What's better than seeing wild Scarlet Macaws? Seeing them while you are eating breakfast.
One of the things I tell birders who are planning their first Costa Rica trip is to stay at the lodges that cater to birders, at least sometimes. Are some of them astronomically expensive? Yes (I did not visit any of those). Are a lot of them reasonably priced? Definitely. Will they offer great birding/geri birding/crushing opportunities? You know this.
One such place is Cerro Lodge, just north of Tarcoles and Carara National Park, both of which are very popular birding destinations. El Cerro has very clean and comfortable rooms, a pool, fruit feeders, decent food, and good birding on and near the property...what more could you ask for?
The Scarlet Macaws completely blew me away. Absolutely crippling. I don't care how many I've seen in zoos or as pets, the real deal is awesome. These are humongous, deafeningly loud birds. Scarlet Macaws are very common around Cerro Lodge, I can't imagine birding the area for a day and not seeing them.
Many other parrots and parakeets can be found in the area of course, although more often than not you will find yourself having to identify them as they fly by. I think these are Red-lored Parrots.
Nutting's Flycatcher is one of a number of "dry forest" species found at El Cerro. With rumors of this bird being split in the future, I'm not sure what subspecies this bird belongs to (apparently both are in Costa Rica).
One of the main benefits of birding the Carara National Park area is that it sits right on the edge of the dry forests to the north, wet lowland forests to the south, and mangroves along the Tarcoles River...all of this creates a soup of amazing birding. While hanging out around Cerro, bird along the road back towards the highway and down into grassy ranchland to the southwest, where the road dead ends. And of course, you will want to bird legendary Carara National Park and near the mouth of the Tarcoles River. Many birders do a guided boat ride along the river for waterbirds and mangrove specialties.
I should also mention that if you look to the forest west of the lodge early in the morning, it is possible to see Yellow-billed Cotinga (!!!) in the forest canopy, which we managed to see at great distance. It is a distant speck to be sure, but a highly sought-after speck. You'll need a scope though.
Yellow-throated Vireo is one of a number of neotropical migrants that spend the winter in the area. As a westerner, I was pretty stoked to connect with these birds down south.
Summer Tanager is one of the most abundant North American migrants that winter in Costa Rica; you can find them just about anywhere. Like most tanager species in the country, they are enthusiastic visitors of fruit feeders.
Gotta post another Fiery-billed Aracari pic: we had better looks at this bird at El Cerro than anywhere else.
Rufous-naped Wren is one of the more conspicuous birds at the lodge; this one has a beakful of nest material. Obvi.
Non-traditional Turqoise-browed Motmot shot. This species is one of the most crippling birds I have ever seen...in sunlight, that is.
I'm not entirely sure what this thing is. Steely-vented Hummingbird? I don't have my Costa Rica field guide available...how embarrassing. Among other hummingbirds at El Cerro were Cinnamon, Ruby-throated and Blue-throated Goldentail.
Frog buddy clinging to the wall of one of the cabinas.
Just down the highway from Cerro Lodge is the Tarcoles River, and the famous bridge that runs over it. Huge crowds of people gather here in order to watch the
How many crocodiles lurk under the bridge? Hella.
They are truly affectionate creatures. The bridge is also a good place to scan for shorebirds, wading birds, whistling-ducks, kingfishers and raptors, but you will have to put up with throngs of annoying people unless you get there early.
What's going on here? No clue. Pretty sure I was just drinking coffee at that point, not cuba libres. The humidity gets to you down there. These are some of the rooms at Cerro Lodge, with good habitat right outside the front door.
Some other birds we had at the lodge and along the access road include Orange-fronted Parakeet, Yellow-naped Parrot, Lesser Nighthawk, Blue Grosbeak, Prothonotary Warbler, Purple Gallinule, Southern Lapwing, Streak-backed Oriole, Streaked Flycatcher, Stripe-headed Sparrow...not to mention the owls. If you plan to bird the area, this is the place to stay as far as I'm concerned.
PS the day we checked out, Frank realized hours later that he had left his binoculars behind...they were still there when we made it back later that night. Good people.