Most days, my commute to work is more like an anti-commute. Instead of leaving the house to go elsewhere to factor my energy into time, I actually have to come back to the house to get things done. I know that sounds like a riddle but it basically means that I do most of my work at home. I still need to leave the house in the morning to drop my daughter off at her pre-school but come straight back to the starting point to hit the computer. It’s mostly writing that I do as a trade and so my commute typically goes from the house, out to the pre-school with the grazing horse in the shaded lot on the other side of the road (we usually greet it with a “horsey! horsey” but it rarely blinks at us), and then back the same way to home, commute over, work starting.
However, I also guide once in a while and those commutes vary from being birdy rides serenaded by breaking dawn songsters to avoiding trucks and horrible drivers as I head down to the hot lowlands (usually to Cerro Lodge). Occasionally, I see a Keel-billed Toucan or perched Bat Falcon on the drive to the coast but mostly, it’s bird free until I start the last part of the drive in to Cerro Lodge. At that point, a step outside the car usually results in the sounds of Ferruginous Pygmy Owl, Turquoise-browed Motmot, White-tipped and White-winged Doves, Striped-headed and Olive Sparrows, Rufous-naped Wren, Black-headed Trogon, and other dry forest denizens.
But I digress. The typical pre-school commute has its birds too. Not many, but it has some. These are the birds of a Central Valley town and they include the likes of Blue and white Swallows, Blue-gray Tanagers, Great-tailed Grackles, Rufous-collared Sparrows, Inca Doves, White-winged Doves, TKs, Great Kiskadees, and other common birds. I suppose my best birds on this commute have been Hook-billed Kite on a few occasions and a migrant Western Wood Pewee calling from a riparian zone.
If I have to go to Quebrada Gonzalez, the commute starts out with a drive that does its best to exit the urbanized Central Valley as soon as is safely possible. Few birds during the pre-dawn hours so I listen to the radio. I have listened with the window down on several occasions but either get nothing or a few Clay-colored Thrushes. No owls, no nothing of note. When I start driving up and over the mountain pass, this is when the commute becomes a lot more interesting. As long as the motor cannon air breaks of trucks aren’t blasting the much finer and quieter sounds that are made by living things, I hear quite a bit from the open window. I should because the drive passes through a wet green speciose party of life known as Braulio Carrillo National Park. It’s hard to miss the loud, happy warbling of Gray-breasted Wood Wrens, and the sputtering chips of true to their name Common Bush Tanagers. I also usually hear Slate-throated Redstarts, Mountain Thrushes, Golden-bellied Flycatcher, get an occasional Black Guan flying past, and catch the notes of various tanagers once we descend into the foothills. At the streams, I sometimes hear Buff-rumped Warblers and even Dull-mantled Antbird. Lots more possible too but the cacophony from too many trucks doesn’t make this a Sunday drive.
My best commute for birds is the trip from my place to the Poas area. Light traffic and little urbanization turns into a windows down drive with the sounds of birds coming out of the coffee plantations, more naturally vegetated riparian zones, brushy second growth, and remnants of cloud forest once I get up there above the valley. I usually see a Blue-crowned Motmot or two perched on roadside wires at dawn, hear and see Brown Jays, and hear lots of the common bird species of the Central Valley. Rufous-capped Warblers, Plain Wrens, and Orange-billed Nightingale-Thrushes also sing from the coffee bushes.
Once the air cools off with rise in elevation, Common Bush Tanagers call, I hear more Flame-colored Tanagers, and the bromeliad studded trees can yield calling Emerald Toucanet, Long-tailed Silky-Flycatcher, Streak-breasted Treehunter, Mountain Thrush, and even Dark Pewee at one spot. I have even had Resplendent Quetzal a couple of times (a driveby quetzal is a shimmering, velvet green and red thing that can seems to flow through the air).
Of course the best part of the commute is when I can stop the car and put all of my attention on birds instead of noticing birds while driving.