Category Archives: Birding tour

This includes experiences during birding tours

Birding Esquinas Rainforest lodge and Coto 47 – Field trip.

Between July 16th to July 18th I had the opportunity to lead a birding trip to the southern Pacific side of Costa Rica to my friends Jim and Gretchen Peterson whom I have had 4-5 consecutive years the opportunity to be their guide while during their last birding trips to Costa Rica.

After three years of trying Scaly-breasted Wren unsuccessfully we decided to try luck at Esquinas Rain-forest Lodge. My friends picked me up from Quepos and so another adventure began. We did some stops along the way,  including El Rey Marsh, where in just 20-30 minutes we got some of the common birds nevertheless the highlight was no doubt American Pygmy-Kingfisher.

A long drive we saw Gray and Roadside Hawks as well as a Double-toothed Kite perched on a wire (a bit unusual). We got to the town of La Gamba and began our Birding; our first birds included Red-crowned Woodpecker which is very common naturally, some of the typical Seedeaters, then Blue-headed Parrots flew over providing us some quick -poor views but fortunately later on we were able to spot some perched. As we continued we found Rusty-margined Flycatcher, one of our targets, then we stopped at River right before getting to Esquinas and we got entertained seeing a Band-tailed Barbthroat and then one of our targets showed up, Red-rumped Woodpecker, we began to run out of targets so soon! https://www.xeno-canto.org/426104 recording of the BTBT

Esquinas Rainforest Lodge

Curassows are the stars of the show here.

After dinner we went to do some owling which produced two owls; Black-and-white Owl and Tropical Screech-Owl, unfortunately we missed Striped Owl and potoos.

 

Gladiator tree frog

The next morning and with big expectations we decided to take the riverbed trail, soon enough we got one of the 2 main targets for Jim, Striped Woodhunter along with some of the common species including Great Curassow, Black striped and orange-billed sparrows, Bairds Trogon, the Costa  Rica only endemic Black-cheeked Anttanager and others.

After breakfast we had to focus on our next target; Scaly-breasted Wren, and taking Julia’s recommendation we took the waterfall trail looping back via la Fila trail and finally we were able to hear 1 singing! as we approached to its location our sudden moves and a bad maneuver from my part flushed the wren away, three years of effort flushed away in front of her eyes!! As rain came upon us we had to continue down the Fila trail and we found a small mixed flock feeding with an army ant swarm, after seeing a couple of Tawny-winged Woodcreepers, Bicolored antbirds, gray-headed Tanager, Lesson’s Motmot, another Scaly-breasted Wren sang so we knew we were back in the game!. After less than a minute of play back that little brown and elusive wren flew in front of us, walked up for 3 to 4 feet and began to call in front of us, great success!

On our Next day, after a short birding session and a good breakfast we left for Coto 47, a marshland south of Esquinas, not far from the Panama border. Although first we stopped at the Hospital road we got Sapphire-throated Hummingbird as the highlight. Later not one but three Gray-lined Hawks! We were just missing the famous Savanna hawk at this point.

Later we went to the sector known as Las Pangas, the flooded conditions where ideal for the thousands of Black-bellied Whistling-Ducks, hundreds of Northern Jacanas, however, we had to be so lucky to stop at a spot, where after some scanning I was able to spot a pair of Masked ducks! a new species to my life list, and new for Gretchen and Jim’s CR list! A duck I had tried many times at San Vito in the past!

A picture Gretchen got of me while digiscoping my lifer.

After that we then continued to another spot for more Red-rumped Woodpecker, unfortunately, given the floods suffered in the area some months ago the habitat is gone, nevertheless we got many Crested Oropendolas and a pair of Brown-throated Parakeet. After this, we checked another marsh and got a good glossy ibis, and right after that a bird that had characteristics of a Hybrid Northern x Wattled Jacana was foraging near the road.

The Hybrid Jacana, I saw, exactly on the same spot what I presume is the same individual (?) back in September

Followed that we had our last stop, Savanna hawk. I took Gretchen  and Jim to one of the spots and as we scanned the trees Jim asked – “Do they perched on the fence posts?” and soon enough a hawk was been harassed by some kiskadees and perched on the post – “now we know they do” I said!! (seconds before I just had said I had never seen them on posts, but only on trees, dead branches or the ground!).

Savanna Hawk

This is a trip I particularly enjoyed guiding, excellent and challenging at the same time due to the tough targets but above all for the wonderful companion. Enjoyed every minute of it.

 

Celebration selfie! From left to Right: Gretchen, me and Jim.

Photos by Jim and Gretchen.

 

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Trip report: Birding with Susan and Ian Hardy part 2:

Day 4. San Gerardo de Dota.

Trogon Lodge

Cold in the highlands of CR! Not my favorite part of a trip, just consider I am use to the hot and humid 34ºC/93ºF of the lowlands of the central Pacific where I live!

We were fortunate to see the resplendent Quetzal on our first day up close, so there was no need to go early to the well known spot where everyone sees the quetzal, so we focused our attention to new birds, after some garden species and a good breakfast we took the waterfall trail and got a couple of small mixed flocks that produced our first Flame-throated and Black-cheeked warblers, Sooty capped and common (super common should I say?) Chlorospingus. various thrushes and long-tailed silky-flyactchers were nicely posing for pictures.

Larger flocks were compound by  furnarids, including a buffy tufted-cheek, spotted barbtails along with gray brested woodwren and more, later we got a close pair of Torrent tyrannulet and  american Deeper, and just when we thought we were done a male resplendent quetzal was seen feeding on “little avocados”.

 

After a late lunch we spent some time at Miss Miriam’s cafe for some photography, and just before our dinner at Trogon we went our for Dusky nightjar, the only endemic nightjar/Caprimulgid we have.

 

 

 

Day 5. Time for hummingbirds! We had some new birds at San Gerardo, including hairy woodpecker, rufous-browed peppershrike. We then moved to the upper mountains, where the telecommunication towers are at to look for Timberline wren and Volcano Junco, which we got after half an hour of search, this at an elevation of 3400+ meters.

Our next stop was Paraiso Quetzal for lunch and hummingbirds, fiery-throated hummingbird of course was seen here. The feeders bring basically 3-4 species, good chances for photos, but notice Flash is COMPLETELY forbidden at the feeders, but if you pay the fee they charge then you can use flash! even set up multi-flash! (Sarcasm). There is a small building dedicated for hummingbird photography where you can set up your multiflash. Food here is really good and the trails produce Wrenthrush and timberline wren. After some photography it was time to our next lodge; Rancho Naturalista, with some stops for Sedge wren and fasciated tiger-heron.

Sooty thrush at Miriam’s

Ochraceous wren seen various times at San Gerardo

Day 6 Rancho Naturalista.

We started very early so we could enjoy the moth light, we got many of the regular species that attend to it, plain-brown and northern barred woodcreepers, red-throated anttanagers, white throated woodwren and many, many more.

The breakfast bell rang! So we walked back to the dinner, the bird feeders are quite active, many gray headed Chachalacas abound, thrushes, oropendolas, collared aracaries, motmots and more, and for our surprise a Chiriquí Quail-dove came under the feeders, a bird seen by Meche (Mercedes), a local birder at Rancho who reported this bird some days ago here.

The trails at Rancho are well known for many specialty birds, including Tawny-Chested Flycatcher, Checker-throated antwren, Dull-mantled antbird and more. The Verbena is well known for Snowcap, a Classic at Rancho. Also, there is access to some nearby birding sites; a guide friend Cali, was very nice on pointing a place for Sunbittern which thanks to his help we got, Ian has some beautiful pictures he got there!

Contact:

Carlos Rodriguez “Cali” +506 8571-6877

Herman Venegas +506-889-34847

Both great local bird-guide for Rancho and surroundings.

Ranchonaturalista.net Great resident guides Mercedes Alpizar and Harry Barnard are available too.

Sunbittern

Male crowned woodnymph

 

The food at Rancho is exquisite!

Day 7th and 8th. Our morning was spent on the gardens and some trails, the goal was to improve the pictures Ian had taken of the Snowcap, after lunch we then drove to El Copal, a reserve I was very keen to bird as it said to extremely good!

It was fantastic! we were received by a large flock of Tanagers, emerald, crimson collared, paserinni’s, black-and-yellow tanagers, euphonias, and the rare Rufous-browed tyrannulet, what a welcome we all said!

El Copal is a reserve owned by a cooperative of Farmers, who had decided to keep this place for conservation, and with it they manage to help maintain their economy. The place is nestled in the jungle, solar panels will help you keep your electronics charged, a weak wifi network, no cellphone reception, but extreme peace, great food, great birding, friendly hosts and a wonderful experience awaits for you here at El Copal!

Cotact:

Patricia +506-8880-0432 / +506 2531-2124 elcopal98@gmail.com

 

Lovely dinner at El Copal.

Day 8: We spent all morning birding EL copal, then drove to La Selva Biological Station.

Notice that the road from The town of El Pejiballe and el Humo is in percet conditions as some work is currently been done, but the road from the gate to the reserve still is in bad conditions, you need a 4WD vehicle to get there. If you are renting 2WD then consider hiring Mauricio, who can drive you in his 4WD to the place and pick you up for the way back, he can arrange a place to leave your rental car. CONTACT Mauricio +5068828-4561 NO english.

Snowcap

Keel-billed toucan

White vented euphonia

Day 9: La Selva.

Nothing new I can say here but to join the rest of the people that go to la Selva, it is SUPER!

Our day began with Great-green macaw which were feeding on an Tonka Bean/ almond tree (Dipterix panamensis)  then the famous great Currasows along with the common garden species. After breakfast we walked into the forest where we spent the rest of the morning.

Trail at La Selva

 

After lunch we visit Frogs heaven, a great place for frog (yes you guessed right!) photography.  Jose +506 8891-8589

 

Day 10: Last Day. We bird La Selva again in the am to getting the last few new birds for the trip, we birded some of the surroundings to get Nicaraguan Seed-Finch which was one of the top 3 requested species (and we got them all) after lunch we did a variation of the trip and decided to skip Braulio Carillo and visited Cope instead, so Ian could enjoy the last day doing some photography. Fortunately Cope was able to clear some hours for us and as usual he gave as a very warm welcome to his house! We got good birds there including Russet-naped woodrail, white-tipped sicklebill, various tanagers, woodthrush and more. Other creatures we photographed were Jesus Christ lizards, helmet headed lizard, three toed sloth and of course the spectacled owl and white tent-making bats on the trail he took us to.

Male black-throated trogon, the last trogon of the trip.

Nicaraguan Seed-finch

 

From right to left: Jose “cope” Ian, Susan, me.

The trip was very successful, 10 days, 5 lodges, 352 species, plenty of photos and wonderful experiences! and of course new friends in England!

Three toed sloth

 

Trip Report. Birding with Susan and Ian Hardy: Part 1

Between March 2nd to March 11th I had the opportunity to lead a 10-day trip for a couple of birders from England; Ian and Susan Hardy, well experienced birders who had been to the neotropic in various occasions.

Our itinerary included a nice combination of habitats, birding some of Costa Rica’s well known localities as we as those little more off-the-beaten path; Carara which includes lowland transition between dry forest to rain-forest. San Gerardo de Dota, Pacific middle and high elevation. Rancho Naturalista and El Copal reserve with it’s amazing caribbean middle elevation and foothills. Then La Selva biological station and its amazing Caribbean lowland VERY humid forest.

Day 1, we change our route slightly given Ian photography requests and we drove up to the mountains of Poas, stopping at Freddo Fresas for hummingbirds and coffee, although activity was very slow, our first birds of the trip were Baltimore oriole, mountain elaenia, sparrows, purple-throated Mountain-gem, purple sabrewings, and some others.

We then continued to the famous La Paz waterfall (El Angel). A quick stop here produced American deeper, after that and some good Costa Rican corn bread and snacks we continued to Mirador Cinchona; Ian’s main target of the day was awaiting.

The feeders at soda y mirador Conchona were, as usual, quite good. Red headed Barbet, Northern Emerald-toucanet, prong billed barbet were there along with the various common tanager species that fill the feeders. We also got some specialties such as the white-bellied Mountain-gem, green Thorntail, and coppery headed emerald. Unfortunately we did not see the famous Buff-fronted quail-dove that has been coming to feed under the feeders lately.

Male red-headed Barbet, this has got to be the best place in CR to photograph this bird!

Road to La Virgen Del Socorro.

On this day the activity was a bit slow, perhaps due to the hot hours on which we were there. Nonetheless we did see the rufous browed tyrannulet, on the exact same spot where I saw it with friends some days ago! Other birds were black Phoebe, tufted flycatcher, later emerald tanager, swallow-tailed Kite, and more tanager and honeycreeper species. Birding this road is quite good normally and it is a place you must stop if you are around.

On our return we stopped near Freddo Fresas again and were lucky to see a pair of resplendent quetzals near the road! what a way to end our first day with this beautiful bird!

Day 2: we stayed at Cerro lodge, this is an excellent lodge for those who are birding Carara and want to get the best of both worlds; Rainforest and dry forest habitats.
Our day inside Carara was very productive, we got slaty tailed, gartered, black-headed and Baird’s Trogons. Various wren species, orange collared and red-capped Manakins, some antbirds, although hard to choose we agreed our best birds were the close looks we had of Streak-chested antpitta and the young male Yellow-Billed cotinga we saw while returning to Cerro lodge!

Scarlet macaw at Cerro Lodge

Streak chested antpitta. This is what a Canon 300 f2.8 and 7D Mark II can do huh! Not my lens, Ian was so kind to let me use his lens for this picture!

The road of Cerro lodge is a good option for owling, on this night we got Pacific screech-owl and we heard the calls of spectacled owl up in Villa Lapas road.

Pacific Screech-owl

Day 3– we covered the Tarcoles river vicinity and Mangroves, also we birded the road to Cerro lodge and villa Lapas. We were fortunate to get most of the Mangrove specialists such as Mangrove vireo, Northern scrub FC and Panama Flycatcher, yellow (mangrove) warbler and more. Along our drive to San Gerardo de Dota (Trogon lodge) we did some strategical stops and got Double-striped Thickknee, mangrove hummingbird, American pygmy kingfisher and other species. Later while driving up to San Isidro fiery-billed aracary was seen, lucky us as I thought we would had missed this near endemic toucan specie already!

 

 

Ferruginous pygmy-owl

Turquoise-browed Motmot

Orange fronted parakeet

Double-striped Thickknee seen in Jaco area

It was fantastic, by the end of the day, we had a total of 187 species in 3 days! Now we were off to a different habitat!

Day 4. San Gerardo de Dota.

To be continued.

Birding the road to Virgen del Socorro.

Poas, Vara Blanca and Cinchona areas are well known and birded localities either as a one-day trip from San Jose or as the first stop for birders when driving from the airport area to sites such as La Fortuna or La Selva.

On February 24th my friends Karen Castillo and Oscar Herrera went there to bird the area and do some photography, our first stop was as usual, Freddo Fresas to see the hummingbird feeders and to have breakfast, lately the activity has been a bit slow but still worth it for Magenta-throated woodstar and the common hummers. On addition we got Long-tailed Silky-FlycatcherNorthern emerald Toucanet as a highlight, the common birds included mountain and clay colored thrushes, rufous-collared sparrows, hoffmans woodpecers and more. We did look for quetzal just 300 meters up the hill as the “little avocado” tree was loaded with fruits but no luck.

White-nosed coati – Be a responsible tourist, Do NOT feed wild animals. They do not need your food.

We continued to the little, but well known Restaurante Mirador cinchona, excellent for Emerald toucanet and red-headed barbet, which we saw along with many of the species that come to feeders. We did look for the Buff-fronted Quail-Dove that has been showing under the feeders but we were not lucky with it.

The bird activity here is good indeed, but for photography is ok, the perches are not the best but you can still get nice pictures of the 2 main targets, not to forget the hummingbird feeders produce good species such as Green Thorntail, White-bellied Mountain-gem and coopery-headed Emerald (the last 2 endemics).

Silver-throated Tanager abound here.

This barbet is a rockstar here in Restaurante Mirador Cinchona!

Later we went down to he road that leads to La Virgen del Socorro, a very productive place. We did some birding along this road and were lucky to get some small mixed flocks. The area near the first bridge is quite good and there we had various raptor such as white, short tailed and barred hawks. Also king vulture, swallow tailed Kite, but the best raptor we got there was Ornate Hawk-eagle which soared above us for a while at the entrance to this road.

picture taken from the first bridge. No worries! this is not the bridge you will cross! Good site for Black phoebe.

At this site we got Zeledon’s antbird (Formerly Immaculate antbird) along with many common mixed flock species such as slate throated redstar, tawny-capped euphonia and more.

Later, we moved the car a bit higher up the road and walked more, birds we got along the walk included Nightingale wren, black headed Tody-flycatcher, along with many others. This place seems to be one of the best in CR to find the rare Rufous-browed tyrannulet based on eBird reports. We were not even expecting this bird got so lucky and had nice looks at one , this is a bird that had been on my wanted list!

Rufous-browed tyrannulet

https://macaulaylibrary.org/asset/87453481 a recording of the Rufous-browed tyrannulet, this seems to be the 3rd recording in Xeno-Canto for CR.

 

 

 

 Nightingale wren’s call https://macaulaylibrary.org/asset/87449531

 

 

https://macaulaylibrary.org/asset/87451891 Zeledon’s antbird call

Overall, birding there is excellent, a bit hilly so expect to do some good hiking along a wide gravel road, unless you plan to bird using your car doing some stops along the road as we did. We hope we can return soon but this time to stay and bird the Albergue El Socorro, which is said to be excellent!

Bat falcon, this place is excellent for raptors

 

 

Birding with Miriam and Shlomo Saish, Jan 29th-Feb 8th; Part 3/Last

Day 9. San Gerardo de RIVAS. Talamanca reserve.

Talamanca reserve http://www.talamancareserve.com is located in San Gerardo de Rivas, this town is the gate way to Costa Rica’s highest peak; Chirripó mountain with an elevation of 3821 meters.

 

The hotel is beautiful with nice rooms, the staff is very accommodating and always willing to make sure you are comfortable. The food is exquisite! But that is not all! the grounds are very birdy and loaded with many of the South Pacific specialists, the bird feeders are very, very well kept!

On this day we decided to go to a small project called Garden house bird observatory for breakfast +506 71630339 contact is Christopher Instagram https://www.instagram.com/gardenhouseobservatory/?hl=es

This little place is a small family business that believes in conservation and environmental education through the birds, I had been coming to this place lately, they are getting started with some reforestation, also they have WELL maintained feeders that are extremely productive.

During our breakfast and walk we got similar birds than  what we got at Talamanca reserve; speckled tanagers and many Tangara species, violet sabrewing, Lesson’s motmot, etc etc but we also got here red-headed barbet, snowy bellied hummingbird, stripe-tailed humingbird, orange-billed Nightingale-thrush and more which we missed at Talamanca, most during a short walk we took along a trail.

Tropical mockingbird

 

After that we then left for Carara/Macaw lodge along the coast, stops included El Rey rice field and marsh, a well known marsh near my home city Quepos, then a stop in Jacó to enjoy the sunset, this was our longest drive of the trip.

 

Day 10 and 11: Macaw lodge.

Charming hummingbird

Macaw lodge is an excellent lodge and has a beautiful setting, wonderful gardens and a well maintained trail system. We got our first few new birds off the balcony, including gray-cowled woodrail, least grebe, Muscovy duck (yes, had not seen one on the trip till then), charming hummingbird and more.

The trails are good and produced some good birds including a pair of Baird’s trogon, riverside wren, blue-crowned manakin, golden naped woodpecker, crested guan and gray-headed Chachalacas, tropical gnatcatcher, ferruginous pygmy-owl was seen on the gardens.

 

This lodge is not precisely close to Carara NP, the road that leads there is not always in good condition, although being here allows you to get most of the birds that you would normally see in Carara, therefore I would recommend you stay a minimum of 2 nights here, you will love the food too!

Black hooded antshrike

On our last day we left after breakfast and birded the road back down, here we got Black-hooded Antshrike, king vulture, plumbeous kite,  among other common birds,  we then made it to Tarcoles river area and explored the mangroves near the river mouth. Here we got (beside the many species expected for this habitat) Black headed trogon, mangrove (yellow) warbler, Panama Flyctacher, turquoise-browed Motmot. The mangroves are a  must do while birding near Carara, either by foot, or better yet, By boat.

 

 

Small mangrove patch near Tarcoles river

Black headed trogon

Mangrove Yellow warbler

 

 

 

 

 

 

Birding with Miriam and Shlomo Saish, Jan 29th-Feb 8th; Part 2

Day 5: February 2nd. La Selva Biological Station

The rain persisted during the early morning hours, so we had breakfast and saw the birds on the gardens, once the rain stopped we finally got our first sunny skies!

Soon we got the common garden birds, including white-ringed Flycatcher, Band-backed Wren, black-thighed Grosbeak, and more.

Once inside the trail we were greeted by Black-crowned Antshrike and then a group of white-collared Peccaries which are known to forage near the lag clearing area. Later we got white-throated wood-wren, rufous-tailed Jacamar, white-whiskered puffbird, after a while we got great tinamous and a male Slaty-breasted which slowly crossed the trail for us! Essentially we got the typical birds from la selva during our short walk, plus a gray catbird when we returned for lunch!

Great Tinamou

Rufous-tailed Jacamar

Slaty-tailed Trogon

Later at night, we walked back in to search for Vermiculated Screech-owl which we saw, along with common pauraque; Costa Rica’s most common nightjar.

Pauraque

Red-eyed Tree-frog

Day 6: Basically consisted of a morning bird-walk at La Selva, we got better looks at Great green Macaws and improved our views of white-collared manakin, along with various new species for our list. Then we drove to San Gerardo De Dota after lunch.

Crested Guans were commonly seen on the trip

Day 7, San Gerardo de Dota. Our first attempt to get the resplendent, unfortunately with no success, although we got many of the birds for this habitat, the highlights were Flame-throated warbler, long-tailed Silky-Flycatcher and a dark morph Broad-winged hawk. Most of our birding was done at the trails at Miss Miriam’s cabins (Miriam’s Quetzals) my favorite place to eat while at San Gerardo.

Broad Winged hawk Dark morph

Day 8, we got it! The Quetzal was not easy but we got good (distant) views though the spotting scope, after that we then focused our attention to get the most birds as possible once we checked the Quetzal off the list; The Waterfall trail as usual was very productive and got various highlights including torrent tyrannulet, American dipper, spangle cheeked tanager, various furnarids, warblers and more, it was time to move to our next Destination; Talamanca reserve at San Gerardo de Rivas, naturally we stopped at the telecommunication towers to get the regional endemic Volcano Junco, at 3400+ meters of elevation, which we did find!

Waterfall trail

The Volcano Junco is an endemic specie shared with Panama

The restaurante La Georgina in Villa Mills is an excellent option to stop for lunch and hummingbirds. Here a green crowned brilliant

Snowy plover at Tarcoles and Yellow Bellied Sapsucker at Esquipulas.

During the 11th Christmas Bird Count at Carara area celebrated on December 22nd 2017 a team of birders were fortunate enough to see what to us is rarity; Snowy plover!

After the sighting, several birders kept going to the site and had been lucky to find it. I had been really eager to make the time to go, however it had been a few days since it was seen so I hesitated at a point. On January 2 after I finished to guide a morning birding trip to Carara for a family of Utah (David, Natalie and Jordan Tanner) I went on my own to the Tarcoles river mouth following my friend’s Diego Quesada and Johan Fernandez directions and boy was I lucky! Literally the 8th bird I put my binoculars own! It is so exciting to feel the thrill of finding a rare bird and more special when it is a new bird to the life list! Way to start 2018!

 

The location to the site can be found on this google maps link. https://www.google.co.cr/maps/place/9%C2%B046’38.9%22N+84%C2%B038’14.0%22W/@9.780263,-84.6373509,15.25z/data=!4m6!3m5!1s0x0:0xa89a0b2d9b790cdd!7e2!8m2!3d9.7774555!4d-84.6372288?hl=es-419

Near the river mouth of Tarcoles, standing on the southern side of the mouth is a small “lagoon” or tidal pool, this is the site where the plover has been reported, many semipalmated, wilson’s and some collared plovers, along with many semipalmated, western, and spotted sandpiper as well as sanderlings, whimbrels and more.

the ocean is on the back, the river-mouth on the right and the water between is the spot.

 

now on the other side of the tidal pool. the ocean behind me, the river-mouth north of where I am standing and the plovers on the southern edge of the pool.

 

On the other hand, just today (January 4th), while guiding a birding tour at Esquipulas (my favorite Manuel Antonio bird watching

image digiscoped using iPhone 7 and Swarovski ATX 65mm

spot) for the Tanners we were lucky to spot a female Yellow-bellied Sapsucker (no picture unfortunately). This is a North American bird which I was hoping to see at a point, naturally I was so excited for it while David and Natalie just allowed me to enjoy my moment! Their moment was the fiery billed aracary!

 

Esquipulas is an excellent option for the birder coming to bird-watch Manuel Antonio and it often produces good Pacific foothills and lowland species with an excellent level of endemics.

 

 

Yellow throated toucan at Esquipulas.

Esquipulas

 

What a way to start 2018!

Birding San Gerardo de Dota.

 

San Gerardo de Dota is nestled in the Savegre Valley, within the Talamanca mountains of Costa Rica. The Small country mountain village that several decades ago began to see the first lumberjack and hunters getting established now flourishes as a wonderful off the beaten track nature destination, specifically a great place for birders.

One of my favorite reasons for which I like birding San Gerardo as part of a one-day trip itinerary from Manuel Antonio is that one gets to cover different habitats and elevations in one day, ranging from 2000masl up to 3,200masl, thus allowing a good combination of species. The high peaks of the Talamanca Mountains it has created an interesting array of endemic species, most which which we share with Panama.

This week I had the opportunity to lead 2 Birding trips here, departing Manuel Antonio at 4:00am as the drive to get there normally takes about 2hr45min to 3hrs. However our first stop was little before reaching San Gerardo at a place called Villa Mills (see here for eBird hotspot), here elevation is little more than 3,000 meters above sea level, this gravel road loops around 1 km back to the main paved road, it is often birdy and produces some of the Highland must sees such as  timberline wren, Silvery-fronted tapaculo, barred becard, fiery throated hummingbird, black capped Flycatcher, and even with some luck Costa Rican pygmy-owl!

One of the treats you get to see when you wake up early!

the endemic (and fairly common) Flame throated warbler – Oreothlypis gutturalis

After some birding here for a short while it’s also good to stop at La Georgina restaurant, it is particularly good for those interested on photography as the hummingbird feeders often produce some nice close-ups to magnificent, fiery throated, volcano, and scintillant hummingbird, and oh don’t forget some hot coffee or chocolate!

Fiery-throated hummingbird – Panterpe insignis A very common CR-PA endemic.

Talamanca hummingbird-Eugenes spectabilis, a recent split from Eugenes fulgens. A new CR-PA endemic.

A convenient place to have breakfast during this trip is Miss Mariam’s restaurant, not only food is tasty, but the feeders can produce some of the common birds such as flame colored tanager, Acorn woodpecker, large-footed Finch, yellow-thighed finch and others, all while you wait for your food.

San Gerardo is known as one of the best places in Costa Rica for resplendent Quetzal, which we did see on both trips. After some good birds we continued to well known Waterfalls Road down the hill from the famous Savegre Lodge, gosh is good here! The trail that leads to the waterfall goes parallel to the Savegre river, which gives opportunities to spot torrent tyrannulet, American depper, as well as those forest species that often  forage with mixed flocks such as streak-breasted tree hunter, spotted Barbtail, spot-crowned with creeper, black cheeked warbler, yellow thighed finch, lineated foliage-gleaner and so much more.

Resplendent Quetzal

 

Most males are “tailless” during this time of the year.

Green-fronted lancebill-Doryfera ludovicae, spotted by Leonardo on the second trip! This is one of my favorite hummingbirds!

 

Tangara dowii — Spangle cheeked tanager

Talamanca Hummingbird, formerly conspecific with Magnificent hummingbird.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Not only the birds are wonderful here.

Needless to say both common and Sooty-capped chlorospingus are quite common and are a good indicative of the presence of a mix flock, often you can walk several minutes and find no bird, but suddenly a passing flock can entertain for minutes, keeping you busy watching either up to the canopy, understory or both! After a good birding session in route back to Manuel Antonio it is good to stop at the telecommunication towers up in Cerro Buena Vista, at 3400masl for volcano junco.

Cerro Asuncion, along with Cerro Buena Vista are among the highest peeks of Cerro De La Muerte. Paramo forest in the back.

If you are birding Manuel Antonio area, despite the fact that you might had already birded Monteverde visiting San Gerardo de Dota is a good idea that can put on some birds you might not get in MV, see a different habitat and enjoy some good cold weather while you are in the tropics!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Birding Carara National Park / Headquarter trails.

It is finally slow season to us who work in the tourism industry here in CR, it is also the start of the rainy season, and on the bitter side, the end of the NA bird migration.

We constantly joke on how the next few months we are restricted to see toucans, macaws, tanagers, cotingas and trogons, so warblers, waxwings, peeps, orioles, ducks, empids, hawks, buntings etc will be missed greatly, but oh well, I can live with that!

On April 26th, my friends Andres Chaves (socio) and Karen Castillo took the day and went to Carara National park, yes, our local patch where we go very, very often, but this time is different as it s not the same to lead a trip to clients than to do your own personal birding, our main interest was to look for the species we seldom see, but above all to play with our toys, cameras and recorders! In short, do what we love.

We were basically focused on the headquarter trails (Universal, Encuentro de ecosistemas, Quebrada bonita and Araceas) and rather passed on the lagoon trail. We were specifically looking for scaly-throated leaf-tosser,  long tailed woodcreeper, and yellow-billed cotinga.

We got to Carara at 7:15am and spent the entire day (Notice that Carara opens from 7:00am to 4:00pm from December to April and from 8:00am to 4:00pm from May to through November), soon after we entered we were lucky enough to spot a leaftosser, doing ti’s thing; tossing leafs from side to side in search for food, we tried to get some photos but despite our attempts this is the only one I could get, also recordings were ok as this is a bit of an elusive bird.

A bad quality photo but here is the leaftosser. Canon 50D + Canon 100-400 4-5.6 lens. ISO cranked way up to 3200 to at least get documentation photo.

 

One of the best things about birding Carara NP is that unlike other parks like Manuel Antonio this site is not too crowded and particularly now on slow season. The trails here consist on a series of loops, well maintained, with some gravel which allows a silent approach to birds, and are wide enough to allow the free pass to other walkers and use tripods etc but narrow enough to not disturb the habitat.

 

 

A recording I managed to get from the leaftosser. http://www.xeno-canto.org/366674

Green and black poison-dart frogs are very, very common during the transition to wet season. 

As we continued we got basically various mixed flocks where white-shoulder tanager was present, so it produced bay headed tanagers, lesser and tawny crowned greenlets, some woodcreepers, rufous-capped warblers, and more, also, we saw on various occasions small groups of chestnut backed antbirds foraging with river side, rufous breasted wrens, orange billed sparrows and many black-faced antthrushes, the last ones are common, but, today we saw at least 18 individuals (actually seen, plus those we heard) normally on a birding trip and points them 2 to 3 times then you flip the page to the next bird.

 

Call recording I got of Black-faced antthrush. http://www.xeno-canto.org/366685

Northern bentbill, picture taken using an iPhone 7 and a ATX Swarovski telescope #digiscoping. This little one was quite cooperative indeed but normally it is found above eye level and is quite active.

Gray headed tanager carrying food to its nest. Photo Taken using digi-scoping technique using Canon 50D + Swarovski TLS APO + Swarovski ATX 65mm telescope.

After various birds and hours later we were fortunate to find and group of army ants foraging (Eciton burchelli) and then we knew we were going to spend some good time there recording and photographing, however the colony was a bit small and we got basically chestnut backed antbirds, black faced antthrushes, northern barred, cocoa, streak headed and tawny winged woodcreepers, ruddy tailed flycatcher, white whiskered puffbird, lesson’s motmot (former blue crowned) and sulfur-rumped flycatcher.

Bicolored antbird, besst looked for with the ants.

Buff-throated foliage gleanner posed for the picture.

One of the at least 5 Tawny winged woodcreepers that attended the swarm.

White whiskered who?   We continued back and needed one more bird for Karen, streak chested antpitta which fortunately she got to see quite well, although we could not photograph we managed to get a recording, here a short recording of the bird calling naturally: http://www.xeno-canto.org/366688

 

We all had a fun time in the field and truly enjoyed Carara, as I always do no matter how many times I had been here, we now hope our next trip would be May 13th so we can join the global big day, I hope we can work that out.

Slaty tailed trogon excavating a nest inside a termite nest.

Male baird’s trogon. It is simple, Carara is trogon country.

food break!

Posing at the new Carara sign with friends Karen Castillo and Andres Chaves.

 

95 species while birding at Esquipulas in a morning. 

Esquipulas is located approximately 26km to the East of Manuel Antonio and unquestionably offers the best birding experience in the nearby vicinity of the park. The park itself is too poor for birds and it can be quite noisy and crowded, so any one birding Manuel Antonio would have far better time here than at the park itself!
On March 2nd 2017 for the second time I had the opportunity to lead a trip to miss Christine Kozlosky whom I birded at Carara with just days ago and got an impressive 150 in a full day!

As usual, we left Manuel Antonio at 4:45am and got to Esquipulas at 5:25am right with the sunrise, our first birds were some common pauraques as we drove the hilly gravel-country road up to Esquipulas.
The soonest we got out of the car it was wonderful! Birds calling everywhere (hence the beauty of leaving the bed early!), time to put hands on our bins.

A small fig tree located right where I usually start to walk was full of fruit and so with birds, soon we got chestnut headed oropendola (although not expected for the region on Garrigues 2014 there is a fairly established colony since 5+ years now, maybe the southern Pacific population expanding north). We quickly got the regular tanagers such as golden hooded, bay headed, palm, blue gray, green honecreeper, red leggued hc, blue dacnis and then masked tityra.

After seeing several birds we decided to walk into the bush for some meters as I heard a slaty spinetail which we did see, but also got yellow tyrannulet and then a piratic flycatcher and several views of the golden naped woodpecker (an endemic we share with Panama) Later we got northern barred woodcreeper collecting bark (with which they line their nest)  and then tawny-winged woodcreeper! (doing the same?) At this time I kept scanning the forest canopy in hopes for turquoise cotinga! No luck for the moment but did get some swallow-tailed kites, a specie that Chris was very interested on seeing!

Masked tityra, Bay headed tanager and got even a slaty tailed trogon! the last trogon we were missing to complete the trogon list for the region.

 

left Northern-barred Woodcreeper and right tawny-winged woodcreeper

Back on the road, we continued walking seeing some of the regulars, tanagers, white crowned parrots, swifts, flycatchers and more, then we spotted a white hawk that flew to a perch at a good distance but close enough to see it well on the scope.  This area of Esquipulas where I start the birding trip is a nice ravine with excellent opportunities for raptors, birds such as white hawk, barred hawk, king vulture, black hawk-eagle, short tailed hawk, broad winged hawk, swallow tailed kite, all which we saw, literally on the same thermal throughout  the morning!

As we continued we got good views of crested guans, then, golden winged warbler, tennessee, yellow and chestnut sided warblers, blue black grossbeak, yellow billed cacique, riverside wren, and many more, but missed the laughing falcon which kept laughing at us as we could not find it where it was perched! but oh well, Chris remedied that with a close look of a male turquoise cotinga! and later we got both male and female Baird’s trogon! both endemics we share with Panama.

Turquoise cotinga

 

Bairds trogon

Fiery billed Aracary, a common endemic found on the central and south Pacific slope of CR and western Panama.

Although Esquipulas consist basically of a gravel road that allows access to secondary forest, views of primary forest and it’s canopy, gardens, some creeks, ravines, scrub, grasslands, there are also some very short paths that allows access to forest interior, good for some manakins, rufous piha, white throated shrike-tanager and more.

After some great views we continued on the walk, soon we got more swallow tailed kites, broad winged hawk and short tailed hawks! the raptors where finally coming out!  It was 10:30am, we still needed blue crowned manakin and white ruffed manakin which we  looked hard for, funny how a common, or somewhat easy specie can just disappear once you look them hardly (yes the blue crowned eluded us at Carara even!) so I guess that is a reason for miss Christine to come back! On our walk back to the car we got excellent views of short tailed hawk again, then 2 king vultures flying relatively low, right after that a Barred hawk flew just about 3 meters above our heads, chased by some kiskadees and tropical kindbirds, what a treat to see such beautiful hawk! not just flying so close but to perch for us to allow good views and even a picture (digiscoped with a cell phone, like all pictures on this post).

Once we thought we were done, siting at the car and just before I close my door I heard a distant Black hawk-eagle, out we went rapidly and searched the sky for it, after 3 to 4 minutes it came up form the mountain, to join the soaring black, turkey and king vultures.

 

Digiscoping a bird on flight, using a scope and a cellphone with NO adapters is an Art, here a king vulture.

Barred hawk

After a while I took Chris to the La Gallega river, a location I know for collared plover as she mentioned she enjoys peeps as well, literally we got out of the car and there it was! not one but 2 adults and at least 3 chicks. La Gallega river is reliable for this specie, also good for red-breasted meadowlark (and eastern), tropical mockingbird and on occasion double striped thick-knees. This river is accessible via Naranjito.

 

A bad shot, distant and the hot atmosphere does not help, but here a collared plover.

watching collared plovers

Not done yet! We where having such great time we agreed there was room for another good bird before heading back to her Villa, this time a Mangove hummingbird! this bird, endemic to Costa Rica only. For this we drove to the town of Damas, an area where mosts tour companies start the locally famous Damas Mangrove tour. This is the best site I know locally for this hummer, the soonest we got to the mangrove there was a male perched at eye level, later, as we walked into the mangrove I played ferruginous pygmy-owl twice to see what could George bring out for us (a joke Roy and I use to say referring to the pygmy-owl recording) this was productive as we got prothonotary warbler, some chestnut sided and yellow (northern) warbler and then another bird that eluded us at Tarcoles the other day! a male resident Yellow warbler (mangrove raze).

Mangrove canal at low tide, this site where we were standing is flooded during high tide.

Time to call it a day! we ended the morning with a total of 95 species, a new friend and many great memories!

Miss Christine Kozlosky.

 

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