Birding in Costa Rica - 15 days, 14 nights

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ITINERARY

DAY 01
Arrive at San Jose, our representative will meet you at the airport and drive you to your hotel, overnight at San Jose.

DAY 02
We will get an early start  this morning as we climb the slopes of Volcan Poas before crossing the Continental Divide and beginning our descent of the Caribbean slope. Our first destination will be the beautiful Virgen del Socorro valley, where we will begin our search for some of the many birds that reside in the area. The scarce Lanceolated Monklet, Rufous-browed Tyrannulet, the oft-heard but seldom seen Nightingale Wren, Slate-colored Grosbeak, and Sooty-faced Finch are some of the specialties we will hope to encounter; we will continue down the lowlands to Puerto Viejo de Sarapiqui for overnight, arriving at our lodge midafternoon, evening free.

DAY 03
We will have this day to explore the various trails and forest types in and around La Selva Biological Station, just a twenty-minute drive from our hotel. Much of our time here will be spent at La Selva itself, home to hundreds of species. If possible, there will be a night excursion to look for Crested Owl, Vermiculated Screech-Owl, Great Potoo, and perhaps a mammal or two. Outside of the reserve, we will search for such exciting species as Laughing Falcon, Pied Puffbird, Great Green Macaw, and Olivecrowned Yellowthroat, while at a nearby marsh, we may find Pinnated Bittern, Green Ibis, White-throated and Gray-breasted crakes, and Nicaraguan Seed-Finches with their huge pink bills. Trails are well maintained at La Selva to minimize the impact of foot traffic on the forest. Those trails close to the buildings are concrete walkways, while further afield they consist of wooden boards, finally becoming simple dirt tracks in the far reaches of the reserve; overnight at Puerto Viejo de Sarapiqui.

DAY 04
After an early breakfast, we will load up for the trip to Rancho Naturalista. Our route will take us past the Braulio Carrillo National Park region, and we will make the short detour to spend the morning at the park. On this visit, much of our time will be spent on a wonderful trail inside the forest as we try to catch up with a multitude of interior forest species and perhaps track down one of the large, evermoving feeding flocks, which is every birder’s goal here. The trails here are steep in places with a few muddy sections, but birding is certainly worth the effort; there are a number of species found at Braulio that we will not encounter elsewhere on our tour route; we will then depart for Rancho Naturalista, arriving late afternoon.

DAY 05
Rancho Naturalista has quickly gained a reputation as one of the birdiest sites in Costa Rica, and the “porch birding” here, overlooking the looming Volcán Turrialba, (which has just recently become active) and the expansive Rio Tuis Valley, can be truly phenomenal. A typical early morning on the porch features a good variety of birds feeding on the cooked rice and bananas put out by the staff, and the hummingbird feeders and vervain hedges are alive with as many as fourteen species of hummers—including the diminutive Snowcap and Black-crested Coquette. While it may be difficult to pull ourselves away from this spectacle, a number of birds will beckon us from the thick forest just down the path from our rooms, and we will spend our morning searching them out. After lunch at the lodge, there will be ample free time to relax on the porch, have a snooze in one of the hammocks, or walk to the forest hummingbird feeders before we gather again in the late afternoon. A possible option for the afternoon will be to spend some time at a quiet forest stream where a variety of species, including Snowcap, Purple-crowned Fairy, Violet-crowned Woodnymph, Golden-crowned Warbler, and Black-headed Nightingale-Thrush sometimes come to bathe. Or we may choose to go back out on the trails to try and track down some of the area?s tougher species, such as Great Tinamou, Purplish-backed Quail-Dove, Tawny-throated Leaftosser, and Thrushlike Schiffornis; overnight at Ranco Naturalista.

DAY 06
We will have a second full morning to spend around Rancho, and we will use it to track down whatever Caribbean slope species we have not yet run across. After lunch, we will take a two-hour journey to the Sanchiri Lodge, with its panoramic view of the scenic Orosi Valley. We will use whatever time we have left in the afternoon to explore the lodge grounds and/or nearby areas, which will give us one of our best chances at several species including Spot-bellied Bobwhite, Orange-billed Nightingale-Thrush, and Whiteeared Ground-Sparrow, rest of the day at leisure, overnight at Sanchiri.

DAY 07
The magnificent cloudforests of Tapantí National Park are only about a half hour drive away from our lodge, we will be able to arrive there early and have a full morning of birding before moving on to the highlands of the Cerro de la Muerte region. With the likes of Prong-billed Barbet, Black-bellied Hummingbird, Sooty-faced Finch, and Spangle-cheeked Tanager on our target list, and rarities from Ornate Hawk-Eagle to Scaled Antpitta to Sharpbill among the possibilities, a visit here is always exciting. After a picnic lunch, we will get back on the road and make our way up along the InterAmerican Highway and into the true highlands. Time permitting, we will make a couple of brief birding stops to look for Fiery-throated Hummingbird, Black-and-yellow Silky-flycatcher, and other highland specialties before we turn off the main highway and drop down into the stunning Savegre Valley, home for the next two days. We expect to arrive at the lodge late afternoon.

DAY 08
The grounds of the family-run Savegre Mountain Lodge can be very productive, we will begin our morning?s birding right outside the doors of our cabins. Here, Blue-throated Toucanet, Acorn Woodpecker, Tufted Flycatcher, Mountain Elaenia, Longtailed Silky-flycatcher, Yellow-bellied Siskin, and Black-thighed Grosbeak may greet us before we are fully awake. The hummingbird feeders near the restaurant are usually abuzz with Green Violetears, White-throated Mountain-gems, and Magnificent, Volcano, and Scintillant hummingbirds, as well as a Slaty Flowerpiercer or two. And there?s always a chance that we could luck into the area?s star bird, the glorious Resplendent Quetzal, right by the lodge; overnight at Savegre.

DAY 09
Today we will head back up into the higher reaches of the Talamanca Mountains. We will have another chance to track down any highland specialties we may have missed before we descend toward the Pacific lowlands and Carara Biological Reserve. Our route to the coast will take us south towards the city of San Isidro de General, where we will detour off the main road and make a lunch stop on the grounds of a country lodge. As we enjoy our lunch here, we will keep our eyes open for Snowy-bellied Hummingbird and White-tailed Emerald, two hummers we will not find anywhere else on the tour route. Cherrie?s and Speckled tanagers, Streaked Saltator, and Elegant Euphonia are among the other species we might find around the lodge?s gardens. After lunch we?ll head west to the coast at Dominical, then north along the coast to the Carara region, perhaps with a birding stop or two en route as time permits; overnight at Carara.

DAY 10 - 11
With its great variety of habitats, Carara has a wonderfully diverse avifauna, making it one of the country?s top birding areas. Our two full days here will give us ample time to sample these habitats and their unique bird species. The transitional forests of the reserve hold an amazing assortment of birds, including many humid forest species that are restricted to southwestern Costa Rica and adjacent Panama, including Golden-naped Woodpecker, Baird?s Trogon, Orange-collared Manakin, and Riverside Wren, and we will do our best to try to find all of these and more. While in this area, we will also make an effort to observe the spectacular flight of Scarlet Macaws as they move between feeding areas in the reserve and night roosts in the coastal mangroves. Carara is one of the last strongholds in the country for this species, and we stand a good chance of seeing these stunning birds. And on one afternoon we plan to take a boat trip on the Rio Tarcoles, with the elusive Mangrove Hummingbird as our main goal. We also will do at least one night of owling in the area, which could turn up such species as Spectacled and Striped owls and Pacific Screech-Owl; overnight at Carara.

DAY 12
We will spend a final morning in the Carara area, targeting any key species we have not yet encountered. We will start our journey toward the famous Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve. There?s birding to be done before we get there, though, as our drive takes us just into the Guanacaste lowlands, the southernmost range of several northern Central American specialties. We could encounter Double-striped Thick-knee, White-fronted Parrot, Orange-fronted Parakeet, Lesser Ground-Cuckoo, Cinnamon Hummingbird, Plain-capped Starthroat, Turquoise-browed Motmot, White-throated Magpie-Jay, Scrub Euphonia, and Stripe-headed and Olive sparrows as we make our way through the dry scrub towards the mountains of the Cordillera de Tilaran; we will arrive at Monteverde late afternoon.

DAY 13
Today we will explore the lush cloudforests of either the Monteverde Reserve or the nearby Santa Elena Reserve, depending on local conditions and information. The well-maintained trails of the reserves allow access to this superb forest type and give us the opportunity to see some of the many resident species. We?ll also spend some time at the famous Hummingbird Gallery feeders just outside the reserve, where Stripe-tailed Hummingbird, Purple-throated Mountain-gem, Magenta-throated Woodstar, and the endemic Coppery-headed Emerald are among the stars of the show.

DAY 14
We will use our final morning here as a cleanup day, visiting whichever area your guides deem offers us the most target species, then we will start on our drive down to San Jose; we plan to arrive at our hotel by mid-afternoon, rest of the day is at leisure, overnight at San Jose.

DAY 15
At the appropriate time, you will be transferred to the airport to catch your international departure flight.

SERVICES INCLUDED

Accommodations at selected hotels in double occupancy, all meals (breakfast, lunch & dinner daily) private ground transportation with english speaking driver/ naturalist guide, sightseeing tours listed with admissions, local guides and hotel taxes.

Not included: any meals not mentioned as included, airport taxes, gratuities to guides, drivers, porters or waiters and expenses of personal nature.

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