Costa Rica has around 857 species of birds in its 51,000 square km of land. Costa Rica is ranked 24th in the number of bird species hosted. Colombia ranks 1st (with 1,878 species). India ranks 9th with 1,211 species.
Then, what makes Costa Rica the preferred place for birdwatching? Two reasons:
1. Costa Rica supports a wide variety of habitats (highlands, cloud forests, rain forests, river valleys etc) within very short distances. You can drive from a cloud forest to a rain forest within 2 hours (unless your route involves the dense traffic of San Jose).
2. Costa Rica is a “stop over” point for birds migrating between North and South America. The number of transiting species is quite high.
In other words, you get more bang for the buck in Costa Rica than in any other place.
In our ten days tour we were able to see, in natural ambience at distances reachable by a 500 mm lens, more than 60 species of birds; some of them spectacularly colorful.
1. Resplendent Quetzals
3. Scarlet Macaws
Naturally our best efforts were to see Resplendent Quetzals. They are quite colorful and the males sport a 1 meter long tail feather to impress females (two feathers during mating season). Coming across Quetzals is rare. However, Costa Rica’s Forest protection efforts has seen their population increase to 50,000 in highlands region.
We went to an observation spot in Talamanca Highlands and perched ourselves in a small terrace. After an hour’s wait, we got lucky to see what the Aztecs called “God of the Air”.
We saw the three most popular Toucans in Costa Rica from an observation deck in Laguna Lagarto. Toucans are birds with black bodies and very large colorful beaks. The beaks constitute about a third of the bird’s length but weigh far less than the body. Fun fact: They use their beaks to toss food as part of their mating ritual.
One early morning in Sarapiqui’s Selva Varde Hotel we had a very rare visitor: a Motmot. We were told that this is a rare find. Our photography maestro, Sudhir Shivaram, gave us the settings to capture the colorful image at the relatively dark hours at the crack of dawn.
Motmots are called so because of their two hoot calls (“coot coot’).
What made it twice enjoyable?
1. A world class photographer, Sudhir Sivaram, accompanying us to provide guidance on camera settings for most shots; lessons that improve the quality of our pictures, lessons that stay with us for life.
2. Knowledgable and helpful local guides Supreet Sahoo and Magdalena. Magdalena is an expert on birds. Supreet has expertise on birds, even more on photography, and a lot more on customer service.
3. Eight companions with diverse backgrounds with far more expertise on photography and far better equipment; who could inspire you and teach you without humbling you. Outstanding company.