Although the birds were amazing, there was one major problem... dealing with the impressive variety. And although I'm a bit behind in my blogging, I wanted to share at least a fraction of the photos from the tour. After all, I'm headed to southern Mexico tomorrow and then I'll just be more behind! Anyway, here are some photos (probably with minimal explanation as, well, I have stuff to get back to!).
The tour started near San José, the capital city of Costa Rica. Just around the back gardens of the Hotel Bougainvillea we started to see a variety of different species. Starting things off, we have the abundant RUFOUS-COLLARED SPARROW:
These small toucans were fairly common at the Talari Mountain Lodge where we stayed a few nights. Here's another view of this specialty of Costa Rica and Panama:
They use that long, curved bill to probe into bromeliads and other hard-to-reach areas that are off-limits to species with shorter bills.
This BLACK HAWK-EAGLE was one of my favorite raptors of the trip. It's such a striking bird that's easy to ID from afar:
These were quite common during our time at Wilson Botanical Garden; no complaints from any of us!
Here's a raptor that we spotted while we were eating breakfast one day, the snake-eating LAUGHING FALCON! I grabbed my phone, attached it to my spotting scope, and managed to snap a photo or two:
If you zoom in and get a closer look, you'll find it's a hummingbird on a nest!
Not only that, but it's a rare hummer as well... the VERAGUAN MANGO! This species has been a recent arrival to the country from the south and this individual was our only one of the trip.
Believe it or not, I take photos of other things too... for example, my sandwich after it fell into a river:
It's a long story but suffice it to say, the fish looked like they enjoyed it. Glad someone did.
I've already shared some toucan photos above... but we saw more! Actually, we ended up seeing 6 different kinds during our tours there. Here's a YELLOW-THROATED TOUCAN, one of the more common toucans, flying past us from the Rio Rincon bridge:
Sadly, this species is endangered due to deforestation and loss of habitat. In fact, some estimates suggest there could be as few as 250 of these left on earth. We felt truly lucky to witness so many of them.
Although I had seen these on a previous trip to Costa Rica, I was still impressed by how big they were; it's a serious woodcreeper!
Next, we stopped to look for birds at the impressive Poas Volcano (and, ok, maybe to take a photo or two as well). At an elevation of nearly 9,000 feet, it was quite a view:
The YELLOWISH FLYCATCHERS were common at Bosque de Paz as well. Sometimes quite tame, I was able to get this one in the scope and take a few photos with my phone:
Birding the upper elevations near Bosque de Paz provided wonderful birds AND nice scenery. Here's our group enjoying a break in the clouds:
We continued north to the Caño Negro region in the far north part of the country. At one point, we stopped at a field that had several of the uncommon DOUBLE-STRIPED THICK-KNEES standing around! Although there is some heat shimmer, they're pretty unmistakable shorebirds:
We were lucky to do some nightbirding near Caño Negro as well. We struck gold with BLACK-AND-WHITE OWL, STRIPED OWL, and even two of the ginormous GREAT POTOOS!
This is another nightjar but one that does most of its sitting around on big stumps and broken-off branches. These guys really are big though; with a wingspan of more than 2 feet, this is the largest nightjar in the world!
If you haven't heard of this species before, there's probably a reason for that (Gray-necked Wood-Rail was split into two species in 2016; Russet-naped to the north and Gray-cowled to the south).
From the water, it was possible to see a whole new suite of species that one doesn't usually see from land. For example, we got close to trees full of GREEN IGUANAS! Here's a big boy in his breeding colors:
We had numerous bird highlights from the boat trips as well. For example, here's a GRAY-HEADED KITE that perched wonderfully for us:
Overall, it was a beautiful time to be out on a boat; the evening air was full of herons, jacanas, kingfishers, monkeys, and even a BLACK-COLLARED HAWK. Here was our view:
Crakes are normally very secretive and so we all enjoyed getting to see one out in full sun.
We eventually made it to Arenal Observatory Lodge, a wonderful spot at the base of the mostly-quiet Arenal Volcano:
Although shrouded in clouds most of the time, we caught a glimpse of it one day actually peeking out:
The birding at Arenal can be superb (when it's not pouring). Thankfully for us, the weather cooperated wonderfully and we saw very little rain.
One critter that WASN'T thankful that day was this mantis that had to go face-to-face with this female HEPATIC TANGER:
Yes, this is a type of anteater (and my first ever)!
The birds on the grounds at Arenal never seemed to stop. We saw a rare YELLOW-EARED TOUCANET, RUFOUS-WINGED TANAGER, GREAT POTOO, 7 species of hummingbirds, trogons, motmots, antbirds, and woodcreepers. In fact, we saw more than 120 species in just a few days there! Included in the impressive array were the BANANAQUITS, a common species in the tropics:
We added some fantastic (and rare) hummingbirds to our trip in the Arenal area. Our group saw multiple BLACK-CRESTED COQUETTES which is an uncommon specialty of the area. Less rare but still fun to look at, the VIOLET-HEADED HUMMINGBIRDS were pugnacious as ever:
Another of the many highlights for me was when our amazing driver and birder, Vernon, spotted this FASCIATED TIGER-HERON:
Unlike other tiger-herons, this species prefers fast-flowing rivers and streams. The entrance road to Arenal is a great spot for it and I wonder how many birders get their lifer right there.
I'll leave you with our fond farewell as we left the rainforests behind and headed back to winter: