Monday 2 April 2018

Costa Rica - Day 3, morning

No travel on day 3 of our Costa Rica adventure, we were going to spend the whole day at La Selva Biological Station. It is the foremost research centre for the Organisation of Tropical Studies, and is thus often known as La Selva OTS. It has been a field station for over 50 years, and being completely protected its 1500 hectares is one of the best habitats in Costa Rica and a firm fixture on the itineraries of every single bird tour of the country. To allow the many resident researchers to get around the forest, there are quite a few permanent concrete paths around the reserve, and whilst this does not exactly scream pristine it does mean it's a great place to come birding as you can get deep into the forest very easily. The reserve itself is surrounded on three sides by rivers and this helps to keep it an unspoiled place.

We were staying at a hotel only about 15 minutes away, La Quinta di Sarapiqui, so it was easy to make an early start without killing ourselves. We entered the reserve through the fields to the north, driving along the road that goes past the police station. This gave as a nice view of the Montezmua Orependola colony with its many dangling nests, as well a pair of Red-lored Parrots and some Ruddy Ground Doves. The real action started along the main entrance track though, with four Great Green Macaws flying over, a species that we had been hoping to see. They were not as difficult as I had thought, their raucous calling giving us plenty of notice.

Great Green Macaw

At the entrance gate the great birding continued - Boat-billed and Social Flycatchers on the wires along with Southern Rough-winged Swallow, and a Tropical Gnatcatcher in the trees. We would be spending the whole morning on the reserve trail so we each took a couple of bottles of water before heading off. We spent a fair amount of time near the start of the suspension bridge, and the football field nearby. This netted us good views of Blue Dacnis, Black-headed Trogon, Keel-billed Toucan, and amazing views of a Great Tinamou near the start of the path that went alongside east side of the river. We followed this for some distance, manic birding all the way - Semiplumbeous Hawk in some far trees, Scaled Pigeon, Rufous MotmotRufous-tailed Jacamar. A Pied Puffbird was a brief flyover but we didn't get a perched bird. 

Black-headed Trogon (female)

Crested Guan

At a small bridge over a stream we were treated to views of a Three-toed Sloth, and closeby a Rufous-winged Woodpecker remained motionless on a trunk, as did the Northern Barred-Woodcreeper. Rarest bird of the lot was probably a migrant Grey-cheeked Thrush. The well-known Vermiculated Screech Owl stakeout failed to deliver, but there were nonetheless birds everywhere - Scarlet-rumped Cacique, Streak-headed WoodcreeperLong-billed Gnatcatcher in a thicket, an incredibly hard to see Band-backed Wren, Rufous Piha, Rufous Mourner, Piratic FlycatcherShort-billed Pigeon.....

Long-billed Gnatcatcher

Rufous-winged Woopecker

At the many Heliconia that surround the communal buildings we got Bronze-tailed Plumeleteer whilst we formally signed in, and then we crossed the bridge for the first time. A Buff-tailed Warbler darted along the edge of the river below, and an Amazon Kingfisher zoomed underneath whilst Grey-rumped Swift cruised overhead. Heading past the dorm blocks we took a path that headed vaguely south, and were soon craning our necks towards the canopy many metres above. Various Flycatchers flitted around - White-ringed, Grey-capped, Dusky-capped - but the real target was Purple-throated Fruitcrow, one of the Cotingas. We eventually got decent views high up, but it was extremely difficult.

Plain-brown Woodcreeper
Great Curassow

I am aware that this post is just a long list of birds but that was exactly what it was - action-packed birding of the highest order. All Costa Rica trips end up here and it is no surprise why. We returned to the car to find a Great Curassow next to it, bold as you like, and then drove back to La Quinta for lunch and a well-earned rest. But did I rest? Could I rest?!


Golden-hooded Tanager at the La Quinta feeders

Buff-throated Saltator

Spectacled Owl

Green Honeycreeper

Blue-grey Tanager

Passerini's Tanager

Collared Aracari
Black-cheeked Wooodpecker


  1. Wow, great write-up and photos

  2. Oh my goodness! What an amazing photography skill! All photos were perfectly captured. honestly i like the owl capture most