and Scarlet Tanagers, Yellow Tyrannulet and Black-faced Grosbeaks.  Also seen were King Vulture, Double-toothed Kite, White-crowned Parrots and many of the species seen here yesterday and we had much better views of Pink-billed Seed-Finch.
fter dealing with the registration formalities, we set off, now accompanied by local guide, Christopher as well as Yehudi, to walk trails within the La Selva reserve.  An Anhinga soaring overhead with the Turkey Vultures was an unusual sight and a White Hawk also passed over.  Along the trail we watched pairs of both Fasciated Antshrikes and White-necked Puffbirds at their nests and had good views of our first Great Tinamou.  Other bird highlights were a Rufous Motmot, Slaty-tailed and Violaceous Trogons, Golden-winged Warbler and Brown-hooded Parrot.  Again we saw an Agouti and, for the first time, a party of Collared Peccaries.      
We returned to Selva Verde Lodge for lunch, but it wasn’t long before we were back at La Selva, crossing the suspension bridge to explore the network of forest trails.  Star birds were a Western Slaty Antshrike and a Broad-billed Motmot, but it was also nice to see two more Great Tinamous and Pale-billed Woodpeckers never fail to impress.  Yehudi also found a number of Honduran White Bats, which like the bats we had seen earlier at Tiskita, construct their own roost site by modifying the shape of large leaves.  By severing leaf veins with their teeth they cause portions of the leaf to fold downwards to form a ‘tent’, thus providing shelter and concealment.

Day 16: Friday, 26th March

We left Selva Verde Lodge just before 8.00 a.m. for the journey to the airport for our flight home via Houston.  On the way to San José we called in briefly at Vera's Café, where we saw very much the same selection of hummingbirds that were there on Wednesday. We arrived at the airport with plenty of time to spare before our 2.00 p.m. departure.  In Houston, we had not much more than an hour to deal with Immigration and Customs and security searches, but we made it to our onward flight and arrived safely at Gatwick on Saturday morning.

Full Species Lists:

Avian Adventures
Website by Birdtours.co.uk