In early March, I spent a glorious week in Costa Rica, and I hardly know how to begin to tell you about it! Swarovski’s Clay Taylor and I led a group of 10 participants from literally every corner of the U.S.: California, Oregon, New York and Florida, with Clay and I claiming the center: Texas and Wisconsin, respectively. We even had a couple Costa Rica residents, plus our guide, Leo and driver, Enrique, to round out our most excellent, diverse, instant family-for-a-week.
I’ve always known that one of the simple beauties of birding is that you can bird anywhere, and at any time; but this was so much more clear to me during our time in Costa Rica. No matter each person’s level of experience, we were on high-alert, our senses tuned in and ready to absorb all this fascinating country had to offer. For me, that included not only birds, but also the lush vegetation and bright flowers, the green, rolling mountains, and the mountain streams which danced over rocks and fell hundreds of feet in dramatic, heart-thumping waterfalls.
The variety and scope of bird species was astonishing–but we knew it would be. Hiring a local bird guide is the only way to go. We were fortunate to have talented Leo Garrigues, who so impressed Ben and Kate, my coworkers who led the trip last year. With his expertise, we saw 274 species by week’s end, and heard another 25 that never came in to view.
This barely 30-something had been birding since he was 6. And he took darned good care of us, attending to every detail.
It just so happened that we ran into Leo’s dad, Richard, who wrote the field guide, The Birds of Costa Rica. Richard was leading another tour and was happy to sign our books after breakfast at Villa Lapas one morning. We could see how Leo had grown up with birding! It had come naturally–through his dad.
There are so many special memories from the trip, but one was hiking 1/4 mile through a young teak plantation to a beautiful, large green tree with an over-reaching canopy. There, we stood looking through scopes at this pair of Black and White Owls. Magical. Leo knew all the secret places!
Once, we walked out on a bridge to see what we could see. Dozens of Scarlet Macaws flew over in pairs, heading to their evening roosts; herons and shorebirds picked their way along the water’s edge, and crocs wallowed in the shallows. I assumed these cows knew and acted accordingly.
Leo always gave us a chance to support the local economy. This hut was right at the end of the bridge. Kind of took our minds off the crocs.
Rushing, tumbling water makes my heart sing, so La Paz Waterfall Gardens was my happy place. Hummingbird feeders attracted hummers by the dozens (we saw 23 species on the trip) including this Magnificent Hummingbird. We lunched in this inviting, open wood building that let all the bird sounds and sights come right to our tables.
As we birded steadily down the trail, we could hear the sound of falling water and feel the moistness in the air. Deep green goodness.
So many birds to enjoy, including this stunning Crimson-collared Tanager, which Clay digiscoped with his Swarovski STX and his Apple iPhone 6 as it peered at us through the dense foliage.
And then we came to where the trail met the stream, and followed past two thrilling waterfalls! We stood and watched Swallow-tailed Kites as they made their appearance in the mist far above the falls; and an American Dipper explored the bank below.
Here, I joined the ranks of photographers who take those cool vacation shots for couples. Hey, it was the perfect setting. No charge, Marty and Cathy!
The next evening, we decided to hit the beach of the Pacific Ocean for sunset. And since we never went out without birding, Leo called in a Ferruginous Pygmy Owl before we turned in for the night. Perfect!
Eagle Optics Staff
Binoculars: Bring them. See what they bring you.