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.
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.
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.