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95 species while birding at Esquipulas in a morning. 

Esquipulas is located approximately 26km to the East of Manuel Antonio and unquestionably offers the best birding experience in the nearby vicinity of the park. The park itself is too poor for birds and it can be quite noisy and crowded, so any one birding Manuel Antonio would have far better time here than at the park itself!
On March 2nd 2017 for the second time I had the opportunity to lead a trip to miss Christine Kozlosky whom I birded at Carara with just days ago and got an impressive 150 in a full day!

As usual, we left Manuel Antonio at 4:45am and got to Esquipulas at 5:25am right with the sunrise, our first birds were some common pauraques as we drove the hilly gravel-country road up to Esquipulas.
The soonest we got out of the car it was wonderful! Birds calling everywhere (hence the beauty of leaving the bed early!), time to put hands on our bins.

A small fig tree located right where I usually start to walk was full of fruit and so with birds, soon we got chestnut headed oropendola (although not expected for the region on Garrigues 2014 there is a fairly established colony since 5+ years now, maybe the southern Pacific population expanding north). We quickly got the regular tanagers such as golden hooded, bay headed, palm, blue gray, green honecreeper, red leggued hc, blue dacnis and then masked tityra.

After seeing several birds we decided to walk into the bush for some meters as I heard a slaty spinetail which we did see, but also got yellow tyrannulet and then a piratic flycatcher and several views of the golden naped woodpecker (an endemic we share with Panama) Later we got northern barred woodcreeper collecting bark (with which they line their nest)  and then tawny-winged woodcreeper! (doing the same?) At this time I kept scanning the forest canopy in hopes for turquoise cotinga! No luck for the moment but did get some swallow-tailed kites, a specie that Chris was very interested on seeing!

Masked tityra, Bay headed tanager and got even a slaty tailed trogon! the last trogon we were missing to complete the trogon list for the region.


left Northern-barred Woodcreeper and right tawny-winged woodcreeper

Back on the road, we continued walking seeing some of the regulars, tanagers, white crowned parrots, swifts, flycatchers and more, then we spotted a white hawk that flew to a perch at a good distance but close enough to see it well on the scope.  This area of Esquipulas where I start the birding trip is a nice ravine with excellent opportunities for raptors, birds such as white hawk, barred hawk, king vulture, black hawk-eagle, short tailed hawk, broad winged hawk, swallow tailed kite, all which we saw, literally on the same thermal throughout  the morning!

As we continued we got good views of crested guans, then, golden winged warbler, tennessee, yellow and chestnut sided warblers, blue black grossbeak, yellow billed cacique, riverside wren, and many more, but missed the laughing falcon which kept laughing at us as we could not find it where it was perched! but oh well, Chris remedied that with a close look of a male turquoise cotinga! and later we got both male and female Baird’s trogon! both endemics we share with Panama.

Turquoise cotinga


Bairds trogon

Fiery billed Aracary, a common endemic found on the central and south Pacific slope of CR and western Panama.

Although Esquipulas consist basically of a gravel road that allows access to secondary forest, views of primary forest and it’s canopy, gardens, some creeks, ravines, scrub, grasslands, there are also some very short paths that allows access to forest interior, good for some manakins, rufous piha, white throated shrike-tanager and more.

After some great views we continued on the walk, soon we got more swallow tailed kites, broad winged hawk and short tailed hawks! the raptors where finally coming out!  It was 10:30am, we still needed blue crowned manakin and white ruffed manakin which we  looked hard for, funny how a common, or somewhat easy specie can just disappear once you look them hardly (yes the blue crowned eluded us at Carara even!) so I guess that is a reason for miss Christine to come back! On our walk back to the car we got excellent views of short tailed hawk again, then 2 king vultures flying relatively low, right after that a Barred hawk flew just about 3 meters above our heads, chased by some kiskadees and tropical kindbirds, what a treat to see such beautiful hawk! not just flying so close but to perch for us to allow good views and even a picture (digiscoped with a cell phone, like all pictures on this post).

Once we thought we were done, siting at the car and just before I close my door I heard a distant Black hawk-eagle, out we went rapidly and searched the sky for it, after 3 to 4 minutes it came up form the mountain, to join the soaring black, turkey and king vultures.


Digiscoping a bird on flight, using a scope and a cellphone with NO adapters is an Art, here a king vulture.

Barred hawk

After a while I took Chris to the La Gallega river, a location I know for collared plover as she mentioned she enjoys peeps as well, literally we got out of the car and there it was! not one but 2 adults and at least 3 chicks. La Gallega river is reliable for this specie, also good for red-breasted meadowlark (and eastern), tropical mockingbird and on occasion double striped thick-knees. This river is accessible via Naranjito.


A bad shot, distant and the hot atmosphere does not help, but here a collared plover.

watching collared plovers

Not done yet! We where having such great time we agreed there was room for another good bird before heading back to her Villa, this time a Mangove hummingbird! this bird, endemic to Costa Rica only. For this we drove to the town of Damas, an area where mosts tour companies start the locally famous Damas Mangrove tour. This is the best site I know locally for this hummer, the soonest we got to the mangrove there was a male perched at eye level, later, as we walked into the mangrove I played ferruginous pygmy-owl twice to see what could George bring out for us (a joke Roy and I use to say referring to the pygmy-owl recording) this was productive as we got prothonotary warbler, some chestnut sided and yellow (northern) warbler and then another bird that eluded us at Tarcoles the other day! a male resident Yellow warbler (mangrove raze).

Mangrove canal at low tide, this site where we were standing is flooded during high tide.

Time to call it a day! we ended the morning with a total of 95 species, a new friend and many great memories!

Miss Christine Kozlosky.



Birding Manuel Antonio; Esquipulas.

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

Common potoo, courtesy of Manuel Cabalceta. Manuel Antonio birds

Common potoo, courtesy of Manuel Cabalceta.

Black and white owl, by Michael Araya

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

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

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


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

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

The road at Esquipulas

Chestnut headed oropendola



the very common roadside hawk.

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

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

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


Follow this link to eBird for the list of the birds reported for Esquipulas or contact me for a checklist I have made which contains all the sightings reported here since the last 9 years

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


Esquipulas; trekking, camping, owling, herping and birding the upper mountian!

Tittle says it all! quite and adventure we had on October 26th, my friends Danny Vasquez, Brian Jimenez, Roy Orozco, Karen Castillo, my wife Karina and I planned a trip to the upper mountains of Esquipulas, specifically to Brian’s father’s property in the mountains.

Several times in the past has been suggested that Esquipulas is the best birding site near Manuel Antonio, however lately we had been exploring little birded areas in search for important species that we do not get to see on the regular toured site where we lead tour to at lower Esquipulas (aprox 375masl).

Photos Danny Vasquez



The hike was quite good, approximately 2hrs in a fairly steep terrain but as the rain fell it made the trail yet more entertaining (my definition o interesting rhymes with muddier and more slippery), once we arrived we prepared our tents and the wood-burning stove (and dried ourselfs from the downpour that received us), thanks to Brian’s initiative we prepared sugar cane juice! so glad Brian and Karen still had energies! and then some well-earned coffee!



After dinner and some good talk with friends we went out to see what the night would offered us, we got little as the night was quite slow, but highlights included masked smilisca/tree frog, a leaf litter toad, also green tree anole, common pauraques, mottled owl, new for the list of species I keep for Esquipulas, we also heard black-and-white owl and spectacled owl deep in the woods. 11:00pm “bed” time!

The recording I got from Mottled owl:′



Leaf litter toad (Rhaebo haematitcus)


Masked smilisca (Smilisca phaeota)



Next morning was amazing! the great view got improved by the call of many birds as the sun came out! a wonderful experience. Toucans, parrots, caciques, buff-throated saltators, wren, slaty spinetail, and so much more!

After breakfast we climbed the remaining of the mountain so we could be on the top, terrain was very difficult and really you have little chance to look for birds as you are either holding from a tree so you dont fall or look around so you dont step on a snake! The primary rain forest produces very little as most species tend to move in mixed flocks, naturally the visibility is limited  given the thickness of the woods.

After a while of hiking we finally got a very good mixed flock, white shouldered tanager, white-throated shrike-tanager and lesser greenlets and tawny crowned greenlets led the way! From all we got here the best bird was brown-billed scythebill as it is an uncommon specie.

The best of this trip were not necessarily the birds, but the great companion and experience, I hope this can be repeated soon!

Bicolored antbird


The “trail”


Birding the upper mountains of Esquipulas; El Diamante

   Esquipulas is located at the foothills of the Central Pacific mountains just about 35 minutes east of Quepos, at about 400 meters on elevation; the best bird-watching site in the Manuel Antonio area.

Both Roy and I bird here very often as we lead birding tours here and know the place well enough (I personally live about 10 minutes away from Esquipulas), today Roy O, and I accompanied by friends and colleagues took the day to bird the upper mountains of Esquipulas where we don’t frequent and what a morning!

 The first bird of the morning: a bat falcon.

Bat falcon, way back, picture taken with scope and cellphone

We got several of the common species and perhaps the best birds of the morning were barred forest-falcon, speckled tanager, Zeledon’s antbird (former immaculated antbird) and red crowned ant-tanager as is a bird we do not see often at the lower part of Esquipulas.

The road is currently in great conditions as ICE is working on the environmental impact studies as they plan to make a dam in the Naranjo river in the future but that’s another story.

The site currently can be visited basically even on a sedan, and a trip from Manuel Antonio should take 50 minutes to 1hr, we found this a great option to those birding Manuel Antonio who would like to see middle elevation species such as tanagers, hummingbirds and foliage gleaners etc and do not want to drive to other middle elevation sites such as Bosque del Tolomuco in San Isidro or Los Cuzingos.

A male gartered trogon

today’s favorite picture; Ruddy tailed flycatcher, a commonly requested bird here at Esquipulas.


Breakfast time!


And because it’s not always just birds! here a coca fruit, where chocolate comes from!

Esquipulas–El diamante, San José, CR
05-oct-2015 6:00 – 11:00
Protocolo: Con Desplazamiento
5.0 kilómetro(s)
Comentarios:    Danny Vasquez, Manuel Cabalceta y Roy Orozco
83 especies (+5 otros taxones)Black Vulture  X
Turkey Vulture  X
Barred Hawk  1
Broad-winged Hawk  1    soaring with vultures and 1 barred hawk
Short-billed Pigeon  3
Inca Dove  X
White-tipped Dove  X
Squirrel Cuckoo  2
White-collared Swift  X
large swift sp.  X
swift sp.  X
White-tipped Sicklebill  1
Band-tailed Barbthroat  1
Green Hermit  1
Stripe-throated Hermit  1
Crowned Woodnymph  1
Rufous-tailed Hummingbird  X
Gartered Trogon  1
Black-throated Trogon  1
Blue-crowned Motmot  1
Yellow-throated Toucan  X
Golden-naped Woodpecker  X
Bat falcon 1
Barred Forest-Falcon  1    at least one individual heard
Orange-chinned Parakeet  X
Black-hooded Antshrike  X
Dot-winged Antwren  X
Dusky Antbird  X
Chestnut-backed Antbird  X
Zeledon’s Antbird  1    call heard. Bird was with a mixed flock with red crowned ant-tanager, tawny crowned greenlet, some antbirds, etc. Elevation about 900ish meters asl.
Black-faced Antthrush  X
Tawny-winged Woodcreeper  1
Cocoa Woodcreeper  X
Streak-headed Woodcreeper  X
Plain Xenops  4
Paltry Tyrannulet  X
Northern Bentbill  X
Eye-ringed Flatbill  X
Yellow-olive Flycatcher  X
Western Wood-Pewee  X
Eastern Wood-Pewee  X
Western/Eastern Wood-Pewee  X
Willow Flycatcher  1    bird responded to recording.
Alder/Willow Flycatcher (Traill’s Flycatcher)  X
Dusky-capped Flycatcher  X
Great Kiskadee  X
Boat-billed Flycatcher  X
Tropical Kingbird  X
Rufous Piha  1
White-ruffed Manakin  6
Red-capped Manakin  2
Rose-throated Becard  1
Red-eyed Vireo  X
Tawny-crowned Greenlet  2
Lesser Greenlet  X
Scaly-breasted Wren  3
Black-bellied Wren  X
Rufous-breasted Wren  1
Tropical Gnatcatcher  X
Clay-colored Thrush  X
Golden-winged Warbler  1
Black-and-white Warbler  X
Tennessee Warbler  X
Blackburnian Warbler  X
Yellow Warbler  X
Chestnut-sided Warbler  X
Buff-rumped Warbler  1
Canada Warbler  X
warbler sp. (Parulidae sp.)  X
White-shouldered Tanager  X
White-throated Shrike-Tanager  3
Cherrie’s Tanager  X
Blue-gray Tanager  X
Golden-hooded Tanager  X
Speckled Tanager  4
Bay-headed Tanager  8
Scarlet-thighed Dacnis  3
Blue Dacnis  2
Green Honeycreeper  X
Variable Seedeater  X
Bananaquit  X
Buff-throated Saltator  X
Orange-billed Sparrow  X
Red-crowned Ant-Tanager  3
Blue-black Grosbeak  2
Baltimore Oriole  X
Yellow-crowned Euphonia  X
Spot-crowned Euphonia  X


Birding Manuel Antonio area and Carara, 2 full days with Mike and Suzzane Britton. Part 1

A full day in Manuel Antonio area on March 6th, in this occasion I had the opportunity to bird with Suzanne and Mike Britton for Ottowa Canada.

While they were here about 15 years ago, back then they were not really birders and this second trip to Costa Rica was really their first birding trip to our tropics. Suzanne is an avid birder and has noticeably taken her time to study our birds which made the days very interesting as she had a nice wish list of birds she wanted to see, but of course, all species were welcome!

Here is the wishlist, those on bold letters were the species we saw:

1-Masked duck 2-Great curassow 3-Anhinga 4-Boat billed heron 5-King vulture 6-Swallow tailed kite 7-White tailed kite 8-Black and white hawk-eagle 9-Ornate hawk-eagle 10-Bat falcon 11-Laughing falcon 12-Gray necked wood-rail 13-Rufous necked wood rail 14-Purple gallinule 15-Northern Jacana 16-Scarlet  macaw 17-Squirrel cuckoo 18-common potoo 19-violet sabrewing 20-Green breasted mango 21-Violet crowned woodnymph 22-White crested coquette 23- Violaceus trogon (gartered) 24-Baird’d trogon 25-Slaty tailed trogon 26-Blue crowned mot mot 27- Turquoised browed motmot 28-Green kingfisher 29-American pygmy kingfisher 30-Black mandibled touca 31-Fiery billed aracary 32-Barred antshrike 33-Royal flycatcher 34-Scissor tailed flycatcher 35-Long tailed manakin 36-White throated magpie-jay 37-speckled tanager 38-Golden hooded tanager 39-Shining honeycreeper 40-Red legged Honeycreeper 41-Orange billed sparrow 42-Montezuma Oropendola 43-Any euphonia spp

Male Masked tytira, Suzanne’s favorite songster.

Bay headed tanager and Fem Green honeycreeper

Our day began when we met in Hotel Pueblo real, 10 minutes outside of Quepos, and then we headed to Esquipulas our plan was to bird all day in the areas of Esquipulas, La gallega river and El rey.

Our morning was very productive and saw about 72 bird species, this counts a couple seen along the way in the town of Naranjito as I usually keep track of what could be seen on the road we do not usually see in Esquipulas such as Rufous napped wren, scarlet macaw and others. here we birded until 1:00pm then we went for La gallega river.

Esquipulas, CR-SJ
Mar 6, 2014 6:20 AM – 12:20 PM
Protocol: Traveling
2.0 kilometer(s)
Comments: Birding tour with Mike and Suzzane Britton. Ottowa Ca.
72 species (+1 other taxa)

Crested Guan X
Cattle Egret X
Black Vulture X
Turkey Vulture X
King Vulture X
Double-toothed Kite X
Roadside Hawk X
Gray/Gray-lined Hawk X
Short-tailed Hawk X
Pale-vented Pigeon X
Short-billed Pigeon X
Inca Dove X
Ruddy Ground-Dove X
White-tipped Dove X
Groove-billed Ani X
Stripe-throated Hermit X
Purple-crowned Fairy X
Violet-headed Hummingbird X
Scaly-breasted Hummingbird X
Violet Sabrewing X
Charming Hummingbird X
Rufous-tailed Hummingbird X
Baird’s Trogon X
Blue-crowned Motmot X
Fiery-billed Aracari X
Golden-naped Woodpecker X
Red-crowned Woodpecker X
Lineated Woodpecker X
Crested Caracara X
Yellow-headed Caracara X
Scarlet Macaw X
White-crowned Parrot X
Chestnut-backed Antbird X
Wedge-billed Woodcreeper X
Streak-headed Woodcreeper X
Yellow-bellied Elaenia X
Common Tody-Flycatcher X
Eye-ringed Flatbill X
Acadian Flycatcher X
Great Kiskadee X
Boat-billed Flycatcher X
Social Flycatcher X
Streaked Flycatcher X
Piratic Flycatcher X
Tropical Kingbird X
Masked Tityra X
Rose-throated Becard X
Brown Jay X
Southern Rough-winged Swallow X
Gray-breasted Martin X
House Wren X
Rufous-naped Wren X
Riverside Wren X
Clay-colored Thrush X
Tennessee Warbler 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
Red-legged Honeycreeper X
Green Honeycreeper X
Thick-billed Seed-Finch X
Bananaquit X
Orange-billed Sparrow X
Summer Tanager X
Melodious Blackbird X
Great-tailed Grackle X
Bronzed Cowbird X
Thick-billed Euphonia X
Spot-crowned Euphonia X

Baird’s trogon, its been seen regularly at Esquipulas lately

Male green honeycreeper, notice the cicada as well!

Male and female black crowned tytira

common tody-flycatcher

La Gallega is a river located just 5.5 kilometers from Esquipulas, in the way back to Quepos, I often visit this place in search for specific species such as the tropical mockingbird, collared plover, red breasted blackbird and southern lapwing, we went here in our way back for lunch and got:

Gray/Gray-lined Hawk X
Amazon Kingfisher X
Crested Caracara X
Yellow-headed Caracara X
Mangrove Swallow X
Tropical Mockingbird X
Red-breasted Blackbird

Tropical mockingbird


AFter La a quick stop here we then headed for Lunch, we stopped at a restaurant on route 34 south, and while just as we finished lunch I heard a plain wren call from behind the building so of course we had to see it!

Once in El rey we birded from 3:30 to 5:45pm  where we saw:

Finca Maritima (Playa El Rey) rice fields, CR-P
Mar 6, 2014 3:30 PM – 5:45 PM
Protocol: Traveling
1.0 kilometer(s)
52 species

Great Egret X
Cattle Egret X
Green Heron X
Black Vulture X
Turkey Vulture X
Common Black-Hawk X
Zone-tailed Hawk X
Purple Gallinule X
Double-striped Thick-knee X
Northern Jacana X
Ruddy Ground-Dove X
Groove-billed Ani X
Green-breasted Mango X
Ruby-throated Hummingbird X
Scaly-breasted Hummingbird X
Rufous-tailed Hummingbird X
Blue-throated Goldentail X
Ringed Kingfisher X
Amazon Kingfisher X
Green Kingfisher X
American Pygmy Kingfisher X
Crested Caracara X
Yellow-headed Caracara X
Peregrine Falcon X
Common Tody-Flycatcher X
Great Kiskadee X
Boat-billed Flycatcher X
Streaked Flycatcher X
Tropical Kingbird X
Scissor-tailed Flycatcher X
Yellow-throated Vireo X
Gray-breasted Martin X
House Wren X
Plain Wren X
Clay-colored Thrush X
Prothonotary Warbler X
Tennessee Warbler X
American Redstart X
Yellow Warbler X
Chestnut-sided Warbler X
Cherrie’s Tanager X
Blue-gray Tanager X
Palm Tanager X
Blue-black Grassquit X
White-collared Seedeater X
Indigo Bunting X
Dickcissel X
Red-breasted Blackbird X
Great-tailed Grackle X
Bronzed Cowbird X
Orchard Oriole X
Baltimore Oriole X

American pygmy kingfisher

A barn swallow meeting! The sky was full of them by sunset.

spectacled caiman

A variegated squirrel

And what a way to end our already-great day of birding!.

Par 2: Full day at Carara.


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