by Shannon Farley
For more than 100 years, every year at Christmastime, rather than searching for the perfect present, tens of thousands of active passionate folks explore the great outdoors looking for the most splendid birds.
Outfitted with binoculars, bird guides and checklists, birding devotees throughout the Americas brave snow, wind, rain, or maybe even tropical sun, to take part in the Christmas Bird Count. The National Audubon Society of the USA and other organizations use data collected in the annual Christmas Bird Count to assess the health of bird populations, and to help guide conservation action.
This year, the 114th annual Christmas Bird Count in the United States is from Dec. 14 through Jan. 5. Down in the tropics, Costa Rica also participates in the Christmas Bird Count. This year, the count began Dec. 1 at Selva Verde Lodge in Sarapiqui, and ends Jan. 5 near San Carlos, with nine other counts in between at locations around the country.
Last year, the highest number of birds counted in Central America was in Costa Rica. A record number of 417 different bird species, and 12,665 individual birds, were identified in a 24-hour period on Dec. 5 in the Central Caribbean by Veragua Rainforest.
According to avid Costa Rica birder and blogger, Patrick O’Donnell, local birders rave about the excellent birding at Veragua Rainforest. O’Donnell’s Costa Rica Living and Birding blog provides a wealth of information about bird watching in Costa Rica.
Veragua Rainforest Eco-Adventure is a 1,300 hectare (3,212 acre) biology research and rainforest adventure park located in the Talamanca Mountain Range about an hour inland from Costa Rica’s Caribbean port of Limón. It is an area of breathtaking tropical rainforest bordering the La Amistad (“Friendship”) International Park, the largest nature reserve in Central America. Veragua Rainforest is an excellent one-day tour in the Costa Rica rainforest to enjoy wildlife exhibits, science labs, and adventure tours.
Travel Tip: Download the Costa Rica Birds Field Guide, a full-featured birding field guide for Costa Rica, available on iTunes.