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Costa Rica Trip:
October 2002

    Corcovado National Park, Osa Peninsula, South Pacific
    La Suerte Biological Field Station, Caribbean slope


    This was our first trip to Costa Rica - and as any birder could imagine I was really looking forward to it.  We were flying in to meet friends in San Jose and travel out to Corcovado from there.  Flying into Costa Rica takes a day - two flights and a lot of lay over/waiting time.  We arrived at night at stayed at the Don Carlos Hotel - a moderate hotel with friendly English speaking staff.  
    The next morning we to a cab to the local airport and took a small plane (8-seater) out to Puerto Jim
énez on the south end of the Osa Peninsula.  The flight was quick and pretty smooth, though ear plugs would have been nice.  But we got there in one piece and it was a lot better than having to drive through Costa Rica (think no rules except no speeding).  At Puerto Jiménez, we checked into the Corcovado NP headquarters and arranged for a truck to take us into Carate where we would hike into Corcovado the following day.
    Riding in the back of the truck was pretty exciting - traveling though the countryside and seeing some new birds as we went.  The driver even stopped to let us admire a flock of Scarlet Macaws.  We arrived at Carate just as the rain started.  We stayed at the Tent Lodge, which was sufficient for the night.  The lodge was located next to the trailhead into Corcovado NP and just a few miles from La Leona station/camping ground in the forest.  Our host were very gracious and provided us with a wonderful meal (probably the best we had for our entire trip).  After dinner, we were given a tour the the turtle hatchery and were allowed to watch their release back into the ocean.  We also walked along the beach to find a mother turtle laying eggs and watched as she buried her nest and returned to the water.
    The next morning we packed up and headed out to Sirena - the research station located in Corcovado NP.  It was a grueling 13 km hike along soft sandy beach and through the rainforest.  We were lucky that the weather wasn't too hot or too rainy.  Our 30 lbs + packs didn't help the hike either.  I didn't have much time to stop and enjoy the birds or scenery much either.  Before entering the research station, we had to cross a river.  It is crossable at the mouth when the tide is low.  When the tide is too high, there is a place to cross above the mouth - a rope is strung across to help.  We made the mistake of attempting to cross at the mouth as the tide was coming in.  We had to turn back when we were half was across and I could feel the water rushing around me and under my every step.  The thought of getting washed out to the Pacific Ocean was good enough reason to turn around right there!  When we finally reached the research station, I was more that glad to put my pack down and sit for a while.
    To recover from the hike in, we spent most of the following day relaxing around the station.  I watched the birds from the comfort of a shelter porch.  We spend 6 days at the station.  It rained a majority of the time, but we still hiked around on the trails.  Rubber boots are a must - they offer great protection and traction.  The only problem being if they get wet inside, it'll be hard to dry them out.  The same was true for all clothing.  All our clothes quickly got wet (even if it wasn't raining - hanging up the clothes can only help by much).  By the end of our trip, the clothes started smelling of mold - not pleasant, but there wasn't much we could do about it.  This was the start of the rainy season in Costa Rica and we were experiencing it.  Another thing I was thankful for having was rite-in-the-rain paper.  I don't think my notebook would have lasted out there if it weren't waterproof!
    Birding in torrential rain was a real challenge.  The birds were still there, but seeing them became an ordeal.  The mixed flocks would suddenly appear - a whirlwind of colors hopping from branch to branch.  I could only hope to get a glimpse of one long enough to id it, before... they would suddenly vanish.  It was amazing how quickly they could appear and disappear in an instant.  Being the only birder in the group made it more of a challenge for me - especially since I didn't have an experience down here.  Still I saw (and identified) some amazing birds.  I know there's a lot I missed, but I'll just have to return to try again one day.
    During our hikes, we saw a lot of wildlife and enjoyed the scenery, the smells, and the vast diversity of plant life.  It was a wonderful way to feel isolated, yet comfortable in the surrounding wild rainforest. The food at the ranger station was not one of the enjoyable parts of the trip, however.  During our stay the food mainly consisted of different variations of tuna (from a can).  It was edible and not too bad, considering we’ve been hiking all day in the forest (that makes even the worse foods taste good).  The rooms were adequate in that they keep the rain out (but not the humidity).  There is no electricity (I think there was a generator for the kitchen/dining hall, and maybe the staff quarters).  There were two bunk beds in the room with the most uncomfortable mattress.  We ended up putting up and sleeping in our hammocks, which we brought along with us.  There was a shared bathroom to each row of rooms – no heated water, but a cool shower was sometimes refreshing during the hot days.  During our time there the mosquitoes were not out yet – or at least it was too rainy for them.  And the chiggers were also not out, which was nice not having to worry about those.
    The Corcovado rainforest is full of unparallel beauties and diverse wildlife. It of course also has its dangers.  Aside from the sharks in the oceans, there are bullet ants, venomous spiders, and poisonous snakes in the rainforest.  I had one close brush with the latter.  While going on a night hike around the research station, I was helping my travel companions look for snakes and amphibians (what they were mainly interested in).  On the path, I was shinning my headlamp into the trees around eye level when something strange in my peripheral vision caught my eye.  I looked down and not more than two feet from boots laid a large ~8 foot Fer-de-Lance!  It was coiled up in the foliage in hunting mode.  My heart leapt to my throat and I stumbled over my words.  After making a safe retreat from the snake, we called our traveling companions over who were overly impressed with this find.  We snapped some shots, without disturbing it too much, and let the large reptile finish its night hunt.  The encounter got my heart racing for a while – the Fer-de-Lance is the second deadliest snake in Costa Rica, next to the Bushmaster – only because an anti-venom exists.
    When our stay at Sirena came to an end, we hired a boat to take us back to Puerto Jim
énez instead of hiking back out.  It was a pricey, but we got to enjoy the cool breeze and the coastlines of Costa Rica and Panama.
    From Puerto Jim
énez, we took the small plane back to San Jose where we meet up with acquaintances who took us to La Suerte Research Station on the Caribbean slope where they were doing research.  We were taken over the mountains through the Braulio Carrillo National Park – a gorgeous and large cloud forest.  In the foothills, we passed by many coffee and banana plantations.  Some of the coffee plantations were shade grown – but to varying degrees (some of the shade trees were pretty small and far between). 
    We arrived in the evening at the research station, which was among secondary forest.  The next morning I birded around the research station.  After watching Manakins and Oropendolas in the trees and bushes, I soon realized how hot it was due to the lack to tree cover.  I don’t know how the forests were supposed to look on the Caribbean side, but it seemed a lot different that the Pacific Ocean.  The forest seemed a lot drier and perhaps more disturbed.  Still there was still a wealth of bird, mammal, amphibian, and reptilian life around to enjoy.
    As my first trip, I thought Costa Rica was a wonderful place to explore and there are many more places to visit.  I seemed to have just gotten a taste of it and was eager to have more.



The airplane we took from San Jose to  Puerto Jiménez
View from the plane
Beautiful and threatened Scarlet Macaws

We saw these birds on our ride from Puerto Jim
énez to Carate.
In Carate we stayed at a lodge with a nice local family, who showed us the wildlife.
This hummingbird, Band-tailed Barbthroat, roosted for the night in the open right in front of our room in Carate
Red-eyed Tree Frog, Carate
We were lucky to see the local raising program of Green Sea Turtles.
Even luckier to see their release into the ocean and a mother laying eggs on the beach in Carate.
Sirena Research Station in Corcovado National Park
The best way to keep your clothes from molding in the humid weather.
Wouldn't be a rainforest without rain, it rained/down poured like this almost everyday we were there.
This Scarlet Macaw was raised by humans and released into the wild.  It's partner would wait in the trees while the macaw would stop at the research station for a handout.
Corcovado NP
Corcovado NP
Corcovado NP
Corcovado NP
Corcovado NP
Violaceous Trogon, Corcovado NP
Fer-de-Lance, one of the deadliest snakes of Costa Rica.  We nearly stumbled upon this snake while hiking at night.  It was probably 8 feet long.  It got my heart racing.

Corcovado NP
Fer-de-lance, the eye stripe is one way to identify this snake.

Corcovado NP
Tamandua or anteater, Corcovado NP
Corcovado NP
Dendrobates pumilo, La Suerte Research Station
Coral Snake, La Suerte
Hognose Viper, La Suerte
La Suerte
Dendrobates Auratus, La Suerte

Bird List

The bird list doesn't repeat species, even if I saw them in two places.  It only lists them in the first place I saw them.

San Jose:
Rock Dove
Crimson-fronted Parakeet
Tropical Kingbird
Great Kiskadee
Blue-and-white Swallow
Clay-colored Robin
Red-eyed Vireo
Prothonotary Warbler
Tennessee Warbler
Great-tailed Grackle
Baltimore Oriole
Blue-gray Tanager
Hepatic Tanager

Puerto Jim
énez (Osa Peninsula on the southern coast of the Pacific Ocean):
Cattle Egret
Green Heron
Turkey Vulture
Black Vulture
White Ibis
Scarlet Macaw
Orange-chinned Parakeet
White-crowned Parrot
Social Flycatcher
Mangrove Swallow
White-collared Seedeater
Variable Seedeater
Blue-black Grassquit
House Sparrow

Puerto Jiménez. to Carate:
Magnificent Frigatebird
Little Blue Heron
Great Egret
Roadside Hawk
Common Ground-Dove
Smooth-billed Ani
Blue-crowned Motmot
Wood Stork

Carate (outside of Corcovado National Park):
Brown Pelican
Snowy Egret
Common Black-Hawk
Semipalmated Plover
Spotted Sandpiper
Western Sandpiper
Spectacled Owl
Common Pauraque
Band-tailed Barbthroat
Long-tailed Hermit
White-crested Coquette
Purple-crowned Fairy 
Black-hooded Antshrike
Yellow Tyrannulet
Northern Rough-winged Swallow
Plain Wren
Gray-crowned Yellowthroat
Scarlet-rumped (Passerini's) Tanager
Black-striped Sparrow

The hike into Sirena & boat ride out:
Brown Booby
Olivaceous Cormorant
Bare-throated Tiger-Heron
Common Tern
White-tipped Dove
Black-throated Trogon
Ringed Kingfisher
White-necked Puffbird
Chestnut-mandibled Toucan
Chestnut-backed Antbird
Golden-hooded (Masked) Tanager

Sirena (ranger station in Corcovado National Park):
Tricolored Heron
Chestnut-bellied Heron
King Vulture
Double-toothed Kite
Crested Caracara
Crested Guan
Great Curassow
Wilson's Plover
Solitary Sandpiper
Wandering Tattler
Ruddy Turnstone
Ruddy Quail-Dove
Mealy Parrot
White-collared Swift
Band-rumped Swift
Violet-headed Hummingbird
Violet-crowned Woodnymph
Beryl-crowned Hummingbird
Rufous-tailed Hummingbird
Violaceous Trogon
Green Kingfisher
Fiery-billed Aracari
Golden-naped Woodpecker
Red-crowned Woodpecker
Pale-billed Woodpecker
Tawny-winged Woodcreeper
Long-tailed Woodcreeper
Wedge-billed Woodcreeper
Buff-throated Woodcreeper
Black-striped Woodcreeper
Plain Xenops
Barred Antshrike
Slaty Antwren
Dot-winged Antwren
Bicolored Antbird
Rufous-breasted Antthrush
Spectacled Antpitta
Black-crowned Tityra
Rufous Piha
Red-capped Manakin
Blue-crowned Manakin
Gray-capped Flycatcher
Great Crested Flycatcher
Dusky-capped Flycatcher
Golden-crowned Spadebill
Southern Rough-winged Swallow
Riverside Wren
Yellow-throated Vireo
Chestnut-sided Warbler
Kentucky Warbler
Scarlet-rumped Cacique
Yellow-crowned Euphonia
Thick-billed Euphonia
Spot-crowned Euphonia
Shining Honeycreeper
Blue Dacnis
Palm Tanager
Summer Tanager
White-throated Shrike-Tanager
White-shouldered Tanager
Gray-headed Tanager
Buff-throated Saltator
Rose-breasted Grosbeak

La Suerte Biological Station (on the Caribbean side of Costa Rica):
Purple Gallinule
Collared Aracari
Black-cheeked Woodpecker
Barred Woodcreeper
White-collared Manakin
Western Kingbird
White-ringed Flycatcher
Eastern Wood-Pewee
Slate-headed Tody-Flycatcher
Band-backed Wren
Montezuma Oropendola
Green Honeycreeper
Blue-and-gold Tanager
Thick-billed Seed-Finch

Other Critter List 


Mantled Howler Monkey
White-nosed Coati
tree rat sp.
Green Sea Turtle
Red-eyed Tree Frog
“Tink” Frog
Corcovado NP:
Northern Tamadua (Arboreal Anteater)
Central American Squirrel Monkey
White-throated Capuchin
Mantled Howler Monkey
Central American Spider Monkey
White-nosed Coati
Red-tailed Squirrel
Central American Agouti
White-lipped Peccary
Bat sp. (at least 2, big and small)
American crocodile
Basilisk sp. (Jesus Christ lizard)
Rocket Frog
Glass Frog
Rain Frog sp.
La Suerte:
White-throated Capuchin
Mantled Howler Monkey
Hog-nosed Viper
Coral Snake
Green Iguana
D. Pumilio
D. Auratus
Red-eyed Tree Frog



Hotel Don Carlos
La Suerte Biological Field Station


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page updated: 3/18/08