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Birding Costa Rica Where to see birds in Costa Rica

Some Nice Finds on Global Big Day, 2017

Last Saturday, May 13, more than 20,000 birders went birding and put their results into eBird. It was the third Global Big Day and the biggest one yet. If the day would have been a competition (and some countries did sort treat the day as such) Colombia took first place with more than 1,400 species identified, Peru came in second, and Ecuador was third. Surprisingly, the highest list came from northern Argentina (and thus highlighting the biodiversity in this less birded area), and Costa Rica had the highest total for Central America. Thanks to some last minute organizing and a good number of local birders getting on board, this small country finished the day with more than 640 species.

Birding in Costa Rica during Global Big Day, 2017.

Since most of the migrants had already left, the local birding community was very pleased at topping 600. Consider that all of these species were found in an area roughly equal to that of West Virginia and it’s quite the impressive total. We are already thinking about next year to see if we can hit 700. As for me, I birded a 60 kilometer route from the Central Valley, up and over the mountains, north to the Sarapiqui Caribbean lowlands, and then back up the mountain to hit highland forests before heading back down into the valley for some dry forest and wetland species. As usual, I did this route with my faithful Big Day birding companion and friend, Susan. Although we ran out of time twarads the end of the day and thus missed out on dry forest species, we were seriously lucky with good weather, especially because a lot of other birders in Costa Rica got rained out during the critical morning hours.

During our long day and night of birding, some of our nicest finds were:

Striped Owl– This was a big one on my radar because a Striped Owl had been calling just about every night for the past two months right near my house. Thankfully, good old “Stripey” decided to participate in the Global Big Day by giving its shrill vocalization as soon as we stopped to listen for it. I can’t say the same for other owls in the valley and mountains but at least the Striped Owl piped up right on cue!

A surprise wetland– Deciding where to greet the dawn on a Big Day is of vital importance because it’s when we have the best chance at the most birds. If it rains, there goes a sizeable chunk of the daily total. If you pick the wrong spot, you probably miss the species that would have put you over your end goal. With all that in mind, we started where the most species were possible; in the Caribbean Lowlands. The site had to be close enough to the rest of our route to save time but also in or next to an extensive area of forest. After scouting and checking Google Earth, I decided on an area just north of Tirimbina where a road cuts through a corner of a large forest block and then passes near a wetland mentioned in eBird. As it turned out, the forest block wasn’t as birdy as expected, nor did the lagoon from eBird have much, but we did luck out with a fine marsh just outside the forest. This was a surprise because I had seen the satellite view of the open area but had assumed that it was pasture. Although some of it did turn out to be grass for cows, most of it was a shallow river bordered by marsh vegetation! Since such habitat is difficult to find and access in Costa Rica, and offers a chance at various additions to the day list, this was a fantastic Big Day surprise.

Our best bird there was Rufescent Tiger-Heron, a rare species in Costa Rica and thus not exactly expected. We also picked up Purple Gallinule and some other water birds as well as various edge species and some forest birds.

Our tiger-heron and one of all three species we found during the day!

Birds before dawn– You never know what will call at night from one day to the next. Next to the march and adjacent forest, luckily, we had a calling Black and white Owl, Central American Pygmy-Owl, one Uniform Crake (maybe the only one for Costa Rica), and one Great Potoo. No response from Short-tailed Nighthawk or other owls but some good night birds nonetheless.

White-ringed Flycatcher and other lowland specialties–  I had hoped to get the flycatcher but it was particularly sweet to get our only one right from the car, and rather low down. In Tirimbina, we picked up several other nice lowland targets including Black-capped Pygmy-Tyrant, antwrens, the hoped for White-fronted Nunbirds that live there, Black-striped Woodcreeper, and some others. We also missed several but it was still fun trying for them!

White-ringed Flycatcher

Tanagers in Socorro– These were expected but still nice to get them and weren’t as common as we had hoped. Black and yellow, Bay-headed, Silver-throated, Speckled, and a few other showed, including Blue and Gold and the exquisite Scarlet-thighed Dacnis.

Blue and gold Tanager

A quetzal in the cloud forest– We always knew it was possible but with limited time to work with, the chances of bumping into one are never really good. As if to make up for the many highland species that were hiding or just keeping silent, a male Resplendent Quetzal fluttered and then flew right across our field of view in an area of cloud forest that is now quite accessible from the San Jose area. Thanks to road work and new bridges, the route that goes from San Rafael de Varablanca towards Socorro and San Miguel is easy going right up to this area of forest. Beyond that, the road requires four wheel drive but you might not need to go much further for some really good birding because this area of forest is connected to Braulio Carrillo National Park. Since it’s not that far from the homestead, I hope to check it out from time to time.

Although I always want more birds, I was pleased with our total of around 230 species. I wonder how many more we could get on that route with additional scouting and when there are migrants in the area.

Categories
Birding Costa Rica Where to see birds in Costa Rica

Big Day Birding in Costa Rica, 2016

If you pay attention to this blog, there’s a fair chance that you know about my Big Days in Costa Rica. If not, then allow me to explain. Each year, I spend way too much planning and analyzing a route that can result in 300 plus species of birds. With more than 900 species on the country list, that shouldn’t be a problem, except that I’m not talking about one or two weeks. No, the craziness comes in the form of a one day event of all out birding, hunter concentration smack in the face of no sleep, and eating chocolate to see more birds. Actually, eating chocolate for birds isn’t crazy at all (in fact, I absolutely recommend it) and it really does help at 2 pm when you have been awake for 12 hours and still need to see a caracara, kingfishers, and hundreds of other species.

This year, the Big Day was originally planned for March. Susan, Robert, and I were going to blast through the country with blazing binoculars from Cano Negro all the way over to the Pacific coast at Chomes with rainforest and cloud forest in between. We were going to do that but then each of us got sick right before the day of reckoning, so, with a heavy heart, it was postponed until April 24. Most of the wintering birds would be gone and that does leave a hole in the final tally, but there would also be migrants coming through and maybe more birds singing as well. At least, that was the gamble and we didn’t have a choice anyways if we wanted to do a Big Day in 2016.

Although Robert couldn’t make it, we still met up with him and Eduardo Amengual on the eve of the Big Day at Cano Negro. We saw a Short-tailed Nighthawk, enjoyed some fine conversation, shared laments over the passing of Prince, and, thanks to Eduardo, also shared a smooth and delicious Spanish Rioja. This was followed by an attempt an getting five hours of sleep. That almost worked except for when I had to get up and slaughter several mosquitoes. Luckily, they weren’t as quick as me and I smashed them in triumph. Triumph-this is what you feel after enduring that damn buzzing in the ear and getting bit in the middle of the night. A bit of sleep after killing mosquitoes was followed by the alarm going off at midnight and the official start of our Big Day!

In the yard at Kingfisher Lodge, we heard a Common Pauraque, and got a response from a Common Potoo- Yes! Two birds down, 298 to go! Looking for roosting birds turned out to be fruitless, but a walk to the dike and dock at Cano Negro gave us Boat-billed Heron, our only Black-bellied Whistling Duck of the day, and a few other species along with the mesmerizing ruby red eyeshine of a couple dozen caimans.

I was hoping we would find one of these guys roosting but no avian cigar for us…

After getting some extra exercise by way of walking in a circle in Cano Negro village, we eventually found the lodge (and the car), and headed out into the night in search of more birdies. Stops on the road out gave nothing new until we reached the bridge at San Emiliano. However, lucky for us, the hoped for Great Potoo was perched at eye level just below the light.

A friendly Great Potoo. These birds are really big!

Off in the fields, no Striped nor Barn Owl (and forget about the super rare Ocellated Poorwill) but it was still cool to hear another Common Potoo. Then, we were off for an easy night drive to our site for more owls and the dawn chorus. This was around Luna Nueva and Pocosol and almost two hours from Cano Negro. To make a long story short, we heard one Mottled Owl, nothing else, and had a disturbing absence of dawn chorus. As the first light of the day became visible on the way to the Pocosol station, we did pick up some birds here and there including Crested Guan, our only Buff-throated Foliage-gleaner, and various second growth species, but in the forests of the station itself, the trees were eerily bereft of bird song.

Seriously, this was not good and not just because it was a Big Day. I settled on the rainforests at Pocosol as a dawn starting point because these are some of the highest quality forests I have seen in Costa Rica. They host a huge array of common and decidedly uncommon species, and the hope was that being there at dawn would give a better chance at getting more species. Simple as that. On past trips at this time of the year, the dawn chorus at this site was so profuse, it was hard to distinguish which species were calling. Just amazing. On April 24th, though, the forest resounded with cicadas and almost nothing else. Trust me, this is not normal, nor were the dry leaves and wilted moss. If some of the most intact rainforests in Costa Rica are like this, I can’t help but wonder how many areas are approaching ecosystem collapse. It’s not just a drought, it’s prolonged hot, dry weather caused by global warming in places not adapted to those conditions, and the outlook is bad.

A view from the dining area at Pocosol.

We walked the forest trail in silence, hoping for some bird to call and got nothing. At least not until the cicadas slowed down well after dawn. Then, we did pick up birds here and there including some good, expected ones like Black-headed Anthrush, Dull-mantled Antbird, Russet Antshrike, and Purplish-backed Quail-Dove. Motmots were also calling but it was way too quiet overall. Since we needed more species from that area that we expected during dawn chorus, we stayed longer than scheduled and did pick up more here and there, including White Hawk, King Vulture, and some species near Luna Nueva. I’m not sure what our total was at that time but probably somewhere around 140 species.

Next on the list was the drive up to sites on the way to San Ramon. En route, fortunately, we connected with species seen from the car like Black-cowled Oriole, Rock Pigeon (oh yeah, it counts!), Olive-throated Parakeet, and some others. A stop at the small marsh turned up Great Blue Heron and a few other species, and San Luis was good for tanagers. Our next main stop was the Cocora Hummingbird Garden. Although this cloud forest site had treated us well in the past, it was dead on April 24th. Whether because of dry weather or the loud music from an adjacent birthday party, we came up zilch in the forest but at least picked up some hummingbirds in the garden. The lack of birds prompted a brief stop in front of Nectandra which finally gave us givens like Gray-breasted Wood-Wren and Chestnut-capped Brush-Finch but overall, the cloud forest was a bird silent bust.

One of the birds we picked up was Green-crowned Brilliant.

The stops from then on were better, including Tropical Mockingbird, Purple Gallinule, and several other targets at the Silencio marsh, a quick Vaux’s Swift while filling up in San Ramon, and driveby Rufous-breasted Wren, Plain Wren, and Orange-billed Nightingale-Thrush (I love driveby birds on a Big Day). No luck with any driveby birds on the descent to the coast but we lucked out in terms of traffic. Our next main stop, Punta Morales, also provided with a sweet combination of mangrove species and waterbirds. Scanning produced several shorebird species, two gulls species, and five tern species, along with some dry forest stuff. We picked up more dry forest birds on the drive to Chomes, and then got up a few more shorebirds at Chomes itself, best being American Golden-Plover. Although shorebird numbers there were surprisingly low, we also had nice looks at Wilson’s Phalaropes, White Ibis, Roseate Spoonbill, and other waterbird targets, and a surprise bunch of Scissor-tailed Flycatchers flying to roost. As dusk approached, I figured that checking the fields on the way out might be interesting. This turned out to be a good choice as we heard Ferruginous Pygmy-Owl, Collared Forest-Falcon, Double-striped Thick-knees, and the best bird of the day, Upland Sandpiper! Two called a few times just as it got dark, and they were probably flying into the night sky to migrate north. It was magic. Last but not least, we also managed a Barn Owl that flew in front of the car on the drive out. That was a serendipitous relief.

We quit after the Barn Owl at 6:30. This was early by Big Day standards but we were pleased and pretty much too tired to keep listening for non-calling owls. The final tally was 260 species, and I figured that we could have added at least 80 common species if more birds had been singing (such as tinamous for example), but we weren’t complaining because it was, after all, a memorable, fine day of birding.

Our list for the day: Big Day list 2016

Categories
biodiversity Birding Costa Rica Introduction

A Rundown of a Big Day in Costa Rica (or Getting and Missing Birds part Dos)

Last weekend came and went like a flash. Not this past weekend but the weekend before. Although I did see a bunch of high-flying Chestnut-collared Swifts foraging above the house with a light phase Short-tailed Hawk taking to the thermals beneath them, that was a muuuuch more relaxed experience than the last Saturday of March and the first Sunday of April. You see, the Big Day actually commenced on that Saturday and started several hours before it officially started. Before you feel like quoting Arnold Drummond by saying, “What you talking about Willis?!” (RIP Garry Coleman), allow me to explain.

If you want to get serious about doing a Big Day and break some birding record, you have to get crazy with the planning and preparations. I had already planned everything out at least a week prior to the Big Day but still needed to get busy with the preparations. This meant buying supplies for the day such as a large bottle of  Coca Cola (caffeine and sugar are a Big Day birders best friend), snacks galore, and making a pizza. Yes, that’s right, making a pizza and since I make the dough, that tacks on 2 hours to the equation. Homemade Pizza is my lembas (if you read Tolkien, you know what I mean) and is therefore an essential for a long day of birding. Call me a pizza snob if you will but I forgo ordering it in Costa Rica because I grew up with pizza from western New York. That’s the way I like it so that’s pretty much the way I make it. Nor do I just bake any old pizza for a Big Day. It has to be a bready, focaccia-like pizza to stand up to the rigors of the days and retain its flavor. Perhaps even more important, this way, it’s also easy to just grab and eat cold.

So, due to having to drop my daughter off for a birthday party in another town, I made the dough in the morning, baked the pizza in the afternoon, and rushed off to San Ramon to pick up team mate Juan Diego Vargas but before then, I packed the other essentials into my pack: binoculars, scope, charged camera, charged digital recorder and microphone, insect repellent, sunblock, gatorade drinks, and water. The route and bird lists were printed. I couldn’t think of any other vocalizations to brush up on. I was ready to hear a Black-billed Cuckoo chuckle from the night sky and tick it off. In other words, I was ready to rock and roll.

After coming back with Juan Diego and talking about the recent rare sighting of American Bittern in inaccessible wetlands near the Nicaraguan border, we met up with Susan Blank at my house. Susan and her husband own a couple of golf shops and set up golf tours in Costa Rica and elsewhere and they excel at that but what Susan is perhaps even better at is driving the twisty roads of Costa Rica. Growing up in the countryside of southern Pennsylvania has also given her excellent bird-spotting abilities and these would be put to the test on Sunday.

After saying goodbye to my wife and eating a few slices of good luck pizza, off we went around the block to start out Big Day at 7:15 pm.  A Common Pauraque quickly became our first species but the Tropical Screech Owls refused to play and the star-lit skies were bereft of migrants so we moved on to higher elevations. At our third stop, the air was still and that helped convince a Mottled Owl to respond to an imitation of its barking “song”. It responded with a lackluster, low key “hoot” but we caught the sound so ticked off it went for bird number two (don’t worry, I won’t do this for the other 259 species).

Further nighttime stops were a bust and we were surprised because Bare-shanked Screech Owls and Dusky Nightjars are usually pretty good at responding. Whether it was due to the time of the year or just bad luck, we didn’t get any other owls at night.

We got to El Gavilan, our spot for the night, around 9 pm and had this wonderful Caribbean lowland birding site all to ourselves. Short-tailed Nighthawk made it onto the list, we listened for a bit longer, and then hit the sack. Thanks to Rodolfo, the night watchman, we had coffee at 4:30 am shortly after waking up and got caffeinated while listening to the night sky. No migrants, no Spectacled Owl, no Green Ibis and it was time to move on. Night birding was not being productive! We drove the two kilometers to the edge of the La Selva property and listened for more owls as the multitude of Clay-colored Robins filled the air with their dawn songs. A Central American Pygmy -Owl made it onto the list (success!) but no other Strigiformes vocalized.

The very birdy yard at El Gavilan. We didn’t have time to hit this spot during the morning birding rush even though it makes for easy, excellent Caribbean lowland birding.

As the sky began to lighten, we rushed over to the E Tigre fields for dawn. I picked this spot as a pre-dawn stop in the hopes of getting rare marsh birds, Green Ibis, hearing migrants, and maybe picking up an owl or two. Unfortunately, this turned out to be a bad choice because none of the above complied. Nevertheless, dawn came fast and furious as it always does in the tropics and this was when the true Big Day craziness commenced.

When everything starts to sing at the same time, you hardly know where to begin. You just have to put yourself into a Zen-like mindset and do one song at a time. If you know your vocalizations well, you can just call off birds as soon as they start and this is the real way to do it as it helps with the one true bane of Big Days- time. The faster you can call the birds, the more likely you will get more so the next twenty minutes went something like this:

“Great Antshrike! Got it?”

“Yes”

“No…wait….yes!”

“Lineated Woodpecker”

“Laughing Falcon”

” I got a pair of kites in the distance”

“Giant Cowbird over the horizon!”

“Got it”

“Did you get the Laughing Falcon?”

“Yes, did you get the Streak-headed Woodcreeper?”

“Yes, keep looking for the Nicaraguan Seed Finch!”

Kiskadees were sounding off, the Clay-coloreds were trying to drown out other, more important species, and flock after flock of Bronzed Cowbirds made us realize just how darn common those sneaky Icterids were. It was a good thing we checked the cowbirds though because one trio of blackbirds turned out to be a group of  Shinys and we picked up a deep chested, undulating Giant. It bordered on chaos and it didn’t help that the rails refused to call but we at least got one White-throated Crake and found our Nicaraguan Seed-Finch so we departed from the break of dawn site feeling hopeful about the day.

It was a quick five minute drive over to the edge of the La Selva property where we hoped to pick up a wealth of other “dawn birds”. We needed stuff like motmots, tinamous, wrens, and as many birds to sing as possible. Although we couldn’t count on a host of understory species that have become rare at or have disappeared from La Selva, I figured that it would still be productive enough for a 15 minute stop. As is promised by the early hour, the avian action was fast and furious and we got both tityras,  two Motmots, Sulphur-bellied Flycatcher, White-ringed Flycatcher (our only spot for that one!), and Cinnamon Woodpecker among others. The Fasciated Antshrikes and Long-tailed Tyrants that are usually recorded there were no shows though and the tyrant ended up being one of the big misses on our Big Day.

A Long-tailed Tyrant from another day.

I got this Fasciated Antshrike a week after the count at the exact same spot where we tried for it in vain.

Next on the list of morning sites was a quick stop at the Chilamate bridge followed by a jaunt over a rocky road to a good patch of forest that was bound to yield some nice additions. The bridge was checked for kingfishers, tiger-herons, and Sunbittern but the only things we ended up pulling out of there were a Black Phoebe and Spotted Sandpiper. Oh well, it was on to the patch of forest as we listened and looked in vain for flyby Great Green Macaw and Long-tailed Tyrants. Our first Northern Jacana was sighted by a stream and we picked up birds shortly after arriving at the forest. Although Black-striped Woodcreeper and Black-capped Pygmy-Tyrant were absent, we got both White-whiskered and White-necked Puffbirds, a Black-throated Trogon that came in close to stare at us, Black-headed Tody-Flycatcher, Green Honeycreeper, Rufous Mourner, Chestnut-backed Antbird, and a few other species in just 15 minutes. In retrospect, we probably should have started the Big Day at that spot but the clock was ticking and there was no time for regrets so we drove off to Tirimbina Rainforest for a last chance at Caribbean lowland rainforest birds.

By the time we got to Tirimbina, the height of the morning action was slowing down and according to schedule, we should have already hit the road for Virgen del Socorro. With so many birds till possible though, we decided to put in an hour at Tirimbina. The walk in gave us Short-tailed Hawk, Scaly-breasted Hummingbird, Wood Thrush and Swainson’s Thrushes that were feeding on fruiting shrubs. After paying a resident-discounted entrance fee, we headed out over the metal bridge that crosses the Sarapiqui, stopping in the middle to look for birds. It was getting pretty quiet but the trails through the excellent rainforests atTirimbina were bound to give us some birds. Given that we were there during the mid-morning lull, we did pretty darn good. Western Slaty Antshrike found its way into the list along with Red-capped Manakin, Ochre-bellied Flycatcher, Wedge-billed Woodcreeper, and two of our best birds for the day; Black Hawk Eagle and Ornate Hawk Eagle. As hawk eagles tend to do, both started calling from high in the sky and thus earned treasured spots on our list.


Birding from a canopy bridge at Tirimbina.

Western Slaty Antshrike from Tirimbina. This place might even be a better choice than La Selva for birding the Caribbean lowlands.

Our hoped for mixed flock never appeared and it was time to go so we jumped back into the car and traded the lowlands for the middle elevation forests of Virgen del Socorro. We got there by about 11:30 after a quick stop at a nearly birdless lagoon that nevertheless gave up Slaty Spinetail and both yellowthroats. Despite a windstorm of spishing, the White-collared Seedeaters refused to show like they did on days before and after the count. A similar thing happened with White Hawk at Virgen del Socorro but we at least picked up a bunch of other birds. Barred Hawk called as it soared above the canyon. Standard species like Tropical Parula, Slate-throated Redstart, Stripe-breasted Wren, Gray-breasted Wood-Wren,and Tufted Flycatcher quickly made their way into the list as did goodies like Nightingale Wren, Green Thorntail, Slaty-backed Nightingale Thrush, Plain Xenops, and Smoky-brown Woodpecker.

The good forests on the other side  of the river also treated us well with Brown Violetear, several tanagers (including beauties like Speckled, Black and Yellow, and Emerald), Russet Antshrike, Slaty-capped Flycatcher, Tawny-capped Euphonia, and Rufous-browed Tyrannulet. Overall, a pretty productive stop of an hour or so. Despite no White Hawk, we left Virgen del Socorro, made a quick stop at Cinchona to pick up Coppery-headed Emerald and miss White-bellied Mountain Gem before continuing uphill. On the way, Sooty-faced Finch called, we got the promised Torrent Tyrannulet at the La Paz waterfall, and a quick stop turned up a Golden-olive Woodpecker. As we neared the top of the road at Varablanca, rain was pouring down and thus things did not bode well for highland species around there and at Poas.

There’s a Torrent Tyrannulet somewhere near that waterfall.

The rain only became worse when we stopped at the Volcan Restaurant. After ticking Volcano Hummingbird and Purple-throated Mountain-Gem from inside the car, we bravely stepped out into the rain to check the riparian zone there that can be great for a number of species. After a minute of soaking rain and no birds, we got back into the car and wondered if we should just write off Poas altogether. Hoping to get above the rain and knowing that most birds higher up would be new and impossible elsewhere, we drove up to the entrance of the national park. Unfortunately, the rainclouds were higher than that and the water kept on falling so we weren’t going to get as many species as we probably would have on Poas. We still got some good ones though and these included species like Fiery-throated Hummingbird, Peg-billed Finch, Yellow-thighed Finch, and Barred Parakeet.

We just as quickly drove back downslope hoping that the rain was restricted to the highlands. As we headed through the coffee plantations, rain kept us from hearing things like Orange-billed Nightingale-Thrush or Rufous-capped Warbler but it luckily stopped before reaching Alajuela. From there, we made our way to the highway that heads to the coast and were happy to see sunny conditions on the drive down. By this time though, four o’clock was fast approaching , we were an hour and a half behind schedule, and we were confronted with a painful decision. Time dictated that we had to choose between either going for more rainforest species and Carara specialties on the Bijagual road, or looking for dry forest birds and waterbirds in the estuary and mangroves at Guacalillo. We opted for the Bijagual road along with a quick visit to a dry forest spot and pretty much wrote off everything from Anhinga to Common Black Hawk and herons unless we could get lucky with aquatic species hanging out at the crocodile bridge.

As we raced to the Guacimo Road (our dry forest spot), road birding was good with a Turquoise-browed Motmot perched on a wire, calling Stripe-headed Sparrows, and a few others for the list. On the Guacimo Road, the usual Common Ground and Inca Doves were absent but we did good with Ferruginous Pygmy-Owl, Nutting’s Flycatcher, White-lored Gnatcatcher, Plain-capped Starthroat, Scrub Euphonia, Blue Grosbeak, and a few other much needed species. No magpie jay and we still needed Brown Jay (!) but it was time to finish up the daylight at the Bijagual Road.

White-lored Gnatcatchers are good about coming in to pygmy owl calls.

That road passes next to the boundary of Carara National Park and is typically great birding in the late afternoon. Fortunately for us, the place worked like a charm and yielded almost every expected species like clockwork! Pygmy-owl whistling called in a Painted Bunting, Greenish Elaenia, and a few other species but we got most by their calls. One after another, we ticked off Northern Bentbill, Southern Beardless Tyrannulet, Rufous-tailed Jacamar, Rufous and White, Rufous-breasted, Rufous-naped, and Scaly-breasted Wrens, Fiery-billed Aracari, Scarlet Macaw, Black-hooded Antshrike, Dusky Antbird, Gray-headed Tanager, Little Tinamou, Long-billed Gnatwren, Long-tailed Manakin, Orange-collared Manakin, and at least a few more to finish off the day including our much expected Brown Jay. It was birding at its best and probably our luckiest stop for the day.

As dusk approached, we made one last stop at the crocodile bridge to hope for waterbirds but other than picking up Lesser Nighthawk and Black-necked Stilt, that last stop was a bust. As night fell, we decided to make another last ditch effort for a few more birds (as is tradition on a Big Day) and drove past the village of Tarcoles to look for things like Boat-billed Heron and owls. Although the boat-billeds had already flown the coupe, we spotlighted a Bare-throated Tiger-Heron for our final and 26oth species of the day. No owls were calling, the place felt like a furnace, exhaustion was creeping in, and it was time to go home.

The drive back up to the Central Valley was a quick one and our Big Day had come to its end. Rain, few migrants, and going off schedule had conspired to keep us from breaking any records but it was still one heck of a fantastic day for birding in Costa Rica that spanned habitats ranging from lowland rainforests on both slopes to dry forest, middle elevation cloud forests, temperate zone rain forests, fields, and coffee plantations. It’s hard to say what our best or most unexpected bird was but it might be a toss up between Barred Parakeet and Ornate Hawk-Eagle.  Biggest misses were too many waterbirds, Inca Dove (a common, easy to see species), the aforementioned tyrant, Great Tinamou (vocal and usually recorded), Barred Antshrike (almost always recorded!), and Yellow-throated Euphonia.

I now have a better strategy though and can’t wait until March 2013 for the record-breaking Big Day.