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biodiversity

Global Big Day, 2020, Costa Rica

Global Big Day 2020 was scheduled for May 9th. Despite the birding being limited by variations on a lockdown theme, not only did GBD still take place, but more than 118,000 checklists were submitted to eBird and 6,469 species were identified! It goes to show that even during a global pandemic, birding doesn’t just persist, given the right circumstances, this fantastic nature-connecting hobby can thrive and grow.

Apparently, with so much time available (perhaps combined with a yearning to leave the house) more folks are experiencing the outdoors by watching the closest bit of the wild, that of the backyard. They are looking out their windows and of course, they are seeing birds. Many are no doubt noticing, realizing, that more birds than they ever dreamed of visited their backyards, some hitching up or down tree trunks, others flitting to the feeder or rummaging in the fallen leaves.

Hoffamann’s Woodpecker is a tree hitching backyard bird in Costa Rica.

Just as every birder had a first bird or feathered spark of interest that led them on the road to bird festivals, buying field guides, and comparing optics, some of the people watching birds because of the 2020 quarantines will be following that same route. In Costa Rica, I don’t know how many new birders we will have because of a novel virus but the more the better!

I know that we did have excellent participation for GBD, 2020. Despite restrictions on freedom of movement in Costa Rica (our vehicle wasn’t allowed on the road on May 9th), we had a healthy showing of birders counting in and near their homes, and a few small groups stayed out for most of the day. Some people even managed to look for birds at night and this put most possible nocturnal species onto Costa Rica’s list for GBD, 2020.

Bare-shanked Screech-Owl made it onto the list.

We didn’t have any coast to coast Big Day bird racing nor individual lists that topped 300 species but one collective of birders, Team Northwest, recorded nearly 400 species and Team Turrialba found more than 300. Not bad, not bad at all given closures of national parks and beaches and driving restrictions! High totals by individual birders topped out at 184 for Fernando Barrantes, 181 for Gabriel Rojas, and 181 for David Mora Vargas. All of these high totals are testament to the huge number of bird species that can be encountered in small areas of Costa Rica.

As for Mary and I, we got in some early morning birding at and near our place, took it easy back at the apartment and kept track of whatever other birds we happened to hear or see from the house. I ended up scanning the skies quite a bit to enjoy the show of swifts and Hirundines. One distant Northern Rough-wing Swallow got me wishing that I was seeing a rare for Costa Rica Tree Swallow until it flew closer and swept my hopes away by showing its true dull colors. It was an addition to our GBD list nonetheless and shared aerial space with several Blue-and-white, Cliff, Barn, and Bank Swallows. Looking and listening above also gave us our best bird of the day, a year Spot-fronted Swift that graciously gave up its identity by calling as it flew overhead. The other fortunately calling year bird was an Alder Flycatcher, a species migrating through Costa Rica these days.

Alder Flycatchers may migrate more through the highlands than their Willow counterparts.

Various other regular birds also made it onto our GBD list, birds such as the fancy White-eared Ground-Sparrow, Great Kiskadee, Red-billed Pigeons, a calling Crested Bobwhite, and more species.

In keeping with true GBD fashion, other “regular” birds took the day off and waited until May 10th to call just out the back door. No mention of real names but I will say that the conspirators were a carpintero with lineations and a shrike-like bird that imitates a zebra.

This bird has lineations.
Grant’s or Grevy’s?

May 9th, 2020 wasn’t the most typical of Global Big Days but it still encouraged nearly 50,000 people to count the birds they identified, many of them just outside their respective homes. As for Costa Rica, we still managed a fantastic total, hopefully, we will be able to watch birds from one side of the mountains to the other in October.