Osa Birder

 lizandabraham  

A Birding Hotspot

Liz Jones

Liz and husband Abraham Gallo own and operate Bosque del Rio Tigre, a lodge in Dos Brazos that specializes in birding.  You may reach her at liz@osaadventures.com

Osa Birder, TURISMO


In Dos Brazos, the river adjoins both secondary and primary forest , depending on the grade at the river’s edge. Photo courtesy of Tristan Winters

The Little Tinamou is only seen in on the forest floor Laughing Falcon with snake for lunch: The only time one hears a Laughing Falcon really laugh, is immediately after he has caught a snake. Photo courtesy of Julie and Alison of San Vito

The only time one hears a Laughing Falcon really laugh, is immediately after he has caught a snake. Photo courtesy of Julie and Alison of San Vito

Rich diversity of habitat in the beautiful, inland area of Dos Brazos del Rio Tigre creates an exceptional birding experience. The diversity is a result of a unique combination of physical and cultural traits.

There are many considerations when searching for good birding locations on the Osa, far too many to deal with in one article.  For now , let’s just assume you’re new to the Osa and want to see as many birds as possible in a limited time.  In other words, a birder on a short vacation on the Osa.

The primary factor when looking for an extremely active birding location would be diversity of good habitat.

Different species of birds require different habitats and different food resources.  For example, manakins, tinamous, and marbled woodquail are usually seen only in the forest and rarely in a pasture or garden, while smooth-billed Ani, Great Kiskadee, seedeaters and spinetails will be found in open or scrubby areas,  but not in the forest.   Some species inhabit flat, sea-level terrain and others, higher-elevation mountainous terrain.  Food and forage style vary widely among species and  is a large factor in habitat preference.   For example, there are birds such as cotingas and the black-mandibled toucan that feed almost entirely on forest  fruit,  Rufous-tailed Jacamar love butterflies,  seedeaters; well, they prefer seeds found in open areas, flycatchers chase insects.  Laughing falcon are specialists at capturing snakes and tiny hawk prey on other small birds, especially hummingbirds.  Nesting style, competition and climatic factors also contribute to habitat preference.

Toucan and fruit by Kasselbaum: Forest fruit makes up most of the diet of the Black-Mandibled Toucan. Photo courtesy of Kasselbaum

Toucan and fruit by Kasselbaum: Forest fruit makes up most of the diet of the Black-Mandibled Toucan. Photo courtesy of Kasselbaum

The edges, where one habitat meets another, create a good situation for a birder (and for the birds).  An example would be forest next to pasture. The food resources will be, more or less, double in variety than in the middle of either one of these 8biomes and would therefore draw a greater variety of birds.  Combinations of adjoining habitats, or ecotones, produce a different mix of birdlife.

Now just imagine the variety of birds one would see if one passed through 8 or more distinct biomes in a short walk of 1-2 kilometers. Habitats could include secondary and old-growth forest,  lagoon,  swamp,  garden,   pasture, overgrown scrubby pasture , orchard and riparian (river) habitat.  There would be different birds in each habitat, AND amazing diversity at each of the habitat boundaries or ecotones.   Three or more different habitats joined together create  a wonderful “hotspot” of bird activity.  It is possible to stand in one spot for over an hour and observe continuous and varied activity.

A birder can find this rich combination of habitats in Dos Brazos, just 12 km from Puerto Jimenez.

The Little Tinamou is only seen in on the forest floor

The Little Tinamou is only seen in on the forest floor

Two major mountain rivers join together in the village and the steep forests of the Golfo Dulce Forestry Reserve cover the slopes of the both sides of both rivers.   About twokm from the village, is the  border of Corcovado National Park.

Traditionally life in Dos Brazos involved a mix of small sustenance farms and gold-mining.  Currently there is less farming and gold-mining than in previous decades with many of the residents now either working in Puerto Jimenez or ecotourism converts.  Still, the past has left some interesting conditions.

: Due to the steep terrain in the river valleys of Dos Brazos, which often causes landslides, it is common to find natural patches of early secondary growth next to developed forest.

Due to the steep terrain in the river valleys of Dos Brazos, which often causes landslides, it is common to find natural patches of early secondary growth next to developed forest.

The village only has one road running along both of the rivers, with many untended empty lots, trees, and vegetation that foster abundant bird life. During the two major gold rushes in the 1970’s and 1980’s heavy machinery dug many holes which later became swamps and lagoons. These wetlands, in addition to the rivers, provide great breeding habitat for amphibians and aquatic insects, which are not only fun to look for, but also provide a lot of food for larger species including birds. There are still some small farms on the edges of the town and some in the hills, invisible from the river valley.

 The few who still farm, tend to rotate their pastures and have very little livestock, creating scrubby areas or early secondary forest which are excellent birding habitats.  And just minutes from the town road you can be in well-developed forest with all the deep forest species scratching on the forest floor, running up the tree trunks, shaking the dead leaves or just sitting and waiting for a large insect to cruise by.

In the past year, the new Corcovado trail, Sendero El Tigre, was opened as a community project supported by MINAET and various other organizations.  In preparation for visitors, many locals have been taking courses to become certified as guides.  These residents are already well versed in the local flora and fauna having lived in, or next to, the forest for all their lives.  There have been numerous birders in Dos Brazos since 1998 when I and my husband Abraham started teaching and encouraging young birders.  Once a year, 15-20 birders from the area surrounding Dos Brazos, including many young birders, participate in the Annual Audubon Christmas Bird Count.

Fasciated Tiger Heron: The rarely seen Fasciated Tiger Heron requires the specific ecotone of fast moving water and well developed forest.

Fasciated Tiger Heron: The rarely seen Fasciated Tiger Heron requires the specific ecotone of fast moving water and well developed forest.

The local participants divide up into three teams and manage to tally an amazing 180-225 species and over 1500 individuals in just one day.  Two of these teams only travel 2-3 km in the immediate vicinity of Dos Brazos and each team manages to count 130-140 species per team in less than 6 hours.

Happy Birder:  a recent visitor to Dos Brazos del Río Tigre

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