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South east specialties: Birding La Gamba, Esquinas rainforest lodge and Coto 47.

The Southern Pacific lowlands of Costa Rica has  a tremendous contrast in habitats, ranging from wetlands such as the Terraba-Sierpe river, mangroves, foothills, the pristine forest at Corcovado National Park (one of the most bio-diverse sites in the country) and Golfo Dulce area, Piedras Blancas National park, etc, but also land devastated by the mono-culture of palm oil, rice fields and even bananas back in the day! However, sites such as Coto 47 are great for some of the newer Panamanian invasive species such as Sapphire-throated hummingbird, wattled jacana, rusty margined flycatcher, Savanna hawk, and in matter of time might surprise birders with one or two new records for the country such as the long-time-waited crimson backed tanager (if it doesn’t show up at San Vito area first!).

it only takes a look at Google map to see the amount of mono-cultures near Villa Neily-Paso Canoas area.

it only takes a look at Google map to see the amount of mono-cultures near Villa Neily-Paso Canoas area.

The small town of La Gamba is the gateway to the wonderful Esquinas rainforest lodge, an excellent option to stay “in” the forest. The road that leads there produces quality species, on September 7th 2016 my friend Karen and I went to bird this site, and as any time I come here was pleased with the birds seen. The soonest one lives route 1 and drives on the gravel road to La Gamba is a great site for the some what rare red-rumped woodpecker, which I had seen there on other occasions. Various Flycatchers, blue headed parrots, scrub greenlet, tanagers and more where pretty active there.

 

Male red-rumped woodpecker

Male red-rumped woodpecker

Now, while rusty margined flycatcher can be seen basically along this road  the most reliable site I know is closer to town, once at La Gamba town, take the turn to the right past the school (Notice the MINAE 9KM sign on your right) and drive for about 650 meters, basically right after crossing the second bridge (under construction the day we visited), it had nested here 2 years ago.

We saw about 4 adults and 1 juvenile bird, interestingly juvs looks much social flycatchers but no rusty margins but do have the yellow crown as adult RMFC.

Rusty margined Flycatcher, notice the margins, blacker face than Social FC.

Rusty margined Flycatcher, notice the margins, blacker face than Social FC.

Social Flycather, grayer head, back not as brown as RMFC.

Social Flycather, grayer head, back not as brown as RMFC.

 

Gray capped Flycatcher

Gray capped Flycatcher

 

1st bridge after turning right.

1st bridge after turning right.

Juv Bare throated tiger-heron

Juv Bare throated tiger-heron, this is what Karen was up to on the above picture!

After 2.5hrs we spent on La Gamba we moved to Esquinas lodge, the staff is always welcoming here! we quickly looked for our main target which we got easily; Black cheeked ant-tanager, although it can show up in any trail this time we found 2 with a small mixed flock near the entrance of La Trocha trail, were a pair of great curassows welcomed us!

 

 

Black-cheeked ant-tanager

Black-cheeked ant-tanager

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Esquinas rainforest trail map

Esquinas rainforest trail map

After that we then moved to Coto 47, south of Villa Neily, here our targets were Savanna hawk, sapphire throated hummingbird and also the Jacana which I have failed at least 5 times already, and had not heard resent report here lately, I wonder…

 

No hummingbird nor Jacana but we got great looks of the hawk, despite the rainy weather. Located very near the tree on which it nested 2 years ago (First confirmed nest for CR).

This part brought so many memories of the many times I went there with my Friend Roy Orozco in search for these targets, last time we promised we would return to take revenge with the savanna hawk, so this photo is dedicated to the memory of my best friend, I cannot accept the fact he is no longer with us.

savanna-hawk-coto-47_1000x667

the road to Savanna hawk.

the road to Savanna hawk.

 

 

 

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American Avocet at Chomes

One of the shrimp ponds at Chomes. As Manuel calls it: ” the prettiest place to be in Costa Rica” with a sarcastic smile!

The american avocet is a rare NA migrant and very few individuals are reported annually (about 1 to 2 reports). This year this specie was reported in Panama around January, and was reported in CR at a location called homes, located at the eastern side of the gulf of Nicoya during the southern migration and now this month during the northern Migration. A facebook memeber of the AOCR reported the bird again about a week ago so my friend Roy and I went in search for it, as usual accompanied by my wife Karina and this time our friend and colleague Manuel Cabalceta.

 

We left Manuel Antonio at noon and after 3.5hr drive we got to Chomes, we looked for the bird for about 15 minutes and there it was! Mission accomplished!

American Avocet, the only one (at least that we saw) among the many birds that congregate here

American avocet at Chomes

American avocet at Chomes

A bird I had patiently waited for… We looked around for other birds for our annual list and got the common ones of this important site for waders, i.e black skimmers, terns, laughing gull, whimbrels, willets, all the common plovers sandpipers, being the stilt sandpiper the most “unusual” bird besides the avocet. Very nice to see them in their beautiful breeding plumage!

Willet, breeding

Black skimmers

Chomes, CR-P

Mar 27, 2015 3:45 PM – 5:45 PM
Protocol: Stationary
Comments:    Karina, Roy O y Manuel C.
41 species

Wood Stork  X
Magnificent Frigatebird  X
Neotropic Cormorant  X
Anhinga  X
Brown Pelican  X
Bare-throated Tiger-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
Black-necked Stilt  X
American Avocet  1    bird reported 2 days ago by other birder.
Black-bellied Plover  X
Semipalmated Plover  X
Northern Jacana  X
Solitary Sandpiper  X
Greater Yellowlegs  X
Willet  X
Lesser Yellowlegs  X
Whimbrel  X
Marbled Godwit  X
Ruddy Turnstone  X
Stilt Sandpiper  X
Least Sandpiper  X
Semipalmated Sandpiper  X
Western Sandpiper  X
Short-billed Dowitcher  X
Laughing Gull  X
Gull-billed Tern  X
Royal Tern  X
Sandwich Tern  X
Common Ground-Dove  X
Hoffmann’s Woodpecker  X
Orange-fronted Parakeet  X

Yellow Headed Blackbird and “bobolink”? in Costa Rica.

Birding here in CR has been just amazing lately, 2014 has been a year full of great birds and surprises, rarities, new species, just superb!

Inca tern, black billed cuckoo, sooty shearwater, yellow backed oriole (new specie for CR), and today Bobolink (see clarification at the end) and yellow headed blackbird. Not to mention the many other species that to my wife, my great friend Roy O and to me had required hours of dedication to get.
Yesterday an AOCR member posted an alarm on yellow headed blackbird at Coto 47 (again Coto surprising us with quality birds!) So my friend Roy and I (unfortunately my wife who is a trooper couldnt go today) went today to try to find the bird based on directions provided by Leo Garrigues and other fellow birders who found it yesterday, and after some exhaustive search we found something almost as good, Bobolink! A rare passage migrant for CR.

Bobolink, a very rare passage migrant.

Bobolink, a very rare passage migrant.

After a while we went to a well known spot for a recent panama invasive specie; sapphire throated hummingbird which Roy had not seen yet, and we got to see! Then we returned to the spot and there was the blackbird! How amazing has our luck been!

Yellow headed blackbird, this would be the second individual reported for Continental CR apparently.

Yellow headed blackbird, this would be the second individual reported for Continental CR apparently.

Asociated with bronzed cowbirds and some shiny cowbirds, as well as grackles

Asociated with bronzed cowbirds and some shiny cowbirds, as well as grackles

The emotions of getting quality lifers aren’t the same without my wife, who is so jealous, so we are returning tomorrow!

If you are birding Manuel Antonio national park or if you are staying near by, a visit to Coto should be productive, particularly during the wet season, its a 3hr drive or so.

( EDITED) NOTE regarding to the “bobolink”:

Today the committee of rare birds of the AOCR confirmed that this bird is NOT a Bobolink, it is indeed a female RED BREASTED BLACKBIRD, we lost a lifer but gained experience, now thanks to their experience and suggestions we now know what to look for next time. Thanks to Jim Zook, Kevin Easley, Leo Guarrigues, Richard Guarrigues and others who helped to short this one out.  

More about Coto:

butorides-striata-striated-heron-in-coto-47

another-trip-to-south-pacific-cr-coto-47-and-la-gamba-areas

birding-southern-pacific-cr-la-gamba-and-esquinas-lodge

 

Crested oropendola, a recent Panama invasive, one of the many good reasons to keep birding coto area

Eastern meadowlark

 

Durika, Altos de Salitre. Buenos Aires

On September 15th my wife Karina my friends Johan Fernandez and Roy Orozco went to Durika and Los Altos de Salitre in search for the birds that are specific to this area i.e wedge tailed grass-Finch, White tailed Nightjar, ocellated crake and rosy thrush-tanager.
This is located north of Buenos Aires in the Puntarenas province.
On the 15th we found a hotel where to sleep for the night, checked in at 7:30pm and went to Los altos de Salitre in search for the Nightjar as the night was really nice (no rain) we got to the soccer field of the place and looked aroud there base on other friend’s suggestion and no luck, we drove back down and one flew off the road, our only chance!  We got off the car and surrounded where the bird landed, it flew again but this time flew right infront of us quite slow allowing us to see it good just by the necked eye,  in anoher attempt to get a picture we got to see it in the ground just enough for some in the group to put the binoculars on it, what a treat!  First lifer at 10:00pm!

Roy spotted this beauty! a common potoo.

Next day (16th) we left the hotel at 4:30am and went back to the soccer field as we were told the wedge tailed grassfinch lived by, at 5:20ish I got to spot it and called the other immediately! We got 3 individuals.

Wedge tailed grass-finch

Breakfast time! notice the soccer “field” the grass-finch was across from it.

After breakfast and a toast (with coffee instead of beer) we continued for another specific bird; rosy thrush tanager, considered by many one of the hardest to see of all CR bird species.

I guess camo colored didnt work that well!

We got to the intersection to Durika, where the bird is located (we had done a trip here before to search for it, we got to hear it several tikes but it just acts like a ghost) and after an hour of hiding and looking in the middle of he forest with dense vegetation and hilly terrain Johan Fernandez spotted the first female and all of us got to see thanks to him, I was lucky to get a picture of it even though its bad it was exiting due to the difficulty level . Later I got to see a male and then in another spot Roy had a great view of a male but no chance to get a picture,  it is incredibly elusive.

A great picture of the leafs, notice a female rosy thrush tanager in the back

A great picture of the leafs, notice a female rosy thrush tanager in the back

The population here at Durika is good, we got to ID at least 6 individuals by ear in different spots

Interesting during a trip to Panama, we got to see the rosy thrush tanager various times and it behave completely different than the population here in CR.  It was much more deliberate and would come to the edge of the trail easily,  like if it was a robin!!

Here a picture I got from Pipeline in Panama, completely exposed and not shy at all

We walked down the road searching for more and then we got army ants which led to many Thamnophilids and similar birds associated with the ants. Bare crowned antbird was a lifer for all except Johan F.

Bicolored antbird, an ant swarm specialist

Slaty spinetail

Later as we continued I almost stepped on a jumping pit-viper, it is incredible that one develops a sixth sense or truly has an angel protecting us, if my step was 15 inches longer I would had stepped right on it. It was picture time of course!

Atropoides mexicanum – Jumping pit-viper

 

we moved the snake for pitures and then relocated away from the road to avoid people from having an accident, the road is frequented by some local indigenous people who live at Durika.

I guess the poor snake was more afraid of us than we were of it!

 

After a while we jumped back on the car for our last target of the day; ocelleated crake. We played Mp3 in 3 sites untill one responded, once then we crushed the grass making a circle surrounding the birds (remember this 15cm birds like tall grass and behave like a mouse) we waited 1+hr under the hot sun, the bird kept responding but were not able to see it, we crushed more grass to corner the bird even more, it was THE ONLY way to see it, once it flew out of the grass we all got 3 seconds to see it, forget the pictures as you either see it or loose it. I must thank Johan F. for his spontaneous jump to get that bird outta there!

Based on the previous experience and this one this works better on taller grass than at shorter grass as the birds were much more skittish at grounds with shorter grass, I imagine we were more exposed?

After seeing this birds we all were extremely pleased as anyone who has tried them knows the dedication and physical effort it requires to get this 4 birds from this area.

 

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