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biodiversity Birding Costa Rica

The 2019 Christmas Bird Count Season in Costa Rica

December is here and in the Central Valley of Costa Rica, we know it by the quick change from rainy days to sunnier, more windy weather. As with the USA and Canada, this final month of the year is also synonymous with Christmas music, the hoods of cars adorned with red reindeer noses, and vehicles topped with tied down, freshly cut conifers as they bring home “the tree” (in Costa Rica, a small Guatemalan Cypress). Us local birders also know that December has arrived by the announcements and preparations being made for our annual Christmas Counts!

In Costa Rica, these annual counts aren’t just times when birders organize to count the birds within a given radius. Many counts in Costa Rica have evolved into mini birding events that promote local enterprise, community, and conservation. Although some of the counts occur outside of the official National Audubon Christmas Count time frame, we do them anyways because, well, any time of the year is a good time to celebrate birds! One such count was recently held at Cangreja National Park, a little visited area in central Costa Rica where Sunbitterns lurk in the shade of forested waterways and Blue-crowned Manakins twitter from the understory.

A picture of Cangreja from last year’s count.

Thanks to support from the Asociacion de Ornitologia de Costa Rica and others, several people from the community near the national park took part in a birding course and helped count birds on the day of the count. I wish we could have made it to that one but work and other responsibilities took precedence. Nor can we do all of the counts taking place this month but we will at least focus on birds at a few.

Similar to past counts, the schedule will probably involve a pre-counting meeting where the organizers go over the routes, provide a talk, and have everyone introduce themselves while we eat a meal together. During the night, some will likely run out there at midnight to look and listen for nocturnal species while we try to get some sleep. On count day, we will be up somewhere around 4 to try for some night birds before getting into counting mode on our respective routes. This will last for much of the day with a break for a boxed lunch before everyone meets in the evening to go over the results. The following day, many of the counters will get in another fun morning of birding, maybe even chasing rarities discovered on count day.

I could go for a nice close look at an Ochre-breasted Antpitta.

I hope we pick up some year birds, I know we will see and hear a lot, and it will be fun to hang out with and share the birding life with other local birders.

If you are in Costa Rica now or will be here in December and want to participate in any of the counts, this is a list of the counts taking place with contact information. Since several of these counts fill up, contact the organizers sooner rather than later! Wishing you lots of birds no matter where you end up counting them this December, 2019!

R.N.V.S. Caño Negro
December 5, 2019
[email protected]

Arenal National Park
December 7, 2019
[email protected]

La Selva Biological Station
December 14, 2019
[email protected]

XXVI Monteverde Count
December 14, 2019

Pacífico Central Carara
December 16, 2019

Cloud Forests of San Ramón
20 and 21 of December, 2019
[email protected]

Osa Península and Corcovado
December 21, 2019

The Rainforest Aerial Tram Bird Count
December 21, 2019
Alan Rodríguez [email protected]  or Luis Diego Castillo [email protected]

Santa Rosa National Park Bird Count
December 28, 2019
Frank Joyce [email protected] and María M. Chavarria Diaz [email protected]

Volcán Cacao Bird Count
December 30, 2019
Frank Joyce [email protected] and María M. Chavarria Diaz [email protected]

Nicoya Peninsula
January 12, 2020
[email protected], [email protected]

Chirripó National Park
January 30, February 1 and 2, 2020
Enzo Vargas Salazar [email protected]

​Tortuguero National Park
February 1 and 2, 2020

La Amistad International Park
March 6, 7 and 8, 2020

[email protected]

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