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Quebrada Gonzalez Ranger station, Braulio Carrillo National Park

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Revision as of 21:10, 6 June 2007

A site that should not be skipped on any visit to Costa Rica, especially if you have a day to spare in San Jose, is the Quebrada Gonzalez ranger station in Braulio Carrillo National Park. Located about an hours drive from San Jose along the San Jose-Limon highway, this site offers access to a huge block of excellent forested habitat in the foothill zone. Many of the Caribbean slope species that have become hard to find at other sites due to deforestation are still readily found here and can be seen along two main trails; one behind the ranger station and another on the other side of the highway. The birding can be very good in the vicinity of the parking area as well. Although the trails officially open at 8AM, I have had no problem entering before then and paying after. Although the birding can be tough because of the dense vegetation, high canopy and high frequency of rain, it is well worth spending a day here. Birding quietly and with much patience is typically rewarding with looks at sveral uncommon species. Here are some highlights and suggestions for seeing them:

Hawk-eagles and other raptors: all three species regularly occur here with Ornate most common. Keeping an eye on the sky from 10AM to noon (especially during sunny days) should result in looks at at least one Hawk Eagle species. This is a good time for other soaring raptors as well, the following species often seen: King Vulture Barred Hawk White Hawk Short-tailed Hawk Great Black Hawk

A lucky few have even seen Crested Eagle inside the forest!

Quail-Doves: although uncommon, Purplish-backed and Olive-backed both occur.

Black-eared Wood Quail: uncommon, but still occurs here.

Hummingbirds: Crowned Woodnymph is the most common sp., Purple-crowned Fairy, Green Thorntail and Black-crested Coquette are often seen at flowering trees in parking area, Snowcap sometimes. Red-footed Plumeleteer is common inside the forest, White-tipped Sicklebill frequent at hanging "lobster claw" Heliconias.

Rufous-vented Ground Cuckoo: very shy but present!

Lanceolated Monklet: present but very inconspicuous.

Lattice-tailed Trogon: fairly common- listen for "laughing" song.

Black-crowned Antpitta: very shy and inconspicuous but present in the gulley behind the station.

Dull-mantled Antbird: uncommon but present.

Black-headed Antthrush: uncommon but present.

Bare-necked Umbrellabird: rare but present.

Mixed flocks here can be excellent. The understory mixed flock usually has: Streak-crowned (and Plain) Antvireo, Checker-throated, White-flanked and Dot-winged Antwrens, Tawny-faced Gnatwren, Buff-throated Foliagleaner, Striped (Western) Woodhaunter, and Ruddy-tailed and Sulpher-rumped Flycatchers, Tawny-crowned Greenlet, Wedge-billed and Spotted Woodcreepers and sometimes Brown-billed Scythebill.

Canopy flocks: Those with White-throated Shrike Tanager are usually the largest, flocks led by Black-faced Grosbeaks are more common. The following species occur in both of these types of flocks (which can be witnessed from the parking area): Squirrel Cuckoo Red-headed Barbet Black-cheeked, Rufous-winged and Cinnamon Woodpeckers Russet Antshrike Spotted Woodcreeper Yellow-margined Flycatcher Sharpbill- rare Tawny-capped and Olive-backed Euphonias Silver-throated, Bay-headed, Rufous-winged, Speckled, Emerald, Tawny-crested, Passerinis, Crimson-collared, Black and Yellow, Blue and Gold, and Ashy-throated Bush Tanagers! Green Shrike Vireo Both Tityra species Lesser Greenlet and noisy Scarlet-rumped Caciques

Antswarms occur here with some frequency as well. If you find one, it probably pays to stay with it as long as feasible (don't leave the trail!) as this will increase your chances of seeing Rufous-vented Ground Cuckoo and Black-crowned Antpitta and can result in nice looks at species that sometimes make short visits to swarms such as Barred Forest Falcon, Striped Woodhaunter, Motmots and White-whiskered Puffbird. Other species more frequently seen at antswarms here are: Bicolored, Ocellated, Spotted, Immaculate and Chestnut-backed Antbirds and Northern Barred and Plain-brown Woodcreepers.

Safety concerns: Birders parking along the main highway away from the station have been robbed. I have never heard of this happening at the Quebrada Gonzalez Ranger station itself.

Public transport: Buses to Guapiles leaving from the "Caribbean" bus station can drop you here. First one probably departs 5:30AM.


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