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Global Big Day- May 11th, 2024, Costa Rica

Another Global Big Day is in the books! if we birders had an official holiday, I’m pretty sure it would be Global Big Day. In a sense, it already is. After all, we put other things aside to celebrate, commemorate, and rejoice by going birding.

I almost wish we weren’t so busy birding on Global Big Day so we could likewise commemorate it with cake, special liquid refreshment, and a fun, phat and friendly party.

We could mix some of those factors with GBD birding but when you got 24 hours to work with, a full day to give yourself over to avian connection, the birds take precedence.

It’s always nice to share some time with birds like this Northern Emerald Toucanet.

Better to make it a two day holiday; Global Big Day (GBD) followed up by post Global Big Day of Rest (GBDR). If you bird 24 hours, you’ll need some recuperation and maybe some therapy too. If so, no problem, there’ll be plenty of free advice at the after GBD party. Share birding stories over quality cake (there’s a lot of bad cake out there, stick with the real butter deal), extoll birding achievements, and maybe even chase a bird or two your birding peeps found on GBD.

Hopefully, we can get GBD recognized as a holiday, or at least encourage celebrating it in double holiday fashion. In the meantime, here’s some of what went down in Costa Rica this past May 11th, 2024.

Good Totals

As of writing, birders in Costa Rica collectively identified 680 species and a few more are probably awaiting eBird review approval. I daresay that’s pretty darn good. 90 percent of the wintering birds already flew north and birders in Costa Rica found most of the rest of what’s possible.

I was also pleased to see that 1,094 ebirders in Costa Rica participated. Even if I didn’t run into fellow birders in the field, it’s still cool to know that we were all watching birds at the same time.

Heavy Rains

Those totals also stand out when you take the weather into account. The morning was sunny but the rest of the day was extremely wet. I recall a few drops happening around noon and then massive curtains of constant water for the rest of the afternoon.

Instead of counting birds, I was driving north on the coastal highway, hoping to make it to Tarcoles before the road maybe flooded. Luckily, that didn’t happen and we actually did manage to see a handful of final birds during a late afternoon break in the weather.

Such heavy rains weren’t surprising by the way. In Costa Rica, the wet season has most definitely started.

Some Highlights

Overall, we did really well. Despite very little if any pre GBD organizing, enough local birders targeted the tough ones to find most of them! I felt like the following were worth mentioning.

Masked Duck– Outside of late summer and fall, in Costa Rica, this reclusive little duck is seriously hit or miss. Unreliable by nature, I was pleased to see that someone found one in the Cano Negro area.

Paint-billed Crake– We got a fair handle on this sneaky species but it can still be tough. Someone had it at the Las Trancas rice fields.

Hudsonian Godwits– This one wins the prize! Late April and early May are the time to get lucky with this mega wader in Costa Rica but it’s still a lottery bird. Thanks to a local birder checking the Colorado salt pans, he found 8!

His numbers go way past the previous country high count of 1. I wonder what convinced the Hudwits to come to shore? Did they sense storm clouds a bit too dark and grainy? Maybe they’ve stopped there before, just for a few hours or a day. In any case, they weren’t there on GBDR.

Christmas Tahiti Parkinson’s– Amazingly, determined birders managed to do a pelagic trip! I say “amazingly” because it was so darn rainy, I don;t want to imagine what it was like offshore. I guess not too bad because they found and added a bunch of birds to the GBD country total. They even managed a trio of tougher birds. Tahiti Petrel is normal but Christmas Shearwater and Parkinson’s Petrel are much more of a challenge.

All three hawk-eagles– None of the hawk-eagles are common but if you get enough birders in the field, some of them will notice Black and Ornate Hawk-Eagles. Black-and-white is another story.

A truly rare bird in Costa Rica, if we’re lucky, there might be 20 pairs in the country (or maybe much less?). Fortunately, one was seen in Caribbean foothill forest in the Guacimo, Limon area. This is the same good area where a Crested Eagle was recently seen.

Tiny Hawk– These pint-sized raptors are present in many places but always tough to see. One was found at La Marta; a good site for it and another tough one that was found there too- Lanceolated Monklet!

Unspotted Saw-whet Owl– I’m pleased to say that I found this one. I’m guessing one or two other people also specifically looked for and found this special little owl but we certainly had the first one for the day.

It happened in pretty unexpected fashion during dawn birding at Lilianas Quetzals (aka Myriam’s Cabins). While attempting to see a Dusky Nightjar instead of just hearing them right around dawn, I couldn’t help but whistle like a Unspotted Saw-whet Owl. I knew the bird is heard there once in a while but didn’t really expect a response. However, as birds will do, one fricking called back!

The nightjar and screech-owl were quickly pushed aside to try for this highland mega but try as I did, the owl didn’t really come in, nor did it call enough to locate it. Still awesome to hear it and at least I know where to look for it next time I’m up that way…

Pewee and the Jay– Sounds like a movie or show from the 70s but nope, this is a pair of high elevation, Talamancan toughies. They still deserve their own show but it would be tough to make them come to the studio.

The Ochraceous Pewee and Silvery-throated Jay are two of the more evasive high elevation endemics from Costa Rica and western Panama. Getting them on any day is outstanding, finding them on GBD is cakeworthy.

One of the other sweet highlights was Speckled Mourner. Before a few were found at the Pitilla Biological Station, this bird was basically a no-show for the country. Awesome to have them on the Costa Rica GBD list!

Odd Misses

After a quick review of GBD sightings in Costa Rica, I didn’t notice too many expected birds. I suppose one might be White-chinned Swift. Unless we are still waiting for approval or a latent list, I do think it would be weird not to find this one.

White-chinned Swifts aren’t exactly abundant but there is at least one known nest site, and the rainy season is the best time to see them. As expected, recently, local birders have been seeing some at the edges of rain clouds, sometimes quite low over their houses.

Veraguan Mango and Sapphire-throated Hummingbird are two more species that should be on the GBD list. Since they are pretty easy to see in the Ciudad Neily area and Lesser Kiskadee is likewise missing, I’m guessing that no one covered that part of the country. That, or they just haven’t submitted their lists yet.

Not Surprising Misses

Birders found most expected species in Costa Rica but a few were unsurprisingly missed. The main three birds that come to mind are Bare-necked Umbrellabird, Black-crowned Antpitta, and Gray-headed Piprites. Yep, those three are always tough. These days, thanks to the people at Vista Aves Lodge, the piprites is a bit more manageable but the other two are always tough.

Both seem to get rarer by the day but if you go to just the right places, you can find them. We probably didn’t have folks in those particular spots.

As for my GBD, it was a day of guiding that took us from beautiful high elevation forest at Myriams Cabinas down to Vista del Valle and then on through Perez Zeledon and up the coast to the Tarcoles Birding Lodge.

Like I mentioned, heavy rain knocked out a fair part of the day but we still managed 108 species including birds as varied as Resplendent Quetzal, Unspotted Saw-whet Owl, Costa Rican Pygmy-Owl, and Scarlet Macaw. Check out the trip report!

I hope you had a fun and exciting GBD in good company (along with a relaxed GBDR). You can learn more about the Costa Rica birding sites mentioned in this post in my Costa Rica bird finding ebook. I hope to see you here!

One reply on “Global Big Day- May 11th, 2024, Costa Rica”

Pat, I enjoyed your description of your GBD very much. I like your light hearted approach; thanks for sharing your experienece and knowledge.

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