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Birding in Costa Rica

May 11, 2012

Scarlet Macaw in Costa Rica

by Mary Brenner

We left a much cooler Pennsylvania for San Jose, Costa Rica, where my husband, Randy and I met our guide, Rudy. If you know Rudy, you know that our adventure began the moment we met him with binoculars in hand. From the Caribbean Lowlands to the Pacific coast, we birded our way across the country.

The adventure across central Costa Rica began with drive through Braulio Carillo National Park, lush and mountainous. We stopped for birds and caught a glimpse of my first Green Violetear hummingbird! Later, we saw Tiger Heron and Grey Hawks. Soon we were at the Selva Verde Lodge in the Caribbean Lowlands. Two nights at each lodge gave us opportunity to become comfortable with our surroundings as birds, animals and terrain changed with each new stay.

An iguana at La Selva, the bridges, howler monkeys

Selva Verde area provided us with the chance to view howler monkeys and white hawks.

A stop at La Selva Biological Reserve was delightful as we discovered that the naturalists and birders of Costa Rica are a wonderful family of science-minded folks who shared their treasures with us. On my first day, I was welcomed by Crested Guan, Tinamou and huge iguanas hanging in the trees.

The ride to Arenal Observatory Lodge was entertaining. We stopped for lunch at a local outdoor restaurant. One word: delicious! Another word: coffee.

Crested Guan, the lodge at Arenal, and an Oropendola

At Arenal, my favorite destination, we birded the grounds and gardens. Our room had a view of the dormant Arenal volcano. The gardens provided a huge fig tree which had ripe figs during our stay and served as a magnet for all the birds, especially the Passerini Tanangers. Below in the flower beds, the rufous-tailed hummingbirds were sharing the verbena with a Black-crested Coquette. Oropendolas streaked through the sky from tree to tree and we were able to view their nests which were similar to an oriole’s. Coatis scampered playfully below the feeders looking hopefully for fallen fruit.

Blue grey tanager at Arenal, Motmot and a magical walk

Our drive to Monteverde was around Lake Arenal. We viewed the dairy farms and coffee plantations that shared the land with the untouched forests. Monteverde’s history is quite interesting and I was able to go to a lecture by one of the original Quakers who founded Monteverde and created the Cloud Forest Reserve. It was windy and much cooler. Huge, old trees and magical walks up groomed steps through ferns at least a story high were other worldly.  Colorful birds delighted us in the green heaven.

Then we headed off to the Pacific Central Coast. Our hotel was situated on a cliff overlooking the Pacific Ocean. Swallows danced through the clouds as we ate our lunch. Morning coffee on the patio brought views of the magnificent Scarlet Macaws. We took a morning hike at Carara Park, discovering Motmots among many other species of birds.

Violet Sabrewing, hummingbirds feeding and a photo shoot at the Arenal waterfall

We headed south along the coast via Manuel Antonio and Domincal and then inland up the mountain to the summit of Cerro de la Muerte at 11,000 feet. This is the highest point on the Pan-American Highway.  Our lunch time on a balcony overlooking the valley below was rich with the calls of birds. We were rewarded in a unique view of a Snowy-bellied Hummingbird.

After a ride up, down and over a mountain we arrived at the Savegre Lodge. I must return here one day to fully enjoy all the lodge has to offer as well as sit back and enjoy the beauty of the gardens and birds from this region. The feeders and trees at Savegre surrounded the patio. A cup of coffee, binoculars and camera and the parade began.   The day’s newest humming bird was a Mountain-gem. But the colors of the Flame-Colored and Blue-grey Tanagers at the feeders still are sweet to me.

We will go back!

A view of the Pacific from the Villa Caletas and a walk in National Park.

Cards featuring Costa Rica


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