Ho! Ho! Ho! Merry Christmas! Happy Holidays! Joyous Christmas Counts! It’s that most wonderful time of year again and if Santa is a birder (and I bet he is), we better hope that he has the will power and determination of a stalking bittern or lists will be misplaced and gifts left unwrapped if he gives in to the temptation and casts his gift giving expedition aside to participate in all 11 of the Costa Rican Christmas Bird Counts.
A few are held on the same dates which of course means that those of us who don’t have a stable of ultra-dimensional, time-traveling reindeer won’t be able to appear in more than one place at the same time. So, you can’t do them all but there are still a bunch to choose from and even if you can only manage one, it is guaranteed to be one heck of a jolly time. Instead of examining the pine groves for owls and hoping to hear a lisp or two of a Golden-crowned Kinglet, how does counting kiskadees and searching for antbirds sound? Instead of marching across frozen, crunchy ground and wondering if you are experiencing frostbite while looking for that elusive flock of longspurs, you will be relishing the warm tropical weather and rehydrating with your drink of choice as Crimson-fronted Parakeets screech overhead. A bunch of those summer breeding birds from the north will be also hear to greet you and you will see so many Baltimore Orioles that might be tempted to (gasp!) think of them as trash birds.
It won’t be a white Christmas in Costa Rica but we certainly have an abundance of mistletoe and with luck, it will be fruiting and decorated with foraging Euphonias, Chlorophonias, and sparkling-plumaged tanagers.
Decoration number one: Scrub Euphonia
Decoration number two: Golden-browed Cholorphonia
Decoration number three: Spangle-cheeked Tanager
Christmas counts in Costa Rica are especially fun not only because the birding is downright heavenly, but also because they tend to be well organized, there are lots of local participants, you usually get a cool, birding tee-shirt at the end of the day, and most of all, you get the chance to bird some areas that would have been tough to access otherwise.
Family duties will keep me from participating in most of the counts, but I plan on making my way down to the Osa for the Bosque del Rio Tigre count (if I do, expect a post!), will probably do the Carara count, might get lucky enough to do the Veragua count, and especially hope to make it to the Maquenque count.
As far as I know, anyone can participate in the counts but you have to contact the respective count organizer to inquire about signing up (the following information can also be found at the website for the Asociación Ornitológica de Costa Rica):
December 5th: Valle de Orosi/Tapantí: Contact: Marco Torres firstname.lastname@example.org Tel: 8347-6098
December 8th: Veragua. Contact: Daniel Torres email@example.com
December 17th: CATIE. Contact: Alejandra Martínez firstname.lastname@example.org
December 17th-19th: La Selva. Contact: Rodolfo Alvarado email@example.com;
Orlando Vargas firstname.lastname@example.org;
Joel Alvarado email@example.com
December 28th: Carara: Contact: Johan Fernández firstname.lastname@example.org
January 8th: Maquenque. Contact: Dan Schneider email@example.com
Note: some of these counts are associated with the Audubon Society and some aren’t but all follow the same rules for counting and count circle dimensions. Hope to see you at one or two of these!