Costa Rica
10 - 22 Dec, 1997

Sunset over Tamarindo beach Costa Rica is a dream destination for many birders.  It has such varied topography that its bird list (of over 800 species) is larger than all of North America's combined!  Plus, it's a country of beautiful scenery, abundant wildlife, good infrastructure and very friendly people.

Tom and I planned to spend two weeks in the country in December, and return on Christmas Eve.  Because by now I realized that 14 days of birding would be a bit much for Tom, I selected four destinations that I thought we could both enjoy: San Jose, Arenal, Tamarindo, and Monteverde. 

San Jose

After long three flights that had us change planes in San Francisco and Mexico City, we arrived in San Jose late at night, and took a taxi to our B&B.  I had arranged the accommodations after finding a Costa Rica-based tour company on the web, and that organization also operated this bed and breakfast in a suburb of San Jose.  It was dark, but I was already very excited about what new and exciting species I would discover the next day. 

The B&B was beautiful, in a quiet street in a very nice neighborhood.  The only thing that we found a little curious was that it had no house number, and its street had no name!  The proprietor gave us a business card with explicit driving directions in Spanish, and we were supposed to show that to the cab driver when we wanted to come home. 

Rufous-collared Sparrow The next morning at the crack of dawn, I was awakened by birds calling from the balcony, and I couldn't resist getting up to investigate.  There were a lot of them, calling loudly, and hopping around on the roofs and balconies.  I hadn't actually studied every species in the field guide, so I could not figure out what they were - there wasn't enough light!  I must have sat there for half an hour, waiting for the sun to come up so I could identify these little guys.  When I could finally see them, they turned out to be Rufous-collared Sparrows.

Great-tailed Grackle, Tamarindo The vantage point from our balcony was spectacular that morning.  Big flocks of Cattle Egrets flew continuously from their roost to their feeding grounds.  A Blue-gray Tanager and a Yellow-green Vireo fed in the big tree across the street.  Tropical Kingbirds dotted the powerlines.  A Hoffman Woodpecker pecked on one of the utility poles.  Montezuma Oropendolas, Great-tailed Grackles , and Crimson-fronted Parakeets darted across the sky in small flocks. 

After breakfast, we decided to take the bus downtown to investigate the shops and museums, as well as any parks and gardens.  I had read a little bird-finding article on San Jose, and it mentioned that you could find some interesting birds in the city.  I didn't have too much luck, though.  The highlight of the day was a migrant Yellow Warbler, in one of the trees in a city park.

That experience proved one thing: that we needed to leave the city.  We decided to take a tour to Carrara National Park, and scheduled it for the next day.