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Blue Grosbeaks and Birding News from Costa Rica, June, 2020

It was hard to think of anything to write today. At least, to write anything about birds in Costa Rica because that’s not what’s on the forefront of my mind but I’m going to try anyways. I wish that I could talk about waking up to the piercing, shameless calls of Southern Lapwings, the whistles of a Spot-bellied Bobwhite, the gurgling song of a Blue Grosbeak.

I wake up to those and am grateful, especially that grosbeak. Every time I hear or see one of those deep blue birds, I am grateful because while I was growing up birding in Niagara Falls, NY, it was one of those more southern birds that were just out of reach.

The range map in the Peterson guide edged up towards us but fell short somewhere in Pennsylvania and New Jersey. I eventually got my lifer during a fall visit to Cape May, a female that looked more like a female Indigo Bunting but still a much appreciated lifer! Since then, I have seen lots; deep blue birds giving warbling gurgling songs in the green riparian zone of a canyon in southeastern Colorado, Blue Grosbeaks in weedy fields while surveying birds in southern Illinois, other places and finally here in Costa Rica where I see and hear them in many sites with brushy fields.

A pair have been recently making appearances in weedy lots across the street adjacent to heavy machinery building another residential area. A common, resident species in Costa Rica but every sighting still accompanied by that tinge of excitement from wanting, hoping to see one while looking at bird books in urban Niagara Falls, New York.

That’s where I grew up and that’s where, so far, protests have been peaceful. I am so proud and relieved that people from my hometown held a peaceful protest and I think they in part did so because the police from Niagara Falls, New York took a knee with them. Officials spoke with protesters and listened to them, and before the protest was over, they shook hands with police. Maybe being a small place had something to do with it, or maybe the local police department has made efforts to make better connections with the public and say, not use illegal holds that end up killing people. I am sure that listening and communicating with people and not taking an authoritarian response that involved spraying random people in their faces and shooting others with rubber bullets (like a journalist who lost one of her eyes) and unconstitutionally suppressing free speech by arresting journalists had something to do with it too.

But instead of talking about leaders and one in particular who encourages suppression of the media and free press, someone who would rather take violent, authoritarian approaches to situations that may have been reduced or prevented by (1) recognizing a very serious problem in the first place and (2) making any bit of effort to provide solutions to said problem, I will mention two other vastly more positive things:

BlackBirdersWeek– This is an initiative created by Black birders aimed at changing the narrative regarding Black people and their connections and experiences with the outdoors. The Audubon Society sums up this virtual initiative quite nicely. I love this because the outdoors and communication with nature is a basic cherished right for every person, no one should ever have to worry about feeling threatened or deterred from partaking in nature. The more people we support in learning about and communing with our natural world and science, the better this world will be. Those who have been denied the chance to connect with nature because they felt threatened, lacked role models, or didn’t have the means of reaching wild places are the people who merit the utmost in support and acknowledgement.

I will just also mention that the support of people who would like to appreciate nature is of serious importance, particular in these overpopulated, nature-deficit times because without increased connection with and understanding how to live in balance with nature and putting that knowledge to active use by society as a whole, civilization will eventually, certainly collapse.

A Guide to the Birdsong of Mexico, Central America, and the Caribbean– Not exactly a field guide but a celebration of birds from Mexico, Central America, and the Caribbean by way of a ten track album. The songs feature vocalizations of birds and any purchase will help with bird conservation in the Caribbean.

Costa Rica setting protocols for tourism– The borders might still be closed but local tourism ventures are opening with strict health restrictions in place. Paraiso de Quetzales is one of those special places, recently, friends of mine had a great visit and reported on the protocols and experience in the Howler Magazine. I hope this and other local lodges and businesses can get enough visitors to keep going until borders reopen because at the moment, tourism in Costa Rica is near zero and as with so many other places, a heck of a lot of people have become recently unemployed.

Despite these challenging sad times, I will end by saying that it’s not too early to start planning for a trip to Costa Rica. Right now might be the best time to look into itineraries, tours, and other ideas for an eventual escape to a place that beckons with the promise of beauty and fantastic birding in a safe and welcome setting for all. You can start planning your trip of a lifetime and support this blog by getting my 700 plus page e-book, How to See, Find, and Identify Birds in Costa Rica.

Red-legged Honeycreepers will be waiting! This picture was taken by Eugene L. Pierce, a photographer from Buffalo, New York.

5 replies on “Blue Grosbeaks and Birding News from Costa Rica, June, 2020”

Great read…Thanks Patrick, for keeping us up to date on CR.
You nailed it on the head about things here in the US.
It is a really sad state of affairs.
I cannot wait til we can visit Costa Roca again…still thinking about it being a permanent resident for my wife and I.
I just had a nice influx of Blue Grosbeaks though my yard a couple of weeks ago in SW Louisiana.
They are always a treat to witness in migration.
Painted Buntings have been singing away in the yard.
One young male trying to get established.
Looking forward to the opportunity to see and photograph Red-legged Honeycreepers again!
Hope we get a chance to bird together again soon.
Take care, my friend.

Growing up in northern New Jersey, I would gaze into the family copy of the Golden Book Guide: The Birds of North America hoping to one day see a Blue Grosbeak. It finally happened 4 weeks ago. At Playa Guiones, on a drizzly morning before 6am, I saw a two males feeding in young Guanacaste trees just off the beach. There wasn’t enough light to see that blue color, they looked black, but that beak and wing bars of orangey brown were unmistakeable. That new species rush never gets old.
Thank you for your great blog post.

@Gary- the yard sounds pretty nice! I look forward to that as well Gary, things will eventually open back up.

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