The past week has been marked by bird counts, at least for us and the other 80 plus people that helped count birds at Cano Negro and Arenal. Since many of the counters and count organizers are busy with tours later on in December, these counts don’t fit into the official count time frame for the Audubon Christmas Counts and are thus not tabulated therein. However, that doesn’t minimize their importance, we still try to hold them around the same dates for each year and with the same routes and effort.

Pretty typical for December, this year’s counts were marked by the arrival of a cold front. It brought the expected buckets of rain and filled the wetlands of Cano Negro to the brink. As one might imagine, the heavy rains also presented challenges to watching birds but we still managed (yay for us participants!).

Some of the highlights and other impressions from this year’s annual bird counts for Cano Negro and Arenal:

You can still bird in the rain but it’s better when it stops

When birding in the rain, there’s a fine balance between getting too much rain and having just enough to boost the avian activity. Fortunately, it didn’t rain the entire time for either count! Although we did experience some heavy, prolonged falling water, we also had enough downtime from precipitation to count the birds.

Odd birds from the ocean

The good thing about a cold front is the birds that it can bring to town. That cool weather from the north can come with some surprises. At Cano Negro, they came in the form of a few Laughing Gulls, a Sandwich Tern, and two Brown Pelicans. Although we weren’t too far from marine environments, this inland freshwater wetland and refuge is still far enough from the ocean to make sightings of coastal species very unusual. I also checked the lake at Arenal but didn’t find any errant shearwaters or other similar oddities.

The new tower at Finca Luna Nueva

This recent excellent addition to Luna Nueva merits its own post and will get one at some point. During the count, we got a hint of what the birding can be like, I can’t wait to check it out during a sunnier, warmer dawn. On count day, the misty, rainy, and cool weather kept activity to a minimum. At other times, I bet it can be really good.

Both counts deliver the goods

Despite the tough weather, thanks to a good number of enthusiastic participants, we recorded most expected species at both counts. Our best birds at Cano Negro may have been the uncommon Yellow-bellied Tyrannulet, Bare-crowned Antbird, and Bronzy Hermit. At Arenal, these were probably Black-crested Coquette, Uniform Crake, Gray Catbird, Ovenbird, and a few other nice finds.

Best birds from 270 plus species at Cano Negro

It’s hard to decide which birds were the best finds for all routes combined but good contenders come in the form of Tiny Hawk, Northern Harrier, crakes, Pinnated Bittern, Snowy Cotinga, and a few others.

Best Birds from 350 plus species at Arenal

One of our best and most memorable birds was a displaying Sunbittern. Thanks to Beto Palma for sharing this picture.

Another tough call, but some of the rarer species recorded included Bare-necked Umbrellabird, Sharpbill, the super tough Lanceolated Monklet, Tody Motmot, two hawk-eagle species, and Ring-necked Duck among others.

Good birding in good company and bird education

As always, the top highlights from both counts come in the form of sharing these special days with fellow birders. Some of us are veterans of bird counts, others were watching and counting birds for the first time. Promotion of birding also happened this year by way of birding workshops that took place in local communities before each count. Our count fees also helped fund those endeavors.

Beto Palma took this picture of the count shirt.

The count shirt is pretty cool too! Many thanks goes to Diego Quesada, Jheudy Carballo, Anthony Arce, Luis Enrique of Bird Songs Bijagua, and other members of the count committee for making these important bird counts happen.