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BEGINNERS' COSTA RICA

Wednesday 15th February - Sunday 26th February 2012

Matt Denton

Orange-collared Manakin (Matt Denton)

Orange-collared Manakin (Matt Denton)

Our inaugural Beginners’ Costa Rica tour was a wonderful introduction to tropical birds, enjoyed for its good birding and lovely company. During our travels 373 species of birds were recorded in just 11 days, without very much effort. Macaws, hummingbirds and cotingas were well represented in our birding with Scarlet and Great Green Macaws, Snowcap, Black-crested Coquette, Bare-necked Umbrellabird and Turquoise Cotinga among some of the favourites. Our bird-of-the-trip was the Resplendent Quetzal, a pair of which provided us with a very memorable sighting. Seeing such new bird families as tinamous, cracids, puffbirds, furnariids, antbirds, silky-flycatchers and others was a major part of the experience. Representatives of these new families were often seen remarkably well and included Great Tinamou, Crested Guan, White-necked Puffbird, Plain Xenops, Fasciated Antshrike and Long-tailed Silky-Flycatcher. Other avian highlights included the tiny Sungrebe, Blue-crowned Motmot, entertaining White-collared and Orange-collared Manakins, Collared Redstart and Striped Owl. By the end of the trip, the participants were feeling comfortable in separating the many “yellow-breasted” type flycatchers such as Great Kiskadee, Social and Grey-capped Flycatchers and Tropical Kingbird. Much of our birding included lessons on field craft such as flight silhouettes of parrots; how to recognize different tropical bird families; and differences in plumage in males and females. Probably the most enjoyable way to practice our identification skills was at hummingbird feeder stations at different elevations. For a change of pace we also took two different boat trips that allowed us to compare many types of wading birds including herons and shorebirds and also raptors. Beyond identification we also learned how birds make a living by learning the different life-histories of frugivores and insectivores. Our lessons in ecology and evolution included altitudinal migration, mixed-species flocks, lekking birds, and hummingbird foraging strategies. Costa Rica is a perfect place to learn about habitat specialization as many birds here are restricted to certain altitudes, a fact we experienced first-hand. One of the more memorable experiences was our tour of the late Alexander Skutch’s home and garden. Here we were thrilled by a constant parade of tanagers, honeycreepers, euphonias and dacnis visiting the banana feeder. This and many similar experiences showed us what a joy birding in the tropics can be.

Northern Royal Flycatcher (Matt Denton)

Northern Royal Flycatcher (Matt Denton)