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Days 1–2 Our first destination was Rancho Naturalista, a small lodge set in the mountains on the Caribbean slope. During our forest hikes and short trips from the lodge we were able to see many specialties of the area. Highlights here included Short-billed Pigeon, Brown-hooded Parrot, Mottled Owl, Grey Potoo, Snowcap, Purple-crowned Fairy, Garden Emerald, White-necked Jacobin, Violet-crowned Woodnymph, Green-breasted Mango, Blue-crowned and Rufous Motmots, Lanceolated Monklet, Keel-billed Toucan, Hoffmann's, Black-cheeked and Golden-olive Woodpeckers, Brown-billed Scythebill, Russet Antshrike, Plain Antvireo, Checker-throated Antwren, Dull-mantled Antbird, White-winged Becard, White-crowned, White-ruffed and White-collared Manakins, White-throated, Ruddy-tailed and Tawny-chested Flycatchers, Black-headed Tody-flycatcher, Long-billed Gnatwren, Worm-eating, Buff-rumped, Golden-winged, Golden-crowned, Kentucky and Mourning Warblers, Olive-crowned Yellowthroat, Montezuma and Chestnut-headed Oropendolas, Yellow-billed Cacique, Tawny-capped Euphonia, Crimson-collared, Golden-hooded, White-lined and Olive Tanagers. Certainly one of the most memorable experiences at Rancho was encountering a large army ant swarm. Species present at this birding spectacle included Strong-billed, Spotted and Plain-brown Woodcreepers, and Northern Barred-woodcreeper, as well as the stunning combo of Immaculate and Spotted Antbirds.

Days 3–4 En route to our overnight lodging at Savegre, we stopped at Tapanti National Park for some morning birding. Some of the birds found in the Tapanti area were Least Grebe, American Coot, Killdeer, Lesser Yellowlegs, White-tailed Kite, Bat Falcon, Barred Hawk, Chestnut-collared, White-collared and Vaux's Swifts, Collared Trogon, Red-headed Barbet, Red-faced Spinetail, Spotted Barbtail, Scale-crested Pygmy-tyrant, Grey-breasted Wood-wren, Black-faced Solitaire, Giant Cowbird, Golden-browed Chlorophonia, Silver-throated and Bay-headed Tanagers, and Chestnut-capped Brush-finch. The Cerro de la Muerte region is home to the vast majority of Chiriqui endemics, birds found only in Costa Rica and Panama. While staying at the lovely Savegre Mountain Lodge we were able to find many of these sought-after species. Amongst the many avian treats found we saw Black Guan, Band-tailed and Ruddy Pigeons, Sulphur-winged Parakeet, Costa Rican Pygmy-owl, Dusky Nightjar, White-throated Mountain-gem, Talamanca, Volcano, Scintillant and Fiery-throated Hummingbirds, Resplendent Quetzal, Hairy and Acorn Woodpeckers, Spot-crowned Woodcreeper, Ruddy Treerunner, Ochraceous and Dark Pewees, Black-capped, Tufted and Yellowish Flycatchers, Mountain Elaenia, Silvery-throated Jay, Ochraceous and Timberline Wrens, Mountain and Sooty Thrushes, Ruddy-capped and Black-billed Nightingale-thrushes, Long-tailed Silky-flycatcher, Rufous-browed Peppershrike, Yellow-winged and Brown-capped Vireos, Townsend's, Black-cheeked and Flame-throated Warblers, Flame-coloured and Spangle-cheeked Tanagers, Black-thighed Grosbeak, Yellow-thighed and Large-footed Finches, Slaty Flowerpiercer and Volcano Junco.

Days 5–7 After some final morning birding in the highlands, we departed for the Carara National Park in the Pacific lowlands. This area is certainly one of the best birding areas in the country and it provided us with many memorable birding moments. Our first birding activity was a boat trip on the Tarcoles River, where we found Brown Pelican, Neotropic Cormorant, Anhinga, Magnificent Frigatebird, Bare-throated Tiger-heron, Yellow-crowned Night-heron, Green, Little Blue, Great Blue and Tricoloured Herons, Great and Snowy Egrets, White Ibis, Roseate Spoonbill, Northern Jacana, Black-winged Stilt, Semipalmated and Wilson's Plovers, ‘Hudsonian’ Whimbrel (including an albino!), Willet, Short-billed Dowitcher, Royal and Sandwich Terns, Black Skimmer, Osprey, Plumbeous Kite, Common (Mangrove) Black Hawk, Yellow-headed Caracara, Blue Ground-dove, Ringed and Green Kingfishers, Turquoise-browned Motmot, Panama Flycatcher, Mangrove Swallow, Yellow (Mangrove) and Prothonotary Warblers and Red-winged Blackbird. While birding the lowlands forests, in and around Carara National Park, we were able to find Great Tinamou, Zone-tailed, Crane and Grey Hawks, Collared Plover, Grey-chested Dove, Scarlet Macaw, Pacific Screech-owl, Black-and-white and Striped Owls, Common Pauraque, Lesser Nighthawk, Costa Rican Swift, Long-billed and Plain-capped Starthroats, Band-tailed Barbthroat, Scaly-breasted and Ruby-throated Hummingbirds, Slaty-tailed, Gartered, Black-headed and Baird's Trogons, White-whiskered Puffbird, Pale-billed Woodpecker, Wedge-billed, Streak-headed and Cocoa Woodcreepers, Plain Xenops, Barred and Black-hooded Antshrikes, Dot-winged Antwren, Dusky and Chestnut-backed Antbirds, Streak-chested Antpitta, Masked and Black-crowned Tityras, Rufous Piha, Red-capped, Blue-crowned, Orange-collared and Long-tailed Manakins, Piratic, Boat-billed, Streaked, Grey-capped and (Northern) Royal Flycatchers, Slate-headed Tody-tyrant, Northern Bentbill, Rufous-naped, Black-bellied and Riverside Wrens, Mangrove, Yellow-throated and Philadelphia Vireos, Tawny-crowned Greenlet, Yellow-crowned and Scrub Euphonias, White-shouldered, Grey-headed, Cherrie's and Western Tanagers, Blue and Rose-breasted Grosbeaks, Painted Bunting and Orange-billed Sparrow. Several exciting mammal species were seen during our stay in the area as well, including Mantled Howler Monkey, Nine-banded Armadillo, Hoffmann's Two-toed Sloth and the shy Jaguarundi.

Day 8 After a very productive stay in the Carara area, we headed further north to the Palo Verde Reserve. While birding in this unique dry habitat zone called Guanacaste, we were able to add several new and exciting species such as Wood Stork, Jabiru, Glossy Ibis, Northern Shoveler, Blue-winged Teal, Black-bellied Whistling-duck, Roadside Hawk, Northern Caracara, American Kestrel, Limpkin, Double-striped Thick-knee, Common Ground-dove, Inca and White-winged Doves, Orange-fronted Parakeet, White-fronted and Yellow-naped Parrots, Mangrove Cuckoo, Lesser Ground-cuckoo, Ferruginous Pygmy-owl, Spectacled Owl, Steely-vented and Cinnamon Hummingbirds, Canivet's Emerald, Rose-throated Becard, Scissor-tailed, Sulphur-bellied and Brown-crested Flycatchers, White-throated Magpie-jay, Banded Wren, White-lored Gnatcatcher, Melodious Blackbird, Streak-backed and Spot-breasted Orioles, Indigo Bunting, Olive and Stripe-headed Sparrows and White-collared Seedeater.

Days 9–10 After concluding our birding in the Guanacaste, we departed for the cooler climate and cloud forests of Monte Verde. During our stay in the area we were able to see some amazing species, including Black-breasted Wood-quail, Chiriqui Quail-dove, Green Hermit, Green-fronted Lancebill, Violet Sabrewing, Green Violet-ear, Striped-tailed Hummingbird, Coppery-headed Emerald, Purple-throated Mountain-gem, Magenta-throated Woodstar, Resplendent Quetzal, Orange-bellied Trogon, Prong-billed Barbet, Blue-throated Toucanet, Smoky-brown Woodpecker, Olivaceous Woodcreeper, Lineated Foliage-gleaner, Streak-breasted Treehunter, Grey-throated Leaftosser, Golden-bellied and Olive-striped Flycatchers, Azure-hooded Jay, Rufous-and-white and Plain Wrens, White-throated Thrush, Slaty-backed Nightingale-thrush, Grey-crowned Yellowthroat, Slate-throated and Collared Redstarts, Three-striped and Blue-winged Warblers and the gorgeous White-eared Ground-sparrow.

Day 11 Our next destination was the awesome Arenal Volcano not far from Monte Verde. We were very lucky with our viewing of this large, active volcano. Huge boulders of molten lava were seen rolling down the rocky slopes! Even with sporadic rain, we still managed to find several very nice birds including Pied-billed Grebe, Short-tailed and Sharp-shinned Hawks, Laughing Falcon, Swallow-tailed Kite, Crested Guan, Grey-headed Chachalaca, Pale-vented Pigeon, Grey-rumped Swift, Violet-headed Hummingbird, Broad-billed Motmot, Rufous-tailed Jacamar, Collared Aracari, Chestnut-mandibled Toucan, Buff-throated Foliage-gleaner, Slaty Spinetail, Long-tailed Tyrant, Yellow Tyrannulet, Southern and Northern Rough-winged Swallows, Nightingale, Striped-breasted, Band-backed and Black-throated Wrens, Black-cowled Oriole, Green and Red-legged Honeycreepers, Scarlet-thighed Dacnis, Hepatic Tanger and Thick-billed Seed-finch.

Day 12–14 Our last location of the tour was the La Selva Biological Reserve in the Caribbean lowlands and surrounding areas. Our first full day was spent in the actual reserve where we encountered King Vulture, Grey-headed and Double-toothed Kites, Tiny Hawk, Great Curassow, Grey-necked Wood-rail, Orange-chinned, Crimson-fronted and Olive-throated Parakeets, White-crowned, Red-lored and Mealy Parrots, Bronzy Hermit, Blue-chested Hummingbird, Black-throated Trogon, Lineated, Rufous-winged and Chestnut-coloured Woodpeckers, Great and Fasciated Antshrikes, Cinnamon Becard, White-ringed Flycatcher, Bright-rumped Attila, Rufous Mourner, White-breasted Wood-wren, Bay Wren, Grey Catbird, Scarlet-rumped Cacique, Yellow-tailed Oriole, Olive-backed Euphonia, Plain-colored and Dusky-faced Tanagers, Red-throated Ant-tanager, Shining Honeycreeper, Blue Dacnis, Buff-throated, Black-headed and Greyish Saltators, Blue-black Grosbeak and Black-striped Sparrow. On our second day we visited La Virgen del Socorro river valley as well as the El Tigre marsh near La Selva. Many specialties were found including Green Ibis, White Hawk, White-throated Crake, Solitary Sandpiper, Brown Violet-ear, Green Thorntail, Amazon Kingfisher, Black Phoebe, Yellow-margined Flycatcher, Torrent Tyrannulet, American Dipper, Pale-vented Thrush, Common Yellowthroat, Blackburnian Warbler, Black-and-yellow Tanager, Slate-coloured Grosbeak, Nicaraguan Seed-finch, and the skulking Sooty-faced Finch. On our last day we birded the Braulio Carrillo National Park located in the Caribbean foothills. Several impressive birds noted in the morning were Fasciated Tiger-heron, Ornate Hawk-eagle (a pair perched), Lattice-tailed Trogon, Cinnamon Woodpecker, Bicolored, Spotted and Ocellated Antbirds, Song Wren, Black-headed Nightingale-thrush, Tawny-faced Gnatwren, Green Shrike-vireo, Emerald, Blue-and-gold and Tawny-crested Tanagers, White-throated Shrike-tanager and the striking Black-faced Grosbeak. Other nice sightings during our hikes were the unusual Helmeted Iguana and Northern Tamandua. Once back at our hotel near San Jose we were able to add our last exciting species, the striking Cabanis’s Ground-sparrow!

Collared Aracari

Collared Aracari