Excursion to Quebrada Bonita, Acosta

Adilio set the scope at dawn

Adilio set the scope at dawn

Quebrada Bonita is located a few kilometers uphill from the hamlet of Zocuano, in the canton of Acosta.  This is a spectacular mountain and forest region to the south of San José and Escazú.  The birdwatching is just superb and we identified more than 110 species in little more than a day and a half of observations (see list below).  We added 4 new species to the list Adilio has for Acosta, available in his publication, Aves de Acosta (Paula Calderón Mesén and Adilio Antonio Zeledón Meza). Though I personally missed several important sightings by the group, I still managed to add 7 species to my life list.

These were: White hawk; Barred forest-falcon; Violet-headed hummingbird; Tawny-winged woodcreeper; Black-faced antthrush; Eye-ringed flatbill; and Spot-crowned euphonia.

The following birds were seen and/or heard and identified by Adilio, Adrián or Tito, but I unfortunately managed to miss them and so they are still needed for my Life List of Costa Rican birds:

Zone-tailed hawk; Ruddy pigeon (voice only); Scale-crested pygmy-tyrant; Scaly-breasted wren; and White-throated robin

I missed this one!  Zone-tailed hawk

I missed this one! Zone-tailed hawk

Access to this fantastic birding area is by bus through Aserrí from San José (a little more than 1 hour) to the main town of San Ignacio de Acosta, a pretty place set among hills and fairly heavily wooded.  At this time of year, the forest there is reminiscent of the dry tropical forest of Guanacaste, but the area receives heavy rainfall at other times of the year.

But I got this one!

But I got this one! White-tailed Kite

We took the dirt road down for a distance of some 25 km towards the Pacific coast at Parrita and turned up into beautiful scenery on a road, or rather a track, that leads to Zocuano.  Four-wheel drive here is a must unless, like Adrián, you have a motor bike.  When Adilio’s quad broke down, Adrián was able to come to the rescue by arranging for it to be returned to San Ignacio de Acosta and to transport Adilio, rather skilfully, on his motor bike.

Here's how we got there

Here’s how we got there

Best bird en route was the Eye-ringed flatbill (Rhynchocyclus brevirostris), of which we saw at least three individuals in all.  This was a new bird for me, but, because of the prominent eye-ring, it was fairly easy to identify once you located it in the thick forest habitat next to a stream. We saw many interesting birds on the way in, including a large but unidentifiable forest-falcon.

We were hosted at Quebrada Bonita by don Alvaro and doña Norma at their very traditional Tico country home, where we were treated to large portions of doña Norma´s excellent cooking.  Here I am on the balcony with Adrián and don Alvaro.

Casa de don Alvaro y doña Norma

Casa de don Alvaro y doña Norma

Here is doña Norma in her kitchen.

Doña Norma rustles up the grub

Doña Norma rustles up the grub

Excursions on foot were made from here.  Stand-out sightings among vultures and hawks were the King vulture, White hawk (a pair), Laughing falcon, and, finally, a Barred forest-falcon.

Laughing falcon, in Spanish guaco, because of its 'laugh'

Laughing falcon, in Spanish guaco, because of its ‘laugh’

Here’s a nice shot (courtesy of Tito Fallas) of a more common bird, a Golden-olive woodpecker.

Peeking out

Peeking out

There were three hummingbirds with which I am not very familiar.  Here are two of them, in photos taken in Costa Rica by Karel Straatman:

A Canivet's emerald, courtesy of Karel Straatman

Canivet’s emerald; female, but the distinctive face pattern is hidden in this shot

Violet-headed hummingbird, female

Violet-headed hummingbird, female

Canivet’s emerald (Chlorostilbon canivetti)  is very similar to the third, very common, species, the Steely-vented hummingbird (Amazilia saucerrottei), which we found en route, before arriving at Quebrada Bonita.

We actually saw both males and females of both these species, which made identification much easier.

The Tawny-winged woodcreeper (Dendrocincla anabatina) is a Pacific species that was new to me.  The woodcreepers are always difficult to identify, but this one has no spots and just a few streaks on the upper breast.  It has a straight, black bill.  The upperparts are a dull brown, while the only rufous is in wings and tail.   Does anyone have a photo?

I rarely see any of the antbird family (22 Costa Rican species) but I see even fewer of the Ground Antbirds (8 species, pp. 184-187 in Birds of Costa Rica, Garrigues & Dean).  I was therefore extremely happy to see the Black-faced antthrush (Formicarius analis), though it was not much of a look.  All antbirds seem to be highly secretive and mostly dwell in a dark, forest environment.

We saw at least 10 species of flycatcher, the highlights being the aforementioned Eye-ringed flatbill and the Scale-crested pygmy-tyrant.  However, my view of the latter was so brief that I cannot add it to my life list.  Evidently, it is a common species that I should be able to find easily in many locations on either of the slopes, Caribbean or Pacific.

My final life bird was the Spot-crowned euphonia ((Euphonia imitans), whose female is distinctive because of the rufous on the forehead and the belly.  The female Olive-backed euphonia has a similar pattern, but that species is restricted to the Caribbean, and the male Spot-crowned has the blue-and-yellow pattern of several other euphonia species.

I find I am still lacking many photos, so if you can help, please send me a note in the Comments section.  The lovely shot of the White hawk (Leucopternis albicollis) is courtesy of Adrián Fallas Corrales, motor-cyclist extraordinaire.

The full list, either seen or heard by me, now follows.  I exclude the sightings made by others in the group of the birds that would have been life birds for me.  Three of the species were seen exclusively next to Tito’s house in San Ignacio de Acosta, our starting and finishing point.

  1. Little tinamou (voice)
  2. Gray-headed chachalaca
  3. Crested guan (voice)
  4. Black vulture
  5. Turkey vulture
  6. King vulture
  7. Swallow-tailed kite
  8. White-tailed kite
  9. White hawk
  10. Barred hawk
  11. Gray hawk
  12. Roadside hawk
  13. Red-tailed hawk
  14. Crested caracara
  15. Yellow-headed caracara
  16. Laughing falcon
  17. Barred forest-falcon
  18. Spotted sandpiper
  19. Red-billed pigeon
  20. Short-billed pigeon (voice)
  21. Ruddy pigeon (voice)
  22. Inca dove
  23. White-tipped dove
  24. Crimson-fronted parakeet
  25. Orange-chinned parakeet
  26. White-crowned parrot
  27. Squirrel cuckoo
  28. Groove-billed ani
  29. Common pauraque
  30. White-collared swift
  31. Stripe-throated hermit
  32. Canivet’s emerald
  33. Steely-vented hummingbird
  34. Rufous-tailed hummingbird
  35. Violet-headed hummingbird
  36. Gartered trogon
  37. Slaty-tailed trogon (voice)
  38. Blue-crowned motmot (voice)
  39. Keel-billed toucan
  40. Hoffmann’s woodpecker
  41. Golden-olive woodpecker
  42. Tawny-winged woodcreeper
  43. Streak-headed woodcreeper
  44. Black-faced antthrush
  45. Yellow-bellied elaenia
  46. Piratic flycatcher
  47. Common tody-flycatcher
  48. Scale-crested pygmy flycatcher
  49. Eye-ringed flatbill
  50. Great kiskadee
  51. Social flycatcher
  52. Gray-capped flycatcher
  53. Streaked flycatcher
  54. Tropical kingbird
  55. Masked tityra
  56. White-ruffed manakin
  57. Brown jay
  58. Blue-and-white swallow
  59. Rufous-naped wren (San Ignacio de Acosta)
  60. Bay wren
  61. House wren
  62. White-breasted wood-wren
  63. White-throated robin
  64. Clay-colored robin
  65. Mountain robin
  66. Tennessee warbler
  67. Chestnut-sided warbler
  68. Wilson’s warbler
  69. Buff-rumped warbler
  70. Rufous-capped warbler (San Ignacio de Acosta)
  71. Common bush-tanager
  72. White-lined tanager
  73. Summer tanager
  74. Cherrie’s tanager
  75. Golden-hooded tanager
  76. Silver-throated tanager
  77. Blue-gray tanager
  78. Palm tanager
  79. Green honeycreeper
  80. Red-legged honeycreeper
  81. Variable seedeater
  82. White-eared ground-sparrow (San Ignacio de Acosta)
  83. Black-striped sparrow (voice)
  84. Rufous-collared sparrow
  85. Buff-throated saltator
  86. Melodious blackbird
  87. Great-tailed grackle
  88. Giant cowbird
  89. Baltimore oriole
  90. Chestnut-headed oropendola
  91. Montezuma oropendola
  92. Yellow-crowned euphonia
  93. Spot-crowned euphonia

4 thoughts on “Excursion to Quebrada Bonita, Acosta

  1. Sounds like a wonderful trip, Paul! We look forward to reading your posts. Costa Rica holds many fond birding memories for us! Happy Spring. Maureen


  2. Pingback: Baltimore orioles and summer tanagers in Costa Rica | Dear Kitty. Some blog

  3. Pingback: Costa Rican birds, bye-bye! | Dear Kitty. Some blog

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