Sunday September 19 - Sunday September 26, 2021
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This trip offers an excellent introduction to tropical bird photography with a large variety of flashy birds in a beautiful environment. The photo opportunities will happen at a relatively slow pace with ample opportunity to build your photographic skills and produce images you will be proud of. We will spend time in two distinct areas in order to maximize our photography time and participants are encouraged to ask questions and help each other build their skills.
We will start out in the vicinity of the Tarcoles River on the pacific coast. This is where the tropical dry forest of northwestern Costa Rica transitions to tropical rain forest of the southwestern part of Costa Rica. Here we can spend time on and around the Tarcoles River, including by boat. We will also have the chance to visit Carara National Park and its various jungle trails. This area is famous for its large population of American Crocodiles as well as its healthy population of Scarlet Macaws. With any luck we will have some great opportunities to photograph both.
Along the river we should be able to find numerous American Crocodiles along with species like Roseate Spoonbill, Wood Stork, Common Black Hawk, Boat-billed Heron, Amazon, Green, Ringed and American Pygmy Kingfisher, Mangrove Swallow, Mangrove Vireo, Mangrove Yellow Warbler, Yellow-headed Caracara, Southern Lapwing, Double-striped Thick-knee, Bare-throated Tiger-Heron and a variety of others. The trip is budgeted with two boat trips though if we decide we want to do additional boat trips we can, but at an additional cost. There are also some opportunities to bird along the river and along the local roads.
From the car and around the lodge we can find species like Ferruginous Pygmy-Owl, Nuttings Flycatcher, Rose-throated Becard, Turquoise-browed Motmot, Squirrel Cuckoo, Groove-billed Ani, Cinnamon Hummingbird, Black-headed Trogon, Gartered Trogon, Hoffmann’s Woodpecker, Scarlet Macaw, Streak-headed Woodcreeper, Rufous-naped Wren, Stripe-headed Sparrow and many others.
At Carara National Park we can walk several trails through the jungle. This can be challenging for photography but the species that we can encounter are rather interesting ones and likely worth the effort. Here we hope to find a variety of antbirds, White-whiskered Puffbird, Rufous-tailed Jacamar, Great Tinamou, Slaty-tailed Trogon, Baird’s Trogon, Black-throated Trogon, Lesson’s Motmot, Yellow-throated Toucan, Golden-naped Woodpecker, Collared Forest-Falcon, several species of Woodcreeper, Orange-collared Manakin and a large variety of other birds. We don’t typically cover a long distance and the trails are relatively flat and well maintained.
The climate in this area is generally hot and humid so we try to focus our efforts early in the morning and late in the afternoon. In the middle part of the day, we have the option to rest in our air-conditioned rooms (or take a dip in the lodge’s pool) or we can bird, it’s entirely up to the group. There is very good birding around the lodge so we can do both. Insects aren’t typically a problem though I do usually bring a small bottle of insect repellant. Sun exposure might be an issue given that there is usually an ample supply of it so a hat and sun screen are recommended.
The second half of the trip will be spent in the vicinity of Arenal Volcano and the town of La Fortuna. This area is a little higher in altitude and gives us chances to look for a different set of birds than are typically found down at the coast. The are is typically wetter and the habitat is more wooded. Again, we will do a good amount of birding along the roads but we can also visit Arenal National Park as well as an excellent feeding station at the edge of La Fortuna. The photographic opportunities here range from easy; photographing tanagers and honeycreepers visiting fruit feeders to difficult; trying to photograph an antpitta in the dense understory of the jungle.
Some of the birds in this area are quite interesting and include Long-tailed Tyrant, Olive-crowned Yellowthroat, Fasciated Tiger-Heron, Sunbittern, Red-legged and Green Honeycreeper, Blue-gray Tanager, White Hawk, Black-crested Coquette (and a large variety of other hummingbirds), Ornate Hawk-Eagle, Collared Trogon, Rufous, Keel-billed and Broad-billed Motmot, Collared Aracari, Keel-billed Toucan, White-throated Magpie Jay, Olivaceous Piculet, several species of Parrot and a large variety of others.
This area is a little cooler than the coast and insects aren’t usually an issue. Physical exertion shouldn’t be very strenuous as most walking will be on well maintained trails or along the road and I don’t expect any long hikes.
Night time birding is available to those who are interested. This usually involves looking for owls or any other nocturnal creatures in and around the lodge. We will typically use a spot-light to photograph what we find.
We will be flying into and out of San Jose (SJO) airport and I will be providing all transportation from there. The cost of the tour includes all transportation within Costa Rica, entrance fees, lodging and any guide fees as well as two boat rides on the Tarcoles River. Participants will be responsible for their own meals and international airfare to and from SJO. The cost per person (assuming three participants plus guide) is $2351 per person.