While I write, I am in one of the gull capitals of North America- Niagara Falls. Ironically, for the three weeks I have been here, I haven’t done any birding. In fact, I didn’t even bring binoculars because I figured there wouldn’t be time to watch gulls or search for owls and I was right.
I am on the American side of the falls, visiting my family, and I came here with my wife, mother-in-law, brother-in-law, and daughter. The double shot of family, briefly visiting the Book Corner, and spending as much time as possible at DiCamillo’s bakery has been great but I am the sole birder so a plethora of shopping excursions (groan), visits to the falls, seeing friends, and staying warm have taken precedence over meditatively staring into the Niagara Gorge at flocks of graceful gulls. Well, I wasn’t going to get any lifers there anyways and I don’t mind because I haven’t been “home” in more than 2 years.
I noticed some birds up here in this frozen realm (a pair of Northern Cardinals made me smile and it was cool to pick out a probable first year Glaucous Gull hanging out below the American Falls), but as always, my gaze is focused on lands where bird species outnumber snowflakes. We will be heading back to the birdy country of Costa Rica on Tuesday and I should be out in the field by Thursday to bird and guide in the moss heavy forests of the Talamancas. Since this will be another BIG YEAR (hopefully not as casual as the last), I hope to pick up a few target birds next week. If I can get as lucky as a Ruby-throated Hummingbird wintering in a patch of Verbenia, maybe I will tick one or two of the following off of my list of ten most wanted Costa Rican bird species in 2010:
1. MASKED DUCK. My neotropical nemesis gets the number one spot on my list. I have been birding in the neotropical region since my first visit to Costa Rica in 1992 and have yet to see one of these skulking, nocturnal ducks. They might look a bit like a Ruddy Duck but they sure don’t act like one! I may have briefly seen one in the Dominican Republic as we sped by a roadside pond but despite spinning around and zooming back to where we had both espied a silhouette of a semi-submerged bird, our quarry had already disappeared. I must get to CATIE to finally tick this bird!!
2. Unspotted Saw-whet Owl. No one sees this guy. Well, no one until Jay Vandergast got a glimpse of this small owl species in flight in 2009 in the Savegre area. Unlike their northern kin, this owl sans spots does not migrate and so cannot be found by painstakingly searching through conifer groves along the shores of the Great Lakes. Hopefully I will get the chance to stay at La Georgina sometime to try for this little known species.
3. Ochraceous Pewee. The third on my list because it occupies a glaring hole on my bird list. I am almost ashamed to say that I still need this uncommon but fairly often seen species. I am pretty sure I will finally get this one.
4. Pinnated Bittern. Another nemesis of mine and one that I hope will finally turn up this year although I really don’t want to have to walk through the La Tigra marshes to make it happen.
5. Harpy Eagle. Heck, why not. They exist in the Osa and have recently been seen in Tortuguero. Although I have seen this monster in Peru, I would love to have it honor my Costa Rica list!
6. Tawny-faced Quail. It occurs in Costa Rica and I need it. Why do I keep forgetting about this bird! I need to get up to some of the protected forests in the San Carlos area and stare into the undergrowth until a covey appears!
7. Ocellated Crake. This probably won’t happen because seeing one requires finding this rare species in remnant savannah somewhere near Buenos Aires. Since that would almost certainly be more time consuming than I could manage, it probably won’t happen. BUT, I don’t believe in losing hope for lifers so its on the list.
8. Red-fronted Parrotlet. I wonder if I will finally get this one in 2010? I have probably seen it twice but couldn’t get my bins on the birds fast enough for lifer views. It really is about time to tick this one and I have hopes that I will get the parrotlet in 2010.
9. Pheasant Cuckoo. Ohhh that would be nice. Another bird that is just never seen in Costa Rica and one that I have heard in Peru but have never laid eyes on. It would be great to find it to not only get a lifer but also to try and figure out what sort of habitat it uses in Costa Rica.
10. Rufous-vented Ground-Cuckoo. Ok, another nemesis. I am pretty sure I saw this species once at Quebrada Gonzalez but since I only glimpsed the tail of a bird that ran off into the undergrowth, I really do need a better look. Yes, they are seen more easily in Panama but I live in Costa Rica so please ground-cuckoo, attend an antswarm at Quebrada Gonzalez!
11. White-tailed Nightjar. I need it for a lifer and they shouldn’t be all that rare so I have high hopes for this nocturnal species.
12. Keel-billed Motmot. I really thought I was going to get this one in 2009. Hopefully this year!