In Association with:
Day 1 - 16th Jan
After everyone met at London Heathrow we set off to San Jose, Costa Rica via a short stop in Madrid. Early evening arrival we met our guide and good friend Kevin Easley and were soon whisked off to our hotel just twenty minutes away. Here we met Dianna and Jim who had arrived a few days earlier.
Day 2 - 17th Jan
After a good nights rest we met in the gardens before breakfast for an introduction to Costa Ricas many birds. Our highlights here were both Prevost's and White-eared Ground Sparrows, plus Rufous Hummingbirds, Hoffman's Woodpecker and an Orange-billed Nightingale Thrush. On leaving the hotel in our brand new coach driven by our faithful driver Ramon we headed towards the coast with our first stop at the small town of Orotina. In the small park we soon located our target species the ever impressive Black-and-white Owl which showed wonderfully to everyone, along with two Rose-throated Becards, White-winged Doves and a scruffy looking sloth. Moving on we then made an unscheduled stop beside a small lake and from the road we managed to tick off a group of ten Least Grebes, lots of Blue-winged Teals, Neotropic Cormorant and a Boat-billed Heron. Nearby the trees held Brown Jays and a Blue-crowned Motmot. Moving on we eventually arrived at Villa Lapas our lodge situated near to the River Tarcoles and the superb Carara National Park. We did manage a brief look from the Tarcol bridge where Yellow-headed Caracara, Wood Storks, Black-necked Stilt and Roseate Spoonbill were all seen. After our lunch and a short rest we drove to the river Tarcol where Kevin and I had arranged an unscheduled boat trip into the mangroves. Before boarding our boat a look around the fields and trees found us a huge Lineated Woodpecker, Turquoise-browed Motmot and a couple of Scaly-breasted Hummingbirds. In a small close tree we got excellent views of an immature Mangrove Black Hawk, and a bright Baltimore Oriole. Once on the boat we slowly drifted towards the estuary mouth. Several Boat-billed Herons were seen amongst the riverside bushes, Yellow-crowned Night Herons fed along the river bank and a more unusual sighting was of a Black-crowned Night Heron stood on a small island. Ospreys were easily seen and amongst the hoards of Turkey Vultures we found a Zone-tailed Hawk, while Mangrove Black Hawks were seen, aptly in the mangroves. On the muddy edges we watched Purple Gallinules, Northern Jacanas, Little Blue Heron, Spotted Sandpipers and a Willet. With Magnificent Frigatebirds circling above we cruised very slowly up a tributary until we got to a tiny stream where we found Green Kingfisher, Northern Waterthrush, Prothonotary Warblers, American Pygmy Kingfishers, a couple of Scarlet Macaws and finally a very tricky but nevertheless very scarce sighting of a Rufous-necked Woodrail.
As we returned we got superb views of hundreds of Lesser Nighthawks hawking for insects over the water. The finale however was seeing a tree full of egrets which from a distance looked just like blossom.
Day 3 18th Jan
After an early breakfast we met at the coach where a Ferruginous Pygmy Owl was seen as well as Chestnut-mandibled Toucan and for Kevin and Ruth a Fiery-billed Aracari. We then drove the short distance to Carara National Park one of the best birding areas in the country. The secret to birding this forest is to take your time and go very slowly! We soon located Blue-black Grosbeak, Black-hooded Antshrike and then Dusky Antbird. Noisy and very bright Scarlet Macaws flew over and a distant Three-wattled Bellbird could be heard ringing out its distinctive notes. A little further on we found such delights as Long-billed Gnatwren, Rufous-bellied Wren, Dot-winged Antwren, Long-tailed Hermit and a superb Band-tailed Barbthroat. High in the canopy a Green Shrike-Vireo was heard calling while lower down we located Slaty-tailed and Baird's Trogons,
White-whiskered Puffbird, Greenish Elaenia, and eventually an elusive Slate-headed Tody Tyrant. Next a Crested Guan gave a good show while a list of other species we all enjoyed including Northern Bentbill, Rufous Piha, a perched Purple-crowned Fairy, Streaked Flycatcher and then two baby Rufous-tailed Hummingbirds sat in their tiny nest. Still not having walked much more than a few hundred yards we finished the morning with Black-throated Wren, Orange-billed Sparrow, Black-headed Trogon and Chestnut-backed Antbird. We then returned to the lodge for lunch. Before going out in the afternoon we took at look at the local Ctenosaurs, which were large prehistoric looking lizards and some Tent-making Bats which were hanging underneath a palm frond. As we were about to leave and while looking at some Social Flycatchers we noticed a Pale-billed Woodpecker looking out of a hole in a tree. We then drove to a different area of the Carara National Park. Beside the road we saw over forty Band-rumped Swifts and as soon as we entered the forest a couple of Riverside Wrens were found. Next was a Great Tinamou followed by a rather elusive Ruddy Quail-Dove, and scope views of a Blue-throated Goldentail. Moving on we got great views of a Black-faced Antthrush, another Ruddy Quail-Dove, Dotted-winged Antwren and fantastically close views of Chestnut-backed Antbird. Beside our favourite little stream we saw Rufous-tailed Jacamar, Riverside Wrens, a female Blue-capped Manakin and then the sight of Kev dancing as a deadly Fur-de Lance slid past his feet! The shock of this over, we continued our search and found Spectacled Antpitta, Orange-billed Sparrow, Mealy Parrots and Brown Jays before retreating from the forest as dusk fell.
Day 4 - 19th Jan
This mornings early breakfast was followed by a drive towards Tarcol Lodge. Along the way we spotted Black-striped Sparrows sat on fence wires, several Northern Rough-winged Swallows and a Red-lored Parrot flew over. A couple of roadside stops produced a nice selection of species including Olivaceous Piculet, Barred Antshrike, Blue Grosbeak, Squirrel Cuckoo, Variable Seedeater, Violaceous Trogon, Steely-vented Hummingbird and some Scarlet Macaws. We then walked across some grassy fields and searched the scattered trees. Here we found Panama Flycatchers, Scrub Greenlet and a Scrub Flycatcher, female Painted Bunting as well as some very concealed Orange-chinned Parakeets. Further searching revealed both Yellow-naped and White-fronted Parrots, Scrub Euphonia and beside a small stream we found American Pygmy and Green Kingfisher and Bare-throated Tiger Heron. In amongst the mangroves we got to see Mangrove Vireo, Cocoa Woodcreeper, Yellow Tyrannulet, Barred Antshrike, Grey-headed Kite and a superb Crane Hawk. We then relaxed a little at Tarcol Lodge where we enjoyed some fresh juice. Looking out over the estuary we slowly worked our way through the masses of birds. As Magnificent Frigatebirds circled around we spotted Brown Pelicans, Yellow-crowned Night Herons, lots of egrets and herons, and amongst the waders Short-billed Dowitchers, Willet, Greater Yellowlegs, Least and Western Sandpipers. While we had been sifting through all these birds the local Pacific Screech-Owl was found on its day time roost so we all went over and had a good look at this fabulous little bird. Even though it was a little warm most of us took a walk over to the beach where we then walked along the shore to the far point by the estuary mouth. Both Wilson's and Semi-palmated Plovers were seen while a tern and gull roost held hundreds of Laughing Gulls along with Royal, Elegant and Sandwich Terns. Nice views of Zone-tailed Hawk were had and as we returned several Mangrove Warblers were found. We returned to our lodge for lunch and a little rest before setting out in the coach on a short drive up into the hills and a lookout. Here we could scan over hundreds of kilometres of forest and soon flying above us was a Short-tailed Hawk. An excellent spot if I say so myself was a very, very distant King Vulture perched on top of a tree, not satisfied with this we were very happy when seven King Vultures appeared in the skies above us providing fantastic views. We eventually set off walking down the road towards our lodge. Roadside sightings included a showy Rufous-capped Warbler and a Yellow-olive Flycatcher, while further down we got superb views of a Crested Guan sat in a tree. After our evening meal most of us went out on a night drive. At an area where we've seen it before we found one adult and this time three young Striped Owls, a bird that can be particularly difficult to find. Having had excellent views we also saw a couple of Pauraques before returning back.
Day 5 - 20th Jan
As per usual we had an early breakfast and on our way to the coach we found a huge Katydid and a Tree Frog. We then drove back into the hills above the lodge where we walked one of our favourite sections of road. Here we found Ochre-bellied Flycatcher, Philadelphia Vireos, a Swainson's Thrush, Painted Bunting, White-winged Becard, Red-crowned Woodpecker, Rose-breasted Grosbeak and Ruby-throated Hummingbird. Further up the hill we got superb views of Northern Bentbill, then Orange-collared and Long-tailed Manakins plus Broad-winged Hawk and Fiery-billed Aracari. Returning to the lodge we packed our luggage and set off towards our next destination in the dry Guanacaste. Stopping off briefly at the Tarcol Bridge we were very pleased to find a Collared Plover as well as Black-necked Stilts a Basalisk Lizard and some huge Crocodiles. Moving on to our next stop found us White-lored Gnatcatcher, Common Ground Doves, Turquoise-browed Motmot and a Ferruginous Pygmy-Owl. At another site we got close views of a Nutting's Flycatcher and Bay Wren while a Lesser Ground Cuckoo was only heard. Our lunch stop was beside the beach where a friendly family allowed us to use their picnic tables. There wasn't much to see bar a few Brown Pelicans flying past and a roost of Ruddy Turnstones.
Moving on we saw a group of White-throated Magpie Jays and another good find was two huge Jabirus circling around above the highway. An unscheduled stop beside a small pond found us eight Least Grebes, four Solitary Sandpipers, two Bare-throated Tiger Herons, Northern Jacana and two Grey Hawks. Next stop was at some sewerage pools. A walk around here found us lots of waders that included six Stilt Sandpipers, three Lesser Yellowlegs, Semi-palmated and Western Sandpipers, Whimbrel, Willet, Grey Plovers, Semi-palmated Plovers, Least,Solitary and Spotted Sandpipers, Black-necked Stilts, Roseate Spoonbill and lots of Laughing Gulls. We were not too far from our lodge now so we continued on to get there with a little daylight left. A roadside stop along the way produced two Double-striped Thick-knees and several Scissor-tailed Flycatchers. We did arrive at our lodge and those in our group that wanted too; we quickly put our luggage into the rooms and met in the gardens for about thirty minutes birding. This may have seemed a short amount of time but was well worth while as several specialities were found. Top of the list were several Spot-breasted Orioles, followed by Streak-backed Orioles, Baltimore Oriole, Melodious Blackbird, Summer Tanager and a Hoffman's Woodpecker at a nest hole.
Day 6 - 21st Jan
We left after an early morning breakfast and drove towards the nearby Palo Verde National Park. Our first stop along the approach road found us Roadside Hawk, then a pair of Double-striped Thick-knees, an American Kestrel, Mourning Doves and a Mangrove Cuckoo. Moving on a little we located Canivet's Emerald and Cinnamon Hummingbird before arriving at the park headquarters which overlooked an area of wetland. We spent the next couple of hours searching the weedy pools and marshland which was teeming with wildlife. Amongst the hundreds of Black-bellied Whistling Ducks we managed to extract a few Fulvous Whistling Ducks, while Snail Kites hunted back and forth and Purple Gallinules climbed about in the tall reeds. Several Northern Jacanas showed well and nearby we found Limpkin, Glossy Ibis and an Anhinga. Lots of Woodstorks flew around and in an area where we saw a couple of nice Bare-throated Tiger Herons we located up to six initially very difficult to see Masked Ducks. It was now lunch time so we returned to the headquarters and had a meal in the cafe. We then had a little rest in the heat of the day before setting off to visit another section of the park. Beside a small stream we found Olive Sparrow and a Nutting's Flycatcher while a thickly forested section needed a little time before we got to see a skulking Lesser Ground Cuckoo. The next woodland was rather quiet but we did get close views of Broad-winged Hawks and a Roadside Hawk. The last area we visited was a very overgrown wetland which was alive with Woodstorks, Great Egrets, Black-crowned Night Herons and a few surprisingly attractive Muscovy Ducks and a couple of Crested Caracaras. As we made our way out of the park with dusk falling we came across up to four Pauraques on and around the road edges.
Day 7 - 22nd Jan
This morning a quick look around the lodge grounds found us the remaining speciality - a few Western Kingbirds which we were able to compare to the more common Tropical Kingbirds that were also present. Once we had packed we set off on our journey from this dry arid area to the complete contrast of wet, humid rainforest. Passing around the huge lake Arenal we spotted an immature raptor which turned out to be a Bay-winged (Harris) Hawk, slightly out of its range. We then arrived at a dam where superb photo opportunities were had of the spectacular Arenal Volcano which was luckily clear of cloud. Nearby in a small patch of forest we found a Long-tailed Tyrant, two Cape May Warblers and a White-collared Seedeater. Our next stop beside some more mature forest allowed us the chance to get to grips with some excellent species. With perseverance we located a couple of Bay Wrens, Slaty-capped Flycatcher, Chestnut-sided Warbler, Little Hermit, Buff-rumped Warbler, Great Antshrike, Passerini's Tanager, Buff-throated Foliage Gleaner, Olive-crowned and Grey-crowned Yellowthroats, Thick-billed Seedfinch, Lineated Woodpecker and our real prize for birding this area was not the Broad-billed Motmot, but the rarely seen Keel-billed Motmot that we enjoyed superb views of.
Leaving here we drove to an open air roadside restaurant which allowed fantastic views of the volcano. As we enjoyed our lunch we were treated to two spectacular eruptions seeing clouds of black smoke and fiery rocks blown into the air and rolling down the steep sided mountain. (We were very safe!). After lunch we continued on our way with a brief stop to look at a White-tailed Kite sat in a tree. Our next official stop was at the fabulous hummingbird café, where we enjoyed some local coffee and cake while being enthralled by all the hummingbirds and other species coming in to feed. Literally inches away we enjoyed Red-headed Barbets, Prong-billed Barbets, Silver-throated Tanager, Green-crowned Brilliant, White-bellied Mountain Gem, Violet Sabrewing, Green Hermit, Green Thorntail, Rufous-tailed Hummingbird, the endemic Coppery-headed Emerald, and a superb Magenta-throated Woodstar. In the gardens we saw lots of Clay-coloured Thrushes, Montezuma Oropendolas, Bananaquit and a gorgeous Emerald Toucanet as well as superb views of a distant waterfall. A short drive from the café and we located a Collared Trogon and managed to see a group of White-collared Swifts. Our last stop of the day was a small pond where despite the rain we located a White-throated Crake and three White-collared Seedeaters. We then drove to our superbly located lodge.
Day 7 - 23rd Jan
We woke up this morning and it was raining! After a delicious breakfast we made our way to La Selva research station and quickly took cover near the restaurant. From the shelter of the small overhanging roof we spotted Rufous-tailed and a Blue-chested Hummingbirds, Bananaquit, Black-cheeked Woodpecker, Passerini's Tanager, Grey-capped Flycatcher, Paltry Tyrannulet, Golden-ringed Flycatcher, Cinnamon Becard, Black-thighed Grosbeak and a wonderful Snowy Cotinga sat right on the top of a tree. The rain eased a little so we decided to go for a walk into the forest. Crossing over the river bridge we first checked the flowering bushes around the research buildings and here we found Red-footed Plumleteer and several Olive-backed Euphonias. In the forest a Great Tinamou was soon spotted and then sat high in a tree and a little damp was a roosting Great Potoo. Continuing on we found Red-capped Manakin and Western Slaty Antshrike, while a couple of Ocellated Antbirds flying across the track in front of us was not a good enough view to go on our checklists. In another area we got superb views of a Rufous Motmot and then a very difficult Vermiculated Screech-Owl roosting in a bush. Back in the open we found Piratic Flycatcher, White-crowned Parrots, Dusky-faced Tanager, Bay and Band-backed Wrens, Scarlet-rumped Cacique, Keel-billed and Chestnut-mandibled Toucans and Short-billed Pigeon. We then had lunch with the researchers in their restaurant. Afterwards we walked out towards the entrance road another superb birding spot. Here we found Chestnut-coloured Woodpecker, Yellow-tailed Oriole, Black-faced Grosbeaks, Wedge-billed Woodcreeper, Violaceous Trogon, Broad-billed Motmot and several Grey-rumped Swifts. The drizzle had started again so we boarded the coach and drove to a newly discovered marshland site. The rain was not going to let up so we just braved the elements and went in search of some very rarely seen species. Once in the marsh we saw Yellow-bellied Elaenia, and up to ten Green Ibis. Purple Swamphen appeared and we found several very nice Pink-billed Seedfinches. A White-throated Crake was heard but then with some perseverance we first heard and then while myself and Kev got soaking wet we managed to see a Grey-breasted Crake. If this wasn't enough while several Wilson's Snipe flew around, me and Kev managed to put up a Pinnated Bittern which flew the length of the marsh, what a superb variety of rare birds and well worth getting wet for! Bedraggled we then drove to a small lodge where hot tea and coffee enabled us to warm up and dry off. Without moving from our comfortable chairs we enjoyed hot drinks and plenty of birds coming into the garden. A Crimson-collared Tanager looked gorgeous and was joined by three species of saltator, Summer, Passerini's, Blue-grey, Dusky-faced, and Golden-hooded Tanagers, Olive-backed Euphonia, Great Kiskadee's, Black-striped Sparrows and Grey-chested Dove. A look behind some of the cabins finished the day off nicely when we spotted a magnificent Sunbittern walking across the grass in the shadows of some tall trees.
Day 9 - 24th Jan
This morning we left early and drove towards La Virgin, yet another excellent area for birding. Along the way we found a Bat Falcon perched on a tree top and we also got to see a Giant Cowbird. A quick look at a small pond while it was raining enabled us to find the scarce White-throated Flycatcher before we arrived at our destination. As we took a slow walk downhill towards the river we searched the roadside bushes and found a Wilson's Warbler, Golden-crowned Warbler, Yellow-throated Vireo, and Crimson-collared Tanager. Once we reached the river and bridge at the bottom we found two American Dippers, two delightful Torrent Tyrannulets, and a pair of Golden-bellied Flycatchers while a short walk into the woodland got us views of Red-faced Spinetail, Emerald Tanagers, Olive Tanager, Tufted Flycatcher and the tiny Scale-crested Pygmy-Tyrant. We then walked over the bridge and a few hundred yards up the track beyond. Here we watched Collared Trogon, Slaty-capped Flycatcher, and amongst some tangled hanging vines there was Golden-winged Warbler, White-shouldered Tanager, Emerald and Spotted Tanagers and Tawny-capped Euphonia. As we crossed back over the bridge a Louisiana Waterthrush was seen on the rocks while on the edge of the forest we spotted a Smoky-brown Woodpecker and Bay-headed Tanager. Back up the hill and an Immaculate Antbird came out of the undergrowth and showed itself. We then returned to our lodge for lunch time after which we saw a Three-toed Sloth in a tree and then drove to La Selva research station. We hadn't been here long when a loud raucous call had us run to an open area where we then watched four huge Great Green Macaws fly over, an excellent sighting! We then found a Scarlet-thighed Dacnis in a tree top before taking a walk on a small wooded trail. Luckily we came across a mixed flock and amongst the many species we saw were Fasciated Antshrike, Bright-rumped Attila, White-ringed Flycatcher, Barred Woodcreeper, Black-throated Wren, a Crested Guan and four Red-throated Ant-Tanagers. Leaving this area we retraced our steps, crossed the river bridge and went into the forest. We had a look at the roosting Great Potoo this time in the dry and nearby we got to see a couple of Great Green Macaws feeding in the tree tops. Targeting a couple of species we then located a Slaty-breasted Tinamou, a pair of Western Slaty Antshrikes and eventually after a bit of a run around we all got to see a Song Wren. As we ended another great day we returned across the river bridge and our finale was to see a couple of Short-tailed Nighthawks flying around our heads and up and down the river - superb!
Day 9 - 25th Jan
Only a couple of us got up early before breakfast, but it was well worth it when we got to see a young Spectacled Owl sat in a tree calling. After breakfast we packed up and left. As we drove towards Braulio Carilo two Green Ibis were seen flying across the road. We then stopped at a bridge that we always find productive. We were not disappointed as excellent views of a Fasciated Tiger-Heron were had as it fed from some boulders in the middle of the river. Other birds we found here included a pair of Rufous-winged Woodpeckers, Black-capped Tityra, Scarlet-rumped Cacique, Collared Aracari and an Amazon Kingfisher. We continued our journey and arrived at Braulio. A circular walk through the forest enabled us to catch up with a whole bunch of specialities that included Yellow-eared Toucanet, White-throated Shrike-Tanager, Striped Woodhaunter, both Emerald and Olive Tanagers, a Streak-crowned Antvireo and Josie managed to see a Brown-billed Scythebill. Further into the forest we caught up with Black-and-yellow Tanager, White-crowned Manakin, Russet Antshrike, Tawny-capped Euphonia, Black-faced Grosbeak, and Spotted Woodcreeper. We heard a Black-headed Antthrush but try as we may it never let us close enough to get a view. Once out of the wood we sat down on some picnic tables and enjoyed our lunch. Afterwards we crossed over the busy road and walk a shorter forest trail. The only new birds on this walk were a Pale-vented Thrush and a superb White Hawk which we watched flying from tree to tree in the valley below. Back in the coach and we drove just a short distance to a disused butterfly farm. Although no one works here anymore there are still lots of flowering bushes left for hummingbirds to feed on. A look around produced lots of Violet-headed Hummingbirds, Crowned Woodnymph's, some aggressive Rufous-tailed's and a tiny little Snowcap.
Continuing our journey towards Rancho Naturalista we made a brief stop in a small town where we immediately located a single Tropical Mockingbird a recent newcomer to Costa Rica. Back on the road and as we drove up the valley near to our lodge we stopped beside the river and here we watched two Fasciated Tiger-Herons and in the trees above us a pair of Yellow-throated Euphonias. Once at the lodge we settled into our rooms and then straight away we went for a short walk to see a couple of roosting Mottled Owls. We saw them well, which was lucky because they often move and the following day they were not there.
Day 10 - 26th Jan
One of the greatest experiences of Costa Rica is the first morning on the balcony of Rancho, sipping hot coffee and enjoying the profusion of birds that arrive in succession to the wonderfully appointed gardens. The hummingbird feeders which are also on the balcony mean you get to see these tiny hovering jewels just inches away. We soon notched up Green-breasted Mango's, White-necked Jacobin, Rufous-tailed Hummingbird, Crowned Woodnymph, Green-crowned Brilliant, Violet Sabrewing, and on the flowering plants in the garden we found male Snowcap, Little Hermit and a superb Black-crested Coquette. Early morning the staff had loaded the trees with bananas and rice and to our delight we watched species such as Montezuma's Oropendolas, Black-cheeked and Hoffman'sWoodpeckers, Grey-headed Chachalacas, Blue-grey, Passerini's and White-lined Tanagers, Bananaquit and Yellow-faced Grassquits. A Sharp-shinned Hawk then flew past while further down the valley we saw a flock of Crimson-fronted Parakeets and some Chestnut-headed Oropendolas. We then had our breakfast before taking a walk into the forest that borders the lodge. Stopping at the hummingbird feeders within the forest we enjoyed close views of numerous dainty little Snowcaps, along with Green Thorntails, Green Hermit, White-necked Jacobin, Crowned Woodnymph and Green-crowned Brilliant's. We also got to see a superb Spotted Antbird low in the undergrowth around where we were sat. Moving on we went to an open area that edged the forest, and from here we got to see Tawny-capped Euphonia, Tropical Parula, Slate-throated Redstart, Purple-crowned Fairy, Violaceous Trogon, Golden-winged and Blackburnian Warblers. Retracing our steps slightly we went back into the forest and followed one of the many trails. Birding is never easy here but with perseverance the rewards can be great. We got to grips with a good number of species including Checker-throated Antwren, Stripe-breasted Wren, White-ruffed Manakin, Black-and-yellow and Olive Tanagers, Russet Antshrike, another Spotted Antbird and the incredible looking Brown-billed Scythebill. Returning back towards the lodge for lunch we managed to get reasonably good views of a White-breasted Wood-Wren. After an excellent lunch we had a little rest before going out again. During our siesta time some of the group who were relaxing and watching hummingbirds from the balcony, got to see a lovely Black-crested Coquette. Our afternoon short walk into the forest produced White-collared, White-ruffed and White-capped Manakins, Golden-winged Warbler and then a couple of exquisite Tawny-chested Flycatchers. To end the day we made our way to the hummingbird pools, a series of small pools made by a stream that runs through a deep forested gorge. Here we positioned ourselves and waited to see what would come in and bathe. As we watched Snowcaps, Crowned Woodnymphs and a Purple-crowned Fairy continually dipping into the water, the light reflecting on them made for a magical experience. We also got to see a Yellow-bellied Flycatcher, but the highlight had to be a Tawny-throated Leaftosser that stayed on view out in the open bathing in a small pool for everyone to enjoy. It's rare to get such a good view of this very skulking species.
Day 11 - 27th Jan
Today we split up into two separate groups with group 1 leaving early for a walk up the Tuis valley. This walk was long, slippery and a little tough so not everyone opted to do it. The remaining group 2 had no need to get up so early, and after breakfast Steve Easley the resident guide took them into the nearby forest. Amongst a good selection of targeted species they saw were Purplish-backed Quail-Dove, Checker-throated Antwren, Dull-mantled Antbird, Plain Antvireo, White-vented Euphonia, Plain-brown Woodcreeper, Tawny-chested Flycatcher, Blue-winged Warbler and a displaying White-ruffed Manakin. Group 1 had had an amazing find within the first few hundred yards of their walk - a fantastic Lanceolated Monklet sat motionless in a bare tree for over half an hour.
Everyone managed to scope it, photograph it, and simply enjoy the beauty of this legendary species. After this everything else fell into insignificance but we did find Broad-winged and Red-tailed Hawks, Green Honeycreeper, Emerald and Black-and-yellow Tanager, Chestnut-headed Oropendolas, and Torrent Tyrannulet. Group 1 then returned to the lodge where we exchanged our sightings with group 2's, both having done exceedingly well! Later in the afternoon we all went out for a walk along one of Rancho's high forest trails. It proved decidedly quiet, excepting one small flock that contained Brown-billed Scythebill, Plain Antvireo, and a Dull-mantled Antbird. The quietness of the afternoon was eventually well rewarded when the whole group got to see a superb Scaled Antpitta hopping along the path just 30feet in front of us! Yet another seldom seen skulking species added to our already impressive list.
Day 12 - 28th Jan
After an early breakfast we loaded our luggage onto the coach and set off towards Tapanti National Park. A stop along the way at a small pond found us Killdeer, Blue-winged Teal, Spotted Sandpiper, Northern Rough-winged Swallows and some Mourning Doves. Once we had reached the park headquarters a quick look around found us several amazing looking insects, after which we drove a short distance and parked up. A roadside flock started us off well with Barred Becard, Slaty-capped Flycatcher, two Scale-crested Pygmy-Tyrants, and Blackburnian Warbler while another spot nearby produced Eye-ringed Flatbill, Spot-crowned Woodcreeper, a pair of Red-faced Spinetails at their nest and finally a very difficult species, a Rufous-rumped Antwren. Moving on a little we checked out a small waterfall and here we all enjoyed excellent views of a Green-fronted Lancebill. We then walked around one of our favourite trails within the park seeing Slaty-backed Nightingale-Thrush, White-throated Spadebill, Tropical Parula, Black-and-white Warbler, Ochraceous Wren and Prong-billed Barbet. A Black Guan was then found creeping through the tree tops after which we drove further into the park and had our picnic. The only bird of real note during our lunch break was a couple of Spangle-cheeked Tanagers. It was time to move on towards our next destination with a brief stop at another small pond. Here we saw American Coot, Blue-winged Teal, Purple Gallinule, Lesser Yellowlegs and Black-bellied Whistling Duck. After a short stop at a large supermarket we continued the last leg of our journey that climbed high into the misty mountains of Cerro de Muerte. As we descended the last section of road towards our lodge at Savegre we got out and slowly walked downhill. A whole new range of species were found and these included Sooty and Mountain Thrushes, Long-tailed Silky-Flycatchers, a Volcano Hummingbird sat on the top of a tree, Barred Becard, Black-cheeked Warblers, Black-billed Nightingale-Thrush, Fiery-throated Hummingbird and a Large-footed Finch. Thrilled with our excellent new sightings we then drove to the lovely Savegre lodge set in fabulous grounds with a stream running through.
Day 13 - 29th Jan
Because the early mornings are cold here until the sun comes over the hills to warm everything up, then there was no need for an early start, so today we enjoyed a much more civilised breakfast time. Afterwards we took a walk around the lodge grounds where one of the first birds we saw was a stunning male Resplendent Quetzal.
What a start and what a bird as it then took off and flew past trailing its metre long streamers. Around the restaurant we checked out the hummingbird feeders and were delighted with excellent views of White-throated Mountain-Gems, Green Violet-Ears, Magnificent and Scintillant Hummingbirds. We then took a walk around the grounds and as the sun warmed up then so the bird activity increased. We got extremely close views of Black-capped and Tufted Flycatchers, as well as Acorn Woodpeckers, a Yellow-winged Vireo, Flame-coloured Tanagers, Yellow-bellied Siskin, and then Ruddy-capped Nightingale-Thrush and a Mountain Elaenia. Returning back to our cabins a little panic ensued as no sooner than everyone had disappeared, eight magnificent Swallow-tailed Kites started circling the hillside. Some shouting and banging on doors eventually got everyone outside to admire these superb raptors. A group of Sulphur-winged Parakeets were also seen before we boarded a truck which carried us up the steep track into the woodlands above. Once in the forest we soon found Flame-throated Warblers, Wilson's Warblers, and Spot-crowned Woodcreeper and then following a trail down towards a stream we came across a flock which contained Black-cheeked Warblers, Ruddy Treerunners, Collared Redstarts, and a perched Striped-tailed Hummingbird. As we came out of the forest and made our way down the gravely track we had the amazing experience of seeing and hearing a bunch of White-collared Swifts literally whizzing past our ears! Back to the lodge in time for lunch. Afterwards we saw more Sulphur-winged Parakeets in the grounds and a Fiery-throated Hummingbird sat in a small bush beside one of the cabins. We decided to return to the high forest and search out some specialities, so while we waited to be transported to the top a few of the group opted to stay behind and relax a little. Lucky for them they got to see a pair of gleaming Resplendent Quetzals. The rest of us revisiting the forest had a tough time but eventually we got to see excellent Flame-throated Warblers,Ochraceous Wren, a very skulky Buff-fronted Quail-Dove and finally on the way back down at dusk a superb Dusky Nightjar.
Day 14 - 30th Jan
After breakfast this morning we collected our luggage and loaded the coach, after which we drove just a short distance further down the valley. From here a short walk beside the river and into a small woodland found us Louisiana Waterthrush, followed by excellent views of two Yellowish Flycatchers and Acorn Wodpeckers. We had to work quite hard before everyone got to see a Grey-breasted Wood-Wren, but a pair of Hairy Woodpeckers showed unbelievably well on a small tree just eight feet up and only a few feet in front of us. A couple of tame Collared Redstarts also showed well and finally we found a Brown-capped Vireo. Returning to the coach we then made our way out of this wonderful area and drove high up to the paramo at 11,000 ft. At this altitude the air was thin so we took just a relatively short and slow walk. We soon located our first Volcano Junco and then Sooty-capped Bush-Tanagers and Large-footed Finch. A Timberline Wren was only brief but a Peg-billed Finch gave us the closest and best views we have ever had. As we were leaving this area another Peg-billed Finch was spotted and being such a good bird we just had to get out and have another look. Moving on we started to descend towards San Isidro stopping along the way at a café where we had our lunch and some hot coffee. From the balcony here we saw a pair of Flame-coloured Tanagers, Violet Sabrewings, a White-tailed Emerald, fantastic views of a Swallow-tailed Kite, then Yellow-throated and Chestnut-headed Brush-Finches and the highlight here which I tried to shout out to everyone with a mouthful of sandwich was a pair of Scaled Antpittas right below us - fantastic! After lunch we continued our drive to San Isidro. As we got near to our lodge Kev spotted a male Turquoise Cotinga sat on top of a dead tree, it flew before everyone got to see it but was obviously still in the area. We got out and spread out in search. On a small pond on the other side of the road we found a showy Mourning Warbler and while watching this we got permission from a local to have a look in their garden at the tree where the cotinga was. Amused by our antics the owners were even more amused when we located this amazing bird and set up the scope for all of us and them to look at it. We also got very good views of a Green Honeycreeper. After this we drove into our lodge and settled into our cabins. The gardens here are always productive and once we had gathered together we had walk around to see what we could find. A Streaked Saltator showed well, we then spotted Red-crowned Woodpecker and Southern Beardless Tyrannulet while down beside the river in a grassy area we saw a Lineated Woodpecker, Cherries Tanager, Smooth-billed Ani and a Bran-coloured Flycatcher. In the evening as we walked towards the restaurant we got good views of Pauraque sat on the track.
Day 15 - 31st Jan
An early pre breakfast walk around the lodge grounds started off with Blue-crowned Motmot, a tree full of Clay-coloured and Mountain Thrushes plus Streaked Saltator. A look in the tall grassy fields had us spot a Pale-breasted Spinetail while a Pearl Kite seen sat in a tree was later spotted actually sat on a nest! A little further on we located a Snowy-bellied Hummingbird on a nest, and then Yellow-crowned Euphonias, Fork-tailed Flycatcher, Long-billed Starthroat and Red-legged Honeycreeper. After breakfast we boarded the coach and driving up the entrance road we spotted a group of Indigo Buntings. We then drove towards a lowland area seeing Lineated Woodpecker along the way, and where we soon found another Fork-tailed Flycatcher, Golden-naped Woodpecker, several Swallow-tailed Kites, a singing Striped Cuckoo and excellent views of a Lesser Elaenia. We then set off on our final journey back to San Jose. We broke the journey with a walk along a high altitude forested road and here we managed to see Fiery-throated, Volcano and Scaly-breasted Hummingbird as well as Large-footed and Yellow-thighed Finches plus a tiny and elusive Silvery-fronted Tapaculo which we had only previously heard. Leaving the forests behind we continued our journey back to San Jose and our hotel. After an excellent last evening meal we retired ready for the mornings early departure.
Day 16 - 1st Feb
We had breakfast and our driver Ramon duly arrived in time for us to load up and set off towards the airport. This should have been fairly straightforward but we suddenly came across a huge traffic jam caused by an accident and all roads were completely blocked. Some frantic phone calls to the airport and between the driver and his contacts and we set off on a huge circuit of the city. What a star Ramon was as he got us to the airport with just a few minutes left before they shut the check-in. We then boarded our flight to Madrid and finally to London where this wonderful tour concluded.
My thanks go out to Kevin who's local knowledge and birding skills enabled us to come away with an enviable list of much sought after and rarely seen species. Its easy to see a lot of birds in Costa Rica but a lot of work goes into finding species that everyone else cannot, and this shows in our following checklist. We not only find more species of birds but we constantly see more of the difficult species making us the number one company to travel with to Costa Rica!
My thanks also go to Ramon our regular driver who superb driving skills, constant cheerful personality and interest in wildlife added to this excellent smooth running holiday.