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Hilton Pond Center Offers
Operation RubyThroat/GLOBE
Hummingbird Expeditions
To Costa Rica

WEEK #1: 26 December 2004-2 January 2005

WEEK #2: 2-9 Jan 2005

(Updated 8 March 2005)

For a complete report on the success of the
two excursions described below, please visit
"This Week at Hilton Pond" for 1-14 January 2005.
New trips are being planned for November-December 2005
and/or February 2006;
for details about the upcoming
trips, please see Costa Rica Trip Announcement 2005.

All text & photos © Hilton Pond Center

Adult male Ruby-throated Hummingbird (above),
captured for banding


In conjunction with Holbrook Travel, Hilton Pond Center for Piedmont Natural History is offering exciting and educational end-of-year field trips in December 2004 and January 2005 to study Ruby-throated Hummingbirds on their wintering grounds in Costa Rica.

Ruby-throated Hummingbirds Archilochus colubris--which occur in 38 U.S. states and across southern Canada from April through early October--are the most widely distributed hummingbird species. Nonetheless, they are not well-studied in Mexico and Central America where they spend their non-breeding months. During our eight-day field trips to Guanacaste Province in northwestern Costa Rica, Center director Bill Hilton Jr. will teach participants how hummingbirds are observed, captured, banded, and released and instruct how to implement protocols that are part of "Operation RubyThroat: The Hummingbird Project" and The GLOBE Program. Along the way participants will visit diverse habitats and learn about fascinating aspects of Costa Rican natural history and culture--from volcanoes to Pacific coastal ecosystems, from jaguars to tropical butterflies.

For each eight-day expedition we will be based at Buena Vista Lodge & Adventure Center (above and below), used by many international tour companies because of its excellent accommodations, food, and proximity to outstanding Costa Rican nature locales. The rustic-but-comfortable lodge even has its own on-site Serpentarium!

The trips are open to ANY adult interested in studying and reporting observations of hummingbirds in Costa Rica and in the U.S. or Canada. However, to encourage participation by K-12 teachers, this expedition to the wintering grounds of Ruby-throated Hummingbirds is being offered during the December holiday vacation period on 26 Dec-2 January; a second trip will follow 2-9 January. We will be happy to collaborate with educators in their efforts to find grants to help underwrite trip costs and/or to work with your home institution if you are seeking graduate credit for the experience. (NOTE: If the first two trips fill, we may add a third for 9-16 January. If you're NOT a teacher, please consider moving your registration to one of the weeks in January.)

Two English-speaking Costa Rican K-12 teachers will receive full scholarships from Holbrook travel and Hilton Pond Center to join each excursion as active participants. Their involvement will help create connections with fellow educators and students from other countries in which Ruby-throated Hummingbirds also occur.

After reading the information below, please contact Debbie Sturdivant at Holbrook Travel (1-888-890-0632) if you have any questions about enrolling and/or to request enrollment forms. Register early to guarantee you can participate!

  • Observation & banding of hummingbirds in the field
  • Training & certification for GLOBE’s hummingbird protocol
  • Full-day field trip to Santa Rosa National Park
  • Pacific Coastal Ecosystems field trip to Junquillal Beach
  • Volcanology field trip to Rincon de la Vieja National Park

  • Hummingbird Observation & Banding
  • Neotropical Migrant Bird Behavior
  • Coastal Ecosystems Ecology
  • Tropical Dry Forest Ecology
  • Nocturnal Animal Behavior
  • Biodiversity
  • Volcanology & Landforms
  • Conservation
  • Nature Photography
  • Pedagogical Field Techniques
  • Research Field Techniques
  • Costa Rican History & Culture
  • GRADUATE CREDIT is available through Weber State University (some trip costs may be deductible as educational expenses and/or be eligible for loans or scholarships from outside sources)


  • Horseback Riding
  • Swimming
  • Hiking


(Week #2 begins on 2 January 2005 and
will follow the same timeline)

December 26--Arrival & Buena Vista Lodge & Adventure Center

  • Early Afternoon: Arrive Liberia International Airport, to be met by local personnel and transported to Buena Vista Lodge near Rincon de la Vieja National Park (above), home base for the week. Formerly a cattle ranch, the Lodge now focuses on ecotourism. Keeping its rustic style, the property sits on a hilltop with the Pacific Ocean visible in the distance. Of its 2,000 acres of private reserve, approximately half are primary (virgin) and secondary forest with the rest dedicated to livestock and equestrian activities—a big part of the lifestyle of Guanacaste Province. The finca (working farm) also produces organic foods, including fruits, vegetables, milk, and cheese.
  • Evening: Introductions & Overview of Operation RubyThroat/GLOBE protocols and other methodologies to be used while monitoring, capturing, and banding Ruby-throated Hummingbirds (Archilochus colubris).

December 27--Buena Vista

  • Morning & Afternoon: Check hummingbird feeders; make field observations, set traps and/or nets at various sites, including aloe vera plantations (right) that may be one of the most important habitats for wintering Ruby-throated Hummingbirds; band and release hummingbirds.
  • Evening: Informal presentations by trip participants, followed by night hike for observation of nocturnal inhabitants of the reserve.

December 28--Buena Vista

  • Morning & Afternoon: Continue hummingbird observations and banding.
  • Evening: Introduction to Costa Rican culture.

December 29--Buena Vista & Santa Rosa National Park

  • Morning: Field trip to Santa Rosa National Park. Created to preserve the field where a decisive battle was fought, Santa Rosa is a naturalist's wonder. The park, covered with trails, encompasses almost all habitats of the region, from deciduous tropical hardwood forests to dry mountain regions (with cactus and thorny shrubs) to mangrove swamp estuaries near the beach. Excellent opportunities for wildlife observation and photography exist during the dry season, due to concentrations of animals such as peccaries, coatimundis, and tapirs at water holes. Within park boundaries are the beaches of Nancite and Naranjo, both among the most pristine in Costa Rica and known for mass nestings of sea turtles.
  • Afternoon: Visit Junquillal Beach for an introduction to tropical coastal ecosystems.
  • Evening: Informal presentations and night hike.

December 30 & 31--Buena Vista

  • Morning & Afternoon: Continue hummingbird observations and banding.
  • Evening: Informal presentations, then celebrate the New Year, Costa Rican style!

January 1--Buena Vista & Rincón de la Vieja National Park

  • Morning: Travel by horseback to thermal springs in Rincón de la Vieja National Park, where the active Arenal Volcano (above) rises about 5,000 feet. Although formed by the merging of several volcanic eruptions, Rincón de la Vieja is a single mountain. On the summit, nine eruption sites have been identified, two of which are still active. Costa Rica last heard from Rincón from 1966 to 1970, when it released huge clouds of ash and rumbled underground. Rincón offers a variety of habitats to explore due to variations in altitude, rainfall, and effects of volcanic eruptions. Learn about tropical dry forests and the species found in them, with sightings of monkeys and other small mammals, various butterflies, and up to 300 species of birds.
  • Afternoon: Final analysis of hummingbird data.
  • Evening: "Farewell Fiesta."

January 2--Buena Vista & Departure

  • Morning: Depart for Liberia airport for flight home. (NOTE: Depending on airline availability, there is a possibility we will fly out of the San Jose airport, which will allow us to observe a new tropical highlands ecosystem as we travel by bus from Buena Vista.)
  • Evening: Dream about hummingbirds and Costa Rica!

NOTE: The main purpose of the Operation RubyThroat/GLOBE Costa Rica expedition is to learn about Ruby-throated Hummingbird winter behavior; thus, your active participation in making daily observations and collecting data is critical to the trip's success. We will have many wonderful and enjoyable experiences together, but this is NOT a pleasure trip. If you are not willing to work hard all week and follow the expedition's research and education goals, please do not sign up for the trip. Scheduled activities are subject to change due to weather or to take advantage of unexpected learning and research opportunities, but we'll do everything we can to make sure we offer all non-research activities described above.


BILL HILTON JR. (below left) was twice named South Carolina Science Teacher of the Year and was honored as the state's Outstanding Biology Teacher. In 1998, The Charlotte Observer named him a Carolinas "Guardian of the Environment" for a lifetime of trend-setting work in conservation and environmental education.

Hilton is executive director of Hilton Pond Center for Piedmont Natural History. As principal investigator for "Operation RubyThroat: The Hummingbird Project," he has received a 42-month grant from the National Science Foundation to integrate Operation RubyThroat with The GLOBE Program.

Hilton taught in Rock Hill and Fort Mill SC schools, and at the University of Minnesota, St. Olaf College, and Winthrop University. He helped start the residential South Carolina Governor’s School for Science and Mathematics in Hartsville, which he served as biology instructor and director of student research.

Hilton is a nationally sought-after speaker on diverse natural history topics. He has a Bachelor of Arts in Philosophy from Newberry College, which he serves as president-elect on the Alumni Board of Directors. He also earned a Master of Arts in Biology Teaching from Winthrop University, and a Master of Science in Ecology & Behavioral Biology from the University of Minnesota, where he conducted a four-year field study of the behavioral ecology of Blue Jays (Cyanocitta cristata). For a complete resume, see Hilton Biographical Sketch.

Hilton and the group will be assisted by ERNESTO M. CARMAN of Talamanca Hawkwatch and Programa Conservacion de Aves. Ernesto, a native-born Costa Rican (tico), speaks fluent English and Spanish, and is one of only a few naturalists with experience observing Ruby-throated Hummingbirds within Costa Rica.


(Please call Holbrook Travel at 1-888-890-0632 for international airfare rates from your city. Holbrook often has access to "add-on" airfare at rates cheaper than those available to the general public.)

--Rates are based on: Double occupancy with a minimum of 14 participants and subject to increase with fewer participants.

--Participants must be: In good health, at least 21 years of age by the time the trip begins, and willing to participate in all education and research activities.

--Program cost includes: All in-country transportation, accommodations, meals, expert local guide (bilingual), learning activities and field trips, and Operation RubyThroat/GLOBE instructional materials, as stated above.

--Program cost does not include: International airfare, additional optional activities not described above, beverages, gratuities for local personnel, or $26 departure tax.

--Payment policy: To confirm your space, send $200 deposit to Holbrook Travel, along with your enrollment form. The deposit is refundable less a $75 processing fee if cancellation is received prior to 60 days. Final payment is due no later than 60 days before departure date; there will be no refunds for cancellations within 60 days of departure.

--Pre-trip activities: You will receive lists of suggested readings and resources that will enhance your trip experience. We expect that you will study and learn all important information related to the trip's research goals.

Hilton Pond Center for Piedmont Natural History and Operation RubyThroat: The Hummingbird Project derive no financial gain from the Costa Rican excursions; the trips are offered as outreach activities and as a way to learn more about winter behavior of Ruby-throated Hummingbirds. If you're interested in making a contribution to the Center and/or Operation RubyThroat, please see Supporting the Work of Hilton Pond Center.

After reading the information above, contact Debbie Sturdivant at Holbrook Travel by E-mail or phone (1-888-890-0632) if you have any questions about enrolling and/or to request enrollment forms. See you in Costa Rica!

Adult female Ruby-throated Hummingbird (above),
captured for banding

All text & photos © Hilton Pond Center
Other copyrights as indicated

For a complete report on the success of the
two excursions described below, please visit
"This Week at Hilton Pond" for 1-14 January 2005.
New trips are being planned for November-December 2005
and/or February-March 2006;
for details about the upcoming
trips, please see Costa Rica Trip Announcement 2005.

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Hilton Pond Center for Piedmont Natural History is a non-profit research & education organization in York, South Carolina USA; phone (803) 684-5852. Directed by Bill Hilton Jr., aka The Piedmont Naturalist, it is the parent organization for Operation RubyThroat. Contents of this Web site--including articles and photos--may NOT be duplicated, modified, or used in any way except with the express written permission of Hilton Pond Center. All rights reserved worldwide. To obtain permission for use or for further assistance on accessing this Web site, contact the Webmaster.