Counting Birds in Tambor Bay

It’s before 6am in Tambor Bay, Costa Rica. The sun has just risen and the air is calm and cool, the sky a pinkish haze dusted with a few low clouds reflecting in the nearly silent bay; silent that is, all but for the songs and calls of hundreds of species of birds that inhabit the area.

group_birdcount2On Friday and Saturday, January 10th and 11th, Tambor Bay Birders association hosted one of their many bird counts in the area.  With a regular base of about 12 birders in the association, they form groups with other members and volunteers who then split up and explore trails surrounding the bay to identify and record the names of any birds they spot. We had the honor of sharing in the count on Saturday, setting out from the Tambor Tropical Hotel with a group of about 20 participants; a combination of professionals, avid bird watchers and novice bird lovers both from the area and abroad who excitedly point out any fluttering wings or brightly colored flying objects. After a day of meandering through various trails the groups reconvened to determine the collective results of their findings. In this case the count totaled nearly 200 bird species, ranging from more common ones such as the Long-tailed Manakin, to more rare species such as the Mangrove Hummingbird endemic to only the Pacific of Costa Rica.

group_birdcountTambor Bay Birders not only host these bird counts for reports to the Costa Rica Ornithological Association for official records, but also for local educational purposes. With a noble cause to promote education about birds, nature and conservation, the aim of the association is to involve local residents and students, as well as visitors and volunteers, to help spur greater interest and awareness about Costa Rica’s biodiversity and its valuable place in our world. If you’re interested in joining the association on their next count, you can follow their Facebook page here. You don’t have to be a professional or have your own equipment necessarily (although a good pair of binoculars does help), just bring your curiosity, keen eyes… and of course a little bug spray. 🙂

*Special thanks to Juan Carlos Cruz, Nick Hawkins and the rest of the Tambor Bay Birders for inviting JC Aguirre of JC’s Journeys to participate in this count.

*Be sure to check out our bird watching tour Bird Lover’s Morning.

So… How do I get to Montezuma?

Coordinating travel isn’t always easy, but we know you’ve got things to do and planes to catch and a tight schedule for all of it. So we’ve collected a few bits of useful information regarding transportation into and out of the area to shave a few minutes off your online research and planning time.


Nature Air now has direct flights to and from San Jose Juan Santamaria International Airport to Tambor Airport. Tambor is just 45 min. north of Montezuma, an easy bus, taxi or shuttle ride from there can get you to your hotel. Keep in mind, these are small planes, so book early to ensure a cheaper price and secure a seat before they’re all taken. Also, make sure your domestic flight leaves you plenty of time to go through security and check in for your international flight on the way out.


There are plenty of shuttle services to get you to Montezuma from key connection points. Shuttles will cost a little more but can get you here faster, in more comfortable style and drop you off directly at your hotel. Most have baggage restrictions and will charge an extra fee for surfboards so specify any special needs when making reservations. Larger, more reputable shuttle services are easily booked online, others are best arranged by phone or by your hotel.


Click map for larger view

Public buses are a cheaper option, don’t require reservations, and connect with ferry schedules but can sometimes be crowded and take much longer to get you to your destination. Schedules tend to change unannounced and vary substantially, so if you’ve got some place to be at a specific time, better opt for a shuttle or a taxi. Also, to take the bus from the ferry in Paquera to Montezuma, you’ll need to be on the 5pm ferry coming over as that’s the last connecting bus of the day.  Loose bus schedules for the area are posted here, or can be found in the printed version of Zoom magazine available at most hotels. Asking a local is usually your best bet for confirming the actual time of the next bus.


The Naviera Tambor connects the pacific coast of Costa Rica to the Nicoya Peninsula via Puntarenas and Paquera (the peninsula side) transporting both passengers and vehicles. The schedule and ticket fares can be found here. Tickets can be purchased at the dock the day of departure, but be sure to check schedules a couple days in advance of your travels as times do change occasionally for maintenance purposes. For an added bonus, take the 5pm ferry and get some great photos of the sunset as you cruise along.

Happy travel planning!