NORTHERN CIRCUIT BIRDING TOUR
|Duration:||13 days, 12 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. 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 bird the lodge grounds where gardens attract hummingbirds such as Stripe-throated Hermit, Brown Violetear, Violet-headed Hummingbird, and Bronze-tailed Plumeleteer. View 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 birding walk around the gardens and forest edge offers possibilities such as Great Curassow, Black-crested Coquette, Orange-bellied Trogon, and Smoky-brown Woodpecker. Arenal is the best place in Costa Rica for the latter species. Plumes and fiery lava flows from Arenal Volcano may well be visible if it's not overcast. Night at upscale Arenal Observatory Lodge.
DAY 3 - ARENAL VOLCANO NATIONAL PARK & SELVA VERDE
Morning bird trails through foothill primary forest in the park or on lodge property. The best trail is near the lodge entrance. Birds of special interest include Dusky Antbird, Dull-mantled Antbird, Spotted Antbird, the spectacular Ocellated Antbird, which typically follows army ant swarms, Black-striped Woodcreeper, Nightingale Wren, Black-headed Nightingale-Thrush, and White-throated Shrike-Tanager. The gravel road leading to the lodge offers birding 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. The secretive Thicket Antpitta is often heard along the road but extremely difficult to see. After lunch transfer to Sarapiqui on the Caribbean slope. There should be time after check-in to relax on the veranda and look for Fasciated Tiger-Heron and Sunbittern along the adjoining Sarapiqui River below the outdoor lounge area. Night at Selva Verde Lodge.
DAY 4 - LA SELVA BIOLOGICAL STATION & SARAPIQUI ECO-OBSERVATORY
Morning bird La Selva Biological Station, where over 450 species have been recorded. Access is very controlled so the exact schedule varies every year. Our guides can get exceptional access because they're Costa Rican and most have previously worked at La Selva. Birding is along the access road, in the clearing around the visitor center, and along an extensive network of trails through primary and secondary forest. 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, and Dusky-faced Tanager. 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 as well.
After lunch visit Sarapiqui Eco-Observatory, a wonderful place to view and photograph forest birds. Feeders attract 9 species of hummingbirds, including Purple-crowned Fairy, Green-breasted Mango, Bronze-tailed Plumeleteer, and Violet-crowned Woodnymph. An observation platform overlooking the forest allows nice views of middle-story and canopy birds. A network of trails also provides access to the forest. It's sometimes possible to find Sunbittern along the Sarapiqui River running through the property if absent at Selva Verde. Night at Selva Verde Lodge.
DAY 5 - EL TAPIR & TAPANTI NATIONAL PARK
Depart early for Tapanti National Park with a short stop en route at El Tapir Nature Reserve to look for hummingbirds, most notably the prized Snowcap that is typically present along with Black-crested Coquette, Violet-headed Hummingbird, and Blue-throated Goldentail. Then continue to Tapanti National Park for a full morning of birding. Tapanti offers rainforest birding around the ranger station and along the road into the park. It's the best place to find the secretive Silvery-fronted Tapaculo and Wrenthrush. Other species typically seen there include Black Guan, White-bellied Mountain-gem, Collared Trogon, Red-headed Barbet, Prong-billed Barbet, Spangle-cheeked Tanager, and Bay-headed Tanager. After lunch at a restaurant near Cartago, drive to the lodge in San Gerardo de Dota, a river valley below Cerro de la Muerte and best place in Costa Rica to see Resplendent Quetzals. Night at Savegre Mountain Hotel.
DAY 6 - SAN GERARDO DE DOTA & HIGHLANDS
Early birding walk to look for Resplendent Quetzal. The quetzals nest in different places every year. The resident guide is always helpful pointing out where they are. Other highland specialties to be found there include Golden-bellied Flycatcher, Black-faced Solitaire, Black-billed Nightingale-Thrush, Long-tailed Silky-flycatcher, Flame-throated Warbler, Collared Redstart, Spangle-cheeked Tanager, and Slaty Flowerpiercer. Also possible is the near endemic Sulphur-winged Parakeet, which sometimes flies over in raucous flocks. During mid-day enjoy the many hummingbirds coming into feeders around the lodge restaurant. Common visitors are Green-crowned Brilliant, Magnificent Hummingbird, Volcano Hummingbird, Scintillant Hummingbird, and Gray-tailed Mountain-gem. Afternoon drive up above treeline to look for high elevation specialties such as Timberline Wren, Peg-billed Finch, and Volcano Junco. Night at Savegre Mountain Hotel.
DAY 7 - SAN GERARDO DE DOTA & TALARI
Early morning bird along the road. Depart after breakfast for the south with a stop at Georgina's Restaurant along the ridge road, where hummingbird feeders usually attract the high elevation Fiery-throated Hummingbird, a species not normally present in San Gerardo de Dota. Seed feeders there often draw in other specialties such as Ruddy-capped Nightingale-Thrush, Sooty Finch, Elegant Euphonia, and Large-footed Finch. After lunch near San Isidro de el General, continue to the lodge. Afternoon bird lodge grounds. A network of trails on the lodge property offers easy birding through secondary forest. Possibilities include Fiery-billed Aracari, Pale-breasted Spinetail, Orange-collared Manakin, Black-crowned Tityra, Cherrie's Tanager, Black-striped Sparrow. We could also see Turquoise Cotinga, a beautiful bird that follows fruiting trees and appears erratically depending on the presence of fruits. Another possibility is the near endemic Costa Rican Brush-Finch, a recent split from Stripe-headed/Black-headed Brush-Finch, which is rare in this area. Several hummingbirds are typically present, including specialties such as Long-billed Starthroat, Snowy-bellied Hummingbird, and Garden Emerald. Night at Talari Mountain Lodge.
DAY 8 - LAS CRUCES BIRD SANCTUARY & PACIFIC COAST
Morning bird 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. Birding is usually excellent in early morning. A number of southern specialties are possible including Purple-crowned Fairy, Hoffmann's Woodpecker, Barred Parakeet, Fork-tailed Flycatcher, Rufous-breasted Wren, Riverside Wren, Orange-billed Nightingale-Thrush, Speckled Tanager, and Streaked Saltator. After early lunch transfer to the Pacific lowlands via Dominical on the now paved road to Carara, birding en route. Possibilities along the road are coastal species such as Bare-throated Tiger-Heron, Brown Booby, Northern Jacana, wintering shorebirds, gulls, and terns. Arrive in the Tarcoles area late afternoon. Night at Cerro Lodge.
DAY 9 - CARARA NATIONAL PARK
Bird Carara National Park, one of the most bird-rich places in Costa Rica. The park is in a transitional zone between northern and southern Pacific coastal areas and attracts a nice combination of northern and southern species. Morning bird Laguna Meandrica Trail through secondary forest, a wide and fairly level trail that affords easy walking. Specialties we should see along the trail include White-whiskered Puffbird, Baird's Trogon, Black-hooded Antshrike, Orange-collared Manakin, Rufous-naped Wren, Black-bellied Wren, Rufous-and-white Wren, Cherrie's Tanager, and Spot-crowned Euphonia. With luck we could also find Long-tailed Manakin and Rufous-breasted Wren. At the end of the trail are some ponds where we always see roosting Boat-billed Herons along with Black-bellied Whistling-Ducks. Afternoon boat trip on Tarcoles River and bird around the boat launch area near Tarcoles. Possibilities along the road include White-necked Puffbird, Olivaceous Piculet, Orange-chinned Parrot, Yellow-olive Flycatcher, Golden-crowned Spadebill, Sayaca Tanager, and Scrub Euphonia. Near the river Scarlet Macaws frequently raise a ruckus in the trees while feeding on palm nuts. Night at Cerro Lodge.
DAY 10 - TARCOLES & TRANSFER
Early morning bird around the lodge grounds. Mid-morning transfer to Monteverde with birding stops en route. Likely possibilities include Turquoise-browed Motmot along the road and White-throated Magpie-Jay off a side road. A pair of Black-and-white Owls frequently roost in trees of the central square of Orotina, though in recent years their presence has been less reliable than previously. Arrive at Monteverde late afternoon. Night at Hotel Fonda Vela.
DAY 11 - MONTEVERDE CLOUD FOREST
Morning bird trails in acclaimed Monteverde Cloud Forest Preserve. Most trails are wide and easy walking with some uphill and downill. A few trails that go up to the top of the ridgeline are steeper and we usually skip those. Monteverde is an excellent place to see Resplendent Quetzal and Three-wattled Bellbird during early dry season. Both species typically move higher up the ridgeline by mid-February. Likely birds we could see include Prong-billed Barbet, Buffy Tuftedcheek, Streak-breasted Treehunter, Mountain Elaenia, Blue-and-gold Tanager, Spangle-cheeked Tanager, and Sooty-faced Finch. Birding is also good near the parking lot at the reserve entrance. Several hummingbird feeders there 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. Afternoon either return to the cloud forest preserve or bird the hotel grounds. The 35-acre property features gardens where some 260 species of birds have been recorded at one time or another. Night at Hotel Fonda Vela.
DAY 12 - SANTUARIO ECOLOGICA & TRANSFER
Morning birding in Santuario Ecologica, a much drier forest than the cloud forest of Monteverde Cloud Forest Preserve. Santuario Ecologica is the best place to see Three-wattled Bellbirds, most easily found when they are calling. Other possibilities include Chiriqui Quail-Dove, Long-tailed Manakin, Orange-billed Nightingale-Thrush, Golden-crowned Warbler, and White-eared Ground-Sparrow. After lunch transfer to Alajuela near the international airport in San Jose, arriving before dark. Night at Hotel Aeropuerto.
DAY 13 - END OF TOUR
Tour ends with breakfast at the hotel. International flights home.
Tour ends with breakfast at the hotel. International flights home.