Las Cruces Biological Station (OTS) – San Vito de Coto Brus (1,200 m / 3,937 ft)
Just outside of the town of San Vito, lays Las Cruces Biological Station and Wilson Botanical Garden, which protect over 300 hectares of middle elevation habitats. The Garden began in the 1960s and contains more than 1000 species of plants. A great part of the garden are the bromeliads, orchids, bamboos and heliconias, as well as the world´s second largest botanical collection of palms.
Las Cruces is certainly a great spot for birding, usually two nights should be enough unless you plan to do some further exploration into Las Tablas Protected Zone on the slopes of Talamanca Cordillera. Las Cruces Station offers nice clean and comfortable rooms and the cafeteria offers good food. The rooms are quite comfortable, there is good hot water, a nice back porch overlooks the garden and forest edge and it is ideal to do some reading, Wi-Fi is available in the room and in the cafeteria.
A good day of birding can produce Blue-headed Parrot, Streaked Saltator, Fiery-billed Aracari, Rufous-breasted Wren, Long-billed Starthroat, Crested Oropendola, Thick-billed Euphonia, Spot-crowned Euphonia, White-tailed Emerald, Garden Emerald, Snowy-bellied Hummingbird, and even the spectacular Turquoise Cotinga. Feeders near the dining hall offer chances for Speckled Tanager, Silver-throated Tanager, Scarlet-thighed Dacnis and Lesson’s Motmot, just to mention a few. Night birding can produce Mottled Owl, Black-and-white Owl and Tropical Screech-Owl.
Tree Fern Hill in the garden is quite good for Gray-headed Tanager, Orange-billed Nightingale-Thrush, Red-faced Spinetail and Buff-throated Foliage-gleaner. The Río Java Trail leads into the forest of Las Cruces, a bit steep and sometimes slippery, you will require hiking shoes. Though there are 5 other trails in the property that can also be productive, you may find Río Java Trail to have plenty of bird activity. Some of the bird species you can find are Slaty Antwren, Plain Antvireo, Tawny-crowned Greenlet, Spotted Woodcreeper, Spotted Barbtail, Slate-throated Redstart, Red-crowned Ant-Tanager, Gray-headed Tanager and Russet Antshrike.
Some other species include the interesting looking Brown-billed Scythebill which might join mixed flocks. Be ready for a Ruddy Foliage-gleaner, Sulphur-rumped Flycatcher, Rose-throated Becard, Marbled Wood-Quail, the secretive Scaly-breasted Wren and Black-faced Antthrush. Barred Forest-Falcon might also be ready to snatch little birds out of the mixed flocks.
Melissa´s Meadow Trail may produce Pale-breasted Spinetail, Bran-colored Flycatcher, Orange-collared Manakin and even the quite local (although expanding its range) Olive-crowned Yellowthroat.
Exploring some areas outside Las Cruces is a good idea. The San Joaquín Marsh between San Vito y Sabalito is quite productive, especially in the dry season because birds tend to concentrate around the remaining waterholes and there are some migrants present. Some birds include Olive-crowned Yellowthroat in the grasses, Northern Jacana, Common Gallinule, Masked Duck, Purple Gallinule and sometimes even Wattled Jacana and Ring-necked Duck.
If you plan to extend your stay in the area going to Las Alturas might be quite productive, its combination of open land and a great extension of preserved forest can yield species like Black-and-white Hawk-Eagle, Ornate Hawk-Eagle, Solitary Eagle, Three-wattled Bellbird, Turquoise Cotinga, Pheasant Cuckoo, White-crested Coquette, Ochre-breasted Antpitta, White-winged Tanager and Blue Seedeater.
On the way in or out of San Vito you can visit the Coto 47 agricultural land. Extensive rice fields and irrigation canals watering large Oil Palm plantations produce an interesting combination of species: Savanna Hawk, Pearl Kite, Scrub Greenlet, Tricolored Munia, Brown-throated Parakeet, Blue-headed Parrot, Yellow-crowned Tyrannulet, Roseate Spoonbill, Cinnamon Teal, American Pygmy Kingfisher, Purple Gallinule, Bare-throated Tiger-Heron, Mangrove Cuckoo and a good number of migratory shorebirds concentrate in the right time of the year. Inga trees and Hamelia patens bushes (Fire bush) on the edges of plantations attract good many hummingbirds including the difficult to see Sapphire-throated Hummingbird.