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Costa Rica – it was “a little damp”


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Spoiler alert – it rains in the rain forest!!


Christmas is going to get in the way of this TR but without giving too much away, thanks to our good friends at Busanga Safaris we had a “fantastico” fortnight in Costa Rica, visiting the Central Highlands, central Pacific Ocean coast and the rainforests of the southern Osa peninsula.

Our final sightings list totalled some 135 different birds, 11 mammals and 12 reptile and other species.

There were “things” on land (& trees), 







“things” in the sea, 


and “things” in the air.


We had a great naturalist guide throughout the trip, take a bow Gustavo, who was backed up by some excellent local guides at the lodges. The lodges were great, as was the food and most importantly, the companionship on the trip was outstanding.

Coming up: Basics & in/around San Jose

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Excellent, I've been looking forward to seeing this. Don't let Christmas get in the way too much please! :)

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What teasers you present:  "A little damp" has me thinking deluge and "thanks to our good friends at Busanga Safaris we had a “fantastico” fortnight in Costa Rica" has me wondering how Busanga Safaris mixes with Costa Rica.  Great pics so far!


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Thanks all


Unfortunately @Galagothe next instalment will be post Christmas as I’ll be “away from my desk” for the duration.:(
@Atravelynn-  Whilst Busanga’s Tony McKeith was very much “African Safari”, since Lesley Pritt joined they’ve been doing more  “Out Of Africa” trips, mainly to Latin America & India.  I’ll expand a bit on this “in the next thrilling instalment”.

Edited by AfricIan
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a sloth hurrah!

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Great start Ian, looking forward to see more from your Costa Rica adventure. It is an awesome country.

Edited by michael-ibk
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Well Ian ,  those teaser pictures and the birding in general make a future trip to Costa Rica for me inevitable ; can't wait to see the rest ! 

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One of my favorite countries.  Looking forward to this report.



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  • 2 weeks later...

Part 1 - Basics & in/around San Jose


Well, I’m back (now that’s a great ending to a book/film!!)

As mentioned earlier, this was one of Busanga Safaris “Out Of Africa” escorted small group trips with Lesley Pritt as our escort. They normally aim to have a maximum of 6 “guests” on these trips but for this one there were just the 4 of us, Vicky & I, Barbara and Trish.
Trish was flying into San Jose from France so 8am on the 15th Nov saw Lesley, Barbara, Vicky & I rendezvous at Gatwick Airport for our British Airways direct flight to San Jose, 

Our Itinerary:
15th – 17th Nov, San Jose, Hotel Bougainvillea
17th – 19th Nov, San Gerardo De Dota, Trogon Lodge
19th – 21st Nov, Marino Ballena National Park, Pacific coast, La Cusinga Lodge
21st – 24th Nov, Corcovado National Park, Casa Corcovado Lodge
24th – 27th Nov, Piedras Blancas NP, Playa Nicuesa Lodge
27th – 29th Nov, San Jose, Hotel Bougainvillea
29th Nov, San Jose to London, British Airways, Dep. SJO 18:30

Long haul BA flights from Gatwick are on “refurbished” Boeing 777’s although from what I could see, “refurbished” means they’ve added more seats to give 10 across rather than 9 in “cattle” and some slightly bigger IFE screens. It’s still a 23year old 777. :(  We took-off pretty much on time and after an uneventful 11hrs we approached San Jose only to have the captain initiate a full-power go-around as, he explained later, a sudden rain squall had obscured his view of the runway on final approach. Perhaps it wasn’t going to be as dry a trip as we’d anticipated! Second time around all was fine, we were soon through immigration, reunited with our bags and Gustavo was waiting to meet us to take us to our hotel.

I’m not going to do a day-by-day account of the trip, more a location by location so I’ll start with the Bougainvillea Hotel - a nice 80 room “corporate hotel” but although there are conference/meeting facilities, it’s set in ~10acres of well-tended gardens, the rooms are spacious & comfortable and all the staff very friendly & helpful.
The gardens are ideal for spending a few hours pre- & post-breakfast so here are some images taken in & around the hotel, both on our initial stay and at the end of the trip:


AL9nZEWdPXL7ESpfWod1iLNEHRcn5ZoqmjezSnKo  AL9nZEXTMbrMgOJncQriHfkp-8yO5jGdhuoXq72A


AL9nZEUJfVZw9UxCSMrMDIS8kgE92qhqN0qAo29O  AL9nZEUI_CkUqXumH90a7BazRUA41P8XN4YXjgAc

Vicky's new friend







Mottled Owl



Variegated Squirrel





Great Kiskadee



Blue Grey Tanager



Lesson’s Motmot




Rufous-tailed Hummingbird


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Hoffmann’s Woodpecker                                                                              Monarch Butterfly Caterpillar



Sipoeta epaphus?



Frosty Flasher



Banded Peacock 

Sightings List - Bougainvillea Hotel, many thanks to Lesley & Gustavo for compiling this and for keeping it updated throughout.

Great Kiskadee, Rufous-naped Wren, Crested Caracara, White collared Swift, Blue and white Swallow, Turkey Vulture, Black Vulture, Social Flycatcher

Summer Tanager, Great-crested Flycatcher, Yellow-throated Vireo, Mottled Owl, Orange-chinned Parakeet, Hoffmanns Woodpecker, Rufous-tailed Hummingbird

Green-breasted Mango, Lessons Motmot, Brown Jay (18 species of birds, a squirrel and numerous butterflies etc. not a bad start :))


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The 16th was envisaged as a gentle “jet-lag recovery day” and the idea was that we’d head up into the Cinchona region, ~20km North of San Jose, visit a coffee plantation and get some lunch at a restaurant that promised some good birding.




Turkey Vulture (Camera settings leave a lot to be desired :(





Clay-coloured Thrush



Silver-throated Tanager




Baltimore Oriole 




Scarlet-rumped Tanager



Ornate Hawk-Eagle




Northern Emerald-Toucanet





Todays new sightings, I'll only list those that we hadn't seen in previous places.:

Scarlet-rumped Tanager, Blue Grey Tanager, Crimson-collared Tanager, Silver-throated Tanager, Palm Tanager, Tennessee Warbler, Clay-colored Thrush,
Green Hermit, Violet Sabrewing, Green-crowned Brilliant, Red-headed Barbet, Prong-billed Barbet, Common Chlorospingus, Northern Emerald Toucanet,
Ornate Hawk-Eagle, Baltimore Oriole, Buff-throated Saltator. (17)

Next: Part 2 - Cloud Forest, San Gerardo de Dota region

Edited by AfricIan
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Oh, Ornate Hawk-Eagle is a very cool sighting!

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Love the Toucanet and the hawk Eagle, lots of overlap with Ecuador it would seem! 

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Thanks @michael-ibk& @kittykat23ukand to everyone following along. I was pleased to get a half decent image of the Hawk Eagle, a beautiful bird.

Apologies for my lack of attention to your Ecuador TR Jo, I'm trying not to get too distracted ;)


Part 2 - Cloud Forest, San Gerardo de Dota region, ~30km South of San Jose (Trogon Lodge) 


Next morning started us off on our trip “proper”, stopping for lunch at another restaurant that promised some good hummingbird viewing.



Volcano Hummingbird






Though none of our group were particularly impressed with the antics of another group whose guides “piece-de-resistance” appeared to be to spray a small flower twig with sugar water & get a “guest” to hold it in their teeth for a hummingbird to come & feed off.



Hairy Woodpecker


Our target for this section of the trip was the Resplendent Quetzal so when Gustavo suggested that we head past the lodge to a place further down the valley that he’d had some success at we all agreed to give it a go even though it was heading towards 4pm, the drizzle was coming down & the light fading fast.



Success, Resplendent Quetzal female



and male. Although if I’m being particularly picky, they weren’t being overly co-operative - the male & female were in separate trees a good 50m apart, you couldn’t see the other tree when at the first & v/v and getting between was “a bit of a scramble” with the tracks  also getting very muddy & slippery.







By this stage my ISO was up at 3200, way higher than the D7100 is comfortable at but when needs must....


We were assured that the Quetzal wouldn’t move far overnight so pre-breakfast saw us clambering back up the hillside where, sure enough, they hadn’t moved far at all and I was very fortunate to be moving between locations when the male decided to perch briefly for the “money shot”:







Slaty Flowerpiercer


And back to Trogon Lodge for a very good breakfast





Edited by AfricIan
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After breakfast we headed into the Parque Nacional los Quetzales for a walk along the trails, another excellent lunch of fresh trout then back to the Lodge and a wander round the grounds:





Tapir tracks, my size 10's for comparison!





Talamanca Hummingbird



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Flame-coloured Tanager                                                                                             Acorn Woodpecker


Sightings: Flame-coloured Tanager, Rufous-collared Sparrow, Wilson’s Warbler, Talamanca Hummingbird, Volcano Hummingbird, Fiery-throated Hummingbird, Slaty Flowerpiercer,
Hairy Woodpecker, Large-footed Finch, Resplendent Quetzal, Blackburnian Warbler, Sooty-capped Chlorospingus, Rose-breasted Grosbeak, Acorn Woodpecker, Ruddy Treerunner,
Yellow-thighed Brushfinch, Costa Rican Brushfinch, Collared Redstart, Mountain Thrush, Lesser Violetear, Fiery-throated Hummingbird (21)

Trogon Lodge Grounds



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Next: Part 3 - Hacienda Barú and Marino Ballena National Park, Pacific coast (La Cusinga Lodge)


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Lovely shots and fantastic quetzal "money shot"...:)

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Your Quetzal is certainly more resplendent than ours was! Stunning bird! 

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Quetzal success and how!  The Ornate Hawk Eagle certainly was.  The twig in the teeth trick was unprofessional but other than that you had to be thrilled!

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Your persistence with the Quetzal paid off with some lovely shots. The Trogon Lodge grounds look as though they would be worth a few hours birding too.

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Really interesting stuff. I must say ‘Frosty Flasher’ is one of the best names ever! 

Looking forward to reading more as quite keen to do this trip. 

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Thanks @Atdahl, @kittykat23uk, @TonyQ, @Atravelynn, @Soukous& @Galagofor your comments and everyone for following along


Yes, I'm really chuffed with the Quetzal, so often when you have a specific target to see then nature just laughs in your face & fails to play ball!


Martin - All the lodges on the trip were exceptional in their own way and all well worth a good wander round.


Lynn - Not just unprofessional, the guide only targeted the women for the "trick" so it was highly patronising as well :angry:


Annie - I have a confession, it's a Frosted not Frosty Flasher, I only realised my mistake when checking its scientific name and found that the Frosty range is Cuba through to Puerto Rico not Costa Rica.  I hope you agree that even Frosted Flasher is much more fun than Astraptes alardus :)


Part 3 - Hacienda Barú and Marino Ballena National Park, Pacific coast (La Cusinga Lodge)


Hacienda Barú is a former rice & cattle farm that had been pretty well de-forested until 1979 when a start was made to return the land to its former state. In 1990 the last of the cattle were moved off and in 1995 Hacienda Barú was declared a National Wildlife Refuge. If you’re interested, I can thoroughly recommend Monkeys are made of Chocolate, a collection of stories by Jack Ewing on his life on the Hacienda.

There are a range of trails on the Hacienda and this paved one didn’t last long but they are still working on them, including walkways over the wettest bits
Thanks to Barbara for this one



White-necked Puffbird







American Pygmy Kingfisher



Collared Peccary


We'd glimpsed Agouti on the trail by Vicky managed to capture this on her phone when she & Trish “bailed-out” of the walk & returned to the café for a drink - typical.

We re-joined them as we got the news that there was a sloth up in the trees just outside the Hacienda gates and after some searching Gustavo finally managed to locate this female & get it in his spotting scope (iPhone through the scope:))



But patience is a virtue & it wasn’t too long before we got good views of the male



















Before heading off to a spectacular sunset over the bay at La Cusinga Lodge.




Edited by AfricIan
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Great work on the Quetzal and the Sloth!


I was about to say "that's not a Hairy Woodpecker!" as it looks totally different than "our" Hairy Woodpecker in the Eastern USA, but I looked it up and indeed it is a Costa Rican subspecies. I didn't know, don't think I've ever seen one there.


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A “breakfast with a view”

AL9nZEUc4ESR-kVuNBatCCFIptxKOY2FQRQGIujG  BOZA2663.jpg.2c7c5329853fe0a3ac73b36d3bd6ad9c.jpg

                                                                                                                                            Another one of Barbara's



After breakfast we headed down to the beach but unfortunately the tide was too high to walk right out onto the “whales tail” 

Pic from www.costaricadiveandsurf.com


Thanks to Trish for this one


I found the overlapping currents of the incoming tide absolutely fascinating ( hope this link works, please let me know if it doesn't)


La Cusinga and the beach also gave us good opportunities & sightings





Red-lored Parrot








Another from Trish


Next: Part 4 - Corcovado National Park, Casa Corcovado Lodge

Edited by AfricIan
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