Birding: Change of pace, change of venue

Last week I wrote about my experience seeing a snowy owl in Odessa, Texas. 

This week I am part of a Prescott Audubon Society and Jay’s Bird Barn birding trip to Costa Rica. 

We arrived in the country yesterday, Monday, and hit the ground running.  

After checking into Hotel Bougainvillea, we met up with a local guide, who is also the Swarovski Optik’s representative for Costa Rica. He is very knowledgeable of the birds in the area. He has a remarkable ability to identify birds by their vocalization, and he was also able to mimic their sounds quite accurately.  

I have always felt I was good at identifying birds by hearing them, but I do not do bird calls. I am envious of those who have this ability.

We left the Central Valley area and headed up into a cloud forest, where I had an experience similar to what happened to me in 2011, when I was in Brazil and unprepared for the weather. I was wearing a short-sleeved shirt, which is not adequate clothing for a cloud forest, especially when it rains. You would think I would have learned!  By the time I got back to the Hotel Bougainvillea on Monday, I was shaking from a chill.  

Today, Tuesday, we visited Braulio Carrillo National Park. What a stunning area! It is so different birding in this environment, compared to birding in Arizona. The density of the jungle forest limits visibility and makes finding birds very challenging. 

There are basically two ways to find birds — visually or auditorilly. In a rain forest, it is much easier to hear birds than to see them. There were many occasions in our adventure in the rain forest on Tuesday when we heard birds, but could not get our binoculars on them. That challenge is a part of the sport of birding.

There are a lot of highlights since arriving yesterday. Today some of my highlights were seeing bird species that I have never seen before. Seeing and adding a ‘life’ bird to my life list is a special experience, and I am seeing many birds here in Costa Rica that I have never before seen. I may have seen pictures of some of these birds in field guides, but to see them in the wild for the first time is a priceless experience.  

There are 50 species of hummingbirds in Costa Rica. Certainly some of my highlights have been the hummingbirds we saw, including the black-crested coquette and the green spinetail. The types of hummingbirds that live in the tropics are not anything like the hummingbirds we see in the Central Highlands area of Arizona. The combination of color, size, and bill shape makes the hummingbirds in this area unique. The trick is finding them. It is very difficult to see a hummingbird in a rain forest!

This afternoon I spent more than four hours birding the grounds of Hotel Bougainvillea. I am so impressed with the gardens at this hotel. If you are considering visiting Costa Rica, you may want to stay at Hotel Bougainvillea. Its grounds are beyond words.

Some of the birds I observed there include Squirrel cuckoo, blue-crowned motmot, brown jay, mountain Elenia, great kiskadee, Hoffman’s woodpecker, rufous-collared sparrow, red-billed pigeon, and so much more. 

Tomorrow we leave here to begin touring different parts of Costa Rica, from the Pacific coast, to the volcanic highlands, then to the Caribbean lowlands, and mid-slope elevations.

Visiting different habitats and regions within Costa Rica increases our chances of seeing a variety of species. Our goal is to see about four hundred different species over the next ten days. Of course, most of the birds I see will be new for my life list. 

I plan to enter into eBird each day a species list by location. This routine will help me to keep track of the total number of species I have observed.  

I am thrilled to be in Costa Rica for the first time. I feel blessed to participate in this trip, and it’s a treat to share it with my readers, too.

Until next week, happy birding!  

Eric Moore is the owner of Jay’s Bird Barn, with three locations in northern Arizona; Prescott, Sedona and Flagstaff. He has been an avid birder for more than 50 years. For questions about wild birds or to suggest bird topics that you would like him to discuss in future articles, email eric@jaysbirdbarn.com.