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2018 Costa Rica Trip


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Being "home " a  bit given the virus situation, thought I would share a report on our 2018 trip to Costa Rica primarily to see birds but also to take in more of this wonderful country.  My approach as some will quickly learn is not one solely on birding as habitat, lodging, food etc are of interest to us. But I opted to spare you lots and lots of pics on non birding subjects.


April 23 thru May 10, 2018

Again, worked with Sonia Nunez of Costa Rica Gateway. Laid out a plan to visit new areas as well as a couple seen on previous trips. Made our own flight arrangements thru Southwest Airlines flying from Baltimore to San Jose (ticket price included the departure tax on the return flight).  Travel insurance made through State College office of AAA.

We expected high humidity/temperatures in the lowlands yet cooler conditions in the higher elevations.  We pursued the “layered” approach with t-shirts, light jackets, rain jackets and even rubber boots (unnecessary).  Took the point-n-shoot digital cameras and a Canon T1i with a 100-400 mm zoom lens and a 70-300 zoom lens as a backup with the 18-70 lens. Took spare batteries, charger and extra memory cards and two pair of binoculars. Took “The Birds of Costa Rica” by Richard Garrigues and Robert Dean, the “Photo Guide to Birds of Costa Rica” and “A Bird-Finding Guide to Costa Roca”. Also, took flashlight, note books, reading material and the normal meds and toiletries and a wash cloth. Also, we had two cell phones for digit-scoping with guide spotting scopes.


Left home around noon for over nite at La Quinta Motel near BWI with supper at nearby Bob Evans.  Early shuttle to BWI for 6:15 Southwest flight to Ft. Lauderdale. Uneventful. Mid-way thru flight to San Jose, turned around to Ft. Lauderdale. Supposedly problem could not be addressed in CR but only in Ft. Lauderdale. Notified CRGateway of delay. Arrived about 5:30 their time and met by Juan Carlos. (a 2 hr time difference). Traffic terrible. On to Hotel Bougainvillea. Room on second floor facing the street. Exchanged $200 for 110,008 colonies ($1:550 colonies).


Walked around gardens looking for birds. Then, supper in restaurant. Darla had grilled chicken with veggies and potatoes plus a club soda while I enjoyed spaghetti w/bolognaise sauce and an Imperial beer. In addition to basic prices (beer $2.80, soda $2.30, spaghetti $10.50 and the grilled chicken $11.00) one also has to add a 10 percent tip and a 13 percent tax.

Donned head lamps and checked around the small ponds for frogs. Saw and photographed a couple of types but nothing special. Had good nite’s sleep.


After a buffet breakfast we wandered the grounds seeing several bird species and enjoyed watching pair of Hoffmans woodpeckers preparing a nest head high in a tree trunk adjacent to the one sidewalk. Saw maybe 20-plus species.  1046827986_Wrenrufous-naped3boug.JPG.2301d6c98b24485d0331e04cf1467168.JPGPicture3.png.d4932cb79eeded54b7e9f9008d0068e6.png



Juan Carlos arrived and we were off to Selva Verde Lodge about 2 hrs away. Said he was not taking route 32 due to construction. Seemed to be route 126/127 according to the map. Many villages did not have name signs. Stopped at a small convenience store w/eatery. In distance could see Fernando Falls. And, the place had several bird feeders. Saw blue-chested hummingbird, blue-gray tanagers and an orange-fronted parakeet. The parakeet was rather friendly landing on Darla’s head and even once on my camera while I was attempting to photograph another bird.


Then, onto Selva Verde Lodge in time for lunch. Meals at the Lodge were buffet style with non-salad items served by staff. Had rice/beans/veggies with grilled chicken and steak, various drinks and some kind of strawberry dessert. Evening meals were much the same. One could also eat at the order-off-the-menu restaurant on the lower level but it seemed rather pricey. Signs in the dining room said wine, beer, and soda were $5 each and a 2 liter of bottled water was $3.50.


The main building had the reception area, offices, rest rooms and large classroom. Covered walkways led to clusters of elevated rooms and the two-story building with gift shop, a bar/eatery on the lower level and the main dining room upstairs. A roofed balcony overlooking the feeder area allowed guests to eat and watch birds coming into feeder. A walkway led to the pool and another to the suspension bridge crossing the river to additional closed lodge property. Landscaping was a nice mix of forest and bushes with some grassy areas near the river and small stream flowing thru the property. Our room was one of 6 bungalows on the hillside across the highway and maybe an 1/8 mile away. A covered walkway ran all the way to the bungalows or one could walk the gravel access road. Either way a climb was involved. Dense forest was present the further one moved up the hillside. Adjacent to the bungalows was a grassy area with two small ponds and plantings of flowers and shrubs. Monkey frequented this area and were very obvious particularly when feeding right above our cabin and dropping seed pods onto the roof. One morning, howlers, woke us up at 5:30.


Our bungalow had an attached screened sunroom, a spacious bed room and a nice size bathroom. Air-conditioning made for a comfy room.

Little black and green frogs and “blue jeans” ones of red/blue were commonly seen as well as iguanas, the green  “Jesus Christ” basilisk lizards and various birds were spotted.  Blue-tailed skinks and several turtles were also to be seen. We continued to add to our bird lists with scarlet macaws, passerini’s tanagers, vultures, orange-bellied trogons, and buff-throated saltators. Parking lot security staff were always pointing out wildlife including a sloth directly above the walkway.


At 7:20 we were picked up for the 30 minute ride to the La Selva Biological Station where we were to have a 2 hr private walk. Held up a bit due to a wreck involving a car and a tractor trailer truck.  James was our guide for the two hr private walk. Several major downpours occurred and certainly had an impact on our walk. Saw collared peccary wandering the grounds and a sloth with baby at the suspension bridge. Extensive grassy areas around the office and parking area. Staff used weed eaters not conventional lawnmowers. Heard more birds than we saw.  Heard black-capped pygmy-tyrant, rufous motmot, striped-breasted wren, broad-billed motmot, and saw others including black-cowed oriole, cinnamon becard,  brown-hooded parrots, olive-backed euphonia and more.  Driver that was to pick us up left word he was unable to do so but a taxi was coming for us.  We returned to Selva Verde Lodge to shower and change clothes,





After another buffet lunch of baked chicken, porkchops, rice, beans, and a hot tomato w/ bread crumb we sat at the balcony watching the feeder area. Saw numerous birds including, red-throated ant-tanager, crimson-collared tanager, Montezuma oropendola, collared aracari, black-cheeked woodpecker and dusky-capped flycatcher. The major activity at the feeder and nearby fruiting shrubs may have been due to major rains earlier.


We learned the cameras and binocs had a tendency to “fog up” coming out of air-conditioned rooms into warmer humid air. Thus, the next morning when I went out onto the porch and photographed a tayra, or a very member of the weasel family, pictures were a bit fuzzy. Buffet breakfast of scrambled eggs, rice, beans, toast, fruits and a variety of cold drinks and cereals. Saw white-faced monkeys.  We saw a spotted sandpiper, tiger-heron and other birds at the bridge and a three-toed sloth in a bare tree close to the dining room. Then, around noon Steven arrived to take us to Cano Negro Natural Lodge near the Nicaraguan border.


Steven was great telling and showing us the sights to include fields of pineapples being harvested, different stages of pineapple growth, a sugar cane processing plant, howlers, 3-toed sloth, groves of orange trees, and coconut palms. At a combined convenience store/eatery we treated him to a empanadas (a fried or baked pastry filled with meat, cheese, etc) and a “slushy”. Also, we saw an employee feeding a horde of iguanas! They came running when it was obvious squash was being served. And, some were huge! Miles later when we turned off the paved highway towards Cano Negro the road became very bumpy simply due to the underlying bed rock and cobble base. Steven stopped several times so we could observe birds including northern jacana, a gray hawk, and a trogon. He also pointed out a beautiful yellow cortez tree.



Back on a macadam road we soon came to the Cano Negro and the Natural Lodge. The lodge has some 40 or so rooms plus specialty buildings for the dining room/bar/lounge, office, and so forth. The pool was being renovated. The grassy grounds had various trees and shrubs. Even before we checked in, staff could not wait to show us the Pacific Screech owl that had established itself under a little recycling stand. A new bird for us and an owl at that. Via a circuitous route we found our room. A sliding front door opened into a comfy 2-bed room with ample furniture, air-conditioning and a nice size bathroom with a smaller room for storage. It was clean. Had our own porch area with 2 chairs. Laundry service was available. (socks $1, pants $2, shirt $1 jacket $2). It was a hot and humid. And, the area abounded with birds. A family of woodcreepers was practically at our doorstep. Considerable woods bordered the grounds on two sides.  



Trogon, black-headed male 1 cano.JPG

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Besides us the only other guests were 4 folks from France and their guide. They had various photography gear including a tripod and a monopod. The one fellow was delighted when he noticed I was using a Canon camera like him. Seems his buddy uses Nikon gear.


We walked out of the lodge area, turned right and went just a short distance to the lagoon seeing various water birds and the like not to mention spotted camans and the occasional horse and milk cow. Following the shoreline we eventually found the dike along the river where tour boats were moored. At the access spot we found ourselves in the small town of Cano Negro with the lodge being just a couple blocks away past a few houses,  the central park, a bar or two, the police station, a church and a little grocery store. On that first walk we added black-bellied whistling duck, roseate spoonbill, southern lapwing, and black-necked stilt to our list.




One reason for visiting this part of CR was to see a couple of special birds mainly the Nicaraguan Crackle and the Jabiru, a stork very uncommon in CR. Thus, we were really looking forward to exploring more of this region. But, never saw the two!


We had a boat tour with Jimmy (read good things about him on TA) at 7 am on the river with the four french people and their guide. It was an enjoyable 2 hr or so ride up the river. Various kingfishers, herons, a crested cara cara, gray-necked woodrail, white ibis, and more were added to our list including a few “life” birds. We entered a major bay with an abundance of bird life as well as numerous camans. The other travelers were a bit much in constantly moving in the front seats for position and telling the list-making wives instruction in terse terms. Still an enjoyable ride.


Darla and I  walked around a bit and purchased two 2-liter bottles of water and a soda for 6,000 colonies at the little grocery store. Tried the WiFi at the lounge to no avail. Had talked with Jimmy about another boat ride and made arrangements for one later in the day.



Met Jimmy and walked to the dock. Headed downstream for a wonderful birding trip.  A Great Potoo, a lesser yellow-headed vulture, a sungrebe and others made for a nice outing. The next morning after breakfast and referencing the CR birding trails book, we headed in to town to bird near the soccer field and eventually along the river.  Added an  American Pygmy kingfisher, black-striped sparrow and  pair of ruddy-ground doves to our list.




The eats were excellent. Our server provided the menu and also told us what items were not available, Being the off season it made sense. The tossed salad with slices of local fruit was excellent. The chicken with orange sauce (and fresh veggies) was outstanding. In fact, Darla had it again the next nite. I tried the sauce-covered crepe filled with chicken and it was as good a dinner as I have had during our international travels. The rest of the meals were great


Settled our bill ($45 per person per boat trip and a minor bar bill) and waited for our ride to Arenal.


An uneventful ride. Took different road from Cano Negro. Saw the “blue” river, Rio Celestre. Shortcuts were quite interesting. Much hilly country, lots of dairy farms and windmills.  Did not have to drive thru La Fortuna, sort of a touristy town. Views of Arenal Volcano were great. No issue with clouds. Had a beautiful swallow-tailed kite flying near us along a high ridge.


Checked into Arenal Observatory Lodge. Got room #34 again. Our dining plan at Arenal called for salad or soup, main entre w/sides, desert and a natural drink (blackberry, papaya, or mango). Breakfast was also included. During happy hours 5 or 6 alcoholic drinks were 2:1. Dining room was poorly lite. My first meal of beef tenderloin, new potatoes, mushroom sauce, veggies was ok. Had salad and blackberry juice. Cheesecake (5,200 colonies) juice (1,200 colonies). Darla had chicken. Slow service. No steak knife, no bread, dark.  Soup 5,800, steak 13,200, chicken 9,800, soda 1,800, beer 2,200, Our second dinner was served by Anthony’s friend. I ordered the veal dinner and it was terrible—tough and chewy with little taste. The pumpkin soup (w/pistachos and croutons) was kind of bland. Our server was not surprised when I mentioned dissatisfaction with the veal. In fact, he said they were aware of issues with the meal. He offered another entree but I declined. I provided a review on TA and manager thanked me for it. He also mentioned being aware of issue with the veal and changes were in order.


Curassow, great male 1 aol 2018.JPG


Vulture, lesser yellow-headed 1 cano 2018.JPG

Woodpecker, black-cheeked 1 aol 2018.JPG

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Walked around a bit. Saw small but large-headed snake on pipe railing at lodge parking area at reception. Saw light green tree frog at pond on the trail.  One evening we returned to the frog pond with our lights. Saw several of the red-eyed frogs and a couple other kinds. Spotted egg clusters on undersides of leaves some higher than me. On the way back to the room saw the NJ fellow who was placing a recorder so he could tape forest night sounds.



Had Anthony Arce for guided birding. Lives in La Fortuna. Started at 6 am then broke for breakfast. In reception area had at least a dozen species mostly by sight. We took a break for breakfast (buffet style--nice selection of fruits, pastries, and juices. Also, scrambled eggs, toast, rice/beans, sausage and other items) and Anthony visited with the one server who wants to be a birding guide. Included in our sightings were a double-tooth kite, a dusky antbird, a spotted antbird, a wedge-billed woodcreeper, various hummingbirds, and a smoky-brown woodpecker. One special time was when Anthony took us into the forest on a rough trail near the green gate. There we heard more than a couple male white-collared manakin on their “leks”.  As part of the mating ritual, the males fly about snapping their wings together so sharp it sounds like snapping one’s fingers. Then the male makes short flights over a small cleared spot in the forest. Anthony imitated the snaps and brief vocalization and eventually got us very close to the lek. We saw a beautiful male through low branches but such prevented getting good pics. We saw close to 90 different species and heard a few more including a thicket antpitta and a nightingale wren. We noted much less activity at the feeders than on our previous stay. Some thought major nesting was underway and some species has changed diets.





Our room was quiet, comfy, and a great place for a stay. The ceiling fan was adequate to keep the room cool when the patio door was open and made a nice background noise. Heard howlers during the night. And, from the patio we saw buff-rumped warblers, black-striped sparrow, yellow-throated euphonia, and hummingbirds plus white-nosed coatis in nearby trees. Took pictures of the “sculptured” towels on the bed.   Much of the time the upper portions of the volcano were hidden by clouds.


Used the computer in the reception area. Service was prompt but the key board was configured different than what I am used to, A can of soda was 1,200 colonies.


Left around 11:30 for Monteverde area. Saw a grove-billed ani on the way. Nice drive. For quite a while we drove along the shore of Lake Arenal seeing wind-swept waves, the volcano in the distance and several fishing boats. Twice we crossed clear streams at shallow fords. One vehicle was stuck perhaps due to flooding out which made me wonder how folks made these crossing during the rainy season. Both streams looked quite inviting as possible trout waters.



Eventually we began to climb into the highlands as we neared Monteverde. Dairy farms seemed rather common. As we passed thru suburbs of Monteverde and the town itself the area looked quite touristy with numerous shops, bars and eateries. Then, we turned into the driveway of the Trapp Family Lodge.


After checking in we walked around the grounds noting an absence of birds. It was quite windy. Various flowering plants and dense trees around much of the property suggested good habitat. We also saw numerous windows on the main buildings with artificial owls nearby to keep birds away. During our stay we did see more birds however. A sign said the entrance to Monteverde Cloud Forest was ½ mile up the road so we walked there. Actually it was a dead end. We noted an office for paying fees, a gift shop, restrooms and a small restaurant. Across the road was another shop selling upscale nature paintings and the like. There were several feeders around with hummers including purple-throated mountain-gems and violet sabrewings plus others we would see the next day. On the way back we saw slate-throated redstarts, swainson’s thrush, rufous-collared sparrows and a small snake which had been injured possibly by a vehicle. Twice when we stopped at driveways off the main road and used our binocs and camera to check out other birds, vehicles pulled over perhaps thinking we spotted something special. We thought of our daughter, Beth, who coined such events as a “yellowstoner” given similar behavior on our trip there.




Room #9 was in the main building on the ground floor just past the restaurant/bar/lounge area. It was very roomy, and handsomely decorated with a large bay window extending out from the building a bit. It had large curtains which could be pulled to insure privacy. Two chairs and a coffee table provided a nice setting to prepare notes, read or simply relax. We again noted it was quite windy with the potential to get a bit chilly due to the higher elevation. I also recalled such from reviews on TA and also noted thick comforters on our beds.  Great use of wood throughout the room and the rest of the building.  Hardwood floors did make for a bit of noise from heavy-footed guest (s) upstairs. The bathroom was equally nice with towels, soap, shampoo and conditioner, Botanical products, but no wash cloth.


At check-in we were asked to provide a time for dinner but also told to come anytime. Our waiter was as professional as they come and could have been in a very upscale restaurant. Nice sense of humor. I enjoyed a glass of merlot. We both selected a toss salad, and spaghetti with bolangese sauce. A large hot, portion. We also had choc cake with ice cream. A couple other diners were also present. Even though our room shared a wall with the dinning room/bar it was quiet.


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Breakfast was a short walk up the sidewalk to a separate building. One wall of the dinning room overlooked a grassy Later in the evening we got a call from Adrian Mendez as to our birding trip the next morning.


lawn with trees around two sides. The meal was buffet-style with a variety of items including scrambled eggs, sausage and of course rice/beans, various fruits, juices, cold cereal and the like. We saw the couple from NJ we met at Arenal and the 4 French people from Cano Negro.




Adrian was very prompt. Drove back towards town, turning off past the ice cream/cheese plant and up the hill to Reserva Curicancha, an area bordering the Monteverde Cloud Forest.  The area used to be a dairy farm and still has remnants of grassy pastures.  Adrian said he prefers this reserve to the Monteverde Cloud Forest as it gets fewer guests, has very nice-well maintained trails and an excellent variety of birds. I knew we had a winner with him as a birder. Upon us exiting his vehicle he practically ran across the parking lot with spotting scope to show us a streaked-headed woodcreeper! The entrance fee was $15 each for Darla and I.


Shortly into the forest we came upon another birding person lead by a female guide who Adrian knew. I remarked it was nice to see females in the profession. He asked what we wanted to see. We remarked we were interest in whatever was there but I did mention while we had seen a quetzal before I was really looking forward to seeing a three-wattled bellbird. He just chuckled!



Seems we had just entered the old-growth forest when we heard a bellbird and Adrian shortly had us in sight of a male bellbird. It was easy to see with binoculars but difficult to photograph with the lighting and branches which gave me fits in focusing. Later I was able to get better pics so even the waddles could be seen. It would seem we were seeing something every 100 feet or so. Some were familiar to us and others were first-timers or “lifers” as the serious birders would say. A rufous-browed peppershrike (ok, a lifer for us) gave me fits as I tried to photograph it as it flitted here and there in nearby shrubs bordering the trail thru part of an old pasture field. Finally, I got a pic of reasonable quality. Further along we came across a major column of army ant foraging along the trail.  Adrian was a bit excited saying birds often flock to such a happening feeding on insects put to flight by the hungry ants. Sure enough various flycatchers and even different woodcreepers were ignoring us as they pursued prey. Then Adrian jumped around a bit as ants were on him! We did spot a male resplendent quetzal which Darla got to see but it moved just as I began to peek into the spotting scope. We continued on and crossed onto Monteverde Cloud Forest property. Adrian said it was okay him being a guide. Then we were at the trail gate next to the main entrance where he suggested we could get lunch.


We offered to buy him lunch which he graciously declined saying he gets a discount being a guide. The panini sandwiches (ham, lettuce, and tomato) were excellent! Then, over to hummingbird feeders at the art shop. Added green-crowned brilliant, stripe-tailed hummingbird and others to our sightings. Along the main road he called in a prong-billed barbet which we saw but did not get a picture. And, at the same time an azure-hooded jay gave us a quick glimpse! We headed back the same trails seeing more birds. A great day seeing or hearing some 5 dozen different species. We made arrangements for another trip with Adrian.


Next morning we got started at Stella’s Bakery walking along the highway. Saw a masked tityra right away and several species seen earlier on the trip. Others included ochraceous wren, broad-billed motmot, and yellow-green vireo. Then we loaded up and drove higher and higher past significant damage to roads, bridges and culverts from tropical storm Nate a few years ago. From sun to clouds to mist in what is truly a cloud forest, the Reserva Bosque Nuboso Santa Elena was our next stop. Entrance fee of $16 each.



Was difficult to take photos either due to rain or the very heavy mist. Thus, some pics are a bit hazy. Was nice walking on cement walkways. Saw a hairy woodpecker that looked a bit different from those here at home. Ruddy treerunner, red-faced spine-tail, spotted barbtail, barred becard, tufted flycatcher and a black-faced solitare were some of the different birds we saw. We headed back to the combined snackbar-giftshop-restrooms before departing the reserve.  A candy bar was 1,000 colonies and a hamburger 4,000. On the drive down the mountain I noted logs of trees felled for road improvements were being cut by a chainsaw equipped with the plank cutter like our neighbor’s only much wider.


Closer to town we pulled off along a road Adrian had birded before.  Soon we heard what turned out to be long-tailed manakins. Adrian was able to call a couple of males to us. Again, difficult to get photos as they moved around a bit and branches made focusing difficult. At the same time he called in an orange-bellied trogon. This one was a bit easier to photograph. A wood thrush and a masked tityra were also seen on that walk. We drove a bit further to the area he called the pig farm. We walked a gravel country road past a turnoff to a real pig farm and on to a dairy farm where we turned around. Habitat varied from small woodlots to grassy pastures to tree-lined fields. Emerald toucanet, Louisiana waterthrush, bronzed cowbird, and a rufous-and-white wren made for a great walk. Then, in a clump of trees we spotted a golden-olive woodpecker, brown jays, and a squirrel cuckoo! Then back to the hotel.

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Another nice supper. Darla enjoyed the chicken fajita, fries, veggies and cake.  I had a ribeye, fries, veggies, cake and a coke. The meat was a bit under cooked.  Two cokes and a glass of wine cost $9.


The next morning we left for the Pacific Coast and Hotel Villa Lapas.  One particular view of a charming green valley reminded me of settings in Switzerland. We noted major damage to the road by Tropical Storm Nate. Construction projects were underway with no regard to erosion control with rubble and the like simply pushed down the mountain side. One particular stretch had many pieces of heavy construction machines and numerous trucks involved in blasting away the stone mountainside where a major landslide occurred. Dust (pulverized stone) was a couple inches deep. Finally we got to the valley and a decent road.


Traffic really picked up with numerous tractor trailers. Stretches of the road looked familiar from previous travels. Then, we passed over the Tarcoles River bridge where we saw the crocodiles in 2016. Then the turnoff to Hotel Villa Lapas. At the reception we got a wrist band signifying our meal/drink plan which included free soda, beer and mixed drinks. And, a mid-afternoon snack.  The main building (reception, lounge, bar and dining room was rather open. Our room was right across the lane from reception. Our building had several rooms each with a front porch and two chairs.


The grounds were nicely landscaped with various trees and bushes not to mention adjacent forested areas behind the rooms and across the stream. A suspension bridge connected to another lodge area and provided a great observation area above the stream. Right away we saw fiery-billed aracaria, bare-throat tiger-heron, lineated woodpecker, and cherrie tanager. One nice size pool, a couple of much smaller ones and what seemed like a hot tub were just a short distance from the reception area in addition to a covered game area, a nice sheltered reading area and so forth. We walked up the shaded lane seeing more buildings with rooms. A couple were two story. And we walked along the stream getting fairly close due to paths made by staff. Iguanas, bastilid lizards, and little green/black frogs were around as well as one rather large gecko in our bathroom. A nice size iguana was seen in the roof tile of the gift shop



We visited the dinning room to check out the afternoon snack. Hot dogs, choc chip cookies, and cake were being served plus popcorn. The snack went well with the pinna colota and ginger ale.



Our room #214 had a huge ceiling fan and air conditioning, a desk, tv, round table, 2 chairs and a nice size bathroom. We noted the front door as well as the bathroom one did not fit tight to the floor. I already mentioned the bathroom gecko which seemed to have access to the bathroom. A Bible and emergency candles with matches were in the one dresser.


Next, we called Armando Obando, who guided us at Carara NP in 2016 when we had to terminate the day early due to sickness. Supper was buffet style with grilled chicken and steak being the key items with spaghetti, veggies, corn on the cob, rice, rolls, and various salads. Wine and ginger ale. Not too bad. 2 liter bottled water was $4.00 Ceiling fans in the dinning room were appreciated given the heat. Saw a huge frog/toad in the lounge as we passed thru to our room.


Armando picked us up and remembered us from 2016. Drove across the main road onto the gravel one leading into the village of Tarcoles. Birding started right away with clay-colored thrush, the Costa Rica national bird, a greater ani, a bright-rumped Attila and a flock of orange-fronted parakeets. Then, in the little village were several scarlet macaws feeding in an almond tree. We drove through the village before getting out for a walk. Right away Armando spotted a Ferruginous Pygmy-owl! He worked around trying to get a black-headed trogon in the right light for a picture. Eventually we headed to the Carara NP office where we then parked at the river trail lot and ventured into the forest. Orange-collared manakin, blue-backed grosbeak, white-shouldered tanager, and more were spotted. Eventually the trail to the river was tapped off by the NP staff so we turned around.


We broke for lunch. We opted to offer lunch to Armando at Hotel Villa Lapas. He agreed. The price was $21 for the buffet lunch (a bit pricey in our opinion). A nice lunch of grilled steak, fish, rice, noodles w/ sauce various salads etc. Being Saturday many more guests were present as San Jose is about two hours away and many local come to this part of the country.


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After birding around the lodge we returned to Carara NP and took the paved trail near the small stand. It was more of a formal trail with signs and even carvings of local wildlife. It started out closer to the road and noise from the highway was obvious. Regardless, we continued to see different birds. A black-hooded antshrike, great tinamou, streak-chested antpitta and a red-capped manakin were among the unique birds we saw.  During our time with Armando we saw close to six dozen species—many new to us.



Armando left us off at the lodge in time for the afternoon snack of chocolate chip cookies, popcorn, more cookies and some kind of sandwich. Supper was another buffet. Nothing fancy.


The next morning a driver picked us up for the short ride to the landing for a river ride with Emmanuel tours.  We were the only guests with the captain and two crew members including a young lad who was learning the ropes in regards to operating the boat. The captain had a great sense of humor and seemed to know his birds. Several large crocs were seen and he had names for some including Obama, bin laden, and Angelina . Seems one killed a calf the other day.


The river has fishable stocks of sea bass, red snapper, tilapia, snook, catfish and others. And people were fishing particularly as we got closer to the ocean. Some anglers used a plastic soda bottle on which to hold their fishing line. We saw mangrove swallows, herons, spotted sandpipers, anhinga, a kite hawk, white ibis, whimble, frigatebird, brown pelican, and a boat-billed heron.


The rest of the day we enjoyed time around the lodge. More pina colatas and a light shower fell. Lunch was another buffet as was supper but much more basic it would seem maybe due to fewer guests. As info, laundry was available for $2 (shirt/slacks/dress) $1.25 (t-shirt) with press only $1,50 (slacks/blouse).


After breakfast we headed off to Rancho Naturalista. Lots of hilly terrain towards the town of Turrialba. Recalled seeing fields covered either with raised plastic or mesh netting for vegetables or flowers, fields of sugar cane or coffee bushes. And being behind a large truck. Then to the turnoff to Rancho. I forgot how basic the road was. Our vehicle had a tough time making it up to the lodge.

Arrived in time for lunch. Meals at Rancho are served family style. We enjoyed breaded eggplant, stir-fried veggies, rice, cookies, cake and juice. Fellow diners included 2 brits, 2 french, 1 canadian, Harry (brit staffer), Cali  (local guide), maybe one or two more and owner Lisa. Made arrangements for Cali to guide for us next day.


Our room was on the second floor of the main building with easy access to the balcony with the feeders and the always available coffee/tea/cookies bar.  Bathroom was quite roomy, no shampoo, no hair dryer (later learned such were available upon asking). Hung around the balcony seeing couple of hummingbird species including a female snowcap. Brown jays, golden-headed tanager and orange-billed sparrows were among our sightings. Ventured out the road and heard a male white-collared manakin. Staff mentioned less activity at feeders maybe due to nesting season and diets changing.


Supper was a great meal—pork loin slices w/pineapple sauce, mashed potatoes, greenbeans/carrots, salad, orange juice and tres leches. A bottle of beer was $3 and a 600 ml soda $2. 


Met Cali at 0530 am for early morning birding. Heard white-breasted woodwren and a striped-breasted wren. Then, on the site of new house Cali called in a male white-collared manakin. Back to the lodge for breakfast of fried egg pizza, spicey sausage, rice/beans, toast, orange juice and pineapple.  Back to birding we headed up the trail thru the pasture and into the forest. Shortly upon entering the woods he pointed out a crested owl in a nearby tree. Difficult to see let alone photograph due to thick branches. Then, a barred forest-falcon. And, a second and then third responding to his call!  Besides a few other species he also took us to a nearby spot where we saw a white-crowned manakin and then a white-ruffed manakin. Back to the lodge for a lunch of tomato soup, grilled cheese sandwiches, tuna noodle salad, fruit juice, brownies, pineapple carrot cake, and banana bread.  In the afternoon we watched the feeders and took a short walk seeing a buff-throated saltator and I  “called” in a male white-collared manakin at the house lot. The beautiful male appeared so quick to the finger snaps that the photo opp was rushed and the bird retreated back into the forest. We walked the trail over looking the small stream behind Rancho seeing more than one species of hummingbirds bathing.




In the morning we ate early (scrambled eggs, spicey sausage, toast, rice/beans, and burritos filled with cheese) before Cali took us up the valley to his town where we parked seeing a yellow-green vireo and a sunbittern on its nest. Then, a short drive to Silent Mountain where we walked a country lane past small dairy farms seeing half-grown sunbitterns on the nest, a green thorntail, chestnut-headed oropendola, black-and-yellow tanagers and more.

While on the way back to the lodge we stopped at the home/lodge owned by Lisa’s parents. They were gracious enough to let us tour their spacious home. Beautifully done in local woods. Earlier we birded at the home of the man, who owns Costa Rica Gateway.


After a lunch of zucchini (topped with cheese, ground meat and tomato sauce), french fries, red beans, salad and brownies/cake, Juan Carlos picked us up for a two hour drive back to San Jose. I think to bypass Cartago he took us cross-country on a higher elevation route. Once near San Jose, traffic really picked up and it seemed forever to get to The Trapp Family Country Inn just 5 minutes from the airport.


The Trapp Family Country Inn is something like 12 years old and in a section of town near the airport where quite frankly we were surprised to find a hotel/inn. All of a sudden we pulled up to a gated entrance down a lane of trees into a turnaround at the two building lodge. One has the reception, lounge and dining area (outside under a covered porch). The other has guest rooms. A nice size pool is adjacent to an attractively landscaped lawn next to a stream.  Our room was on the second floor and had its own balcony with table and chairs. A decent size room with tv, 2 beds and other furniture plus ceiling fan.  Bathroom was large, no wash cloth w/hair dryer but the door could only be opened maybe half way. Had inroom WiFi.  Did not see many birds but a list in lounge suggested quite a variety visit here.


Had a tasty meal on the porch with few bugs. Maybe three other tables of diners. Darla had chicken fillet ($13.00) in lemon sauce, ff, veggies and a garden salad. I had a pork chop ($11.00) in bbq sauce, ff, veggies and garden salad. Both had the chocolate cake desserts ($3.50 ea). I had a glass of merlot ($6.00). One also needs to add in the 13Percent tax and the 10 percent tip.


Early the next morning Juan Carlos took us to the airport for the flight to Houston where we had lunch before our flight to Baltimore. Within an hour of landing we were back at the La Quinta and in our car for the ride home. Got in around 11 PM.


We had a great trip seeing (or hearing) something like 285 bird species many of which for the first time in addition to 3 snakes, numerous iguanas, frogs and other herps plus the peccary, sloths and the tayra. We ate well, walked a lot, and have no regrets as to the itinerary. If there is a next time would not take the rubber boots but certainly a wash cloth and maybe the “insect” bracelets now on the market. And, hiring birding guides is a definite “must” unless one is well versed in bird calls and the like. Would certainly recommend the services of Costa Rica Gateway for arranging the various aspects of the trip.

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I regret the duplicates and some photos being out of order

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Wow! I love all the birds and other wildlife. I feel like I definitely missed a lot of opportunities to see many amazing things when I was there. Young and foolish, I guess. Thanks for all the details! 

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Peter Connan

Thank you very much for a colorful and interesting report!

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  • 1 year later...

Very late to read your report but not too late to thank you for posting it. A great invitation to revisit Costa Rica in spring, as you have seen more birds in 17 days then we photographed (261) in 4 weeks of August 2018! Pura Vida!

Edited by xelas
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