It’s finally sunny outside. Today being the first substantial break in rain in a few weeks explains why I haven’t done as much birding recently. Even so, as much as you don’t really go birding, when the birding senses are turned on, you can’t help but bird anyways. Since I can’t turn my birdy sense off, this morning, I noticed the calls of a Gray-cowled Wood-Rail from some hidden neighborhood ravine. I watch the deep wingbeats of fast flying Red-billed Pigeons zip above the morning traffic as I take my daughter to school. My mind’s eye can picture what the pigeon sees, a fast-moving view of houses, streets, and salvation in the form of occasional trees, wooded riparian zones, and other bits of green. The dark-tailed maroon birds see a hovering White-tailed Kite and instinctively veer away, fluttering their wings as they come to rest in a fruiting tree in the middle of a field planted with coffee.
On a morning drive over the mountains, I enjoy the songs of three species of nightingale-thrushes, Gray-breasted Wood-Wrens, bush-tanagers, Black-cheeked Warblers, and Streak-breasted Woodhunter calling from a stream. Further on, a silhouette of a vulture becomes a Barred Hawk. Incredibly, this Darth Vader of raptors is perched right next to the road but it nevertheless mocks by posing against the light, and, in a spot where the approaching rumble of a truck reminds me that I need to move on before I can adjust the camera.
Believe me, based on many a personal experience, this bird is a dark force user.
Other recent automatic birding experiences include perched Bat Falcon, flights of Black-bellied Whistling Ducks and Red-lored and White-fronted Parrots, and some saltator puddle bathing. It’s all good for the birder even when you aren’t officially birding in Costa Rica. Nevertheless, since the noble autonomously driven pursuit is how we prefer to traverse this dimensional time frame, here is some insider information that might help:
Possible red tide in the Gulf of Nicoya– I guided a short jaunt on the Puntarenas-Paquera ferry on July 12 but instead of adding some cool year birds of the marine kind, we watched the boat plow through cloudy green water streaked with dark red. It might not be an official, murderous red tide yet but the large algae bloom was still enough to keep most of the birds away. Where the ferry eventually came in to healthier waters, we did see some Black Terns and a few other things but the more typically productive waters had been taken over by algae and were thus birdless.
It was still nice to out on the water, we also saw dolphins, sea turtles, and leaping rays!
Way too heavy rains– Although the pouring on the Caribbean slope and in the mountains has finally come to a stop, it was more than enough to cause landslides and flooding. The soils are still saturated on the northern side of the country, if another weather system moves in, it’s probably best to avoid driving on route 32.
Masked Duck in the Coto wetlands– My nefarious nemesis bird has made its annual appearance in the Coto wetlands. These would be some natural wetlands situated in areas south of Ciudad Neily, and they are always good for other local specialties as well. I won’t be making the trip because I just can’t in good conscience chase the skulking duck. It will show up eventually, such is the Zen of birding, or maybe I’m just being lazy and the nefarious attitude is just all in my birding mind.
Tahiti Petrel on a pelagic trip and a possible Bulwer’s– A Tahiti Petrel was seen and photographed well offshore of the Osa Peninsula. Although there aren’t so many records of this species for Costa Rica, that’s probably more a question of few birders getting out to sea far enough at this time of year than the birds not being present. As for the other thing, Jeff Tingle provided a pretty good description of what would be a new species for the Costa Rica list. I bet he did see a Bulwer’s Petrel and it’s not the first possible report for Costa Rica of this funny bird that looks like a blend of storm-petrel and shearwater. Hopefully, Jeff will see another one and get a picture so we add more more species to the Costa Rica list.
Crested Eagle!– Whoah! Yes, and documented with photos! A juvenile bird appeared on the side of a road in the Cano Negro area. Likely wandering in from Nicaragua (perhaps because of ongoing habitat destruction in one of Central America’s final wilderness frontiers?), we can only hope that it found a good place to survive within the borders of Costa Rica.
Photos of Paint-billed Crakes– This Rallid probably isn’t all that rare, just local and typically reclusive. Nevertheless, recently, several local birders have gotten nice shots of the species in roadside wetlands south of Ciudad Neily.
Sapphire-throated Hummingbird also lives there.
Oilbirds and Bare-necked Umbrellabird in the Monteverde area– An Oilbird was recently photographed in the Monteverde area and an umbrellabird or two has been showing at Curi-Cancha. Now those would be a pair of sweet year birds to score…
This is a Magnificent Frigatebird, the umbrellabird looks like this except that it’s much more chunky, has much shorter wings and tail, and a mini umbrella on its head.
Great Green Macaws on the move– During the rainy season, this endangered mega seems to move around more on its search for food in the Caribbean lowlands and foothills. I had a pair fly over the Marina zoo on a soaking wet Saturday, and just today, a fantastic birder I know saw 14 near Muelle!
More bird counts– It doesn’t have to be Christmastime to count birds in Costa Rica! We get down with counting all things avian all year long! As further evidence that the birding community in Costa Rica has been growing, this summer, there have been official bird counts for Esquinas Lodge, the Locos por el Bosque Reserve in Coronado, and in a few days, at the fantastic site of El Copal! Although guiding will keep me from counting birds with fellow binocular people at one of the best sites in the country, I do hope to participate in other counts, including the one at Barra del Colorado in a few months.
Another important remnant wetland destroyed– It was a shock to hear that the wonderful birding oasis known as Zamora Estate has been sold and largely destroyed to make way for yet more housing. Yep, there’s money to be made and people need places to live. I wonder how much value we could have placed on one of the very last original wetlands in the Central Valley? A place where dozens maybe even hundreds of waterbirds roosted, many nested, and various other birds lived. A special, unique place now being converted to the same sort of buildings seen in so many parts of Costa Rica, and yet another reason to edit “How to See, Find, and Identify Birds in Costa Rica”.
Sorry to end this on a sad note but even tragic news must be shared. On a happier note, considering that more people in Costa Rica have become interested in birds, heavy rains also mean healthy tropical forests, and that the birding in Costa Rica is always a blend of easy and fantastic, there are reasons to rejoice. I hope to see some of those cool birds with you.