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Birding Costa Rica Introduction

An Autumn Birding Update from Costa Rica

The change of the seasons in Costa Rica isn’t exactly obvious. When it comes down it, there’s only two seasons, that of the wet, and when it doesn’t rain as much. We also have spring and fall but you won’t see any tulips springing up out of the ground or any leaves changing color. Nor is there much of a change in daylight and temperature. However, if you pay close attention to your surroundings, there are subtle changes going on. The most obvious sign of autumn are fall migrants, and although we don’t get as much variety as eastern North America, there are literally millions of birds that move through Costa Rica. Some stay for the winter and other stream over and through the vegetation of the Caribbean coast en masse. Here are a few updates from fall migration so far:

  • Not many warblers yet: Yep, it seems like birds migrate later in the fall and earlier in the spring. Why leave home when there’s still plenty of food around? Some warblers and Red-eyed Vireos have been coming through Costa Rica but based on migrant reports from the north, it sounds like the bulk of migration has yet to pass through the country. It might be happening now  and I hope so because I will be looking for migrants over the next few days.

    Black and white Warbler is one of the more common fall migrants right now.
  • Buff-breasted Sandpipers: This much wanted turfbird has been seen at a few locations as of late. Although I checked the airport a few times, I didn’t see any. However, some were seen there on another day, and others have been scoped in rice fields near Quepos and near the border with Panama. I hope more show up because this species is right at the top of a few of my friend’s target lists and I still need it for the country.
  • Lots of raptors, swifts, and swallows: These birds have been much easier to see and have been streaming through in numbers. I neglected to mention Chimney Swifts. The majority of this species probably flies through Costa Rica and it sure looks like it when you bird on the Caribbean coast during spring and fall. The stream of Chimney Swifts flows south all day long, day after day. Watch close and you might see a few Black Swifts with them. There are also millions of Barn Swallows, Bank Swallows, and Cliff Swallows. Given the abundance of migrants, it seems likely that a few Cave and Violet Greens are up there in the mix too, and maybe a rare, new for the country Sinaloa Martin. The problem is picking out those rarities as they quickly fly past with hordes of the regular species. The river of raptors has also been passing through in full swing and has had the usual crazy numbers of Turkey Vultures, Broad-winged Hawks, Swainson’s Hawks, and Plumbeous, and Mississippi Kites.

    Sometimes, you can also see kettles of Swallow-tailed Kites.
  • Lots of rain: I mentioned it in another post but have to say again that it’s been raining. A lot! That’s a good thing because ecosystems here are adapted to getting that major soaking for more than half of the year. It’s one of the main reason why Costa Rica has so many birds and biodiversity, so I am happy for those massive amounts of falling water. I wonder how migrants cope with it?

Finally off for some serious birding over the next few days, wish me luck!

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