I started my posts about Costa Rica by saying that a Wildlife Adventure Experience with ‘Explore’ was an alternative to a specialist birding holiday, so how did it compare.
We did not search for birds (most of the time), but saw them as part of the holiday experience. We were lucky to have a guide who was a keen birder, so was very helpful. He organized early morning bird walks, around the hotels we were staying in as an optional extra. It was quite magical to be out before the world was waking up, with small forest birds flitting around, often too many to recognize before the next ones appeared.
We visited a lagoon where birds where in abundance, at the CATIE botanical gardens. Egrets perched in trees, and flapped lazily around on their broad white wings. My favorite bird was there, a northern Jacana. A small water bird about the size of a moorhen, but more delicate, with long legs and big feet, which enables it to walk daintily over water lily leaves.
A deliberate stop was by a main road, where our guide knew there would be birds of interest – White ibis, tri-coloured heron, roseate spoonbill, great and snowy egrets.
Another deliberate stop was in a small fishing village, where the guide knew we would see scarlet macaws.
The rarest bird we saw was a queztel, but this was on a night walk, so it was peacefully roosting in a tree, not showing off its resplendent plumage. The night walk in the forest also produced sightings of other roosting birds, a tarantula, a salamander. a sloth and a kinkajou.
Another unusual bird was a laughing falcon which the guide saw from the coach, so we stopped to admire its striking blond and grey plumage with a dark mask making it look like a bandit!
My favourite birds were the humming birds. Their names were as exotic as their plumage; fiery throated, green crowned brilliant, purple throated mountain gem, coppery headed emerald, and violet sabrewing. We came across them regularly on our travels, but one place stands out as really special. In the Santa Elena Reserve there was a humming bird feeding station, with several multi armed feeders which a host of these tiny humming birds were using. Their wings moved so fast, it was a whirl of movement rather than a wingbeat. They seemed to vanish and reappear rather than fly, so fast were their movements. The magical thing was, if you stood very still and put a finger next to the feeder, they would come and perch on it to give their wings a rest!
In total I saw 81 different species of birds, which is probably not as many as on a specialist trip, but the diversity on the trip really made numbers seem irrelevant. We saw several species on monkey, sloths, crocodiles, iguanas, salamanders, turtles, bats, frogs, butterflies and insects.
Finally, the cost was much less than a specialist holiday.