The Cordillera de Talamanca is a mountain range that lies on the continental divide in the southeast half of Costa Rica and the far west of Panama. Containing the highest peaks in both Costa Rica and Panama, the range encompasses a variety of habitats including montane cloudforest, sub-páramo, and páramo.
Casa Tangara Dowii is a small cloudforest reserve at 2,100m (7,000 ft.) elevation, located within the Zona Protectora Navarro Sombrero protected area, a biological corridor and buffer zone of Tapanti and Los Quetzales National Parks. It is also the home of my friend Sergio Arias, founder of Costa Rica Birding Hotspots.
A feeding station attracts a variety of species that are often difficult to see well, including Buffy-crowned Wood-Partridge, Buff-fronted Quail-Dove, Prong-billed Barbet, Mountain Thrush, Common Chlorospingus, Chestnut-capped Brushfinch, Flame-colored Tanager, and Slaty Flowerpiercer. Bare-shanked Screech-Owl is resident and can be often be heard vocalizing throughout the night.
Additional species observed while walking the trails here included Black Guan, Purple-throated Mountain-gem, Swallow-tailed Kite, Northern Emerald-Toucanet, Hairy Woodpecker, Barred Parakeet, Silvery-fronted Tapaculo, Spot-crowned Woodcreeper, Streak-breasted Treehunter, Barred Becard, Brown-capped Vireo, Ochraceous Wren, Gray-breasted Wood-Wren, Black-faced Solitaire, Ruddy-capped Nightingale-Thrush, Black-and-yellow Silky-flycatcher, Long-tailed Silky-flycatcher, Elegant Euphonia, Yellow-thighed Finch, Slate-throated Redstart, and Collared Redstart.
The Cerro Buenavista communication towers at the top of Cerro de la Muerte (3,000m) is one of the most accessible páramo sites in Costa Rica. This is a reliable site for several highland species, including Volcano Junco and Timberline Wren. Other species observed during a quick stop here included Mountain Elaenia, Sooty Thrush, and Large-footed Finch.
Miriam’s Restaurant in San Gerardo de Dota offers an irresistible combination of excellent local food and birds. Affordable accommodation is also available. Avian highlights during a lunch stop here included Talamanca Hummingbird, Fiery-throated Hummingbird, White-throated Mountain-gem, Volcano Hummingbird, Mountain Thrush, Sooty Thrush, Long-tailed Silky-flycatcher, Sooty-capped Chlorospingus, Large-footed Finch, and Slaty Flowerpiercer.
Providencia Road in Los Quetzales National Park, at Km. 76 on the Pan-American Highway, is a great site for many high elevation species. A few hours birding here produced Ruddy Pigeon, Volcano Hummingbird, Costa Rican Pygmy-Owl, Buffy Tuftedcheek, Ochraceous Wren, Black-faced Solitaire, Slaty-backed Nightingale-Thrush, Long-tailed Silky-flycatcher, Yellow-bellied Siskin, and the gorgeous Flame-throated Warbler.
Bosque del Tolomuco, a small lodge north of San Isidro de General at approx. 1,700m. elevation, is a great mid-elevation birding site.
The hummingbird feeders and vegetation around the lodge attract a dizzying array of hummingbirds, of which I recorded 13 species including Green Hermit, Brown Violetear, Lesser Violetear, Green-crowned Brilliant, Talamanca Hummingbird, White-throated Mountain-gem, Magenta-throated Woodstar, Scintillant Hummingbird, Violet Sabrewing, Stripe-tailed Hummingbird, White-tailed Emerald, Snowy-bellied Hummingbird, and Rufous-tailed Hummingbird.
Other highlights included Black Guan, Buffy-crowned Wood-Patridge, Ruddy Pigeon, Swallow-tailed Kite, Resplendent Quetzal, Collared Trogon, Red-headed Barbet, Northern Emerald-Toucanet, Hairy Woodpecker, Sulphur-winged Parakeet, Streaked Xenops, Spotted Barbtail, Red-faced Spinetail, Olive-striped Flycatcher, Rough-legged Tyrannulet, Northern Bentbill, White-throated Spadebill, White-ruffed Manakin, Brown-capped Vireo, Scaly-breasted Wren, Black-faced Solitaire, Ruddy-capped Nightingale-Thrush, Golden-browed Chlorophonia, Chestnut-capped Brushfinch, Yellow-thighed Finch, White-naped Brushfinch, Hepatic Tanager, Western Tanager, Flame-colored Tanager, Speckled Tanager, and Silver-throated Tanager.