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Birding in Costa Rica

Costa Rica has always been very high on my list of places for bird photography. In 2009, shortly after it was published, I obtained a copy of Barrett Lawson’s
A Bird-finding Guide to Costa Rica and read it cover to cover. I made a list of must go-to EcoLodges and in June 2012 I began to make reservations for a month-long trip in January 2013. Initially these were for the La Paz Peace Lodge and Selva Verde. I next tackled Rancho Naturalista and was told I needed to make these with Kevin Easley of Costa Rica Gateways. After telling him I was especially interested in bird photography he said that was his forte also. I sent him my itinerary and he offered to set up the remaining places and offered to include three personal bird guides for different parts of the trip. I, of course was delighted. Based on his long experience with birding in Costa Rica he suggested some changes in the EcoLodges. The final itinerary is listed as follows:

1. La Paz Peace Lodge and Waterfall Gardens
1a. Side tour of the Doka Coffee Plantation
2. Selva Verde Lodge
2a. Boat trip on the Sarapiqu River
3. Bosque de Paz
4. Natural Lodge Cano Negro with Boat trip on the Cano Negro River
5. Arenal Observatory Lodge and Arenal Hanging Bridges
6. Hacienda Solimar
7. Punta Leona and Carara National Park
7a. Side boat trip on the Tarcoles River
8. Savegre Mountain Lodge
8a. Side trip to Paraiso Quetzal Reserve
9. Esquinas Rainforest Lodge
9a. Boat Ride to Puerto Jimenez
10. Talari Mountain Lodge
11. Rancho Naturalista

The location of each of these sites is given on the map of Costa Rica below.

 Costa Rica

As can be seen we covered a wide range of places and habitats in Costa Rica from the hot and humid lowland and costal regions to the cool and refreshing mountain air.

A description of each lodge with multiple photos is given in the section: ECOLODGES. Click on it to see the individual lodges. Further details on each are available on the web.

To make viewing this site as painless as possible, especially for those only marginally interested in birds, I have attached a
SLIDESHOW of many of the best photos:

SLIDESHOW OF THE BEST PHOTOS (119 photos, 5 min)

Just click on the SLIDESHOW and it starts automatically. If you want to stop it or go forward or backward, place the cursor over the center to activate the controller.

The rest of the website allows a more detained and intimate look at the birds with a species name and description of each.

Even better than the slide show click on the Flickr link on the main page and got to the Costa Rica and Costa Rica 2016 albums.

The guides were absolutely FANTASTIC!!!
Jaun Diego Vargus was our guide for Cano Negro and Arenal Observatory.
Johan Hernandez picked us up for Hacienda Solimar, Talcoles RIver and the Carara National Park.
Jim Zook was our guide for Savegre Mountain Lodge, Paraiso Quetzal Reserve, Esquinas Rainforest Lodge and Talari Mountain Lodge. He had been a Costa Rica bird guide for 40 years and had the highest number of birds on his list of anyone in Costa Rica.

On a cruise through the Panama Canal in 2014, we returned for one day to take another boat cruse on the Tarcoles River. Lots of new photos.

In 2016 we spent a week in Costa Rica as guest of Katy Rolfes in Tamarindo. We contacted Hanzel Rodrques Vega as our guide for visiting the Palo Verde National Park. The next day we took a coat cruise on the Tempisque Rive. The birds seen on this visit are shown in the Const Rica 2016 album of Flickr.

These experts constantly amazed me. They knew all the birds by their songs alone, could use their songs to bring them within photo range, and their ability to spot the birds in the densest of under bush never ceased to surprise me. From my perspective, anyone interested in serious birding and photography in Costa Rica needs an expert guide. Photos of the guides are shown in the Guides section. This includes three of the guides at Rancho Naturalista.

A note on the camera used. On earlier trips as to New Zealand I used a Canon 60D with a 70 to 400 mm lens. As great as this was I decided to switch to a Sony alpha 77 with a 70 to 400 mm lens. A major reason was that it uses Translucent Mirror technology where 1/3 of the image is sent to the viewfinder and the other 2/3 to the sensor. This eliminates the flopping mirror and allows rapid fire shooting (12 fps). Most importantly, the video can be activated by single button and the viewfinder can be used to line up the video shots. This eliminates the problem of sunlight on the LED screen which often makes it impossible to see what is being shot. I upgraded to the Alpha 77 for the trip and gave the alpha 55 to Sally using a 18 to 250 lens. This very wide range allowed her to take landscape as well as telephoto shots. She took virtually every flower photo and landscape photo on this web site. Once she got used to using the telephoto she also took a number of great hummingbird photos as well.

As to the birds, we photographed a total of 240 species. Of these 197 had never previously been shown on the web site. Specifically there were 22 species of hummingbirds, 14 species of flycatcher and 13 species of Tanager, 8 of Warblers, 6 Woodpeckers, 5 motmots, 4 kingfishers and many other new and wonderful species. This just includes those photographed. My motto is that
if I have not photographed it I have not seen it. There were not many that I saw but couldn’t photograph, but some. Not every shot came out perfect but I preferred having a slightly less than perfect shot than no shot at all. I have also included Butterflies, MAMMALS, FROGS, SNAKES and lots of flowers.

Some of the birds that are also common in the USA and have already been presented somewhere on the web site, have not been presented here because of duplication. These include the Great Blue Heron, House sparrow, Kestral, Whimbril and Turkey Vulture.

Bird Groups
As usual, those labels in
CAPITAL LETTERS refer to groups of different species like HUMMINGBIRDS. Click on this label and the individual species are listed below the fine line. Click those names to see the individual species.

There is also a
MOVIES section showing videos of different birds. One of these, the Laughing Hawk is for the audio only but shows the forest without the hawk, just his voice.



Motmot Blue-crowned 0413 192Motmot Broad-billed 5902 192Owl Black-and-White 4961 192
Sungrebe 9846 192Trogon Orange-bellied male 4843 192Tanager Flame-colored 0533 192