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biodiversity bird finding in Costa Rica

Team Tyto + Global Big Day (+ Caffeine) = 300 Plus Species

It’s the Monday after Global Big Day. I write this as the Grayish Saltators call and a breeze threatens to bring rains and almost find it hard to believe that we birded from midnight until dawn and on through to the next night, from one side of the mountains to the other. From the hot low coastal region up to more than a cool 2,000 meters. A non-stop birdathon, a day dedicated to celebrating birds collectively shared with thousands of birders across the globe and to think that we almost didn’t partake in Global Big Day, 2019. We wanted to, I had a route planned, but Mary’s daughter had exams, she had to study, needed help studying and we also needed someone to watch her.

Nevertheless, thanks to being able to study during the week and family members who were happy to watch her, it all worked out. With enough refreshments, snacks, sandwiches and caffeine drinks on hand to last us through a night and day, Mary and I (aka Team Tyto) were ready to dedicate ourselves to finding as many birds as we could in Costa Rica, on May 4th. Luckily, I even had a chance to sleep during the day before the clock struck midnight. That happened for us somewhere on the road to the Pacific Coast and there was no quick first bird. Only highway and occasional street lights, no luck with roosting birds, nor a serendipitous flyby Barn Owl.

A Striped Owl from another day.

The first of many happened at our first stop, a dusty road in the Pacific lowlands. Common Pauraques took that distinguished title as they called and leaped from the road. No Pacific Screech-Owl though, no other night birds, no faint calls of migrants up there in the dark sky. There was a light rain and that probably kept things extra quiet but we pushed on, eventually picking up shorebirds that roost at salt ponds. As we arrived, the “terlee!” of Black-bellied Plovers echoed over the dark still waters and Black-necked Stilt gave their sharp barking calls. Eventually, by way of brief looks and vocalizations, we picked up several other shorebird species and even Wood Stork before flying through the night to the next stop, the mangroves at Caldera.

A brief stop there was just as quiet but spotlighting paid off with close, perfect looks at a target Northern Potoo! With that excellent addition to our GBD, we continued on towards more humid lands south of Carara National Park, spotlighting roadside wires en route. Despite our efforts, Striped Owl failed to show and Barn Owl never called but we did pick up the faint notes of a Pacific Screech-Owl just before needing to move on to our main birding venue for the day, the Jaco area.

Pacific Screech-Owl is one of the more common owl species in Costa Rica.

Although it was tempting to start the morning at Cerro Lodge (and that plan might be just as good or better), the combination of forest, edge, and open country birds near Jaco seemed to promise bigger returns. Not mention, our starting point is also very good for owls. At least it was in February and much to our pleasure, it was just as good on May 4th! Tropical Screech-Owls called from the second growth, thick-knees vocalized, and then we heard Mottled, Black-and-white, and Crested Owls calling from the hills. At one point, a flying shape materialized right over our heads and quick work with the flashlight got onto our only Barn Owl of the day!

We had 7 owl species under our belts and the first light of day was quickly approaching; just how you want a Big Day dawn to happen! It came with a cavalcade of bird songs that issued forth from a good combination of habitats. We must have had 50 species by sound alone before actually seeing anything and that included several key species like Great Currasow, Crested Guan, Marbled Wood-Quail, tinamous, woodcreepers, two motmots, Slate-colored Seedeater and others. As the light of day grew, we started picking up more species by sight including a surprise Shiny Cowbird, Giant Cowbird, both tityras and others. At the same time, more birds vocalized giving us five species of trogons among many others!

The Near Threatened Baird’s Trogon was one of our better dawn birds.

Whether because of the cloudy weather, time of year, Zen attitude birding or a combination of the above, The Big Day birding was good and it kept getting better.

Just before leaving the Jaco area, a last minute attempt brought in such key species as Plain-breasted Ground-Dove, Scrub Greenlet, and Red-breasted Meadowlark. No luck with Upland Sandpiper but well over a 100 species by 7 a.m. was nothing to complain about! Onward we went to Tarcoles before entering Carara National Park at 8 a.m. We added most key waterbirds at Tarcoles and then, just as last year at this time, the park treated us very well with vocalizations from a high percentage of possible species. Green Shrike-Vireo! Streak-chested Antpitta! Dot-winged Antwren and a few dozen others. Ruddy Quail-Dove scooting off the trail! We didn’t get everything and hummingbirds were disturbingly absent but at times, it almost seemed too easy! And that’s just how we want a Big Day because although I welcome challenges in birding, I absolutely treasure and am very grateful for a day when all the birds are calling and making themselves available.

After Carara (where we ran into other teams of GBDers, including the guys who got a mega Gray-hooded Gull!), we went back to Tarcoles, checked a roadside wetland, and made a stop in dry forest. Although the beach was more sand and water than birds, we still picked up a few expected species, got onto Solitary Sandpiper and a couple other shorebirds at the wetland, and connected with several dry forest birds before beginning the two hour drive to highland habitats on Poas.

Thankfully, the driving was also quick, and we even picked up Vaux’s Swift and a few other birds before birding the road to Poas. Thanks to lots of vocalizations and knowing the area quite well, we managed a high percentage of key species in a short amount of time, best of the bunch being Resplendent Quetzal, Wrenthrush, and Yellow-bellied Siskin. As both silky-flycatchers also showed along with several other birds, I mentioned to Mary how good that afternoon would have been for guiding. With more time, I think we would have found 90% of the species that live up there. But, we had run out of time, we had other places to be and so we drove down to Varablanca and Cinchona.

En route, we picked up several more species by call and got some birds at Cinchona. At a stop between Cinchona and Virgen del Socorro, we also found our best bird of the day, a Yellow-winged Tanager! The only one for GBD in Costa Rica, we lucked upon it on the side of the road while also adding Black-throated Wren, Scarlet-thighed Dacnis, and some other species.

Prong-billed Barbet did us a favor at Cinchona.

On down the road we went, scoping and adding a Roadside Hawk, American Dipper and some other species before reaching our final main stop, the San Miguel-Socorro road. Thinking that we wouldn’t reach the lowlands in time and knowing that this area harbors a high number of bird species, we focused our final efforts at this site. Broad-billed Motmot, Red-throated Ant-tanager, Cinnamon Becard, Carmiol’s Tanager, and other birds of the Caribbean slope came out to play. Although I have had many more species on other days at this site, we still added a good number of birds especially when a Central American Pygmy-Owl (!) appeared.

A last ditch attempt to reach lower elevations was mostly futile except for a roadside Rufous Motmot ticked from the moving car. Nor did any more owls or other nightbirds call but by 7:45 p.m., I was ready to call it a day. In a small hotel in Puerto Viejo, I submitted our final lists and we tallied the results. We checked it once, we checked it twice, and we were pleased indeed to see that we had surpassed 300 species, 305 species to be exact! Although Mary almost talked me in to heading back out to see if we could find a Green Ibis or that missing Spectacled Owl, no amount of caffeine energy drink could have moved me back into birding action.

But we had more than 300 species (!) and although the guys who had found the gull got the highest bird list for Costa Rica (with 335 species!!), we still ended up with the fourth highest list in the world for Global Big Day, 2019! Although eBird shows us in 14th place, that’s because several of the lists with more species are actually group lists and should therefore be shown in another category.

It was satisfying indeed to finally break 300 species in a day in Costa Rica. Now if I look into that route a bit more, I wonder how much better we could do…

Team Tyto with a Post GBD coffee at Mi Cafecito, Costa Rica.

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Birding Costa Rica

Getting Ready for Global Big Day in Costa Rica Part Dos

This past May, a fair part of the birding world celebrated Global Big Day, Costa Rica included. Thanks to a winning blend of organization, coordination, and enthusiasm, we surpassed our goals. Of the species that were possible, that were feasible, more than 300 birders in Costa Rica identified nearly 90%. We had a such a collective great time, the enthusiasm carried over into the following post GBD calendar, many of us expressing interest in doing another one this same year.

Black-crowned Tityra is one of more than 680 species found in Costa Rica in Global Big Day, 2018. Widespread but uncommon, we could easily miss it.

We weren’t the only ones wanting more GBD action. Not long after, eBird announced another Global Big Day for later in 2018, October 6th to be exact and why not? The only requirement is convincing people to watch birds on the same date and eBird everything. Even better, in Costa Rica, a lot of the species that weren’t present in May are back and waiting to be counted! Maybe not the rare ducks or vagrant Cedar Waxwings but most of everything else. That said, I doubt we will identify as many species as we did in May because we just don’t have the same degree of participation. Although that could change between now and the end of this week, so far, it looks like we might lack coverage in more than a few parts of the country. There will be some last minute participation and all eBird data will count but will it be enough to identify 700 species?

There’s only one way to find out and I’ll be doing my part. Oddly enough, as enthused as I am about having an excuse to lose myself in birding for 24 hours, I’m still not exactly sure which route I will take, where I will be straining to hear call notes at night, and where I will practice some serious kung-fu birding (Eagle Claw style of course). But, I will be birding in Costa Rica somewhere and do plan on identifying as much as I can. Part of the problem is too many great places to choose from. Fortunately, I don’t have to do a lot of planning because I already have two possible routes arranged and know where most of the birds are likely to be. These are some other things I need to do to prepare myself for this next adventure in birding:

Review warbler call notes

Not that I will hear any flying through the night skies but one can never be over prepped for a Global Big Day! Actually, I don’t pretend to be able to identify tiny passerines by their nocturnal flight calls but I do plan on finding them via chip notes during the day. Kentucky, Hooded, the waterthrushes, Worm-eating…they all announce their presence with distinct vocalizations as do the rare ones that don’t usually make Costa Rica a winter destination. Those would be local mega bird finds like Black-throated Blue, Palm, and Prairie Warblers as well as other species with a winter preference for Caribbean isles. BUT, since the chances of finding them increase ever so slightly by knowing their calls, listening time this week will include the notes of those hidden wood-warblers.

It might be a good year for Cape-Mays and maybe Bay-breasteds too, I hope we see them on October 6th.

Remember to listen for snipe, cuckoos, and thrushes

Ah yes, listen carefully to the night sky and hopefully pick up more birds for GBD October. I have yet to hear a cuckoo call when they fly over Costa Rica but it must happen and I will be listening. I have heard all possible thrushes, snipe, and Upland Sandpiper in the past, I hope they vocalize overhead on October 6th, even more so, I hope it doesn’t rain! Sound daunting? Maybe not as much as one might think. Check out these study materials for nocturnal flight calls.

Remind myself to stick to Zen birding

In other words, take the day as it comes, roll with it, go with the flow. I hope I can follow the advice of slogans meant to keep one from succumbing to frustration and emitting a choice set of New York vocabulary at the truck blocking the road, or the rain slamming into the soil. There will be no frustration on GBD, only birds and feeling grateful for what we all hear and see. Amen. Keep it Zen, focus on the birds, and stick to the schedule. I hope so, but maybe I should bring some organic chocolate to help with the Zen…

Buy birding supplies

As in beverages that have caffeine. Treat yourself to a few favorite such energy drinks and stay alert (or simply awake!) to better celebrate this day of birding. Dream birds don’t count and if you fall asleep while driving, it won’t just be the end of your GBD. High quality chocolate is also important as are favorite snacks, fruit, charged batteries, and clean optics. Oh yeah, and remember to bring sunglasses and proper birdingwear (like count shirts, Wunderbird shirts, or whatever works best).

Scouting? Maybe

The more one scouts, the more birds will be seen. Now if I could just find time for scouting. Regular life takes up time and rightly so, you gotta be there for progeny. Furthermore, if you forsake the offspring for scouting, forget about them ever becoming birders (which is of course the main hope and goal of every serious birder, Zen or not)!  Fortunately, since I guide a fair bit on the routes I have in mind, I sort of scout them on a regular basis anyways. eBird also helps! I hope I do scout a bit though because knowing where fruiting trees are located and where wintering species have set up territories are of great help.

GBD October is nigh and although I need some supplies, could use more scouting, and need to figure out where my Team Tyto will bird, I’m still ready to rock, bird, and roll! As some world birders say, “Bring it”! As I say right now (and may indeed some day regret), “Kung-fu birding will be in the house on October 6th”!

Check out where some other teams will be birding in Costa Rica on October 6th!

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Birding Costa Rica

Final Preparations for Global Big Day in Costa Rica

Just a few days left until a fair percentage of the birding public participates in Global Big Day. It’s easy enough to do, you just need to watch birds on May 5th for any amount of time, count those birds, and submit the information to eBird. In these days of instant social media, you can also post your successes, failures, or pictures of your favorite birding snacks in real time. Did you admire a Scarlet Tanager or two in breeding plumage? Hear the winnowing of a snipe in the cold of the dawn? Compare the virtues of high-quality organic chocolate to crumbly, sugar infused doughnuts? And, most of all, have any run-ins with interesting non-birders? Post it on Facebook to make the day that much more memorable!

A tree decorated with Scarlet Macaws would be memorable.

Here in C0sta Rica, we seriously got our birding game on. At least it seems that way at our Whatsapp group for GBD (that’s what we call it around here). Lots of people have signed on and we will have birders in most corners of the country, many of which will be focusing on key species. For example, a few Tico birders will be looking for the elusive Red-throated Carara in the Osa, others will be slinging the bins at El Copal and Tapanti in search of specialties of that birdy zone, and some of us will be hoping to add tough species like Blue Seedeater, and Unspotted Saw-whet Owl to the results. There’s lots of good vibes going on, it’s going to be interesting to see what we all find.

During these final last hours of preparation, although I’m not sure what others are doing, this is what I will be up to:

Checking eBird: One last check to see if and where certain target species have been seen. I also checked the bar charts today to see which migrants can be expected. Most warblers and viroes are gone, but flycatchers are still in the house as well as shorebirds.

Making the coffee: I really should mention that no one has to do GBD like a birding machine whereby you start at midnight and focus on birds for the next 24 hours. In fact, you probably shouldn’t. But, you might want to start earlier than usual, or at least be out right before dawn. Whether you go that midnight route or start the madness after the rise of the sun, just make sure to brew more than enough coffee the night before because the last thing you want is to be lacking on the caffeine when the birding gets fierce. Just in case I need an extra influx of natural stimulants, I’ll be rolling and ready with my coffee and chocolate covered coffee beans.

Making a pizza: Yeah, you read that right. I often make a pizza before a bird count because what can I say, I love good pizza and I love birding; it makes for a perfect combination! So, I plan on making one or two, I’m not quite sure about the toppings but it’s still gonna be good! Cold slices of course but when the pizza is fresh, the flavors are always fantastic. Hopefully, I will be enjoying a slice as I see a Solitary Eagle! Well, actually, no because then I would end up wasting the pizza slice after spitting it out in shock, or choking on it, or accidentally throwing the pizza on the windshield of the car in my race for the camera, or sauce up the camera lens or something. It would be tough for it not to be a bit of momentary birding pandemonium. Hopefully, the eagle will show at a more opportune time…

Not a Solitary Eagle but Hook-billed Kite would still be a great find for the day! Not enough to drop the pizza but still good.

Studying obscure bird sounds: To maximize results, we gotta be ready for the calls of flyover Upland Sandpipers, a super rare singing Black-whiskered Vireo, vocalizations of rare Black and white Becards, and whatever else might fly our way on GBD. The vireo probably won’t show but it’s all about being ready for anything, so now is the time for a last minute check of possibilities and making sure you know their respective calls.

Getting stuff ready on May 4th: Do this to avoid any nasty last minute surprises like no gas in the car, a lack of gourmet snacks, forgetting the sunblock (although to avoid wasting time, I suggest putting it on before you leave the house), charging whatever batteries are needed, or putting on the wrong shoes. Trust me, these and other SNAFUs can happen in the dark of the blurry-eyed night, especially when you got the focus on birds and are straining the ears for the faint bubbling call of an Upland Sandpiper.

Checking yourself before you wreck yourself: Um, what I mean by this in my personal birding terms is to curb the enthusiasm, and be honest with yourself. For example, don’t mark down an Upland Sandpiper if you may have actually heard some odd sounding, distant motorcyle (likely in Costa Rica). Are you sure that distant hawk-eagle was an Ornate and not a Black? Sorry, but if the doubt is there, just leave it off the list. I know, it hurts but we gotta keep things real on GBD! If Ice Cube were a birder (I would love if he were), I think he would be checking himself.

Black Hawk-Eagle silhouette.

Don’t forget the Jedi Zen state of being!: In other words, focus on seeing and hearing birds in the present, challenge yourself but do enjoy the experience (because, like, if you don’t enjoy something, why do it?). Stay focused and the birds will show! Don’t worry about the ones that refuse to play, try and refrain from referring to them as “asshats”, they got their own agendas and plenty other birds will be seen. Who knows,  maybe they’ll make an appearance later on, and you would have to take back that you called the previously absent Barred Hawk “eco figlio della puttana”, “sargeant major f$%kf#ce” or (gasp!) a glorified Black Vulture. Keep the peace with the birds and lots will show!  If it makes you feel better, keep in mind that thousands of other birders are also watching birds pretty much around the world as part of Global Big Day.

Ok, I think I’m ready, I’ll be rocking the birds in Costa Rica as part of Team Tyto! Based on our name, our main goal is putting Barn Owl on the list but we also hope to add a few others here and there as we bird through lowlands, highlands, and coastal habitats. Not sure if I can update from the field but if it doesn’t get in the way of my attempts to maintain a Zen-Jedi birding thing, you might see a post or two on Facebook, most definitely if we see a Solitary Eagle. Hope to see you out there with the birds! If I have any cold, left over pizza, I just might share a slice.

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Birding Costa Rica

Tips to Prepare for Global Big Day in Costa Rica, 2018

The golden birding month of May is just about here and I know of more than a few birders up north who must be giving a collective sigh of anticipated relief. April wanes and yet the snow keeps coming back, and as much as folks in upstate New York are accustomed to the cold white stuff, eventually, enough is enough. It might even snow up there in early May but birders know that by the 10th, the birds should be migrating through local patches throughout the eastern USA and southern Canada, accentuating the fresh green of new foliage with equally bright feathers and eager song.

In Costa Rica, we are also looking forward to May but not for migration. Some birds like Red-eyed Vireo and Eastern Kingbird will still be on the move but most will have already passed through the country by then. No, we are looking forward to one day in particular, that of May 5th, the official date when thousands of birders across the globe will be celebrating Global Big Day by counting birds and putting those data into eBird.

I have been pleased to see that a lot of birders in Costa Rica are eager and ready to bird in most parts of the country. Many posted their routes more than a month ago and organizers are still working to get more birders on board to see if we can record every possible species, and hopefully a few more! Although I haven’t worked out an exact route, I do plan on participating and will once again see if I can break 300 for the day. While working out the logistics, I thought of a few suggestions and tips for Global Big Day in Costa Rica. These might also be applicable to GBD everywhere or when birding in Costa Rica any time of the year:

Don’t feel obligated to bird for 24 hours

You can if you want but you don’t have to because there won’t be any secret birding police knocking on your door if you don’t begin the count at the stroke of midnight. Just bird as much or as little as you want but please put the data into eBird. However, if you do want to go nuts and lose yourself with birds beyond normal hours, there are one or two tips below that might help.

Scout if you can!

If you have time to scout your route, do so and as often as possible. Although those Golden-bellied Flycatchers that were always present for the past year can certainly take a silent vacation on count day, you will see more key birds if you scout for them. It’s also best to scout as close to count day as possible to know where fruiting and flowering trees are attracting hummingbirds, tanagers, and other count day delights. Not to mention, there might be some hidden wetland, roosting owl, or other chance at more birds that would otherwise be overlooked.

I want to get a Great Potoo for the day.

Make a plan and stick to it

If you plan on doing a serious Big Day or to shoot for a certain number of species, you really do need to carefully plan out the mad endeavor in advance. Take things like traffic, different habitats, and expected species into account, but most of all, be careful with the timing at each site and for driving between stops, and stick to those times on count day. If you stay longer for even ten minutes at a few sites, you won’t get those thirty or more minutes back. Allocate the appropriate amount of time for each stop as a function of the likelihood of identifying numbers of new species for the day and keep to the schedule whether the birds show or not!

Don’t fret the monklet

The Lanceolated Monklet is not exactly reliable. Even if you see one the day before the count, don’t expect the anti-social featherball hermit to come out and play when you need it. Just stick to a well planned schedule, don’t worry, enough birds will show. Other birds not to fret because they are either few in number and/or are seriously unfriendly include various raptors, antpittas, Yellow-eared Toucanet, owls, and Great Jacamar. Give the unseen birds the one finger salute if it makes you feel better but don’t waiver from the schedule.

Will anyone identify a monklet in Costa Rica this May 5th, 2018?

Practice Tai Chi birding

This doesn’t mean that you need to practice the Chen Canon Fist form or get meditative with Yang 108  while also watching birds. Although that would make for quite the interesting video, and I would be seriously impressed to see someone carry out the “Teal Dragon Emerges from Water” movement while also calling out a vocalizing Scarlet Tanager, “Tai Chi birding” just means putting the focus on listening and watching for birds in as relaxed a manner as possible. Maintaining a high degree of concentration in a relaxed state during an exciting, bird filled day could indeed be a challenge but I guarantee that the birders who manage to do this will notice that hidden potoo, pick out the Barred Hawk conspiring to be a standard Black Vulture, and get more birds. If it makes you feel better, or cooler (as in Fonzi cool), you can also refer to this as “Jedi birding”.

Coffee, chocolate, and champagne

Yeah, pretty much in that order. Make enough coffee for the day and some. Coca-Cola can also work but I prefer the java because it can be made as strong as one likes, and, based on all those Coca-Cola dissolving videos, must be better for you. Also, use quality coffee because this is a special occasion! Speaking of very special times, this is also why we want to celebrate throughout the GBD with serious chocolate. This means spending some extra Colones for extra dark chocolate bars that put the percentage of cocoa right on the front of the package, and staying away from the cheap, sugary perversions of the holy Mayan bean. Get the good stuff! It might help you see a monklet! Oh, and of course, once the counting is done, get out the bubbly stuff! That or some fine craft beers or whatever floats your boat as a celebratory drink, snack, or dance.

Enjoy it!

Most of all, enjoy GBD. Do it however you want and whatever way makes you most happy. The part I like the most is knowing that I am sharing the collective experience with thousands of other birders. I fricking love that.

 

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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.