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Upland sandpiper at El rey marshes

ON April 16th, while birding with Mr Larry and miss Jan Boutelle at El rey, I was lucky enough to add another bird to my life list, upland sandpiper. Thanks to the good eye of Larry who spotted 5 individuals foraging on short grass.

The following day I went back with my wife as she had not seen this sp before neither and luckily we found 2 individuals not far form the original site.

I had always insisted that El Rey is a very important oasis nestled between a huge oil palm plantation where many south american and north american migrants occur on migration, home to some common birds but often surprises with some rarities or even new species for CR!

Aweful photo, but here are 2 of the 5 individuals seen on the site

 

Purple gallinules were there too, as usual, common but really pretty.

 

 

Birding Carara national park and Manuel Antonio area.

Birding Carara national park is ALWAYS productive, its geographic position and combination of habitats and its surrounding areas makes this place a must see to any birder visiting Costa Rica. Target species/specialties here range from antbirds-ant thrushes, wrens, ant pittas, many ground dwellers etc but as well as king vulture, macaws, trogons an more. In the Other hand, bird-watching Manuel Antonio national park is less productive and can yield very little birds, nonetheless there are GREAT birding hot spots near this famous park that are only frequented by 2 guides and are kept hidden from the average nature lover. This sites are Esquipulas and El rey marshes, as well as La Gallega river. All with very easy access and located within 30-40 minutes drive from Manuel Antonio.

Carara: as known by many, the most see of the central pacific. One of the best experience while birding Carara is indeed to encounter the army ants, this fierce ants will clean a spot out of insects, therefore all those known as “antbirds” will join the chaos of caused by the ants so they can catch what tries to escape from the ants.

Black faced antthrush

Black faced antthrush

Above is a black faced ant-thrush, a ground dweller and very-hard to find bird specie due to its camouflage. I photographed this individual while leading a tour to Carara on the lagoon trail (AKA river trail) on February 2nd with Douglas Boyd; a client I had the pleasure to bird with on February 9th 2014.  it is seen relatively often if known where to look for him.

Streak chested antpitta

This antpitta is the oh! ah! of many birders coming here, yes very hard to find as is normal of antpittas due to small size and often shy behavior. This bird was photographed on Feb 2nd while birding with MR and Ms Winter on the lagoon trail, but it is best looked for at the araceas trail or Quebrada bonita trail near main ranger station, as seen with Aaron Kortenhoven last Feb 10th. an antpitta covered by leafs!

rufous tailed jacamar, a common bird, seen at any trail, but more often at the lagoon trail.

 

Black hooded antshrike

Other birds commonly seen at Carara include trogons, toucans, few hummingbirds, wrens manakins and much more. One of the nice features of Carara is the fact that very few people visit this park, so it is never crowded (except for the main headquarters trails during the morning hours) and the few people who visit Carara are for the most part birders so it is very quiet here.

Other birding sites near Carara that should be birded by any vising Carara are the Bijagual road, the tarcoles river, Cerro lodge road and tarcoles River mouth mangroves. For this I plan to post separately later.

Red capped manakin, best seen at the baths at the araceas trail

A hard find! Marbled wood-quail.

Great tinamou, a common yet hard-to find bird, luckily this bird was taking a bath at Carara last Feb 18th while birding with David and Christine Northrup, a couple of birders who I had the pleasure to bird with on January 2013. Amazing birds we had!

Esquipulas: This mountains are only about 45 minutes to the east of Manuel Antonio national park, a great option with a good level of endemism such as fiery billed aracary, river side wren, black hooded antshrike, white crested coquette and more. Other specialties here are king vulture, barred hawk, black mandibled toucan, baird’s trogon, and the various species of honeycreepers. Esquipulas has a good location at the foothills of the central pacific, where some species of middle-higher elevation descend to during the early dry season, e.g elegant euphonia, three wattled bellbird and others.

Chestnut-mandibled toucan, formerly known as black mandibled T. Common at Esquipulas, however best chances for this specie is the afternoon.

Bird-watching Manuel Antonio national park could be disappointing to many serious birders due to the crowd that comes to this park, how ever, Esquipulas is indeed the best option for the birder visiting Manuel Antonio with family as the park is one of the best destinations for the family and nature lovers. Also, those birders seeking for an off the beaten path location can find Esquipulas very convenient, easy to feet on a schedule when birding locations such as Carara national park and Dota/Savegre region and do not want to do the long drive and would prefer to spend a night at Quepos/Manuel Antonio.

Barred hawk, mostly seen on flight. Among with king vulture, white hawk and black hawk are the highlights of the sky at Esquipulas.

Elegant euphonia

 

 

 

 

 

 

Palm warbler at El Rey

El rey is a marshland and abandoned rice fields 17 km south of Quepos, following national route 34 (aprox 20 minutes). This marshes have surprised us local birders several times with interesting rare North american species as well as 2 species completely new to Costa Rica, this time on January 24th, 2015 wile birding with friends Arnoldo Garcia and Rodrigo Villalobos, excellent bird photographers who constantly visit different spots throughout Costa Rica in search for species to photograph, I was fortunate to find a palm warbler, a rare NA migrant, gladly my friends got on time to get a photo proof of the bird, thanks to Rodrigo for sharing his photo.

wonder what would El Rey bring for us next?….

 

Thanks to Rodrigo Villalobos for sharing the photo.

Thanks to Rodrigo Villalobos for sharing the photo.

Birding Manuel Antonio Area.

In this post I’d like to share some photos and info about the birding potential that this area has. Manuel Antonio is an excellent national park for the  traveler seeking for a general nature experience, monkeys are fairly common, sloths, deers, frogs and many others that despite the crowd that shows up they are not afraid and rather can offer nice sightings. Naturally its crowded during the busy seasons (Christmas, new years, spring break etc) but visit this park in the morning (7:00am) should be enough to avoid most of the crowd).

In the other hand it is not a good birding spot and only a few-yet interesting species can be expecting such as brown boobies, black bellied and river side wrens, black hooded antshrikes, frigatebirds, some herons, gray necked woodrail as well as the long billed gnatwren and few others, but still, you wont get that much and the morning could end with about 20ish or so species.

One of the beaches during the low season, just beautiful!

A close encounter with a young white faced-capuchin monkey

Squirrel monkeys are very uncommon but often times the afternoon is when you have better chances at the park, bee on the look out since gray headed tanager, double tooth kite, slaty tailed trogon and a few woodcreepers follow this type monkey so they can eat the bugs that are flushed away by the monkeys.

But this is what happens if you try to enter this park at 11:00 on December the 25th!

But this is what the park looks like early in the am and during the “wet” season.

 

Depending on the season chances of seeing a common potoo are good, ask local guides for it during early rainy season

Orage billed sparrow in one colorful bird in the Arremon group, commonly seen at the sloth trail.

If you still want to come to MA and bird the park I suggest you to take the look out point trail (sendero Mirador), right at the bifurcation  of the Mirador and Gemelas beach trails is a good spot for great tinamou, as you walk towards the look out look for striped-throated hermit, red capped manakin and ochre bellied flycatcher. The punta catedral trail is the one that takes you to the end of the small peninsula (cathedral), it takes you “closest” to the islands so chances of seeing brown bobbies are good, notheless if you do not have a spotting scope views can be limited, as going up look for blue throated goldentail, little and great tinamoues.

Male blue-thorated goldentail

The area around Manuel Antonio offers a much better birding opportunity, these are Esquipulas, La gallega river and El rey.  And of course! your hotel garden!

Esquipulas:

Esquipulas is basically a small country town 45 minutes to the east of Quepos, located just at the foothills of the mountains of Nara mountains, the public road that leads to the Town is the birding spot, the varied landscape includes cattle fields, home gardens, secondary rain forest, orchards, creeks and the primary rain forest in the back! So it offers sightings variating from house wrens to Baird’s trogons, from rufous tailed hummingbirds to King vultures, simply a great spot.

Esquipulas Location, right at the foothills of the central pacific mountains, the Naranjo and La gallega rivers run down this mountains creating a small low pass which presumably helps middle elevation species to migrate to the lowlands during the attitudinal migration.

 

The access to Esquipulas requires a 4WD car or at least a car with good ground clearance and sometimes during the summer it can be done in a 2WD sedan.

White hawk

 

Laughing falcon

Baird’s trogon is seen often here at Esquipulas.

Bay headed Tanager

 

 

Close to Esquipulas is La Gallega river, this is located near the town of Naranjito, 8 km north east of Quepos, within 30 minutes  drive.

This river is home to some particular species of interest, such as red breasted blackbird, Southern lapwing, tropical mockingbird, collared plover and ferruginous pygmy-owl.

Southern Lapwing

Tropical mockingbird

Naturally other species such as mangrove swallow, southern and northern rough winged swallows, king fishers and others call this place home. If you do come to this river in search for this species make sure to wear long sleeves and hat, you will be in the open, if you have enough time then explore the grass in the other side of the river in search for pale breasted spinetail.

Collared plover isn’t easy finding, try!

 

 

EL REY marshes/rice fields.

El rey is located 16km south of Quepos, near the “Finca” Maritima, in the western side of the palm oil plantation.
This place consists of temporary rice fields with some canals that feed the rice paddies, these canals flood the area and during the rainy season, water remains between June to Mid February, it makes it an strategical stop for NA migrants such as mangrove Cuckoo, various warblers, swallows, scissor tailed Flycatcher and various FC spp. American pygmy kingfisher, gray necked wood rail, purple gallinules, green brested mango and other interesting species are common targets here.

One of the top wanted at el rey; American pygmy kingfisher

Purple gallinule

Bare throated tiger-heron

This little evil-eyed bronzed cowbird is abundant at El rey

Seeing mangrove cuckoo is not an every day opportunity but chances are good during migration.

Interestingly El rey is surrounded by a massive palm oil plantations, which is one of the main products of the area, the marshes, grasslands, mangroves close by and canals that feeds the area are important factors that make El rey a true oasis for many migrant species to stop and feed in order to continue their journey home. During 2013 2 bird species were added to CR list and were spotted here; Clay colored sparrow and lined seedeater.

Lined seedeater, a south american vagrant was seen at El Rey for 5 days in a row.

 

Manuel Antonio near by birding spots.
If you do not have a car or do not have the time to take one day to explore/tour the mentioned sites before there are some spots that are worth to try:

The road down to La mansion and Parador hotel.
If you find your self in this area take time to walk a long this road, species to expect are cocoa and streak headed Woodcreepers, palm, cherri’s, blue gray and golden hooded tanagers, red legged honeycreeper and green Honeycreeper are often seen right by the entrance of Arenas del Mar. Also black mandibled Toucan had been reported nesting here in 2 years in a row now. In the afternoon (3:00-5:00pm) chances to spot the squirrel monkeys are high, be in the look out for double tooth kite, gray headed tanager, northern barred woodcreeper and slaty tailed trogon who are known to accompany these monkeys in search for food.

The road down to playitas:

Once you reach the entrance to Arenas del mar, 30 meters before on the left hand side there is a gravel road, it leads to the playitas beach. Birding here can be basic but can offer possibilities to spot chestnut backed antbird, black hooded antshrike, yellow headed caracara as well as fiery billed aracaries in the morning. Try luck on king vulture and laughing falcon here.

The public beach area.

The southern end of the public beach leads to the exit of MA park. There is a small mangrove estuary, look for gray necked wood-rail near the roots of red mangrove trees, some times yellow crowned night heron roost by the end of the beach.

Green heron, little blue heron and white ibis are common.
Protonothary warbler, northern Waterthrush are possible during CR summer, and try luck on the endemic mangrove hummingbird which feeds on the flowers of pineapple mangrove trees.

Of course if you have a spotting scope available make sure to look on the near by islands, brown boobies and magnificent frigatebirds are abundant, but occasionally elegant tern can be spotted. Not much in the islands besides that.

131 bird species during a full day birding in Manuel Antonio area

Yesterday (Feb 8th) I was leading a bird tour in the surrounding areas of Manuel Antonio, this involved Esquipulas, La gallega river, El rey and even a quick trip to the river mouth of Parrita river seeking specifically for the endemic mangrove hummingbird, all in one day  and what a great day!

Mr Douglas Boyd, an avid birder from Maine US, had been to Costa Rica a few times before and had great birding experiences previously and accomplished a great list, in this time, I had the opportunity to take him to this areas and had a superb birding day. While we were hoping/looking for specific species to complement his life list and CR list, better yet we where looking forward to enjoy every bird we saw and never felt pressed to hunt for specifics, yet the day yielded impressive 131 species and quite few of them were totally new for his life list.

Esquipulas:

Its located 45 minutes to the east of Quepos, in the mountain side and its located right at the foothills of the central pacific mountains, here we birded from 6:00am until about11:45am.

Charming hummingbird, in the “wanted list”

Esquipulas, CR-SJ
Feb 8, 2014 6:00 AM – 11:00 AM
Protocol: Traveling
3.0 kilometer(s)
Comments: Full day Birding tour with Mr Douglas Boyd
80 species (+1 other taxa)

Cattle Egret X
Black Vulture X
Turkey Vulture X
King Vulture X
Roadside Hawk X
Broad-winged Hawk X
Gray/Gray-lined Hawk X
Short-tailed Hawk X
Pale-vented Pigeon X
Inca Dove X
Ruddy Ground-Dove X
Blue Ground-Dove X
White-tipped Dove X
Groove-billed Ani X
Spot-fronted Swift X
White-collared Swift X
Costa Rican Swift X
Long-billed Hermit X
Scaly-breasted Hummingbird X
Violet Sabrewing X
Charming Hummingbird X
Rufous-tailed Hummingbird X
Blue-throated Goldentail X
Baird’s Trogon X
Fiery-billed Aracari X
Black-mandibled Toucan X
Golden-naped Woodpecker X
Red-crowned Woodpecker X
Lineated Woodpecker X
Crested Caracara X
Yellow-headed Caracara X
Scarlet Macaw X
Orange-chinned Parakeet X
White-crowned Parrot X
Red-lored Parrot X
Southern Beardless-Tyrannulet X
Yellow-bellied Elaenia X
Paltry Tyrannulet X
Common Tody-Flycatcher X
Great Kiskadee X
Boat-billed Flycatcher X
Social Flycatcher X
Gray-capped Flycatcher X
Streaked Flycatcher X
Tropical Kingbird X
Philadelphia Vireo X
Brown Jay X
Southern Rough-winged Swallow X
Mangrove Swallow X
House Wren X
Rufous-naped Wren X
Black-bellied Wren X
Riverside Wren X
Clay-colored Thrush X
Tennessee Warbler X
Gray-crowned Yellowthroat X
Yellow Warbler X
Chestnut-sided Warbler X
Cherrie’s Tanager X
Blue-gray Tanager X
Palm Tanager X
Golden-hooded Tanager X
Bay-headed Tanager X
Blue Dacnis X
Red-legged Honeycreeper X
Green Honeycreeper X
Variable Seedeater X
Bananaquit X
Yellow-faced Grassquit X
Black-striped Sparrow X
Summer Tanager X
Melodious Blackbird X
Great-tailed Grackle X
Bronzed Cowbird X
Black-cowled Oriole X
Baltimore Oriole X
Chestnut-headed Oropendola X
Montezuma Oropendola X
Yellow-crowned Euphonia X
Thick-billed Euphonia X
Spot-crowned Euphonia X

Toucans where seen several times, here a pair of fiery billed aracaries in a tree hole.

Black mandibled toucan AKA chestnut mandibled

Broad winged hawk

do you know who’s this guy?

The very common-yet always nice to see cherri’s tanager

Golden napped woodpecker

Black cowled oriole

 

A nest of Paltry tyrannulet

This Malay apple tree made the day, hummers flying allover, orioles, oropendulas, jays, toucans, king vulture flying 7 meters over ours heads, baird’s trogon, simply unbelievable!!

Malay apple

La Gallega:

This river is located half way between Esquipulas and Quepos, so it is always a good stop for specific species; Southern lapwing, tropical mockingbird, collared plover and red breasted blackbird which we saw all of them and more!

Seeking for the tropical mocking bird at the river bank

La gallega, CR-P
Feb 8, 2014 11:40 AM – 12:25 PM
Protocol: Traveling
0.3 kilometer(s)
Comments: Birding tour with MR Douglas Boyd
25 species

Great Blue Heron X
Great Egret X
Little Blue Heron X
Cattle Egret X
Green Heron X
White Ibis X
Southern Lapwing X
Collared Plover X
Spotted Sandpiper X
Least Sandpiper X

Greater yellowlegs X

Groove-billed Ani X

Ringed Kingfisher X
Amazon Kingfisher X
Green Kingfisher X
Crested Caracara X
Great Kiskadee X
Boat-billed Flycatcher X
Tropical Kingbird X
Mangrove Swallow X
Clay-colored Thrush X
Tropical Mockingbird X
White-collared Seedeater X
Red-breasted Blackbird X
Great-tailed Grackle X
Baltimore Oriole X

After 30 minutes of looking, here is the mockingbird

and here it goes

find the collared plover

Parrita river mouth:

This is located 25-35 minutes north Quepos, this is often good for the endemic mangrove hummingbird which we unfortunately did not see but saw other things instead such as semipalmated plover, whimbrels and others associated to this habitat.

Parrita–Pueblo Nuevo shrimp farm, CR-P
Feb 8, 2014 2:15 PM – 3:15 PM
Protocol: Traveling
0.3 kilometer(s)
Comments: Birding trip with Mr Douglas Boyd, searching for mangrove hummingbird
44 species

Magnificent Frigatebird X
Bare-throated Tiger-Heron X
Great Blue Heron X
Great Egret X
Snowy Egret X
Little Blue Heron X
Tricolored Heron X
Cattle Egret X
Green Heron X
Yellow-crowned Night-Heron X
White Ibis X
Roseate Spoonbill X
Black Vulture X
Turkey Vulture X
Roadside Hawk X
Black-bellied Plover X
Southern Lapwing X
Semipalmated Plover X
Northern Jacana X
Spotted Sandpiper X
Willet X
Whimbrel X
Least Sandpiper X
Laughing Gull X
Rock Pigeon (Feral Pigeon) X
White-winged Dove X
Inca Dove X
White-tipped Dove X
Groove-billed Ani X
Amazon Kingfisher X
Green Kingfisher X
Crested Caracara X
Yellow-headed Caracara X
Great Kiskadee X
Tropical Kingbird X
Mangrove Swallow X
Chestnut-sided Warbler X
Variable Seedeater X
White-collared Seedeater X
Bananaquit X
Great-tailed Grackle X
Orchard Oriole X
Baltimore Oriole X
Thick-billed Euphonia X

El rey:

After trying for the hummingbird we decided to go back to el rey and look for our scissor tailed flycatcher which is common at el rey during migration. For our surprice, the fields where being worked/prepared to plant rice on it, so for a second I thought birding wasnt going to be good but what a surprise! it was even better! birds all over since many insects where being flush away by the machinery, despite the 1.5 hr we birded here we saw about50+ species.

Mangrove cuckoo

Common black-hawk

Gray breasted martin

 

 

Finca Maritima (Playa El Rey) rice fields, CR-P
Feb 8, 2014 4:00 PM – 5:40 PM
Protocol: Traveling
1.0 mile(s)
Comments: Birding tour with Mr Douglas Boyd
55 species

Black-bellied Whistling-Duck X
Wood Stork X
Great Egret X
Snowy Egret X
Little Blue Heron X
Cattle Egret X
Green Heron X
White Ibis X
Black Vulture X
Turkey Vulture X
Common Black-Hawk X
Roadside Hawk X
Gray-necked Wood-Rail X
Purple Gallinule X
Double-striped Thick-knee X
Northern Jacana X
Pale-vented Pigeon X
Inca Dove X
Blue Ground-Dove X
White-tipped Dove X
Mangrove Cuckoo X
Groove-billed Ani X
Green-breasted Mango X
Ruby-throated Hummingbird X
Ringed Kingfisher X
Green Kingfisher X
American Pygmy Kingfisher X
Red-crowned Woodpecker X
Crested Caracara X
Yellow-headed Caracara X
Crimson-fronted Parakeet X
Orange-chinned Parakeet X
Cocoa Woodcreeper X
Greenish Elaenia X
Common Tody-Flycatcher X
Great Kiskadee X
Streaked Flycatcher X
Tropical Kingbird X
Scissor-tailed Flycatcher X
Gray-breasted Martin X
Barn Swallow X
Tennessee Warbler X
Chestnut-sided Warbler X
Cherrie’s Tanager X
Blue-gray Tanager X
Red-legged Honeycreeper X
Blue-black Grassquit X
Variable Seedeater X
White-collared Seedeater X
Thick-billed Seed-Finch X
Black-striped Sparrow X
Indigo Bunting X
Dickcissel X
Great-tailed Grackle X
Baltimore Oriole X

Porphyrio martinica- Purple gallinule

And… what a way to end the day!

 

 

El rey marshes birding tour

A sneak peek of El rey birding tour, special thanks to my friend Chrissy Gruninger for the idea and help for the vid.

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