Ironically, the summer is quiet time for a lot of birders up north. Although it would seem that the warm weather makes it easier to get outside and see what’s going on in terms of nature, a fair percentage of birders take a break during the three months of summer. The mid-year lull seems to be mostly followed by birders who have been looking through their binoculars for five years or more. This is because they think that they already know what’s around, and don’t expect anything new, so, aren’t as eager to explore than during seasons when unexpected migrants and vagrants can occur.
Beginning birders still do a lot of birding in summer probably because a new bird or two are still easy to come by, even near home, and they are still close enough to the exciting start of the learning curve to easily find new knowledge in most things they see. Once experienced birders realize that there is always more to learn and master about the avian side of life, they can find themselves back at the beginning of another, new learning experience and can get just as excited about summer birding as spring or fall (well, maybe not May but that’s in a special category of its own). Not to mention, vagrants can and do turn up in summer no matter where a birder lives, so it does pay to get out there and pay attention. I was reminded of that just after coming back from a recent family trip to Niagara Falls.
As usual, we were too busy doing family stuff to do any visiting, but I did manage to go birding a few times. Down at Goat Island, my favorite local birding patch right above the Falls, it was a treasure to be re-acquainted with species like Tufted Titmouse, gulls, and other common species. A singing Indigo Bunting was a nice surprise, as were hundreds of swallows and Chimney Swifts feeding over the river and islands. On another day, I had a fine day of birding with Alec out at the Iroquois National Wildlife Refuge. We saw a pair of Cerulean Warblers feeding a juvenile. Will those birds come to Costa Rica next month? I picked up other year birds including Bobolinks and American Bittern. Both of those are on the Costa Rica list but very rare vagrants. I always wonder why we don’t get more records of Bobolinks, but I never hear their tinking calls so often heard by birders up north who listen for the faint calls of nocturnal migrants, and the species is almost never seen in CR except for Cocos Island. Although Alec and I didn’t find any vagrants, I did see that a vagrant White Ibis was found in WNY just after coming back to Costa Rica; a species that would have been missed if someone hadn’t gone birding during the “boring” summer months.
Speaking of this volcanic, byodynamic country, the summer birding doldrums are much less of a fantasy here than in the north even for myself or others who have spent countless hours in every habitat. Although we won’t see any wintering species, the plethora of resident species always makes things exciting, especially when so many of them are rare. I could still pick up some lifers (although they may require more time and effort than I typically have- Tawny-faced Quail comes to mind), and any trip to tropical forest can result in views of species and behaviors we just don’t see that often. Maybe I will finally get that picture and recording of the oddly rare Gray-headed Piprites so we can finally update the Costa Rica Birds Field Guide app with images and sounds of that species. Maybe I can do the same for Black-banded Woodcreeper, and the local variety of Ashy-throated Chlorospingus (both are likely splits).
You might see a fancy male Red-headed Barbet.
If you are in Costa Rica right now, don’t worry about being here at the wrong time. There are no summer birding doldrums in Costa Rica because the birding is always exciting. Those rare birds are out there but even if you don’t see them, you will still see a lot when birding in the right places.
Or, close looks at a Lesser Violetear.
Look for them in the right way and you might see those rarities anyways (get my 700 plus page e-book to learn about the best places to look and how to find the birds you want to see). Always remember that you will see lots of birds no matter when you go birding in Costa Rica.