biodiversity Birding Costa Rica

My Crazy Costa Rica Birding Bucket List

I don’t know if that term the “bucket list” was around before the movie of the same name or not but I have this strong impression that people started using it a lot more after Jack and Morgan were depicted jumping out of planes and doing other adrenaline-provoking endeavors. Although I don’t have any desire to go skydiving, I do have my own erstwhile bucket birding list. Since that list includes seeing birds just about everywhere, it will be a lot more succinct (and appropriate) to just talk about the Costa Rican part.

Here’s some kind of crazy birding-related things I would love to do here in Costa Rica:

  • Find Unspotted Saw-whet Owl on Irazu: This one isn’t all that crazy and a couple of weeks ago, Susan Blank and I actually gave it a shot. I guess it just seems a bit buckety because this involves hooting like an Unspotted Saw-whet Owl (or maybe squeeking like a mouse) in the dark of the night about 9,000 feet up on a slumbering volcano. We tried pre-dawn and let me tell you, if you happen to live in Costa Rica and need a realistic fix of temperate zone November weather, just hang outside the Noche Buena restaurant around 4 in the morning. It was cold and it was absolutely silent and we dipped on the spotless one but as dawn approached, we did hear and see Bare-shanked Screech-Owl, heard Costa Rican Pygmy-Owl, and witnessed dawn on the upper slopes of Irazu. Next time, I’m going to give it a shot right after sunset.

birding Costa Rica

Sooty Robins are commonly encountered on Irazu.

  • Listen for and record nocturnal migrants on Poas or some other high mountain: I already listen for nocturnal migrants in my backyard (where I have heard Dickcissel, Upland Sandpper, and Wilson’s Snipe among others) but suspect that there will be more in the mountain passes. It will also be easier to hear the birds due to the quiet surroundings and who knows, maybe I will get lucky and get an Unspotted Saw-whet Owl at the same time! This actually shouldn’t too tough to do so I will have to schedule that in.
  • Watch for seabirds from Cabo Blanco and Cabo Burica during storms: I am truly excited about doing this because it will give me an outside chance of seeing some cool pelagic stuff without going out on a boat! The winds will be strong and the rains will surely soak but the ground won’t move as much as a pitching boat. I picked both of those spots because they are two of the sites that are closest to deep water. The only problem with checking this endeavor off the list is having a storm coincide with a schedule that leaves few windows for birding in out of the way places. I might have to settle for mixing it with a family trip and looking out to sea in earnest on a sunny day.

birding Costa Rica

Galapagos (formerly Audubon’s) Shearwater from my only Costa Rican pelagic trip.

  • Bird the new border road: So, the Costa Rican government built this road that parallels the Rio San Juan and the Nicaraguan border.  They did it as a knee-jerk reaction to the Ortega government’s land claim on Calero Island (this might be akin to the United States of America putting troops on one of the Canadian Thousand Islands and claiming that it belonged to New York state, or vice versa). The road was hastily constructed and although it could have been worse, precious lowland rainforest was certainly destroyed and now there are infuriating reports that some of that downed wood was also sold. The bright side of the story is that environmental groups may pressure the government to protect the adjacent forests and reforest areas that were cut down. In any case, I want to bird that road! It cuts through some wild, fantastic habitat and huge areas of lowland forest are just across the river in Nicaragua. Underbirded and filled with potential, it would surely be exciting.

birding Costa Rica

Some awesome lowland forest near the border.

  • Find that first Altamira Oriole for the country up by the Nicaraguan border: This time, I would be on the much drier Pacific slope and would basically bird near the border until an Altamira showed up. Since they live very close to the border in Nicaragua, it’s just a matter of time before one is found.

birding Costa Rica

The much more common Streak-backed Oriole.

  • Count shorebirds in the Gulf of Nicoya: I’m not talking about hitting the shorebird hotspots of Chomes or the Colorado salt pans. I’m talking about heading out in a boat or kayak to reach the many otherwise inaccessible areas in the Golf of Nicoya that harbor lots of shorebirds. I know this to be the case because I have seen those huge flocks of shorebirds on inaccessible mud flats from the Puntarenas-Tambor ferry. There’s gotta be some good stuff out there, just have to figure out a way to get close enough to identify them…

I’m sure that other wild endeavors will come to mind but until then, happy birding wherever you may be on this last day of July, 2012.

For more information and stories about Costa Rican birds, check Costa Rica Living and Birding at htt://birdingcraft/

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