April 26, 2015, Lake Atitlan, Guatemala — This week, I kicked butt in Costa Rica. The numbers tell it best: In seven days, I saw 413 species of birds in this country, 158 of which were new for the big year project. That’s an average of 22.5 new birds per day, all week long! I also passed an interesting milestone here: My year list now includes half of the birds in the entire Western Hemisphere. And I haven’t even touched North America yet (not to mention the rest of the world)…
I owe this success to excellent company, of course. Roy Orozco and Johan Fernandez, two Costa Rican birders in their early 30s from the Quepos area, took this project as a serious personal challenge. When I arrived a week ago, Johan already had my target list printed out and highlighted, and Roy had prepared handwritten pages of endemic birds by region. “It’s like being in the Olympics!” Johan said, and Roy agreed. If you ever find yourself in Costa Rica, especially near Manuel Antonio National Park on the Pacific Coast (close to Johan and Roy’s respective houses), look ‘em up: www.johanbirdingcr.com and www.naturespecialist.com (Roy is also a professional bird artist, and his site has lots of amazing artwork).
We had several hours this morning to track down a few remaining specialties near Arenal in northwest Costa Rica, and found a Keel-billed Motmot and Streak-crowned Antvireo before heading back to San Jose so I could catch an afternoon flight. A short hop, and I landed in Guatemala City around dinnertime, where an 18-year-old birder named John Cahill picked me up. John drove us a couple of hours this evening to reach Lake Atitlan, where, tomorrow morning, we’ll begin five full days of birding in Guatemala.
New birds today: 6
Year list: 2265