Finding birds ourselves

Old Dec 18th, 2006, 07:35 AM
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Finding birds ourselves

My wife and I will be in CR in Jan 07 on an organised tour, but there will be plenty of time to do our own thing.We will be staying at Tilajari(5 nights) and Villa Lapas(4 nights).We are keen to spend time finding and identifying birds ourselves, so a few pleas for advice.
Is it possible to find birds at Tilajari without going too far from the resort?
At Villa Lapas how easy is it to walk to the Tarcoles estuary?
Will we be able to get a boat trip around the estuary?
Thanks in advance for any help.
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Old Dec 18th, 2006, 05:31 PM
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I can't be of much help with your questions, but just want to comment how much we enjoyed Tilijari in 2002--beautiful place on the Rio San Carlos. It is seldom mentioned on Fodors, but is definitely worth a mention. There are some nice birds in that area, but maybe not the larger numbers and variations that you would find in the southern Caribbean, La Selva area, Osa Peninsula, and other areas of the country. We are more interested in birds now, but weren't then.

You won't have any problems finding the birds, but sometimes they are difficult to identify. I use the standard Skutch Field Guide to the Birds of Costa Rica (same one everyone else uses), but there are many that are VERY similar and it takes a lot of sightings and study to pin down just which one you've seen. Often boils down to just one little more or less obscure feature. Some, of course, are much easier. One of the advantages to working with a guide is that he is better able to recognize the calls and already knows what is nearby and what to look for before the actual sighting.

I've been in areas just saturated with birds, and have been frustrated only to be able to list the more obvious ones. I've had to let many go unlisted in my "official list" because I just couldn't make a positive identification and don't want to cheat by guessing!

We've yet to stay at Villas Lapas--but again, I'm anxious to hear what you think of Tilijari--do report back when you return. We saw our first Emerald Basilisk there--got a great photo!
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Old Dec 19th, 2006, 06:29 AM
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Also not able to answer your questions but I would think Villa Lapas staff would be able to help you.
Are you aware of the very good birding along the river/lagoon trail into Carara Nat. Park?
Have a woderful journey!
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Old Dec 19th, 2006, 08:24 AM
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Thanks for useful advice from shillmac and earthtraveller.I have just got the book and I will try to learn some of the subtle differences, but of course there is no substitute for experience in the field. I may have given a slightly wrong impression: we will have quite a lot of oportunities for guided days( including Carara), but I still like time to get good photographs.
I'll certainly enjoy reporting back on the trip.
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Old Dec 19th, 2006, 08:55 AM
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Hi there, I have never stayed in these 2 places but have been in Costa Rica 4 times and bring the book. I always get up early and have never had anything but life bird after life bird. We are going back in March and cannot wait - if you cannot figure out what something is take a picture and someone will be able to help. Tarcoles was OK but Carrerra we had better luck! Have a great time!
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Old Dec 19th, 2006, 01:15 PM
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I have stayed at Villa Lapas. We had a driver so can't really say about the walking to anywhere.

There will be a lot of birds that you should be identify by yourselves. I assume you have done some birding in other places and understand the difficulties of identifying those little twit birds that won't sit still and are always in thick underbrush. They can be pretty frustrating. As a birder I am in heaven when I see an army ant column.

Sound plays a big part in knowing the birds of CR. I know for instance to look just a few feet away from me when I hear a trogon that sounds like it is about 50 ft away. Great photo opportunity if you find them because they don't move quickly. The breaking branch sound of the manakin. The beautiful song of the riverside wren. The different sounds of the aracaris and the toucans are pretty easy once you have heard them. It won't take long to learn many of the songs and sounds if you have a good guide earlier in the trip.

Right in the Villa Lapas area we saw a pygmy owl, pale billed woodpecker, and a fasciated heron right by the dinning room. We got great pictures of those. There were great hummingbirds. Personally, we have difficulty identifying hummingbirds with the Skutch book.

Another big help in figuring out the birds is to know what to expect in different areas. If you know what is there you know what kind of things to look for like eye stripes, bill colors etc. It isn't easy even then at times but it does help. Knowing which side of the country to see a passerini or a cherry-they look identical and identification is mostly by area seen or being able to see the female.

Many of the hotels have bird lists. If you could familiarize yourself with it or at least have it with you it would help. Some hotels have a printable list on their website.

I would check with Villa Lapas on what tours you can do from there. If nothing else, you could hire a taxi to take you around for the morning or whenever.
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Old Dec 19th, 2006, 01:46 PM
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You can not walk to the Tarcoles estuary from Villa Lapas. Check out my screen name here, and 'geographic' on Tripadvisor, for some comments about birding the Villa Lapas area. You can arrange a boat trip down the Tarcoles into the estuary with your hotel or in advance through Costa Rica Gateway.

cheers

Jerry
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Old Dec 19th, 2006, 06:11 PM
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My wife and I birded Villa Lapas and surrounding area on our 2005 and 2006 Costa Rica trips.
There are a couple great birding trails right on the Villa Lapas grounds and also great birding on the road that goes on past the Resort. We also saw and photographed a large number of great birds at the waterfall and gardens further up that road.
I also concur with Earthtraveler about birding the river trail at Carara. I would guess that a taxi wouldn't be very expensive to Carara or the waterfall and gardens. I'm sure you'll have a great experience.
Here is a link to a few of the photos that we took on our 2006 trip.
http://www.kodakgallery.com/ShareLan...7_933433924403
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Old Dec 19th, 2006, 07:10 PM
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adamfam
I have looked at those pics multiple times. You both did a wonderful job.

What are you doing in Feb? We are going to Guatemala again. The birds in Tikal were so amazing and this time we want some pics! We were afraid to bring anything good with us last Feb. but those birds are just too awesome to leave unphotographed this time. Not that we don't have enough camera equipment but we are thinking of buying a new Nikon with digiscope. Know anything about those????

ps thanks for the ideas on how to keep moisture out. We had the same problem you did when we went to Drake Bay. Cost a lot to get our camera dried out and working again too.
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Old Dec 20th, 2006, 06:46 AM
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Just a few more thoughts, things I've learned in my CA travels, though I've never been to CR. Good binoculars make a HUGE difference! Many folks pack really small binocs because they're light and convenient but they tend to let very little light in so it's difficult to use them in the dawn and dusky hours when bird spotting is best. A good quality midsize binoc is worth the extra weight in my book, and water and fog proof is important, too. My binocs are among my most prized possessions.

I purchased a waterproof bag for my digital camera for snorkeling and have used it on misty/rainy/waterfall adorned hikes with great success. We always store our cameras during CA visits in ziplocks or the waterproof case with desiccant bags.

Also consider buying laminated bird (and other wildlife) field guides - so easy to use, lightweight, and fairly indestructable. Here's a link:

http://www.rainforestpublications.co...des/index.html

Let me know if you're interested in binocular or bag links, too. Have a wonderful trip!
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Old Dec 20th, 2006, 07:24 AM
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hopefulist--thank you for that link, really interesting. Selva Verde told me that they now have laminated cards for birds (I think) for their guests to use too.
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Old Dec 20th, 2006, 08:10 AM
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So much helpful information; thanks all.
Adamfam; what great shots.If I can get just one ot two of tha quality I will be very happy.
As you sugested, suzie2, Villa Lapas does have a bird list on their web-site which includes abundance codes so Ive downloaded it into a database,which combined with my life list(which is also a database)means I can get lists of common birds which I have never seen etc.
Sounds as if we are set for a great trip
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Old Dec 20th, 2006, 09:46 AM
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Have fun, there are some beauties down there!

Keep your eyes out for lots of orange collared manakins. I forget what time of year we were there but I suspect around the time you will be or shortly after. We saw the beginnings of a lek. Didn't get to see the moon walk that time but they were obviously setting up their area.

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Old Dec 20th, 2006, 05:53 PM
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We spent four nights at Villa Lapas in 2001. I agree that the walk to Tarcol Lodge would too far to be reasonable. A telescope is very usefull for birding the mud flats. There are boat trips in the estuary and it is a nice relaxing way to see birds. Go to www.birdingtheamericas.com and work your way to Costa Rica trip reports. Mine is the second Feb-Mar one of 2001. There is an annotated list of the species we saw at the end. The best way to handle Carara is to do the river trail in the AM and the headquarters trail in the PM. This is because the river trail is more open and gets too hot in the afternoon. The HQ trail is shady. Tropical birding is tricky and you will rack up a much bigger list with a good guide than without but you will still see lots of birds.
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Old Dec 20th, 2006, 06:23 PM
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Drbob,
I'm sure you'll get a number of great pictures. One of the way's that helped us identify the birds we saw was this: my wife color copied the plates in the Birds of Costa Rica book, laminated them, punched a hole in one corner, put them on a metal ring and we has an easy to use, waterproof bird guide that hooked to a belt loop. Beats carring that huge book around in the rain.
Susie2,
Guatemala sounds like a great birding place. We hope to add that to our list. We are both teachers, so Feb. is out for us.
Hopefulist,
I agree about the good binoculars. Many people don't realize the difference between an inexpensive pair and a good pair. What a BIG difference. I would recommend 8x42 or 10x42 with multicoated optics.

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Old Dec 21st, 2006, 06:35 AM
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I use Celestron Nobles (8 x 32), a good compromise for me. They are durable and waterproof. If anyone is interested enough to search this forum for "binoculars" there are several older threads with more specifics including links (that still work - I checked) to retail sites for those binoculars and other quite good but less expensive ones. Happy trails...
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Old Dec 24th, 2006, 02:45 AM
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I have never birded CR. The nearest I have come is around Iguazu and Trinidad where I learnt a very useful tip. Carry a small laser pointer to help explain to others where to look.The birds can't see the beam(but don't shine in their eyes) so the are not disturbed.
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