Welcome to Birds In My Bins And Lens: Eyeing The Avifauna And Fauna Of The Americas. It has always been a childhood dream of mine to travel to the tropics. I vividly remember being nine years-old, thumbing through seemingly endless stacks of Ranger Rick, National Wildlife, National Geographic and International Wildlife Magazines, dreaming of visiting such wonderful places as: Costa Rica, Panama, Mexico, Colombia, etc. in order to see all the great birds and animals that call these places home. Finally, after 40 years, I am fulfilling my childhood dreams.

Photo Above: Flame-faced Tanager (Male) Ecuador August 2014


Wednesday, October 26, 2011


I have always wanted to travel the tropics since I was nine-years old. It took almost 40 years for the dream to come to fruition, but it was worth the wait. Thanks Tom and Jeff for getting me on the tropics road!

This all started, when Tom emailed me, asking if I wanted to join him and his brother, Jeff on a birding trip to Costa Rica. I of course accepted. Who wouldn't?

Tom made all  arrangements for the lodges we would stay at, purchased our airline tickets, got the rental car and did all the foot work. I just merely had to send him a check for my portion. Doesn't get much easier than that.

Tom is a champion travel agent and a tireless planner! He set up an astounding trip. We stayed at two lodges for the week. He even hired us a guide for our first day at the lodge. The guide was really good, friendly and knew the birds and area extremely well. he fit in well with he three of us and it was as though we all have birded together all our lives.

At our second lodge we hired a local kid to guide us around the lodge's grounds. He was ok. I personally felt we would have done just as well on our own, but it's always nice to help out a local with a little financial support.

The rest of our time in the country, we birded on our own and did very well. Tom and Jeff have been to Costa Rica before and other great places like Ecuador, so tropical birding was nothing new to them.

Besides, Tom and Jeff being great birders, they are also two of the nicest people in the world. Their easy going, laid back demeanor made for fun travel companions and one of the best ever birding experiences in my life.

First Lodge: Heliconias Lodge and Rainforest is located in Northern Costa Rica in the Guanacaste Mountain Range. http://www.heliconiaslodge.com/

The scenery here is pretty nice, hosting a quiet and peaceful atmosphere, that provides an opportunity to explore the incredible biodiversity with over 180 acres of primary rainforest and cloud forest nestled in a protected private, multifamily owned reserve, which adjoins the 31,000 acre Tenorio Volcano National Park.

The micro-climate and diversity of habitats created between Volcano Tenorio and Volcano Miravalles leads to very distinctive birding, in a private reserve, being home to many species including Motmots, Toucans. Antbirds, Song Wrens, Manankins, Woodpeckers, Hummingbirds, Woodcreepers, Raptors and Owls.

The well maintained soft trails took us deep inside primary rainforest to discover a plethora of elusive bird species. The three hanging bridges and platform located at canopy level enhance  enabled use to see more species and get closer looks at the mixed flocks in the canopy.

Overall, it was a great experience. The housing was quiet and simple, but comfortable. The food was good. The staff very friendly. Best of all the birding around the lodge grounds and other environs near by was first rate. I racked up many lifers on this first leg of the trip. Not only bird lifers, but primate lifers like: White-faced Cappucian Monkey, Mantled Howler Monkey and Spider Monkey

The photo above is one of the many Howler Monkeys we saw. We came across a band of these primates early one morning as they were romping around in some trees right next to the road.
Unfortunately for this poor chap, it appeared that he was the victim of a more dominate male, who apparently castrated him. I am assuming this, of course. But to me, it looks as though he had his testicles bitten clean off. He does look rather sad too. Of course, who wouldn't look sad in that situation!?

Video of Howler Monkeys calling on my first morning. Best alarm clock EVER!

One of the more interesting aspects of our housing, was the fact that the bottom of the door had a large two inch gap. This allowed interesting creatures to enter our room, which really didn't bother me much. Spiders, (BIG ones), insects of all kinds, lizards (mainly Geckos) and other cool critters were daily and nightly visitors. I loved it...not so sure the brother's Pavlik were as enthralled as I.

One of the most interesting was a rather large and scary looking scorpion, that was sitting on our bedroom floor. Tom almost stepped on it barefooted. Thus, is why you need to watch where you step and place your hands in places.

This critter and some nasty spiders and even snakes, is why you must ALWAYS keep your clothes and shoes off the floor. I keep mine off the floor and in large ziplock bags. If you do happen to keep your clothes and shoes on the floor, at least shake them out well before putting them back on. Also, check your bed before crawling it for the night.

This beautiful scorpion was about  5 inches or so long and had a nasty temper.  After some wrangling, I managed to catch her and escort her outside, deep off the trail. After putting her back into the wild, we scoped out the rest of the room, looking for others. we found a much smaller version of this one, about the size of a postage stamp. I took that one outside too. For the rest of our stay, we blocked the gap with towels.


Snail Eater Snake. This non-venomous snake was along one of the trails. He was rather tiny, roughly 6" long. A very, very beautiful snake. He has cloudy eyes, which probably means he is close to shedding his skin.

Female Violet Saberwing. This lovely hummingbird, unfortunately, found her way inside the dining room, where she did a face plant into one of the windows. we were eating breakfast at the time. I ran to her rescue, hoping she wasn't dead. Thankfully, she was just stunned. I took her outside, where she sat on my hand for over five minutes. She slowly recovered, looked at me, chirped three times and flew off strongly. An amazing experience holding such a neat bird.

This large katydid was on the trail going up to the lodge. many neat insects were on the trail. The butterflies themselves were astounding. I still haven't identified this guy...probably never will.

Not far from the katydid, was this awesome millipede. he was roughly 4" long and a very bright red. I wanted to touch it...couldn't help myself. My guide suggestion I shouldn't. As with most things in nature, bright red colors usually mean "don't touch."
Spotted Sandpiper that was seen on a shrimp farm we visited

My lifer, Bare-throated Tiger-Heron

Another critter that screams, "DON"T TOUCH!" is this Blue-jeans Poison Dart Frog. These beautiful amphibians were every where along most trails. They are very tiny. they could sit comfortably on a nickel.

Our rental car and what the cabins looked liked. we are loading up to had to our second lodge.

A large beetle that was outside the door of our cabana.

Tom on one of the sky bridges on the trails of the lodge

A large Hooded Mantis, one of many, that would be hunting under the small lights, that lined the walk ways to the cabins

A very, very tiny snake that was on the walk way to our cabana. I have no idea what this guy is. He looked like a small human hair, he was so tiny

More Photos coming soon!

SECOND LODGE. http://www.lagarto-lodge-costa-rica.com/       COMING SOON

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