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Hylophilus and other CR Greenlets.

Hylophilus is a genus in which formerly 3 species of Costa Rica Vireonids best known as greenlets were in, these are: Lesser greenlet (H. decurtatus), tawny-crowned greenlet (H. ochraceips), and scrub greenlet.

From the greek Hule = woodland, forest and philos = loving. Most species within this genus are known to dwell well inside the forest, often up in the canopy. Nonetheless true Hylophilus species such as Scrub greenlet ironically favors palm oil and banana plantations and scrub, often near water rather than forest interior.

The recent taxonomic changes published by the AOU last July brings in 2 new genus to this family; PACHYSYLVIA and TUNCHIORNIS both new to Vireonidae.

Tawny-crowned greenlet (Hylophilus ochraceiceps). The new scientific name to this sp is now Tunchiornis ochraceiceps and Lesser greenlet (H. decurtatus) which not only has its genus changed but also a slight moddification on the spelling of the species, now called Pachysylvia decurtata.

The above greenlets are common, often seen on mixed flocks moving through the forest canopy (lesser greenlet) or middle to lower levels (Tawny crowned greenlet), often noisy and easily seen.

 

Scrub greenlet is less active, often very vocal, sitting on middle level of scrub or small tree, it’s song is a bit loud for a small vireonid which is convenient to locate it when at the field.

Although reported only one time in Nicaragua as an accidental (?) This species occurs from SE Costa Rica  south to Panama, Colombia and Venezuela.

Here near Manuel Antonio I have personally seen it in sites such as La Gallega River, Savegre, Matapalo and others but the best and most reliable site to look for it is El Rey Marshes, where is seen most times. Below a link to a recording of its songs to help getting familiar with it!

http://www.xeno-canto.org/333225

http://www.xeno-canto.org/333225/embed?darkbg=1′ scrolling=’no’

 

 

 

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 the coast at Dominical and Dominicalito.

Given the activity at the sea in the last few months here in CR (Waved albatross as the newest rarity seen just about 6 days ago near Uvita–PN Marino Ballena) I have been really keen at keeping an eye at the coast, and while desperately waiting for a pelagic trip to become true this week my wife and I went to explore the rocky coast of Dominical and Dominicalito.

First we checked the river mouth of Rio Barú at Dominical, not much success here, other than collared plover we didnt get anything too interesting, just spotted sand piper, willet and whimbrel.

Rio Barú.

After that I drove to a sector north of Playa Dominicalito called Rocas de Amancio (Northern end of Dominicalito beach) and soon saw Spotted SP, a rudy turnstone and then a group of surfbirds! first of this year! as I was getting better/closer pictures of the surfbirds a brown noddy flew past by me, I must had been sitting on the rocks and I scared it away, best views I had ever had of this sp.

This area is known by locals as The Rocas de Amancio (after the former owner of the property near here).

Brown noddy

Surfbird

 

Surfbird dominicalito share

Then we headed to the southern end of Dominicalito, excatly at La Parcela restaurant area, we didnt get much here, but I do suggest any birder to visit this rocky beach if you find yourself in this area, this is a great time to get some of the unusual coastal birds heading south from NA.

Entrance, picture taken as if driving from south to North.

 

A screen shot for the map to the site from google. The birds were at rocks where the arrow is.

 

 

 

Yellow backed oriole near Manuel Antonio.

The yellow backed oriole is a bird distributed from Mexico, south to Ecuador, Venezuela and colombia, interestengly this bird skipped Costa Rica until it was first reported on October 13th, see my post here.

Well, the bird returned to the same spot it was first sighted last October.
It is believed that it had visited the same site since 2013 according to locals who had noticed a different bird than the usual one in their gardens, with a very different song to what is usually heard. This was 2013 at the beginning of the rainy season (June-August if I remember correctly).  At the time I failed finding this “unusual bird”. It was not until 2014, when my wife and I had the luck to be in the right place and time, with photo proofs of what was then its first time to be confirmed for CR.
Yesterday, walking in the same place where it was sighted for the first time we were lucky to see it again.

As interesting facts and stating first that I am not a biologist nor an ornithologist, nor that I pretend to be one I’d like to comment the following curious notes as I know many would be interested to hear this:

When it was first recorded on Oct 13th 2014 it was practically sighted every day until mid / late December. At that time it hanged with one black cowled oriole and what seemed to be two hybrids of these two, since they had features of both and vocalization of yellow backed.
During the summer the yellow backed was absent and never seen again despite the fact I kept going to the site once a week, however prospective hybrids were still be seen on the site and seen almost every time I came (once a week).

If you are bird watching Manuel Antonio or a nearby site and are into searching for rarities this could be a good chance, Portalon is located 24 KM south of Quepos, using the 34. Once you leave the 34 to the small village, cross the first and only bridge, you will be able to see a small school, then the bridge and immediatly a small grocery store on the left painted light blue and some white. The bird is some times seen on the palm trees in front of this grocery store, its produces a very loud and conspicous song, thus making it easy to locate it. See my xeno-canto recording so you can familiarized with it, notice that the presume hybrids vocalize just like adult yelow backed.

Yellow backed oriole, Icterus chrysater

Yellow backed oriole, Icterus chrysater

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.

Great tinamou at Manuel Antonio.

Tinamues are chicken like birds in the family tinamidae. Merely found in the american tropics, often times hard to find due to great camouflage but their calls (usually really early in the am or late in the pm) are commonly heard in the lowland forest on both coast as well as some higher elevation species such as highland tinamou.

This birds are often seen at carara at both the lagoon trail or the araceas trail and at Manuel Antonio on the sloth trail but more likely in the way to the look out point trail @the intersection of the gemelas beach and lookout trails intersection.

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