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La Selva and Arenal in September.

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Old Friday 22nd February 2019, 22:39   #1
DustinMurrayphotography
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La Selva and Arenal in September.

I am planning my 3rd trip to Costa Rica, but first one with an emphasis on birding. I am a photographer, and I like to spend time in one or two locations, and really get to know them in order to get quality photos. Also I like to go when they are not over run by bird groups. My tentative plan is to do three days at the Arenal observatory lodge then head to the La Selva research station for 7 nights. My main question I have is regarding the month of september. There are few reports in cloudbirders as well as ebird regarding these areas at this time of year. Has anyone birded these areas in September?. I understand the majority of people might be put off by the rainy season, but in my experience finding wildlife in the rainy season is easier. Nocturnal animals are more active then. Is there anyone who has found these areas less productive this time of year? Or is it just the rain or other reasons I have not taken into account? As for the research station at the La selva. I have done a fair amount of budget traveling and backpacking so I am not the least bit concerned about the accommodations or the quality of food. Just looking a place with lots of trails that I could use independently. Birds are a priority, but also mammals and reptiles as well.

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Old Tuesday 26th February 2019, 17:43   #2
BryanP
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Hi Dustin,

I've never been to Arenal even though I spend 6 months or more in CR out of the year, some day perhaps.

I have birded La Selva in September and there doesn't seem to be a lot of birding groups at that time of the year.
I imagine Arenal would be the same, bit quiet and not so over run. I would agree anecdotally that the wildlife seem more active that time of year. The North American migrants are a few weeks away although there may be a few early arrivals.

Seven nights in La Selva sounds fantastic, I'm going to assume you've been there before so you know you'll see some great birds with plenty of photo opps. The guides who work there are friendly and know that patch pretty well and will be able to point you to birds that are active at that moment.
I love La Selva and was fortunate to participate in the La Selva CBC in December. We had the Plastico route (2 nights) which is much further up into the foot hills than the other CBC routes.
As far as the cafeteria/typical food goes, well I'm not there for the cuisine. Wholesome and plenty of it though.

Perhaps if some of the experts for the region like Patrick chime in they may be able to give you more information.
Cheers,
Bryan
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Old Tuesday 26th February 2019, 18:37   #3
andyadcock
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We were at La Selva in Mar-Apr and had no issues with numbers of people, I think it's a big enough place that avoiding groups, isn't really a problem.

Ironically, the biggest problems we had with groups, was photographic groups! One day, we actually couldn't get in to view birds at all at Cinchona and it was simiarly busy at Laguna del Lagarto.

We stayed at Gavilan Lodge for a couple of nights. It's very close to La Selva, shares many of the same birds, it's cheaper, you'll probably have the place to yourself in the daytime though it isn't very big and the food was superb!

https://www.booking.com/hotel/cr/gav...s=1&#hotelTmpl

It was the only place we had the tricky to get Rufous-winged Woodpecker and look out for Short-tailed Nighthawk at dusk over the lawned area. Several nice reptiles were also seen including two species of so called 'poison dart' frogs.

Below, Rufous-winged Woodpecker, Brown Basilisk, Emerald Basilisk, Black and Green Poison dart Frog (Caribbean form) and Strawbrry Poison dart Frog carrying tadpoles.
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Old Sunday 3rd March 2019, 18:39   #4
DustinMurrayphotography
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DustinMurrayphotography View Post
I am planning my 3rd trip to Costa Rica, but first one with an emphasis on birding. I am a photographer, and I like to spend time in one or two locations, and really get to know them in order to get quality photos. Also I like to go when they are not over run by bird groups. My tentative plan is to do three days at the Arenal observatory lodge then head to the La Selva research station for 7 nights. My main question I have is regarding the month of september. There are few reports in cloudbirders as well as ebird regarding these areas at this time of year. Has anyone birded these areas in September?. I understand the majority of people might be put off by the rainy season, but in my experience finding wildlife in the rainy season is easier. Nocturnal animals are more active then. Is there anyone who has found these areas less productive this time of year? Or is it just the rain or other reasons I have not taken into account? As for the research station at the La selva. I have done a fair amount of budget traveling and backpacking so I am not the least bit concerned about the accommodations or the quality of food. Just looking a place with lots of trails that I could use independently. Birds are a priority, but also mammals and reptiles as well.

Thanks
Dustin-
I appreciate the info Bryan. I think La Selva is what best suits my style. I have stayed in a research station before. So I know what I'm getting into. I'm not someone who needs much in the way of comfort. Having access to the trails is the important thing. It is on the pricey side, although not as bad in low season, and it is going to a good cause.

I went ahead and booked 7 night in mid-September. It's my first visit to the region, and to the Caribbean slope in Costa Rica. In addition to 3 nights at the Arenal Observatory lodge.

I figure September should be fairly quite at La selva with groups. Since you have been there that time of year, any first hand info of what birds to expect or ones that may be absent would be much appreciated.

Thanks, Dustin-
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Old Sunday 3rd March 2019, 18:50   #5
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Originally Posted by andyadcock View Post
We were at La Selva in Mar-Apr and had no issues with numbers of people, I think it's a big enough place that avoiding groups, isn't really a problem.

Ironically, the biggest problems we had with groups, was photographic groups! One day, we actually couldn't get in to view birds at all at Cinchona and it was simiarly busy at Laguna del Lagarto.

We stayed at Gavilan Lodge for a couple of nights. It's very close to La Selva, shares many of the same birds, it's cheaper, you'll probably have the place to yourself in the daytime though it isn't very big and the food was superb!

https://www.booking.com/hotel/cr/gav...s=1&#hotelTmpl

It was the only place we had the tricky to get Rufous-winged Woodpecker and look out for Short-tailed Nighthawk at dusk over the lawned area. Several nice reptiles were also seen including two species of so called 'poison dart' frogs.

Below, Rufous-winged Woodpecker, Brown Basilisk, Emerald Basilisk, Black and Green Poison dart Frog (Caribbean form) and Strawbrry Poison dart Frog carrying tadpoles.
Appreciate the reply Andyadcock. I think La selva is the right choice for this trip. It gives me more room to explore since I'm going to be there 7 nights. Looks like Galivan lodge is a great choice as well. I have seen others recommend it also.

Thanks again, Dustin-
Oh and those are some really nice photos you sent as well.
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Old Monday 4th March 2019, 18:19   #6
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Hi Dustin,
No worries, Most of the native birds are here year round. Some will be harder to find at different times of the year but they are around. The migrants are here at the moment but may not have arrived from North America when you get here.
The crowds will be gone as well. Yes to the comforts comment. They are adequate here and don't get in the way of the birds which is what counts
As I write this I'm at La Selva right now having just arrived. Its high season now but the crowds aren't really crowds more like small discreet groups, very manageable.
The guide they assign you on your first morning will set you up for the remainder of your stay. If you give him or her a heads up on your plans they can tailor some suggestions that will suit.
Cheers,
Bryan
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Old Tuesday 5th March 2019, 07:12   #7
andyadcock
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Hi Dustin,
No worries, Most of the native birds are here year round. Some will be harder to find at different times of the year but they are around. The migrants are here at the moment but may not have arrived from North America when you get here.
The crowds will be gone as well. Yes to the comforts comment. They are adequate here and don't get in the way of the birds which is what counts
As I write this I'm at La Selva right now having just arrived. Its high season now but the crowds aren't really crowds more like small discreet groups, very manageable.
The guide they assign you on your first morning will set you up for the remainder of your stay. If you give him or her a heads up on your plans they can tailor some suggestions that will suit.
Cheers,
Bryan
I commented the same in my reply, the groups are pretty easy to avoid, they aren't taken that far in to the reserve so depending where you are, you may not see them at all.
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Old Tuesday 5th March 2019, 11:17   #8
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Oops!
Yes you're right Andy, I only saw Dustins reply email and not yours when I finally got to some internet.
I'd also agree with your comments regarding photographic groups sometimes being a problem.
Case in point.
One lodge here has a large wrap around balcony with hummingbird feeders spaced evenly all along its railing. One day we came in from a hike and the feeders were all gone. Around the corner there was a photography group with every feeder in the place all clumped together. It was the classic photographers creed of “no one including the welfare of my subject” is getting in my way.
The owner went ballistic. She also gave the tour group leader a loudish piece of her mind to boot. He actually had the temerity to argue that he as a tour leader had more rights than the other guests. That just wound her up even more, was fun to watch.

Anyway, no such problems so far that I've seen at La Selva, I've witnessed the folks in charge nip photographer frenzies in the bud.
Cheers,
Bryan
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Old Wednesday 6th March 2019, 03:03   #9
DustinMurrayphotography
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I never understood why people would sign up for photography tours. You have 10 people all shooting the same photos. Not to mention having that many people guarantees unnatural behavior among their subjects. I guess to each there own, but 75% of why I do wildlife photography is getting to enjoy the solitude while wondering around the forest. Good to know that there is plenty of room to roam at La Selva, in case my neighbors are as you described.
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Old Wednesday 6th March 2019, 18:04   #10
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Hi Dustin

I spent four nights up at Arenal Observatory & Spa in January as part of a 14 night visit to Costa Rica. Whilst I can’t speak for birding there in September, as it was our first visit to CR, the place is superb with several kms of trails, mainly secondary cloud forest but also garden areas and a farmland type habitat. Plenty of areas to ‘lose’ yourself. I hired a guide for one and a half day’s birding as I wanted to see as many species as possible, in addition to finding my own birds on the other days. If you do hire a guide, ask for Néstor Villalobos Rojas, you won’t be disappointed. Arenal Observatory use both him and another guide but he is also freelance, his email address is [email protected]

Cheers, Mark
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Old Wednesday 6th March 2019, 18:59   #11
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Hi Dustin

I spent four nights up at Arenal Observatory & Spa in January as part of a 14 night visit to Costa Rica. Whilst I can’t speak for birding there in September, as it was our first visit to CR, the place is superb with several kms of trails, mainly secondary cloud forest but also garden areas and a farmland type habitat. Plenty of areas to ‘lose’ yourself. I hired a guide for one and a half day’s birding as I wanted to see as many species as possible, in addition to finding my own birds on the other days. If you do hire a guide, ask for Néstor Villalobos Rojas, you won’t be disappointed. Arenal Observatory use both him and another guide but he is also freelance, his email address is [email protected]

Cheers, Mark
Is this guy a frog expert, I seem to know his name from another lodge?
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Old Wednesday 6th March 2019, 22:56   #12
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Dustin
Photography tours are something I've never understood either. Same goes for twitching photographers, an unusual bird shows up and a hundred photographers all take the same photo. Don't get it.

September is usually not the rainiest time of year but still it might be a good idea to pick up a pair of rubber boots at a local hardware store for tramping the trails. Only the near trails are concrete but once you move further up the mountain they turn into dirt trails. An umbrella won't go amiss either.
If you have any questions everyone in the office are fairly knowledgeable and all the guides are helpful and usually know where the birds are. However Joel Alvarado probably knows more about La Selva and its biozone than anyone else. He is a true citizen scientist and has been involved with many research projects there over the years. It is definitely worth an afternoon sitting at his knee listening to his wisdom and passion, a true gentleman.
I think seven nights at La Selva will be a dream trip. Enjoy.
Cheers,
Bryan
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Old Monday 11th March 2019, 17:31   #13
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I spent a few nights at La Fortuna in August. The rainy season is not a big problem. You get showers in the afternoons and at night, sometimes heavy, sometimes too brief to care about. Mornings were almost always rain-free. Didn't need rubber boots - usually wore sandals. I was warned against walking forest trails at night, due to snakes.

One advantage of rainy season is that you can easily get a seat at some excellent restaurants in town. They're priced for tourists rather than locals, but reasonable by that standard.
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Old Wednesday 15th May 2019, 23:47   #14
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Just echoing what others have said- September might be rainy at times but fewer people, probably fewer photog. groups too, and I agree that there can be more bird activity. Have a great trip!
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