May 13 was Global Big Day! GBD celebrates birds and birding but we don’t get festive with cakes, beer, and football. On GBD, us birders celebrate by giving ourselves over to birding.
Yeah, a lot of us do that on weekends and other random dates anyways and all year long, but this birding day is different. It’s GBD, we have this official excuse to go all out with birding, to make it our main thing no matter what else is happening.
Cars and traffic? Pay them motor vehicles no heed (unless they are barreling down on you), there goes a Short-tailed Hawk!
People watching sports or boating or celebrities wearing weird crap on runways…sorry but they become background noise on GBD. On May 13, it’s the Anhingas, the warblers, and the grouse that take center stage.
Gotta work? If the boss doesn’t seem to understand why you can’t go to work on May 13th, you just point them to the GBD eBird page.
Tell them it’s an international holiday, a sacred feast day for the league of avian appreciators. Sorry no, I can’t work today bossarola…it’s Global Big Day!
You might still work, though, especially if your job involves birdwatching. I mean, that way you can still partake in our birding feast day without worrying about calling in. Unlike other GBDs I typically celebrate with my partner (we are Team Tyto) but this past May 13th, I couldn’t. I had to work.
Luckily, that day of work was guiding someone in the Poas and Varablanca area. This destination is one of the best spots for birding near San Jose, Costa Rica. As usual, it was a fine day of birding with close views of a male Resplendent Quetzal, silky-flycatchers, and 100 plus other species.
Even better, when I got home, I picked up a few more birds. My partner and I took a last minute walk in the neighborhood and a pair of Yellow-naped Parrots flew over. They were followed by groups of flyby White-fronted Parrots and other common species. The best was a bunch of swifts driven low by rain clouds. Chestnut-collared Swift made it onto the day list and then, two dark swifts with bat-like wing beats zipped into view.
No big white spot on the face but….yes, a white chin! Yep, low enough to see the tiny white chin on a White-chinned Swift. A sweet species for GBD and right from a tiny, urban backyard. That’s urban birding for you, especially in birdalicious Costa Rica.
Further afield, birders were out in force in other corners of the country. A pelagic trip found Tahiti Petrel (now known to be regular) and other open sea goodies, Chambita and friends picked up the specialties of Medio Queso, and many other birds were found, 703 species total!
Oddly enough, I may have seen the only Barred Becard for the day. Other, much less common species seen by others were Great Jacamar at Veragua, Botteri’s and Rusty Sparrows at Rincon de La Vieja, and Lanceolated Monklet at La Marta.
The prize for the “best bird” may go to Speckled Mourner. This rufous guy is one of the rarest and little-known bird species in Costa Rica. Given the extreme paucity of sightings, I have wondered where it still occurs. I have my suspicions and one of those spots was where two birds were found.
Last month, local birders found one or two of these odd megas in the foothill rainforests at the Pitilla Biological Station on OrosiVolcano. Several local birders have gone and seen this special species, at that time, arguably, the only reliable spot to see a Speckled Mourner in Costa Rica.
I figure they live in other spots too and it is worth checking those areas but it’s always good to know of a reliable spot. As luck would have it, just yesterday, another spot for Speckled Mourner came to light!
Meche Alpizar and Lisa Erb saw and photographed one of these elusive birds at Selva Bananito. It makes sense that one was seen at this site, a spot with ample lowland rainforest habitats. What’s interesting is that even though the species hasn’t been seen at this site before, they saw it right at the reception.
Given the habitat, it makes sense to see it there. Maybe there are previous sightings from Selva Bananito, but I haven’t heard of any.
It’s also interesting that this bird was seen shortly after the other sightings up north. Before these sightings, there hadn’t been any documented Speckled Mourners in Costa Rica for many years. There should be but nope, nothing.
Are they showing in more places? No, I bet it’s just more birding coverage by experienced observers. We really don’t have a lot of coverage in the remote areas where these birds are most likely to occur. Throw in their unobtrusive nature with low density populations and it’s easy to see why more Speckled Mourners have not been seen.
In any case, these and other sightings on GBD, 2023 are encouragement to get out there and explore, get into the good forests and see what you can find. You gotta pay close attention, you gotta listen carefully to those woods, the birds are out there.
To see where to find birds in Costa Rica and how to find them, support this blog by purchasing “How to See, Find, and Identify Birds in Costa Rica”.
it’s sort of like an international holiday