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Costa Rica Trip Report

Pale-Billed Woodpecker

We have been to Costa Rica several times, but it is never enough, and to photograph all the birds you find here in one go is difficult considering the country’s eco-diversity. Costa Rica beckons you again and again to come and explore her natural abundance, no wonder the word ‘Pura Vida’ or “Pure life” makes so much sense here. With a wide range of subjects, there was never a dull moment during our Costa Rica bird photo tour. It is not just the megadiversity of this Latin American country that attracts several photographers all year long but the opportunity to experience the extensive tropical habitat and the astounding birds is a chance no photographer would miss.

We met our five fellow photographers for this Costa Rica bird photo tour at the San Jose airport and after a round of introductions, we headed straight to our lodge in the serene Talamanca Cloud Forest Range. This misty and mountainous cloud forest is the home to the legendary Resplendent Quetzal. This poster-bird of Costa Rica lives up to its regal name with its shiny emerald coat and red chest, with a long tail bigger than its body. We set up our camera gear and captured this unique bird in its nesting site, flying in and out of the nest, alternating with its female counterpart feeding the young ones. The male Quetzals are far more attractive than females. They live in the higher altitude tropical and subtropical forests where the mist hangs low. To watch this surreal experience was a lifetime experience, and we were sure the fortunate ones!

Resplendent Quetzal

Apart from the beautiful Quetzal, for the next two days, we captured various local hummingbirds that came to drink nectar from the tubular flowers. The fiery-throated Hummingbird, Green Violetear, Magnificent Hummingbird, and the tiny Volcano hummingbirds were regular visitors at the lodge deck. We also indulged in multi-flash hummingbird photography to its maximum. It was quite a challenge to capture these fast-flying birds in motion and flight, but there lies the fun.

Fiery Throated Hummingbird

We also had amazing sightings of the Golden-browed Chlorophonia, Acorn woodpecker, Long-tailed silky flycatcher, Flame-colored Tanager, and many more beautiful species. The cloud forests are full of beautiful sceneries and though our focus is always birds, we can hardly side-line the wildlife and the pristine beauty of the highland cloud forest of Talamanca.

After a two-day fruitful session at Talamanca, we traveled to Sarapiqui Rainforest Preservation Area with a quest to find more endemic birds and wildlife there. The guests witness and captured the reclusive Honduran White bats and the nerdy-looking Spectacled Owls during our bird-walk at a private farm in the area. The same afternoon we did a Macro photography session with the Eyelash Viper, the Red-Eyed Tree Frog, and the Glass Frog. During our 2 days in the mid-elevation, we also visited a quaint private feeder to photograph the Masked Tityra, Chestnut-headed Oropendola, Jacamars, and more. We also visited a private farm to photograph the photogenic Red and Green Macaws in flight. The two days at Sarapiqui was super productive and memorable due to the sheer numbers of birds and wildlife we spotted here.

Spectacled Owl

From the mid-elevations, we traveled down to the lowlands of Boca Tapada the next day. This lodge is not far away from the Nicaraguan border and is a heaven for Tropical birds such as Toucans, Aracaris, Tanagers, and more. After a short lunch break and rest, we got busy shooting at the lodge’s feeders that were buzzing with activity. The catch here is if you hit the snooze button and go off to sleep you miss out on most of the important sightings, so our photography starts early in the morning. There was no strenuous activity during the trip except of course carrying your camera gear from one point to another, but us being seasoned bird photographers it didn’t matter as we were overwhelmed with the birds that gave us several amazing photo opportunities.

In the afternoon, we spotted the three iconic species of Toucans- Yellow-throated Toucans, the Keel-billed Toucan, and the slimmed-down Collared Aracari. No wonder Toucans are the pin-up birds of Central America, their multicolored long beaks set them apart. We also spotted the gorgeous Montezuma Oropendolas, Scarlet-rumped Tanager, Blue-gray Tanager, Palm Tanager, Golden-hooded Tanager, three types of Honeycreepers namely- the Shining, Red-Legged and Green, Long-tailed Tyrants, Slaty-tailed Trogon, Brown-hooded Parrot, Mealy, and Red-lored Parrots, Great Green Macaws and the King Vulture. Another exciting and unique experience is to shoot the King Vulture through the specifically designed hides. We also spotted Costa Rica’s famed Pygmy Owl. There was a macro photography session with the non-avian species like the Strawberry or “Blue Jean” Poison Dart Frogs and an Eyelash Pit Viper. We clicked the owl species after the afternoon shoot was over.

Keel-Billed Toucan

While we were shooting from the canoes, we spotted the White-nosed Coati, a pair of green Kingfishers and the Black-bellied Whistling Duck. Even though we didn’t spot the Great Tinamou it was a thrilling experience to canoe in the lagoon and soak in the lush greenness of the tropical forest., a luxury for city-dwellers like us. Our three days were well spent in the lowlands.

After a very bird photo tour, some of the photographers took a flight back home and some stayed back for the extended trip to the pacific coast and the river Tarcoles, this time to spot the aqua fauna. We traveled down to the Pacific Lowlands near the banks of the Tarcoles River. The leisurely boat ride yielded some remarkable sightings of the Bare-throated Tiger-Heron, Green Heron that live in the shadows, Boat-Billed Herons, the intimidating American crocodiles, the Turquoise-browed Mot Mot, three species of Kingfishers like the Green Kingfishers and plenty of Scarlet Macaws. We explored the deep mangrove forests during the boat ride of the Tarcoles. We also spotted many Mangrove Swallows and Mangrove Warblers common to this area. The guests also shot a couple of shorebirds along with Herons like the Egrets, Roseate Spoonbills, White Ibises, Southern Lapwing, Double-striped Thick Knee (basically nocturnal), Panama Flycatchers to name a few.

Ringed Kingfisher

After the extended trip, we went back to San Jose to take a flight back home super-rich with these life-changing experiences. Our super addictive ten-day Costa Rica bird photo tour finally came to an end, with a silent resolve to come back to Costa Rica for some more photography very soon.

Click here to see our upcoming Costa Rica bird photo tours.

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