Wind may shake the branches and rain may soak the ground but it won’t keep me from doing that birding stuff all day long. These days, in Costa Rica, that’s a fair motto to follow. Well, it’s not all that bad actually, just seems that way when you have this vacillation between heavy and light rain for several days. Stick with it, adapt to it, make use of plastic. The birds are still there, they still have to feed, and you will still see a lot.
Speaking of that, here is a brief summary of the latest trends and news in Costa Rica birding:
Sparrows– So, the small brown birds with conical bills might not find themselves at the upper echelons of birding excitement up north, but here in Costa Rica, yeah, we get psyched about most sparrows. No, not the Rufous-collared, but other, much more difficult ones to add to our local lists. You know those common ones up in the temperate zone? You know, as in that trilling bird of open pine stands in state parks, or that other triller of the marshlands, or various other sparrows? Or, that one that breeds in boreal and highland bogs and is commonly seen in migration? Yeah, in Costa Rica, all are megas, this year, several folks have seen the latter bog bird at a site in Guanacaste. Much to my chagrin, it happens to be the same exact site where I was hoping to pish up a sparrow or two after finally making the lifer connection with the good old Spotted Rail in December. Either the Lincon’s Sparrows hadn’t arrived yet or they didn’t dig my pishing. No matter, they are there right now. Not that any visiting birder would want to see them but, in Costa Rica, a Lincoln’s Sparrow always makes birding news.
Not a sparrow, not even close, but I haven’t seen them so I’m posting a picture of a totally unrelated White-flanked Antwren instead.
Before I get off the sparrow topic, I should also mention that another lost little brown bird has also made it to our shores. In this case, a country first White-crowned Sparrow wintering in the Osa Peninsula. How a bird that breeds in the treeline tundra manages to survive in one of the more humid parts of Central America is both a mystery and serious testament to adaptability. So far so good, I hope it makes it back to northern Manitoba because it will have one hell of a story to tell! This Indiana Jones of sparrows would likely relate tales of surviving on bananas, seriously hot weather, the danger posed by various snakes, and that the number of mosquitoes was of course nothing compared to a high northern June.
Other odd winter birds– Speaking of lost sparrows, another bird that maybe went too far south also comes to mind. In fact, they might have even hailed from the same wolf and wind howling tundra as the sparrow, might have taken that same lost train way south. American Pipits, as common as they are in winter much to the north, are rare as heck in Costa Rica. One was seen earlier in the year on Cerro de la Muerte, now at least two have appeared in Guanacaste. So, it makes me wonder, are such birds of cold climes here because of the deep freezes that hit the north? Are they here every year? I suspect it’s a bit of both- birds like American Pipit and sparrows come to Costa Rica every year but we don’t find them because they are so few in number (and because most folks in their right mind don’t want to scour brushy, chigger crazy fields). Probability dictates that there are probably more out there. Please keep your eyes and mind open to sparrows and other birds that seem out of place, and report them ASAP to eBird so we can chase them.
Crested Guan- In Costa Rica, not in the last bit odd, even if it feeds in a palm, out in the open.
Cotingas at Arenal– Since you always have a chance of seeing esteemed members of this family at Arenal, it’s almost silly to mention this BUT since we all have a soft spot in our birding hearts for cotingas (that really means we need to very desperately see them), I also can’t help but mention that the umbrellabird and Lovely Cotinga have been recently seen on the grounds of the Observatory Lodge. It’s not every day that this happens but it is a somewhat regular occurrence and always good to know. By the way, just to mention, did you know that the Bare-necked Umbrellabird is Endangered? Like not, you know, just hard to see but officially, seriously under mofo threat of going extinct? Yeah, just a filthy reminder about what “Endangered” means. According to Birdlife International, it’s even more likely to go extinct than the Vulnerable and crazier looking Long-wattled Umbrellabird. If we can reforest enough of the lowland areas that meet the foothills, we might be able to do our collective home a favor and remove the “Endangered” status from descriptions of this special bird.
Bold Sunbittern at Lands in Love– Last but far from least, recently, there was an especially bold Sunbittern at the Lands in Love hotel. That or it was seriously wishing that it could have been an egret. No skulking at the shady water’s edge for this one. Nope, it was standing out there in a large, muddy puddle catching tadpoles. Eventually, it did the right Sunbittern thing and moved to the edge. Then, it hung out there for an eternity, absolutely refusing to show its sunburst patterned wings no matter how close it was approached, nor how many photos were taken.
I wasn’t making this up.
Cope’s Place– The bird haven of artist/naturalist Jose Perez just keeps getting better. In addition to the usual roosting Spectacled and Crested Owls, a damn Rufous-winged Tanager was coming to the feeder a few weeks ago, someone took a fricking amazing picture of a perched Black Hawk-Eagle, and he also knows (once again), a spot for a roosting Great Potoo.
Many other things could be said about birds in Costa Rica but it’s mostly what you might expect- lots of great birding just about everywhere you go, awesome feeder action, dozens of hummingbirds, quetzals, you probably get the picture. If not, come on down and get the experience.