Categories
bird finding in Costa Rica Birding Costa Rica

What’s an Olivaceous Piculet?

I haven’t gone birding lately. Vehicle restrictions a la pandemic have kept me in place and far from the shorebirds of the coast, heavy biodiversity of humid forests, and other sites of rural birdiness. But hey, there’s still birds around here; the Grayish Saltator singing out back, the duet of Barred Antshrikes from the thick vine tangles, other neighborhood birds heard and glimpsed through the windows. Evidence of their presence reminds me that at least a few Yellow-green Vireos are still around and that the first migrant swallows are moving south.

I had a typically handsome Cliff Swallow on Sunday.

While gazing out the back window and wishing for Yellow-billed Cuckoos, I find myself thinking about other birds. The other day, between calls of hidden Cabanis’s Wrens and exclamations of Great Kiskadees, one of the birds that came to mind was the Olivaceous Piculet. It doesn’t live around the Central Valley and I wouldn’t expect it but it’s an interesting bird to ponder, least not, because of its sing-song name.

As with boubous, ioras, foliage-gleaners, and others with unfamiliar, confusing names, unless we already know what a piculet is, we have no idea what an Olivaceous Piculet looks like and might even pass it off as some artsy kitchen utensil. Fortunately, we have the Internet and field guides for Costa Rica to give us answers to all sorts of bird-related questions. In the case of the piculet, a search quickly shows that this is a name for any number of tiny woodpeckers, most of which occur in South America.

In Costa Rica, as with so many birds, thanks to the isthmus joining the North and South of America, one of those piculets lives here and its olivaceous. In normal language, that means that we have a small woodpecker-like bird with some olive in its plumage. Here’s some more information about the one and only piculet of Central America:

Like a Chickadee x Downy Woodpecker

As with other piculet species, the Olivaceous is a funny, miniscule bird that likes to hang off of twigs so it can peck at stems from odd angles. This Cirque du Soleli stuff is par for the course for piculets. Although they can also nearly perch upright, miniature acrobatic manouvers are their real thing.

In Pairs and Mixed Flocks

Olivaceous Piculets can be found on their own or they can join a group of birds. Either way, it’s impressive how adept they are at avoiding detection.

Easy to Overlook

On account of their small dimensions, unobtrusive, focused behavior, and high-pitched vocalizations, piculets can be very easy to overlook. For a while, surely because I didn’t know how to look for it, the Olivaceous was one of my Costa Rica bogey birds, I didn’t see one until my third trip to this birdy nation. I recall how easy it was to overlook another similar bird from Tambopata, Peru; the Fine-barred Piculet. Despite spending several birdy mornings in its river island habitat in the Peruvian Amazon, I didn’t notice that tiny woodpecker until I investigated a series of seriously high-pitched sounds emanating now and then from the dense second growth. That afterthought of a song turned out to be a pair of Fine-barred Piculets, a lifer easily hiding in plain sight. Another piculet species in that area, the Bar-breasted, lived in the canopy of the forest. Suffice to say, despite having spent more than a year birding in Tambopata and seeing everything from Harpy Eagle to Amazonian Parrotlet, I never laid eyes on it.

More Common Than You Think and Spreading

Since the Olivaceous Piculet is naturally evasive, it’s more common than a birder realizes. In fact, I think it’s way more common than we realize. Any time I go birding in edge or garden habitats from the Carara area and the Valle del General on south to Panama, I can usually find one or more pairs of Olivaceous Piculets. If I go birding up north in the Cano Negro area, I also find this species and nowadays, the same thing goes for birding in the Arena area. I have also had piculets at and near Finca Luna Nueva and if they use the same type of edge habitat with scattered trees elsewhere, then there must be thousands of those tiny woodpeckers and in more places than we expect. The key to finding them, to know how many are around, is knowing and listening for their high-pitched song.

It can be hard to pick out from the blend of wren calls, flycatcher sounds, and insect noise but once you do, you might start to hear them all the time.

Categories
Birding Costa Rica Pandemic

Costa Rica Cracks Open the Door

It’s August and on the birding calendar, that translates to shorebirds and other “early” migrants. In Costa Rica, 2020, it also means that the country is open! Well, sort of because it depends on where you are coming from and following a few requirements, one of which may be a substantial expense.

The land borders are still shut to tourists but the Juan Santamaria airport is ready to accept flights from several countries in the European Union, the U.K. and Canada. For the time being, the USA, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, and many other places have been left off the green light list. BUT, if you happen to come from Austria, France, or other nation for which travel to Costa Rica is permitted, before you hop on that plane, there are some other things that will need to be done. They include:

  1. Travel Insurance purchased from Costa Rica’s national insurance agency (known here as INS). The cost varies by age and ranges from $260 to more than $900 and is meant to cover $20,000 in medical expenses associated with COVID-19 and housing costs of at least $4000. Click here for the INS travel insurance plan. Keep in mind that this requirement may change as it has been under review since July 31st.
  2. A negative COVID-19 test. This must be taken at less than 48 hours before departure for Costa Rica.
  3. You will need to complete an official digital epidemiological form (Pase de Salud) available at ccss.now.sh or possibly salud.go.cr . 

EDIT, AUGUST 6– Due to a lot of blowback from the tourism industry and others, the insurance requirement has been changed. Costa Rica now also accepts international insurance policies but with these caveats:

  1. The policy must cover their scheduled visit to Costa Rica.
  2.  Coverage of medical expenses in Costa Rica related to COVID-19 for a minimum of $50,000.
  3. Minimum coverage of $2,000 for accommodation related to COVID-19.

But that’s not all, the insurance policy must also be verified by Costa Rica’s tourism institute/board. At the moment, there hasn’t been any clear means of stating how this will be done but there should be an update or at least link for this at the ICT site. From what I could gather from their statement, tourists will need to:

  1. Notify the Costa Rica Tourism Board with a request to approve their insurance policy that includes:
    1. A signed, notarized declaration in PDF format that indicates that the policy meets the coverage requirements mentioned above.
    2. A statement from the insurance company that the policy covers the tourist and other family members traveling with them and that it includes the required coverage.
    3. These statements must also be sent with the Pase de Salud mentioned above.
  2. The ICT will send a response to this request within 24 hours on workdays, 48 hours on weekends/holidays. This response will indicate whether the request has been accepted or denied. If denied, the tourists has 24 hours to correct the issue. At that time, they can also opt for purchasing one of the plans pre-approved by the Costa Rican government (about which information is still lacking but will hopefully be available soon).
  3. In the case of policies that are approved, the ICT will send a QR code that must be shown upon arrival in Costa Rica, to immigration authorities.

So what if you happen to live in the USA or other country not on the list?

If you aren’t on the list….

Seriously though, if you aren’t on the current list of accepted countries, there are a couple other options. They are:

  • Waiting until your country makes it onto the list of approved “guests”. When that happens, you’ve got the green light to travel to tropical latitudes and relax in the glow of stunners like Bay-headed Tanager.Not an immediate solution, but definitely the easiest and most cost-effective one.
  • Travel to a permitted country and then on to Costa Rica. Sounds like an easy fix! BUT, the authorities did notice this loophole and plugged it by requiring a two week stay without symptoms in the “transfer” country. This means that all travelers from places like the USA that travel to Costa Rica by way of Canada or France will need to spend two weeks in Canada or France (without symptoms) before coming to Costa Rica.
  • What if you are Canadian and have a lay-over in the USA on the way to Costa Rica? Nope, can’t do this but for the time being, it’s impossible in any case because the only flights from the USA with passengers are for repatriation purposes.

The Tico Times has some information about the current situation and requirements for visiting Costa Rica. In the meantime, I suggest using the Costa Rica Birds app to mark target species and study for your eventual trip to this very birdy country. Local birding guides and hundreds of birds will be waiting!