web analytics
bird finding in Costa Rica Birding Costa Rica

Losses, Connections, and Costa Rica Birding Reflections- August and September, 2023

There is no late summer in Costa Rica. In this nation of uplifted land and high biodiversity, it’s August all year long. There is only the arrival and departure of rain, at times, on a daily basis. Even so, we are still touched by the weather cycles of the north.

Up north, the waning summer was and is marked by movements of Canada Warblers, Black-and-white Warblers, and sandpipers. These were the “early” migrants, the avian signals of another nesting season come to an end.

During the 80s up north, August was walking on the northern Lake Erie shore and looking for shorebirds feeding in the algae. Migration was also happening in the fields and woodlands that approached the lake; utterly fantastic migration with Accipiters flapping by and passerines parading through the woods.

Sometime 1980s, maybe 1984, I had great August lifers there; my first Yellow-billed and Black-billed Cuckoos, warblers, and a fantastic Loggerhead Shrike. During those years, there were lots more birds.

There was also wonderful music including this gem by the recently passed Robbie Robertson (RIP and so many thanks for the music!). To me, it was and still is a song of beautiful mystery, northern nights, and being 16 years old. At that time, I would have never have guessed that one of my brothers would eventually have children with one of Robbie’s relatives. We are all connected, eventually, in some way.

Sadly, Robbie wasn’t the only gifted person to have recently passed away. The extremely talented Sinead O’Conner has also passed on, always too soon. I loved her music, it was one of a kind, there was just nothing like it! Around the same time that CFNY was playing “Somewhere Down the Crazy River”, I was also seeing posters outside record stores that showed a bald woman and read, “The Lion and The Cobra”.

I wondered, what on earth is that? Answers came in the form of CFNY playing “Troy” by Sinead, over and over. There were other songs too, including “Just Like You said It Would Be“.

I could never have imagined that, in 1999, I would meet and befriend the guy playing guitar in that video while we both searched for our lifer Black-cheeked Ant-Tanager near Golfito.

Yes, not only has Robert Dean illustrated several field guides for birds, he also helped make lots of wonderful music, including songs with Sinead. He hasn’t stopped making music either, check out, Light of Day.

In the birding world, we have also lost a couple of cherished and irreplaceable people. Tom Johnson was one of the most innovative, expert, and well-liked birders in North America. His tragic passing was and will continue to be a terrible loss for his loved ones and the birding community at large. I often marveled over his amazing night photography of migrating passerines and saw him a couple times in Costa Rica while he led tours. I wish I would have had the fortune of knowing him as well as so many other birders did.

Sadly, Ron Pittaway also passed on recently. Ron created the fantastic Winter Finch Forecast and had an impact on birding in Canada, Western New York, and elsewhere in a number of ways. He was such a nice guy and I will always remember his smile while sharing the Niagara Gorge gull experience with his partner Jean Iron, friends Willy D’Anna, Betsy Potter, Dean DiTommasso, and other Larophiles. I particularly like this image and post by Alvaro Jaramillo.

These days, as I watch tanagers pick berries from cloud forest trees, and scan eternal ocean waters for seabirds, I’ll be thinking of these people and how they helped make the world a better place.

I will also think of them as I watch for the birds that connect us to Cape May and those northern shores of Lake Erie. I’ll be looking for many of the same shorebirds, and those “early” warblers, but we also find the first flocks of migrating kites, and Pacific shorebirds like the Surfbird.

It’s a good time to be birding in Costa Rica, it always is. Here are a few things to reflect and note while birding Costa Rica this August and September.

Helping a Hook-billed Kite in Costa Rica

Recently, Paz Irola and Ernesto Carman of Get Your Birds! and the Cabanisi Project helped rescue a young Hook-billed Kite. Watch this impressive video to see how they saved the life of this young bird by feeding it snails! It’s also interesting to hear the juvenile vocalize. Perhaps it’s antbird-like song is yet another adaptation to help hide these young kites from larger raptors that would eat them.

A young Hook-billed Kite from another day.

The First Fall Warbler Count for Costa Rica

A lot of warblers winter in and migrate through Costa Rica. Cerulean Warblers, Bay-breasted Warblers, and other species make important stops in the country as they make their way to South America. To promote this annual passage, encourage eBird use, and get more data about numbers of migrant warblers, some local guides and birders have organized a country-wide warbler count.

If you will be birding in Costa Rica in September, you can participate too! All you need to do is go birding in Costa Rica on September 9th, and share your lists with user name, “ReinitasCR”.


Recently, an Oilbird was sighted in a night tour in the Monteverde area. August is a great time of year to see this bird in Costa Rica. If you will be visiting the Monteverde area soon, ask if they have been seeing Oilbirds at the night tour for the Monteverde Wildlife Refuge as well as other night walks. If so, you have a very good chance of seeing one on that night walk tour!

Umbrellabirds and Tiny Hawk at Centro Manu

Umbrellabirds are definitely back at Centro Manu. Recently, several local birders have gotten excellent shots of this rare and endangered cotinga. It may take a while to see one but birding this site will give you a fair shot.

Not to mention, the lowland-foothill forests are good for lots of other species too. Great Potoo has been roosting near the parking area, Song Wren has been seen in the forest, and local birders have also had good looks at a Tiny Hawk!

Ciudad Neily

Last but not least, this is one of the best times to year to go birding near Ciudad Neily and visit the Coto marshes. It’s probably also the easiest time to find Paint-billed Crake, see other crakes, and find Masked Duck. Check for vagrant shorebirds and other odd, rare birds among the thousands of waterbirds that use the area! Not to mention, folks are still seeing a pair of Lesser Kiskadees on the road in the Las Pangas sector of Coto 47.

To get ready for your trip and see where to go birding in Costa Rica, check out my 900 plus page ebook, “How to See, Find, and Identify Birds in Costa Rica”. As always, I hope to see you in Costa Rica!