Costa Rica: A Relaxed & Easy Tour Nov 13—21, 2014

Posted by David Ascanio

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David Ascanio

David Ascanio, a Venezuelan birder and naturalist, has spent 33 years guiding birding tours throughout his native country, Colombia, Trinidad and Tobago, Suriname, the Amaz...

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There is virtually no other country in Central America that matches the mix of highland and lowland habitats, all within short distance, that are found in Costa Rica. This tiny but astonishingly lush and environmentally friendly country received us with views of motmots, quetzals, trogons, kingfishers, tanagers, and lots of hummingbirds!

Fiery-throated Hummingbird

Fiery-throated Hummingbird— Photo: David Ascanio

The first morning found us at the gorgeous gardens of the Hotel Bougainvillea. Here, we enjoyed a male Canivet’s (Fork-tailed) Emerald foraging on tiny flowers of Lantana. We also added Green-breasted Mango and other non-passerine birds. After breakfast we left the hotel and made an uphill drive to a mountain that has a rather unpleasant name: Cerro de la Muerte (Mountain of Death). Here, we visited the first of many hummingbird feeding stations that provided views of the regional endemic, Fiery-throated Hummingbird.

Cerro de La Muerte was an eye-opening experience, one that suggested we would see many tanagers and other hummingbirds during the tour, and you bet we did! But, we were here for a special bird: the atonishing Resplendent Quetzal. This bird has special significance for both birdwatchers and Mesoamerican Amerindian culture alike. For the first, it is considered one of the most beautiful birds in the world, and for the latter it is related to the main deity Quetzalcoalt. Seeing a quetzal involves a random search because it depends on the availability of wild avocado (Persea sp.), so you really never know how lucky you’ll be until you hear recent reports of individuals foraging at a fruiting tree.

Golden-hooded Tanager

Golden-hooded Tanager— Photo: David Ascanio

We visited a fruiting tree on our second morning, and soon after we arrived a female quetzal landed on an open branch and started periscoping in search of fruits. We saw it plunging into the air taking fruits on the wing, and returning to another branch. We were both quiet and astonished. But, the best was yet to come. A few minutes later, a male quetzal flew across the valley and another male landed on the branch, giving us a unique opportunity to enjoy him. What a moment, what a bird! We were speechless. Everyone enjoyed repeated views of this adult male and another juvenile male before they decided to leave the tree; with their long uppertail coverts they gave the impression of swimming into the dense, green cloud forest.

The second part of the tour involved a totally diferent habitat: the lowland humid forest (also called tropical rainforest). Visits to the aerial tram near Braulio Carrillo National Park and La Selva Field Station gave us views of more hummingbirds and tanagers. We also enjoyed toucans, a superb boat trip, and listened to an excellent lecture about Leaf-cutter Ants.

No tour would be complete without enjoying night life in tropical America. In La Quinta a subadult Spectacled Owl called every night, and in La Selva we were introduced to a pair of Vermiculated Screech-Owls. We also enjoyed reptiles and amphibians.

I want to thank you for joining me on this tour. As we say in Costa Rica: Pura Vida!