Damas Island Mangroves, near Quepos, is one of the last remaining major mangrove areas protected in the Central Pacific. I joined my friend Pablo Gonsalves of Manuel Antonio Expeditions for a several hour boat tour of the mangrove ecosystem.
While this area doesn’t host shorebirds in the same numbers as further north along the Nicoya Penninsula, the tidal flats here are still an important shorebird stopover site. We saw a good variety of shorebirds, including Black-bellied Plover, Semipalmated Plover, Whimbrel, Ruddy Turnstone, Stilt Sandpiper, Short-billed Dowitcher, Greater Yellowlegs, Lesser Yellowlegs, and Willet.
Other species seen included Mangrove Hummingbird, Anhinga, Yellow-crowned Night-Heron, Plumbeous Kite, Common Black Hawk, Golden-naped Woodpecker, Panama Flycatcher, Mangrove Vireo, and the resident Mangrove Yellow Warbler.
Manuel Antonio is the most visited national park in Costa Rica due to its beautiful beaches and an abundance of mammals. During a visit to the park, one can expect to see three species of monkeys (Mantled Howler, Capuchin or “White-faced,” and the endangered & endemic Red-backed Squirrel Monkey), both species of sloth (Hoffman’s Two-toed and Brown-throated Three-toed), coatis, racoons, and much more.
However, the crowded conditions – especially at this time of year – are not ideal for birdwatching. I was frustrated more than a few times by someone walking between me and a bird I was photographing, causing the bird to take flight.
While I didn’t see any birds here that I didn’t also see elsewhere, some of the highlights of my morning visit included Costa Rican Swift, Scaly-breasted Hummingbird, Blue-throated Goldentail, Fiery-billed Aracari, Scarlet Macaw, Chestnut-backed Antbird, Black-hooded Antshrike, Philadelphia Vireo, Black-bellied Wren, Riverside Wren, and Long-billed Gnatwren.
Baru National Wildlife Refuge, near Dominical, boasts a high level of biodiversity, conserving 815 acres of tropical rainforest, mangroves, wetlands, and beach. Over the past 40 years, what was once a cattle ranch has been transformed into a thriving reserve that is home to more than 300 species of birds.
I enjoyed a wonderful morning on the trails here, during which I recorded 74 species, including Gray-headed Kite, Olivaceous Piculet, Plain Xenops, Golden-crowned Spadebill, Blue-crowned Manakin, Orange-collared Manakin, Black-bellied Wren, Kentucky Warbler, Gray-headed Tanager, and White-shouldered Tanager.
Rocas de Amancio is a rocky beach just north of Dominicalito beach. It’s known as a somewhat reliable location for finding wintering Surfbird, of which I was delighted to find two, along with American Oystercatcher, Ruddy Turnstone, and Wandering Tattler!
Quizarrá is a small village in the province of Perez Zeledon at approximately 800m in elevation that is part of the Alexander Skutch Biological Corridor. It is known primarily as the home of Los Cusingos Bird Sanctuary, which is where the neotropical ornithological pioneer Alexander Skutch lived and did his research.
I stayed at Finca David, a delightful B&B where I enjoyed delicious meals prepared by Sonia, the host. I stayed in a very comfortable cabin with plenty of privacy and also took advantage of some short trails on the property. At night I heard both Common Potoo and Mottled Owl calling. The striking Orange-collared Manakin is fairly common here and perhaps a bit easier to see than at other locations.
Finca David is just one of the properties catering to birders visiting the area brought together by Costa Rica Birding B&B in collaboration with the Rural Tourism Community of the Active Women Association of Alexander Skutch Biological Corridor. Other cabins with private or shared bathrooms are available at very reasonable prices, as well as food services, guided walks and tours throughout the biological corridor.
Birding the nearby area from the road was very productive, with the undoubted highlights being White-crested Coquette and Turquoise Cotinga! Other species I observed here included Garden Emerald, Violet-headed Hummingbird, Swallow-tailed Kite, Baird’s Trogon, Fiery-billed Aracari, Fork-tailed Flycatcher, Olivaceous Piculet, Peregrine Falcon, Rufous-breasted Wren, Isthmian Wren, Spot-crowned Euphonia, Streaked Saltator, and Yellow-bellied Seedeater.
I enjoyed a very birdy day at Los Cusingos Bird Sanctuary that included Chiriqui Quail-Dove, Baird’s Trogon, Fiery-billed Aracari, Golden-naped Woodpecker, Dot-winged Antwren, Ruddy Woodcreeper, Slate-headed Tody-Flycatcher, Olive-striped Flycatcher, Sulphur-rumped Flycatcher, Rufous Piha, Blue-crowned Manakin, Orange-collared Manakin, Red-capped Manakin, Rufous-breasted Wren, Spot-crowned Euphonia, Red-crowned Ant-Tanager, Gray-headed Tanager, White-shouldered Tanager, and Speckled Tanager.
Checklists – Quizarrá (La Cotinga Birding B&B)
Hotspot – Quizarrá (La Cotinga Birding B&B)
Hotspot – Los Cusingos