Journal Entry # 36 - Birder's Paradise

10 September 2002 - Carol (Matt's mom)

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The Birders and Their Big Adventure

On our last day in Costa Rica, at 6:00 am, and with no coffee (a critical element in any morning!), we met our intrepid birding guide, Freddie, whom Matt had located through his trusty Lonely Planet guidebook. Freddie proved to be an excellent guide: spoke English beautifully, drove calmly and carefully (any of you who has ridden with Matt can understand the importance of that!), and has many years experience as a bird researcher and guide. 

Because it was our first CR birding experience, I wanted to sample as many habitats as possible to get as many species as possible. Freddie quickly planned an itinerary and off we went, thankfully stopping for coffee and rolls within the first half hour. It was a magnificent, 12-hour birding experience, with a total of 86 species!



The Birds and the Bees, and the Tarantulas (Yeeeshh....)

The first birding spot we visited was a small cafe at about 3000 ft. Its balcony overlooked incredible botanical delights and a lovely waterfall and was festooned with numerous hummingbird feeders. We got 13 species of hummers there, from tiny to large (ok, itís all relative; a large hummingbird is maybe 4"!). 

This was also the locale where Matt & John held the tarantula, brave souls that they are! 

We had a zone-tailed hawk soaring low, so we got great looks. Several migrating passerines (perching songbirds) greeted us there, too.

At the bottom, a construction crew warned us about a large swam of bees, so we took their advice and turned around. I swear it was 5 miles backup that hill, but Freddie insisted it was only 1.5 kilometers. For someone who works out regularly, it was still tough! Oh, I forgot to mention, it was also hot!

The big hand off...
Hercules Beetle Golden Scarab Beetle Dear God help me.



The Scenery

Another special hike was in tropical rain forest, dense and damp. It seemed quiet at first, but we persevered and got what we in the bird world call it an interesting mixed flock!
Matt dwarfed by the waterfall Islands in the stream, that is what we are... alright, alright...  I'll stop.



We had a tico lunch at a nice restaurant along the way, and as Matt has mentioned, RICE & BEANS (with chicken).  Freddie saved the best place for last--La Selva Biological Reserve and Research Station. At one point, he had gone ahead and parked the van. While waiting for him, we were all bird watching, and I was focused on a beautiful and tiny green honeycreeper feasting on a plant whose fruit (berries) hung like string beans from the branches. Freddie walks up and as Iím excitedly pointing out my find, he exclaims that there are 5,000 raptors in the distant sky. Yea, right. But sure enough, thousands of hawks migrating south for the winter were in a huge string across the sky! Here in the US, there are hawk watches going on daily, as the hawks are leaving here for CR and other destinations. It was interesting to be at the other end of the spectrum!





Oh, yeah....  the Pecaries

Here we also saw 6-8 peccaries, wild pigs, including a few babies. As we excitedly moved closer to take pictures, Freddie cautioned about their being wild. Duh! 

At another stop, we saw a caiman (relative to alligator). Thankfully, the critter list did not include snakes as CR has some of the worldís deadliest species.



A Great Ending!


On the way back to San Jose, John twice calls out to Freddie that he has spotted something big with feathers! Freddie dutifully turns around both times and we get a grey hawk, then 2 crested caracaras, large black and white raptors with reddish faces! 

Okay, weíre haviní a great birding day and itís late and no oneís saying much when all of a sudden, Freddie hits the gas pedal and we swerve onto another road and skid to an abrupt stop. Two types of toucans and a related species, collared aracari, all grouped together into flocks. They graciously perched in a couple of trees, offering us terrific look sat these large and unusual birds! Whee, what a punctuation mark at the end of an excellent birding day!


Freddie, Our Bird Guide and Our Bird List for Costa Rica


I know Iíll return to Costa Rica for more birding and will certainly hire Freddie as a guide. If any of you is interested in such an excursion, his web site is

For a visual list of all of our birds, click here

(Note - this list is roughly x Kb and will take y seconds over a 56k connection)

Click this flycatcher to see our bird list!