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Birding in Costa Rica with Road Scholar

Road Scholar birding groupDarby Bayly and her sister travelled to Costa Rica with Road Scholar (Elder Hostel) to see the birds.

Birding is something that has always fascinated me. I started when I was really young, four or five, and going out with my dad. Birding is taking an interest in what’s around you, focussing on the birds and understanding how they fit within the ecology. You look for them, listen to them and try to identify them.

It’s exciting to know a certain bird is still there, to see its beautiful colours. It can be a sign of spring depending on what birds you are seeing. The pace is slow, the phone doesn’t ring and you are outside. You really observe the world around you. It’s wonderful.

You don’t have to do this with anyone else and lots of times I go on my own but it’s nice to do it with someone else. I went to Costa Rica on a two week, all-woman birding trip. People in the group were into the same sort of thing and they wanted to talk about where they’ve been and what they’ve seen.

I wanted to see birds that you don’t see in Canada, such as hummingbirds (we only have one type of hummingbird where I live) and wild parrots. Some birders take these tours looking for one particular bird but not me for I would have been happy with whatever I saw.

There are guides that know the birds of the area and they take you out. There are different birds in different places: moist forests, dry forests, lowland rainforest, river estuaries, and nature reserve. We would see different birds in each place.

Green violet-eared hummingbirdBirders are kind of kooky and this was not the typical person’s vacation. You get up at sunrise and go out and you listen and then look and then someone points out something and you look and then you talk about it. It sounds really dorky when I’m saying it and my kids think it’s really dorky but I like it. Usually you stay out until 10:30 am and go out again in the evening around dusk.  Most birds are active in the morning and the evening; they are sort of quiet the rest of the day.

It is important to have a good guide who is patient. If you don’t have a good guide you won’t see a thing. Most Canadians know what a robin looks like, what it sounds like, where you will probably find it. But in Costa Rica you don’t know the birds and the guide helps you with that.

A lot of people are new to birding. Perhaps they just retired and are picking this up as a hobby.

If you are just starting out you shouldn’t be concerned. Birders tend to be really enthusiastic people. They get excited and want everyone to see what they see. They want to share the moment. I’ve never seen a birder get impatient though some are better at helping than others.
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A good guidebook is useful because it helps you to know what the identifying points are; the guides are also really good at that. An identifying feature of a robin, for instance, is the orange breast and brown on the back; if you don’t know that, you wouldn’t know what to look for.

Beginners don’t usually use photography at all but as you get more experienced photography adds to the challenge. Sometimes when I don’t know what a bird is I take a picture so I can study the image more carefully later. So I do a lot of photography.

Road Scholar is a good way to go, a good way to start. I have gone with the organization twice and I liked the guides for they really knew their stuff, the people were nice and we had fun.

Costa Rica was fabulous for me. It is a small country with incredible biodiversity and a popular destination for bird lovers from around the world.

Road Scholar is a not-for-profit world leader in educational learning for adults since 1975 and offers the tour “Birding the hotspots of Costa Rica”

 

Photo credits: Darby Bayly

© Riding the buses 2011

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One response to "Birding in Costa Rica with Road Scholar"

  1. Charlotte says:

    Darby, thanks for sharing your birding interest.
    I know how much you love going out and doing this.
    It is a bonus that you are patient with beginners who enjoy being outside, like the peaceful pace but can only identify very few birds.

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