For the past week and a half, I’ve been birding the Caribbean lowlands and foothills of Costa Rica around Guápiles, which is about an hour and half from San Jose by bus. Last year I spent a lot of time in this area, so I enjoyed visiting some of my favorite local birding patches while also taking time to start planning for the rest of the year ahead.
Guápiles itself offers some surprisingly good birding, although as with all urban areas, you need to remain aware of your surroundings. The area around Hotel y Cabanas Del Trópico is one of my favorite local patches, and several hours birding on two different mornings each yielded 70+ species.
Highlights included White-throated Flycatcher, which is usually found at higher elevations, and Blue Grosbeak, a rare Caribbean migrant. I also found Great Green Macaw, White-throated Crake, White-tailed Kite, Dusky Antbird, Slaty Spinetail, Yellow Tyrannulet, Black-throated Wren, Canebrake Wren, Gray-crowned Yellowthroat, Mourning Warbler, Hooded Warbler, and Thick-billed Seed-Finch.
Suerre is a small village just a short distance south of Guápiles along a road that goes up into the foothills of the Caribbean slope. The small streams that cross and run alongside the road at times are good places to look for Fasciated Tiger-Heron and Sunbittern, the latter being one of the highlights of my morning birding here. This road is a reliable location to find Long-tailed Tyrant (of which I found several), and it can also be productive for raptors. I saw Short-tailed Hawk, Double-toothed Kite, as well as the much less common Zone-tailed Hawk.
Catarata Las Golondrinas (Finca Ladef), near Guácimo, is an increasingly popular day trip destination for locals. While the main attraction is a swimming hole with a beautiful waterfall, the trail to the waterfall offers some good birding. (Note that Sundays are best avoided for birding as it can get a bit crowded.) Family owned and operated, delicious home-cooked meals are available as are basic accommodations for an overnight stay. Species observed here included Blue-chested Hummingbird, White Hawk, Gray Hawk, Broad-billed Motmot, Tawny-crowned Greenlet, and Crimson-collared Tanager.
David, the son of the owners, took me about 10km further up the mountain to a trail leading to a very high waterfall called Salto de la Diosa. At just over 1,000m elevation, I encountered a very different set of birds, including Black Hawk-Eagle, Black-bellied Hummingbird, Slaty-capped Flycatcher, Ruddy-tailed Flycatcher, White-ruffed Manakin, White-crowned Manakin, Black-faced Solitaire, Hepatic Tanager, and Slate-throated Redstart. The main highlight was hearing a Scaly-breasted Wren singing its slowly paced series of whistled notes, each decreasing in tone.
eBird Checklists (Las Golondrinas)
E.A.R.T.H. University (Escuela de Agricultura de la Region Tropical Humeda) is a private, non-profit agricultural college with a focus on investigating sustainable agriculture in tropical environments. Just east of Guácimo, a large portion of the 8,340-acre campus consists of lowland tropical rainforest that offers terrific birding opportunities. While visitors are welcome, arrangements do need to be made in advance.
A full morning birding here yielded 93 species, including Ruddy Quail-Dove, Blue Ground-Dove, Lesser Swallow-tailed Swift, White-necked Puffbird, Purple-throated Fruitcrow, Northern Bentbill, Dusky-faced Tanager, and Plain-colored Tanager.
Río Rocas is the name of a Bed & Breakfast further upslope from Suerre, near where the road ends. This area is one of my favorite places to bird, with each visit revealing something new. This visit was no exception. I had brief but clear views of Rufous-browed Tyranulet, a life bird! There was also a male Scarlet Tanager with an injured leg that seemed to be coping fairly well, hanging out with various mixed flocks.
Other species observed on this visit included Barred Hawk, White Hawk, Short-tailed Hawk, Bat Falcon, Crested Guan, Brown Violetear, Coppery-headed Emerald, Green Thorntail, Rufous Motmot, Scale-crested Pygmy-Tyrant, Tufted Flycatcher, Yellow-margined Flycatcher, Slaty-capped Flycatcher, Carmiol’s Tanager, Rufous-winged Tanager, Emerald Tanager, Black-and-yellow Tanager, Silver-throated Tanager, and Tawny-capped Euphonia.
Paraíso del Bosque is a private reserve at about 600m elevation that offers access to excellent primary forest, similar to that at Braulio Carillo. Prior arrangements must be made to visit this location.
Species observed here included Great Tinamou, Streak-crowned Antvireo, Checker-throated Antwren, Dusky Antbird, Spotted Antbird, Chestnut-backed Antbird, Black-faced Antthrush, Buff-throated Foliage-Gleaner, Golden-crowned Spadebill, White-ringed Flycatcher, Black Phoebe, Tawny-faced Gnatwren, Violet-headed Hummingbird, Barred Hawk, and Ornate Hawk-Eagle. Nocturnal species included Great Potoo, Crested Owl, and Mottled Owl.
Centro Manu is a retreat center with some excellent trails, although it can be difficult to get permission to access this property. The main highlight here was hearing a Rufous-vented Ground-Cuckoo snapping its bill at an ant swarm.