Category Archives: field trips
Between July 16th to July 18th I had the opportunity to lead a birding trip to the southern Pacific side of Costa Rica to my friends Jim and Gretchen Peterson whom I have had 4-5 consecutive years the opportunity to be their guide while during their last birding trips to Costa Rica.
After three years of trying Scaly-breasted Wren unsuccessfully we decided to try luck at Esquinas Rain-forest Lodge. My friends picked me up from Quepos and so another adventure began. We did some stops along the way, including El Rey Marsh, where in just 20-30 minutes we got some of the common birds nevertheless the highlight was no doubt American Pygmy-Kingfisher.
A long drive we saw Gray and Roadside Hawks as well as a Double-toothed Kite perched on a wire (a bit unusual). We got to the town of La Gamba and began our Birding; our first birds included Red-crowned Woodpecker which is very common naturally, some of the typical Seedeaters, then Blue-headed Parrots flew over providing us some quick -poor views but fortunately later on we were able to spot some perched. As we continued we found Rusty-margined Flycatcher, one of our targets, then we stopped at River right before getting to Esquinas and we got entertained seeing a Band-tailed Barbthroat and then one of our targets showed up, Red-rumped Woodpecker, we began to run out of targets so soon! https://www.xeno-canto.org/426104 recording of the BTBT
After dinner we went to do some owling which produced two owls; Black-and-white Owl and Tropical Screech-Owl, unfortunately we missed Striped Owl and potoos.
The next morning and with big expectations we decided to take the riverbed trail, soon enough we got one of the 2 main targets for Jim, Striped Woodhunter along with some of the common species including Great Curassow, Black striped and orange-billed sparrows, Bairds Trogon, the Costa Rica only endemic Black-cheeked Anttanager and others.
After breakfast we had to focus on our next target; Scaly-breasted Wren, and taking Julia’s recommendation we took the waterfall trail looping back via la Fila trail and finally we were able to hear 1 singing! as we approached to its location our sudden moves and a bad maneuver from my part flushed the wren away, three years of effort flushed away in front of her eyes!! As rain came upon us we had to continue down the Fila trail and we found a small mixed flock feeding with an army ant swarm, after seeing a couple of Tawny-winged Woodcreepers, Bicolored antbirds, gray-headed Tanager, Lesson’s Motmot, another Scaly-breasted Wren sang so we knew we were back in the game!. After less than a minute of play back that little brown and elusive wren flew in front of us, walked up for 3 to 4 feet and began to call in front of us, great success!
On our Next day, after a short birding session and a good breakfast we left for Coto 47, a marshland south of Esquinas, not far from the Panama border. Although first we stopped at the Hospital road we got Sapphire-throated Hummingbird as the highlight. Later not one but three Gray-lined Hawks! We were just missing the famous Savanna hawk at this point.
Later we went to the sector known as Las Pangas, the flooded conditions where ideal for the thousands of Black-bellied Whistling-Ducks, hundreds of Northern Jacanas, however, we had to be so lucky to stop at a spot, where after some scanning I was able to spot a pair of Masked ducks! a new species to my life list, and new for Gretchen and Jim’s CR list! A duck I had tried many times at San Vito in the past!
After that we then continued to another spot for more Red-rumped Woodpecker, unfortunately, given the floods suffered in the area some months ago the habitat is gone, nevertheless we got many Crested Oropendolas and a pair of Brown-throated Parakeet. After this, we checked another marsh and got a good glossy ibis, and right after that a bird that had characteristics of a Hybrid Northern x Wattled Jacana was foraging near the road.
Followed that we had our last stop, Savanna hawk. I took Gretchen and Jim to one of the spots and as we scanned the trees Jim asked – “Do they perched on the fence posts?” and soon enough a hawk was been harassed by some kiskadees and perched on the post – “now we know they do” I said!! (seconds before I just had said I had never seen them on posts, but only on trees, dead branches or the ground!).
This is a trip I particularly enjoyed guiding, excellent and challenging at the same time due to the tough targets but above all for the wonderful companion. Enjoyed every minute of it.
Photos by Jim and Gretchen.
Caño Negro and Medio Queso, located Near Los Chiles in the northern zone of CR near the Nicaraguan border are (along with Palo Verde) known as one of the best marshlands in the entire country.
On April 9th I was able to join a group of birders, all friends and guides from the Manuel Antonio area, we left home at 1:00am and drove straight to Medio Queso, were Rafa was waiting for us. Map: https://goo.gl/maps/f46mASz23qS2
We began our trip at 6:45am, inmediatly we got one of the highlights of the ride; Least bittern, perched on a reed at the edge of the canal, thus allowing us great looks, and why not? pictures! Naturally you can expect the typical herons such as boat-billed, yellow-crowned and Black crowned Night herons, etc.
The boat ride took about 2hrs30min and we got most of the target species the group was looking for, including yellow-breasted crake, lesser yellow headed vulture, pinnated bittern, snail kite, ruddy breasted seedeater and other highlights such as canebrake, black-throated wrens, and bare-crowned antbird.
The boat used by Rafa is small, although enough room for us 9, although no roof so be ready for PLENTY of sun, or rain in the event of! Rafa has been a little irregular with his service lately, he sends a young man to ride the boat instead, this young man speaks no english just to keep in consideration, still this is the ONLY option for Medio Queso. Contact: Rafa Palacios +506-6385-3315
We then drove to Caño Negro which is Sout east of Los Chiles, about 21 KM but expect bad road conditions and it might take an hour to get there. Once we got there our lcoal guide and boatman Jimmy Guitierrez https://www.facebook.com/jimmito.gutierrez was waiting for us.
The boat here is different, spaceful and comfortable with a nice roof and 4 stroke engine. The habitat here at Caño negro is different, although there are some species in Medio Queso you wont otherwise get here, therefore doing both trips is an excellent way to get the most variety.
This trip was very productive and not only did get more variety but also got most quality, the best birds to me were American white Pelican, which had been showing to Caño Negro the last 3 years, Black-collared hawk, nonetheless other good birds include Jabiru, Costa Rica’s largest bird, green and glossy ibises, and sungrebe.
Both locations are a recommended, and it can be fitted in an itinerary if birding lactions such as La Fortuna and Sarapiqui areas.
At the end of the trip, I ended with 4 new species for CR list, 3 life birds and several for the year list, what a fantastic trip indeed!
Day 4. San Gerardo de Dota.
Cold in the highlands of CR! Not my favorite part of a trip, just consider I am use to the hot and humid 34ºC/93ºF of the lowlands of the central Pacific where I live!
We were fortunate to see the resplendent Quetzal on our first day up close, so there was no need to go early to the well known spot where everyone sees the quetzal, so we focused our attention to new birds, after some garden species and a good breakfast we took the waterfall trail and got a couple of small mixed flocks that produced our first Flame-throated and Black-cheeked warblers, Sooty capped and common (super common should I say?) Chlorospingus. various thrushes and long-tailed silky-flyactchers were nicely posing for pictures.
Larger flocks were compound by furnarids, including a buffy tufted-cheek, spotted barbtails along with gray brested woodwren and more, later we got a close pair of Torrent tyrannulet and american Deeper, and just when we thought we were done a male resplendent quetzal was seen feeding on “little avocados”.
After a late lunch we spent some time at Miss Miriam’s cafe for some photography, and just before our dinner at Trogon we went our for Dusky nightjar, the only endemic nightjar/Caprimulgid we have.
Day 5. Time for hummingbirds! We had some new birds at San Gerardo, including hairy woodpecker, rufous-browed peppershrike. We then moved to the upper mountains, where the telecommunication towers are at to look for Timberline wren and Volcano Junco, which we got after half an hour of search, this at an elevation of 3400+ meters.
Our next stop was Paraiso Quetzal for lunch and hummingbirds, fiery-throated hummingbird of course was seen here. The feeders bring basically 3-4 species, good chances for photos, but notice Flash is COMPLETELY forbidden at the feeders, but if you pay the fee they charge then you can use flash! even set up multi-flash! (Sarcasm). There is a small building dedicated for hummingbird photography where you can set up your multiflash. Food here is really good and the trails produce Wrenthrush and timberline wren. After some photography it was time to our next lodge; Rancho Naturalista, with some stops for Sedge wren and fasciated tiger-heron.
Day 6 Rancho Naturalista.
We started very early so we could enjoy the moth light, we got many of the regular species that attend to it, plain-brown and northern barred woodcreepers, red-throated anttanagers, white throated woodwren and many, many more.
The breakfast bell rang! So we walked back to the dinner, the bird feeders are quite active, many gray headed Chachalacas abound, thrushes, oropendolas, collared aracaries, motmots and more, and for our surprise a Chiriquí Quail-dove came under the feeders, a bird seen by Meche (Mercedes), a local birder at Rancho who reported this bird some days ago here.
The trails at Rancho are well known for many specialty birds, including Tawny-Chested Flycatcher, Checker-throated antwren, Dull-mantled antbird and more. The Verbena is well known for Snowcap, a Classic at Rancho. Also, there is access to some nearby birding sites; a guide friend Cali, was very nice on pointing a place for Sunbittern which thanks to his help we got, Ian has some beautiful pictures he got there!
Carlos Rodriguez “Cali” +506 8571-6877
Herman Venegas +506-889-34847
Both great local bird-guide for Rancho and surroundings.
Ranchonaturalista.net Great resident guides Mercedes Alpizar and Harry Barnard are available too.
Day 7th and 8th. Our morning was spent on the gardens and some trails, the goal was to improve the pictures Ian had taken of the Snowcap, after lunch we then drove to El Copal, a reserve I was very keen to bird as it said to extremely good!
It was fantastic! we were received by a large flock of Tanagers, emerald, crimson collared, paserinni’s, black-and-yellow tanagers, euphonias, and the rare Rufous-browed tyrannulet, what a welcome we all said!
El Copal is a reserve owned by a cooperative of Farmers, who had decided to keep this place for conservation, and with it they manage to help maintain their economy. The place is nestled in the jungle, solar panels will help you keep your electronics charged, a weak wifi network, no cellphone reception, but extreme peace, great food, great birding, friendly hosts and a wonderful experience awaits for you here at El Copal!
Patricia +506-8880-0432 / +506 2531-2124 firstname.lastname@example.org
Day 8: We spent all morning birding EL copal, then drove to La Selva Biological Station.
Notice that the road from The town of El Pejiballe and el Humo is in percet conditions as some work is currently been done, but the road from the gate to the reserve still is in bad conditions, you need a 4WD vehicle to get there. If you are renting 2WD then consider hiring Mauricio, who can drive you in his 4WD to the place and pick you up for the way back, he can arrange a place to leave your rental car. CONTACT Mauricio +5068828-4561 NO english.
Day 9: La Selva.
Nothing new I can say here but to join the rest of the people that go to la Selva, it is SUPER!
Our day began with Great-green macaw which were feeding on an Tonka Bean/ almond tree (Dipterix panamensis) then the famous great Currasows along with the common garden species. After breakfast we walked into the forest where we spent the rest of the morning.
After lunch we visit Frogs heaven, a great place for frog (yes you guessed right!) photography. Jose +506 8891-8589
Day 10: Last Day. We bird La Selva again in the am to getting the last few new birds for the trip, we birded some of the surroundings to get Nicaraguan Seed-Finch which was one of the top 3 requested species (and we got them all) after lunch we did a variation of the trip and decided to skip Braulio Carillo and visited Cope instead, so Ian could enjoy the last day doing some photography. Fortunately Cope was able to clear some hours for us and as usual he gave as a very warm welcome to his house! We got good birds there including Russet-naped woodrail, white-tipped sicklebill, various tanagers, woodthrush and more. Other creatures we photographed were Jesus Christ lizards, helmet headed lizard, three toed sloth and of course the spectacled owl and white tent-making bats on the trail he took us to.
The trip was very successful, 10 days, 5 lodges, 352 species, plenty of photos and wonderful experiences! and of course new friends in England!
Between March 2nd to March 11th I had the opportunity to lead a 10-day trip for a couple of birders from England; Ian and Susan Hardy, well experienced birders who had been to the neotropic in various occasions.
Our itinerary included a nice combination of habitats, birding some of Costa Rica’s well known localities as we as those little more off-the-beaten path; Carara which includes lowland transition between dry forest to rain-forest. San Gerardo de Dota, Pacific middle and high elevation. Rancho Naturalista and El Copal reserve with it’s amazing caribbean middle elevation and foothills. Then La Selva biological station and its amazing Caribbean lowland VERY humid forest.
Day 1, we change our route slightly given Ian photography requests and we drove up to the mountains of Poas, stopping at Freddo Fresas for hummingbirds and coffee, although activity was very slow, our first birds of the trip were Baltimore oriole, mountain elaenia, sparrows, purple-throated Mountain-gem, purple sabrewings, and some others.
We then continued to the famous La Paz waterfall (El Angel). A quick stop here produced American deeper, after that and some good Costa Rican corn bread and snacks we continued to Mirador Cinchona; Ian’s main target of the day was awaiting.
The feeders at soda y mirador Conchona were, as usual, quite good. Red headed Barbet, Northern Emerald-toucanet, prong billed barbet were there along with the various common tanager species that fill the feeders. We also got some specialties such as the white-bellied Mountain-gem, green Thorntail, and coppery headed emerald. Unfortunately we did not see the famous Buff-fronted quail-dove that has been coming to feed under the feeders lately.
Road to La Virgen Del Socorro.
On this day the activity was a bit slow, perhaps due to the hot hours on which we were there. Nonetheless we did see the rufous browed tyrannulet, on the exact same spot where I saw it with friends some days ago! Other birds were black Phoebe, tufted flycatcher, later emerald tanager, swallow-tailed Kite, and more tanager and honeycreeper species. Birding this road is quite good normally and it is a place you must stop if you are around.
On our return we stopped near Freddo Fresas again and were lucky to see a pair of resplendent quetzals near the road! what a way to end our first day with this beautiful bird!
Day 2: we stayed at Cerro lodge, this is an excellent lodge for those who are birding Carara and want to get the best of both worlds; Rainforest and dry forest habitats.
Our day inside Carara was very productive, we got slaty tailed, gartered, black-headed and Baird’s Trogons. Various wren species, orange collared and red-capped Manakins, some antbirds, although hard to choose we agreed our best birds were the close looks we had of Streak-chested antpitta and the young male Yellow-Billed cotinga we saw while returning to Cerro lodge!
The road of Cerro lodge is a good option for owling, on this night we got Pacific screech-owl and we heard the calls of spectacled owl up in Villa Lapas road.
Day 3– we covered the Tarcoles river vicinity and Mangroves, also we birded the road to Cerro lodge and villa Lapas. We were fortunate to get most of the Mangrove specialists such as Mangrove vireo, Northern scrub FC and Panama Flycatcher, yellow (mangrove) warbler and more. Along our drive to San Gerardo de Dota (Trogon lodge) we did some strategical stops and got Double-striped Thickknee, mangrove hummingbird, American pygmy kingfisher and other species. Later while driving up to San Isidro fiery-billed aracary was seen, lucky us as I thought we would had missed this near endemic toucan specie already!
It was fantastic, by the end of the day, we had a total of 187 species in 3 days! Now we were off to a different habitat!
Day 4. San Gerardo de Dota.
To be continued.
Poas, Vara Blanca and Cinchona areas are well known and birded localities either as a one-day trip from San Jose or as the first stop for birders when driving from the airport area to sites such as La Fortuna or La Selva.
On February 24th my friends Karen Castillo and Oscar Herrera went there to bird the area and do some photography, our first stop was as usual, Freddo Fresas to see the hummingbird feeders and to have breakfast, lately the activity has been a bit slow but still worth it for Magenta-throated woodstar and the common hummers. On addition we got Long-tailed Silky-Flycatcher, Northern emerald Toucanet as a highlight, the common birds included mountain and clay colored thrushes, rufous-collared sparrows, hoffmans woodpecers and more. We did look for quetzal just 300 meters up the hill as the “little avocado” tree was loaded with fruits but no luck.
We continued to the little, but well known Restaurante Mirador cinchona, excellent for Emerald toucanet and red-headed barbet, which we saw along with many of the species that come to feeders. We did look for the Buff-fronted Quail-Dove that has been showing under the feeders but we were not lucky with it.
The bird activity here is good indeed, but for photography is ok, the perches are not the best but you can still get nice pictures of the 2 main targets, not to forget the hummingbird feeders produce good species such as Green Thorntail, White-bellied Mountain-gem and coopery-headed Emerald (the last 2 endemics).
Later we went down to he road that leads to La Virgen del Socorro, a very productive place. We did some birding along this road and were lucky to get some small mixed flocks. The area near the first bridge is quite good and there we had various raptor such as white, short tailed and barred hawks. Also king vulture, swallow tailed Kite, but the best raptor we got there was Ornate Hawk-eagle which soared above us for a while at the entrance to this road.
At this site we got Zeledon’s antbird (Formerly Immaculate antbird) along with many common mixed flock species such as slate throated redstar, tawny-capped euphonia and more.
Later, we moved the car a bit higher up the road and walked more, birds we got along the walk included Nightingale wren, black headed Tody-flycatcher, along with many others. This place seems to be one of the best in CR to find the rare Rufous-browed tyrannulet based on eBird reports. We were not even expecting this bird got so lucky and had nice looks at one , this is a bird that had been on my wanted list!
https://macaulaylibrary.org/asset/87453481 a recording of the Rufous-browed tyrannulet, this seems to be the 3rd recording in Xeno-Canto for CR.
https://macaulaylibrary.org/asset/87451891 Zeledon’s antbird call
Overall, birding there is excellent, a bit hilly so expect to do some good hiking along a wide gravel road, unless you plan to bird using your car doing some stops along the road as we did. We hope we can return soon but this time to stay and bird the Albergue El Socorro, which is said to be excellent!
Day 9. San Gerardo de RIVAS. Talamanca reserve.
Talamanca reserve http://www.talamancareserve.com is located in San Gerardo de Rivas, this town is the gate way to Costa Rica’s highest peak; Chirripó mountain with an elevation of 3821 meters.
The hotel is beautiful with nice rooms, the staff is very accommodating and always willing to make sure you are comfortable. The food is exquisite! But that is not all! the grounds are very birdy and loaded with many of the South Pacific specialists, the bird feeders are very, very well kept!
On this day we decided to go to a small project called Garden house bird observatory for breakfast +506 71630339 contact is Christopher Instagram https://www.instagram.com/gardenhouseobservatory/?hl=es
This little place is a small family business that believes in conservation and environmental education through the birds, I had been coming to this place lately, they are getting started with some reforestation, also they have WELL maintained feeders that are extremely productive.
During our breakfast and walk we got similar birds than what we got at Talamanca reserve; speckled tanagers and many Tangara species, violet sabrewing, Lesson’s motmot, etc etc but we also got here red-headed barbet, snowy bellied hummingbird, stripe-tailed humingbird, orange-billed Nightingale-thrush and more which we missed at Talamanca, most during a short walk we took along a trail.
After that we then left for Carara/Macaw lodge along the coast, stops included El Rey rice field and marsh, a well known marsh near my home city Quepos, then a stop in Jacó to enjoy the sunset, this was our longest drive of the trip.
Day 10 and 11: Macaw lodge.
Macaw lodge is an excellent lodge and has a beautiful setting, wonderful gardens and a well maintained trail system. We got our first few new birds off the balcony, including gray-cowled woodrail, least grebe, Muscovy duck (yes, had not seen one on the trip till then), charming hummingbird and more.
The trails are good and produced some good birds including a pair of Baird’s trogon, riverside wren, blue-crowned manakin, golden naped woodpecker, crested guan and gray-headed Chachalacas, tropical gnatcatcher, ferruginous pygmy-owl was seen on the gardens.
This lodge is not precisely close to Carara NP, the road that leads there is not always in good condition, although being here allows you to get most of the birds that you would normally see in Carara, therefore I would recommend you stay a minimum of 2 nights here, you will love the food too!
On our last day we left after breakfast and birded the road back down, here we got Black-hooded Antshrike, king vulture, plumbeous kite, among other common birds, we then made it to Tarcoles river area and explored the mangroves near the river mouth. Here we got (beside the many species expected for this habitat) Black headed trogon, mangrove (yellow) warbler, Panama Flyctacher, turquoise-browed Motmot. The mangroves are a must do while birding near Carara, either by foot, or better yet, By boat.
Day 5: February 2nd. La Selva Biological Station
The rain persisted during the early morning hours, so we had breakfast and saw the birds on the gardens, once the rain stopped we finally got our first sunny skies!
Soon we got the common garden birds, including white-ringed Flycatcher, Band-backed Wren, black-thighed Grosbeak, and more.
Once inside the trail we were greeted by Black-crowned Antshrike and then a group of white-collared Peccaries which are known to forage near the lag clearing area. Later we got white-throated wood-wren, rufous-tailed Jacamar, white-whiskered puffbird, after a while we got great tinamous and a male Slaty-breasted which slowly crossed the trail for us! Essentially we got the typical birds from la selva during our short walk, plus a gray catbird when we returned for lunch!
Later at night, we walked back in to search for Vermiculated Screech-owl which we saw, along with common pauraque; Costa Rica’s most common nightjar.
Day 6: Basically consisted of a morning bird-walk at La Selva, we got better looks at Great green Macaws and improved our views of white-collared manakin, along with various new species for our list. Then we drove to San Gerardo De Dota after lunch.
Day 7, San Gerardo de Dota. Our first attempt to get the resplendent, unfortunately with no success, although we got many of the birds for this habitat, the highlights were Flame-throated warbler, long-tailed Silky-Flycatcher and a dark morph Broad-winged hawk. Most of our birding was done at the trails at Miss Miriam’s cabins (Miriam’s Quetzals) my favorite place to eat while at San Gerardo.
Day 8, we got it! The Quetzal was not easy but we got good (distant) views though the spotting scope, after that we then focused our attention to get the most birds as possible once we checked the Quetzal off the list; The Waterfall trail as usual was very productive and got various highlights including torrent tyrannulet, American dipper, spangle cheeked tanager, various furnarids, warblers and more, it was time to move to our next Destination; Talamanca reserve at San Gerardo de Rivas, naturally we stopped at the telecommunication towers to get the regional endemic Volcano Junco, at 3400+ meters of elevation, which we did find!
During the 11th Christmas Bird Count at Carara area celebrated on December 22nd 2017 a team of birders were fortunate enough to see what to us is rarity; Snowy plover!
After the sighting, several birders kept going to the site and had been lucky to find it. I had been really eager to make the time to go, however it had been a few days since it was seen so I hesitated at a point. On January 2 after I finished to guide a morning birding trip to Carara for a family of Utah (David, Natalie and Jordan Tanner) I went on my own to the Tarcoles river mouth following my friend’s Diego Quesada and Johan Fernandez directions and boy was I lucky! Literally the 8th bird I put my binoculars own! It is so exciting to feel the thrill of finding a rare bird and more special when it is a new bird to the life list! Way to start 2018!
The location to the site can be found on this google maps link. https://www.google.co.cr/maps/place/9%C2%B046’38.9%22N+84%C2%B038’14.0%22Wemail@example.com,-84.6373509,15.25z/data=!4m6!3m5!1s0x0:0xa89a0b2d9b790cdd!7e2!8m2!3d9.7774555!4d-84.6372288?hl=es-419
Near the river mouth of Tarcoles, standing on the southern side of the mouth is a small “lagoon” or tidal pool, this is the site where the plover has been reported, many semipalmated, wilson’s and some collared plovers, along with many semipalmated, western, and spotted sandpiper as well as sanderlings, whimbrels and more.
On the other hand, just today (January 4th), while guiding a birding tour at Esquipulas (my favorite Manuel Antonio bird watching
spot) for the Tanners we were lucky to spot a female Yellow-bellied Sapsucker (no picture unfortunately). This is a North American bird which I was hoping to see at a point, naturally I was so excited for it while David and Natalie just allowed me to enjoy my moment! Their moment was the fiery billed aracary!
Esquipulas is an excellent option for the birder coming to bird-watch Manuel Antonio and it often produces good Pacific foothills and lowland species with an excellent level of endemics.
What a way to start 2018!
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”.
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!
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!
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.
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.
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!