This past Saturday, thousands of birders around the globe took part in October Big Day. While early May takes center stage as the main GBD, the one in October is just as exciting, especially in Costa Rica. There might be more vocalizations happening in the fifth month but in October, there are definitely more species and therefore more opportunities for a higher total.
Overall, despite fewer people participating, we still had enough people getting into the GBD spirit to give Costa Rica the nation’s highest total yet. 716 species were reported and even if a few of those might be attributed to misidentification, we still ended with a fantastic number of birds. Some of the rarer species included Tawny-faced Quail at a site somewhat near Cinco Ceibas heard by Juan Diego and Maria of Lifer Tours, several sweet pelagic species thanks to observers on a trip from the Nicoya Peninsula and on Cocos Island, White-rumped and Baird’s Sandpipers at a couple of spots, and many other species.
As for myself, I was finishing up six days of guiding, our final day taking place in the Carara area. Since my two clients were up for getting in a final major day of birding, we began GBD at Cerro Lodge around 3:45 a.m. These are some highlights from our October GBD:
Our final owl species of the trip rounded out an excellent total of 7 owl species seen and one that was heard only (Middle American Screech-Owl). The Tropical Screech was in the Jaco area and was, surprisingly, the only owl we heard in a spot that has generated several species in the past. We also had one flyover owl but I couldn’t discern whether it was a Striped or a Barn.
While birding around the Jaco area, we had a fair raptor round up of 16 species, our best probably being Harriss’s Hawk, King Vulture, and Peregrine Falcon. The highlight was probably a pair of Zone-tailed Hawks on a ridge way above Jaco that called and nearly locked talons, at close range and in good light. Collared Forest-Falcon, Crane Hawk, and Mississippi Kites seen the previous day made for a good couple days of raptor sightings even if we did just miss a very rare Savannah Hawk.
The Birdy Teleferico Road
Although we didn’t hear as many species as on my previous visits with Mary, the road that passes in front of the Pacific Rainforest Aerial Tram still delivered over a hundred species in a matter of hours. Plain-breasted Ground-Doves, Scrub Greenlet and other birds of open habitats were on the first section of the road. Several Slate-colored Seedeaters sang and other species were seen where the forest meets rice fields and stream, and more humid habitats on upper parts of the road gave us some nice species like Tawny-winged Woodcreeper, Blue-crowned Manakin, and Golden-naped Woodpecker.
The Jaco Wetlands
Wetlands around Jaco? Oh yes and they are birdy. The flat areas just outside of Jaco form natural wetlands that are mostly used to grow rice and that also attract a good bunch of birds. The best as of late has been a super rare for Costa Rica Striated Heron. Although we did not see the heron (despite really trying for it, one of us even walking out into the muddy fields under the blazing tropical sun), we did add several species to our GBD list. These were birds like Solitary Sandpiper, various herons, our Peregrine, Harriss’s Hawk, and some other birds.
After the wetlands, we drove back up to the Central Valley in the afternoon, the heavy rains starting at the same time. That rain kept us from adding maybe one or two other birds during the drive but we still ended our GBD with a wealth of species; more than 140. It was a memorable final day of a 6 day tour that yielded more than 350 species, and a great way to celebrate Global Big Day.