Category Archives: Birds
Paint-billed crake is, like most crakes, a secretive bird that dwells on thick grass rarely leaving concealment.
This particular crake has several reports on the Caribbean lowlands, including Sarapiquí area, Medio queso (Los Chiles) Turrialba near Rancho Naturalista, and Coto 47 near Villa Neily on the Pacific side.
Throughout the month of August, a birder friend Daniel Hernandez has reported repetitive sightings near Villa Neily, this located in the south Pacific of Costa Rica, at a site known as La Papayera road (the road that heads south of the hospital).
Thanks to his offers and helpful directions I finally decided to give it a try, this time accompanied by my wife Karina and our son Edrian.
We got to the spot little before 5:00am, what a wonderful moment did we enjoy with the different bird songs triggered by the sunrise! black-striped sparrow, streaked saltator, cherrie’s tanager and pale-breasted spinetail were among the first birds to sing.
After little less two hours finally the first crake responded to play back, this is the first part, the harder part was coming which is to actually get to see it! at about 7:20 I got the first glimpse of its back, although we needed better looks, something hard to achieve when you are holding a baby and trying to see a crake! Fortunately after 15 minutes we both finally got to see the bird much better, including one individual quickly crossing the road.
What a treat to see this beautiful crake!
During our time there we got several birds including streaked saltator, pale-breasted spinetail, several migrating barn, and cliff swallows (accompanied by southern rough-winged swallows and gray-breasted martins) tricolored munias, large flocks of dickcissels, blue-headed parrots, brown-throated parakeets, a Savannah hawk and ruddy-breasted seedeater were among the favorites.
This road is quite birdy, and it should be visited if birding near sites such as Esquinas rainforest lodge, the road is known to produce other southern specialties such as sapphire-throated hummingbird, brown-throated parakeet, savannah and gray-lined hawks, ruddy breasted and yellow bellied seedeaters, and more.
Later we went to quickly explore the rest of the marshes at Coto 47, the place is huge and we were fortunate to finds a wattled Jacana not too far off the road near Colorado River, I had seen this specie in Panama on my 2 trips there, but only seen it in CR once only almost a year ago here at Coto 47.
Our quick morning visit produced an excellent lifer and some species for the annual list, I wonder now what would take us back to Coto 47, special thanks to Daniel Hernandez who not only knows where the good birds are at but is so kind to share his finds!
Rancho Naturalista is unquestionably one of the best (if not the best) birding lodges in Costa Rica, not only loaded with a large variety of species, many of them specific targets when visiting CR, but also offers the visitors great lodging and top notch service.
After birding Tapanti we went to Rancho and spent the morning there, the gardens here are known to produce snowcap and black-crested coquettes with relative ease, sure enough after we parked our car we got our first 2 targets! While having our improvised breakfast we enjoyed the birds around the gardens such as black-headed saltator, various tanagers, green thorntail, keel-billed toucan, long-billed gnatwren and many more.
Time to enter the forest, one of the things you must do here at Rancho is visit the moth light, which above the many birds that attend to feed here the highlight is Tawny-chested Flycatcher, until recently considered endemic to CR and Eastern Nicaragua, now apparently rare in eastern Honduras.
After enjoying some minutes here we started to walk the trails, soon after we entered we were fortunate to find a mixed flock, golden-crowned warblers, tawny-chested flycatcher, slaty antwrens, red-throated antwren, woodcreepers, slaty-capped flycatchers, common Chlorospingus various Tanagers and honeycreepers, but perhaps the best bird was a female Cerulian Warbler which allowed good views for some seconds (it’s been 2 years since my last cerulian!).
Then at the forest hummingbird feeder we got green-crowned brilliant, crowned woodnymph, green, and stripe-throated hermits, along with collared aracary, striped breasted wren and olive-backed euphonia.
Andres and I covered some of the trails here hoping to get some audio and were able to get clear (more and less) audio recording of the scaly-breasted wren (AKA southern nightingale-wren) a specie you hear quite often but to see is a whole different story!
After some hours the activity slowed down, it was our time to leave and check other sites before returning back home, a stop at Hotel Casa Turire is a must as it allows access to La Angostura water reservoir, here we got at least 4 snail kites (juveniles and adults) a limpkin, along with the typical birds of this habitat.
At the end of the trip my favorite bird was rufous-rumped antwren, and my favorite phrase from Andres was “How fortunate we are to catch the sunrise birding with friends instead of catching the sunrise drinking at a bar, with no money, and issues”.
Aplomado Falcon (falco femoralis) is a casual to rare raptor that has been reported several times on the last few decades, with most sightings between 2010 to 2017.
An individual has been reported lately in Coris, Cartago and it had been the best report of the month so far with many birders coming to see and many obtaining great shots of this beautiful falcon.
On September I had the chance to join some birding friends Karen Castillo, Andres Chaves (and son Eidel Chaves) and Oscar Herrera to search this species. We left Manuel Antonio at 1:45am and did some stops on the Talamanca/cerro de La Muerte mountain range to search for the rare Unspotted saw-whet owl which we did NOT see unfortunately but got at least one individual respond to our play back.
Once in Cartago we looked for the Falcon, which after 30 minutes or so Andres spotted hunting pigeons on a field right across Kimberly-Clark (see this ebird list for map details). The bird perches on the trees about 100 meters away from the fence, we failed obtaining permission to enter the field so we had to settle with distant (good though) views.
Other birds we did enjoy were some killdeers and mourning doves, which to North Americans might not be that special they sure are to Costa Rican birders!
After the joy of getting a new bird added to the life list we then went to look for sedge wren, a specie with an extremely reduced range, and unfortunately it’s habitat is disappearing rapidly, some say this is perhaps one of the species that might soon disappear if serious conservation efforts are not taken.
Once on site (a place I had seen it before thanks to a friend’s recommendation) we quickly got the bird, but better yet it allowed recordings, pictures etc! best view I had ever had of this wren.
After that we left for Tapantí National park where we would spend the rest of the day, activity was a very slow with some of the common birds showing up such as spotted woodcreeper, white bellied emerald, chlorospingus, bay headed tanagers and more, until we were lucky to find a mixed flock! (that is the typical way of birding here on the caribbean middle elevation, you just hope for a mixed flock) of all of the birds we saw on this flock the highlights were white-winged tanager (which I only had seen at Panama), Louisiana waterthrush, black and white warbler (good news, migration is starting!) and the best of the day to me; Rufous-rumped antwren.
Tapanti is certainly a great site, and it can sometimes produce good surprises, often is good to combine with a visit to Rancho Naturalista and explore some of the hotspots nearby….. which we did of course.
As usual, every July, the AOU publishes the AUK magazine, I am always keen to read it as the July supplement often comes loaded with interesting taxonomic changes, this year is not the exception. Below you will find a short summary on the CR species affected by this changes, this includes splits, new common/english names, new families and sub families.
Blue-winged and cinnamon teals, as well as northern Shoveler. Formerly in the genus Anas, now Spatula.
American wigeon, formerly in the Genus Anas, now Mareca.
Magnificent hummingbird (Eugenes fulgens) splits in 2, Rivoli’s hummingbird from South Arizona, New Mexico and Texas to North east Nicaragua. For Costa Rica: Talamanca hummingbird (E. spectabilis) which is endemic to CR and Pa.
Emerald toucanet Aulacorhynchus prasinus: Split in 2, for CR Aulacorhynchus prasinus obtains a new common english name; Northern Emerald-Toucanet.
Prevost’s ground-sparrow splits in 2; White faced ground-sparrow M.biarcuata from MX, Guatemala, Salvador and Honduras. Costa Rica gets a new endemic Melozone cabanisi; Cabanis’s Ground-Sparrow.
Red breasted blackbird AKA red-breasted meadowlark (Sturnella militaris) Changes to genus Leistes. English name is Red-breasted Blackbird. L. militaris
Rhodinocinclidae; Rosy thrush-tanager
Passerellidae: members of the family Emberizidae (which disappears from CR) are now placed here, e.g finches, brush-finches, sparrows etc. Best known as New world sparrows.
Zeledoniidae: Includes one specie, wrenthrush (zeledonia) which was placed in Parulidae)
Icteriidae: this new family includes Yellow breasted chat, which was formerly placed on Parulidae.
Mitrospingidae: This new family includes Dusky-faced tanager which was placed in Thraupidae.
Subfamilies: see page 18 of the AUK supplement.
April 9th, 5:45am up and ready!
Since breakfast was served at 7:30am I decided to bird the loop that goes around the gardens again and checked the lagoons, this time I got lucky with a sungreebe sitting on a log for a few seconds. I basically did the loop around the main pond and got essentially the same birds as yesterday, red-winged blackbird, canebrake wren, tanagers, white riged fc, green ibises, collared aracary, keel billed toucan, nothing I had not seen yesterday except for cinnamon becard and the sungreebe. After breakfast our plan was to bird the forest trail, although our plan was messed by the rain (remember it is quite rainy here) after some minutes the rain stopped and I managed to walk into the forest, it was very slow and all the activity was basically outside in the gardens, I felt there was no point to continue and instead went out to Laguna Lagarto lodge, another site I needed to visit.
An important note is that the google marker for laguna is incorrect, there are 3 markers indeed, Laguna is about 4km past Maquenque here is the real marker.
Once we got to Laguna for my surprise I found a friend there leading a trip, Herman Venegas, who after a quick hello pointed a central American pigmy-owl! And bam! Another bird added to the life list!
I was fortunate to see mr Alex Vargas (whom I met the night before at Maquenque) a renowned Costa Rican photographer/photography instructor residing in Indonesia. A special thanks to both Herman and Alex who shared their knowledge and time with me.
Once here basically I checked the feeders, and I now see how the Costa Rican photographer community get those incredible shots of keel billed toucans and brown hooded parrots!
There are boats on site so one can paddle along the lagoons in search for agami heron which is seen here often, as well as for those common species associated to this habitat.
The lodging here is more basic than that of Maquenque lodge, it is also much more affordable than Maquenque, nonetheless the rooms are nice and clean, food is good and reasonably priced, the food at Maquenque is really good but be ready to pay little more too. In terms of birding and photography opportunities Laguna Lagarto is unquestionable the best! birds, feeders, trails, guides, hides etc.
Back in Maquenque, the night was quite active, heard and saw lots of common (super common) pauraques, a distant common potoo and a nearby great potoo about 30-40 yards from our cabin.
The next morning (April 10th) I did manage to bird the trails at Maquenque for an hour before leaving and had fun seeing great tinamous, olive-backed euphonia, crowned woodnymph, a surprise gray catbird which I had not seen in a while and olive crowned yellowthroat (recording below). The trails are nice and clean, and the forest is a bit mature so expect slow birding as it is typical of forest interior, good chances for red-capped manakin, some antbirds, some woodcreepers and more.
Striped cuckoo, last bird of the trip.Contacts: https://maquenqueecolodge.com/es/inicio/
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.