There is only one place that I have stayed on every one of my fourteen tours in Costa Rica and that is Selva Verde Lodge, located in the midst of the 500-acre Sarapiquí Rainforest Preservation Area in the lush Caribbean lowlands. Not only does the lodge offer some first rate birding and other wildlife in its immediate vicinity but it is ideally situated for visits to Braulio Carrillo National Park and La Selva Biological Station, two sites that no visiting birder would want to miss. The founding of Selva Verde Lodge is a story in itself and on this visit I was privileged to meet Giovanna Holbrook who started it all more than 20 years ago.
La Selva Biological Station is operated by the Organization for Tropical Studies and is one of the most important sites in the world for research on tropical rainforest. It comprises 1,600 hectares of mainly tropical wet forests and averages 4 metres (!) of rainfall annually. Not surprisingly, we needed umbrellas, ponchos and rain jackets pretty much throughout our day here.
The birds at La Selva are outstanding. In spite of the weather and an extended lunch (and drying out) break back at Selva Verde Lodge, we saw about 80 species during the day. Among the highlights were Great Green Macaws, Yellow-tailed Oriole, Pied Puffbird, Semiplumbeous Hawk, Vermiculated Screech-Owl, Spectacled Owl, Olive-backed Quail-Dove, Great Tinamou and Grey-necked Wood-Rail. The mammals are pretty good, too! They included Hoffmann's Two-toed Sloth (which should surely be called 'ten-toed'), Collared Peccary and everyone's favourite, cute little White Tent-making Bats.
Our visit to Braulio Carrillo National Park was combined with stops at several other sites. It was good to find that El Tigre Marsh has not yet been drained and turned over to pineapple cultivation, although that is apparently still on the cards. Nicaraguan Seed-Finches were more abundant than I've ever seen them but sadly there was no sign of Pinnated Bittern or Green Ibis that I have seen there in the past. Along the Rio San José, we found a Sunbittern at a nest and also a Fasciated Tiger-Heron; at the butterfly garden of El Tapir reserve we were treated to great views of the much sought-after Snowcap.
Braulio Carrillo covers a vast expanse of lowland and highland forest much of which is virtually inaccessible. From the Quebrada Gonzalez Ranger Station we walked the 1.6-kilometre Sendero Natural Las Palmas. This is a trail where you hope to find mixed feeding flocks. However, when you do, identifying all the birds involved as they quickly pass overhead can sometimes cause even experienced birders to panic! Although we did come across a couple of flocks, we were perhaps lucky that our best experience was at a fruiting tree where Blue-throated Toucanet, Bay-headed Tanager, Collared Araçari and Speckled Tanager were all feeding along with White-nosed Coatis and Central American Spider Monkeys. It was while we were watching the two mammal species interacting that a Yellow-eared Toucanet appeared close by us. We expect to see two toucan species and two araçari species on this tour but this second toucanet is definitely a hard one to find and certainly not guaranteed!
We finished the tour with a night in the Talamanca Mountains at Savegre Mountain Hotel, situated at an elevation of 2200 metres. Sadly for most of the short time we were there it rained but we still managed to see an amazing variety of birds, many of them for the first time on the tour. My personal favourite here is always Flame-throated Warbler but American Dipper, Torrent Tyrannulet, Flame-coloured Tanager and Acorn Woodpecker were all popular, not to mention the many hummingbirds. The Fiery-throated Hummers seen on Jorge Serrano's feeders were a particular delight.
I have long ago lost count of the number of people whom I have taken on Avian Adventures tours to Costa Rica; I have never heard any one of them say anything bad about the country. The people are friendly and welcoming, the accommodation is of a good standard, the food is excellent and the birds are just brilliant! I'm already looking forward to the next time...
From the Archive... No 24
2 days ago