Here comes August, that late summer month with its hazy dog days, stores full of school supplies, and time to rush and complete whatever summer tasks you had planned on doing. For us birders, it’s also time to check the sewage treatment ponds, wildlife refuges, and any other would be wetlands that play host to migrating shorebirds. At least that’s what’s going on up north. Down here in permanent summer land, August is just another month when the rains fall and give local rivers a big wet boost. Amazingly, a few shorebirds have already flown here but most won’t arrive for another month. Most importantly, though, the local resident birding is as good as ever. If you are headed to Costa Rica for birding during the following weeks, I hope these tips help:
Be ready for rain, be ready for a lot of birds
Yeah, rain is in the house but so are the birds including lots of juveniles. While the rains do limit birding, on and off rain is always better than a prolonged sunny day. Bird activity is high between the bouts of precipitation and the falling water is also nice because it can cool things off.
It was coming down the other day but barbets and toucanets were still coming to the Colibri Cafe at Cinchona.
Fruiting trees in the foothills
Thanks to heavy rain, stuff is fruiting in the foothills and the birds will be there for the natural buffet. Keep an eye out for any fruiting trees, especially ones that have small, oval, green fruits, usually with a red base. These ones are delicacies for guans, toucans, and cotingas so keep watching and waiting if you see such a tree! Berries and other small fruits are better for trees full of tanagers, manakins, thrushes, and other cool birds.
Hello Bay-headed Tanager.
I know of one main road that is closed for much of the day. If you plan on using the Varablanca-Cinchona-San Miguel road to travel to and from Sarapiqui, know that this road is closed in the San Miguel area in the morning between 7:30 and 12:00, and then again from 1:00 pm to 5:00 pm. The upside to this is that if you are coming from San Jose, this doesn’t affect visits to the Waterfall Gardens, Cinchona, or Virgen del Socorro because the closure is between Socorro and San Miguel. Another upside could be better roadside birding during times of closure because there should be much less traffic. Yet another bonus comes in the form of being able to skirt the closure all together by detouring through Virgen del Socorro, thus forcing you to move through this birdy site. I’m not sure how long these closures will last but I hope it ends before October just in case I do another Big Day at that time!
Keep an eye out for “odd” hummingbirds
Last year, a Rufous-crested Coquette made s star appearance at Rancho Naturalista in August. Maybe they wander into Costa Rica at this time of year? Maybe there are more out there, especially down around Limon? This is a reminder that hummingbirds wander, and they might do more now so take pictures of any that look “off”. If you find an “off” one, please post it on your eBird list and/or share it to Facebook.
Unfortunately, not in a good way. Thanks to a misinterpretation of a hunting law that outlaws the baiting of animals, some misinformed folks in Costa Rica have urged people to take down hummingbird feeders stating that the feeders keep hummingbirds from pollinating plants. Yes, that’s right, and some municipalities have pressured a restaurant or two to remove their feeders despite a lack of data showing that feeders are harmful. Meanwhile, in keeping with the typical sort of tragic irony that often happens when misinformed people make decisions, unfortunately, just when feeders are taken down, thanks to climate change, hummingbirds seem to have taken a hit in Costa Rica and could really use that extra food. I’m not sure how the whole feeder thing will play out but, hopefully, the local birding community can join forces with the tourism industry to make authorities and local people realize that efforts would be much better spent on limiting pesticides and deforestation than removing bird feeders. I wish I was making that up but I assure you I am not. I will be writing more about this.
Compared to what I used to see, I have been seeing far fewer hummingbirds this year just about everywhere I go. This Black-bellied was enjoying the feeders at Catarata del Toro.
Enjoy the elbow room
Not as if there are crowds of birders anyways but there are certainly less around during August! You will see just as many resident birds and maybe even more because of more bird activity. It will be just you and the birds!
Please enter eBird data, especially for migrants
As with everywhere, the more data the better! Participate in science and share your trip.
That’s about it for now, I hope to see you at some cool birding locale in Costa Rica!