15 days Birding Northern Territories
Months to visit: All year. Peaks from December to early May.
Destinations: San Jose, Monteverde Cloud Forest, Tenorio Volcano, Caño Negro, Arenal Volcano.
San Jose 1 night: Adventure Inn Hotel.
Monteverde 3 nights: Monteverde Cloud Forest Preserve.
Tenorio 3 nights: Heliconias Lodge.
Caño Negro 2 nights: Hotel de Campo.
Arenal Volcano 3 nights: Arenal Observatory Lodge.
San Jose 1 night: Adventure Inn.
Daily Itinerary by destination:
Day 1. Arrival to Costa Rica. Meeting CRBJ staff and transfer to Adventure Inn.
1. Monteverde Cloud Forest. Nestled in the Tilaran’ volcanic range and facing the dry forest of the Nicoya’s Peninsula, this world known paradise has been an icon for conservationists for decades. Blasted by the Caribbean trade winds at the top of its hills the evergreen forest of Monteverde/Santa Elena holds the one of the most astonishing biodiversity anywhere on earth due its geographical position. Over 400 species of birds have been recorded here and its adjacent preserves on the 3 major ecosystems. Home of the all mighty Resplendent Quetzal, and the weird looking Three wattled Bellbird with its unique call. Dozens of kilometers of trails to explore. Dripping wet forest with more than 400 species of orchids and gentile blown clouds enchants everyone’s eyes. There are very few places on earth so breathtaking at first glance.
Birding Highlights: Resplendent Quetzal, Prong billed Barbets, Lesson’s Motmot, Black Guan, Highland Tinamou, Tawny throated Leaftosser, White throated Spadebill, Tufted Flycatcher, Gray breasted Wood Wren, White eared Ground Sparrow, Emerald Toucanet, Chiriqui Quail Dove, Golden Olive Woodpecker, Golden browed Chlorophonia.
Day 1: Upon arrival and since the forest is right there at the lodge, we will explore many different trail systems or focus on the road edges searching for Guans, Bellbirds, Barbets, Flycatchers etc. During the late afternoon where most people have left the trails we will go birding at El Camino Trail and others searching for cloud forest mixed flocks or a rare glimpse of woodquails, antpittas, leaftosser and tinamous.
Day 2: Begin birding at sunrise near the lodge where a large number of bird life is concentrated before sun shines on the forest floors. A good opportunity to capture good views of Quetzals coming to feed on fruits at the road edges. Deeply cover canopies can be a beat challenging while birdwatching but many rare birds occur in the shady sides. After lunch we will take a short drive of 30 minutes to an entirely new ecosystem on the drier Pacific slopes at The Ecological Sanctuary. Although it’s ridiculously close to the ever wet cloud forest it looks nothing like it. Located on the deep canyons of Cerro Plano this dry tropical mid elevation forest is so different that it could make you feel as you were in another country.
Day 3: We will begin early again for best results, and today’s search for Three wattled Bellbird. One of those endemic birds found nowhere else on earth (except a tiny portion of Panama), describing its call and flight displays is nearly impossible. Monteverde’s species sound nearly as a bellbird but far more metallic. Their air dances for territory and females are extremely entertaining; they are sort of loopy lops with aggressive ups and downs and back to the perch. After traveling to the right places to locate this extraordinary bird we will return back to our lodge premises to enjoy our last lunch here with dozens of hummingbirds at the local gardens.
2. Tenorio Rainforest among one of the best places to go birding in the country and definitely the best canopy birdwatching, with a net of suspended tree top bridges this rainforest is an impressive destination for birders. Some of the best highlights are Tody Motmot, Bare necked Umbrellabird, Rufous ground Vented Cuckoo, Ornate Hawk Eagle, Yellow eared Toucanet and a few hundred more species. The adjacent forests towards the national park it’s a interesting combination of cattle farms with dense old growth birds fly from one patch of forest to the next giving us opportunities to find them, huge trees border the roads mixed flocks, Lovely Cotingas, Central America Pygmy Owls make home out this habitats. Near the lodge a good number of open spaces birds hang around like ground doves, seedaters, tanagers, flycatchers, hummingbirds etc.
Birding Highlights: Tody Motmot, Rufous vented Ground Cuckoo, Black crested Coquette, Olive backed Quail Dove, Crested Eagle, Green Shrike Vireo, Black headed Antthrush, Lovely Cotinga, Spotted Antbird, Strong billed Woodcreeper.
Day 1. Heliconias Lodge. A long journey awaits us, breakfast at the lodge and departure to the northern Guanacaste rainforest, the only places in which the canopy is just a step away. Heliconias Lodge has several suspended bridges, easy trails and tons of rainforest to explore for Nunbirds, Tinamous, Motmots, owls, woodpeckers. All day birding at the lodge grounds.
Day 2. Heliconias Lodge. A full day for exploring the lodge grounds, its private reserve and adjacent cattle farms. The lodge offers a good diversity of tanagers, euphonias, hummingbirds, woodpeckers, and many others.
Day 3. Heliconias Lodge. Early birding at Heliconias Lodge private preserve. Our targets today are going to be army ant swarms, and some open forest birds as woodpeckers, tanagers, flycatchers and more.
3. Caño Negro & Los Chiles both areas apart close to each other in the north east flatlands bordering Nicaragua are one of the least visited regions for birdwatchers. Very Little known apart from day tours to Rio Frio from La Fortuna Arenal for regular sightseeing tourist, the región offers marvelous birding specially at Los Chiles, one of the few places in Costa Rica where Least bitterns, Forktailed Flycatchers, Black collared Hawk, Jabirus are found year round. To Randall Ortega our lead guide and owner of the company finds this hidden Paradise the most rewarding birding in Costa Rica by far both on rare sightings and quality of targets.
Birding highlights: Yellow throated crake, Least bittern, Jabiru, Black Collared Hawk, Nicaraguan Seed Finch, Fork tailed Flycatcher, Ruddy breasted Seedater, Lesser Yellow headed Vulture, Ocellated Poorwill, Pinnated Bittern, Spot breasted Wren, Sungrebe.
Day 1. Caño Negro. Hotel de Campo. The hotel has a large number of areas to birdwatch with a great success level on common birds like euphonias, blackbirds, wrens, tanagers, etc but its adjacent to the Caño Negro wildlife refuge that can give us amazing species such as Scaled Pigeon, Nicaraguan Grackle, Spot breasted Wren, Jabiru, 5 species of Kingfishers, etc. Today we will focus on getting the easy ones of the list.
Day 2. Caño Negro. Hotel de Campo. Boat tour to Caño Negro before sunlight, we will start at 530 am heading to the dock for an early birding, as we all know is our most successful time ( 3 + hour boat tour, bring a snack we might miss breakfast ). After the boat tour we will concentrate on getting some species more related to pasture fields such as raptors, seedaters, finches, etc by the end of the day our journey will not end will begin with owl searching and other night birds such as Potoos, Poorwills. Early birding nearby the hotel and departure by lunch to Los Chiles. With very little infrastructure for birders and tourists in general this hidden corner of Costa Rica is worth every single minute. Today we will explore some of if not the least visit refuge in northern parts by boat to this mythical place call Medio Queso (good luck and finding info on the internet ), Half Cheese it’s by far the most amazing birding done by boat in country, almost all rare water birds seem to have a wonderful habitat here, species such as rails, bitterns, crake, soras among few are fairly easy to find, yet the rest of the forest and swamp birds are quite present like Nicaraguan Seedfinch.
4. Arenal Volcano Area is well known for its active summit, but little is talked about its great bird diversity and its beautiful rainforest. Coming across Quail doves, mix flocks, soaring eagles, elusive antpittas are just another day in paradise. Bordering forest edges by the lake is very successful, the complex vegetation of many different ages makes this piece of Costa Rica a must to visit for birdwatchers. Great Currasows in the middle of the paths, active Black throated Wrens on tangled vines, silently perched raptors on exposed death tree trunks, hyperactive Coquettes going from flower to flower are just part of a daily birding.
Birding Highlights: Scaly breasted Wren, Black crested Coquette, Thicket Antpitta, Ornated Hawk Eagle, Ocellated Antbird, Three wattled Bellbird, Fasciated Tiger Heron, Keel billed Motmot, White fronted Nunbird, Brown capped Tyrannuelt, Long tailed Tyrant, Black headed Nightingale Thrush.
Day 1. Arenal Observatory Lodge. Upon arrival we are going to explore the hotel grounds, for a good number of honeycreepers, tanagers, oropendulas, some hummingbirds and many other forest birds such as trogons, pygmy tyrants on the hotel private preserve. The remaining part of the afternoon we will take a drive to the Arenal Lake area in hopes to find guans, parrots, motmots, toucans, etc. All meals included.
Day 2. Arenal Observatory Lodge. Birding all day at the hotel grounds. Exploring its private 600 hectares of primary, secondary forests with unlimited possibilities and good chance for Bare necked Umbrellabird. The hotel is placed in front of the most active volcano in Central America; its views are majestic and unrivaled. Upon request a visit to Baldi Hot Springs (non included)
Day 3. Arenal Observatory Lodge. Early birding to the forest nearby the Arenal lake which ist mostly secondary forest where a good combination of microhabitats increased the birding possibilities such as Long tailed Tyrant, Broad billed Motmot, Crested Guan, Keel billed Toucan, White Hawk, Thicket Antpitta, and maybe Ornated Hawk Eagle.
Day 14: Departure day. Transfer to the airport based on your flight itinerary. (3 hrs prior taken off)