A morning in high elevation forests on Poas Volcano gave me three new species for the year:
549. Resplendent Quetzal- not as many up there as last year due to few avocados in fruit but I still heard one and saw a female fly past.
550. Buff-fronted Quail-Dove- calling at this time of the year, heard at least 3.
551. Chestnut-collared Swift- saw a few on the drive back down.
Picked up a few more birds during weekend birding in foothill rainforests near San Ramon and in drier, Pacific slope habitats above San Ramon.
552. Bicolored Hawk: Always good to get this uncommon raptor.
553. Barred Forest Falcon: Two heard along the road to Manuel Brenes Reserve.
554. Canivet's Emerald: One female visiting flowers at Angel Valley Bed and Breakfast.
555. Lesser Elaenia: A few at Angel Valley Bed and Breakfast.
556. Bank Swallow: Hundreds migrating high overhead.
557. Blue and Gold Tanager: Great views of this interesting, exotic tanager at the San Luis canopy.
A day trip yesterday in search of migrating shorebirds at Chomes and the Colorado salt pans turned out to be fairly productive. Both sites are main shorebird hotspots in Costa Rica and since they are visited rather infrequently, you never know what you might find! New birds for the year:
558. American Golden Plover: Excellent, close looks at two of this uncommon migrant and number 738 on my Costa Rican list!
559. Wilson's Plover: Quite a few of those and rather surprised to see that it was new for the year.
560. Lesser Yellowlegs: Quite a few on Sunday, must be moving through at this time as I don't see that many in the winter.
561. Marbled Godwit: A few out on the mudflats.
562. Pectoral Sandpiper: Several at both sites.
563. Short-billed Dowitcher: Just a few seen.
564. Wilson's Phalarope: One female in beautiful breeding plumage and another much awaited species for my CR list!
565. Gull-billed Tern: One distant bird seen.
566. Black Skimmer: Several roosting on a distant mudflat with a bunch of gulls and terns that were too far away to ID.
567. Brown-crested Flycatcher: I'm pretty sure I already saw this one for the year but must have forgotten to mark it down. Had several on Sunday.
A day of guiding that visited high elevation forest on Poas, middle elevation habitats at Cinchona, and lowland rainforest at the Nature Pavilion resulted in 4 species of toucans, at least 15 hummingbird species, Black Guan, Resplendent Quetzal, and many other nice birds but the only new ones were two of the dullest looking species around-
568. Western Wood-Pewee: Very nice looks at one in middle elevations. It was in great light and I regret very much not getting a picture of it!
569. Eastern Wood-Pewee: A very common migrant, last of them are passing through the area.
This past weekend, I guided our local birding group at Pocosol Research Station. One of the best middle elevation forest sites in Costa Rica, Pocosol always turns up some good birds. I only wish I could have stayed longer to bird this excellent area because 3 days is never enough. I picked up several new year birds and one lifer (!).
570. Great Black Hawk: It seems like this species has become confined to the biggest, most intact areas of humid forest in the country. I used to see them on a regular basis at many sites but haven't seen one in several years so this was an excellent find. I suspect that their decline is associated with the decline in amphibians (an important food source) and/or a drier climate due to global warming.
571. White-chinned Swift: A long awaited lifer! Given the difficulties posed by identification of many swift species, I often wondered if I had seen this one and overlooked it. After seeing these individuals, I doubt it as their bull-headed look and very bat-like flight were readily apparent as were their distinctive, scratchy vocalizations.
572. Ocellated Antbird: A few heard.
573. Acadian Flycatcher: One of these along with a few other migrants still around.
574. Eastern Kingbird: Same as for Acadian.
575. Song Wren: A few heard and seen. This is a good site for this interesting bird.
Also, I forgot to add Golden-crowned Spadebill from Carara a few weeks ago for number 576.
A day of guiding at and around Carara turned up yet a few more year birds despite having birded there quite a bit this year:
577. Crane Hawk: Nice to have this species finally show up! One or two were seen at the main parking lot of the national park.
578. Marbled Wood Quail: I usually get this species by sound so it was a treat to watch a small covey for about 15 minutes!
579. Surfbird: A dozen of these migrants were a nice surprise!
More guiding on Poas turned up two more species:
582. Black-cheeked Warbler: Kind of uncommon but overdue for the year.
583. Stripe-tailed Hummingbird: I was hoping to get this one at the Volcan Restaurant feeders.
Birding near Carara turned up a new bird for the year and a lifer! Bridled Terns are summer residents in Costa Rica but I have never had the chance to look for them in the places where they occur during the few months when they can be seen. I finally resolved that by seawatching at Bajamar. Several candidate Bridled Terns could be seen way out there and although it took a while to feel 100% certain about seeing them, I eventually ticked that long awaited bird with satisfaction. No Brown Noddies noted but I bet they should be out there too. Will probably have to take a ferry to see them.
Bridled Tern is bird 586.
587 comes in the form of the Great Jacamar! After listening to several recordings of this species, I had to admit that I certainly heard one at Pocosol Biological Station in May. Deforestation has made this species very rare in Costa Rica with few reliable sites for it so this was an unexpected, excellent bird to get for the year.
A 4 day mini expedition in search of some tough species was quite successful. Just got back last night from birding sites in southwestern Costa Rica and in addition to picking up 4 lifers, I got several new birds for my country list, a bunch of year birds, and we got the chance to survey a few underbirded areas.
Results: 588. Ocellated Crake: Major lifer. A very little known bird in CR, it's actually common in native grassy habitats above Buenos Aires (obviously not the Paris of Latin America). We heard quite a few and glimpsed one. As is typical of many crakes, they were nearly impossible to actually see because they stayed beneath dense grass. The one I ghlimpsed was the most rodent-like bird I have ever seen!
589. Gray-breasted Crake: Heard at edge of a wet rice field near Ciudad Neily.
590. Paint-billed Crake: Yes, we were one a crake hunt and although it was frustrating at times, we got excellent looks at this one! After checking several rice fields and hearing one, we got 2 to respond well along with point blank looks. I had heard this species a couple of times before but had never seen it.
591. American Oystercatcher: We ate lunch near Dominical (a good site for this species) and one made an appearance.
592. Scaled Pigeon: Common near Buenos Aires.
593. Brown-throated Parakeet: The most common parakeet near Cuidad Neily at this time of the year. Lots of great looks!
594. Common Nighthawk: I forgot that this species occurred in grassy habitats near Buenos Aires.
595. Spot-fronted Swift: While waiting for Ocellated Crake to show, we also saw a number of swifts, including this species (which was identified by its call).
596. Garden Emerald: Got a quick view of a male near Buenos Aires. The trip was pretty bad for hummingbirds.
597. Pale-breasted Spinetail: Lots of this neat little bird!
598. Great Antshrike: Overdue for the year. Heard a few here and there.
599. Bran-colored Flycatcher: Nice looks at a couple of these smart looking flycatchers.
600. Fork-tailed Flycatcher: A quick look at a young bird near La Gamba.
601. Rusty-margined Flycatcher: Finally caught up with this bird for my CR list with a pair at La Gamba.
602. Rosy-thrush Tanager: Another species to finally add to my country list. Heard a few and had brief looks at one on the road to Durika.
603. Slate-colored Seedeater: Several near La Gamba.
604. Wedge-tailed Grass Finch: One of the other major targets for the trip. We thought we were going to dip on this lifer until we saw 5 or 6 on our final morning in the savannahs.
605. Costa Rican brush Finch: Brief but definitive looks at the fourth of my lifers.
606. Volcano Junco: We made a brief stop in paramo on Cerro de la Muerte to get this one.
607. Streaked Saltator: Lots of these!
608. Red-breasted Blackbird: Several in the rice fields.
609. Crested Oropendola: I was happy to get a few flybys near San Vito.
610. Tricolored Munia: Nice surprise in the rice fields.
Most of my remaining species for the year are going to be rare or uncommon species I don't get to see that often. Number 617 is that and some. Although we didn't see it, a friend and I heard a Rufous-vented Ground Cuckoo on Sunday along the road to Manuel Brenes Reserve. Habitat there is perfect for this rare species and it has been seen near there so I expected to eventually record it from the site.
Two more year birds from a couple days at high elevations on Turrialba Volcano. We were hoping for Unspotted Saw-whet but not a peep from that difficult bird. At least we had crippling looks at a Bare-shanked Screech Owl, saw a couple quetzals, and I added:
618. Dusky Nightjar- several birds that briefly called just after dusk.
619. Sedge Wren- actually en route but not in the highlands.
Number 620 could be my bird of the year. After not getting the chance to chase the few Oilbirds that have made an appearance in the Monteverde area for the past few years, I made the trip this past weekend and had perfect looks at three perched birds. Many thanks to my friend Robert Dean for taking me over to the Refugio Silvestre de Monteverde where one of the head guides brought us right to each of 3 Oilbirds. That place also does a night walk every night at 6:30 and it's the best I have seen anywhere. Although we were just there to get the Oilbird, in 40 minutes, we also saw 2 Lined Pit Vipers (lifer reptile!), and roosting toucans. If you go to Monteverde, this night walk is very much worth it! http://www.monteverdewildliferefuge.com/
Although I have heard Oilbirds once during the night near Jatun Sacha, Ecuador, I had never seen them so this was not only a year bird, but was also a lifer and new for my CR list.
621 was a Dickcissel on Sunday. Got that one in the way that usually get them- as a flyover while doing something other than birding. Sunday was Costa Rica's independence day and while partaking in activities at the school where my wife teaches, one of those sparrow-like grassland species called and flew over central San Jose. I get a few like this every fall. Have also been listening for fall migrants at dawn but no luck yet! I hope that listening to the pre-dawn and dawn sky will yield tough species like Gray-cheeked Thrush, Veery, Wilson's' Snipe, and Yellow-billed and Black-billed Cuckoos.