05 June 2017

COSTA RICA (in pictures) February 2017

Our first visit to Central America, our first guided trip - a lot of firsts. A brilliant trip in the end and helped enormously by having a first-class Guide in Diego Quesada, he organised the itinerary, making sure we saw lots of the Country, making the whole visit very easy indeed. We stayed the first night near the airport in a quiet, small hotel and one which gave us our first insight into peoples' attitudes to wildlife since it had feeders and an owl friendly area for Ferruginous Pygmy Owl and Crested Owl, though we saw neither here. Just a stopover though and we on our way out of the Central Valley and over a pass between two volcanoes to La Selva Biological Research Station, Naturally our lunchtime stopover 'Soda' (small family-run restaurant/cafe) put out fruit for the birds so some amazing sightings here, including our only sightings of Emerald Toucanet and a first great photo opportunity.

Emerald Toucanet

Blue-grey Tanager

Red-headed Barbet (male)

Emerald Toucanet

Red-headed Barbet (female)

Baltimore Oriole

Silver-throated Tanager

La Selva Biological Station was one of the (many) highlights of the trip, real rainforest with birding under brollies the norm. The toucans were amazing as were White-necked Puffbird and Snowy Cotinga. It was one of the richest environments on the trip, Peccaries were common and Howler Monkeys were pretty much ever-present. There were Two-toed and Three-toed Sloths and an Eye-browed Pit-viper was a bit special. We also visited Copa's garden for Hummingbirds, including Sickle-bill and nearby there was a roosting Spectacled Owl where, on the way, we saw a roost of Ghost Bats tucked under a large leaf.

Black-mandibled Toucan


Eyelash Pit Viper

Grey-necked Wood-rail

Red-legged Honeycreeper

White-necked Jacobin

Copa's garden

Gartered Trogon

La Selva Rainforest

Rufous Motmots

Cherrie's Tanager

Kathy and Diego Rainforest birding

Harris's Hawk

Striped Cuckoo

Arenal Observatory Lodge had an added bit of luxury about it. The feeders were always productive and we saw our only Spider Monkey to boot whilst White-nosed Coaties were all around the gardens. We spent a lot of time looking for American Warblers, including Hermit Warbler though the views weren't great as they kept to the tops of the conifers. Yellow-bellied Sapsucker was a good find and a lot easier to view. The Arenal region was amazing with brilliant things to see all around the volcano and adjacent canyons and, in town, amazingly productive feeding stations provided for love not money, as was the case wherever we travelled.

Pacific Screech Owl

Montezuma Oropendulas

Chestnut-sided Warbler

Brown-hooded Parrot

Keel-billed Toucan

Golden-hooded Tanager

Fasciated Tiger-heron

Southern Rough-winged Swallow

Crimson-collared Tanager

Variegated Squirrel

Orange-chinned Parakeet

White-throated Crake

Three-toed Sloth

Turkey Vulture

Red-eyed Tree Frog

White-nosed Coati

Collared Aracari

Capuchin Monkey

Jumping Pit Viper

Arenal Volcano

Black and White Warbler

Tropical Kingbird from the chalet

Spider Monkey


Spotted Sandpiper

Medio Queso Wetlands was an extra, making up for missing somewhere else, can't remember where. It was a boat trip along the main channels of the marsh and it was great, but then we love boat trips. We had great views of most things including Lesser Yellow-headed Vulture (a marshland specialist), Pinnated Bittern and Nicaraguan Grackles. They were unusual but the Gallinules, ducks and waders etc were all pretty amazing - we really appreciated the opportunity.

Lesser Yellow-headed Vulture

Purple Gallinule

White Ibis and Black-bellied Whistling Duck

Canyon Negro Wetlands, near the Nicaraguan border, was the main wetland visit of the trip and it certainly didn't disappoint, up in the dawn light and out on the water was pretty magical. We had great views of Agami Heron as we sat quietly more-or-less surrounded by Spectacled Caimans. The bird highlights were too numerous to mention but there were Kingfishers of four? species shooting by, our only Green Ibises of the trip as well as Royal Flycatcher, caught with its magnificent crest erect, Prothonatory Warbler and many many more species - a really magical experience.

Agami Heron

Spectacled Caiman



Ringed Kingfisher

American Pigmy Kingfisher

Roseate Spoonbills

Green Iguana

The trip down to the Pacific Coast was the longest drive of the trip but Diego planned it well and we stopped for some good birds.

Nicaraguan Seed-finch

Monarch Butterfly

Turquoise-browed Motmot

Spot-breasted Oriole

And then it was the meltingly hot Pacific Coast and an unexpected opportunity to join a trip out to see and into the channels of the Mangrove Forests. Ospreys were everywhere mixing with Brown Pelicans, Magnificent Frigatebirds and big numbers of waders as well as Laughing Gulls and Royal Terns.

The beach at Ensenada

Royal Terns

Great Blue Heron


Magnificent Frigatebirds

A visit to a nearby cattle ranch with its own huge wetlands was also a treat with some great birds, our first American Crocodiles and breeding Jabiru Storks.

White-throated Magpie Jay

Bare-throated Tiger-heron

American Crocodile

Boat-billed Heron

Jabiru Stork

Mantled Howler Monkey

Our final destination was the Highlands around 3,500 metres but there were things to see on the way as we travelled up from the coast, particularly at Forest where dry and rainforest zones converge.


White-tailed Deer

Scarlet Macaw
Central American Agouti

And then it was the final part of the trip, the Highlands where Resplendent Quetzals were the big target, feeding on the wild Avocado trees. Miriam' Quetzals was one of our favourite places to stay. Temperatures at night plummeted below zero which was quite a contrast with the coastal heat and humidity.

Male Resplendent Quetzal

Ruddy-capped Nightingale-thrush

Red-tailed Squirrel

Acorn Woodpecker

Summer Tanager

Our chalet at Miriam's Quetzals
The area was pretty spectacular, including views of this active volcano. We had seen Hummingbirds elsewhere but a couple of places here gave opportunities like never before to observe and photograph them. So here are some of the photos to end a brilliant trip to a country where they really know how to live with the natural world.

Fiery-throated Hummingbird

Fiery-throated Hummingbird

Magnificent Hummingbird

Magnificent Hummingbird

Magnificent Hummingbird

Fiery-throated Hummingbird

Magnificent Hummingbird

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