Brightly colored toucans are common in backyards across Costa Rica. COLLINS DOUGHTIE

Waking to a steaming cup of Costa Rican coffee and sitting on an outside deck, I drink in the calls of my feathered friends as they too get their day started. But during a recent two weeks, something changed. 

Instead of cardinals, I heard the screech of toucans. The chirps of Carolina wrens replaced non-stop chattering of small green parrots and a variety of vividly colored tanagers that would give our painted bunting a run for their money. 

Hands down the best of all had to be the bizarre call of an Oropendola. To describe their call, imagine a two-stroke engine from back in the day, one cylinder gone haywire and – to complete this mechanical misfit – the owner forgot to put oil in the one working cylinder. 

OK, enough of this teasing because if you haven’t yet guessed, I was in Costa Rica.

My wife, Karen, along with my sister, Grace, went on a whirlwind tour of Costa, a country we have all visited many times but this time around we let my niece Ali and her husband, Martin, arrange an itinerary to visit places we had never been. They have lived in a town called Atenas for the better part of 20 years.

Arriving at their fabulous hacienda, it seemed if they had rented out the best of the best wildlife this country offers. A massive fig tree behind our guest house was loaded with fruit and at least three dozen white-faced monkeys, almost as many toucans, and huge chicken-like birds gouging themselves on all the fruit. 

If that wasn’t enough, out walked a pizote, their version of our raccoon, but way cooler; and an agouti that resembled a 20-pound hairless guinea pig. 

Talk about a warm welcoming, I still believe it was somehow staged.

Ali and Martin are two of the most interesting people I’ve ever known. World travelers, Ali started in the Peace Corps and from there lived all over the world teaching English in third world countries, as did Martin – which ultimately led to their love affair. 

In Costa Rica, Ali was a travel writer for and now uses her talents as a copywriter, while Martin teaches at a small but exclusive school for American students that don’t quite fit into most U.S. educational standards. 

If I were way younger, I would mimic their lifestyle in a heartbeat.

Did I fish? Oh, come on, you know that answer! But sadly, Spirit Airlines lost my fishing rod in transit. I did have a reel but no rod, though I found a half-decent replacement as we headed to the Uvida on the southern Pacific coast. 

Every place we stayed required four-wheel drive to get to our digs but was it worth it. Besides another bevy of incredible birds and a sloth encounter, the cicada hatch was in full swing and the only sound that could penetrate their deafening orchestra was the deep rumbling made by howler monkeys – usually around dawn and dusk. 

Chartering a panga, a 20-something foot boat, I convinced the rest of the gang to join me as I just had to itch my fishing bug. Flat calm seas calmed their fears of seasickness and within minutes of dropping my lures overboard, we began hooking up. 

First were two medium tuna followed by what I wanted most – roosterfish! With long, brightly colored dorsal fins that resemble the fingers on your hand extending high out of the water as they chase a lure down, it is a sight to behold. 

Catching several medium size roosters, we lost a pig after it dumped a good hundred yards of line off the reel. All was not lost because not a minute had gone by when a humpback whale paid us an upclose visit. As they say in Costa Rica, “Pura Vida!”

Our last stop was up in the cloud-covered mountains in a place called Lauraceas. If you are a birder, this is the place to go. I have never seen so many folks decked in Patagonia, L.L. Bean and Orvis outerwear in my life. 

And the cameras on tripods! Some of their telephoto lenses were so big, I swear they could pick out Neil Armstrong’s footprints on the moon! 

Though I had no idea, the stream across from our cabin was chock full of freshwater trout. Totally unprepared, I did catch one rainbow that had to be 6 or 7 pounds.

So there you have it but one last thing, Google the call of a Oropendola bird. It’s worth it.

Collins Doughtie, a 60-year resident of the Lowcountry, is a sportsman, graphic artist, and lover of nature.