Saturday, January 12, 2019

Costa Rica - Week 1, The Lowlands

Sunrise at Cerro Lodge
It's adventure time again and as usual I'm way behind in updating this blog. When the activities go dawn to dusk and beyond... We're in Costa Rica for three weeks with many of our friends. Good friend Bob Barnes organizes CR trips annually and we're taking advantage. 

We left a few days before the official trip start to get some extra days around San Jose with the chance for a few extra species. The first day was an outing to the Pacific slope lowlands dry tropical forest. On day two we went east to the wet side of the country for some rain forest birding near Rio San Jose. By evening the rest of the group was in and we were ready for the big adventure. Bird lists linked in this account are only a representative sample. 

Pacific Ocean birding
Guacimo Road list
Rio San Jose list

Double-striped Thick-knee
Fasciated Tiger Heron

Cinnamon Woodpecker

Turquoise-browed Motmot

With the group assembled we met our guide Mario Cordoba from Crescentia Expeditions and our expert drivers Alberto (owner) and Rodrigo from Transportes Vitratur were ready to make it all happen. We met Alberto on our 2002 trip to CR and it was great to see him and his family again after so many years.

Our first day was easy, birding around Heredia before heading off to a hotel in San Jose. The specialty here is the locally uncommon Cabanis's Ground-Sparrow.

Cabanis's Ground-Sparrow

Yellow-headed Caracara

We had an early arrival the next morning at Carara National Park, again in the dry Pacific lowlands. The birding was excellent on the park trails all day. As we wrapped up our day on the way in to Cerro Lodge, a Ferruginous Pygmy-Owl sang away in a tree by the road.

Carara bird list

Birding Carara NP. Guide Mario is closest
Northern Schiffornis
Streak-chested Antpitta
Ferruginous Pygmy Owl

The following morning we were off to Rio Tarcoles for a boat trip up river from the mouth, especially for mangrove specialties like Mangrove Hummingbird, Mangrove Vireo and Panama Flycatcher.

Rio Tarcoles boat trip list

White-faced Capuchin Monkey at the lodge
White-throated Magpie-Jay

River boat

View from near river mouth
Wood Stork
Yellow-crowned Night-Heron

American Pygmy Kingfisher

Panama Flycatcher
Lots of Magnificent Frigatebirds cruised over our heads
And plenty of Crocodiles on the bank
A 20+ footer
By evening we were at La Ensenada on the Gulf of Nicoya for a short boat ride again into a mangrove forest the next morning.

Gulf of Nicoya bird list

A  Pacific Screech-Owl at the lodge
Sunset over the Gulf of Nicoya
After the boat ride and breakfast we were heading inland for a visit to Solimar, a private cattle ranch with lots of protected wetlands. The main target here was Jabiru.

Solimar bird list

Solimar Ranch wetlands
We continued inland and northeast, over the divide and into the Carribean lowlands near the Nicaraguan border area of Cano Negro. Morning and evening boat rides on the Rio Frio and into the Cano Negro wetlands were spectacular. An evening outing netted us a Great Potoo.

Cano Negro boat trip list

Rio Frio
Cano Negro Wetlands
Amazon Kingfisher with fish breakfast
Agami Heron. A shy and secretive bird that is difficult to see
Boat-billed Heron
Green Ibis
Green Heron
Green-and-Rufous Kingfisher
Ringed Kingfisher
Russet-naped Wood-Rail
Black-headed Trogon
Lineated Woodpecker
Slaty-tailed Trogon

Great Potoo

On the way out of Cano Negro we stopped near the Nicaraguan border town of Los Chiles and the Medio Quesa marsh. Targets included Pinnated Bittern, Nicaraguan Seed-Finch (missed here but seen later in the trip) and Nicaraguan Grackle.

Medio Queso Marsh list

Nicaraguan Grackle
Buff-throated Saltator

Golden-olive Woodpecker

Green Iguana
Next up, the Caribbean tropical forests of Arenal, La Selva and more!


  1. What a wonderful journey. Beautiful photos. Milestones for both!

  2. Excellent compositions Bob! Framing, exposure sharpness.

  3. Boat-billed Heron!!!! I got to hear the one at the San Diego Safari Park talking. I was over the moon!
    I loved the river trips, especially way back in the narrow channels.
    Good Thick-knees photo. My nemesis bird, but looking for them was fun, even on the way to the airport (!!)
    Good memories relived with your photos. Thank you.