July in the birding world is when many birders take a break from binoculars. The weather is hot, it’s green out there in the middle of the summer but go birding and you may feel like you are walking through a set of terrestrial doldrums. Few birds sing and many seem to be just as lethargic about the hot humid days as crowds at the beach, as the auto-fanning auntie sipping cold drinks on the porch. The breeze in the trees seems tired, taking a rest after a busy first part of summer. It’s a good match for kids on swing sets, going to the pool, having a family reunion. Not so much for major avian action.
But the birds are still there, they just have other priorities in mind. Not as obvious and showy as the breeding times of May and June, birds in July might be finishing or starting a second brood. They might be molting, laying low as they change their natural dress before moving back south. Some, the first shorebirds to leave the breeding grounds of the Arctic, have already started their long distance movements towards the tropics. Birding in Niagara, in western New York and southern Ontario, was waiting for those migrants, checking the wetlands at the wildlife refuges and the Lake Erie shore to see if some were around. At the same time, we watched the post-breeding movements of Yellow Warblers, might find a rare Henslow’s Sparrow singing in the summer night, maybe find a Sedge Wren. We kept an eye out for other birds too, especially the vagrants, the adventurous birds that moved far north of regular haunts. One summer, one of those lost individuals was my lifer Tricolored Heron.
A first year bird, it flew north instead of south. Heck, at that time of year, it didn’t need to fly anywhere but then again what did we know about its situation? It must have needed to move to find food. The wetlands it had come from may have dried up, may have been drained, or there might not have been enough room for it. Whatever the reason, it made its way to the junction between two of the Great Lakes and I got the chance to see it.
In Costa Rica, the birding situation in July is not nearly as quiet. Birds are still singing, many are moving with juveniles in mixed flocks. There are always a lot of birds to see, I guess one of the biggest differences is the absence of the winter species. The Summer Tanagers, Baltimore Orioles and wood-warblers are still on breeding grounds in the USA and Canada, they won’t be in Costa Rica for a while. But, the birds that are present are the resident tropical species that most visiting birders would rather see anyways. Birds like the Slaty-backed Nightingale-Thrush I saw yesterday while driving through the Cinchona-Varablanca area.
Near endemic Birds like Costa Rican Warbler, Prong-billed Barbet, Ruddy Treerunner, Black-faced Solitaire, and other species that I also saw and heard yesterday. We were just passing through, if we had stayed longer, we would have seen a lot more. A brief stop in Cinchona produced Coppery-headed Emeralds and Brown Violetears, lower down, a Bat Falcon flew alongside, vying with the speed of the car. A few toucans called and flew from the tops of trees, and other birds made it into our trip list.
There’s more to see than a birder might expect during July birding up north. In Costa Rica, there’s a lot more to see no matter which month you go birding, even in July.