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Birding Costa Rica Introduction

What Does the Fall Bring for Birding in Costa Rica?

Like pretty much everyone who has lived in western New York, autumn is a special time of the year. The muggy days of summer are replaced by perfect weather, changing foliage, good fishing, and bird migration. Go out to the front porch at night and put your ear to the sky, and you catch the faint tinks of migrating Bobolinks, occasional calls of a yellowlegs flying overhead, and warbler chip notes. Whether you want to go birding, watch football, or both, it’s an exciting time!

Fall migration is great at Niagara.

Living in Costa Rica, I certainly miss the fall weather of the north and the birds that come with it. Hailing from Niagara Falls, I also miss the Peach Festival, crisp apples, and seeing salmon jump in the river but you can always find a festival in Costa Rica, there are Spotted Eagle Rays that jump in the ocean (I was sort of mind-blasted by such an occurrence just offshore at Chomes), and there are birds. Sure, there are lots of super cool resident species but like any birder during migration days, I am psyched to get out into the field and see what might be passing through the rainforest. Heck, I’m just as psyched about seeing the birds in shade coffee near the house because during migration, anything is possible.

Black-mandibled Toucan is one of those super cool residents.

Is there a Connecticut Warbler hanging out in some shady gulley? A Black-billed Cuckoo haunting some shade trees? There probably is, there’s just not enough people constantly out looking for them. If a Connecticut shows up for a day and no one is there to see it, then that’s that. Heck, even if a Connecticut is nearby for a day, you probably still won’t see it even if you are looking. In addition to hoping for a Connecticut, I also hope for such species as Yellow-breasted Chat, Hermit Warbler, and the Caribbean wintering warblers that are vagrants to Costa Rica (Yellow-throated, Palm, Prairie, Black-throated Blue, and Cape May). I haven’t seen any of those yet but they show up every year.

I have a better chance at Yellow-billed Cuckoo- still need that one for the year.

I also hope to find Black-throated Gray, Hammond’s Flycatcher, and Thick-billed Kingbird. Long shots for those would be firsts for the country but I think they are possible, just need to get out there and keep looking.

As far as more common birds go, there’s a lot of migration going on. Watch the skies and you might see thousands of Cliff, Barn, and Bank Swallows flying south. We don’t hear Bobolinks but listen at night and you might hear a few Dickcissels, lots of Swainson’s Thrushes, and maybe even an Upland Sandpiper (I have heard a couple during the pre-dawn hours). The river of raptors is flowing through the Caribbean lowlands, thousands of shorebirds are stopping off in the Gulf of Nicoya (and some are staying), flocks of Eastern Kingbirds and Scarlet Tanagers pass through, and we still get a fair number of warblers, including good chances at that migrant jewel, the Cerulean warbler.

Some of the raptor river in the spring.

Birds should be passing through now, I need to get outside.

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