Birding in Northern Costa Rica, Part 1


A year ago (November 2018), Kathy and I took a Road Scholar birding trip to Costa Rica: “Birding in Southern Costa Rica: Motmots and Quetzals”. It was fabulous! So, we decided that, this fall, we should do the other Costa Rica birding trip: “Birding in Northern Costa Rica: Tanagers to Toucans” (Nov. 2-12, 2019). It, too, was fabulous. Our group consisted of 11 personable older people – all enthusiastic birders and/or photographers, along with our initial guide Gilbert Molina (aka Chito) and the apprentice guide Cali. Both individuals were master birders. As to the photography that follows – the camera I used is a Nikon Coolpix P900, a superzoom that zooms to 83X. The photographs range from sharply focused to considerably less so, but all serve the larger purpose of documenting as fully as possible the birds we saw, which totaled 300 species. Also, in that regard, I have happily added to the posts a number of photos taken by our tour companion, Tom Petersen. A tireless and talented photographer (who, BTW, also used a Coolpix P900), he got many birds that my coverage lacks. This is being done with his permission. Thanks Tom!

This presentation is broken into four parts, since we visited four different areas, staying for two nights each in four hotels or lodges. Our first stay was at Selva Verde, alongside the Rio Sarapiqui. The “selva” (forest) in question was Caribbean lowland rainforest. The lodge had a fruit feeding station, but no hummingbird feeders. Costa Rica has outlawed hummingbird feeders, since it is believed by some that feeders may do harm to the birds. But this prohibition is not being enforced, resulting in some birding venues that provide hummingbird feeders and others that don’t – and none of the lodges we stayed at had hummingbird feeders. Kathy and I provide hummingbird (and other) feeders at our home in New Mexico, and it is undeniably a fact that the best way to see and photograph birds is to offer them food.

This was borne out by our first birding stop of the trip – the La Paz Waterfalls Gardens, which is located along the route from San Jose to the Sarapiqui area. This route climbs from the capitol city of San Jose onto the slopes of Poas Volcano, before descending into the Caribbean lowlands. Thus, the Gardens are located in relatively high-elevation cloud forest, which supports a great number and diversity of bird species – and the Gardens provide many hummingbird feeders. 

DAY 1

La Paz Waterfall Gardens

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Black-bellied hummingbird

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same as above

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Coppery-headed emerald hummingbird

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Coppery-headed emerald hummingbird

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Green-crowned brilliant hummingbird

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Green-crowned brilliant (female) and green violetear hummingbirds

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Green thorntail hummingbird

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“Colibries”

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Purple-throated mountain gem hummingbird

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same as above, female

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“Full frontal” view of Purple-throated mountain gem, by Tom Petersen

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Violet sabrewing hummingbird

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same as above

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same as above

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Brown violetear hummingbird, by Tom Petersen

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Green hermit hummingbird, by Tom Petersen

 

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L. to R. Violet sabrewing, coppery-headed emerald, purple-throated mountain-gem and coppery-headed emerald hummingbirds

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Tawny-capped euphonia, by Tom Petersen

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Orchid

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Unfurling leaf

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Flowering tree

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Palm seeds

After lunch, we left the bird feeding stations and other exhibits to descend a series of steel stairways, which paralleled a number of waterfalls.

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Our next stop was made a short distance down the road from the above, at Mirador Cinchona. A mirador is a view spot. Besides a great view of a tall waterfall, we saw our first Emerald toucanet.

Mirador Cinchona

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Waterfall, seen from Mirador Cinchona

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Dead tree with bromeliads

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Northern emerald toucanet

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same as above

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same as above

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Dusky-capped flycatcher (?)

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Olive-backed euphonia

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Tennessee warbler (?)

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Silver-throated tanager

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Blue-gray tanager

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Clay-colored thrush, by Tom Petersen

We ended our birding at the Mirador with a cup of coffee, and descended to the Rio Sarapiqui, and Selva Verde.

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Selva Verde

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Rio Sarapiqui, at Selva Verde

Day 2

La Selva Field Station

Our destination for the morning was the La Selva Field Station, which is part of the Organization for Tropical Studies (OTS). The Las Cruces Field Station, that we had visited the year before, is also part of OTS.

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Gartered trogon

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George (OTS guide)

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Great kiskadee

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Rufous-tailed jacamar

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same as above

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Turkey vultures

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Tufted flycatcher

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same as above

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Basilisk lizard

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Black-cheeked woodpecker

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Slaty-tailed trogon

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Pale-billed woodpecker

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Hoffman’s woodpecker

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Crested guan

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Sloth, by Tom Petersen

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Squirrel cuckoo, by Tom Petersen

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Red-lored parrot

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Red-lored parrots

In the afternoon, we visited the home, art studio and feeding stations of a friend of Gilbert – Copé. It was a beautiful setting, with a small creek flowing just a few feet beyond the feeders.

Copé’s Feeding Station

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Band-tailed barbthroat hummingbird.

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Bronze-tailed plumeteer hummingbird

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same as above

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Chestnut-headed oropendola

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Great kiskadee

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Green heron

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Green honeycreeper

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same as above

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same as above

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Melodious blackbird

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Red-legged honeycreeper

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Scarlet-rumped tanager

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Palm tanager

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Gray-necked wood-rail, by Tom Petersen

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Violet-headed hummingbird

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White-necked jacobin hummingbirds

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same as above

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Crowned woodnymph hummingbird (female)

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Collared aracari

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same as above

Selva Verde

One could look down at the fruit feeding table at Selva Verde from the balcony of the dining room, and could, thus, view birds while enjoying a meal or a beverage. My kind of birding!

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Black-cowled oriole

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same as above

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Buff-throated saltator

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same as above

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Gray-headed chachalaca

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Olive-backed euphonia

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same as above

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Summer tanager

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Pale-billed woodpecker

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Variable squirrel, with banana

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Rufous motmot, by Tom Petersen

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White-collared manakin, by Tom Petersen

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Yellow-chested toucan

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same as above

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same as above

This toucan badly wanted a banana, but never worked up the courage to fly to and land on the fruit table while I was watching.

Our destination for the next day was Caño Negro, but we would be accompanied by a new guide (Roger), who was hurriedly recruited from Sarapiqui when Gilbert fell ill that evening.

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Rich’s photo of the group, at La Paz Waterfall Gardens. Thanks Rich!

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Here is the link to Part 2: https://believesteve.org/2019/12/05/birding-in-northern-costa-rica-part-2/

 

About Evensteven

I am a photographer and author, and live in Embudo, New Mexico, alongside the Rio Grande. I have published a book of photography and accompanying text on running the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon. The first (print) edition is out of print, but a second edition is available as an iBook (eBook) through the iTunes bookstore. All Grand Canyon, river and nature lovers will enjoy my book: The Grand: https://books.apple.com/us/book/the-grand/id672492447 I have also published six additional iBooks: 1. The Salt River: https://books.apple.com/us/book/the-salt-river/id12449222822. 2. Coyote Buttes: https://books.apple.com/us/book/coyote-buttes/id1271773201 3. Four Cornered, the Land: https://books.apple.com/us/book/four-cornered/id1384038899 4. Four Cornered, The Rivers: https://books.apple.com/us/book/four-cornered-book-two-the-rivers/id1402287568 5. Rio Marañon: https://books.apple.com/us/book/four-cornered-book-two-the-rivers/id1402287568 6. Rio Grande: https://books.apple.com/us/book/rio-grande-new-mexico/id1469126321
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5 Responses to Birding in Northern Costa Rica, Part 1

  1. Sara Sealander says:

    Steve, these photos are wonderful! Thank you for being part of the group and for taking and sharing these remarkable shots.

    Like

  2. Thomas A Petersen says:

    great shots Steve

    Like

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