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bird finding in Costa Rica Birding Costa Rica

Birding in Costa Rica News, June and July, 2021

Getting ready for a birding trip to Costa Rica? Maybe just dreaming about coming to Costa Rica. Either way, this information is for you, for the birders, future birders, and birding curious folks of the world. This post will be especially useful for people on the edge of coming to Costa Rica.

In any case, I’ll start by saying that even if the following information doesn’t include birds you hope to see nor sites you expect to visit, there are no worries in this birding house. Rest assured that all of those other birds, the dozens of hummingbirds, chipping flocks of tanagers, haunting calls of antbirds and wrens, toucans, and the rest are present in Costa Rica and waiting to be seen.

Exquisites such as the Green Thorntail included.

In other words, the birding is fantastic as usual. As for myself, I’m looking forward to getting out and exploring sites old and new. I sort of always feel that way, am touched by that instinctive curious pull to explore the mossy forest, the places where biodiversity lurks and chirps from the shade, where countless life hides high overhead, in plain sight.

Look and listen close and you will find treasures, especially in biodynamic Costa Rica. Now for some news:

Maroon-chested Ground-Doves

Yes, that’s right, we got the plural going on up in here! A small group of this uber elusive almost wannabe fruit-dove have been showing at one of the best sites for it; the trails of the Museo Volcan. Situated on the upper slopes of Volcan Irazu at the Noche Buena Restaurant, these trails access edge, second growth, and high elevation forest good for a number of uncommon birds. In addition to the ground-doves (which rarely show this well), Slaty Finch, Peg-billed Finch, Costa Rican Pygmy-Owl and other nice birdies are also possible. Needless to say, a number of lucky local birders have been twitching those doves!

Rains and the July Dry Spell

The rainy season is here and that’s good for the birds and the wet , tropical ecosystems they depend on. In most places, it rains every afternoon. In the mountains, the water falls or mists or soaks for much of the day and night. A few places have been subjected to some flooding but so far, there have been few landslides or other typical occasional effects of the annual rains.

On the bird front, the rains also generate insect hatches that help many species raise broods. That wealth of flying insects can make it much easier to see various swifts. On recent mornings when thousands of recently hatched ants have helicoptered up above the trees, I have been gifted with rare close looks at Chestnut-collared, Black, White-chinned, and Spot-fronted Swifts among the more commonly seen Vaux’s and White-collareds.

As for July, according to the local weather forecast system, the annual mini dry spell is expected although mostly for the Central Valley and Pacific Northwest. It might also be hotter and drier in August than July.

Range Expanding Dry Forest Species

Keep an eye out for lowland and Pacific slope species that have been expanding their ranges into the Central Valley and elsewhere. Recently, such dry forest species as Turquoise-browed Motmot, Common Ground-Dove, and Orange-fronted Parakeet have been spotted at typically wet sites near Cartago. This is unheard of but perhaps not unexpected during the current climate crisis. As far as birding goes, don’t be surprised if you see some birds away from where they would be more expected.

Hotel Quelitales

As this hotspot sees increased birding exploration, its potential continues to be realized. Some of the more interesting and coveted recent sightings have included views of Black-and-white Becard, Sharpbill, Ochre- breasted Antpitta. Many other “good” birds are also possible and the birding at Quelitales is always excellent.

Casa Tangara Dowii

Another fairly new, classic birding hotspot, the headquarters of the Costa Rican Birding Hotspots Route continues to be an excellent easy place to see Buffy-crowned Wood-Partridge, Buff-fronted Quail-Dove, and other nice highland species. Lately, a Chiriqui Quail-Dove has also been showing!

White-cheeked Pintail Surprise!

Apparently, this mega for Costa Rica has not flown the coupe! Recently, it was spotted near Ciudad Neilly, the same region where it was being seen earlier this year. Maybe it has been there since then, hiding somewhere out in the rice fields? Hopefully it will stick around for much longer. Since this birding site (Coto 47) gets flooded now and then during the rainy season, if you visit, access may or may not be possible.

This area is a good site for Masked Duck. What else is hiding in those tropical wetlands?

The Local Bird Information Keeps Getting Better

I wouldn’t know about the pintail, ground-doves, nor other sightings (such as umbrellabird seen recently at Arenal Observatory Lodge), if it weren’t for local birders heading into the field and reporting their sightings. Many thanks go to them! As the birding community in Costa Rica has grown, more information about bird distribution and sites have become available. The more people interested in birds and nature the better, let’s look forward to having more sites for uncommon species.

What About the Pandemic?

Yes, it’s still happening but in some places, things are certainly looking up. In Costa Rica, a sudden rise in cases happened in May and there are still a fair number of daily cases BUT, it has also been steadily decreasing and some experts believe that we had our peak. Vaccinations in Costa Rica continue to move forward, at the moment, 15% of the country is totally vaccinated. Hopefully, the rate of vaccination will increase especially since we are expected to receive another shipment of vaccines any day now.

In the meantime, mask wearing and other protocols are still in place and it seems that most people and businesses follow them. Visitors must still fill out an official online health form and need to have a certain type of health insurance (even if you have been vaccinated). See more details about those requirements here.

If you are headed to Costa Rica soon, get ready for fantastic, easy birding in beautiful tropical settings. If the trip is later this year or the next, get the Costa Rica Birds field guide app to start studying those birds now, there’s a lot to see!

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bird finding in Costa Rica

News for Birding in Costa Rica, September, 2019

Not many birders visit Costa Rica in September. The 9th month of the year and October see minimal visits for birding. This is on account of the rain and because most birders coming to Costa Rica prefer to coincide their visit with home equaling freezing cold, ice rain or other challenging conditions. I can’t blame them, if I still lived in the northern temperate zone, I would probably do the same. But what about that rain? What about the birding during fall in Costa Rica? Is it really that wet?

Although it does rain more at this time of year, it doesn’t rain all of the time AND, on the Caribbean slope, it can actually be quite dry. Throw in some millions of migrating birds and now is as good a time as many to go birding in Costa Rica. The following is a bit of birding news for the next two months:

Aplomado Falcon Twitch

The juvenile Aplomado Falcon that has been living in the middle of San Isidro del General is the biggest twitch that Costa Rica has ever seen. Even though we have had very few twitches, this one would always take the cake. In Costa Rica, the Aplomado Falcon is a vagrant species that has typically occurred closer to Nicaragua and just for a day or two. This bird has been present much further south since July and a good percentage of local birders have made the trip to see and photograph it. As a bonus, the falcon has also acted as a bird ambassador of sorts with its human neighbors and will hopefully spur more interest in birds and birding in the General Valley. We have yet to go, I sure hope the bird stays long enough for us to feel like making that long drive over the mountains.

Rufous-crested Coquette Twitch!

I suppose the discovery of an adult male Rufous-crested Coquette shows that one good twitch deserves another. This rare vagrant also showed in the southern zone, this time near San Vito. Various birders have gone to see it, even a few that had already done the Aplomado Falcon trip! Unlike the falcon, this special little bird probably won’t stay that long, likely leaving after the trees it has been feeding on have stopped flowering. Since we already did a long trip to San Vito earlier this year, I doubt we will be trying for this one. Hopefully, we could get extremely lucky and find our own coquette and falcon. I’m sure that a few more of both species are in Costa Rica, especially the coquette.

San Vito is also one of the few places to see Crested Oropendola in Costa Rica.

More megas on the way

With fall migration taking place, more rare and vagrant species for Costa Rica are surely in-country now or will be here soon. As always, the challenge is finding them. There could be several skulking Conn. Warblers near any number of regular sites but if no one birds there, they will never be found even if they decide to do a wood-warbler waltz in the middle of the road. Luckily, we do have more people in the field these days and that will increase the chances of locating choice megas.

The First South Caribbean Bird Count!

I am so pleased this is happening as I have always hoped for a bird count during fall migration on the southern Caribbean coast of Costa Rica. The migration is excellent, the resident birding is also excellent, and this little birded area always has a lot to offer. Sadly, I don’t see how I can participate in the count but I am happy that many other local birders will be counting birds on the first weekend of October.

A typical site near Manzanillo.

Shorebirds

Major shorebird movements are happening in Costa Rica, mostly on the Pacific Coast but there are smaller numbers of birds that appear in estuaries and other bits of limited shorebird habitat on the shore of the Caribbean. The best shorebirding sites are the salt ponds at Punta Morales and Chomes but the birding can be likewise fantastic at Colorado, Ensenada, other sites in the Gulf of Nicoya, as well as near Parrita and any number of river mouths on the Pacific. Personally, I am hoping that we can get in at least one other trip to the Pacific Coast as well as a couple of trips to a couple of reservoirs to see if we can find Long-billed Dowitcher, Baird’s Sandpiper, and White-rumped Sandpiper.

Regarding places to visit, it’s hard to think of new sites that might stand out. The birding in Costa Rica is typically great and there are many many places to go birding. If I could make one suggestion, it would be to just get in as much birding time as you can in or near the largest areas of mature forest. These are the areas more likely to host populations of rare birds along with all of the common species along with lots of other wildlife. To learn more about where to go birding in Costa Rica, support this blog by purchasing my 700 page plus e-book, How to See, Find, and Identify Birds in Costa Rica. I hope to see you in the field!