Day 1 - Arrival and first night at hotel near the capital of San Jose. The hotel grounds are great for birding, so if we get in at a reasonable hour we may be able to see our first species like Lesson's Motmot, Cabanis's Wren, Rufous-naped Wren, Hoffmann's Woodpecker, Rufous-tailed Hummingbird, and if we're lucky even a roosting Mottled Owl.
Day 2 - Early morning birding on the grounds of the hotel, followed by breakfast and then a drive towards Arenal. Along the drive, which is approximately 3 hours long, we will do some birding at locations including the Poas Foothills, Cinchona and Virgen del Socorro. Just a few of the interesting birds we may encounter today include hummingbirds such as Crowned Woodnymph, Purple-crowned Fairy, Violet-headed Hummingbird and Violet Sabrewing. Raptors such as Barred Hawk and the stunning White Hawk are possible, Tropical gems like Red-headed Barbet, Yellow-throated Toucan, Russet Antshrike and a host of tanagers such as Speckled, Crimson-collared, Golden-hooded and Blue-and-gold are possible. Night at Arenal.
Day 3 - Before breakfast, we will explore the grounds of the lodge at Arenal, hoping for species like Broad-billed Motmot, Rufous-tailed Jacamar, Collared Aracari, Black-cheeked Woodpecker, Northern Tropical Pewee, Bay Wren, Montezuma Oropendola, Buff-rumped Warbler and Bananaquit.
Next up on the agenda is a visit to the Arenal Hanging Bridges. Here, a network of 16 safe suspension bridges will give us the opportunity to view the rainforest and its birds from a different perspective, in amongst the canopy and above it! We should see Crested Guans here, and if we're lucky, perhaps Great Curassow. Hummingbirds we may see include Black-crested Coquette, Blue-throated Goldentail, and Bronze-tailed Plumeleteer. Crested Owl are sometimes found at their roost sites, and we should see some trogons including Slaty-tailed, Gartered and Black-throated. 'Ant-things' possible include Russet Antshrike, Plain Antvireo, Slaty Antwren, Spotted Antbird and Thicket Antpitta. The list of possibilities goes on, with such tropical gems as White-collared Manakin, Sulphur-rumped Flycatcher, Tawny-faced Gnatwren, Band-backed Wren and White-throated Shrike-Tanager.
In the afternoon, we will return to Arenal Lodge and further explore the grounds for more birds. Night at Arenal.
Day 4 - We'll do a little birding on the lodge grounds early this morning. After breakfast we will begin to drive to our next overnight destination, Cano Negro. Along the way we will stop near La Fortuna to explore a trail, excellent for spotting a variety of birds, as well as Three-toed Sloths! A few of the birds to look for along the trail include Orange-chinned Parakeet, Slaty Spinetail, White-collared Manakin, Boat-billed Flycatcher, Black-throated Wren, Yellow-throated Euphonia, Black-cowled Oriole and Cinnamon-bellied Saltator.
We will enjoy an afternoon boat ride in the wetlands at Medio Queso, a birders paradise. Some of the species we hope to see include Purple Gallinule, Sungrebe, Northern Jacana, Jabiru, Pinnated Bittern, Bare-throated Tiger-Heron, Black-collared Hawk, Fork-tailed Flycatcher, Canebrake Wren and Nicaraguan Grackle. Kingfishers to watch for include Amazon, Green, American Pygmy, and Ringed. Night at Cano Negro.
Day 5 - This morning we will further explore the Cano Negro Wildlife Refuge via boat. We will then drive on towards our next overnight destination, Boca Tapada. Along the way we will stop and explore the San Emilio Wetlands, where we could find birds like Lesser Yellow-headed Vulture, Nicaraguan Seed-Finch and Nicaraguan Grackle. Another highlight of the trip, we will visit feeding stations at Mirador El Pizote, where the impressive King Vulture comes in to feed. Night at Boca Tapada.
Day 6 - Today we continue our explorations of the Boca Tapada area. Forests here are home to Keel-billed and Yellow-throated toucans as well as the smaller Collared Aracari. Laughing Falcons can often be heard giving their wild, and raucous calls and with some luck we should see one. Iconic Scarlet Macaws are fairly common in this area, and we should be alerted to their presence by their loud calls. Flycatchers to watch for include Yellow-bellied Eleania, Long-tailed Tyrant and Bright-rumped Atilla, and tanagers to watch for include White-lined, Blue-gray, Scarlet-rumped, Golden-hooded and Plain-colored, amongst others. Night at Boca Tapada.
Days 7 & 8 - After a little morning early morning birding around our lodge, we will have breakfast, load up, and head off towards Sarapiqui. We will spend what time we have today, and the entire next day, exploring the well-known La Selva Biological Station grounds and surrounding areas. La Selva Biological Station, which borders Braulio Carrillo National Park, encompasses over 1,500 ha of low-land tropical rainforest, and close to 500 species of birds have been recorded here. The forest understory is home to several cryptically colored and elusive birds such as Great, Little and Slaty-breasted tinamous; a family of birds that are more often heard than seen. Crested Guan and Great Curassow are also possible. White-collared Swifts, one of the larger species of swift in the world, are seen zipping through the sky, alongside the much smaller Gray-rumped Swift. With any luck we'll see Sungrebe and Sunbittern. Raptors to look for include the stunning King Vulture, Gray-headed Kite, Black Hawk-Eagle and Semiplumbeous Hawk. During our stay we hope to see one or more owls, either roosting during the daytime, or by going out after dark. Possible species include Middle American Screech-Owl, Crested Owl, Spectacled Owl, Mottled Owl and Black-and-white Owl. We should spectacular Rufous and Broad-billed motmots, as well as three species of puffbirds. A selection of woodpeckers can be found at La Selva, including Pale-billed, Lineated, Cinnamon, Chestnut-colored, Rufous-winged and Smoky-brown woodpeckers. There are four species of regularly seen antshrikes here, as well as several species of antbirds, and Black-faced Antthrush. Other tropical beauties we hope to see include Bare-necked Umbrellabird, Snowy Cotinga, Scarlet-rumped Cacique and Scarlet-thighed Dacnis, to name just a few. Nights in La Guaria.
Days 9 & 10 - This morning we will leave the La Selva area and head southwest towards the Talamanca Mountain Range, making a couple of stops along the way. In the afternoon we will visit Paraiso de Quetzales, where feeders attract some stunning hummingbirds, such as Talanamca, Fiery-throated and Volcano hummingbirds and White-throated Mountain-Gem. Forest nearby may yield Long-tailed and Black-and-yellow silky-flycatchers, Sooty and Mountain thrush, Sooty-capped Chlorospingus and Barred Parakeet. We will also have the chance to visit a local farm where one of the world's most beautiful birds, the Resplendent Quetzal, is found. In addition to the gorgeous quetzal, other birds to watch out for include Collared Redstart, Black-capped Flycatcher, Rufous Treerunner, and Spotted Wood-Quail. For these two days we will be staying in the Savegre Valley, enjoying a wide range of spectacular and sought-after birds that can be found there. Fiery-billed Aracari, Scintillant Hummingbird, Crimson-fronted Parakeet, Buffy Tuftedcheek, Golden-browed Chlorophonia and Wrenthrush. If those birds don't get your excited, then I don't know what does. Nights at Savegre.
Day 11 - After a little more birding in the Savegre Valley, we will make our way to the top of a mountain, at 11,500 feet elevation. Here, in the paramo habitat, we hope to find a couple of specialized birds, the Volcano Junco and Timberline Wren. This afternoon, we will drive back to San Jose, where we will spend the night.