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COSTA RICA 18th Jan - 4th Feb 2002

512 Species seen

LEADERS:   Steve Bird & Kevin Easley

The group

Day 1  18th Jan

Everyone met on time at London Gatwick and although we had to check in three hours before, the time soon passed and we were on board our comfortable flight to Houston Texas. Ten hours and many stories later we arrived, and after a short while we were aboard our second plane and heading towards San Jose, Costa Rica. We arrived in the dark and soon after clearing customs we met up with Kevin our Local guide, who took us to the waiting coach and then to our hotel twenty minutes away. It was now time for everyone to catch up on some sleep ready for our look around the hotel gardens in the morning. While writing this account at midnight I could plainly hear a Tropical Screech Owl calling from the gardens. I hope it's there tomorrow for everyone to see!

Day 2  19th Jan
Rufous-collared Sparrows
Tropical Screech-owls

Myself, Dave and Bob were up early and took a short walk into the hotel gardens. The light was a bit dull at first but we soon found the first of many Clay-colored Thrushes and then a Hoffman's Woodpecker. All around was the sound of Rufous-tailed Hummingbirds and the occasional flock of Crimson-fronted Parakeets flying noisily overhead. Further into the lush garden we spotted Greyish Saltator, Tennessee Warbler and a pair of Rufous-collared Sparrows. Eventually we got to a tall stand of Bamboo, and no sooner than I had told Dave the height to look at, he found the bird we were hoping for and the culprit of all the noise during the night. There no more than 20 feet up were a pair of beautiful little Tropical Screech-owls looking down at us. We immediately walked away leaving the birds for the rest of the group to see later. We returned in time for our breakfast with everyone else. No sooner than this was over we all returned into the garden and everyone was then able to enjoy excellent view of these two little owls. Continuing around the gardens a Blue-crowned Motmot was found as well all the species we had seen earlier in the morning. Around the tennis court we had excellent views of a pair of Plain Wrens while amongst the flowers beds a skulking Orange-billed Nightingale-thrush was only glimpsed by a few. Returning to the hotel we collected our luggage and were soon aboard the coach and on our way to Bosque de Paz our next destination. There wasn't too much seen en-route excepting plenty of Black and Turkey Vultures and a quick stop when Keith spotted a Broad-winged Hawk sat in a small dead tree. As we climbed into the forest at about 4 or 5 thousand feet, we made a roadside stop and took a short walk. A pair of gorgeous Collared Redstarts were seen and one or two Purple-throated Mountain Gems. A little further along the road we found Black-faced Solitaire and Yellow-thighed Finches. A Silvery-fronted Tapaculo was then coaxed towards us but despite being only 6 feet away we only got tantalising glimpses as it worked its way through the undergrowth like a mouse. Walking towards the coach a small group of Yellow-faced Grassquit's were also spotted. We then continued on to our lodge. Along the approach track we stopped when Ramon our driver spotted a Black Guan sat in a small bush beside the road. We got excellent views of this and an Emerald Toucanet which was close beside it. An Osprey then circled some nearby fish ponds. Once at the lodge we unpacked the coach and were shown to our rooms. With a flowing stream right outside, and gardens full of flowers and hummingbird feeders we soon notched up a few new species. Among the many hummingbirds, Violet Sabrewing, Magnificent, Green-crowned Brilliant, Green Hermit, Scintillent and a female Magenta-throated Woodstar all competed for our attention. Common Bush Tanager's were seen as was a Ruddy-capped Nightingale-Thrush and Chestnut-capped Brush-Finch. It was now time for lunch. After we met up and took a walk into the forest. It was generally quiet but we did find a small feeding flock, unfortunately high in the canopy. Here we saw several Golden-crowned Chlorophonias, Flame-throated Warbler, Tufted Flycatcher, and Red-faced Spinetail amongst others. On a different route both Golden-crowned and Three-striped Warblers were spotted.

Magenta-throated Woodstar

Beside the lodge we crossed over the stream and went into a different area. Yellowish Flycatcher was seen as well as Black-throated Green, Golden-winged, and Black-and-White Warbler. A Golden-bellied Flycatcher showed particularly well but less so a Spotted Barbtail. Slate-throated Redstarts were easily seen and an Orange-bellied Trogon was a good find. Back near to the lodge beside the stream we had an exciting flurry of activity with Dark Pewee, and Brown-capped Vireo together, followed by Summer Tanager, and a selection of warblers that we had seen earlier. In the skies above were Blue-and-White Swallows and Vaux's Swifts while on the bird table of the lodge a Black Guan feed totally unconcerned at our presence.

Black Guan

Another beautiful male Scintillent Hummingbird was seen and then within one tiny section of stream we watched a pair of Black Pheobe, a pair of Torrent Tyrannulet's and then would you believe it a pair of American Dipper's ending an excellent first day. Oh, I mustn't forget that in the evening we watched Don offer his beer to an inquisitive Coati!

Day 3  20th Jan

Torrent Tyrannulet
Black-banded Woodcreeper.

We were all up early and after having a quick coffee we drove a couple of miles to a higher elevation in the forest. Just as we were about to get on the coach a couple of very distant female Resplendent Quetzal's were spotted but because they merged in with the forest so well only a few people got a glimpse of them. Ramon our coach driver dropped us off at the top of forest and we slowly walked back down. Amongst the first birds we saw were a group of Prong-billed Barbets and a Lineated Foliage Gleaner. A vocal Silvery-fronted Tapaculo did another very good impression of a mouse, but a Black-faced Solitaire showed better. Above us we saw a dark-phase   Short-tailed Hawk and then Keith found a Long-tailed Silky Flycatcher which we all got excellent views of as it sat quietly amongst the leaves of a small tree. Just before we got back onto the coach to return for breakfast, a female Black-bellied Hummingbird flew past and a lovely male Barred Becard was seen. After breakfast we took a short walk into the forest where we strained our necks to see Spangle-cheeked and Silvery-throated Tanagers as well as a couple of Golden-browed Chlorophonia's. We walked back to the lodge where hummers buzzed back and forth from the feeders and a Torrent Tyrannulet flitted from rock to rock in the stream. Our luggage was just being packed onto the coach when Kevin appeared having just found a good bird. We followed him into the wood a short distance and after a little while we all got good views of a Black-banded Woodcreeper.  In the same area we also had superb looks at a Spotted Barbtail, Grey-breasted Wood-Wren and an Ochraceous Wren. It was time to leave this idyllic spot and head to our next destination near the Pacific coast. We hadn't gone far from the lodge when an impromptu stop had us briefly looking at an Olive-striped Flycatcher beside the road.

Two-toed Sloths
Black-and-white Owl

We continued south west until we eventually reach the town of Orotina  here a quick look around the local park and in no time at all we were all looking at a fabulous Black-and-white Owl which was looking down at us.   A few White-winged Doves were seen as was a Boat-billed Flycatcher and a Cinnamon Flycatcher. In another tree in the park we found two, Two-toed Sloths fast asleep. 

It was getting hot, so we got back on to our coach and carried on towards our hotel near the river Tarcoles. A brief stop was made when we spotted a Hook-billed Kite lazing around on a thermal, and we also spotted a couple of Crested Caracara's alongside the road. Soon we were crossing the Tarcol river and droving into our lodgings at Villa Lapas. We checked in and a little later met up in the gardens. In the first couple of trees just outside our rooms we saw Golden-hooded Tanager, Palm Tanager, a pair of Social Flycatcher's,    Philadelphia Vireo and a few Tennessee Warblers. We then walked through the garden to meet the coach. Here in a large dead tree we spotted four Baltimore Orioles which stood out like bright orange light bulbs, and beside them was a Masked Tityra. A pair of Yellow-throated Euphonia's then appeared and we enjoyed these before jumping aboard the coach.

Blue-crowned Manakin

We hadn't gone far outside the hotel before a quick roadside stop found us a superb male Blue-crowned Manakin as well as Canivet's Emerald and a couple of Magnificent Frigatebird's flying high above us. The next stop gave us good views of Ochre-bellied Flycatcher's but little else. Eventually reaching a high look out, we then spent the next hour and a half, scanning the tree tops in search of  raptors. Apart from the usual Black and Turkey Vultures we saw at least one Short tailed Hawk, and an excellent Zone-tailed Hawk. Chestnut-mandibled Toucans could be heard calling to each other across the forest and one bird was then found sat in a tall tree where we could all scope it. Three distant Swallow-tailed Kites were watched circling around together and a pair of Mealy Parrots flew in and landed on another dead tree. The raucous calls of the huge Scarlet Macaw gave away their presence as several pairs flew past and down the valley towards their roost site. The bright red and blue of these birds looked fantastic against the backdrop of the green rain-forest. Just when we were thinking it's time to go, a Long-billed Starthroat is seen perched in a tree, three or four Crested Guans appeared and then Dave spots a stunning White Hawk also perched in the top of a tree. After prolonged scope views of this bird we jumped into the coach and headed back to our lodge, very happy and content!

Day 4  21st Jan

Today we took an early breakfast so as to maximise the best part of the day in the nearby Carara forest, a fantastic area that deserves several visits to do it justice. As we drove the ten minutes to the river trail entrance and Osprey was spotted landing on a dead tree. After parking it wasn't long before we were all out and seeing a pair of Dusky Antbirds in some nearby tangled vines. We then walked through the entrance gate and began our very slow stroll. One of the first birds we came across was a singing male Blue-black Grosbeak which eventually showed very well. Along a little further and Long-tailed Hermits could be heard before being seen coming in to the Heliconia flowers. A Northern Waterthrush fed amongst the leaflitter on the path and noisy Chestnut-backed Antbirds, Dot-winged Antwren and Black-hooded Antshrike all gave themselves up. A Black-faced Antthrush was then spotted and it gave us excellent views as it walked around a fairly open area of leaf litter. On a huge tree we found a Black-striped Woodcreeper and a pair of Golden-naped Woodpeckers while below a Tawny-winged Woodcreeper was spotted. A superb male Slaty-tailed Trogan sat silently looking down at us as did a pair of White-whiskered Puffbirds and a Bright-rumped Attila. We moved slowly on through the forest accompanied by the distant sound of a couple of Three-wattled Bellbirds. Northern Bentbill showed well and a Long-billed Gnatwren gave us unbelievable views proving just how poor the field guide illustrations were. Several wren species had to be enticed out including Rufous-and-white and Black-bellied. A Green Shrike-vireo eventually showed as it sang from high up in the canopy, while a selection of flycatchers included Great-crested, Dusky-capped and Yellow-olive. Continuing on a Double-toothed Kite circled above while two Crested Guan flew into a large bare tree. In the same spot a Blue-throated Goldentail was watched singing from a perch and Rufous-tailed Jacamar, Blue Dacnis and Cherrie's Tanager were seen as well as huge Scarlet Macaws. In the next area of woodland Turquoise-browed Motmots posed for us. Further along near a close singing, but invisible Three-wattled Bellbird we had a good flurry of birds including American Redstart, Lesser Greenlet's, White-winged Becard, White-shouldered Tanagers, Band-rumped Swifts and a Northern Royal Flycatcher.

Boat-billed Herons
Long-tailed Manakin

A little further on we came to the river where we were immediately greeted by a dozen or so prehistoric looking Boat-billed Herons roosting together in an overhanging tree. From here we also watched a family of Northern Jacanas, Green and Great Blue Heron, an Ahinga and Green Kingfisher. We also had good views of Southern Rough-winged Swallows. We then took a walk back so as to be in time for lunch. Along the way we stopped to look at a lek of Orange-collared Manakins and we all saw one male sat in the open. Almost back to the coach and a highlight for most of the group was a stunning male Long-tailed Manakin which flew in and gave us excellent views. With a brief glimpse of Grey-headed Tanager and a good look at a female Blue Ground-dove we left and returned to our lodge. From the restaurant both Snowy Egret and Little Blue Heron were seen on the river while in the garden a large Ctenosaur looked menacing.

Tent-making Bats

Just before we all met for our afternoon walk we had a look a some tent-making Bats which were roosting under some palm leaves. We then boarded our coach and drove a few minutes to the entrance to the figure of eight trail. Within the first couple of feet of this trail we watched two beautiful male Bay-headed Tanagers and a skulky pair of Riverside Wrens.

Bay-headed Tanagers

Further on we had a really good spell with excellent views of Baird's Trogon, a pair of Black-throated Trogons, a Ruddy Quail-dove proved very difficult to see but nearby Central American Spider Monkeys jumped around high up in the canopy. We continued through the forest to a small stream where we quietly waited as birds came into drink and bath. A male Red-capped Manakin showed well as did Ochre-bellied Flycatcher. A little later a Blue-crowned Manakin flew in and so did a Golden-crowned Spadebill. Leaving the stream we slowly walked through the forest and later Kev with  his eagle eyes spotted a Spectacled Antpitta which everyone managed to see hoping around on the forest floor. With light fading fast and to the mournful calls of several Great Tinamou we exited the forest. In the car park Mantled Howler Monkey's shouted at us from the top of a tree. We then returned to our lodge.

Day 5   22nd Jan

Scarlet Macaws
American Pygmy Kingfisher

After an early breakfast we boarded the coach and set off the short distance towards the Tarcoles river. We slowly drove the dusty track searching the fields and scrub either side. A Stripe-headed Sparrow showed particularly well sat on a fence beside the road while further along several Scarlet Macaws gave us stunning views as they fed in a twenty foot high tree only a short distance away. Kev then whistled up a Ferruginous Pygmy-owl which posed lovely before we moved on to a small area with a pond.

Bare-throated Tiger-heron

A White Ibis was obvious as it fed in the dark, wet area under a tree and then nearby a Bare-throated Tiger-heron sat motionless beside it's smaller cousin the Green Heron. We walked across the road to look at the bigger pool and while looking at a roosting Yellow-crowned Night-heron an American Pygmy Kingfisher flew in and sat just twenty feet away. Totally unconcerned by us we enjoyed stunning views of this bird, one that by no means could be guaranteed on a tour! Moving on a short distance we stopped beside some grassy fields where a little time and patience eventually rewarded us with looks at White-collared and Variable Seedeaters, Blue-black Grassquit's, and a beautiful male Barred Antshrike. Walking on slowly to where the coach was waiting we added Scrub Euphonia and then a Scaly-breasted Hummingbird sat on it's tiny nest in a small fork on a tree. While watching this a Green-breasted Mango put in an appearance and a Crested Caracara sat on look out in the distance. Continuing on a little further in the coach we stopped beside another small marshy pool, where Black-necked Stilts, White Ibis and two Northern Jacana fed. Eventually we arrived at Tarcol lodge which would have only been a fifteen minute drive if we hadn't seen so many birds along the way. From the lodge we took a short walk into the nearby mangrove. Panama Flycatchers were soon found and then in the edge of the mangrove itself, some pygmy-owl impressions from Kev and responsive squeaking by me brought in all our hoped for species. Amongst the excited group of birds flitting around our heads were several Mangrove Vireos, Mangrove Warblers, Cinnamon Becard, Common Tody-flycatcher, Yellow-throated Vireo, lots of stunning Prothonotary Warblers and excellent looks at Scrub Greenlet. Nearby we could here a Rufous-browed Peppershrike but he stayed concealed in the canopy. Easier to see was a Tropical Pewee and another good bird the Scrub Flycatcher. Considerably more difficult was a Slate-headed Tody-flycatcher. We moved on through an area of wood until we reach some open fields. Here we found Southern Beardless Tyrannulet, and a huge Linneated Woodpecker, while above us two Mangrove Black Hawks circled. Beside the river a few commoner heron species were seen as well as Yellow-headed Caracaras and an immature Mangrove Black Hawk. We returned through the wood and Keith spotted an Olivaceous Piculet which unfortunately for the rest of the group never stayed long enough. In this area we all saw a Black-headed Trogon, Dusky-capped Flycatcher's, Barred Antshrike, a female Painted Bunting and an unusually active Brown-throated Sloth. It was now time for some refreshing fruit juice at the lodge. As we enjoyed this home made delicacy we scanned through the shorebirds on the estuary in front of us. Amongst the hundreds of birds present were four Ospreys, Yellow-headed Caracaras, Brown Pelicans, lots of heron species, a roost of Laughing Gulls and Royal Terns with Sandwich Tern, Black Skimmers and Central American Crocodiles. We worked our way through Willets, Short-billed Dowitcher, Wilson's, Grey and Semi-palmated Plovers, Sanderling, Turnstones, Whimbrel, Least and Spotted Sandpiper.

Pacific Screech-owl
Collared Plover

To top it off we then had a look at a roosting Pacific Screech-owl before returning to the lodge for lunch. In the afternoon we returned again to Tarcol lodge but this time we set out for a walk onto the beach. Here we walked right up to the sand point where we soon found our target species the elegant looking Collared Plover.    While enjoying our views of these birds we were treated to the sight of three Scarlet Macaws feeding in a tree top, a Zone-tailed Hawk flew over and all the time the skies were filled with Magnificent Frigatebirds. A scan through the Laughing Gulls and Royal Terns on another part of the beach, found us a single Common Tern and excellent looks at an Elegant Tern. We then returned back to lodge seeing another male Mangrove Warbler and an immature Ruby-throated Hummingbird along the way. After another refreshing drink we walked back into the mangrove that we had worked in the morning. Kev soon heard a White-necked Puffbird and after some intense searching we found the bird sat right out in the open, excellent!! A couple of Orange-fronted parakeets showed well, while further out in a clearing we saw a Grey Hawk, while a Yellow-headed Caracara called from a tree top. A Cocoa Woodcreeper then showed well and a group of Orchard Orioles were seen. We returned through the forest and then drove to an area that overlooked the river. From here we had excellent views of Lesser Nighthawks as they hunted low over the water. It was now dark so we returned to our lodge and our very welcome all inclusive bar!

White-necked Puffbird
Striped Owl

After the evening meal we boarded the coach and drove twenty five minutes to an area of grassy fields and small farms. On the way managed to do the roll call for the day. Once we reached the right area Kev and I went onto the roof of the coach with our spotlights and Ramon drove slowly up and down several kilometres of road. On one occasion we stopped and walked along a dusty track and found several Common Pauraque. Our Final run in the coach then paid off when we spotted a lone shadow on a telephone wire. We all got out and set up the scope on a fabulous Striped Owl. After a passing car scared it off we got even better views as it sat in a nearby tree. What a superb finish to the day!

Day 6  23rd Jan 

Grey-Capped Flycatcher
Bi-coloured Antbird

An early breakfast as usual, then up and over the hill above the lodge. We stopped on a bend and got out. Here we searched through a small feeding flock and found several Western Tanagers as well as two male Painted Buntings, Rose-throated Becard, Grey-Capped Flycatcher, Red-legged Honeycreeper and a Blue-black Grosbeak. A Rufous-capped Warbler then showed well as we were entertained by a group of six Scarlet Macaws. We then left and drove to the new centre at Carara. From the car park we scanned the tree tops but found only a group of Band-tailed Pigeons. A Chestnut-collared Swift then flew over and a distant Scissor-tailed Flycatcher was spotted. We  set off along one of the new trails that had just been created. After a short silent spell we then came across our first group of birds. As Grey-headed Tanager's noisily dashed through the understory we concentrated on seeing a pair of Tawny-crowned Greenlet's. These birds eventually showed well just before we were distracted by the piercing call of a Rufous Piha, this bird also gave us excellent views. A little further along Kev heard the call of a Bi-coloured Antbird, and soon after we were watching two of these excellent birds which were engrossed in a small ant swarm. With time and patience we stayed around the ant swarm getting wonderful views of all the birds within this feeding party. There were several Grey-headed Tanager's, Black-faced Antthrush, Chestnut-backed and the two Bi-coloured Antbirds, Barred and Tawny-winged Woodcreeper and a Ruddy Quail-dove. Moving on we next came to an open area beside a stream and here we stayed for the next hour. In the trees above us we found Russet Antshrike and Spotted-crowned Euphonias although the later were really hard to see. Two King Vultures were spotted but extremely high and swifts included White-collared and Lesser Swallow-tailed. A gorgeous Purple-crowned Fairy then appeared and fed on some nearby flowers. On the stream two Buff-rumped Warblers flitted around in the leafy edges while Northern Waterthrush and Green Kingfisher were also seen. We then had a Yellow-billed Cotinga fly over and up the valley. A group of Fiery-billed Aracaris were scoped high in a trees above us before we decided to leave this wonderful spot and continue on through the forest. Eventually crossing a river we joined up with the figure of eight trail. Several Blue Morpho butterflies and a huge Helicopter Damselfly were welcome bonuses and then we came across a small flock. Here we saw Golden-crowned Spadebill, Sulphur-rumped Flycatcher, Worm-eating Warbler and higher up amongst the Chestnut-mandibled Toucans and Fiery-billed Aracaris we saw Short-billed Pigeons, Red-capped and Blue-crowned Manakins. Two huge Pale-billed Woodpeckers showed very well as did a Long-tailed Woodcreeper.

Grey-headed Kite
Ferruginous Pygmy-owl

Moving on we came across a lek of beautiful Orange-collared Manakin's performing their energetic dances from small twigs close to the ground. Heading towards the entrance of the park we just had time to see a White-whiskered Puffbird only ten feet in front of some of the group and also briefly was a foraging Buff-throated Foilage-gleaner. Leaving here we returned back to our lodge for lunch. After, we packed our luggage onto the coach and set off towards our next destination in the dry Guanacaste at Solimar. En-route we  stopped to look at a White-tailed Kite and then later a Peregrine Falcon. We arrived at the approach road to our lodge by mid afternoon and slowly driving along we soon located a pair of Double-striped Thick-knee in the edge of a grassy field. Kev spotted a Ferruginous Pygmy-owl sat in a tree in bright sunlight and some of the group managed to see a Streak-backed Oriole. We got to the lodge and briefly settled into our rooms before going to look at a nearby wetland. On the approach road we found a very difficult to see Plain-breasted Ground-dove, as well as excellent views of White-fronted and Yellow-naped Parrots, there was also Roadside Hawk and a distant Laughing falcon. Beside the wetland we watched as Snail Kites of all ages came in to roost, the total I counted and surely missing many was an incredibly fifty birds. Lots of Great Egrets also flew in as well as the odd White Ibis and Black-crowned Night Heron. In the forest a Black-headed Trogon showed well while further along in an open area we saw Lesser Nighthawks and lots of Snail Kites. We then returned to the lodge passing several more Lesser Nighthawks along the way.

Day 7   24th Jan

Orange-collared Manakin's
Lesser Ground Cuckoo

A pre-breakfast stroll by the lodge soon found us singing Spot-breasted and Streak-backed Orioles. After some excellent views of these we scoped Common Ground-dove, Brown-crested Flycatcher, a beautiful White-fronted Parrot bathed in sunshine, Eastern Meadowlarks in the grass and a dark phase Hook-billed kite which flew over. We then had our breakfast, distracted by a White-throated Magpie-jay on the bird table and lots of Ruby-throated Hummingbirds feeding on the garden flowers. After breakfast we set of on a walk to a nearby woodland. Another  Ferruginous Pygmy-owl showed well, and along by the fields Brown-crested Flycatchers and a single Scissor-tailed flycatcher were also seenl. In the cool of the forest we found Greenish Elaenia's and after a struggle we all saw Banded Wren. A Mangrove Cuckoo played hide and seek, but further on a Lesser Ground Cuckoo gave us the most prolonged close views ever imaginable. What a sight!

We then continued through the forest and saw a Black-headed Trogon, and several Cinnamon Hummingbirds. In a small clearing another good target species was found, an Elegant Trogan this putting us on target to see all the trogons in Costa Rica! From here a slow walk back produced a couple of White-lored Gnatcatchers, but a Highland Tinamou, despite being vocal, evaded us. The high pitched call of a Northern-beardless Tyrannulet then led us to see this tiny localised flycatcher sat in the top of a tree. Kevin was well pleased with this species, as we were with everything else! It was now rather hot so we waited in the shade for Ramon to pick us up and take us back to the lodge. After our lunch we had a little siesta before our afternoon trip to yet another area of forest. We walked through the woodland beside an almost dried up river. A small group of birds in the grassland contained Blue-black Grassquit's and a female White-collared Seedeater, while nearby an immature Long-tailed Manakin was joined by a Barred Antshrike. Continuing on we then came across a fabulous male Long-tailed Manakin and a perfect looking Turquoise-browed Motmot. An Owl Butterfly landed on a tree trunk for all to see but the rest of the forest was rather quiet. As we were about to return the call of a Grey-headed Kite was heard and later it was found sat in a distant tree where we had surprisingly good views through the scope. Later we ended up underneath the tree it was calling from and closer looks were had although the angle was a bit awkward. We then left the wood and drove to some nearby salines. Here we looked through the shallow salt pools. Black-necked Stilts were obvious and then a few Least and Spotted Sandpipers were seen. A nice group of twelve Stilt Sandpipers fed together while a pool at the back held Whimbrel, Willet, Grey Plover, Lesser Yellowlegs and a Semi-palmated Plover. In a closer pool we found a group of Semi-palmated Sandpipers and amongst them one Western Sandpiper allowing for good comparisons between these two species. Having searched all of the pools we then drove just a short way to sea. Here as the light faded and flocks of ibis and herons including many Little Blue Herons flew in to roost, a single Roseate Spoonbill was spotted and distant Royal Terns and Laughing Gulls were seen. The night sky was very clear so before we departed we had a look through our scopes at Mercury and four of its moons. It was time to return back to our lodge and have our evening meal. Afterwards we decided to try a little night watch in the near forest. We stopped in a clearing and Kev played the tape of Spectacled Owl. There was no response although we did hear Pacific Screech-owl and lots of Common Pauraque.

Northern Potoo
Owl Butterfly

We then played the tape of Northern Potoo and to everyone's surprise a bird responded. It soon called from nearby and with a little searching a shape could be made out on a tree just twenty yards in front of us. I put the spotlight straight on it and sure enough sat there in all its somewhat grotesque glory was the potoo with its huge orange pop out eyes. We looked at it through the scope and binoculars and even managed a poor photo before leaving it alone still on the same perch. Back at the lodge a celebratory drink and a nice chat ensued beore we retired happy to bed.

Day 8   25th Jan

Barred Woodcreeper

Our pre breakfast walk this morning took us to the nearby mangroves. A few pygmy-owl calls soon brought in Tropical Gnatcatcher, Tennessee and Prothonotary Warblers and several Cinnamon Hummingbirds. An American Kestrel and Mangrove Black Hawk flew over before we reached the targeted area of mangrove. Here we found a Mangrove Hummingbird which sat briefly on a few occasions allowing all of the group to see something on this Costa- rican endemic. With a real Ferruginous Pygmy-owl calling and ten immature White Ibis sat amongst the lower trees we then headed back to the coach and returned in time for our breakfast. After this we packed our luggage onto the coach and drove to the trail we had worked yesterday afternoon.

Black-headed Trogon
Violet Sabrewing

The walk was generally quiet although excellent views were had of Barred Woodcreeper and Black-headed Trogon while some of the group had a very close Laughing Falcon and a Black-crowned Tityra. We slowly walked back to the waiting coach and carried on towards our next stay in the Pacific lowlands near La Selva. We made a quick stop along the way to pick up some lunch and then arrived at La Paz waterfall by mid afternoon. A five minute stop here for photographs was rewarded by most of the group seeing one of two Sooty-faced Finches creeping amongst the moss covered cliffs. As we left and crossed over the river both Torrent Tyrannulet and American Dipper were spotted. Our next stop was la mirador a roadside cafe that no longer caters for people, just hummingbirds! Looking at the many feeders they had hanging just outside the veranda we saw lots of Violet Sabrewing's, Green-crowned Brilliant's, and the endemic Coppery-headed Emerald, while there were lesser numbers of White-bellied Mountain-gem, Rufous-tailed Hummingbirds and Green Hermit. On the bird table set in the garden Prong-billed Barbets fed alongside Clay-coloured Thrushes and Blue-grey Tanagers, while with patience Passerine's Tanager and the star birds a male and female Red-headed Barbet turned up. We continued on our way and it began to drizzle lightly. Another roadside stop was had beside a reed-fringed pond. In the middle we spotted a pair of Pied-billed Grebes, while the edges held Northern Jacana, Great White and Cattle Egrets. In the scrubby bank leading down to the pond everyone had excellent views of Grey-crowned Yellowthroat and then a very showy Slaty Spinetail. Unusual for this area were an Orange-billed Sparrow and a pair of White-collared Seedeaters, but many of the groups favourite bird of the day was one of two White-throated Crakes that came out onto a small open track only ten feet away where all the birds details could be seen well. Leaving here just a couple of brief stops were made to look at a pair of Giant Cowbirds and then a pair of Red-lored Parrots. It was now raining heavier as we arrived at Selva Verde Lodge, but it didn't take long to unpack our coach and settle into our very spacious rooms.

Day 9   26th Jan 

immature Grey-headed Kite
Yellow-tailed Oriole

An early start this morning so as to make the most of this wonderful bird rich area. We first drove to the entrance road to La Selva Biological Research Centre. Stopping two or three hundred yards from the entrance we slowly walked the road. Birds came thick and fast and at times there was just too many to know which way to look. A Violaceous Trogon started off proceedings, soon followed by a pair of Faciated Ant-shrikes and then a Great Antshrike. Passerine' Tanagers were common as were Social and Grey-capped Flycatchers. A Black-throated Wren made us work hard to see it, while Black-faced Grosbeaks, Yellow Tyrannulet, Yellow-billed Cacique's, Scarlet-thighed Dacnis and Yellow-bellied Elaenia were easier. Moving on a few yards a Smoky-brown Woodpecker appeared and then a Yellow-tailed Oriole was seen singing from a bare treetop. Nearby in another tree a Scaled Pigeon was soon replaced by a group of Pale-vented Pigeons and an immature Grey-headed Kite posed nicely close by.

Our first Bananaquit's were seen and Keel-billed Toucans and Montezuma's Oropendola's became common. After several hours of fantastic birding we eventually reached the entrance to La Selva. Just inside the gate we found a Chestnut-coloured Woodpecker and a Brown-hooded Parrot. The Yellow-tailed Oriole flew in close and a Wood Thrush was spotted as we made our way to the reception area where Black-cheeked Woodpecker posed nicely.

Black-cheeked Woodpecker
Green Iguanas

Once here we were joined by Eric, one of the local guides and we then set off into the forest. Huge Green Iguanas lazed around at the top of the trees looking like something out of prehistoric times. The one photographed must have been at least 5 feet long!


Making our way down to the bridge that crosses the river and then over into the rain forest our expectations were as high as ever. With birds calling all around we hadn't gone more than a couple of paces onto the bridge before a lovely Broad-billed Motmot was spotted right beside us giving stunning views.

Quietly walking past the researchers buildings we next found a Red-footed Plumeleteer, which posed nicely for us, while nearby a noisy group of Dusky-faced Tanagers led us to see Pale-vented Thrush and a superb Band-tailed Barbthroat. High in a tree nearby sat an early Piratic Flycatcher. In the forest itself things never relaxed for long as Dave found us a pair of Olive-backed Quail-doves which after showing very well were soon to be followed by the tiny Black-capped Pygmy-tyrant and then the sound of Great Green Macaws flying over.

A surprise bird then appeared and all of us enjoyed good prolonged views of a Bare-necked Umbrellabird.

Don then spotted a very good White-necked Puffbird followed by yet another excellent species which we set the telescopes onto, a pair of Crested Owls in a daytime roost. Next was a Great Tinamou which sat motionless

Crested Owls
Great Tinamou

Just fifteen feet away and further on we saw Long-tailed Tyrant, Western Slaty Antshrike and a couple of Strawberry Poison-arrow Frogs. We left the forest and returned to our coach where we drove to a nearby hotel to have our picnic lunch in their grounds.

Green Ibis
Vermiculated Screech-owls

Afterwards we looked at a pair of Blue-ground Doves and in the nearby wet woodland a pair of Green Ibis showed well. We then returned to La Selva and went straight into a different area of forest. One of the first species we came across was a family of Slaty-breasted Tinamous, two adults with two chicks. The bare-necked Umbrellabird appeared again and seemed quite inquisitive towards us allowing exceptional views. Next on our shopping list of excellent birds were the pair of red phase Vermiculated Screech-owls that I had found the previous year, amazingly in just about the same tree, which was now a regular stake out! To see this species and the earlier Crested Owls in one trip as we did last year is truly exceptional. We then had excellent views of another Slaty-breasted Tinamou and later a male Slaty-tailed Trogon was seen. Another good area produced a Rufous Motmot, Stripe-breasted Wren, Scarlet-rumped Cacique's, Lesser Swallow-tailed and Grey-rumped Swifts. Back out in the open we found a singing Blue-chested Hummingbird, Olive-crowned Euphonia's and stunning male Red-capped Manakin's before returning to the reception area. Here a couple Banded-backed Wrens performed well as did Green and Shinning Honeycreeper. We then walked slowly out towards the entrance road. We didn't get far before a couple of beautiful White-ruffed Manakin's stopped us in our tracks. Continuing on we saw many species we had seen earlier but a stop towards the end of the road found us an Olive-crowned Yellowthroat, Grey-chested Doves and a Little Tinamou running across the track. Once again it was time to return to our lodge.

Day 10   27th Jan

We took an early breakfast and then set off towards Braullio National Park. Along the way the usual impromptu stops were made, firstly for a group Collared Aracaris, and then a beautiful Semi-plumbeous Hawk sat above the road on a bare tree. A look from a river bridge added Amazon Kingfisher to our list, but a real highlight was a stop shortly before the entrance to Braullio. Here a butterfly garden had planted lots of Verbena and as we watched these flowers so began an extravaganza of hummingbirds.

First a few Violet-headed Hummingbirds were seen,
soon followed by one of three male Black-crested Coquette's

then Snowcap, White-necked Jacobin, Green Thorntail, Crowned Woodnymph and the ever aggressive Rufous-tailed Hummingbirds. What a delight this was to see some difficult forest species so close and so well! Soon after this we arrived at Braullio were we checked the car park area and took a short walk beside the busy road. A Collared Trogon was the best bird found before we entered the forest proper.

At least half an hour past with no sign of any birds as we slowly walked the narrow muddy trail. A Dull-mantled Antbird was then seen by a few of the group before going deep into cover and singing to the rest of us.

Black-headed Nightingale-Thrush showed well on the path.

Continuing on we had a heavy rain shower after which while stood in a clearing our first canopy flock appeared. Amongst the tanagers we saw Black-and-Yellow, Emerald, and a Blue-and-Gold as well as Rufous-winged Woodpecker, Green Shrike-vireo, Yellow-throated Vireo and many other species that moved through too quickly to be identified. Moving on we watched a Black-chested Hawk circling the forest and a female Snowcap was found sat on her tiny little nest. Things then started to liven up as we came across an ant swarm. Tawny-crested and Olive Tanagers were plentiful and with patience we added better views of Blue-and-Gold, Emerald and Tawny-crowned Euphonia. A male Lattice-tailed Trogon completed the full set of Costa rican trogons and then Black-headed Nightingale-Thrush showed well on the path. Spotted Woodcreeper was overshadowed by the difficult Striped Tree-haunter and a brief Brown-billed Scythebill. Next we had excellent views of the flock organiser, a White- throated Shrike-tanager soon followed by a Rufous Mourner.

Great Potoo
immature Ornate Hawk-eagle

A pair over Yellow-eared Toucanets were tricky to see above us but eventually most of us got acceptable views. However through a small gap in the trees an immature Ornate Hawk-eagle showed surprisingly well in the telescope.Both Rufous and Broad-billed Motmot's were seen and most of the group got onto a rare Sharpbill!. It began to rain heavy again so we made our way back out of the forest and had our picnic lunch by the visitors centre. Above us huge White-collared Swifts soared around, but little else. Leaving here a quick stop was made again at the hummingbird flowers and here we enjoyed the same species as we had seen earlier. We then drove back to our lodge. Along the way a stop at the river bridge had an Amazon Kingfisher perform well for us again, and then in the sky above we had great views of a King Vulture slowly drifting past. Almost back to the lodge we decided to try a grassy area for seedfinches. On a distant tree good scope views were had of a diminutive Bat Falcon, while in the grasses were lots of Variable Seed-eaters and a few Thick-billed Seed-finches. Luckily one female Pink-billed Seed-finch was seen, this being yet another difficult bird to find in Costa Rica nowadays. Back at the lodge and information received via Kev's contacts had us out of the coach and crossing the swing bridge into the opposite forest. From the bridge we saw a Fasciated Tiger-heron sat on a nest, but we had to carry on through the wood to an area where, sat high in the canopy and looking somewhat like a huge owl was incredibly our second potoo species of the tour, a Great Potoo. Although seventy feet up, I still managed a record shot for our report. We then made our way back to the bridge where a Ringed and Amazon Kingfisher were seen as well as the Fasciated Tiger-heron which was now stood amongst the rocks. Just as we arrived back by the restaurant panic ensued as a Snowy Cotinga was seen sat on a dead tree and everyone rushed around trying to get views of this excellent bird. Although it gave us a bit of a game of hide-and-seek, everyone eventually saw it through a telescope. We aimed to meet back later for a short evening excursion.

White- throated Shrike-tanager
Green-and-Black Poison Dart Frogs.

Myself, Bob, Dave and Martin managed to see a group of Red-throated Ant-tanagers and several of the group also saw Green-and-Black Poison Dart Frogs. We met as arranged and drove a short distance to another private lodge.  A quick word with the owner and in no time at all he led us to a nearby area of trees where we were soon treated to excellent views of our  eighth species of owl, a beautiful pair of Spectacled Owls which sat on an open branch in full view watching us. The views through the scope were fabulous although a little dark for a crisp photo!

Once again an excellent end to the day.

Spectacled Owls
Dusky-faced Tanager

Day 11  28th Jan

Everyone met for an early breakfast. Nothing unusual there! We then took our luggage to the coach and split into two groups to search the gardens. It wasn't long before Kevin's group called us on the two-way radios saying they had just found our target bird, a Grey-necked Woodrail. My group were soon on the scene and before long everyone had excellent close views of this really attractive chicken-sized bird. Our second target bird, Red-throated Ant-tanager, was then found when a small flock was spotted coming down to one of bird tables. A quick search of the river failed to produce much,so we boarded the coach and set off on our way. Another brief stop was made further along the river, and the best find was by Keith of a Louisiana Waterthrush. Our next stop was the entrance road to La Selva. Here we walked a muddy track to a small fairly open section of woodland. Fantastic views were had of a group of six or seven Swallow-tailed Kites as they glided low overhead. We then scoped a Short-billed Pigeon and watched a tiny Black-headed Tody-flycatcher while an adult Semiplumbeous Hawk flew over. Nearby we got superb views of two Pied Puffbirds and a long look at a Dusky-faced Tanager. As we slowly returned towards the coach a White-collared Manakin was seen, and amongst a small feeding flock there were Slate-headed Tody-flycatcher, Rufous-tailed Jacamar, and a lot of Passerine's Tanagers. Several of the group who had poor views of Little Tinamou yesterday, wanted to try again, so the rest of us walked to a different area along the road. We were surprised at how quiet it had already become. The others soon joined us having had fantastic views of two Little Tinamou's walking across the track in front of them. Everyone together we then walked a little further, seeing a very photogenic Rufous-tailed Jacamar on the way. In a bare tree we had good views of a female Blue Dacnis and several Yellow-crowned Euphonia's, plus a pair of Band-backed Wrens nest building. A slight change in plan had us drive to an area along the river where we took a leisurely boat trip. Drifting along we saw very little as the water levels were very high! A Neotropical River Otter was excellent sat on a log, but we missed out on our target bird the Sungrebe. Leaving the river we next drove to a private lodge having been invited by the owners. We had our picnic lunch here and they showed some of the group the many different Helliconias that they grew. A walk around their garden showed us a Bronzy Hermit sat on it's nest and then we got good looks at a beautiful Cinnamon Woodpecker. Time to leave so we boarded the coach and set off. Along the way a Snowy Cotinga was spotted but it flew off before we could get a good look at it. We then settled down and enjoyed the scenery as we drove to Rancho Naturalista.

Rufous-tailed Jacamar
Rancho Naturalista.

Late afternoon we reached the steep track that took us up to this pleasant lodge that overlooked the whole valley. Once we had been shown to our rooms we met up on the balcony of the main lodge and with a cool beer in one hand and binoculars in the other we soaked up the wonderful atmosphere of hummingbirds coming to feeders just inches away from us and then sitting on nearby trees looking wonderful in the evening light. Amongst the species here were Green-breasted Mango's, Crowned Woodnymph's, a Violet-headed and a dainty Green Thorntail. A delicious evening meal was had, followed by our traditional evening roll-call.

Day 12   29th Jan

Mottled Owl

Early morning from the balcony at Rancho Naturalista is always a magical time. The garden had been filled with bananas and rice, and as we sipped hot coffee the carnival of birds began to arrive. Grey-headed Chachalaca's and Brown Jays were first, soon to be followed by Montezuma's Oropendola's and Clay-coloured Thrushes. Next came Black-headed Saltator, Scarlet-rumped Cacique's, Passerine's and Blue-grey Tanagers and both Hoffman's and Black-cheeked Woodpeckers. A Golden-olive Woodpecker was seen in a nearby tree and then a White-throated Crake appeared by the pond. With coffee still flowing we added White-lined Tanager, Bananaquit, Summer Tanager and then a Little Tinamou. The hummingbirds had now become active and added to the species we saw yesterday were Little Hermit and a male and female Black-crested Coquette. We had to stop for breakfast after which we set of on a walk into the forest. We first stopped at the woodland hummingbird feeders and saw several Snowcaps, a speciality of staying at Rancho, and there were also Green Thorntail, White-necked Jacobin's, and Green Hermit amongst others.

White-necked Jacobin
Tufted Flycatchers

Further into the forest and we were soon watching a White-throated Spadebill and nearby the tiny Scale-crested Pygmy Tyrant, White-collared Manakins and both Barred and Plain-brown Woodcreeper. Along a different trail and a Black-headed Nightingale-Thrush showed well while a Tawny-chested Flycatcher was eventually seen by everyone. The rest of the trails seemed rather quiet today, but we did manage to find a group of Ashy-throated Bush-tanagers, a pair of Plain Antvireo's, Golden-crowned Warblers, and a glimpse of Dull-mantled Antbird. We then returned to the lodge for lunch. Just after, we were treated to the sight of two Crimson-collared Tanagers in the garden and a group of fifty plus Sulphur-winged Parakeets. After a short siesta everyone gathered together and took a short walk back into the forest to where Steve, Kevin's brother and lodge guide, had found a roosting Mottled Owl. We had excellent views of this our ninth owl species before returning to the coach and driving a short distance up the valley. We got out and continued walking along the river. Bob found a nice male White-ruffed Manakin which was soon joined by another couple of birds. Further on and it appeared very quiet. As we returned towards the coach we did find a very small flock which held Speckled Tanagers, Yellow-bellied Elaenia and Black-and-white Warbler. Unfortunately while going through this flock we missed a Tiny Hawk that Kev had just found perched on a dead tree. We returned back to the lodge just in time for dinner.

Day  13   30th Jan

mountain hike
Lovely Cotinga

Today was the day we split the group with some undertaking the strenuous mountain hike and the others searching the forest trails of Rancho. The group going up the mountain had to have breakfast early and then with packed lunches headed off in the coach to the bottom of the mountain. There was very little seen for the first part of the climb, we just had to negotiate a stream and some very boggy areas. As we got higher we found Olive-sided Flycatcher, Dark Pewee and Black-bellied Hummingbird. Much higher and nearer to the forest edge a Strong-billed Woodcreeper was seen by everyone briefly in the scope before it flew off. A little further on, a Costa Rican Pygmy-owl was heard calling and after half an hour of looking at one particular tree,  Keith eventually spotted it and we had wonderful scopes views before it was mobbed by a group of small birds. Nearby we saw Red-faced Spinetail, Olive-yellow and Tufted Flycatchers, Collared Trogon and Acorn Woodpecker. Continuing on through the forest the trail become steep, narrow and very muddy. A feeding flock made us work hard but eventually everyone saw Spectacled Foliage-gleaner and up to three Rufous-rumped Antwrens, both of these being excellent Costa Rican birds. We also had a group of Black-thighed Grosbeaks. We eventually reached a clearing where we sat down tired, sweaty and covered in mud, and here we had our lunch. While catching our breath three Resplendent Quetzals flew across the hillside below us and a male Elegant Euphonia sang from a tree top. We met the local farmer who lived most of each week here and he told us of the birds he sees quite regularly " the blue one" this unbeknown to him was one of our target birds. We picked a good viewing spot and scanned all the tree tops, and after half an hour I then spotted the "blue one" a stunning male   Lovely Cotinga sat like a blue light bulb in a distant tree. We all had good telescope views of this fabulous bird before it flew off, only to land in a tree much closer. I managed a record photo shot of it before it flew again to a nearby tree and joined a female. The views through the scope were fantastic and delighted with this we started our climb back down. We found the Quetzals again and had good views of them high in a tree top. Near the forest edge we had a couple of close flyby's by a Barred Forest Falcon but we never saw it perched. After a long a slippery walk back down the mountain we washed our boots off in a stream and then each had a cold beer from the cool box on the coach. Ramon then drove us back to the lodge where we met up with the other group who had also had an excellent day.

Thanks go to Bob who kept the daily diary for this group.

From the veranda before breakfast 46 species were seen proving the attraction of this wonderful lodge and its gardens. Amongst the birds seen were Collared Aracari's, Golden-olive Woodpecker, White-crowned Parrot, both Chestnut-headed and Montezuma's Oropendola,s including males of the later performing their acrobatic displays in the tree tops. A Little Tinamou was heard calling and other species noted included Streak-headed Woodcreeper, Golden-hooded Tanagers, Blue-winged Warbler, Snowcap, Green Thorntail and Green-breasted Mango's.

Green-breasted Mango
Keel-billed Toucans

After a filling breakfast the group led by Steve Easley, Kevin's brother and resident guide for Rancho, went into the meadows adjacent to the lodge. Here very close views were had of Southern Rough-winged Swallows and colourful Keel-billed Toucans. Also seen were Ochre-bellied Flycatcher, fifty or more Montazuma's Orependolas flying over, a Masked Tityra and then while a Fulvous-bellied Antpitta called, a Buff-throated Foliage-gleaner was heard and then seen flying. Leaving the meadows and entering the forest, it wasn't long before an ant swarm was found on the lower trail. Birds were everywhere and over the next couple of hours by keeping up with the swarm and going up and down the terraced trail notable species included, Black-headed Tody-flycatcher, Ashy-throated Bush-tanagers, Olivaceous Woodcreeper, Plain Xenops, the tiny Scale-crested Pygmy-tyrant, Spotted Woodcreeper, superb views of a perched immature Barred Forest-falcon, Immaculate Antbird, Buff-throated Saltator, Red-throated Ant-tanager and a Spotted Antbird. Leaving the forest a quick stop at the hummingbird feeders saw Green Hermit, Red-footed Plumeleteer and Snowcap. It was then back to the lodge for a welcome lunch after a very hectic mornings birding. After lunch, the obligatory look from the veranda drinking a nice cool beer or perhaps two! was pleasantly interrupted by the sight of a White-throated Crake at the drinking pool, Sulphur-winged Parrots, Grey-capped Flycatcher and three Masked Tityra's displaying to a female. Everyone then returned to the lower forest trail and re-found the ant swarm. Birding was even more manic than before, and by the end of the afternoon the group was truly birded out! Some of the most memorable sightings were of Rufous-tailed Jacamar, Russet Antshrike, Eye-ringed Flatbill, Slaty Antwren, Dusky Antbird, Buff-throated Foliage-gleaner, Long-billed Gnatwren, Brown-billed Scythebill, White-shouldered Tanager and Tawny-capped Euphonia. A Scaled Antpitta was spotted by the guide but as is typical of such birds it hoped quickly away and was just missed by the group.  


Day  14   31st Jan

After an early breakfast we loaded the coach and were on our way. A couple of brief stops were planned for today and we arrived at the first after about half an hour. As we pulled in to a worksite pond, a Mourning Dove was seen on a telegraph wire and then as we watched this about six Spotted-bellied Bobwhite came out of the nearby grass and gave us superb views. On the pond we found Blue-winged Teal and stood along the bank were several Killdeer while in the bushes behind us a Golden-olive Woodpecker sat in the sunlight. We then continued our journey to Tapanti National Park.

Tapanti National Park
Emerald Toucanet

Along the approach road we stopped and most of the group got onto a couple of skulky Yellow-throated Brush-finches as an Osprey flew down river. Only a short distance on and we hit a good flock of birds. The most obvious were a pair of White-winged Tanagers, with the male sat preening for ages. A few species of warbler included Blackburnian and Black-and-white, while both Yellow-throated and Philadelphia Vireos were seen. As the flock slowly moved we found Smoky-brown and Golden-olive Woodpeckers and then a really good bird which everyone saw well was a Streaked Xenops. We then moved on to the park itself, and around the administration buildings we saw a female and a stunning male Black-bellied Hummingbird and a Black-banded Woodcreeper. Further into the park we searched a small trail where we eventually found a small flock which included Collared Trogons, Red-faced Spinetail, Spotted Barbtail, Eye-ringed Flatbill, and a dainty Ruddy-tailed Flycatcher. We then made several stops as we travelled higher into the park, finding Ruddy Treerunner and a couple of Emerald Toucanets. Lunch was had over looking the beautiful river that ran through the heavily forest reserve, after which we slowly descended, again making a few stops along the way. We eventually found some Black-and-yellow Silky-flycatchers which although seen in the drizzle, showed well. Leaving the park we headed for Cartargo and onwards towards Cerro de Muerte. Our second pond stop added a few new species to our trip list including amongst the many Blue-winged Teal, a Wilson's Snipe, American Coot, Moorhen, Lesser Scaup, Solitary Sandpiper and a Green-winged Teal. We also saw several Lesser Yellowlegs, Least Sandpipers and a Black-necked Stilt. Back on the coach and we settled down for the long drive to Cerro de Meurte. Passing through rain clouds we climbed higher and higher until our turn of at 10,000ft. Here we slowly drove the dirt road down the valley towards our wonderfully situated lodge. Along the way we saw a Black-billed Nightingale-Thrush and lots of Sooty Thrushes. Arriving at the lodge we went straight to the hummingbird feeders while our rooms were being sorted. On the feeders and literally just inches away were huge Magnificent and tiny Volcano and Scintillent Hummingbirds, Green-Violet-ear, and White-throated Mountain-gems. A perfect end to the day.

Day  15   1st Feb

Resplendent Quetzal

After breakfast we drove a few kilometres up the valley and entered an area of fruiting avocado trees. Within a couple of minutes we were watching a magnificent adult male Resplendent Quetzal sat in full view in a tree just forty feet away. The excitement was uncontainable as over the next hour "quetzalmania" ensued, with males flying in and posing in different trees for us.   We watched later as some of them flew off to another area, flying high across an open sky, calling and trailing their incredibly long streamers behind them. Our fantastic views of up to nine of these birds proved undoubtedly that they must rank as one of the worlds most beautiful birds! Finding it very hard to tear ourselves away from the last remaining birds, we watched a splendid Flame-coloured Tanager sat in a tree top, as well as a group of Long-tailed Silky-flycatchers. Back towards where our coach was parked we had really good scope views of a Rufous-browed Peppershrike. We then returned back to the lodge and took a four-wheel drive truck to the top of the mountain. Here amongst the forest we took a slow walk along one of the trails that headed back down towards the lodge. A Barred Forest-falcon was calling close by, but never revealed itself. Along the narrow trail we eventually came across a flock of birds which consisted mainly of Black-cheeked Warblers and Sooty-capped Bush-tanagers. We waited and the activity increased with several species of warbler appearing along with Yellow-throated Vireo, Collared Trogon, Yellow-thighed Finches, Slate-throated Redstart and a single Stripe-tailed Hummingbird. Further on we found another flock which held Spot-crowned Woodcreeper and the star bird a Buffy Tuftedcheek, this bird representing a staggering 500th species seen on this tour! A Hairy Woodpecker then showed well before we exited the forest and made our way down the dirt road back to the lodge. Our final descent did find us an obliging Black-capped Flycatcher and a Mountain Eleania. We had our lunch and then looked around the gardens were Slaty Flowerpiercers and hummingbirds abound. Some of the group decided to take it easy while the rest headed back up the steep mountain, by vehicle of course. Once at the top we tried a different trail and after some effort we got glimpses of a pair of Large-footed Finche's which liked to stay deep in cover. Nearby Collared Redstarts as ever looked bright and cheerful, and in the distance we could here the distinctive call of a Highland Tinamou. Impossible to get to, we were then distracted by the raucous calls of Silvery-throated Jays which sent us hurrying in their direction. Incredibly difficult to see at first we eventually managed to get everyone scope views of this difficult species as they sneaked around high in the canopy. We headed slowly back down to an open area just above the lodge and waited until dusk. It was decidedly cold and only one Dusky Nightjar was heard but not seen.  

Slate-throated Redstart
Forest trail

Day  16   2nd Feb

After breakfast we loaded our luggage onto the coach and then we took a short walk down to the gardens beside the river. Because the sun had not quite got to the trees, there was very little activity, however it wasn't long before the distinctive call of a Yellow-winged Vireo could be heard down near the road. Once we were at the spot a few brief views were had of a pair of these birds before they flew off. We headed in the direction they flew which was now bathed in sunlight. The bird activity was picking up and a nice Yellow-bellied Siskin fed in the grass just in front of us. Warblers flitted around, Acorn Woodpeckers flew back and forth and then back down by the road we watched a pair of Brown-capped Vireos and got more views of the Yellow-winged Vireo. Strolling back towards the lodge we were met by the coach and then we drove a short distance up the valley for a roadside stop. Lots of Mountain Thrushes were seen but unfortunately a Streak-breasted Treehunter was only seen briefly as it flew over our heads and landed out of sight calling continuously. Further up the valley another stop gave us superb views of a group of ten Long-tailed Silky-flycatchers while continuing up the valley a Volcano Junco was spotted singing from a shack roof. Further on we drove into thick cloud, which persisted until we reached 11,000ft, where it began to clear. Searching this Central American paramo we found several Black-billed Nightingale-thrushes and while a Zeledonia called nearby we watched a couple of  Large-footed Finche's, and everyone had good views of Timberline Wren. Volcano Hummingbirds sat around and Sooty Robin's showed well, but try as we may Zeledonia's never showed to the group.

Volcano Hummingbird
Sooty Robin

Keith was lucky however, as he was stood just in the right spot when I whistled one up, which he saw briefly before it disappeared. It was time to leave so we drove back towards San Jose. Our final stop en-route was along a road leading to a rich cloud forest. Here we had Fiery-throated Hummingbirds feeding on low flowers and showing their aptly named colourful plumage. While we ate our picnic lunches a Costa Rican Pygmy-owl could be heard calling. Leaving these beautiful highlands we drove back through San Jose and finally to our hotel twenty minutes from the airport. After a short break we met up and searched the gardens. Our best find and last new bird of the tour was a couple of White-eared Ground-sparrows. We did try in the evening for Bare-shanked Screech-owl but it was far to windy and we returned having failed this bird but seen far more than any other groups with ten species of owl to our credit. Fantastic! In fact the whole tour was fantastic with many rare and hard to find species giving themselves up to a wonderful and very appreciable group.

We totalled an amazing 513 species, not including birds heard or birds seen by just one group member or by the leaders alone. A real thrill from the leaders point of view was that nearly everyone in the group got to see 500 species or more, a sign that we really do try to get everyone to see everything.

Day  17   3rd Feb

We caught our early flight back to Houston, connecting to London Gatwick where another highly successful birdseekers tour concluded.

Kevin and I would like to thank everyone on this record breaking tour who made it such a pleasure to lead.  

Trip list


birdseekers photos