Birding Without Borders

Day 111: The Caribbean Side

Costa Rica's Caribbean foothills are full of birds and birders.

April 21, 2015, Rancho Naturalista, Costa Rica — It’s the beginning of the wet season on the Caribbean side of Costa Rica, and Roy, Johan, and I dodged the rain all day. We spent the morning at La Selva, a sprawling research station in a patch of lowland forest that adjoins Braulio Carillo National Park. La Selva is something of a mecca for scientists, study abroad students, and birders; and, compared to other stations I’ve visited this year, it’s a metropolis. All kinds of projects are going on here. When Johan inquired about a shiny new tower of scaffolding next to the dining hall, we learned that it is a special “air control tower” for video drones flying over the forest canopy. Later, we passed a student who appeared to be counting the legs on a daddy longlegs spider (which can regrow their legs when one falls off). You get the feeling, when walking the wide, paved trails around La Selva, of data-driven scrutiny—and an occasional whiff of summer camp for scientists.

I spent half an hour in La Selva’s parking lot waiting for a Snowy Cotinga, a nearly all-white bird of the forest canopy which often hangs around the station. Finally, I heard a loud chattering behind me: A pack of Japanese birders had appeared, and they were shouting and pointing their cameras upward! The cotinga was perched directly over my head. I’m not sure which was the rarer sight, the Snowy Cotinga (a range-restricted and possibly declining species) or the Japanese birders (until recently a nearly unknown organism in these parts). It was interesting to see both.

In the afternoon Roy, Johan and I left the hot lowlands and headed for the hills, where we made a brief stop for two beautiful and tiny hummingbirds: the Snowcap and Black-crested Coquette. This evening we went looking for a couple of owls and successfully spotlighted a Bare-shanked Screech-Owl on one flank of the Irazu volcano before eventually arriving at Rancho Naturalista, a haven for birders, around midnight.

New birds today: 13

Year list: 2169

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