Category Archives: Birding tour

This includes experiences during birding tours

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!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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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.

 

150 species while birding Carara area!

Carara national park area is known as one of the must sees to any birders coming to CR, it’s position on a transition area offers a great variety of habitats of both life zones; Dry and wet forests.

No matter how many hundreds of times I had been to Carara I always enjoy leading trips here or just simply birding on my own to locate those sought after species as I know the area can bring surprises any time, after all Carara has a max list of 482 so there is always good stuff (data from the X-mas bird-counts organized by my friend Johan Fernandez).

On February 28th 2017 I had the opportunity to bird for a full day with miss Christine Kozlosky, an excellent-advanced birder from Athens, GA, USA. We met at her villa here in Manuel Antonio at 4:45am and after meeting each other we left onto what happened to be an extraordinary day!

Along the way we got some birds such as brown jay, scissor tailed flycatcher, yellow headed and crested caracaras and a gray hawk. Then by 6:15 we arrived to our first spot; Villa Lapas road.

The road to leads to Bijagual (mostly known by birders as the Villa Lapas road or the waterfall road) is an excellent birding site (one can perfectly spend an entire morning here), and often produces species that are either hard to see or just unlikely seen inside the park itself, our first bird at this site was a male blue grosbeak followed by an indigo bunting! then gray-crowned yellowthrhoat, northern and southern rough-winged swallows, macaws and more, although for the moment the best bird had been a striped cuckoo! although I did enjoy seen my first-for-the-year yellow-green vireo.

We then moved up the road a little, 1 mile from villa Lapas precisely. At this site you will see a nice new restaurant with an amazing view to the gulf, tarcoles river and Carara in general, I had never been disappointed here! Yellow-throated toucans (former black mandibled) and fiery-billed aracary were seen almost simultaneously, then gartered trogon and later crested guan! rufous naped wren, baltimore oriole, yellow billed cacique,  hold on! not done yet! turquoise-browed motmot, blue black grossbeak, and the typical seedeaters and several more birds, I felt like I didnt want to leave the site, but it was time to move to Carara, it was 7:45am after all!

Philadelphia vireo

Philadelphia vireo

Squirrel cuckoo

Squirrel cuckoo

Gartered trogon, crested guan and fiery billed aracary.

Gartered trogon, crested guan and fiery billed aracary.

 

After paying our fees we drove 1 more mile to the river trail (best known as the lagoon trail) I prefer to bird the morning here for those dry (ier) forest species species since as the day warms up it offers good chances to see raptors, which otherwise would be missed since at the headquarter trails the forest is so thick and does not allow much views of the sky. Soonest we parked we got lucky with a pair of pale billed woodpeckers, the first 50 meters were a bit slow, but once reaching the first fig tree there was some activity, we got northern bentbill, clay colored thrush, we heard rufous tailed jacamar, royal flycatcher and streak chested antpitta, and missed a female orange-collared manakin, although 10 minutes later we got a goo looking male! After a few “regular” birds we worked hard to find a calling Baird’s trogon, our second trogon of the day!

Orange collared manakin, bairds trogon and long billed hermit

Orange collared manakin, bairds trogon and long billed hermit

For those who had never been to Carara and are planning a trip here, the lagoon trail is nice, fairly open trail, mostly shady but with some sunny patches, we did the “short cut” to the lagoon and looped back via the main trail, the short cut is only suggested with a guide as it is easy to take the wrong turn. On our way we saw white-whiskered puffbird, macaws of course, black bellied and rufous breasted wrens, dot winged antwrens (which are common here) golden hooded tanagers, plain xenops and various other birds. On our way back we got scrub greenlet, 2 black headed trogon and later near the exit a black throated trogon! at this point we had seen 4 out of 5 trogons species that occur here, slaty tailed trogon should not be that hard I said to Christine! its 11:00am after all!

Black headed trogon

Black headed trogon

scrub euphonia, a common dry forest specie

scrub euphonia, a common dry forest specie

At 11:15am after seen king vulture on a thermal as we drove to Tarcoles, we got to the Mangroves near the southern side of Tarcoles river mouth, here we got Panama Flycatcher, mangrove vireo, common black hawk, bare throated tiger heron, some peeps and birds associated to this habitat, then we got american pygmy kingfisher, and orange fronted parakeet, all which we only saw here.

Orange fronted parakeet, panama fc, common black-hawk and mangrove vireo.

Orange fronted parakeet, panama fc, common black-hawk and mangrove vireo.

american pygmy KF.

american pygmy KF.

After that we then went back to Carara, this time to cover the head quarter trails, now at 1:00pm we hoped to get the most out of it as Carara closes at 4:00pm (a bit too early in my opinion). We soon saw bicolored antbird and gray headed tanager, we knew it! army ants were there! although it seemed the flock (and ants) were a bit too far from the trail, fingers crossed for our return. Our priority was manakins tinamous and antpitta!

Great tinamou, scarlet macaw and gray headed tanager

Great tinamou, scarlet macaw and gray headed tanager, Carara is got to be about the best site in the west coast fro tinamou and antpitta.

We then continued to the famous “manakin baths” located on the Quebrada Bonita trail, and there it was! red capped manakin! both male and female. We waited for the blue crowned to show up but unfortunately it did not, we needed to head back as we hoped the ants would come down so we could get those nice ant specialists! Getting some birds such as white whiskered puffbird, macaws, streak chested antpitta, great tinamous and more along the way.

 

(Play the video in the highest resolution possible)

Finally as we returned out (3:20pm) we got the ant swarm come down the trail! time to enjoy the birds! we got pretty much all the common birds that join this fierce swarms, highlights included black-faced antthrush and northern barred woodcreeper.

Now, once out of Carara, and because there is always room for more birds we decided to stop at Los Sueños Marriot as I know there is a pair of thick-knees there as well as least grebes at the golf course, we did see them as well as southern lapwings and some herons on the ponds! Not every day you go to a gold course from any of the Marriott hotels to find a bird right?!

At the end we sat to work on today’s list and what a surprise! we counted 150 species total, this includes all the species that were actually seen, including the villa lapas road, the mangrove path at the river mouth of Tarcoles and Carara NP, it excludes species that were heard only such as green shrike-vireo, rufous tailed jacamar, royal flycatcher, slaty tailed trogon and others.

white whiskered puffbird

white whiskered puffbird

 

 

Birding Poas and Cinchona area. 

On February 18th I had the opportunity to lead a birding trip to the Poas Volcano and Cinchona area to miss Loretta Pelettier from Maine who I had the pleasure to bird with in 2 occasions in the past few years both at Esquipulas and Carara NP, accompanied by my friend Karen Castillo.

We met at El Robledal hotel which is right near the airport at 5:15am, we soon made our drive to Poas area, as we started to go up the hills of Poas we did our first stop which produced some of the common species for this region such as mountain elaenia, Philadelphia Vireo, rufous-collared sparrow, melodious blackbird, rose-breasted grossbeak which we only saw at this stop! And many more common garden species.
We did another stop some kilometers up the hill which produced collared redstar, stripe tailed hummingbird, olive striped flycatcher, all which we only saw at this stop plus others we saw elsewhere too such as common chlorospingus, slaty flowerpiercer, short tailed hawk, just to mention some.

By 7:30ish we got to Fredo Fresas restaurant which was convenient (highly recommended not just for good food but for birds! Here the coordinates) the soonest we got into the hummingbirds garden we got great views of a hermit warbler, considered rare to CR and sure a life bird to me!

The restaurant is on the right and the hummingbird garden on the left as you go up towards Poas.

Hermit warbler

Hermit warbler

 

The feeders produced green crowned brilliant, magnificent hummingbird, magenta throated woodstar, green violet ear and violet sabrewing, however despite our efforts we did not see volcano hummingbird.
There is a little trail down the feeder area, a 50 meters loop that is ok to do, we got black faced solitaire and heard golden browed chlorophonia, prong billed barber and long tailed silky-flycatcher.

Magenta throated hummingbird

Magenta throated hummingbird

Later up the road we got a nice resident raze red tailed hawk, we then continued to Poas, we tried to bird the road past the stone gate but found it rather very slow, the narrow road with heavy traffic was not comfortable at all, so we decided to bird the gravel road that turns left right before the stone gate and glad we did! Immediately we got large footed finch, Karen found a hairy woodpecker and then an ochraceus wren!

Later we got a small mixed flock that produced the beautiful endemic flame-throated warbler, sooty capped chlorospingus, black and yellow silky-flycatcher, then we got fiery-throated hummingbirds and even a black guan!

Flame throated warbler

Flame throated warbler

Gravel road just before the stone gate.

Gravel road just before the stone gate.

the endemic fiery throated hummingbird

the endemic fiery throated hummingbird

It was time to move to Cinchona area as Loretta’s most wanted target was the emerald toucanet!
We drove past the Restaurante Cinchona and did a stop at La Paz Waterfall to look for black phoebe, torrent tyrannulet and american deeper, saw all but the last one.

After that another stop by the old “El Angel” plant/factory, this was great as we got golden-olive woodpecker, red faced spine tail, tufted flycatcher, red headed barbet as the highlights.
After that we turned around and got directions to the cinchona restaurant, we got there at about 2:30pm and wow! This was productive! They just put some fresh fruit and immediately silver throated, blue gray, palm, Passerini’s tanagers came in, then red headed and prong billed barbets, after other various birds our target came in! Not 1 but 3 emerald toucanets!

white hawk

white hawk

After a delicious soup for lunch it was time to call it a day, everyone was happy, we all got lifers and truly enjoyed the birds and the wonderful companion.

Birding Cinchona and Poas area is indeed great! not only for the wonderful scenery you get to see but the variety of habitats in which you will be will let you nice an interesting mix of species.

Emerald toucanet

Emerald toucanet

 

red headed barbet, a serious bird!

red headed barbet, a serious bird!

Prong billed barbet. Defending one banana!

Prong billed barbet. Defending one banana! Endemic to CR and W Pa.

Restaurante y mirador Cinchona, excellent birds, TASTY food!

Restaurante y mirador Cinchona, excellent birds, TASTY food!

Notice that recently they put this sign here, large cameras would be charge a $10 fee, I think if you consume at the restaurant they may charge less, this since lately a lot of large groups would come in with their cameras, take the entire space, photo and then leave not even consuming or at least donating a tip!

Notice that recently they put this sign here, large cameras would be charge a $10 fee, I think if you consume at the restaurant they may charge less, this since lately a lot of large groups would come in with their cameras, take the entire space, photo and then leave not even consuming or at least donating a tip!

Las cruses and Esquinas Rainforest lodge birding trip report; Part 5 of 5

On our last day, Jan 17th we were ready at 5:50 AM, this was our last day together, the end of any field trip it is always a sad day after meeting wonderful birders but above all nice new friends!

We birded some part of the gardens as usual, although this time we just focused on the bright-rumped attila which he heard every day but could not see, well, we could not see it at this time neither (high up on tree canopy and fog does not rhyme well) but managed to find one later on the morning finally!

Black striped sparrow, common garden, forest edge and roadside specie.

Black striped sparrow, common garden, forest edge and roadside specie.

After getting great looks at a black-bellied wren and rose-throated becard right behind Malcom’s and Eleanor’s room. We continued the road towards the Tropical station, as this road is productive most times, the forest edge, road side and pasture allowed views of southern-beardless tyrannulet, various tanagers, social and gray capped flycatchers and white-whinged becard among several others, time flew so fast! we walked fast back for breakfast so we would not miss it! (breakfast here is served from 7:00am to 8:00am). On a safety note, be careful if you plan to walk this road at night, the night before we saw a fer-de-lance (venomous snake) cross the road, although it does not mean there are snakes there all the time it is not bad to just watch were you step.

swallow-tailed kite

swallow-tailed kite

Although initially we were going to bird Coto 47 and after lunch we would do the species found at the town of La Gamba we decided to invert our plans, we then looked for one of out main targets; rusty-margined flycatcher which we got, a pair is known to hang out by the house with the corral, just 500-600 meters outside Esquinas. There we got several good birds we needed such as pale-breasted spine tail, yellow tyrannulet, and fork-tailed flycatcher, and other good birds we had seen already but nice to see again such as red-breasted meadowlark (blackbird), Baird’s trogon, ithsmian and riverside wrens, blue-ground dove, laughing falcon  and more.

Rusty-margined flycatcher, although this photo had been edited to compensate the awful light were the bird was at the brown margins are visibly, also notice the black cheeks and darker brown back.

Rusty-margined flycatcher, although this photo had been edited to compensate the awful light were the bird was at the brown margins are visibly, also notice the black cheeks and darker brown back.

Then, after some good birds near that house area we continued little more by car to the spot he had heard the striped-cuckoo some nights ago, and there it was! other good birds we got here where the best views of yellow bellied seedeater (a common bird in this region), white lined tanagers and streaked saltator. Then we continued to the town of La Gamba, turned left towards the Piedras blancas national park and drove for 400 meters only as I knew  a site to try great antshrike which we missed unfortunately but got a bright-rumped attila at last! After checking the river for a while we then went back for lunch.

striped cuckoo

striped cuckoo, one day I hope I can see the similar, yet improved-version pheasant cuckoo here in CR! one day as I owe that bird to a friend.

After lunch it was time to run, we needed to drive to Coto 47 near Villa Neily and had at least 35 min drive, our main targets were savanna hawk and sapphire, throated hummingbird. Soonest we got to Coto we found a small marsh drying out due to the normal summer conditions, birds everywhere! birds such as the typical herons and egrets, black bellied whistling ducks, blue winged teal, glossy ibis, spoonbills, storks, gallinules, jacanas (no wattled was seen although we looked hard for it) osprey, lesser yellowlegs and so much more, I really regret I did not take a picture as it would had been a nice memory!

We drove a few more kilometers and I heard brown-throated parakeet, one of our targets, we got at least 6 to 8 individuals and later in the afternoon we got a large flock.

Brown throated parakeet

Brown throated parakeet

We went to the site where I had seen Savannah hawk nest in the past, despite our efforts we could not see them and I fear that no matter how hard we look for the sapphire throated hummingbird at all sites, La Gamba, Coto and Ciudad Neily, the flowers all/most looked old and fading now, so we missed the hummer too. We got 3 kingfisher spp: ringed, green and amazon, as well as the common southern lapwing which was new for the trip.

A very productive day indeed!

Our day ended with a lovely dinner, we did the day’s list and counted all we saw during our five days together. Good birds, many lifers for miss Eleanor and Malcom who had visited the country various times now, on this field trip we all had great moments lived and the best, new friends!

From left to right: Malcom, Johan and miss Eleanor, from Portland, Maine. USA.

From left to right: Malcom, Johan and miss Eleanor, from Portland, Maine. USA.

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Las cruses and Esquinas Rainforest lodge birding trip report; Part 4

On Jan 16th we were up and ready at 6:00am, time to put on some lowland birds!

The morning was quite fresh given last nights rain, which was very nice to get during a classic hot January! it was foggy however and made it hard to get those distant, high-perching birds. The first hour we birded the gardens as there are several species that were on the wanted list that show up on the gardens regularly.

We immediately checked the caiman pond as once in a while the rare and elusive agami heron is reported at Esquinas, considered the best place in the south pacific for this beautiful heron (why do beautiful birds are always rare?!) Unfortunately we were not lucky and the pond itself only produced gray-cowled woodrail (former gray necked w.r) and cherrie’s tanager, meanwhile, the gardens where full of calls and songs! we then got extremely close ups to great curassow, Eleanor’s most wanted target!, well, this birds are so tame here at Esquinas we could had taken a selfie with them! they seem to like the area where they do the compos, plenty of worms to eat!

we got some hummers such as band-tailed barbthroat, long billed hermit, violet headed hummingbird, the local endemic charming hummingbird and the abundant Rufous tailed, all from the potterweeds, and heliconias around the gardens.

male charming hummingbird, after rufous tailed, the most common hummingbird of the trip.

male charming hummingbird, after rufous tailed, the most common hummingbird of the trip.

By 6:40 am the fog finally cleared out, and allowed views to the canopy of the trees, a small passing mixed flock produced red legged and shining honeycreepers, buff-throated saltator, golden hooded tanager, spot crowned euphonia, and finally! one of our targets, white-vented euphonia, although views were distant through the scope the white vent was clearly seen.

Just before breakfast we walked for 50 meters into the ocelot trail (entering behind the cabins, not by the riverbed trail-area), and were lucky to get good views of a pair of gray-chested doves, and then, at the first creek we got a quick look of the hard-to-see scaly-breasted wren!

As we walked back for breakfast a crested guan was awaiting for us, this was just the start of an excellent day!

Pond in front of the reception area, good for gray-cowled wood-rail, we even glimpsed a green kingfisher.

Pond in front of the reception area, good for gray-cowled wood-rail, we even glimpsed a green kingfisher.

After an excellent breakfast (food is always good here at Esquinas ) we walked to the Riverbed trail, we checked the small river hoping for the rare agami heron, we soon got red-capped manakin, band tailed barbthroat, a pair of scarlet-rumped caciques making their nest, some tropical gnatcatchers and wedge billed woodcreeper. After searching the lagoon area for the agami which we had to give up, it had not been reported lately here so time to flip the page, as we entered the River bed trail we luckily found a good mixed flock led by one one of the must-see targets to anyone who comes  birding Esquinas rainforest lodge, i.e black-cheeked ant-tanager. Black striped woodcreeper allowed clear views, various white shoulder tanagers, then the anttanagers, then for our surprise a stripe-breasted woodhaunter let Malcom and I see it well, which we then worked hard to ensure Eleanor would see it too, and she did later! Very excited to see it as I had only seen it near Esquipulas where I bird regularly, a place called Quebrada Arroyo but that’s another story.

first few meters of the riverbed trail

first few meters of the riverbed trail

We got good view of this male rufous-winged woodpecker, later Malcom and Eleanor found it's nest!

We got good view of this male rufous-winged woodpecker, later Malcom and Eleanor found it’s nest!

Female great curassow

Female great curassow

 

poor picture of the black cheeked ant-tanager

poor picture of the black cheeked ant-tanager

As we continued enjoying this flock we got rufous-winged woodpecker, and just after that a red-rumped woodpecker, 2 more targets checked!

After that bird frenzy we continued our walk with good sightings such as Bairds trogon, cocoa woodcreeper, ruddy quail-dove, yellow throated toucan and more, time flew by, we earned our lunch!

Male Baird's trogon, a target specie for this region, endemic to CR and Pa.

Male Baird’s trogon, a target specie for this region, endemic to CR and Pa.

After lunch and a short break we went back to the riverbed in hopes to see streaked-chested antpitta or a tinamou, as part of this trail is fairly flat and allows for good views of the forest floor, however it was not our luck, we then covered part of the trocha trail and it was a bit slow and the hilly terrain made birding a bit difficult.

Yellow-throated toucan (formerly known as black mandibled T)

Yellow-throated toucan (formerly known as black mandibled T)

how do you like my bracelet?

how do you like my bracelet?

From all of the trails here at Esquinas, the best for birds are the Riverbed and the bird trail due to it’s flatter terrain and and width, the last one unfortunately is closed as the river damaged a very good portion, I didnt feel like there were plans to repair it unfortunately.

The other trails such as the waterfall and particularly the ocelot trail are productive too but notice it is hilly and the lack of steps could be a limiting, highly suggested for rufous piha, scaly breasted wren, bairds trogon, and I am sure one or two forest-interior raptors.
Arter dinner we trieded some owls again, no luck but did heard a striped cuckoo calling, it was interesting to hear it call this late! After that and seeing some common pauraques it was bed time.

Map to Esquinas rainforest trails

Map to Esquinas rainforest trails

 

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Las cruses and Esquinas Rainforest lodge birding trip report; Part 3

On out third day, we went very early into the jungle trail (5:00am), the entrance near the soccer field as we had heard mottled owl at night, this time we heard the bird very close to us but despite our efforts we could not see it, too close but too far! Also heard distant calls of collared forest falcon.

As light made it through the forest we got some of the birds we had seen, with excellent look of buff-throated foliage gleaner, Scale-crested pygmy tyrant, crowned woodnymph, striped throated hermit, and various species more.

Lesson's motmot, formerly called blue crowned motmot

Lesson’s motmots, formerly called blue crowned motmot, common both at the feeders and grounds around Wilson’s.

After breakfast (served from 6:30am to 7:30am) we drove to the airport and San Joaquin March, both known as spots for bran-colored flycatcher, chiriqui yellowthroat (former masked YT) and Wattled Jacana (the last one had not been reported for quite a while) on the drive we got tropical mockingbird thanks to Malcom, a group of fiery-billed aracaries (only site we actually saw this somewhat common endemic specie), once at the lagoon across for the San Vito airport we got our first giant cowbirds (it was about time they showed up!) among the several birds seen here we got purple gallinule, common gallinule, northern jacana, gray-cowled woodrail (former gray necked w.r) and excellent views of mourning warbler, but no bran colored flycatcher nor yellowthorat. We drove to the San Joaquin Marsh, where we only got blue winged teals and black-bellied whistling duck, various herons, our first yellow-bellied seedeaters of the trip and the best looks of isthmian wren (this unpronounceable name is a split from plain wren, endemic to south CR and West Panama).

The San Joaquin Marsh is known as the spot for masked duck which is reported a few times a year here. Located east of San Vito, about 5 min/3-4km from the town, past the airport on the left hand side as you drive towards Sabalito. Look for the crested oropendola nesting colony across from the marsh, which we saw, dealing with some giant cowbirds who were trying to parasite the nests.

Once we returned for lunch, a beautiful ornate hawk eagle was soaring and calling, it allowed good (distant views) RUMORS are that David A Sibley was visiting the area same time we were here, at a property across from the Wilson's botanical gardens. The rumor says our black hawk eagle was heading that way and even perched for them to see! (maybe lured with mp3?) but it is just rumors after all

Once we returned for lunch, a beautiful ornate hawk-eagle was soaring and calling above us heading east, it allowed good (distant views) RUMORS from other birders we met are that David A Sibley was visiting the area same time we were here, at a property across from the Wilson’s botanical gardens. The rumor says our black hawk eagle was heading that way and even perched for them to see! (maybe lured with mp3?) but it is just rumors after all. Photo for illustrative purpose.

After lunch we left for Esquinas rainforest lodge with several stops that produced some birds we only saw once, including a least grebe (between San Vito and Ciudad Neily), and little tinamou near Rio Claro. As we arrived to Esquinas we heard a lesser elaenia which called from the forest edge near the reception area, unfortunately a heavy rain ruined our plans, but in the good side it helped with the heat for a good, fresh night!

Least grebe

Least grebe

I spent my first night at the Trompestation (tropical station) while Malcom and Eleanor stayed at Esquinas, after dinner we did some owling by car as I knew some spots for striped owl and were told of one for black and white owl by Fernando and Julia from Esquinas, however we missed those but luckily got tropical screech-owl! not to forget the super-common pauraques!

 

Tropical screech owl, last bird of the day!

Tropical screech owl, last bird of the day!

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Las cruses and Esquinas Rainforest lodge birding trip report; Part 1.

Las Cruses biological station is one of the three research stations administrated by the OTS, protecting 326 hectares of both primary and secondary forest, to many the site is also known for hosting the Wilson’s botanical garden. Located in San Vito de Coto Brus (South east CR), part of the southern pacific intermontane valleys with elevations ranging from 1400 to 1000 meters.

Between January 13th to the 18th I had the pleasure to guide a wonderful couple from Portlan, Maine USA. Miss Eleanor Goldberg and MR Malcom Burson , excellent, experienced birders with various trips to the tropics of Costa Rica, so we had lots of fun!

Our day began on January 13th when we met at Tiskita lodge, Located at Pavones (Punta Burica, southern most corner of CR!) at 7 a.m. and we soon put on some birds, with most common garden species such as Philadelphia lirio Baltimore Oriole, Great Crested Flycatcher, white necked jacobin, summer tanager, and more. Right after breakfast we departed on was started to be a great trip!

Air strip at Pavones near Tiskita, read the sign (NO parking, danger airplanes!)

Air strip at Pavones near Tiskita, read the sign (NO parking, danger airplanes!)

 

Pavones beach, a quick stop here produced royal and sandwich terns, semipalmated, wilson's and black bellied plovers, and more.

Pavones beach, a quick stop here produced royal and sandwich terns, semipalmated, wilson’s and black bellied plovers, and more.

After some stops along the road to get some birds (the highlight of the road trip was lesser goldfinch as we only saw it once as you drive up the road from V. Neily) and lunch we got to Las Cruses OTS /Wilson’s botanical garden and started birding on the gardens right away! We then got birds such as speckled tanagers, silver throated tanagers, lesson’s motmots, and several other common birds that attend to the feeders/gardens. The highlight of the day was a beautiful male golden-olive woodpecker, I was particularly glad for this one as Malcom and Eleanor are fond of woodpeckers! The busiest site was down towards the tree-fern hill, a good mixed flock passed including tropical parula, slate throated redstar, olive striped flycatcher, olivaceous woodcreeper, spot crowned euphonia, riverside wren, orange billed nightingale-thrush and more, a good start indeed! After dinner we went to look for owls although we were only able to hear a distant mottled owl.

A male golden olive woodpecker seen below the reception area, towards the tree fern hill.

A male golden olive woodpecker seen below the reception area, towards the tree fern hill.

from left to right: Clay colored thrush, fem Cherrie's tanager, male spot crowned euphonia and silver throated tanager.

from left to right: Clay colored thrush, fem Cherrie’s tanager, male spot crowned euphonia and silver throated tanager.

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Birding Manuel Antonio; Esquipulas.

Several times before I had stated that Esquipulas is the best spot for bird-watching in Manuel Antonio. Although the park itself has however some good birds if birded early in the morning, taking the right trails can yield some quality birds. Currently a perch of black and white owls on the waterfall trail, some perches for lesser nighthawks and the current best; common potoo! nesting on the sloth trail! may make your visit to this park enjoyable!

Common potoo, courtesy of Manuel Cabalceta. Manuel Antonio birds

Common potoo, courtesy of Manuel Cabalceta.

Black and white owl, by Michael Araya

On the other hand other good birds easily seen here at MA NP are black bellied wren, riverside wren, long billed gnatwren, fiery billed aracary. Currently slaty-tailed trogon and black-throated trogon had been actively calling from the waterfall trail  and many others.

Long billed gnatwren. Foto taken in Puriscal, for illustration purposes.

   The elevated boardwalk on the sloth trail is quite good for black bellied wren, also for long billed gnatwren and blue crowned manakin.

 

But, I am not going to lie at you! the park itself is busy and could produce a small list if compared with other great parks such as Carara, great for general wildlife though, such as sloths, monkeys, frogs, snakes etc, a great option for the birder visiting this area with family or non-birding friends, if that is your case then Esquipulas is the place to go for birds, away from the crowds!

Thanks to it’s location on the foothills of the mountains near Manuel Antonio/Quepos region, this is the best site for birding, often including species not expected for the locality such as rufous-breasted wren, montezuma and chestnut headed oropendolas. A good morning here should produce any where between 60 species to 100 species, depending on the weather conditions as well as fruiting/flowering trees and of course! how good your eyes are to spot and ID those tropical beauties!

The road at Esquipulas

Chestnut headed oropendola

 

 

the very common roadside hawk.

Esquipulas is home to common species and various endemics but also to some highlights for many visiting Costa Rica such as white crested-coquette, turquoise cotinga, and great for raptors such as king vulture, white hawks, barred hawk and others.

This beautiful male turquoise cotinga was seen on my last birding tour to Esquipulas with Jennifer Timmer, not 1 but a pair!

This beautiful male turquoise cotinga was seen on my last birding tour to Esquipulas with Jennifer Timmer, not 1 but a pair!

 

Follow this link to eBird for the list of the birds reported for Esquipulas  http://ebird.org/ebird/hotspot/L1855002 or contact me for a checklist I have made which contains all the sightings reported here since the last 9 years

I hope to post about other small spots where you can get some good birds if you are bird-watching in Quepos, stay tuned!

 

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