I have kept a list of birds ever since I started watching them. I recall putting little check marks next to each species in one of the small bird books that my father bought for me while I had pneumonia at the age of eight. Thanks Dad, yes, it did make me feel better. I can’t remember what it was called or who published it but it covered birds from coast to coast and was one of those booklets that focused on common species. I put checks next to birds like Song Sparrow, Yellow Warbler, and Red-winged Blackbird and yearned to see the exotic Magnolia Warbler, the amazing Indigo Bunting, and the unattainable Black-chinned Hummingbird. The hummingbird had a purple throat that looked like a smudge of Welch’s grape jelly. It took me more than a decade to be in range of that amethyst highlighted sprite but I eventually saw it in a residential neighborhood in Phoenix, Arizona.
I didn’t keep any year, state, or county lists at that time. My sole list was a life list and adding to it was a quest of utmost importance. It continues to be a pursuit of pinnacle importance but has been tempered by family responsibilities and so I now do a year and country list. I also keep a yard list where most of the birds are flyovers. Because the dimensions of my “yard” are stretched by sound waves, interesting species like Wilson’s Snipe, Upland Sandpiper, and Gray-cheeked Thrush have made it onto the list. Just last month, I added a ridiculous Red-fronted Parrotlet that perched on a nearby telephone wire and have also had Striped Owl. I’m not sure where the Ringed Kingfisher is coming from but one flies by now and then to some hidden waterway.
Last year, I reached my goal of 600 species for the year. That total is once again in reach and I should hit it as long as I catch a fair portion of fall migration. Six hundred in a year in Costa Rica offers a bit of a challenge but is actually quite attainable if you can go birding once a week in a strategic set of locales. It’s not that tough of a number to get because the country list at the moment stands right at 900 (maybe even 901) and should still increase by the occurrence and subsequent finding of vagrants from both the north and the south. I’m sure that some other birders who spend much more time in the field in various parts of the country surpass 700 on a regular basis. Now that would be tough but is still possible if you bird pretty much all the time, do at least one pelagic, chase rarities, and listen for migrants at both times of the year. I think 800 would be very tough to do in a year but who knows, Costa Rica is such a small place that if one had enough time and resources to do a crazy Big Year in the same format as the guys from the movie of the same name, it could probably be accomplished.
Ok, so back to my more humble, easy-going annual birding stats. Here at the start of August, my total stands at a respectable 568, the latest addition being a Ruddy Quail-Dove from Carara National Park. I also picked up Pearl Kite for the year in the form of a bird that was perched on a wire right next to the crocodile bridge. Oh, how nice it would be if it were there all the time!
Pearl Kites are like falconets or neotropical shrikes.
Some other auspicious identifications include:
Jabiru and Plain Chachalaca from the Playa Hermosa area.
Several uncommon wintering duck species that I was very pleased to get at the start of the year.
Bicolored Hawk seen near Virgen del Socorro- it’s widespread but it’s not exactly common.
All parrots except for Brown-throated Parakeet.
Mangrove Hummingbird– Happy to see a male on a recent Mangrove Birding Boat Tour. This species can be a tough one to find. If you put in the effort, you can see them at several sites but might have to work for it.
All trogons and motmots (not too tough if you go to the right places).
One of the quetzals on Poas this year.
One of the motmots was this lifer Keel-billed.
Gray-headed Leaftosser at Las Heliconias- most reliable in the Monteverde area but I don’t get up there much.
Yellow-bellied and Yellow-crowned Tyrannulets– kind of tough and local in Costa Rica so it was good to get them.
Rough-legged Tyrannulet and Ochraceous Pewee– these two have the distinction of being birds I have heard but have never seen. I had the rough-legged one just the other day near Cinchona, still couldn’t see it!
Willow Flycatcher- oh, they pass through here in numbers but this one was nice enough to vocalize and change from a non-countable “Traill’s” to a definite “Willow”.
Lovely Cotinga– A male seen near Cinchona is probably my bird of the year. This is a rare one in the country and very infrequently seen. I personally suspect that it should be considered endangered for Costa Rica but for some reason, it doesn’t make it onto the eBird alert for the country while something like an out of season Yellow Warbler or much more frequent Surfbird will.
Chestnut-sided Warbler– NOT! Just seeing if you were paying attention…
Silvery-throated Jay– A pair of this uncommon species on the Providencia Road was much appreciated.
Cerulean Warbler– These so excellent of warblers are regular during migration. Should be some coming through in a couple of weeks.
Nicaraguan Seed-Finch– One during the Big Day is my only massively pink-billed finch so far this year.
Peg-billed Finch– Tough to find away from a bamboo seeding event. This was a banner year for them on Poas.
See the peg-like bills?
Slaty Finch– Much more rare than the peg-billed and possibly even more tied to bamboo seeding events. I made sure to get lots of looks and recordings of these junco-like birds because it might be years before I see them again.
His exhalted Senor slaty-ness.
So, those are the highlights so far and since I’m missing plenty of expected species, it will be interesting to see how many I end up with come the end of December. If I can get out once a week and hit a few migration hotspots, I might even hit 630 species.