the sweetest birdsong

At one point during our travels last month, S forbade D to leave our hotel room without his birding camera. That happened when we went on what we thought was a going to be a short pre-lunch hike and stumbled upon not one, but three different improbably colored birds we had never seen before within minutes of setting foot on the forest trail. One of the reasons that birding enthusiasts flock to Costa Rica is that pretty much the entire country is one giant birding hotspot. Go for a walk anywhere outside the country’s urban centers and you’re bound to find a bevy of beautiful birds.

lineated woodpecker2

D did not need to be told to pack his birding gear for La Amistad — the cacao farm where we spent two successive afternoons during our travels with his parents. We may have come for the chocolate at the behest of our children, but D had a hunch the farm would offer excellent birding opportunities as well. Twenty percent of the land owned by the cacao farm operators is covered by primary rainforest and another sizable portion of the property is dedicated to reforestation of indigenous hardwood trees.

white-fronted parrot closeup

In addition to the more reclusive species that favor the primary forest, plenty of other birds are attracted to the open spaces dedicated to cacao cultivation. The air was filled with birdsong when we pulled in for lunch, and it took some restraint for D to sit down and eat before bounding off into the woods. While our kids and D’s parents busied themselves with grinding cacao and transforming the dried seeds into delicious chocolate, D wandered the plantation with his binoculars and camera at the ready, logging several dozen species in a short walk and finding half a dozen birds he had never glimpsed before.

blue-and-white swallow closeup

When we returned to the farm the following afternoon for our second visit in as many days, S joined D on his bird walk. We took a different path around a part of the farm D had not explored and found more new birds to add to his growing life list. Our most memorable sightings included a lineated woodpecker, a couple of starthroats (hummingbirds), which put on quite the aerial display for us, and a gray hawk we found squawking in a lone tree.

plain-capped starthroat

Back at our B&B, which is owned by the sister of S’s longtime Tico friend, we went on one more birding walk as sunset approached on our stay in Rio Celeste. Noting D’s interest in birds, our friend suggest we take a short walk to a small pond bordered by a patch of forest on his family’s property. We barely had half an hour before nightfall, but even that short walk proved immensely productive: a family of groove-billed anis and several double-striped thick-knees highlighted another crop of half-dozen birds that were new to us. 

double-striped thick-knee

Pictured from top to bottom, new birds bolded: lineated woodpecker; white-fronted parrot; blue-and-white swallow; plain-capped starthroat; double-striped thick-kneeblue-black grassquit.

blue-black grassquit

the sweetest birdsong