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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 theĀ  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.

Scaly-breasted Hummingbirds are seen quite often when birding Costa Rica on the Pacific Slope.

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:

Great Egret
Snowy Egret
Cattle Egret
Little Blue Heron
Green-backed Heron
White Ibis
Black Vulture
Turkey Vulture
Black-bellied Whistling-Duck
Muscovy Duck
White-tailed Kite
Roadside Hawk
Crested Caracara
Yellow-headed Caracara
White-throated Crake
possible Spotted and/or Paint-billed Crakes- responded to tape of both species.
Southern Lapwing
Lesser Yellowlegs
Northern Jacana
Pale-vented Pigeon
Short-billed Pigeon
Ruddy Ground-Dove
Blue Ground-Dove
White-tipped Dove
Orange-chinned Parakeet
Blue-headed Parrot
Red-lored Parrot
Striped Cuckoo
Squirrel Cuckoo
Smooth-billed Ani
Common Pauraque
Costa Rican Swift
Rufous-tailed Hummingbird
Scaly-breasted Hummingbird
Green Kingfisher
Fiery-billed Aracari
Chestnut-mandibled Toucan
Olivaceous Piculet
Red-crowned Woodpecker
Lineated Woodpecker
Pale-breasted Spinetail
Streak-headed Woodcreeper
Yellow Tyranulet
Paltry Tyrannulet
Yellow-bellied Elaenia
Common Tody-flycatcher
Slate-headed Tody-flycatcher
Great Kiskadee
Boat-billed Flycatcher
Social Flycatcher
Gray-capped Flycatcher
Piratic Flycatcher
Tropical Kingbird
Fork-tailed Flycatcher
Masked Tityra
Lesser Greenlet
Scrub Greenlet
Gray-breasted Martin
Barn Swallow
Cliff Swallow
Southern Rough-winged Swallow
Plain Wren
House Wren
Clay-colored Robin
Palm Tanager
Blue-gray Tanager
Golden-hooded Tanager
Thick-billed Euphonia
Red-legged Honeycreeper
Blue-black Grasquit
Variable Seedeater
Ruddy-breasted Seedeater
Slate-colored Seedeater
White-collared Seedeater
Black-striped Sparrow
Buff-throated Saltator
Red-winged Blackbird
Red-breasted Blackbird
Great-tailed Grackle
Bronzed Cowbird
Giant Cowbird
Crested Oropendola

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.

Laughing Falcons are fairly common when birding Costa Rica.

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:

Great Tinamou
Little Tinamou
Magnificent Frigatebird
Black Vulture
Turkey Vulture
King Vulture
White Hawk
Roadside Hawk
Laughing Falcon
Collared Forest-Falcon
Yellow-headed Caracara
Crested Guan
Gray-necked Wood-Rail
Pale-vented Pigeon
Short-billed Pigeon
White-tipped Dove
Gray-chested Dove
Ruddy Ground-Dove
Orange-chinned Parakeet
Crimson-fronted Parakeet
Red-lored Parrot
Blue-headed Parrot
Squirrel Cuckoo
Common Pauraque
Costa Rican Swift
Bronzy Hermit
Band-tailed Barbthroat
Stripe-throated Hermit
Long-billed Hermit
Garden Emerald
Violet-crowned Woodnymph
White-necked Jacobin
Purple-crowned Fairy
Scaly-breasted Hummingbird
Rufous-tailed Hummingbird
Charming Hummingbird
Violaceous Trogon
Black-throated Trogon
Baird’s Trogon
Slaty-tailed Trogon
Rufous-tailed Jacamar
Blue-crowned Motmot
Green Kingfisher
Fiery-billed Aracari
Chestnut-mandibled Toucan
Olivaceous Piculet
Red-crowned Woodpecker
Golden-naped Woodpecker
Pale-billed Woodpecker
Rufous-winged Woodpecker
Striped Woodhaunter
Plain Xenops
Wedge-billed Woodcreeper
Cocoa Woodcreeper
Black-striped Woodcreeper
Northern Barred Woodcreeper
Tawny-winged Woodcreeper
Streak-headed Woodcreeper
Black-hooded Antshrike
Russet Antshrike
Dusky Antbird
Chestnut-backed Antbird
Bicolored Antbird
Black-faced Antthrush
Dot-winged Antwren
Yellow-bellied Tyrannulet
Yellow Tyrannulet
Yellow-bellied Elaenia
Ochre-bellied Flycatcher
Paltry Tyrannulet
Northern Bentbill
Slate-headed Tody-Flycatcher
Commn Tody-Flycatcher
Eye-ringed Flatbill
Yellow-olive Flycatcher
Sulphur-rumped Flycatcher
Bright-rumped Attila
Dusky-capped Flycatcher
Great Kiskadee
Boat-billed Flycatcher
Social Flycatcher
Gray-capped Flycatcher
Piratic Flycatcher
Tropical Kingbird
Eastern Kingbird
Fork-tailed Flycatcher
Rufous Piha
White-winged Becard
Masked Tityra
Black-crowned Tityra
Orange-collared Manakin
Blue-crowned Manakin
Red-capped Manakin
Tawny-crowned Greenlet
Lesser Greenlet
Southern Rough-winged Swallow
Black-bellied Wren
Riverside Wren
Plain Wren
House Wren
Scaly-breasted Wren
Tropical Gnatcather
Clay-colored Robin
Buff-rumped Warbler
Bananaquit
Gray-headed Tanager
White-shouldered Tanager
Black-cheeked Ant-Tanager
CherriesĀ“s Tanager
Blue-gray Tanager
Palm Tanager
Thick-billed Euphonia
Spot-crowned Euphonia
Bay-headed Tanager
Golden-hooded Tanager
Green Honeycreeper
Red-legged Honeycreeper
Slate-colored Seedeater
Variable Seedeater
Orange-billed Sparrow
Black-striped Sparrow
Buff-throated Saltator
Scarlet-rumped Cacique

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One Response to “Costa Rica Birding at Esquinas Rainforest Lodge”

  1. Nice write-up. I have been searching for blogs about Costa Rica. If you are interested you can post your article on our website as well.

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