GRAND BIRD PHOTO TOUR
|Duration:||14 days, 13 nights|
|* This tour is available for any dates of your choosing provided guide services and accommodations are available.|
DAY 1 - ALAJUELA
International flights arrive in the afternoon or evening. Everyone gathers at the Hotel Aeropuerto, a 5-minute taxi ride from the international airport, where they are met by the tour leader. Night in Alajuela.
DAY 2 - ARENAL VOLCANO NATIONAL PARK
Early transfer to Fortuna and on to Arenal Volcano National Park, about a 4 hour drive. After lunch photograph birds in the gardens where vervain flowers attract hummingbirds such as Stripe-throated Hermit, Brown Violetear, Violet-headed Hummingbird, and Bronze-tailed Plumeleteer. Also photograph birds coming in to fruit feeders. Likely species include Crimson-collared Tanager, Passerini's Tanager, Shining Honeycreeper, and several species of euphonias. Even the lovely Golden-browed Chlorophonia is possible. An afternoon walk around the gardens and forest edge offers possibilities such as Great Curassow, Black-crested Coquette, Orange-bellied Trogon, and Smoky-brown Woodpecker. The Arenal area is the best place in Costa Rica for the latter species. We may even see some plumes from Arenal Volcano if it's active during our visit. Night at upscale Arenal Observatory Lodge.
DAY 3 - ARENAL VOLCANO NATIONAL PARK
Morning walk trails through primary forest in the park or on lodge property. The best trail is near the entrance to lodge property. We hope to photograph a variety of antbirds and other forest species. Possibiliites include Dusky Antbird, Dull-mantled Antbird, Spotted Antbird, the spectacular Ocellated Antbird, which typically follows army ant swarms, Black-striped Woodcreeper, Nightingale Wren, and Black-headed Nightingale-Thrush. The gravel road leading to the lodge offers photo opportunities in more open areas and thickets. Here it's possible to find Lineated Woodpecker, Great Antshrike, Slaty Spinetail, Long-tailed Tyrant, White-throated Magpie-Jay, Bay Wren, Thick-billed Seed-Finch, and more.
Afternoon visit the hanging bridges of Arenal. A total of 14 bridges, including 6 suspension bridges, are present along this 3¼km trail. The trail is usually very busy but offers chances to photograph wildlife such as Mantled Howler Monkey, Geoffrey's Spider Monkey, and White-headed Capuchin Monkey as well as middle canopy forest birds. Species that may appear in a mixed species flock include White-fronted Nunbird, Streak-crowned Antvireo, Slaty Antwren, and Northern Barred-Woodcreeper. Night at Arenal Observatory Lodge.
DAY 4 - LAKE ARENAL AREA & TRANSFER
Morning photograph birds in the gardens around the lodge. After lunch transfer to our next destination, La Quinta Country Inn near Sarapiqui on the Caribbean slope. We should have some time after our arrival to photograph birds in the gardens on lodge property. Night at La Quinta Country Inn.
DAY 5 - LA SELVA & SARAPIQUI ECO-OBSERVATORY
Morning photograph birds at La Selva Biological Station, which welcomes visitors. It's best to walk trails through primary rainforest in early morning when bird activity is highest. There we'll look for and photograph birds such as Crested Guan, Chestnut-colored Woodpecker, Lineated Woodpecker, Fasciated Antshrike, Great Antshrike, Black-crowned Antshrike, White-collared Manakin, Crimson-collared Tanager, and Golden-hooded Tanager. Later in the morning we'll check more open areas. The clearing around the office is a good place to find Collared Aracari and Black-mandibled Toucan. Sometimes a Great Curassow comes into the open as well. Near the resident researcher buildings, flowers attract Bronze-tailed Plumeleteer. The entrance road is also worth some time. The secondary forest along the road has grown considerably in recent years and is less open than it once was. Even so bird activity can be quite good. Possibilities include Cinnamon Woodpecker, Barred Antshrike, Common Tody-Flycatcher, White-shouldered Tanager, Crimson-collared Tanager, Passerini's Tanager, Golden-hooded Tanager, and Black-cowled Oriole.
Afternoon visit nearby Sarapiqui Eco-Observatory, one of the best places in Costa Rica for photographing birds. There we'll have a chance to photograph Sunbittern along the Sarapiqui River. Hummingbird feeders attract 9 different species including Purple-crowned Fairy, Green-breasted Mango, Bronze-tailed Plumeleteer, and Violet-crowned Woodnymph. An observation platform overlooking forest canopy provides an excellent vantage point for photographing tanagers and other birds in the trees. A network of trails provides access to the forest where we can look to photograph antbirds and other forest species as time permits. Night at La Quinta Country Inn.
DAY 6 - SELVA VERDE, EL TAPIR, SAN GERARDO DE DOTA
Morning visit nearby Selva Verde, where we have another chance to photograph the strange Sunbittern and possibly also Fasciated Tiger-Heron along the river. Also walk a trail through secondary forest along the river where it's often possible to photograph some antbirds and tanagers. Lunch at the pizza place in the downstairs of Selva Verde Lodge. After lunch transfer back to San Jose, stopping en route at El Tapir Nature Reserve, an excellent place to photograph hummingbirds. Two prime attractions are the prized Snowcap and Black-crested Coquette. Other possible hummingbirds include Green Thorntail, Violet-headed Hummingbird, and Violet-crowned Woodnymph.
Lunch at an area restaurant. Stop at Miriam's Cafe en route to San Gerardo de Dota in the Talamanca Mountains to photograph birds coming to feeders. Among the possibilities are Ruddy-capped Nightingale-Thrush, Sooty Thrush, Large-footed Finch, and Elegant Euphonia. Arrive at our lodge by mid afternoon. Photograph higher elevation hummingbirds such as Green-crowned Brilliant, Magnificent Hummingbird, Volcano Hummingbird, and Scintillant Hummingbird as well as Slaty Flowerpiercer around lodge feeders as time permits. Night at Savegre Mountain Hotel.
DAY 7-8 - SAN GERARDO DE DOTA
We'll have two full days to explore the valley and lodge property, a wonderful place for photographing highland birds. Our primary objective is to photograph Resplendent Quetzal. The quetzals are found in different places every year, so we'll rely on the resident guide to give us directions on where they are. They've become more difficult to photograph in recent years so we're allowing an extra day to give us more time to get good results. If necessary, we may go back up to the main road where a nearby finca is sometimes a good place to find them.
During our visit we'll spend time photographing other highland birds around the lodge entrance and along the road. We should also have time to walk the river trail, where many highland specialties can be found. This trail is wide and fairly easy walking with only a moderate amount of uphill and downhill. The quetzals used to nest along this trail but not recently since their favorite food source, an avocado tree, was cut down by locals. Birds of special interest include Black Guan, Silver-throated Tanager, Flame-colored Tanager, and other species of more open areas. Afternoon walk the river trail through the lodge's private forested reserve. Many highland specialties are present including Golden-bellied Flycatcher, Black-faced Solitaire, Black-billed Nightingale-Thrush, Long-tailed Silky-flycatcher, Flame-throated Warbler, Collared Redstart, Spangle-cheeked Tanager, and Yellow-thighed Finch. Night at Savegre Mountain Hotel.
DAY 9 - THE TALAMANCA HIGHLANDS & EL VALLE DE EL GENERAL
After breakfast, depart for El Valle de El General farther south. En route stop again at Miriam's Cafe to photograph birds at feeders. Also visit Georgina's Restaurant to view especially Fiery-throated Hummingbird, a higher elevation species that doesn't normally appear around Savegre. Continue to San Isidro for lunch in a restaurant there.
Afternoon photograph birds around the grounds of Talari Mountain Lodge. A network of trails offers easy walking through secondary forest. Interesting birds we may encounter include Fiery-billed Aracari, Pale-breasted Spinetail, Orange-collared Manakin, Black-crowned Tityra, Cherrie's Tanager, Black-striped Sparrow. We could also find Turquoise Cotinga, a beautiful bird that follows fruiting trees and appears erratically depending on the presence of fruits. Various hummingbirds are typically present at feeders, including specialties such as Long-billed Starthroat, Snowy-bellied Hummingbird, and Garden Emerald. Night at Talari Mountain Lodge.
DAY 10 - LAS CRUCES BIRD SANCTUARY
Morning visit nearby Las Cruces Bird Sanctuary, former residence of Alexander Skutch. The habitat is open grassy areas, forest edge, and secondary forest. A well-maintained trail provides access to the forest interior. We should have good opportunities for bird photography. A number of southern specialties are possible including Purple-crowned Fairy, Hoffmann's Woodpecker, Fork-tailed Flycatcher, Rufous-breasted Wren, Riverside Wren, Orange-billed Nightingale-Thrush, Cherrie's Tanager, Speckled Tanager, and Streaked Saltator. We'll have the afternoon back at the lodge to photograph birds there. Night at Talari Mountain Lodge.
DAY 11 - PACIFIC COAST
Early morning photograph birds around Talari Mountain Lodge. After breakfast, drive west to Dominical on the Pacific coast and then north on the now paved road to Carara, with stops en route. We hope to see and perhaps photograph coastal species such as Brown Booby. We may stop at Manuel Antonio National Park en route to photograph monkeys. We should arrive in the Tarcoles area mid-afternoon, allowing time to photograph birds around the village of Tarcoles or on the lodge grounds before dark. We should soon seen Scarlet Macaws, whose population has been steadily increasing over the past decade. We may visit the Tarcoles River bridge in late afternoon near dusk, when the macaws fly along the river from their feeding grounds to roosting sites near the river mouth. While there we'll see numerous crocodiles lounging along the river banks and on sandbars. Night at Cerro Lodge.
DAY 12 - CARARA NATIONAL PARK & TARCOLES RIVER
Morning photograph birds in Carara National Park, which protects dry lowland forest near the Pacific coast. The park is in a zone of overlap between northerly and southerly species so has high species diversity. Trails are wide, level, and easy walking. Much of the Headquarters Trail is paved asphalt while the Laguna Meandrica Travel is dirt. Morning walk the Headquarters Trail through primary forest where we hope to photograph antbirds of forest understory and secretive birds such as Black-faced Antthrush and Riverside Wren. Other possibilities include Black-headed Trogon, Black-throated Trogon, Slaty-tailed Trogon, Lineated Woodpecker, Barred Antshrike, Black-hooded Antshrike, Dot-winged Antwren, Chestnut-backed Antbird, Orange-collared Manakin, Rufous-naped Wren, and Cherrie's Tanager.
Afternoon boat trip on the Rio Tarcoles, with many opportunities to photograph birds along the river. In addition to crocodiles, we could find Fasciated Tiger-Heron, Common (Mangrove) Black-Hawk, Amazon Kingfisher, Double-striped Thick-knee, and Mangrove Swallow. Also possible are Two-toed Sloth and Black Spider Monkey. Night at Cerro Lodge.
DAY 13 - TARCOLES & SAN JOSE
Morning photograph birds on the lodge grounds. Birds should be quite active and photo ops should abound. Possibilities include Scarlet Macaw, Common Tody-Flycatcher, Buff-throated Saltator as well as various tanagers and finches. After lunch drive up the Pacific slope toward San Jose, arriving at our hotel in late afternoon. Stop en route to look for Black-and-white Owl that often roosts in Orotina town square. Other stops to look for Turquoise-browed Motmot and White-throated Magpie-Jay. Night at Hotel Aeropuerto.
DAY 14 - END OF TOUR
Tour ends with breakfast at the hotel. International flights home.