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Surfbird – Rocas de Amancion, Dominicalito

The surfbird Calidris (Aphriza) virgata is a long distant migrant, breeding in Alaska – Yukon and can winter as far south as Chile. It is considered to be an uncommon passage migrant for Costa Rica, although it is perhaps more common that it is thought, as eBird shows a good amount of reports, this might be due to Costa Rican birders showing more interest on Scolopacids in the last decade or so?

Rarely seen inland, this species prefers coastal rocky shores bathed by splashing waves where it feeds on mollusks and barnacles as well as insects.

– 48 km South of Quepos is Dominicalito (south of Dominical, a small surfing town) the coast there is quite rocky and it serves as the perfect habitat to species like this as well as other good birds such as wandering tattler.

On September 19th, while leading a bird trip to Esquinas rainforest lodge Tom Dulski and I stopped here to look for it as he needed it for his list, sure enough we got about 5 individuals and I got some poor pictures through the binoculars.  I went back with my wife on the 28th, hoping to get better pictures and fortunately we did. Surprisingly this species allows one to get relatively close (compared to other Calidris species).


Surfbird, shot with a 100-400 canon lens @ 400mm about 18ft away

The habitat is excellent, and quite large as you get the rocky line starting south of Dominical all the way to about Hermosa beach. If you are birdwatching Manuel Antonio I highly recommend that you go there and explore the place between Late Aug to Oct, also if you are birding Baru which is nearer or simply driving from the south Pacific to the mountains or north to Carara do a stop here, you might get lucky!

Here is an eBird link to the hotspot, there you can get driving directions:





Birding trip to Cartago. Part 1; Aplomado falcon and Tapanti NP.

Aplomado Falcon (falco femoralis) is a casual to rare raptor that has been reported several times on the last few decades, with most sightings between 2010 to 2017.

Sunrise at 2500+masl


An individual has been reported lately in Coris, Cartago and it had been the best report of the month so far with many birders coming to see and many obtaining great shots of this beautiful falcon.

On September I had the chance to join some birding friends Karen Castillo, Andres Chaves (and son Eidel Chaves) and Oscar Herrera to search this species. We left Manuel Antonio at 1:45am and did some stops on the Talamanca/cerro de La Muerte mountain range to search for the rare Unspotted saw-whet owl which we did NOT see unfortunately but got at least one individual respond to our play back.

Once in Cartago we looked for the Falcon, which after 30 minutes or so Andres spotted hunting pigeons on a field right across Kimberly-Clark (see this ebird list for map details). The bird perches on the trees about 100 meters away from the fence, we failed obtaining permission to enter the field so we had to settle with distant (good though) views.

Other birds we did enjoy were some killdeers and mourning doves, which to North Americans might not be that special they sure are to Costa Rican birders!

Mourning dove.

Eastern meadowlark

After the joy of getting a new bird added to the life list we then went to look for sedge wren, a specie with an extremely reduced range, and unfortunately it’s habitat is disappearing rapidly, some say this is perhaps one of the species that might soon disappear if serious conservation efforts are not taken.

Once on site (a place I had seen it before thanks to a friend’s recommendation) we quickly got the bird, but better yet it allowed recordings, pictures etc! best view I had ever had of this wren.










Recording at:  

Celebrating it! I can read the boys thoughts….

After that we left for Tapantí National park where we would spend the rest of the day, activity was a very slow with some of the common birds showing up such as spotted woodcreeper, white bellied emerald, chlorospingus, bay headed tanagers and more, until we were lucky to find a mixed flock! (that is the typical way of birding here on the caribbean middle elevation, you just hope for a mixed flock) of all of the birds we saw on this flock the highlights were white-winged tanager (which I only had seen at Panama), Louisiana waterthrush, black and white warbler (good news, migration is starting!) and the best of the day to me; Rufous-rumped antwren.

Tapanti is certainly a great site, and it can sometimes produce good surprises, often is good to combine with a visit to Rancho Naturalista and explore some of the hotspots nearby….. which we did of course.

Forest at Tapanti NP


Taxonomy updates! 2017

As usual, every July, the AOU publishes the AUK magazine, I am always keen to read it as the July supplement often comes loaded with interesting taxonomic changes, this year is not the exception. Below you will find a short summary on the CR species affected by this changes, this includes splits, new common/english names, new families and sub families.



Blue-winged and cinnamon teals, as well as northern Shoveler. Formerly in the genus Anas, now Spatula.

American wigeon, formerly in the Genus Anas, now Mareca.

Northern shoveler and blue winged teals, Spatula clypeata and S. discor respectively.


Magnificent hummingbird (Eugenes fulgens) splits in 2, Rivoli’s hummingbird from South Arizona, New Mexico and Texas to North east Nicaragua. For Costa Rica: Talamanca hummingbird  (E. spectabilis) which is endemic to CR and Pa.


Emerald toucanet Aulacorhynchus prasinus: Split in 2, for CR Aulacorhynchus prasinus obtains a new common english name; Northern Emerald-Toucanet.

Northern emerald-toucanet


Prevost’s ground-sparrow splits in 2; White faced ground-sparrow M.biarcuata from MX, Guatemala, Salvador and Honduras. Costa Rica gets a new endemic Melozone cabanisi; Cabanis’s Ground-Sparrow.


Red breasted blackbird AKA red-breasted meadowlark (Sturnella militaris) Changes to genus Leistes. English name is Red-breasted Blackbird. L. militaris

Male Leistes militaris Red-breasted Blackbird.









New families:

Rhodinocinclidae; Rosy thrush-tanager

Passerellidae: members of the family Emberizidae (which disappears from CR) are now placed here, e.g finches, brush-finches, sparrows etc. Best known as New world sparrows.

Zeledoniidae: Includes one specie, wrenthrush (zeledonia) which was placed in Parulidae)

Icteriidae: this new family includes Yellow breasted chat, which was formerly placed on Parulidae.

Mitrospingidae: This new family includes Dusky-faced tanager which was placed in Thraupidae.

Rosy thrush-tanager gets a new family.

Subfamilies: see page 18 of the AUK supplement.


















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.


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!′ scrolling=’no’




Birding Rainmaker park. Quepos – Manuel Antonio.

   If you are birding at Manuel Antonio National Park and have already visited the park itself, El Rey, and Esquipulas but still you would like to birds other surrounding areas you might find a visit to Rainmaker park convenient!
   Rainmaker is in nature park with a well-maintained trail system including little more than a dozen hanging bridges on the canopy of the primary rain-forest, which in my opinion can yield some good looks to species such as trogons, bright-rumped Attila, and others which otherwise you would see their under parts from the forest floor. However, this site will not produce big lists, I will rather think of it as a place for the birder visiting with family or non-birding friends so you can feed two birds with the same seed! I.E enjoy the trails and waterfalls and also get 2 or 3 birds to your list.
The road to Rainmaker, the gravel road is usually in good condition, a sedan-type-vehicle should be able to get you there no problem.
   The trails are relatively steep but all with some nice steps and side railing, thus making it easier, I  don’t suggest to bring telescopes or even a tripod for your camera, not a good idea (yes today I carried mine) when you are in this kind of trails, binoculars are the key here.
   Also, I would invest more time at the hanging bridges trails rather than those near the streams and waterfalls, it is a bit noisy and the water sound wont let you hear the birds, however do look for buff-rumped warbler and fasciated tiger-heron at the river. On the smaller creeks look out for sulphur-rumped flycatcher and riverside wren. And hey! good luck (REAL good luck!) with the pair of crested-owls who typically roost before the first hanging bridges!

Fasciated tiger-heron, unlike the common bare throated T.H. this one favors fast running creeks or rivers instead of canals and lagoons. (  Picture for illustration)


Today we got a nice wood thrush, Sitting quietly in the dark understory of the forest.

 Target species:
Great and little tinamous, Fasciated tiger-heron, King vulture, Gray headed kite, white-crested coquette (at the gardens) trogons, bright rumped attila, red-capped and blue-crowned manakins, yellow-bellied tyrannulet, sulphur rumped flycatcher,tawny-crowned greenlet, buff-rumped warbler, blue-black grosbeak. Scaled antpitta has been seen here in the past!
Suggestions: Park fee is about $20 per person. The administration of this park quite is interesting, while the trails are nicely kept all the time, its hard to speak of operating hours, normally you will see staff at the entrances after 7:30am and will leave about 1:30pm, but the gate does not close so you can leave after that. If you enter and do not see personnel at the trail entrance, you can pay the fee at the house located right next to the gate. You need to sign a waiver.
oh! why it’s called Rainmaker? let this picture taken today Jan 30th explain, this is CR’s summer months!

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!


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 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.




Red breasted blackbird near Quepos

The red-breasted blackbird is found in the caribbean slope and south pacific, nonetheless the specie occurs in the central Pacific for more then 6 years now. A good population is well established at La Gallega River, near Naranjito de Quepos.  If you ever find your self birdwatching Manuel Antonio national park and are missing this species in your life list this is your place. Look for it on tall grass on the eastern side of the river, be in the lookout for tropical mockingbirds as well!

March 26th, 2015.



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