March has always been the most popular month for birding in Costa Rica. The third month was sort of elected as high time to watch birds in Costa Rica because this is when the dry season coincides with a higher degree of bird song as well as such highlights as raptor migration and lekking umbrellabirds. While the umbrellabird show requires a hike down to the San Gerardo Field Station (until another more accessible lek can be located), it’s pretty easy to watch thousands of raptors stream north when birding the Caribbean lowlands, and yes, more birds do seem to vocalize.
As for myself, I was kept quite busy with guiding this recent March birding season. Trips to classic sites like Carara, and foothill birding around Lands in Love and Quebrada Gonzalez helped push my year list over 500 (without doing any real birding in the Caribbean lowlands!). One of my best year birds and an addition to my country list was the Cedar Waxwing. This uncommon, irruptive species showed up in the Central Valley at the end of February, especially around fruiting figs near the Finca Rosa Blanca. It was kind of surreal to see a bird species that I completely associate with warm spring and lazy summer days in upstate New York and Pennsylvania.
Over at Cinchona, the feeders have been visited by the usual Prong-billed Barbets, Emerald Toucanets, Silver-throated Tanagers, and others. The lost Prothonotary Warbler was still nibbling on bananas during the first days of March. Other nice birds near Cinchona included the usual array of flycatchers, tanagers, occasional Red-headed Barbet, White Hawk, Barred Hawk, and so on.
Lower down on the Caribbean slope, mixed flocks have been good at Quebrada Gonzalez. The mixed flock activity at that site is always sort of hit or miss but usually yields White-throated Shrike Tanager, Russet Antshrike, Western Woodhaunter, and several other tanager species. Sharpbill can and does show up and even Gray-headed Piprites is possible. During visits there in March, I also had Black and Ornate Hawk Eagles, Barred Hawk, Double-toothed Kite, and reliable Lattice-tailed Trogon. Streak-chested Antpitta has also been calling and showed well one day on the Ceiba trail.
Over at Lands in Love, antwarms have been alright and yielded views of the 3 obligate antbirds. No ground cuckoo but that mega is certainly a possibility if you hit an antswarm inside the forest (our’s was only at the edge of the woods). Raptor watching from the Loveats Cafe has yet to give me a Solitary Eagle or hawk-eagles but we did have very nice looks at King Vulture and Short-tailed Hawk on the last visit there.
In my own little backyard, in addition to the usual visits by Cinnamon and Rufous-tailed Hummingbirds, I have also been happy to see a female Canivet’s Emerald.
One memorable day, I was happy to meet up with Dani Lopez Velasco. Dani is a Spanish birding guide who leads tours for Birdquest. We had a fun morning looking for and seeing Prevost’s Ground Sparrow (Cabanis’s) at Ujarras while he entertained with tales of guiding adventurous trips to the Philippines, Papua New Guinea, and an incredible trip to the southern, albatross filled oceans. He is guiding a tour in Costa Rica at this moment and has already helped clients see Unspotted Saw-whet Owl.
Others have been seeing bellbirds at Monteverde, umbrellabirds at San Gerardo, and a pair of White-fronted Nunbirds at La Selva. So nice to hear that they are being seen again at the research station as they used to be a common bird there. Others have been telling me about seeing quetzals in the usual high elevation sites, and Jim Zook recently submitted an eBird report with sightings of both White-tailed and Rufous Nightjars from the Durika Road. Sounds like now is the time to get those rare species on your Costa Rica list (I still need them)!
The other big news for birding in Costa Rica has to be a nesting Savannah Hawk– first recorded breeding for the country by Fundacion Rapaces de Costa Rica! While the location of the nest hasn’t been revealed, the species has been regular south and west of Ciudad Neily.
Good luck with spring birding no matter where you may be doing it. I hope to see some migrants over the next few days as they make their way north.