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Birding Costa Rica

Exciting News for Birding in Costa Rica June 2017

Lately, in Costa Rica, there have been a few noteworthy happenings. Although the birding is always exciting, the following news items stand out and make an upcoming July trip even more enticing:

Harpy Eagle– Yep, that’s right, the major rare giant king of Neotropical raptors was most definitely, recently seen in Costa Rica. According to the eBird list graciously reported by John Garrett in late May, an adult or near adult was seen and photographed at a site in the Orosi-Rincon de la Vieja corridor. This was such a shock to the local birding community, despite the presence of definitive photos and an excellent description given by an experienced birder/biologist, amazingly, several people still expressed doubts. Since the proof provided seems far more likely to be a representation of the truth than an elaborate hoax, I am not one of those doubters. Some people mentioned that they just couldn’t believe the sighting because the bird wasn’t inside primary forest. Nevertheless, the special site where that big mega eagle recently perched in full view is within a matrix of fair-sized patches of lowland and foothill rainforest loosely connected to larger, primary forest blocks. Fortunately, the bird was last seen flying towards those forests, hopefully, it will thrive and be seen again! It seems likely that it wandered in from known populations in the Indio-Maiz forests of southeastern Nicaragua (or maybe even adjacent Costa Rica) in search of a place to rule and eat almost whatever forest inhabitants it wants. Thank goodness, a few people were there to document its presence in an area rarely visited by birders. If you want to maybe see it, about all you can do is spend time birding in remote areas of the Orosi Volcano in Guanacaste National Park, or maybe in Rincon de la Vieja, and wish upon a star.

Forests at Rincon de la Vieja.

The Birding is Always Good at Tenorio– The fact that a lot of great birds are usually seen in the excellent forests near Bijagua is reason enough to make the trip. A few more reasons from recent birding in the area include a probable Solitary Eagle reported on eBird, and excellent looks at the rare Black-eared Wood-Quail by several people at the Celeste Mountain Lodge and on the trails at Heliconias.

Uncommon Hummingbirds at El Tapir– On a recent trip to El Tapir, the hummingbirds were especially good. Yes, a few Snowcaps were present and we saw Green Thorntail and one Black-crested Coquette perched in the distance, but we also had close looks at a young White-crested Coquette, female Coppery-headed Emerald, and female Magenta-throated Woodstar. Suffice to say, I have never seen the latter three species at this site. The coquette from the Pacific slope has been spotted there on a couple of occasions and I bet the other two have also occurred but don’t expect any of them on a regular basis! Since hummingbirds and the flowers they feed on seem to be scarce in many areas of the country, I can’t help but wonder if the out of range birds showed up while searching for food. El Tapir and other sites with feeders and porterweed like Rancho Naturalista, Bosque Tolomuco, and El Copal should be carefully checked for unusual hummingbirds, especially ones with a bit of rufous on the face.

This is the one I’m talking about- it showed up last year after a century plus hiatus, maybe there’s a few in Costa Rica right now.

Bare-necked Umbrellabird at Curi-Cancha– It’s been there before but with this rare, endangered, spectacular species, it’s always worth mentioning where it has been seen. Although the bird with the Elvis feather cut is not common or expected anywhere, Curi-Cancha is as good as place as any to look for it (and see a bunch of other birds while doing so).

Unspotted Saw-whets on Irazu– They are always up there but recently, Ernesto Carman of Get Your Birds tours actually saw one on a day perch! Although they probably won’t reveal exactly where (to prevent photographers from disturbing it), they might be able to show you one or two of this fantastic, much wanted owlet at night.

More help for Golden-winged Warblers– We all know that Golden-winged Warblers are a species of conservation concern. If you have been to Costa Rica during the winter months, you may also know that they are easier to see in this country than many other areas. Costa Rica Bird Observatories is helping out Golden-winged Warblers through local education about the bird, payments to preserve habitat, and reforestation. Learn more about this awesome initiative at their site!

One of Costa Rica’s many wintering Golden-winged Warblers.

Heavy Rains– There has been a lot of precipitation lately and it’s a welcome sight. Yes, we are in the rainy season but for the past four or five years, thanks to human caused global warming, there just hasn’t been enough, especially on the Caribbean slope and in the highlands. Very likely because of that, a high percentage of bird species in the country seem to be in decline (I know that I detect noticeably fewer at most sites, especially in humid forests, and it has gotten worse year by year). As far as the birds go, we can only hope that the rain will be enough to boost productivity and result in a successful nesting season for many species.

A few of the things I would love to do– These days, I would love to get up to Tenorio (as always), hang out in the Rincon de la Vieja and Orosi area, do more surveys in the foothill zone so we can have more data on bird populations that appear to be in decline, get the final images needed for the Costa Rica Birds Field Guide app, and look for pelagic birds from the Puntarenas-Paquera ferry. Hope I can do some of that, if so, I’ll be writing about it!

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