Sunday, July 9, 2017


White-nosed Coati and the iNaturalist win for best photo of the day!
From Liberia, we took a private vehicle to the Arenal Lodge.  This was probably the trickiest part of the transportation puzzle due to the remote area of the hotel.  Thankfully the Arenal Lodge set it all up for us.  At our Airbnb, the driver met us and whisked us away to the remote rain forests of Arenal. 

Life bird after life bird requires a homage to the Arenal bird gods
This is where my life list grew leaps and bounds.  For years, I've birded a lot of the same kind of habitat found in Liberia.  But it was Arenal that served as a game changer for us. 

If there was one place that required a longer stay, it was Arenal.  Every time we left our room, we added something new to the list. Our first day there was super overwhelming.  For a solid 2 hours, we were bombarded with new birds.  I haven't had something like that happen in a very long time.  

Eyelash Viper
The weather was unpredictable.  The lighting conditions were difficult.  I was constantly adjusting the ISO on my camera.  And sometimes I forgot!

There were so many trails to discover.  We did our best to cover as many as we could.  Each trail had a different group of birds.   

Rufous Motomot
The birding in the dark forests reminded me of winter birding back home.  We didn't find large numbers of birds in the woods, but the birds we did find were quality ones. 

our backyard view for several days
It's interesting to note that many of the birds enjoyed open spaces along the forest's edge. 

Orange-chinned Parakeet
But it was the darkest and wettest of trails that held my interest.  The trail that lead to the waterfall was incredible.  

During a storm, we were protected from the rain under the canopy of the forest.  As it rained, several puddles formed. And that's when we noticed birds flying in and out of those puddles....

Spotted Antbird
In the darkness and with a very steady hand, we captured this AMAZING Spotted Antbird taking a bath.  This was the most challenging photo shoot of the trip.  It was also my number one favorite bird from our trip. 

I could see that Gordon was very happy here.  I got the sense that this was his favorite stop in Costa Rica.  On our last day, I could see in his eyes that he wanted to stay longer.  We only scratched the surface when it came to finding birds.  Arenal is home to a great many birds. Plus the climate and lodging made it very easy to bird anywhere in the park. However, with that said, we had a lot of different types of habitat to cover across the country for specialty birds. My greatest concern was getting him to the place of his maybe lifer Resplendent Quetzal. They can be tricky birds. That was his top MUST SEE bird from our Costa Rica adventure. 

Gordon loves butterflies and helped save this one trapped inside a lookout point
Okay okay.  You're probably wondering, "Was there anything you didn't like about Arenal?" The only con was having to eat at the same expensive place every night.   But then again, our morning breakfast buffet was free and delightful! So is it really a complaint?

Collared Aracari
I will also add that my body was finally able to heal up from the bug bites in Liberia.  There are bugs in the rain forest but not the kind that do damage like those along farmland roads. 

Gordon describes to other Tucsonans how this big bird got away!  PS.  How strange is it to find other Arizonans during our vacation?  Not very.  Most Arizonans leave the hottest part of our Arizona summer for vacation to escape the unbearable heat. 

One night I went swimming with Micheal.  It was a perfect evening alone in the pool.  A nightjar flew over our heads several times.  I suppose it could have been a lifebird but I was too exhausted to care due to the constant daily onslaught of new birds and information. At some point, you need to shut the brain down. 

Sulfur-bellied Flycatcher-found in Arizona but still cool to see
I went months without finding lifebirds.  I had been so eager to find them when I first arrived to Costa Rica.  But I began to slow down a bit because I wanted to enjoy the other aspects of our trip.  

Long-tailed Tyrant
There are so many sides to my travel.  And they are always in conflict with one another.  My linguistic side takes over and it's all about speaking as much Spanish as I can.  Some people shy away from culture.  Not me.  I absorb as much as I can because I don't get the real life practice at my job. 

Then there's the photographer.  I see so many amazing things.  Where do I even start?  Sometimes, it's about putting down the camera and just watching it all happen as it happens. And that's not easy.    

Then there's the damn curious citizen scientist inside of me.  What's that calling?  Who's behind that leaf?

male and female Passerini's Tanagers
And then there's the irritating competitive streak inside of me to do better.  If I sit for one second, I'll miss out on something.  During this trip, it happened to me a couple times and it was so frustrating.  The world can pass you by if you're not careful.  

Black-and-white Owl
Thanks to a tip from several English birders, I grabbed my owl light and found their Black-and-White Owl hanging out around the street lights near our lodge.  I ran back to get Micheal and Gordon.  How does a birder sleep when even the night is full of exciting finds???!!

Red-billed Pigeons
Now you'd think all these incredibly colorful birds would stand out.  They don't.  

Keel-billed Toucan
One of the most wonderful observations from the Arenal trip was of a bird I've seen several times now in Central America, the Crested Guan.  But this was the first time I watched a mother fan her wings and use them as an umbrella to protect her young ones. 

Crested Guan
It was a new behavior that I haven't seen before in the world of birds.  

As for Arenal, the volcano? Well, Arenal is an active volcano, but the last time it seriously "belched" was back in the 90's.  It sent locals scurrying down the mountain side.  Today, Costa Rica has seen an uptick in volcano activity around the country.  Once dormant volcanoes are now active again.  In fact, we had a day trip planned to Poas out of San Jose.  That is until the volcano decided to spew hot rock and water all over the trails.  Thankfully, we had a Plan B. It all worked itself out at the end of our trek. 

Best dream of the year happened in Arenal.  In my dreams, I saw the volcano erupt.  In the morning, I saw this. 
If you visit Costa Rica, Arenal National Park should be a MUST SEE on your list of places to visit.  The Arenal Observatory Lodge was a delightful place to stay.  It also offers adventure packages to other areas nearby.  We took advantage of the Caño Negro Wildlife Reserve day trip near the Nicaraguan border.  While I was doing the logistics for the trip, I was told by many birders that Caño Negro is a must visit.  As I sketched out the itinerary, I discovered it wasn't on our route. Then I remembered that one of the lodges that we were staying at offered a daily trek to the reserve. You'll see why it was an important visit! Our lists are below the video. Just click on the highlighted links to view the reports. Stay tuned for more.....

Arenal Day 1
Arenal Day 2 AM and PM
Arenal Day 3
Arenal Day 4


  1. I am enjoying your posts from Costa Rica immensely as it is bringing back memoreis of my trip

    1. It was fun going back there. What a great place for wildlife!

  2. Wow - you've been to Costa Rica - a place I would dearly love to visit - but reading your super posts and seeing your photos is the next best thing :) You have seen some wonderful species and it must have been a great adventure. Love the photo of the tree canopy :) Thanks so much for sharing.

    1. Hello there! I'm just starting to get back into the blogging world again. I had so much data to sort through from our treks and it was time consuming! Now I'm back and will be reading about everyone's fun again. There was a lot of info.
      Hope you are well! Talk to you soon. Me:)

  3. Hello, Chris! This is an awesome post on your trip to Costa Rica. Amazing birds and sightings, I like the view of the volcano too. Beautiful series of photos. Happy Birding!

    1. One trek down. What an incredible place to bird. Happy birding to you as well!

  4. I stayed in fortuna twice. Luckily, both times, arenal was active. I loved it. You are lucky to see so many birds. Not so lucky to not be able to eat out, as Fortuna has so many good restaurants!

    1. I look back on the trek now. Fortuna would be great for the day trek stuff. It would have been a lot cheaper leaving out of that town. And the restaurants looked great. I loved the lodge because we did a lot of birding right out of our cabin door. But next time, I might elect staying in Fortuna.


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