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Birding Costa Rica

634 Species, Six Months to Go

We are half way through the year and that means six months to go before making a final tally of bird species identified during 2016. Time is relative, calendars are subjective inventions, and some people who have binoculars banter back and forth about keeping lists. So what? At the end of the day, we should all be reminded that life is usually shorter than we would prefer, it is unpredictable, and we should therefore have as much fun as we can (in addition to learning and doing good, etc, but those aspects are for another blog). Part of that fun can be keeping a year list because it gives us something to work towards, something to look forward to, and, most of all, encourages you to get out there and look for more birds, do more birding.

If you go to the mall, play too many games of bingo, or watch some useless reality show instead of going outside, you ain’t never gonna see a  Black and Yellow Silky-Flycatcher. Actually, if you don’t visit Costa Rica or Panama, you won’t see one either.

I  haven’t spent so much time in the field lately and it’s not because I was doing any of the above. I guess it’s because it rains a fair deal now, it’s always hard for me to get out mid-week during the early good birding hours, and the low season translates to less guiding. It’s also bird breeding season and just as with birders up north, the lack of migrants sometimes makes us feel lazy about looking for birds. This is clearly a silly concept because rarities can still show up in June and there is always more to learn about towhees, brush-finches, toucans, or other birds no matter which ones we are looking at.

Always nice to look at one of these…

I might also be acting a bit lazy about birding because I already have a healthy year list. Each year, I hope to at least see or hear 600 bird species in Costa Rica, and thanks to some intense guiding during March and April, surpassed that mark a while ago. I’m now at 634 species, my latest addition being a surprise Slate-colored Seedeater that was singing at a bamboo seeding event near Cinchona this very morning. From now on, several additions are likely to happen like that seedeater, unexpected but based on statistics, nevertheless probable. What I am trying to say is that the more time we spend in the field with focused intent on birds, the more species we see, including the rare ones. Speaking of “rare ones”, there are a lot in Costa Rica. This is typical for neotropical birding, and even more so when most accessible forests are quite fragmented.

However, I still have a bunch of other candidate species for the year list that aren’t so rare. They just live in places and habitats where I have spent little time in 2016. One of those areas is San Vito and down there by the border with Panama. If I can make it down that way, I will have a fair chance at adding Crested Oropendola, Bran-colored Flycatcher, and several other species that lack the annual tick mark. Since a few would also be new for my country list, I should really make an effort to go and see them. I hope I can make that happen so I can finally check off Lance-tailed Manakin, Ruddy Foliage-gleaner, and Mouse-colored Tyrannulet for my Costa Rica list. Not to mention, there’s a lot of other cool birds down that way too.

Other gaps come in the form of seabirds but for a seasick prone person like myself, that’s always the case. With some judicious ferry trips, I should add some of those and will always have a chance at picking up something truly rare from the top deck of the boat. Hitting 650 or even 700 will also be more likely if I can connect with several migrants. Hopefully, if we go for another Big Day in fall, scouting will turn up some of those needed species along with various rarities. Whether I hit the 700 mark or not by 2017, trying for it will be all good because that will make me do a lot of birding anyways and that’s the best part of it. Are you keeping track of year birds? Whether in Costa Rica or elsewhere, tell everyone about it in the comments.

7 replies on “634 Species, Six Months to Go”


My name is Greg Homer and I’m the new President of the San Vito Bird Club. You probably are pals with Alison Olivieri. She’s now President Emeritus of the Club (got tired of the tedious chores).

You’re welcome to contact me if/when you come south. Would be happy to be of assistance in any way. There are six Crested Oropendula nests very close to the Wilson Garden and we have a great spot for Lance-tailed Mannikins.

I really enjoy your website.



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Hi Pat,

I’m curious about why your eBird’s total is currently at 582. I think you are among those who submit every single observation (as I do).

Talking about year’s lists, this first half of 2016 is being impressive. I don’t know if there is more people using eBird regularly or they are just birding more intensively. Both options are really good things, anyways.

Happy birding!

@Greg- Thanks for writing and glad you enjoy the blog. I plan on making it down your way sometime this year, so, yes, I hope we can meet up then. I still need those manakins for my country list along with a few other species around there and I plan on seeing them. We might also be doing a BCCR trip down your way. Cheers!

Hey Pat.

Nice Year list. Jen and I were bummed we couldn’t get down your way this year. We might have given you an excuse to bulk up the list if we had. Hopefully in 2017. Was the Slate Colored in the ravine across the road and down a bit from the cafe? We had one at that location last year in late June and it was just singing away! We were surprised to see it there.

@Andy- I was wondering how you guys were, hope the summer is treating you both well. Yes, it was in that same ravine, I thought about your sighting and wondered if it was the same bird.

@Roger- I have actually missed putting in some observations, not even sure which ones they are. Yes, both of those options are good!

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