Category Archives: Birds
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.
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.
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!
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!
CBC (Christmas bird counts) are annual bird census practiced by volunteer birders and administrated by Audubon society. The data collected during this events is used for scientific purpose so bird population in different sites can be studied.
Another great thing of CBC is that not only you get to see excellent birds or even learn from those advanced or even beginning birders who also volunteer but you get to catch up with friends from other regions of the country or even make new friends!
This year I only had the opportunity to participate in 2 of them, although both in opposite sides of the country they have one thing in common, both offer the best lowland birding experience in the country, i.e Carara NP (Central Pacific bird count) at the Pacific side and OTS La Selva in the caribbean lowlands.
Both Bird-counts were dedicated to the memory of an excellent birder, guide, artist and my closest friend Roy Orozco (RIP).
Carara is located on the central Pacific side, with more than 400 species recorded on the historical CBC records (Ten counts celebrated). Birding Carara is always very productive as it is located on a transitional zone where the dry forest meets the tropical rain forest, therefore it is always exciting to go there no matter how many times I had guided there! For the CBC on December 15th our group was made of 5, Karen Castillo, Kassandra Villalobos, Andres Martinez, Oscar Herrera and myself and were in charge of the Lagoon trail and the Limonal road.
The lagoon trail is located is located 1.5km north of the park headquarters and offers great birds, mostly good for Furnarids, orange collared manakin (might be the best site at the park for this sp) Antbirds/Antshrikes/Antwrens, wrens, trogons, motmots, king vulture, macaws as the main must-sees of this trail.
The lagoon trail is closed from September to November as it floods, it is best birded from late December to April. Although consider that when it is semi-flooded is good for boat-billed heron. Boots are for rent with the local guides.
The limonal road, our second half of the day is little north of the Cerro lodge entrance, good for dry-forest species although birders staying at Cerro lodge might find Cerro road more productive, despite that we got about 84 species for the afternoon including some common spp such as cinnamon hummingbird, nutting’s flycatcher and white fronted parrot that one does not get commonly at the lagoon trail, King vulture was the highlight certainly.
Carara’s most emblematic bird, scarlet macaws.
La Selva Biological station, located in the Caribbean lowlands is Carara´s counterpart, birding La Selva is always impressive as must birders would agree, it is perhaps the best, accessible lowland birding in the country! The CBC here has been done since 1985, making this the oldest, and most constant birdcount in the neotropics with more than 5000 species in the records.
Our team lead by Jimmy Trejos, was sent to the Sendero Tres Rios 2750 STR and Sendero rivereño SR, the STR is a well done cement trail which allows to walk silently (so are most trails at La Selva), the habitat we were on ranged from advanced secondary forest, primary forest, Scrub, rivers, creeks, swamp inside the forest, it has it all!
The soonest the sun came out it was a madness! we soon got some of the common caribbean species such as red-throated ant-tanager, black-crowned antshrike, black capped pygmy-tyrant (which is fairly common here), honeycreepers, and so, so much more. The highlight of our morning was perhaps seeing 2 sunbitterns, calling quietly from the swamp, allowing good looks and even audio recordings!
Great green macaws are the rarest species of the 2 that occur in CR.
I did have a great experience comparing both sites on these events and can tell I love both sites, clearly La Selva has a much more developed trail system which gives you tons of access to so many trails it is very hard to actually get to bird them all! I must thank the organizers for allowing me to participate and hope it is not the last time I get to volunteer on these bird-counts.
Rancho Naturalista as is known is one of Costa Rica’s best birding lodges, not only the infrastructure itself is nicely design but the birding here is superb and so are the great guides found at Rancho such as Harry Barnard, Herman Venegas, Luis Murillo and others.
Well, if Rancho was not great enough already, one of the 2 rarest hummingbirds in Costa Rica re-appears at Rancho, Rufous-crested coquette! According Skutch and Stiles (1989) […known from 4 captured birds in October on different years 1892-1906…]yes! little more than a century ago!
On October 30th one bird was noticed by a local guide; Ludovico Vega and photographed by a birder Beltran Lara (know in Facebook by his pseudonym Astro Natura) who generated an excellent alarm in all aspects, needless to say this caused what many might consider the best twitch in MANY years!
One thing that I must detach is that the birding ethics here at Rancho are second to no one, and while the owners Miss Kathy, mr John, and Lisa Erb are extremely wonderful and welcoming they make sure the birds are not stressed.
After some attempts I finally made it to Rancho on Nov 2nd to see this fantastic bird, we literally got out of the car at 2:35pm and Harry pointed the bird immediately! how pleasurable after a 5.5hr drive! I must thank Miss Kathy and mr John, Lisa Erb for being so generous and welcoming, to Harry Barnard for taking the time to bird with me on the trails!
I am not a photographer myself, but sure one enjoys taking photos of the hummers here at Rancho, the site is known as one of the best places in the entire country for Snowcap, and well, as of today the only site you could see all 3 CR coquettes i.e. white-crested, black-crested and rufous-crested coquettes! I truly enjoyed birding Rancho Naturalista once again, the trails are good and very productive.
The south Pacific is always an exciting place to bird-watch, many of the new Panamanian invasive species are often recorded here first, and some expected species are looked for here by many! Would crimson-backed tanager be first reported near San Vito or near Villa Neily? Time will tell.
On this time I went back since a wattled jacana was seen by some CR well known photographers but with no details of location. Coto 47, La Gamba and San Vito are known as the best 3 sites in the country for this south American bird, luckily a friend birder who lives at Coto 47; Daniel Hernandez knew where the bird was, I must thank him because without him I would had missed it.
Coto 47 is deforested and instead it’s vast lowland is planted with African palm oil, rice and some cattle pastures, tus creating plenty of flooded areas which favors many aquatic species and those associated with canebrake, scrub, rivers, canals, etc. Species such as Savanna hawk, striated heron (see my post), wattled jacana, lesser yellow headed vulture, yellow-headed blackbird (see post) and many more had been seen here. On Oct 8th 2016 we tried in the afternoon but the rainy weather did not allow us to do much, only highlights were white-faced ibis and 2 Savanna hawks. No jacana then but the temptation did not let me leave, we stayed at a cheap hotel and went back again the morning of the 9th with our friend Daniel. After searching we finally got back to where it was seen before and there it was! Finally a bird my wife, and my friend Roy Orozco (RIP) searched for so many times for our CR list! So many memories came to us of my friend while we saw it, hard to believe its has been only 2 months since he left.
This is the place to find wattled Jacana in Costa Rica, or at least the most recent sightings are these, here are the coordinates directly to the site we saw it 8.519337, -82.992536, once you get there the bird hangs out in the swap behind the warehouse at the Y junction, or the one on the left and/or in front of, as it kept moving to those sites during the time we were photographing it.
As is known by many, Coto has great birds to offer, Daniel, the local expert took us to some spots where he knew it was productive. Private road along a canal, no name to this site unfortunately but do have the coordinates 8.555414, -82.977125: The canals were bordered by Inga trees (Inga vera?) full of flowers and yes its was birdy! I got good picture of the uncommon red-rumped woodpecker, We got rusty margined flycatchers, sapphire throated hummingbird, various FC and more. After that We went to a sector known as Las Pangas where Daniel knew veraguan mango and red-rumped woodpecker would be and this is what we got!
After that, and so we could get a lifer Daniel knew the spot for a gray-lined hawk, a hawk that was split relatively resent from gray hawk, I personally wanted to see the differences myself and can now say that they are certainly noticeable! The gray barring on the head was noticeable while viewing through the spotting scope, the bird seemed longer tailed than I am use to see on gray hawks, giving it a larger look. Legs seemed slightly longer as well.
In resume, from the many times I had gone to both Coto 47 and La Gamba (both sites on single-day trips) I came to realize if you are to choose one that would be Coto 47, except from the birds you can get at Esquinas rainforest lodge you will find most/all southern Pacific specialties here, highly recommended!
Coto 47–Desviación campiña a cangrejo verde, Puntarenas, CR
Oct 9, 2016 7:35 AM – 9:55 AM
Comments: Karina Segura, Daniel Hernández y yo. EL Marcador de este sitio esta justo donde se avisto wattled jacana
Marker on this list is EXACTLY on the site we saw the jacana, and presumably is the same site where it was seen a week ago by others who got great pictures. Seen singly, and we did not find any other individual. Black, body, yellow bill and red shield. Pictures attached
View this checklist online at http://ebird.org/ebird/view/checklist/S31997314
Coto 47–acceso restringido, Puntarenas, CR
Oct 9, 2016 10:45 AM – 11:15 AM
Comments: Daniel Hernandez y yo
View this checklist online at http://ebird.org/ebird/view/checklist/S31997566
Coto 47–Las Pangas, Puntarenas, CR
Oct 9, 2016 11:30 AM – 11:45 AM
View this checklist online at http://ebird.org/ebird/view/checklist/S31997743
Coto 47–finca 41, Puntarenas, CR
Oct 9, 2016 11:55 AM – 12:10 PM
Comments: buscando especificamente al gray lined hawk.
View this checklist online at http://ebird.org/ebird/view/checklist/S31997831
The Southern Pacific lowlands of Costa Rica has a tremendous contrast in habitats, ranging from wetlands such as the Terraba-Sierpe river, mangroves, foothills, the pristine forest at Corcovado National Park (one of the most bio-diverse sites in the country) and Golfo Dulce area, Piedras Blancas National park, etc, but also land devastated by the mono-culture of palm oil, rice fields and even bananas back in the day! However, sites such as Coto 47 are great for some of the newer Panamanian invasive species such as Sapphire-throated hummingbird, wattled jacana, rusty margined flycatcher, Savanna hawk, and in matter of time might surprise birders with one or two new records for the country such as the long-time-waited crimson backed tanager (if it doesn’t show up at San Vito area first!).
The small town of La Gamba is the gateway to the wonderful Esquinas rainforest lodge, an excellent option to stay “in” the forest. The road that leads there produces quality species, on September 7th 2016 my friend Karen and I went to bird this site, and as any time I come here was pleased with the birds seen. The soonest one lives route 1 and drives on the gravel road to La Gamba is a great site for the some what rare red-rumped woodpecker, which I had seen there on other occasions. Various Flycatchers, blue headed parrots, scrub greenlet, tanagers and more where pretty active there.
Now, while rusty margined flycatcher can be seen basically along this road the most reliable site I know is closer to town, once at La Gamba town, take the turn to the right past the school (Notice the MINAE 9KM sign on your right) and drive for about 650 meters, basically right after crossing the second bridge (under construction the day we visited), it had nested here 2 years ago.
We saw about 4 adults and 1 juvenile bird, interestingly juvs looks much social flycatchers but no rusty margins but do have the yellow crown as adult RMFC.
After 2.5hrs we spent on La Gamba we moved to Esquinas lodge, the staff is always welcoming here! we quickly looked for our main target which we got easily; Black cheeked ant-tanager, although it can show up in any trail this time we found 2 with a small mixed flock near the entrance of La Trocha trail, were a pair of great curassows welcomed us!
After that we then moved to Coto 47, south of Villa Neily, here our targets were Savanna hawk, sapphire throated hummingbird and also the Jacana which I have failed at least 5 times already, and had not heard resent report here lately, I wonder…
No hummingbird nor Jacana but we got great looks of the hawk, despite the rainy weather. Located very near the tree on which it nested 2 years ago (First confirmed nest for CR).
This part brought so many memories of the many times I went there with my Friend Roy Orozco in search for these targets, last time we promised we would return to take revenge with the savanna hawk, so this photo is dedicated to the memory of my best friend, I cannot accept the fact he is no longer with us.
Hylophilus is a genus in which formerly 3 species of Costa Rica Vireonids best known as greenlets were in, these are: Lesser greenlet (H. decurtatus), tawny-crowned greenlet (H. ochraceips), and scrub greenlet.
From the greek Hule = woodland, forest and philos = loving. Most species within this genus are known to dwell well inside the forest, often up in the canopy. Nonetheless true Hylophilus species such as Scrub greenlet ironically favors palm oil and banana plantations and scrub, often near water rather than forest interior.
The recent taxonomic changes published by the AOU last July brings in 2 new genus to this family; PACHYSYLVIA and TUNCHIORNIS both new to Vireonidae.
Tawny-crowned greenlet (Hylophilus ochraceiceps). The new scientific name to this sp is now Tunchiornis ochraceiceps and Lesser greenlet (H. decurtatus) which not only has its genus changed but also a slight moddification on the spelling of the species, now called Pachysylvia decurtata.
The above greenlets are common, often seen on mixed flocks moving through the forest canopy (lesser greenlet) or middle to lower levels (Tawny crowned greenlet), often noisy and easily seen.
Scrub greenlet is less active, often very vocal, sitting on middle level of scrub or small tree, it’s song is a bit loud for a small vireonid which is convenient to locate it when at the field.
Although reported only one time in Nicaragua as an accidental (?) This species occurs from SE Costa Rica south to Panama, Colombia and Venezuela.
Here near Manuel Antonio I have personally seen it in sites such as La Gallega River, Savegre, Matapalo and others but the best and most reliable site to look for it is El Rey Marshes, where is seen most times. Below a link to a recording of its songs to help getting familiar with it!
Eurasian collared-dove is a common introduced specie to Bahamas and and quickly spreading throughout the USA though FL, as of now, based on eBird maps is pretty much all over NA. This specie was reported on Feb 20th by Jeff Tingle on what is thought to be the first sighting (at least first with photographic proof) on a site called finca 7th, a palm oil plantation quite far to the east of Palmar Sur, this in the south pacific.
Yesterday, Jim Zook was able to photograph an individual near Quepos, on a finca called Roncador, thanks to his report and kind directions we were able to get this dove on the same site, sitting on an electricity post.
Here is the link to the original eBird report, there shows the map to the site.
Wilsons Botanical Garden is located 300km southeast of the capital of San Jose, in the county of Coto Brus, at an approximate elevation of 1200 meters above sea level. Run by the Organization for tropical studies OTS.
Approximately more than 1000 genera and more than 200 families form part of the unique collection that are part of the Las Cruces Biological Station/Wilson’s botanical garden as well as 400 + bird species, this is well known as one of the best places to find Ruddy foliage-gleaner, a species that has a very limited range in the southeast corner of Costa Rica.
Some days ago my wife and I went to bird the forest at Las Cruces and stayed at the OTS rooms which were very nice, with the benefit of being able to bird the reserve as early as possibly, otherwise those staying else where are limited to The normal operation hours; 7:00am to 5:00pm. Rates: US$65 per person, 3 meals included. Otherwise if visiting for the day an admission fee will be charged at the front desk.
We took the Rio Java trail as it is said were ruddy foliage gleaner has been seen more often, and we got lucky! we walked to the first bridge, approx 200 meters from where you enter the forest and soon got a nice mixed flock, plain antvireo, slaty antwren, brown billed scythebill were highlights, this joined by collared trogon, buff thorated foliage-gleaner, and many others, but just when we thought we had seen them all a ruddy foliage-gleaner called from the undergrowth, and oh boy it knows how to hide! after trying him for a while we got descent looks.
Below a recording I got of it:
The trail is really nice, as it is typical of this type of forest, most comes in mixed flocks lead by tawny-crowned greenlet, red-crowned ant-tanager and buff-throated foliage gleaner, due to the habitat the amount of birds seen might be small if compared to the gardens which can produce much bigger lists than the forest trails, this is great for tanagers, hummers, orioles, flycatchers and parrots, be in the look out for crested oropendola as it is said to visit the palms in the afternoon.
Part 1 here.
Part 2 here.
On December 7th we visited Medio Queso, this is located at Los Chiles near the Nicaraguan boarder, northern zone of CR. This site in the last few years has proved to be quite good for some species that most people go to Caño Negro for, avoiding you the the bad gravel road that leads to Caño Negro. Jabiru is seen here regularly, as well as some quality bird such as pinnated bittern, spotted rail, yellow breasted crake, yellow headed vulture and other regional specialties. Unlike Caño Negro, there is only one boating option, MR Rafa, who owns a very comfortable boat and knows the local birds very well. The fee is approximately ¢5000 which is about $10 per person per hour. I suggest to reserve in advance, as of what I understand mr Rafa does not speaks fluent english but knows the birds by english name! His cellphone is 8879-3929 as is best to call and arrange with at least a day in advance.
The night before we stayed at Los Chiles, we used the Wilson’s Hotel Tulipan, which in my opinion is the best option for hotels (from the roughly 4 or 5 there are here! Rate was ¢26000 / $52 per couple/per room including breakfast, so cheap!, rooms were extremely clean, good A/C, hot water (like if you need hot water at Los Chiles!) http://www.hoteleswilson.com/index.php/tulipan
The canals, rainy season has almost ended, but in March when the water level get lower is when Medio Queso is at its best, as most of those incredibly hidden birds such as yellow breasted crake or spotted rail leave concealment to forage near the edge of the canal.
As it shows, the boat is spacious and comfortable, BUT, there is no roof, therefore come prepared to be on the sun for some hours.
On the trip we got basically all the common herons/egrets, and we basically were focused on those local specialties for either our annual list or life list, we got Nicaraguan seed-finch right away, as well as olive-crown yellowthroat, and after some intense search 2 pinnated bitterns! all for the annual list, then we got good looks at Nicaraguan grackles, funny that one gets excited about grackles! but hey! this an endemic specie found in Nicaragua and northern Costa Rica, and above all it was a lifer!
Here a recording I was able to get, hosted on xeno-canto:
Directions: Notice that there is a small village called Medio Queso, this has no relation to the wetlands, it happened to us some years ago using a GPS and it sent us to the wrong site, to get to the wetlands drive towards Los Chiles airport, once you have the airport on your right as you drive to Los Chiles take the right entrance just at the corner of the airport and follow this gravel road for approx 1.5 mile, it ends right at place you take the boat. A note to Costa Ricans, this is the famous trocha fronteriza, a work of art made by our former president Laura Ch. (sarcasm).