(Very) Amateur Bird Watching

After surviving Sueño Azul, aka Attack of the Termites, or termite hell, we were off to La Selva Biology Station. The biology station sits on 3,900 acres of tropical rain forest in Costa Rica. Our guide, Maria, was excited about our visit to this Sanctuary, which she said is very prestigious in the biology community. According to Maria, scientists from all over the world receive grants to visit, conduct research and study the area’s bird populations.

La Selva’s website states the land was purchased in 1968 by the Organization for Tropical Studies, and declared a private biological reserve and station. It has evolved into one of the most important sites worldwide for research of tropical rain forests. More than 240 scientific papers are published annually from research conducted at the site.

Like much of Costa Rica, the infrastructure exists, but it may not be up to U.S. expectations. To be clear, roads are paved and bridges exist. The difference is, I think, we expect pavement and concrete where you are more likely to find a mix of pavement, loose gravel and dirt in Costa Rica.

To enter and exit the Sanctuary you have to cross a wooden suspension bridge supported by cables. The bridge, no surprise, swings above a small river beneath us. Looking down, it doesn’t appear to be too deep, maybe 5 feet, but after our last experience, my mind immediate started drifting …

And suddenly, I felt like this… (image courtesy of MattFind.com and Paramount Pictures)

Isn’t the imagination a funny thing? All of that fuss over these wood planks (I’m way in the back).

The official (not imagined) gateway to La Selva.

After regaining control of my imagination and returning to reality, we crossed into the bird sanctuary and I was struck by how thriving wildlife was, and the great respect with which Costa Rica treats the environment. About that time it occurred to me this was the second trip where my guides were enthralled with local bird populations.

The first was in South Africa. Both times it was difficult for me to match the song with the type of bird making it. When I was able to even spot one in the trees, the names all seemed to blend together. Instead, my senses were overtaken by the perfect blend of colorful birds bursting through the air, all singing different songs.

Even a permanently novice bird watcher like me was impressed stumbling on a real Toucan in the wild. I was so in awe, I put my camera down to marvel in the moment. The colors the bird were so rich and vibrant, to this day I have never experience anything quite like it. Toucan Sam does a poor job representing the species.

Maria pointed a family of spider monkeys out to us. They looked adorable, until they got scared, at which point they began peeing everywhere. After a bed filled with termites, and the probable targets of their distress, we didn’t stick around to find out about their accuracy.

The move turned out to benefit us anyway, as we were fortunate enough to stumble onto a Blue Macaw. The National Bird of Costa Rica is, thanks to the movie Rio, somewhat recognizable now but at the time not so much. The Macaw is as impressive as the Toucan. Although, ours just sat on a tree branch preventing us the opportunity to really see its wings spread out.

Bird watching will never be a hobby of mine. That said, I’m thrilled La Selva was on our itinerary and would visit again (if not for my “no repeat rule).

I unreservedly recommend stopping here if you are travel to/from the Arenal area of Costa Rica. I can’t offer guidance on the entrance costs as our arrangements were part of our Adventure Smith tour package. I recommend emailing Three Paths (the “parent” organization of La Selva) for assistance with tickets and directions. The email is: threepaths.reservaciones@ots.cr