Birdwatching at Tirimbina Biological Reserve

We were coming to the end of our 2016 Costa Rica trip, and our last stop was Sarapiquí, birding with one of our favorite Costa Rica guides, José Iván Castillo who is the Director of Guides at Selva Verde Lodge. We had first met José Iván during our first Costa Rican trip in 2013 and we were excited to go out with him again.

For our daytrip, he took us to Tirimbina Biological Reserve that's just a few kilometers south of Selva Verde. Tirimbina has about 600 hectares (1500 acres) of gorgeous rainforest with an incredible diversity of bird species. They claim that about half of all bird species in Costa Rica have been seen at Tirimbina.

Tirimbina Biological Reserve, La Virgen, Costa Rica

One of our first birds was a Tropical Peewee, hunting at dawn near the suspension bridge over the Sarapiquí River.

Tropical Pewee, Tirimbina Biological Reserve

Just a few minutes later, we got a great chance to watch a White-Fronted Nunbird hunting for breakfast.

White-Fronted Nunbird

At the first observation area, we found a Black-Capped Pygmy-Tyrant busily hunting and coming back to its nest with snacks for its chicks. Here it seems to have caught a wasp or bee. After hunting, it had one spot on a branch that it would use to survey the area for predators before quickly entering the nest, which gave me a chance to get a shot in the early morning light.

Black-Capped Pygmy-Tyrant

As we made our way along the trail, José Iván told us to keep our eye out for some Rufous Motmots that were nesting along the path. We found the birds, quietly perched in the trees. I was standing there trying to get a shot of one of the adults, when a flash of color flew past my feet. I had been standing right next to the nest hole in the ground, completely oblivious.

Rufous Motmot, Tirimbina Biological Reserve

Just a few minutes later, we had a nice view of a Keel-Billed Motmot.


José Iván and other guides had been seeing an Agami Heron in the last few days in the stream, so we spent quite a bit of time looking for it, to no avail. We did, however, get an incredible look at a Fer-de-Lance (Bothrops asper), a highly venomous, aggressive snake that we'd seen on both of our previous trips to Costa Rica, but this view was incredible. The snake was actively hunting up and down the stream and we were a bit nervous when it passed under the little footbridge we were standing on.


We finally made our way around the loop back to the suspension bridge leading back to the lodge at around 10 am, and the day was becoming very hot and humid. We were surprised to see a Mantled Howler Monkey (Alouatta palliata) resting on the wires of the bridge, trying to stay cool. We weren't sure how to proceed, but we slowly crept forward on the bridge and saw that there was a actually an entire family of monkeys resting in the trees while the young monkeys wrestled with each other.

In the past, we'd only seen Howlers up in the canopy, but here we were literally just a few feet from them. One of the young monkeys came down to the bridge to watch me photographing, and he was only about three feet away. The adults didn't seem too concerned, and casually watched us watching them relax and play in the shade. It was truly an incredible experience and a great morning of watching birds and nature.