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A Report from

Costa Rica 3-19 March 2005,

Martyn Anderson and Liz Naughton

Accommodation was individually booked via the internet months in advance of the holiday, Some needed to be pre-paid, others wanted cash on arrival. Car hire was also booked over the internet.

Flights were booked via a local travel agent, and cost the same as on-line bookings. We were pleased to have used a travel agent as there were minor changes to flight times and we needed to change one flight in order to ensure we met connections. A minimum of two hours between flights is advised. The travel agent kept us informed of any changes in the schedule.


3 March

We flew with Continental Airlines from Newcastle airport at 06.30, via London Gatwick and Houston Texas, arriving at San Jose at 22.20 local time. Costa Rica was 6 hours behind GMT. Our original booking was with KLM/Martinair via Amsterdam and Miami, but due to 19 inches of snow in Amsterdam we had been re-routed. Thankfully all our luggage arrived with us and we were only 40 minutes later than scheduled. We had pre-arranged a pick-up from the airport by Hotel Brilla Sol, but they were no longer waiting, having met the Martinair flight. Help was at hand, however. Numerous friendly locals were outside hoping to provide taxis for arriving passengers. One local offered to telephone Hotel Brilla Sol, (tip given) and 15 minutes later our lift arrived. We finally collapsed into bed at around 23.30.

4 March

Strolls in the Hotel Brilla Sol grounds, both before and after breakfast, provided the first birds of our trip. These included cinnamon and rufous tailed hummingbirds, blue and white swallows and brown jay. At 09.00, as arranged, our Adobe Rent-A-Car arrived, a Diahatsu Terrios 4x4 (and very capable), small sized but ideal for just 2 people. After sorting the paperwork at the Adobe office near the airport we were on our way to our first stop at the Tarcoles River bridge. This spot, although a bit hairy with traffic zooming by quite close (some of the local drivers are a bit on the insane side), was very productive bird-wise. Squirrel cuckoo, scarlet macaw, turquoise browed motmot, northern jacana and yellow-headed caracara to name a few; also some large american crocodiles. The café on the north side of the bridge is good.

We stayed the next two nights at Villa Lapas on a bed and breakfast basis (other meals available). The hotel is highly recommended. Breakfast consisted of cereal, fresh fruit (fabulous), cooked food, toast and coffee. Birds around here included rufous naped wren, fiery billed aracari, variable seedeater, rose throated becard, and our only painted bunting and myarchus flycatcher (great crested) of the trip.

5 March

Up at 05.30 (as every morning from today) out and around Villa Lapas before breakfast. After breakfast we went to Carara National Park. Bird highlights here included streaked flycatcher, white shouldered tanager, crested guan and orange collared manakin.

6 March

Around Villa Lapas until just after breakfast, then drove to Santa Elena where we stayed in a self catering cabin at Cabanas Capulin. This was very pleasant just outside Santa Elena on the way to Santa Elena Cloud Forest Preserve. Okay if most of your time is spent at Santa Elena, but if you’re concentrating on Montverde a closer accommodation would be beneficial. At the cabins were a good variety of birds, making it difficult to prise yourself away early a.m. to go to the cloud forest preserves. Birds at the cabins included brown hooded parrot, mountain elaenia and green violet ear.

7 and 9 March

These two days were spent at Monteverde cloud forest reserve, easily the better of the two reserves visited in this area. We had superb views of resplendent quetzal both days, plus a good variety of other species. A full species list is at the end of this report.

8 March

A.M. and early P.M. spent at Santa Elena cloud forest. This was rather disappointing with long periods of no birds at all. We spent 5.5 hours in the reserve and saw only 12 species(!), but included our only collared trogon, yellow thighed finch and golden winged warbler.

10 March

We travelled to Selva Verde, our digs for the next 2 nights, again a superb place to stay with excellent catering. We arrived mid-afternoon. After settling in a walk around the grounds produced amazon kingfisher, blue crowned motmot, numerous green and black poison dart frogs and some huge ctenosaur lizards, at least 5 feet long.

11 March

We took advantage of an early 6am free 1 hour guided bird walk, taken by Gilbert. It was so productive that we paid for a 2.5 hour guided walk into and around the private primary forest across the river from Selva Verde Lodge. Again this was with Gilbert who was absolutely superb in attitude, humour and bird recognition, especially the calls and songs. This was something we found quite frustrating and time consuming when we were on our own. A tip would be to swot up on calls and songs before going if possible. If the other guides are as good as Gilbert, I can’t say, but with his help we saw 65 species this morning including spectacled antpitta, violaceous trogon and broad billed motmot.

12 March

After heavy overnight rain we were out at daybreak around Selva Verde until 8am when it poured with rain until about 11am. The river rose at least 2 feet from the previous day. We bird watched the covered walkways until the rain stopped, then other areas of the grounds until 1pm, seeing amongst others white collared manikin and buff rumped warbler. P.M. was spent travelling to our next destination, Guapiles. We stayed at the hotel Suerre. This was difficult to find and not in the best part of town - not recommended. Late pm and early evening we bird watched a dirt track south of Guapiles, seeing our only eastern meadow lark, myrtle warbler and black-striped sparrows of the trip.

13 March

We spent most of the day on the Quebrada Gonzales trail at Braullio Carrillo National Park - boy, was it hard work! The trail is steep, narrow and rocky at times and was wet and slippery. Birds were hard to find. 15 species in 5 hours, but this included tawny crested tanager, white crowned parrot, rufous winged woodpecker and a superb pair of bat falcons. Mid to late pm was spent at the botanical gardens of Los Cusingos, a super area of forest but, as most places, quiet bird-wise at this time of day.

14 March

After the excitement of a pair of barred ant shrikes in the hotel car park we travelled to the Tapanti area, staying at Kiri Lodge, near Tapanti National Park for the last 4 nights of the trip. This is a fabulous place to stay. 43 species in 1.5 hours before breakfast on 18/3 around the lodge. The food is good too. Just before you arrive there, after Orosi and Purisil is a wooden suspension bridge over the river. A large conifer tree on the right hand side of the road held a colony of nesting chestnut headed oropendolas.

15, 16, 17 and early am 18 March

All spent around Kiri Lodge and in Tapanti National Park. In the National Park we would advise bird watching along the road which was quiet traffic-wise. We tried most of the forest trails here, and found them fairly unproductive. At the mirador at the far end where you cannot drive any further we saw slaty backed nightingale thrush, and found an active green fronted lance bill nest under the roof of a picnic shelter. This is a superb place with a lot of species diversity.

18 March pm

Journey home with Martinair via Orlando and Amsterdam.


The weather during our trip was mostly sunny with patchy cloud and light breezes apart from the rainy morning at Selva Verde and one or two misty showers at Santa Elena. Daylight is from approximately 5.30am to 5.30pm.

Travel tips

Do not underestimate your travelling time in this country as the roads at times are twisty, have many ascents and descents and are not always in the best of conditions. There are a lot of slow over-laden wagons which, due to the twistiness of the roads, can be difficult to pass. Road signs are almost none existent. Ask locals for directions. A knowledge of Spanish is very helpful.

Travel to, from and around the Monteverde area is on roads notorious for being in poor condition. When we were there we planned to take the turn off the CA1 at Rancho Gde, but we missed it and took the next one near San Gerardo. There is no sign at Rancho Gde but the turn is just after crossing the river. Make every effort to find this turn as the first third of the way to Monteverde is a surfaced road, as opposed to dirt track all the way at the San Gerardo turn. The dirt roads up to Monteverde were not as bad as expected, but still need a lot of care. Around Monteverde and Santa Elena they are poor, but regular grading seems to help at times. At no time were the roads any worse than the tracks to the Coto Donana in Spain. From the CA1 turn off to Monteverde it takes approximately 2.5 hours to Santa Elena village. A word of advice - part of the way along, the road splits into 2 with a right fork to San Luis. We took the left which got us to Santa Elena OK. Whether you can take the right I do not know, but Monteverde is marked that way but scratched out on the sign.

Getting to the airport in San Jose from the south is tricky. Follow the 39 past Haltos 1-8, then take the 3, which is not signposted but a sign for the airport can be seen to your left as you cross the 3 on the 39. You can U-turn a little further on past a sculpture park on the left if, like us, you miss the 3 turn-off. Make sure you take the slip road before re-crossing the 3 or you will be going the wrong way.

We found bird watching on narrow forest trails largely unproductive, and unless searching for specialities of thick undergrowth would advise the trails wide enough for vehicles.


B = Braullio
C = Carara
CC = Cabanas Capulin (Santa Elena village)
G = Guapiles
M = Monteverde
SE = Santa Elena Cloud Forest
SJ = San Jose
SV = Selva Verde
T = Travelling
TP = Tapanti
TR = Tarcoles
VL = Villa Lapas

Brown pelican VL
Magnificent frigate bird VL
Fasciated tiger heron SV
Cattle egret CC, T, TR, G, SV, TP
Green backed heron TP
Little blue heron TR, SV, TP
Tricoloured heron TR
Snowy egret T, G, SV
Great egret T, TR, G
Great blue heron TR, SV
Wood stork TR
White ibis SV, TR, C
Roseate spoonbill TR
Turkey vulture CC, T, TR, SJ, VL, G, B, SV, TP, C
Black vulture CC, T, TR, SJ, G, B, SV, TP, C
King vulture SV
Osprey TP
American swallow tailed kite TP
Gray hawk T
Roadside hawk G, TP
Broad winged hawk T, SV, TP
Swainson’s hawk SV
Zone tailed hawk C
Crested caracara T, TR, G
Yellow headed caracara TR
Bat falcon B
Crested guan C
Black guan M, TP
Sunbittern SV
Northern jacana T, TR, G
Black necked stilt TR
Semi palmated plover TR
Willet TR
Spotted sandpiper TR, VL, SV
Rock dove/feral pigeon TR
Band tailed pigeon CC, TP
Red billed pigeon CC, G, SV, TP
Ruddy pigeon TR, SV
White winged dove TR
Ruddy ground dove TR, SV
Inca dove TR, SJ, VL
White tipped dove TR, TP
Scarlet macaw TR, VL, C
Orange chinned parakeet VL, SV
Brown hooded parrot CC, SV
White crowned parrot B
White fronted parrot T
Mealy parrot SV
Squirrel cuckoo T, TR
Groove billed ani TR, G, C
White collared swift B, TP, C
Vaux’s swift TP
Gray rumped swift SV
Long tailed hermit G, SV
Green hermit M
Green fronted lancebill TP
Violet sabrewing M, TP
White necked jacobin SV
Brown violet ear TP
Green violet ear CC
Green thorntail TP
Blue tailed hummingbird VL
Cinnamon hummingbird TR, SJ
Rufous tailed hummingbird SJ, SV, TP
Striped tailed hummingbird CC, M
Coppery headed emerald M
Red footed plumeleteer SV
White bellied mountain gem TP
Purple throated mountain gem SE, M
Green crowned brilliant M, TP
Magenta throated woodstar SE, M
Resplendent quetzal M
Slaty tailed trogon SV
Baird’s trogon C
Collared trogon SE
Orange bellied trogon M
Violaceous trogon SV
Ringed kingfisher VL, SV
Amazon kingfisher SV
Green kingfisher TR, VL, SV
Broad billed motmot SV
Turquoise browed motmot T, TR
Blue crowned motmot M, T, C
Prong billed barbet M
Emerald toucanet M, TP
Collared aracari SV
Fiery billed aracari VL
Keel billed toucan SV
Chestnut mandibled toucan VL, G, SV
Black cheeked woodpecker SV
Hoffman’s woodpecker CC, VL, TP, C
Smoky brown woodpecker M, SV
Red rumped woodpecker CC
Golden olive woodpecker TP
Rufous winged woodpecker B
Pale billed woodpecker T
Streaked headed woodcreeper C
Spotted crowned woodcreeper VL
Red faced spinetail TP
Spotted barbtail SE, M
Ruddy treerunner SE, M
Buffy tuftedcheek TP
Buff throated foliage gleaner C
Plain xenops C
Barred antshrike G
Black hooded antshrike C
Slaty antwren TP
Dotted winged antwren C
Chestnut backed antbird SV, C
Spectacled antpitta SV
Cinnamon becard SV, TP
Rose throated becard VL, SV, C
Masked tityra CC, M, SV
Black crowned tityra SV
Orange collared manakin C
White collared manakin SV
Black phoebe SV, TP
Long tailed tyrant SV
Tropical kingbird G, B, SV
Western kingbird CC, M, TR, VL, C
Piratic flycatcher SV, TP
White ringed flycatcher CC, VL, G, B
Boat billed flycatcher CC, SV
Bright rumped attila SV, TP
Sulphur bellied flycatcher TP
Streaked flycatcher VL, C
Gray capped flycatcher SV, TP
Social flycatcher M, VL, B, TP
Great kiskadee TR, SJ, VL, G, SV, TP
Great crested flycatcher VL
Western wood pewee TP
Eastern wood pewee TP
Yellowish flycatcher M
Tufted flycatcher TP
Ruddy tailed flycatcher C
White throated spadebill M
Yellow margined flycatcher SV, TP
Common toady flycatcher TR, VL
Scale crested pygmy tyrant TP
Yellow tyrannulet SV
Yellow bellied elaenia SV, TP
Mountain elaenia CC
Mistletoe tyrannulet TP
Barn swallow VL
Southern rough winged swallow TR, G, B, SV
Northern rough winged swallow G, TP
Blue and white swallow CC, M, SJ, G, TP
Mangrove swallow TR
White throated magpie jay T
Brown jay CC, M, SJ, G, SV, TP, C
Rufous naped wren VL, SV, C
Plain wren CC, VL
Striped breasted wren B, SV
Bay wren SV
House wren G, TP
Ochraceous wren M, TP
Gray breasted woodwren SE, M, TP
Gray catbird G
White throated robin TP
Clay coloured robin SJ, VL, G, SV, TP, C
Mountain robin CC, M
Black faced solitaire SE, M, TP
Wood thrush SV
Slaty backed nightingale thrush TP
Orange billed nightingale thrush TP
Tropical gnatcatcher SV, C
Black and yellow silky flycatcher M
Philadelphia vireo VL, TP
Warbling vireo C
Lesser greenlet TP
Bananaquit M, SV, TP
Black and white warbler M, TP, C
Golden winged warbler SE
Tennessee warbler CC, TP
Three striped warbler SE, M, TP
Tropical parula TP
Yellow warbler TR, SJ, SV, C
Myrtle warbler G
Townsend’s warbler CC
Black throated green warbler M
Blackburnian warbler TP
Chestnut sided warbler SV, TP
Northern waterthrush VL
Kentucky warbler SV
Wilson’s warbler CC, M, TP
Slate throated redstart SE, CC, M, TP
Collared redstart SE, M
Buff rumped warbler SV
Chestnut headed oropendola TP
Scarlet rumped cacique B, SV
Bronzed cowbird TP
Great tailed grackle M, TR, SJ, VL, G, B, SV, TP
Baltimore oriole CC, M, VL, G, TP
Eastern meadowlark G
Golden browed chlorophonia M
Blue hooded euphonia TP
Yellow crowned euphonia SV
Yellow throated euphonia CC, M, VL
Olive backed euphonia SV
Silver throated tanager TP
Golden hooded tanager VL, G, SV, TP, C
Bay headed tanager SV, TP,C
Spangled cheeked tanager TP
Red legged honeycreeper CC, VL
Shining honeycreeper SV
Scarlet thighed dacnis M, TP
Blue gray tanager CC, M, TR, VL, G, SV, TP, C
Palm tanager VL, G, SV, TP
Passerini’s tanager G, SV, TP
Crimson collared tanager TP
Summer tanager VL, SV, TP, C
White winged tanager TP
Red throated ant tanager SV
White shouldered tanager C
Tawny crested tanager B
Common bush tanager SE, M, TP
Buff throated saltator SV, TP, C
Black faced grosbeak SV
Rose breasted grosbeak CC, M, VL
Blue black grosbeak VL
Painted bunting VL
Yellow faced grassquit CC, TP
Variable seedeater VL
Thick billed seed finch G, SV
Blue black grassquit TR, VL, G
Yellow thighed finch SE
Yellow throated brush finch TP
Orange billed sparrow VL, B, SV
Black striped sparrow G
Rufous collared sparrow CC, TP
Lesser goldfinch VL
House sparrow SV, TP


Other wildlife

Brown mantled howler monkey
White faced capuchin
White nosed coati
Blue morpho butterfly
Owl butterfly
Ctenosaur lizard
Brown vine snake
Squirrel sp. (various)
Lizards (various)
Butterflies (various)
Green and black poison dart frog
Strawberry poison dart frog
Toad sp.
Bat sp.
Crocodile sp.

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