Less than a 5 minute walk from the heart of La Fortuna, Costa Rica is located the Bogarin Nature Reserve. One might call it, “A paradise in town!” Begun by Giovanni Bogarin, the reserve offers a mile and a quarter of trails. Despite the mountains surrounding Fortuna, Bogarin is generally flat which makes for a friendly hike into the world of nature. Just inside the entrance there is a small man made wetland area where typically secretive birds such as Russet-naped Wood-Rails and White-throated Crakes are common. You will want to have your camera handy as there are a number of birds that frequent the fruit feeders at the entrance area, many of which are quite tame and worth photographing. Bogarin charges an entrance fee of $10 and employs several guides who can show you many things. There are both sloth species present, frogs including Strawberry Poison Dart and Red-eyed Leaf Frog, and of course the a multitude of bird species. At times, the guides will know where an owl is roosting such as Spectacled or Black-and-white. To get to Bogarin Nature Reserve, go toward Volcan Arenal from the central plaza in La Fortuna no more than a minute drive and watch for the entrance sign on your right just after the Arenal Backpackers Resort. The entrance to Bogarin is 150 meters down that road on your left. This road continues another 200 meters to the Rancho Perla Restaurant, Cabinas Autentica, where you can rest and some “Autentica” cultural activities such as: Traditional Cooking class, latin dance class and yoga class.
One of the birds you will want to photograph at the entrace is the White-throated Crake. Usually difficult to see, at times there are several in full view, begging you to take their pictures. Keep in mind these birds are quite furtive but it is well worth the effort to get good shots. Another bird that is very photogenic is the Russet-naped Wood-Rail. When we were at Bogarin in early May, the wood-rails had small chicks running alongside their parents. “Hey, mom, wait for me!”
Still in the area of the entrance, watch for the Tropical Mockingbird, a fairly nondescript bird that can look like a washed out Great-tailed Grackle. The mockingbird has white-tipped tail feathers with narrow wing bars. Green and Red-legged Honeycreepers, both males and females, usually put in an appearance along with the gorgeous Yellow-throated Euphonia. During our visit, there were several Orange-chinned Parakeets present. Watch for tanagers, woodpeckers, and the occasional toucan and Collared Aracari as well. A couple of hours will pass very quickly as you are photographing the birds in the reserve. Along the trails of the reserve it is possible to spot Olivaceous Piculet, Barred Antshrike, Slaty Spinetail, Black-throated Wren, White-collared Manakin, and Yellow-billed Cacique to mention a few. Winter residents of note include Wood Thrush, Kentucky Warbler and Ovenbird. The ponds near the Rancho Perla Restaurant have roosting Boat-billed Herons and Yellow-crowned Night-Herons along with Ringed, Amazon, and Green Kingfishers with an occasional American Pygmy Kingfisher as well.
One of the best birds at Bogarin is the seldom seen Uniform Crake. It is a member of the Railidae family and Bogarin is the best place in Costa Rica to see this very shy species. A small, all rufous bird with a short dull yellowish-bill and bright waxy red legs, it likes thick undergrowth in secondary forest where there is swampy vegetation. Late afternoon, during my last visit, one of the guides motioned for me to come down the trail with him. We walked slowly a short distance and there was the elusive Uniform Crake. It is always nice to get a life bird and I was able to reel off a few pictures but the bird kept moving a lot. Little is known of the breeding habits of the Uniform Crake.
If you are a birder, bird photographer, or just a nature enthusiast, keep Bogarin Nature Reserve in mind. Hundreds of tourists pass through La Fortuna on their way to the Arenal Volcano Area. There is ample lodging in La Fortuna as well as some very good restaurants. Adding a half day at Bogarin will be like the “icing on the cake!” Help us to preserve this small urban paradise for those who enjoy nature. Pura vida and come visit us in Costa Rica!