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ULTIMATE COSTA RICA

Friday 31st March - Saturday 22nd April 2017

Pete Morris

This amazing Bare-necked Umbrellabird was a major bonus (Pete Morris)

This amazing Bare-necked Umbrellabird was a major bonus (Pete Morris)

It had been a while since I’d been to this great birding destination. Indeed 15 years had passed since my previous visit with my late great friend Paul Coopmans, so it was a pleasant surprise to be asked to return to this wonderful country. Much had changed – it’s now a far more affluent and modern country, but still impeccably clean and friendly. Many new sites are now available, and in the intervening years, our average bird list has increased by nearly 20%!! I knew I’d have my work cut out to get up to speed, but I can proudly report that with the help of our very capable driver, a few excellent local guides, great help from my colleague Dani, and an excellentgroup, we did very well. Indeed this year’s Ultimate Costa Rica tour was, yet again, a highly successful visit to this wonderful country. As with all Birdquest tours, we focused on finding the specialities rather than building a big list, though we still ended up recording an impressive 590 species between us, including just a handful that were heard only. This included a high percentage of the country’s specialities that were on offer on our itinerary. With its three endemic bird areas, regional endemism is a strong influence in the Costa Rican avifauna, and many of these charismatic species were among the tour highlights. Picking out the highlights from nearly 600 species is never easy, but one bird really did stand out – the unexpected superb sighting of a Bare-necked Umbrellabird which was inevitably our bird-of-the-trip! Other cotingids also delighted! Three-wattled Bellbirds have to be seen (and heard) to be believed, Yellow-billed and Snowy Cotingas showed well and colour was added by Turquoise and Lovely Cotingas. Nightbirds did us proud, with fantastic views of superb species such as Bare-shanked Screech Owl, Crested Owl and Dusky Nightjar. Our 42 species of hummingbirds included an incredible encounter with a White-tipped Sicklebill, antswarms were attended by such charismatic species as Ocellated Antbird and Northern Barred Woodcreeper, and we enjoyed fine encounters with skulkers such as Thicket and Streak-chested Antpittas. But then who can forget the flashy Sunbitterns, the showy Sungrebes, the displaying Long-tailed Manakins, the amazing Snowcaps or the unique Zeledonia? Or the amazing quail-doves and variety of crakes and rails, and three species of wood-quail at point blank range!! Oh, and then there was the Resplendent Quetzal… just dazzling! In fact there were far too many highlights, so I’d better get on with the report!!

An amazing Sunbittern kicked the tour off in style (Pete Morris)

An amazing Sunbittern kicked the tour off in style (Pete Morris)