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big year Birding Costa Rica

A Big Year in Costa Rica

In the birding world, many of us are a list obsessed bunch. The lists other people use are temporal and pretty much inconsequential; a nearly forgotten, crumpled note that mentions milk, bread, butter, flour, cereal, mahi mahi (for those of us lucky enough to reside where this fish is standard) and other essentials like snickers bars and salt.
For birders, though, lists often play a principle role in one’s life. Lists of birds that is. Aside from the all important life list,  there is also the yard list, the wish list (similar to but not quite the target list), the day list, the state list, the country list and so on. There is also a year list. This latter list is not to be confused with a BIG YEAR though; the endeavor or madness that I am doing/carrying out/attempting in 2009. Oh yes, I need to clarify that I am doing a BIG YEAR  for Costa Rica. That is to say, I am striving to identify as many species as possible within the territorial boundaries of Costa Rica. This is different from a year list because that would be simply keeping track of all species identified.

To truly be recognized as a BIG YEAR, I think one has to make serious efforts to see EVERYTHING. For example, if that means that I will have to waltz around in the middle of the cold and windy nights in the high mountains while monotonously whistling like an Unspotted Saw-whet Owl then so be it! One has to do what one has to do for a BIG DAY or BIG YEAR. It’s going to be especially challenging because I work a weekday job in a birdless environment (birds have not evolved to occupy office space) and most of all because I have a 6 month old daughter but I am giving it a shot. “Giving it a shot” means that I might not only have to do that waltzing and Saw-whet sans spots whistling but also take a trip to the Osa, bird near the Panamanian border on both slopes, hit Palo Verde, Cano Negro and Guanacaste, bird migrant hot spots, probably take the Puntarenas ferry several times and carry out other as of yet unknown birding missions. At least Costa Rica is a small country and you can get to just about everywhere. One thing I won’t do is carouse around the open ocean chumming for pelagics. Pelagic birds are super cool but seasickness isn’t and I get roaringly sick out on those darn waves. At least I can handle that Puntarenas ferry though and that will probably give me a few pelagic or semi-pelagic birds.

Although I haven’t been able to get out too much as of late February (and I need to because its going to rain from May to December), I have broke 300 species. My best bird so far is Tiny Hawk! This a good one because even though they are around, you can hardly plan on seeing one. I got lucky with a glimpse along the La Selva entrance road. We were attempting to locate some hidden Tanagers that were giving alarm calls when this thrush sized bird with blunt head and tail barring burst out of a palm to fly across the road and out of site. Yep, typical Tiny Hawk experience.

I hope to up the BIG YEAR list soon with some rare migrants along the Caribbean coast during March and April. I will keep you updated with that and good birding to all in 2009!

3 replies on “A Big Year in Costa Rica”

You mentioned getting down to the Osa. A wonderful place to stay is Finca Exotica (www.fincaexotica.com). You will love it! I lost your regular email address, so I haven’t written. I hardly recognized you in a tie 🙂 I hope you and your family are doing great, as always.

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