Costa Rica

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Costa Rica

Postby Grenfell on Mon Dec 31, 2012 4:21 pm

Hi all ... I'm off to Costa Rica on a family vacation next week (never been there before) and was wondering if anybody can recommend good birding locations reasonably close to my destination (Playa Conchal, Guanacaste), or any equipment related suggestions - I'm thinking that I should leave the 500 at home and go with something a little easier - maybe the 100-400. I know a lot of you have been there in the past, so looking for experienced suggestions & tips.
many thanks in advance
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Re: Costa Rica

Postby BirderGuelph1 on Mon Dec 31, 2012 5:36 pm

Hi there,

I have been to Costa Rica but not to Guanacaste area. Birds are just everywhere so I'm sure you'll have a blast. I'm not sure how far you'd be willing to travel but Palo Verde National Park sounds awesome. I've looked into Rincon de la Vieja National Park too and it sounds like you can see a lot of birds there too, as well as a lot of volcanic activity!! Any protected area is worth looking into visiting. Local guides can really enhance your experience. If you search for one in Guanecaste I'm sure they'd know the best areas. Another tip: If there are species you don't want to miss in Costa Rica, try looking them up on Ebird and see where they were spotted. Also, I can't help but think a mangrove boat tour would be a neat idea.
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Re: Costa Rica

Postby Peter C. on Tue Jan 01, 2013 3:34 pm

Grenfell wrote:Hi all ... I'm off to Costa Rica on a family vacation next week (never been there before) ...
Grenfell

Grenfell, you are one lucky [insert epithet here]! There is nothing quite like going to CR for the first time. If I ever forget my first Scarlet-rumped Tanager* sighting, it will be -- well, check for a pulse, because it's unlikely I'll still have one...

[By the way - the problem with asking advice about travel on an open forum like this is, you'll very likely get it ... and most likely you'll get it from real fanatics (guilty, your honour!), who tend to go on and on. However, I won't do that here, because I've already done so elsewhere - if you're keen to read the "going on and on" version, you can do so on this thread.]

Costa Rica is a very small, but very complicated country; so, even after four visits, I feel like I barely know anything about the place. Specifically, I can't offer you any advice about the immediate vicinity of Playa Conchal (the Nicoya Peninsula) because I have never had time to get there. So, while I've heard great things about Palo Verde N.P. and Lomas Barbudal Wildlife Refuge, I cannot say anything about them from personal experience. I would say, though, that these are the most accessible major reserves, given where you are starting from - easily do-able as a day trip.

However, the above is not true about a couple of other parks in the area, which are slightly further afield - Santa Rosa N.P. (in the north), and Rincon de la Vieja N.P. (on the near slope of the Cordilliera de Guanacaste), to the east). We visited both of these places, and they're wonderful. They're also about as different from each other as you can imagine; Santa Rosa is a very hot, dry place, with all kinds of weird deciduous trees, while Rincon is quite green and often misty. As you might expect, you will find very diffent sets of birds in the two places, because of the very different climates.

If you can only visit one of the two, I suspect that you should go with Santa Rosa. It actually has less bird variety than Rincon does, but because of nature of the forest, you'll actually see the bloody things! (And photograph them - couple of shots from there are attached.) It also has the advantage of being a widely visited park, with a good sealed road connecting it to Liberia - in other words, you can get there quickly, whether you are hiring a guide, or driving yourself. Another plus (which I only found out after we visited, sadly) is that although it opens at 0800 officially, one can enter whenever, and pay on the way out. Given how hot it gets there, an early start is a real bonus.

Rincon is quite a dense forest, with a great variety of birds that really know how to hide; if photography is your goal, then I think you'll find it quite frustrating. (I have a bias, here - I don't really mind, 'cause I don't really care whether I get the picture or not. For me, photos just serve as documentation for other people to look at, afterwards.) What it has, that Santa Rosa does not, is just a hint of the "cloud forest" ecosystem, which includes all kinds of birds that you probably won't find on the Nicoya - like toucanets and (certain species of) woodcreepers. It's also very interesting, geologically - lots of hot springs. People come in busloads from some of the big resorts, just to look at them. I know this, because we met great piles of them on our visit - they were just showing up as we were getting ready to leave! (That's the problem with hotel tours - they have no appreciation of our needs... mid-day light is no good for birds or photography.)

One general note of advice - anywhere in CR is going to be "good" (most places are "great") for birds. So, don't sweat too much about visiting any particular place, not even those I've recommended. I've always thought it best to take my time and really explore a place - and always really resent the time wasted on travelling between places (which, in that country, NEVER happens quickly!). Even if you don't get away from the hotel at all, you'll still see some amazing things on site, if it's anything like the lodges I've stayed at.

Good luck,

Peter

*Since my visit, re-named Passerini's Tanager - what a blah name for such a glorious bird! (Like changing "Scarlet Tanager" to "Fred's Tanager").

Guan-2.jpg
Santa Rosa: A Crested Guan, feeding in a fruit tree - which is overhanging the parking lot!
Guan-2.jpg (170.65 KiB) Viewed 354 times


tinamou-2a.jpg
Santa Rosa: Thicket Tinamou. Still kicking myself for not trying for a better angle on this one... it was very close, I was afraid I'd flush it if I moved at all.
tinamou-2a.jpg (236.21 KiB) Viewed 356 times


Fig-&-DMM-2.jpg
Rincon: A bit of a hint of what the forest is like; this is one of the sunnier sections.
Fig-&-DMM-2.jpg (224.07 KiB) Viewed 351 times

Squirrel-mono2.jpg
Squirrel Monkey (Dawn's photo, not mine). Not from either park, but an indication of how accessible the wildlife is. This was on the grounds of our 'hotel' in Guanacaste, Cabañas Cañas Castilla.
Squirrel-mono2.jpg (237.36 KiB) Viewed 354 times
Last edited by Peter C. on Wed Jan 02, 2013 8:40 am, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: Costa Rica

Postby Grenfell on Tue Jan 01, 2013 3:51 pm

Thanks guys for the very helpful hints ... I'm already excited at the possibilities of an amazing wildlife experience.
Santa Rosa & Palo Verdi were on my probable list, with Rincon de La Vieja as a possibility. Unfortunately we will be staying at a resort hotel, so my choices are likely going to be limited as to when & how to get to the parks.
Thanks again
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