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Christmas Counts and other News for Birding in Costa Rica

As in other countries where the holiday tradition takes place, Christmas Counts are happening in Costa Rica. La Selva, Cartago, and Arenal have all had counts this year and as chance would have it, I have missed them all. Nevertheless, I was happy to hear that 70 plus birders participated in the Arenal count and I am sure similar numbers were watching and tallying birds in the other counts. I will do at least one, though, and that always yields serious quality when it comes to birds and biodiversity.

The very birdy garden at the Bosque del Rio Tigre.

On Friday, I will be listening and watching for everything at the Bosque del Rio Tigre as part of their Christmas Count. Other counts will also be happening in the Osa at that time so it will be interesting to see what turns up in that biodiversity hotspot. I’m hoping to get a few more year birds, record the sounds of several species, get lucky with digiscoping in the rainforest (need lottery winning luck for that), and probably do some birding on the drive to the Osa for one heck of a three day birding extravaganza. My previous experience with the Bosque del Rio Tigre count reconfirmed my belief that it’s the best birding lodge in Costa Rica so I wonder how Friday’s count will match up to a day that included raptors like Tiny Hawk, White Hawk, Black Hawk Eagle, Roadside Hawk, Laughing Falcon, and Gray-headed Kite (probably a few other raptors too), White-tipped Sicklebill, Black-cheeked Ant Tanager, and lots of other quality birds.

A Black-cheeked Ant Tanager at the lodge feeder.
Roadside Hawk.

As far as the other counts go, I was sad indeed to miss the Arenal gig. The area has a lot of intact habitat and therefore lots of great birds. This year’s count even turned up a Great Jacamar! It was heard only but the calls of this rarity for Costa Rica are unmistakable so I am sure they had one. Since it was found it in the forests of Arenal Observatory Lodge, it seems as if the species was overlooked for that site. Despite a lot of birding done around there, I am actually not too surprised because the area probably hosts a very small population, and few Tico birders have any experience with this species and thus many would probably overlook its vocalization. Of course there are local birders who would recognize the sounds a Great Jacamar makes but they are probably few in number and would have to be at Arenal Oversvatory Lodge exactly when one of the 2 or 4 Great Jacamars that live around there decided to call. Who knows, maybe it also prefers a microhabitat in Costa Rica that we are unaware of? What I do know is that since we also recorded this species in the nearby Penas Blancas Valley earlier this year, there is certainly a small population of Great Jacamars that live in foothills forests of the Monteverde-Arenal Conservation area.

Speaking of Great Jacamar, I am also hoping to find it at Lands in Love. That glittering green and rufous bird might not even be there but since there is quite a bit of primary forest that also happens to be connected to those rainforests mentioned above, I have hopes for it. I was guiding at Lands in Love over the weekend but we got sort of clobbered with rain on our main day. The constant cold front-associated rain kept us from seeing many birds but we still managed goodies like Black-crested Coquette, Scaly-throated Leaftosser, Broad-billed Motmot, and Golden-crowned Spadebill. One of the best was a perched Crested Owl just a few steps from the reception!

The rainy weather was good for herps including this Eyelash Viper.

That cold front is still happening so if you are headed to the Caribbean slope these days, it’s going to be wet. At the same time, it’s also going to drive a bunch of species into the lowlands so look for everything from Black-faced Solitaire to White-ruffed Manakin, Bare-necked Umbrellabird, and out of place tanagers around Sarapiqui. The good news is that the Varablanca-Cinchona-Sarapiqui road is finally fixed and paved! It’s probably still narrow in places but there shouldn’t be any more pot holes, ruts, or other rough road madness.

On a final birding news note, we have released version 2.1 of the Costa Rica Bird Field Guide app! That means:

  • More species (images, info, and range maps for 578 species, and vocalizations for 346).
  • It’s now optimized for the iPad.
  • Free update for those who have already purchased this Costa Rica birding app.
  • On sale for half the regular price for those who still need to buy it!

Hope to see you birding in Costa Rica!

One reply on “Christmas Counts and other News for Birding in Costa Rica”

Enjoyed your summary of the Christmas count at Bosque del Rio Tigre, Pat. Obviously a great birding spot and I hope to visit it or similar places on Osa Peninsula next June. Do you know much about Suital Lodge which fronts Golfo Dulce on the road to the Osa? It provides access to the gulf as well as having rainforest but not sure whether it’s primary or secondary.
I’ve just acquired your latest Costa Rica Bird Field Guide app on my IPod and I’m very impressed and should be of great value during my visit.
Les Mitchell

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