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A November Update on Birding in Costa Rica and 2013 Christmas Bird Counts

It’s November in Costa Rica and that’s typically a slow time for visiting birders but those of us who live here see it as a month to look for rare ducks and other vagrants, and for making Christmas count plans.

Well, I honestly don’t know if other birders in Costa Rica do that but it’s kind of how I spend the month. That and thinking about the Spotted Rail because this might be the best time to see one of those super cool birds in Costa Rica. It’s still super tough but seems to be encountered more often in November than other times of the year. Maybe more habitat in flooded rice fields? Perhaps because you are already out there in the wetlands looking for ducks and shorebirds?
Whatever the reason, this is a good time to look; just the other day, one was reported from the Concavas pond and wetlands near Cartago. If I can find out how to to access the spot, I will let you know!

Ok, so as far as the rest of November goes, no super rare ducks yet but that may change as birders check reservoirs and other wetlands this weekend. I won’t be going anywhere this weekend but hopefully I will make it to some body of water mid-week.

So, now for a few primers and random info to get ready for the high season:

  • The El Tapir site may be under new management starting Decemeber 1st. I hae only heard rumors but either the main El Tapir site or one in that area will be run by a tour company. As long as it’s still easily accessible, this could be a very good thing. I will report on changes as I hear of them.
  • Not much rain this November but hard to say how that may affect bird populations.
  • Although the country first Lined Seedeater has yet to make an encore performance, the Playa del Rey wetlands are still excellent for birding and could turn up all sorts of rarities. Two guides from the Quepos area, Roy Orozco and Johan Chaves, visit on a regular basis. I hope they find more good stuff!
  • On November 17th, Slate-colored Seedeaters were singing and present where rice fields meet rainforest on the road between Palmar Sur and Rio Claro.

    A male Slate-colored Seedeater in Costa Rica.
  • Roadwork is still happening on the Varablanca-Cinchona-San Miguel road. This closes it down for several hours a day (and keeps me from chasing a very rare Cape May warbler at Cinchona!) but if they can finish the work soon, we just might have a nice smooth road from Varablanca on down to the Peace Waterfall and beyond.
  • I have heard rumors that Manuel Antonio and Tortuguero are charging $10 per ENTRANCE and not for a day pass into those national parks. I really hope that’s not the case because it would really be a big middle finger in the face of every tourist visiting those areas. If you do encounter such pricing, please complain because it’s simply wrong and will show that they probably care more about your money than providing any degree of service.
  • Cerro Lodge is getting greener: Planted trees and vegetation are steadily growing in and should translate to more birds.

That’s about it for primers I can think of at the moment so lets move on to Christmas Counts. As usual, there’s a bunch happening in Costa Rica and most take place in December. As much as I would love to participate,it’s always tough for me to schedule them in but I might get the chance to do 2 or 3 of the following counts.

December 1: Count at Selva Verde Lodge. Contact: [email protected]

December 7: Arenal count. Contact: Diego Quesada 8865-6016 [email protected]

December 8: Cartago-Tapanti Count . Contact: Ernesto Carman  [email protected]

December 14: La Selva.  Contact: Orlando Vargas ([email protected]), Rodolfo Alvarado([email protected]), Joel Alavarado([email protected]),Enrique Castro ([email protected])

December 16: CATIE Contact: Alejandra Martínez [email protected]

December 19: Rain Forest Aerial Tram Atlantic. Contact: Luis Diego Castillo atlantictram@rainforestadventure.com

December 21: Bosque Nuboso de Occidente. Contact: [email protected]

December 22: Pacific Rainforest Aerial Tram: Manuel Ramírez.pacifictram@rainforestadventure.com

December 28: Santa Rosa National Park. Contact: Frank Joyce fjoyce@racsa.co.cr

December 30: Cacao sector of Rincon de la Vieja.  Frank Joyce fjoyce@racsa.co.cr

January 5: Maquenque. Contact: [email protected]

In the Osa, there are also two main counts:

CROP-Costa Rica Osa Peninsula:  December 20 (in our 4th year)
CRCO-Costa Rica Corcovado (Corcovado National Park) December 14th (first year 2013)

Please contact Karen Leavelle if interested in helping out at

[email protected]

T(CR): 506-8606-0532
T(US): 801-895-3416

Their new website is expected to go live anytime now:


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