This past weekend, I did some guiding and birding down at the Esquinas Rainforest Lodge in Costa Rica near the Osa Peninsula. It was the first time I got the chance to go birding in the area and I would go back in a second. I wouldn’t go back there because the birding was spectacular (it was good but not good enough to make me want to call it amazing). No, but I would love to visit Esquinas Lodge again because it might be the only place with easy access to Piedras Blancas National Park.
This national park was originally a sector of Corcovado National Park but was named a separate national park for management purposes. Piedras Blancas protects a large area of lowland rainforest that marches up and down rugged, steeply sloped hills. The rough terrain has kept the forests of this little known park intact but also make it very difficult to visit.
The trails at Esquinas are probably the easiest (and only) ones in the park and are still fairly rough. During the short time we spent on them, we sweat buckets as we climbed up steep steps and sweat some more as we tried not to slip down the hill while descending. One of us also got stung by a stinging caterpillar after barely brushing up against a tree, and we had to climb over at least three fallen trees that were blocking the trail.
No, Piedras Blancas is not for the faint of heart but I would love to get back to those wild, unexplored forests to get a better idea of what lives in them.
The lodge is nice and appeared to be under good management. It’s also surrounded by good forest and very birdy gardens. Species such as Riverside Wren, Orange-billed and Black-striped Sparrows, Buff-rumped Warbler, Orange-collared Manakin, and many more are easily seen around the cabins. From the dining area, we also saw Gray-chested Doves and got amazing looks at a Black-faced Antthrush as it foraged along the edge of the forest.
The lodge and surroundings were especially good for hummingbirds. All four species of hermits were seen visiting the numerous heliconias planted in the gardens and although we didn’t see White-tipped Sicklebill, I would be surprised if this fancy hummingbird species was not present. Other hummingbird species encountered around the lodge (and several were seen as we dined) were: Charming and Rufous-tailed Hummingbirds, White-necked Jacobin, Purple-crowned Fairy, Garden Emerald, Violet-crowned Woodnymph, and Scaly-breasted Hummingbird.
As luck would have it, we did not see our target species; Veraguan Mango and Sapphire-throated Hummingbird. We hoped for these recent invaders from Panama along the road to Esquinas Lodge (the La Gamba road) but saw very few plants that were flowering, so May could be the wrong time of year to look for these rare hummingbirds in Costa Rica.
Another target bird we missed along the La Gamba road was Brown-throated Parakeet. Another recent invader from Panama that has moved into Costa Rica following the deforestation that has occurred near the border, this parakeet has been seen with regularity near the town of La Gamba. I seriously doubt it was present during our stay though, because we spent a fair amount of time intently looking and listening for it. Although we saw many Blue-headed and Red-lored Parrots as they flew to their evening roosts, there was no sign of Brown-throated Parakeet. Once again, May could be the wrong time of year for this species at la Gamba.
It’s the right time for a few other good things however. Our best birds were:
Crested Oropendola- a new one for Costa Rica for the both of us! We had at least three along the highway between La Gamba and Rio Claro.
Slate-colored Seedeater- I heard at least 5 or 6 near the rice fields between the town and the lodge.
Ruddy-breasted Seedeater- just one, nice looking male.
Fork-tailed Flycatcher- what an elegant, beautiful bird!
Eastern Kingbird- seems to be getting a bit late for these guys. We saw 6.
Southern Lapwing- it’s getting more common in Costa Rica but is always nice to see.
Red-breasted Blackbird- nice looking bird way out in the rice fields.
Unidentified rail- some unknown rail or rails responded with atypical vocalizations from wet rice fields after playback of both Spotted Rail and Paint-billed Crake. I suspect that at least one was a Spotted Rail because it gave a Rallus-sounding call.
Here’s the full list of bird species we saw or heard along the La Gamba road and near Rio Claro:
|Little Blue Heron|
|possible Spotted and/or Paint-billed Crakes- responded to tape of both species.|
|Costa Rican Swift|
|Southern Rough-winged Swallow|
Back at the lodge and on the trails, our highlights were:
Collared Forest-Falcon- we got alright looks at one hunting along the forest edge.
White Hawk- this beautiful raptor was perched near the lodge.
Laughing Falcon- we also saw this smart looking bird perched near the lodge.
Baird’s Trogon- this regional endemic appears to be fairly common at Esquinas.
Rufous-winged Woodpecker- we got very close looks at this beautiful woodpecker.
Black-striped Woodcreeper- this handsome woodcreeper was especially common at Esquinas.
Bicolored Antbird- we got brief looks at a few that were foraging at a rather inactive antswarm.
Yellow-bellied Tyrannulet- heard once and the briefest of looks at this small, rare flycatcher.
Rufous Piha- fairly common in the forest.
Black-cheeked Ant-Tanager- Esquinas is a great place for this Costa Rican endemic. They were easy to see right at the lodge and in the forest.
Here is a full list of birds that we recorded around Esquinas Lodge and in the nearby forests of Piedras Blancas National Park:
|Costa Rican Swift|
|Northern Barred Woodcreeper|
|Southern Rough-winged Swallow|