A Travellerspoint blog

Day 3: La Selva Biological Station

all seasons in one day 90 °F

This is the report about my third day on the recent Costa Rica trip I took, which was Thursday, July 16. I will post a report about day 4 later tonight (July 24), post about days 5-7 tomorrow (July 25), and post about days 8-10 on Sunday (July 26). Then, on Monday, July 27 I will leave for my annual 3-week trip to Idaho with my family, so I will post daily about that starting then. Before reading any further, remember that my #1 target bird for the trip to Costa Rica as a whole was the Resplendent Quetzal, the main target bird I missed when I visited Panama in 2013. I will remind you of this fact at the beginning of every post because this bird was in the back of my mind every day during the trip, so we'll have to wait and see if I find it sometime!

Again, italics will indicate copied journal entries from the journal in which I wrote during the trip. Enjoy!

The birding on this day was absolutely BREATHTAKING - so get ready for a VERY long post with lots of bird photos!!

5:35am - I am woken up by the ghoul-like cries of Howler Monkies. Last night and tonight we are staying in a remarkable place called Selva Verde Lodge...The cabins are open-air, which means I am constantly hearing rainforest sounds: insects, frogs, the aforementioned Howler Monkies, and of course, a multitude of birds. As I step out of my cabin to go to the dining area for breakfast, my roommate, Riley, and I spot my gorgeous life bird RUFOUS MOTMOT - a truly spectacular bird!

We also spotted this COCOA WOODCREEPER:

During breakfast in the open-air dining room, I am constantly spotting amazing birds, jumping up, and taking photos from the balcony. This bird, for example, is one of the MONTEZUMA OROPENDULAS that were hanging around the area:

Another "breakfast bird" - my life bird BLACK-CHEEKED WOODPECKER at a banana stand that was set up to attract birds near the balcony:

Yet another "breakfast bird" was yet another life bird for me, this time a CINNAMON BECARD!

After breakfast, we got on the bus for our morning activities, but I noticed from the window that our two guides, Alexa and Mario, were still outside the bus and pointing to the trees. I immediately jumped up from my seat, joined them outside, and photographed this beautiful KEEL-BILLED TOUCAN! Then, I excitedly motioned for everyone to come back out of the bus and soon we were all admiring the toucan and nearby Howler Monkeys, as well.

During the morning, we went to literally one of the most famous rainforests for birding in the world: La Selva Biological Station. Not only is it famous for birding, but for biology overall because approxiamately one research project is posted about nature from La Selva every 72 hours!

Everyone was split up into 3 groups for "nature walks" with local guides from La Selva Biological Station, but I was not placed in any of these groups! Then, to my delight, I was informed that for the morning, Mario and Alexa would give me a private birding tour of the preserve! It was PHENOMONAL - it just simply seemed so unreal because there were so many birds and so many colors - we had 72 bird species before 11:45am!

Male PASSERINI'S TANAGER, life bird!

Two TURKEY VULTURES perched in the treetops, sunning their wings:

A pair of CRESTED GUANS sleeping, life bird!


COLLARED ARACARI - an awesome small toucan:



Female of the same species:

I was afforded a brief look at the rump of a male GREEN HONEYCREEPER:


This uncommon BLUE-CHESTED HUMMINGBIRD was a huge surprise!

Little green bits of leaves seeming to walk in rows across hiking trails, trees, and forest floors in Costa Rica are common sights. Those are leafcutter ants doing what they do best!

And, I swear that every type of insect imaginable lives there! For photography purposes during nature hikes I like that, but for convenience purposes while showering, I would prefer not to have an oversized moth or beetle accompany me.


BRIGHT-RUMPED ATTILA, another uncommon avian surprise!

Reptiles such as lizards, geckos, turtles, and even snakes also prevail in Costa Rica. This is a Central American Ameiva:

Can you spot what I'm taking a "selfie" with?

It was an insanely cute juvenile Hoffman's Two-toed Sloth that Alexa found! This is very interesting because Alexa told us this is the youngest one she has ever seen by itself. What a great find!

My life bird LONG-TAILED TYRANT's namesake tail covert feathers were obstructed by some twigs and branches in the way:

GREAT KISKADEE, a common roadside sight in Costa Rica:


BAND-BACKED WREN, life bird!

Male WHITE-COLLARED MANAKIN, a gorgeous and really special life bird:

Here is the female of that species taking a bath:

Male CROWNED WOODNYMPH, yet another magnificent life bird:


Female GARTERED TROGON, life bird!

PLAIN XENOPS, the only bird species I have ever seen whose name starts with an "X"


Then, we found this inch-long Bullet Ant foraging in the shrubbery alongside the trail. We did not get close to this dangerous insect because this guy's bite carries an intense, throbbing pain that lasts anywhere from 8 to 24 hours; it is widely regarded as the most painful insect bite in the world.

Along the trail where we found the bullet ant, Alexa, Mario, and I were all scanning for tinamou; medium-sized grouse-like birds that have a prehistoric look to them, however they tend to be very shy and reclusive as they stick to the floor of dense, tangled rainforests. Suddenly, I spotted one and Alexa and Mario confirmed it as my life bird GREAT TINAMOU! A terrible photo, but a stellar bird nevertheless:

This is what the trail looked like around where we found the tinamou; you can see why it would be challenging to find one of these guys in all of the dense tangles.

It was an absolutely A++ morning of birding at La Selva Biological Station! Thank you so much to Alexa and Mario for doing this!

We returned to Selva Verde for lunch and then we bussed to a river for rafting. This part of Costa Rica, the lowland rainforest, is in my opinion, much more beautiful so far than San Jose. It is also hotter, more humid...and rainier! When we arrived at the rafting place, there was an annoying storm with thunder and lightning, so the rafting was canceled for the afternoon, however we learned that we would raft right after breakfast tomorrow morning if the weather cooperates. The group returned to Selva Verde around 2:30pm and enjoyed quiet time for the afternoon, some people hanging out at the pool, and some relaxing in their rooms.

I did some nature viewing around the property and found some pretty cool animals. This Green Iguana was leisurely hanging out on a tree branch only ten feet away from the door to my cabin!

Green Basilisk:

This Strawberry Poison Dart Frog, about as big around as a dime, was one of the neatest animals I photographed the entire trip:

After a quick circle meeting at 5:00pm in the covered meeting area near the dining hall, we bussed to the Tirimbina Biological Reserve, a sanctuary for bats near Sarapiqui.

While there, we listened to a captivating lecture about bats by a very energetic bat enthusiast. If anyone from the Costa Rica group sees this, could you leave a comment telling me her name? Thanks! This lecture included touching bats (see below) that were caught in mist nests earlier in the evening, as well as listening to a hilarious song called "Echo, Echo, Echo, Echolocation!" that would be an inside joke for the rest of the trip!

After the lecture, we returned to Selva Verde, ate dinner, and retired for our second and final night at the Selva Verde Rainforest Lodge. I ended the day with 73 species of birds including 35 life birds (see the full list below). What a phenomonal, fun-filled day!

Good birding,

World Life List: 855 Species (exactly 100 life birds in Costa Rica!)

Cocoa Woodcreeper
Rufous Motmot LIFE BIRD
Great Kiskadee
Orange-billed Sparrow LIFE BIRD
Montezuma Oropendula
Clay-colored Thrush
Keel-billed Toucan
White-tipped Dove
Great-tailed Grackle
Passerini's Tanager LIFE BIRD
Blue-and-White Swallow
Great Tinamou LIFE BIRD
Little Tinamou LIFE BIRD
Crested Guan LIFE BIRD
White-throated Crake
Turkey Vulture
Double-toothed Kite
Gray-rumped Swift LIFE BIRD
Stripe-throsted Hermit LIFE BIRD
Long-billed Hermit
Crowned Woodnymph LIFE BIRD
Rufous-tailed Hummingbird
Bronze-tailed Plumeleteer LIFE BIRD
Blue-chested Hummingbid LIFE BIRD
Short-billed Pigeon LIFE BIRD
Gray-chested Dove LIFE BIRD
Crimson-fronted Parakeet
Olive-throated Parakeet LIFE BIRD
Orange-chinned Parakeet
Brown-hooded Parrot
Squirrel Cuckoo
Gartered Trogon LIFE BIRD
Slaty-tailed Trogon
Rufous-tailed Jacamar LIFE BIRD
Collared Aracari
Keel-billed Toucan
Rufous-winged Woodpecker LIFE BIRD
Black-cheeked Woodpecker LIFE BIRD
Plain Xenops LIFE BIRD
Northern Barred-Woodcreeper LIFE BIRD
Wedge-billed Woodcreeper LIFE BIRD
Streak-headed Woodcreeper
Fasciated Antshrike LIFE BIRD
Dusky Antbird
Paltry Tyrannulet
Common Tody-Flycatcher
Bright-rumped Attila LIFE BIRD
Long-tailed Tyrant LIFE BIRD
Dusky-capped Flycatcher
Great Kiskadee
Boat-billed Flycatcher LIFE BIRD
Social Flycatcher
Gray-capped Flycatcher
Tropical Kingbird
Cinnamon Becard LIFE BIRD
White-collared Manakin LIFE BIRD
Band-backed Wren LIFE BIRD
Stripe-breasted Wren LIFE BIRD
House Wren
White-breasted Wood-Wren
Lesser Greenlet LIFE BIRD
Blue-gray Tanager
Palm Tanager
Golden-hooded Tanager
Green Honeycreeper LIFE BIRD
House Sparrow
Blue-black Grosbeak LIFE BIRD
Olive-backed Euphonia LIFE BIRD
Yellow-crowned Euphonia
Black Vulture
Variable Seedeater LIFE BIRD

Posted by skwclar 14:20 Archived in Costa Rica

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Nice job! That was one of your best posts yet. That is way more life by birds than I got in Costa Rica! LA Selva is one of the best birding spots in the world, your very lucky! Congrats on all your lifers!

by isoo

Lovely pictures again, thank you.

by Gracie

Thanks for the great post! Congratulations for all of your new Life Birds! Wow!

by Katie

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