An Update from Lifer Tours: Virtual Tours, Birding Live on Location with Swarovski Optik and More!
Usually, at this time of year, guides at Lifer Tours would be busy with a tour or two. This year of course is very different but it hasn't kept the guides from heading into the field to look for and study birds in Costa Rica. They have also been busy with other bird-related endeavors. We asked guides Anthony Arce and Juan Diego Vargas what they have been up to, this is what they had to say:
How have you been getting ready for guiding?
That's an interesting question, in my case, I have been using this down time to update my tour guide license and I have also taken a couple or online courses related to culture and tourism. Due to driving restrictions, birding has been limited but thanks to hotspots near my home in Fortuna, I have still been able to get various species for my year list. On a trip to Guanacaste, I also finally connected with a great lifer at the coast, Wandering Tattler!
Anthony counting birds at Arenal Observatory Lodge.
Basically birding a lot. I have been exploring new places that we can add to future tours and have been leading Live Virtual Birding Tours. The advantage of living and birding here year-round is the chance to be up to date with places off of the beaten path. Believe it or not, despite Costa Rica having been a popular birding destination for some time, there are still many new locations appearing on the map every year! Some places get better, some places get worse. In order to always deliver a unique and authentic experience, you have to visit those places often and get a correct impression to then be able to recommend them to visiting birders. And of course also I have been chasing rare and interesting birds when I get the chance.
Juan Diego showing clients a crake or two from pre-pandemic guiding.
What happens on Virtual Tours?
It's a great experience, a new model of birding where technology is the eyes for your clients! The challenge is getting as many birds as possible in the screen. Birds move back and forth and you don't always get the bird you are looking for but there are also great moments with perched raptors and parrots.
A Gray Hawk that posed on a perch.
Juan Diego: Well, a lot is happening on Virtual Tours or “Live Birding Virtual Tours” as we like to call them. Basically ,you get the adrenaline of real life birding in the tropics but avoid all of the risks of traveling in these difficult times. We have multiple places with good feeders and stable wifi from where we broadcast live showing the birds that visit the location and also explaining every detail of their natural history and all their field marks. It's a thrilling new way to understand and explore nature from the safety of your own home.
With Costa Rica reopening, do you have any target birds you are looking forward to seeing or photographing?
That's the moment all of as are waiting for. At the end of 2019 I wrote my wish list for 2020 that included 19 species I wanted for my life list but with the pandemic, looking for new birds has become more complicated. Even so, I have still managed to get 4 of those lifers (!) and I would love to try for at least 4 more species from the original list. To give you an example, the difficult Maroon chested Ground Dove is one of those long waited lifers.
YES! Many. But lately I have been obsessed with finding and photographing an Speckled Mourner in Costa Rica. Is one of those birds that I think has been underrated for years. The fact the bird is not so rare in other countries and its close resemblance with the much more commoner Rufous Mourner I think has been playing a really bad trick to all Costa Rican birders for many years. There are almost two decades without reliable reports of its presence and 100% of the current reports in the country have no photographic or audio evidence. That is quite suspicious for a slow moving and loud bird like the Speckled Mourner and thinking the worst case scenario I think the bird might be one of the hardest mature forest species of Costa Rica with extremely reduced populations (in the best case) somewhere in the vast and unexplored rainforest lowlands. Which, of course, I find fascinating and urgent to discover.
What's the best bird you have seen this fall migration?
After David Rodríguez reported a couple of warblers in Monteverde, I had the chance to go there and thanks to local guide Esteban Mendez, I added both Hermit and Yellow throated Warblers to my list! Both of these are rare migrants in Costa Rica.
In Puntarenas we also saw a vagrant Western Gull that I had missed at the beginning of the year so overall, it has been a great migration and I'm looking forward to more birds.
Not many good migrants lately. Maybe that will be a Merlin I saw last Sunday Oct, 11th in Boca Tapada while exploring a new potential place for Speckled Mourner.
Birding Live on Location with Swarovski Optik
On Sunday, October 18th, to wrap up Global Big Day weekend, along with other guides and eco-lodges in North and Latin America, Lifer Nature Tours was invited to participate in a live birding event.
In Costa Rica, Juan Diego will be in the Caribbean lowlands, Anthony will be birding from the rich foothill forests at Arenal, Mercedes Alpizar will be birding from Rancho Naturalista, and Erick will be showing high elevation species (maybe even a Resplendent Quetzal) from Cerro de la Muerte.
In Costa Rica, the live, virtual birding begins at 7 a,m. We look forward to seeing you there!
Here is the direct link for the live broadcast from South & North America on Sunday. Anyone can watch it from here, regardless of whether they have an account or not:
The feed will also be live on Facebook:
Live Birding Virtual Tours
We hope to see you in Costa Rica but until then, you can get ready for your trip, learn more about birds in Costa Rica, and provide much needed support to local guides and feeding stations by taking one of our Live Virtual Birding Tours. Our guides look forward to showing you birds and answering whatever questions you have.
Birds and Volcanoes- An intro of the fantastic birding of the Arenal Volcano area with one of Costa Rica's top guides, Anthony.
Epic Hotspot: Quetzals Paradise- High elevation birding at its best with a local expert!
Rainforest Birds Explained Live- Become familiar with many of the beautiful and exciting birds that live in the rainforests of the Caribbean lowlands by birding with top guide, Juan Diego Vargas.