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GRAND COSTA RICA TOUR

Tour Description

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COSTA RICA
BIRDING TOUR
ANY TIME*

Duration:19 days, 18 nights
Group Size:2-8
Anytime Price:$5795
Group Price:$5195
Single Suppl:$535
Est #Species:450-500
Pace:Moderate
Difficulty:Moderate
* 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. Night in Alajuela.

DAY 2 - LA ENSENADA

Early departure for La Ensenada, located about 3 hours drive north of Alajuela. This reserve features a combination of lowland dry scrub, dry forest, pastures, and mangroves. Key species likely at this locale include Crested Bobwhite, Double-striped Thick-knee, Sandwich Tern, Pacific Screech-Owl, Ferruginous Pygmy-Owl, Plain-capped Starthroat, Steely-vented Hummingbird, Orange-chinned Parakeet, Orange-fronted Parakeet, Nutting's Flycatcher, Scissor-tailed Flycatcher, Rose-throated Becard, White-throated Magpie-Jay, Banded Wren, White-lored Gnatcatcher, Stripe-headed Sparrow, Streak-backed Oriole, and Spot-breasted Oriole. In addition, Nicaraguan Grackle may be expanding its range into the area as we saw several on our recent visit. Finally, the lodge staff often know where Pacific Screech-Owl roosts near the lodge. Boat trips into the mangroves are prohibitively expensive with less than 4 persons in the group. A boat trip (not included in tour price) may produce Mangrove Cuckoo, Mangrove Hummingbird, and Panama Flycatcher as well as many wetland birds. Night at La Ensenada Lodge.

DAY 3 - LA ENSENADA & MONTEVERDE

Morning birding the grounds at La Ensenada. Transfer to Monteverde for late lunch there. Afternoon bird access road to Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve and visit hummingbird feeders outside the entrance. These attract up to 10 species of hummingbirds including Green-fronted Lancebill, Magnificent Hummingbird, Magenta-throated Woodstar, Stripe-tailed Hummingbird, and the endemic Coppery-headed Emerald. Night at De Lucia Inn.

DAY 4 - MONTEVERDE CLOUD FOREST RESERVE

The entire day will be devoted to birding the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve. Numerous trails through mid-elevation forest are available, including some fairly level and some steeper with concrete block steps along the way. Numerous species are very possible, including Resplendent Quetzal. Other key species include Buff-fronted Quail-Dove, Orange-bellied Trogon, Red-headed Barbet, Prong-billed Barbet, Blue-throated Toucanet, Plain Antvireo, Spotted Woodcreeper, Streak-breasted Treehunter, Spotted Barbtail, Ruddy Treerunner, Olive-striped Flycatcher, Yellowish Flycatcher, Ochraceous Wren, Bay Wren, Orange-billed Nightingale-Thrush, White-throated Thrush, Costa Rican Warbler, Sooty-faced Finch, and Golden-browned Chlorophonia. Night at De Lucia Inn.

DAY 5 - SELVATURA & BIJAGUA

Morning birding the higher elevation forest at Selvatura. The trail there goes through very good montane forest and traverses some 9 ravines by quite stable suspension bridges that provide a view of forest canopy. The key species typically seen there is Three-wattled Bellbird, which calls loudly from treetops during nesting season. Other likely possibilities include Black Guan, Buff-fronted Quail-Dove, Resplendent Quetzal, Orange-bellied Trogon, Black-banded Woodcreeper, and White-eared Ground-Sparrow. After lunch transfer to the Bijagua area. After arrival bird the lodge grounds. Of particular interest there is White-tipped Sicklebill, which regularly visits Heliconia flowers along the entrance road. Night at Celeste Mountain Lodge.

DAY 6 - HELICONIA LODGE GROUNDS

All day will be spent birding trails around Heliconia Lodge, located about 30 minutes drive from Celeste Mountain Lodge. The lodge grounds are considered by those in the know to offer some of the best birding in Costa Rica when its not too dry. The accommodations at Heliconia are more rustic, but it is possible and actually more convenient to stay there. Trails are through secondary forest on lodge property with some up and down. Of particular interest is the possibility of finding an army ant swarm with attendant followers, notable Rufous-vented Ground-Cuckoo, Bicolored Antbird, and Ocellated Antbird. These are most readily found early in dry season, namely Jan-Feb. Other notable birds possible there include Black-crested Coquette, Tody Motmot, White-fronted Nunbird, Yellow-eared Toucanet, Sharpbill, Spotted Antbird, Long-tailed Manakin, White-ruffed Manakin, Nightingale Wren, and Song Wren. Night at Celeste Mountain Lodge.

DAY 7 - BIJAGUA & ARENAL

Morning drive up the road to a likely site for Lovely Cotinga if it's still being reported. Open canopy trees near the bridge have been fairly reliable for this rare species. Late morning transfer to Arenal, arriving at the lodge for lunch. Afternoon bird trails on the lodge grounds. Night at Arenal Observatory Lodge.

DAY 8 - FORTUNA & ARENAL AREA

A private reserve near Fortuna is a stake-out for several rare rails, so this morning will be spent there. The site has been reliable for White-throated Crake and Uniform Crake along with the much more easily seen Gray-cowleed Wood-Rail. A trail through extensive forest offers a few additional species such as Olivaceous Piculet, Black-cheeked Woodpecker, and Plain Xenops. Then bird the waterfall trail within Arenal National Park. This trail goes down quite steeply, so an alternative is to return to the extensive trails around the lodge instead. The waterfall trail is a good place to look for Lanceolated Monklet. After lunch bird trails around the lodge. Extensive forest offers numerous interesting species including Great Curassow, Smoky-brown Woodpecker, White-fronted Parrot, Russet Antshrike, Spotted Antbird, Bare-necked Umbrellabird, Stripe-breasted Wren, Black-headed Nightingale-Thrush, Golden-crowned Warbler, Black-and-yellow Tanager, Olive Tanager, and Yellow-crowned Euphonia. Night at Arenal Observatory Lodge.

DAY 9 - ARENAL & SARAPIQUI

Morning bird trails around Arenal Observatory Lodge. After lunch transfer to Sarapiqui on the Caribbean slope. Following check-in at the lodge, bird some sites around Puerto Viejo. The main target species there are Canebrake Wren, a split from Plain Wren, and Gray-crowned Yellowthroat. Raptors such as White Hawk, Gray-lined Hawk, and Bat Falcon are also possible. Night at La Quinta Inn.

DAY 10 - LA SELVA BIOLOGICAL STATION

All day birding La Selva Biological Station, where over 400 species have been recorded. Access is restricted for most groups, but we can usually get exceptional access because our guides are Costa Rican and most have previously worked at La Selva. Birding is along the entrance road, in the clearing around the visitor center, and along an extensive network of trails through primary and secondary forest. It's preferable to bird the forest interior early when bird activity is at its best. Several hundred species are possible and we see different ones on every visit, which is typical when birding in rainforest. Possibilities include Great Tinamou, Semiplumbeous Hawk, Chestnut-colored Woodpecker, Pale-billed Woodpecker, Fasciated Antshrike, Great Antshrike, Black-crowned Antshrike, Black-headed Tody-Flycatcher, Bare-necked Umbrellabird, White-collared Manakin, Crimson-collared Tanager, Golden-hooded Tanager, Dusky-faced Tanager, and many more. If an army ant swarm is encountered, obligate and opportunistic army ant followers such as Bicolored Antbird, Ocellated Antbird, Gray-headed Tanager and Red-throated Ant-Tanager are very possible. It's worth spending all day at La Selva, with a rest during the hot part of the day back at the lodge. Night at La Quinta Inn.

DAY 11 - GUAPILES & BRAULIO CARRILLO

A local guide has a site where he can lure out the very secretive Thicket Antpitta for good viewing and photos. The morning will be spent with him. Various other birds could be seen as well, including Short-billed Pigeon, Crested Owl, which the same guide often has staked out, Great Potoo, Cinnamon Woodpecker, and Pale-billed Woodpecker. After a couple hours with him, continue down the road with a short stop near El Tapir Nature Reserve to look for Snowcap, Black-crested Coquette, Violet-headed Hummingbird, and Blue-throated Goldentail. Then bird one or two trails in Braulio Carrillo National Park. The area around Braulio Carrillo is often very rainy, so this part of the morning is optional. The birding can be very good, especially for mixed species tanager flocks. Some of the notable birds thinclude Tawny-crested Tanager, Blue-and-gold Tanager, Emerald Tanager, and Ashy-throated Chlorospingus. Other possibilities include Yellow-eared Toucanet, Tawny-throated Leaftosser, Sharpbill, Tawny-faced Gnatwren, White-throated Shrike-Tanager, Tawny-capped Euphonia, and possibly a forest-falcon. Lunch at a cafe in Cartago. Then drive to San Gerardo de Dota in the Talamance Mountains. After arrival and check-in, visit the lodge's new hummingbird gardens. Species likely there include Green-crowned Brilliant, Magnificent Hummingbird, Scintillant Hummingbird, and Gray-tailed Mountain-gem. Also likely is Slaty Flowerpiercer feeding among the flowers. Along the road, a stretch of flowers reliably attracts Stripe-tailed Hummingbird. Night at Savegre Mountain Lodge.

DAY 12 - SAN GERARDO DE DOTA

Morning drive high up the mountain behind the lodge and bird the trail going back down. Certainly the prime attraction is Resplendent Quetzal, often seen in the forest there. Other highland species of note include Spotted Wood-Quail, Ruddy Pigeon, Barred Parakeet, Sulphur-winged Parakeet, Lineated Foliage-gleaner, Streak-breasted Treehunter, Ruddy Treerunner, Mountain Elaenia, Yellow-winged Vireo, Black-faced Solitaire, Black-billed Nightingale-Thrush, Long-tailed Silky-Flycatcher, Black-cheeked Warbler, Wrenthrush, Spangle-cheeked Tanager, Silver-throated Tanager, Peg-billed Finch, and Flame-colored Tanager. The afternoon will be devoted to looking for Resplendent Quetzal along a section of the road where it is usually seen if it wasn't seen earlier. Alternatively, if it is still present along the River Trail, bird there instead. Night at Savegre Mountain Lodge.

DAY 13 - PARAISO QUETZALES & SARAPIQUI

Very early departure and excursion to Paraiso Quetzales, where they have a program for getting good views of quetzals on a local finca. Breakfast at the lodge and view hummingbirds coming in to feeders. This site is the best place to see Fiery-throated Hummingbird, a high elevation species not normally present in the valley. Transfer to Osa Peninsula, with a birding stop at the antenna area atop Cerro de la Muerte to look for several high elevation specialties, notably Volcano Hummingbird, Timberline Wren, Peg-billed Finch, Sooty-capped Chlorospingus, Volcano Junco, and Large-footed Finch. Arrive at Osa Peninsula by late afternoon. Check the feeders near the lodge for Black-cheeked Ant-Tanager, by far the best place in Costa Rica to view this normally quite secretive species. Night at Bosque del Rio Tigre.

DAY 14 - BOSQUE DEL RIO TIGRE

All day birding trails above the lodge. The trail goes up a ridgeline through good forest before reaching a jeep track used by locals and miners. Birds of note include Gray-chested Dove, Little Hermit, Slaty-tailed Trogon, Baird's Trogon, Gartered Trogon, Black-throated Trogon, White-whiskered Puffbird, Olivaceous Piculet, Golden-naped Woodpecker, Red-crowned Woodpecker, Pale-billed Woodpecker, Red-lored Parrot, Black-hooded Antshrike, Dot-winged Antbird, Chestnut-backed Antbird, Streak-headed Woodcreeper, Buff-fronted Foliage-gleaner, Northern Royal-Flycatcher, Sulphur-rumped Flycatcher, Turquoise Cotinga, Orange-collared Manakin, Black-crowned Tityra, Masked Tityra, Flame-throated Warbler, and Black-striped Sparrow. Raptors such as Black Hawk-Eagle, Ornate Hawk-Eagle, and Tiny Hawk are possible. Back at the lodge, feeding stations outside the dining area typically attract Little Tinamou, Blue Ground-Dove, Cherrie's Tanager, and Orange-billed Sparrow in addition to Black-cheeked Ant-Tanager. Birds such as Band-tailed Barbthroat, Blue-throated Goldentail, Fiery-billed Aracari, Yellow-bellied Tyrannulet, Yellow Tyrannulet, Yellow-olive Flycatcher, and Green Shrike-Vireo can be seen around the lodge. Afternoon drive into the village of Tigre to look for Isthmian Wren. An optional uphill trail into Corcovado National Park outside town offers Ruddy Quail-Dove, Great Antshrike, Golden-crowned Spadebill, Rufous Piha, Red-capped Manakin, and White-throated Shrike-Tanager. At dusk, several Black-faced Antthrushes reliably come out to feed around the compost piles near the lodge.

DAY 15 - BOSQUE DEL RIO TIGRE

An optional early excursion a short distance up the trail above the lodge before dawn is likely to produce the quite elusive Gray-throated Leaftosser. After breakfast bird a different trail such as the one along the river near the lodge. Afternoon bird another trail into Corcovado National Park. This day offers a second chance for Black-cheeked Ant-Tanager in case they didn't appear at the feeders the previous day. It's also a day to look for species missed the prior day. Night at Bosque del Rio Tigre.

DAY 16 - RINCON & TALAMANCA HIGHLANDS

Depart early for the Rincon River, arriving by 6:30-7:00am. This site is the most reliable place to see Yellow-billed Cotingas, which perch in treetops and fly among the trees on either side of the bridge over the river in early morning. Continue north towards Tarcoles, stopping near Quepos is a good place to find the very localized Spot-fronted Swift along with the more widely distributed Costa Rican Swift. Arrive at the lodge mid-day. Afternoon take a boat trip up the Tarcoles River. Likely species include Fasciated Tiger-Heron, Common Black-Hawk, Amazon Kingfisher, and Double-striped Thick-knee. Around the river mouth are Mangrove Hummingbird, Panama Flycatcher, Mangrove Vireo, and Mangrove Warbler, a color morph of the Yellow Warbler. Back at the lodge, Scarlet Macaws typically visit the gardens in late afternoon, offering close-up viewing. Night at Cerro Lodge.

DAY 17 - CARARA NATIONAL PARK

All day bird Carara National Park. The park is in a transitional zone between northern and southern Pacific coastal areas and attracts a nice combination of northern and southern species. Bird the Laguna Meandrica trail through secondary forest paralleling the Tarcoles River. This trail is wide and fairly level, affording easy walking. Specialties typically seen along the trail include White-whiskered Puffbird, Baird's Trogon, Black-hooded Antshrike, Slaty Antwren, Chestnut-backed Antwren, Orange-collared Manakin, Rufous-naped Wren, Black-bellied Wren, Rufous-and-white Wren, Cherrie's Tanager, and Spot-crowned Euphonia. With luck one could also find Long-tailed Manakin and Rufous-breasted Wren. At the end of the trail are some ponds where roosting Boat-billed Herons are normally present in thick understory near the river. Also present sometimes are Black-bellied Whistling-Ducks. After lunch at the lodge, bird the Headquarters Trail at Carara. This trail goes through primary forest where species composition is quite different. The trail is flat, paved, and easy. Notable species possible include Gray-chested Dove, Bronzy Hermit, White-whiskered Puffbird, Black-hooded Antshrike, Streak-chested Antpitta, Tawny-winged Woodcreeper, Northern Bentbill, Stub-tailed Spadebill, Riverside Wren, Long-billed Gnatwren, Orange-billed Sparrow, and Yellow-throated Euphonia. Night at Cerro Lodge.

DAY 18 - OROTINA & ALAJUELA

Early morning meet with a local guide near Orotina who has stakeouts for Lesser Ground-Cuckoo, Barn Owl, Spectacled Owl, Ferruginous Pygmy-Owl, and Black-and-white Owl. Early in the season he may also have a site for the very difficult Rufous-necked Wood-Rail in the mangroves near Caldera. Also possible there is Mangrove Hummingbird. An early afternoon boat trip on the Tarcoles River. Likely species include Fasciated Tiger-Heron, Common Black-Hawk, Amazon Kingfisher, and Double-striped Thick-knee. Around the river mouth are Mangrove Hummingbird, Panama Flycatcher, Mangrove Vireo, and Mangrove Warbler, a color morph of the Yellow Warbler. Then transfer to Alajuela, arriving before dark. Night at Hotel Aeropuerto.

DAY 19 - END OF TOUR

Tour ends with breakfast at the hotel. International flights home.

ADDITIONAL INFO
(Not on Menu Above)

BIRDING LOCALES

 

White-throated Magpie-Jay - © Laura L Fellows and Exotic Birding Tours White-throated Crake - © James F Wittenberger and Exotic Birding Tours Spotted Antbird - © James F Wittenberger and Exotic Birding Tours Crimson-collared Tanager - © Laura L Fellows and Exotic Birding Tours Thicket Antpitta - © James F Wittenberger and Exotic Birding Tours Crested Owl - © James F Wittenberger and Exotic Birding Tours Resplendent Quetzal - © Laura L Fellows and Exotic Birding Tours Black-cheeked Ant-Tanager - © Laura L Fellows and Exotic Birding Tours White-throated Shrike-Tanager - © James F Wittenberger and Exotic Birding Tours Yellow-billed Cotinga - © James F Wittenberger and Exotic Birding Tours Black-hooded Antshrike - © Laura L Fellows and Exotic Birding Tours Black-and-white Owl - © Laura L Fellows and Exotic Birding Tours