Costa Rica 2018 With Alan And Ruth Of Birdwatching Trips Part 1

We hope you enjoy this guest bird blog from Ivan and Rose who joined our Costa Rica tour in 2018.

Sunbittern 2

Sun Bittern one of the many spectacular birds enjoyed in Costa Rica.

Our background in birding is fairly limited, gently year ticking in the UK over the past five years and on a few work related trips overseas, but Rose has been desperate to see some hummingbirds after a dash to Bosque del Apache a couple of years ago to find a single black chinned hummer at the end of their season gave her a brief taste. So what to do? Well we’d come across Ruth and Alan via social media and had bumped into them on a couple of occasions whilst birdwatching back ‘home’ in North Wales so after a bit of thought we contacted them to see what was possible. On an exploratory day out in North Wales with Alan (Ruth was swanning around in Spain…) we had an amazing time, kicking off with a pair of skydancing male hen harriers in the sky at the same time and spotting ring ouzels as soon as we got out of the car and having a good laugh along the way, so we booked up for the 2018 tour to Costa Rica.

Seen in the hotel garden on day one in Costa Rica the huge Rufous-naped Wren - Rose Hughes.

After counting down the months, weeks and then days we arrived at departure day at Gatwick, this didn’t go too much to plan as we only left after three attempts at boarding two different planes and nine hours after we were supposed to leave. Fortunately, we’d been in touch with Alan and Ruth who were already in San Jose so we didn’t have too much to worry about and were met by local guide Abelardo at the airport and ferried to the hotel at well past midnight where we would join up with the tour for the official start in the morning.

Clay coloured Thrush 1

Clay-coloured Thrush, the National Bird of Costa Rica, yes really!

Up at dawn, the view from the hotel room balcony had us consulting the guide book and taking some (what would turn out to be very poor) photos, before we headed downstairs to meet up with Ruth, Alan and Abelardo in the hotel grounds. The first wow moment kicked off almost immediately when Abs called us over to a hedge where a White-cheeked Ground Sparrow was looked for food; a new bird for Ruth and Alan (we saw it before them so that was one up at that stage!) and a 9 out of 10 bird on Abs’ ranking system. After quickly adding rufous napped wren, boat-billed flycatcher, wood peewee and blue crowned motmot (among a huge amount of others) to the list we had a relaxed breakfast with the rest of the group before heading off east to Chilamate where we would be based for a few nights.

A "Hummingbird Garden" allowed superb views, here a Black-crested Coquette.

On the drive out of San Jose a quick stop at a roadside garden delivered a brief taste of the hummingbird action to come with violet crowned woodnymphs, black crested coquettes, snowcaps and rufous tailed hummers shining despite the drizzle and then another stop coughed up great green macaws almost as soon as we stepped out of the bus. On to Selve Verde and our first encounter with their feeding tables. If you’ve been to Selve Verde you will know what I mean, but, if you haven’t, the stunning bird life that dropped in almost defies description. Summer, scarlet rumped, palm and rose throated ant tanagers, Baltimore and black cowled orioles, yellow throated and keel billed toucans, collared aracaris, shining, red-legged and green honeycreepers, blue dacnis, black cheeked woodpeckers and rufous motmots providing a regular backdrop to meal time when the sun was up, and kinkajous, cat’s eye snakes, green and black, blue jeans and red eyed tree frogs providing the evening entertainment.

When we could drag ourselves away from base, Chilamate delivered some spectacular sights with a river boat trip yielding white lined bats, sloths galore, a magnificent great curassow sitting on the river bank and a whole range of kingfishers and stunning herons despite the unseasonal rain. A brief stop at a hummingbird garden produced a few more species to the list including bronze tailed plumeleteers and long billed hermits, with oropendolas (Montezuma’s and chestnut-headed) and orange chinned parakeets visiting the feeders and a russet napped wood rail skulking around the pond. With some brief breaks in the downpours over the next couple of days, and some stops at fabulous cafes and wonderful woodlands, we soaked up some astonishing views of owls of the spectacled, vermiculated screech and crested varieties, a very confiding squirrel cuckoo, sneaky sunbitterns, a snoozing great potoo, crested guan, trogons, rufous-tailed jacamar, broad billed motmots, bat falcons, grey breasted wrens, more hummers including green crowned brilliant, blue chested, stripe throated hermit and violet headed, golden-browed chlorophonias, golden hooded and silver throated tanagers, Zeledon’s antbird and black headed nightingale thrush. The mammals were pretty good too with spider monkeys, white faced capuchins, agoutis, collared peccaries and the ridiculously cute roosting ghost bats.

So that, in brief was the Caribbean side of Costa Rica and we were only four nights in. We packed up and then headed upwards into the mountains which we will pick up in the next installment.

Please check back soon for more of Ivan and Rose's Costa Rica adventure.

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