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big year Birding Costa Rica preparing for your trip

Costa Rica birding: my year list for 2010

It has often been said that time flies when you are having fun (such as when birding Costa Rica).

I, however, have discovered that it zips along like a hungry Merlin chasing a Chimney Swift when you are:

1. Running a business.

2. Have a not quite two year old, active, inquisitive daughter, and

Miranda trying out my glasses
Birding Costa Rica at the Cloudbridge Reserve

3. Are a birder who lives in Costa Rica.

2010 is approaching the half way point (!) but I am coming along well with my annual Costa Rica bird list. Sure, I’m low on shorebirds and will end up with very few (if any) pelagics, but I still have a chance at boosting numbers during fall migration. I’ve got 484 species so far and that’s with very little time spent on the Caribbean Slope.

Unfortunately, I have only been to my patch once so far this year (!) which explains the absence of birds such as Checker-throated Antwren, Pale-vented Thrush, and Ornate Hawk-Eagle.

Most of my birding in Costa Rica for 2010 has been on the Pacific Slope around Carara National Park. It’s soooo hot there but routinely getting over 100 species in a day kind of makes up for all of that sweating. This upcoming weekend I will be guiding once again on the Pacific slope of Costa Rica but at a site much further south (but just as hot).

We will be headed to the Esquinas Lodge in Piedras Blancas National Park. I have never been there but it should be exciting as the lodge is surrounded by lots of lowland rainforest and is near edge habitats that have turned up several “Panamanian” species such as Brown-throated Parakeet, Crested Orpendola, Wattled Jacana, and others.

I have a feeling that this upcoming trip will push my 2010 Costa Rica birding list over the 500 species mark and I may even get lucky with a lifer or two (I would have to be pretty darn lucky). No matter what happens, I will be sure to post about the trip.

Although I haven’t seen much in 2010 that I would call super rare, some of my best birds have been:

Herring Gull- yes, one of the thousands that use the river corridor at my hometown of Niagara Falls, NY made its way down to Tortuguero National Park in March of this year. As boring as it is, this is a pretty rare bird in Costa Rica and was new for my Costa Rican list.

Blue-footed Booby- this is a good one to get for the year. Saw at least one in flight way out over the waves off of Tarcoles in February.

Gray-headed Kite- it’s widespread but like many Costa Rican raptors is pretty uncommon. Had my only one of the year so far at Cerro Lodge.

Hook-billed Kite- another uncommon bird in Costa Rica. I had brief but good looks at a juvenile in Tortuguero. This was the first time I have seen this species on the Caribbean slope. You have a better chance at this species in Mexico but if you want to see it in Costa Rica, it seems to be more frequent in remnant forests of the central valley and moist forests of the Pacific slope (such as around Santa Elena or Rincon de la Vieja).

Black-collared Hawk- another one that is easier in Mexico than Costa Rica. The best place for it when birding Costa Rica is in Cano Negro. We saw one near Pavona on the way into Tortuguero.

Collared Forest-falcon- ok, so this species isn’t rare but it is more often heard than seen. I have been pretty lucky with it so far this year along the river trail in Carara and at Rancho Oropendola.

A bad shot of a Collared Forest Falcon from the river trail at Carara.

Buffy-crowned Wood-Partridge- these are easy to hear around Orosi and in the upper reaches of the central valley but they are a serious pain to see. I watched a few take flight from the road up to Finca Dos Lados.

Sungrebe- not the easiest bird to see in Costa Rica but when I went to Tortuguero in March, I was in the right place for this secretive, odd waterbird.

Looking through the pigeons and doves, I realized that I am quail-dove less for 2010! Hopefully, I will get over to my patch and bird some nice highland forests to remedy this hole in my 2010 list.

Yellow-billed and Mangrove Cuckoos- always good to get these uncommon birds. I saw one Mangrove in mangroves near Tarcoles and another at Tortuguero. Also got Yellow-billed at Tortuguero.

Resplendent Quetzal- it’s just about guaranteed on any birding trip to Costa Rica but it’s such a spectacular bird that I have to mention it. Have had them in the Dota valley and around Varablanca.

Turquoise, Yellow-billed, and Snowy cotingas- cotingas are always special birds. Had Turquoise at Talari Mountain Lodge and at Carara, Yellow-billed at Carara and Cerro Lodge, and Snowy near Tortuguero.

Cerulean Warbler- saw a few of these at Tortuguero during March migration madness!

Yellow-bellied Siskin and Lesser Goldfinch- widespread but pretty uncommon in the highlands of Costa Rica due to trapping (they sound nice- let’s put them in a cage!-so say the ignorant ones). Had both of these at San Gerardo de Rivas (the take off point for Chirripo).

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