Costa Rica is a birders mecca. It is a place where one can experience the full range of tropical species without being entirely overwhelmed by the sheer numbers. Many of the species found in Costa Rica are charismatic and colorful which makes them fun for beginners as well as seasoned birders.
My three week trip to Costa Rica this past December was one highlighted by Pacific slope species and birding the cloud forests around Volcano Arenal. Species like Fiery-billed Aracari, Hoffman’s Woodpecker, Double-striped Thicknee, Tody Motmot, Ash-throated Flycatcher, Nutting’s Flycatcher, Jabiru Stork, Black-striped Sparrow and others. Along the coast itself, Brown Boobies, Brown Pelicans and the odd shorebird or two made their additions to the list.
December in Costa Rica is marked by heavy rainfall along the Caribbean slope and relatively dry conditions on the Pacific side. Guanacaste is one of the best birding provinces in the country and I spent a wonderful few days here birding with some of my Costa Rican friends. Santa Rosa National Park, Rincon de La Vieja National Park and Palo Verde National Park each provided very different birds. Palo Verde giving us Lesser Ground-cuckoo, Santa Rosa providing Pacific Screech-owl and Rincon de La Vieja crowning it all with a cute little Tody Motmot.
From there, I made my way down to Manuel Antonio National Park where I spent four days exploring. It’s not just the birds for me, it is the wildlife as well. I have never seen so many Sloths in one place as here. Both Three-toed and Two-toed were represented. Keel-billed Toucans called from the trees behind my hostel every morning and the ocean view for sunset was unmatched.
Snakes hold a particular fascination for me and finding an Eyelash Viper was one of the highlights of the trip. These secretive snakes can be found in vine tangles, hunting hummingbirds and bats among other things. They are a highly desired herp to find on tropical trips. The yellow ones are even flashier than this one is.
On this trip, I spent less time birding than I could have, but it was a relaxing trip and I’m glad I spent the three weeks in country. I would gladly go back in a second as there are still places in Costa Rica that I have yet to visit and explore. It’s a beautiful landscape and I hope that you, dear reader, will one day visit it with me.
Trinidad & Tobago
I just returned from leading my “Trinidad & Tobago: A tropical island paradise” tour, and it was a smashing success! 185 species were recorded during our ten day trip including both of Trinidad’s iconic endemics, the Trinidad Piping-guan and the newly split Trinidad Motmot.
From highland rainforest to lowland savanna to coastal freshwater and saltwater marshes to tropical dry forest and wind-battered coastal cliffs, we scoured many different habitats for the exquisite and beautiful birds that inhabit the twin islands of Trinidad and Tobago.
White-necked Jacobins and nearly a dozen other species of hummingbirds graced the feeders at Asa Wright Nature Center during our five days there. A search of the Blanchisseuse road produced White-bellied Antbird, great looks at Black-faced Antthrush, Gray-lined Hawk, Red-legged Honeycreeper, tons of Tanagers, and many other colorful species.
Visits to Nariva Marsh and Caroni Mangrove Swamp produced equally different and beautiful birds. At Nariva, Black-bellied Whistling-ducks, Cattle Egrets, Gray Kingbirds, a Limpkin and a very confiding Yellow-headed Caracara made for an excellent morning. That evening, we waited for Red-bellied Macaws to fly in to their night roosts while we watched Fork-tailed Palm-swifts zoom by overhead and a Moriche Oriole preened itself in a nearby tree.
Caroni Swamp was impressive to say the least. Green-throated Mango, Rufous-browed Peppershrike and lots of Little Blue Herons were only a taste of what was to come. As we wove our way through the Mangroves, we spotted a Common Potoo on its daytime roost and watched Tree-climbing Crabs pick their way up the tree-trunks. We entered the open lagoon just in time to watch hundreds of Scarlet Ibis return to their island roost from feeding in the forest all day. It was a spectacular way to end our last day on Trinidad.
On the Island of Tobago, we searched the Main Ridge Preserve which, established in 1776, is the oldest preserved tract of land in the western hemisphere. It was a rainy morning and quality prevailed over quantity with good looks at White-throated Spadebill, White-tailed Sabrewing, Olivaceous Woodcreeper, and spectacular views of Trinidad Motmot and a male Blue-backed Manakin among others.
Our boat trip to Little Tobago Island was a highlight of the tour for a few of the group and the nesting seabirds did not disappoint. Red-billed Tropicbirds flew past the overlook almost close enough to touch while Magnificent Frigatebirds scanned the seas from far above and Brown and Red-footed Boobies wheeled and soared beneath us.
Overall, it was a fantastic ten-day tour of a gorgeous pair of tropical islands.
Next year’s tour is already in the works! If you’re interested in seeing the spectacular, easy birding that Trinidad & Tobago has to offer, contact me and we’ll set you up for next year’s trip!