The Gone Birding Newsletter

Vol. 6, No. 2

July 2005



First Photographic Record of American Pipit in Costa Rica

On 28 January 2005, while doing the Mangrove Birding Tour on the Tarcoles River, Roelf Hovinga and Jason Horn found an American Pipit (Anthus rubescens) resting on a sandbar near the mouth of the river. Roelf wrote that they “immediately identified the bird based on the following features: a typical pipit with light supercilium, brown (faintly streaked) upperparts, distinctly streaked underparts and flesh-coloured legs. Seen perched for about four minutes, after which the bird flew off, while giving a distinct flight call, to a European birder like myself sounding pretty much like the closely related Water Pipit (Anthus spinoletta). Jason Horn, being from the States, agreed on the identification based on what he saw and heard. To him the bird called exactly like a Water Pipit should. Pictures had to be taken from a constantly moving boat with bad light, hence of poor quality.”

Unfortunately, the images aren’t great, but they do show what definitely looks to be a pipit. The superciliary and streaking visible on the flanks ought to be enough to rule out the possibility of Yellowish Pipit (Anthus lutescens), which could be expected to turn up in CR, based on its occurrence in W Panama. The habitat choice of a sandbar also fits with a wintering American Pipit, a species that normally only winters as far south as Guatemala and El Salvador. But basically, it comes down to the observers’ description and in this case both Roelf and Jason are very skilled birders.

This report also helps substantiate Jay VanderGaast’s sighting, from late 1993, of what he identified as an American Pipit, likewise near the mouth of the Tarcoles River.

Thanks to Kevin Easley for tracking down the images and passing them along.



Red-breasted Blackbird and Reddish Egret at Tarcoles, Too

In late June, Rafa Campos sent an email to local birders informing us that on 21 June 2005, he had spotted a male Red-breasted Blackbird (Sturnella militaris) from the bridge over the Tarcoles River. This is the northernmost record that I am aware of for this species on the Pacific side of CR.

Rafa’s message prompted a reply from Adolfo “Fito” Downs, who mentioned that he had seen a male Red-breasted Blackbird on the grassy banks of the river near the Tarcol Lodge about a month earlier. Fito added that on 25 June, he returned to the area to do another mangrove boat tour and again encountered a lone male.

Two months earlier, on 24 April, Luis Sandoval found a male Red-breasted Blackbird in the pasture behind the smaller pond at Las Concavas, east of Cartago. The bird was also seen by Jorge Ellis, José Pablo Elizondo, Nancy Hidalgo, and Elidier Vargas. This is apparently the first sighting of the species in the Central Valley.

In early July, Mark Dennis wrote to report having seen a dark-form Reddish Egret (Egretta rufescens) from the Tarcoles Bridge on 08 June. Surprised by the date of the sighting and the fact that I am unaware of any reports of this species wintering on the Tarcoles River this past season, I asked Mark for more details and this is his thoughtful reply:

“In keeping with visiting birders, I didn't take any written notes on it for which I apologise. It is a species I've seen before on trips to Texas and Florida, both forms. I saw it from the Tarcoles bridge at about 200m. It was larger and more heavily built than the couple of Tri-coloured Herons (Egretta tricolor) near it. The bill was two-tone pink with a substantial dark end. The head/neck was rusty to the breast, the rest of it was blue-grey. I didn't grill it but presumed it to be an adult. I really didn't linger on it for long and didn't really know its status in Costa Rica. I did not use my scope on it.”

Mark also sent word of a new site for Southern Lapwings (Vanellus chilensis). On 11 June, he observed a pair defending territory behind the Hotel Laguna, a newly opened establishment on the PanAmerican Highway between Cañas and Bagaces.



Ivory-billed Woodcreeper Rediscovered at Palo Verde

OK, so maybe I’m just a bit envious that the publication of the previous newsletter coincided with the announcement of the rediscovery of the presumed-extinct Ivory-billed Woodpecker (Campephilus principalis).

Nonetheless, there have been no reports of Ivory-billed Woodcreeper (Xiphorhynchus flavigaster) from Palo Verde in many years (where it was rare, at best). On 16 June 2005, Carlos Jimenéz, who has been working at the O.T.S. Palo Verde station for the past several years, was birding a patch of mature forest in the area of the Mirador de Guayacán and heard a song that he didn’t recognize. Later, he described the call to Jim Zook, who suggested that it could be an Ivory-billed Woodcreeper—a species that Carlos had never seen.

The following day, he returned to the site at 5:30 and again heard the bird singing. Carlos had to work his way in off the trail a fair distance, but eventually tracked down the calling bird and even was able to video it.



A Trip Report from Cocos Island

Robert Dean visited Cocos Island from the morning of 25 April through the morning of 28 April 2005, while on a voyage organized by the Organization for Tropical Studies (O.T.S.) aboard the Pacific Explorer. Though spending a fair amount of time on the island’s limited trails, he also circumnavegated the island in motorized dinghies. He logged 33 species and added the first record of Cliff Swallow (Petrochelidon pyrrhonota) for Cocos, bringing the island’s bird list to a total of 111 species. Below is the list of species seen during his visit, anyone interested in reading a fuller account is invited to view the report that he and Michel Montoya published in the June 2005 edition of Zeledonia.

Masked Booby (Sula dactylatra): a nesting colony of about 20 pairs

Blue-footed Booby (Sula nebouxii): one adult seen, apparently second record

Brown Booby (Sula leucogaster): numerous

Red-footed Booby (Sula sula): numerous

Magnificent Frigatebird (Fregata magnificens): several seen daily

Great Frigatebird (Fregata minor): numerous

Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias): two sightings

Great Egret (Ardea alba): two sightings

Snowy Egret (Egretta thula): one

Cattle Egret (Bubulcus ibis): three

Yellow-crowned Night-Heron (Nyctanassa violacea): two sightings of immatures

Peregrine Falcon (Falco peregrinus): one

Wilson's Plover (Charadrius wilsonia): one

Willet (Catoptrophorus semipalmatus): two

Upland Sandpiper (Bartramia longicauda): one

Pectoral Sandpiper (Calidris melanotos): one

Laughing Gull (Larus atricilla): one immature

Franklin's Gull (Larus pipixcan): one mature adult, apparently second record

Brown Noddy (Anous stolidus): numerous

Black Noddy (Anous minutus): numerous

White Tern (Gygis alba): numerous

Cocos Cuckoo (Coccyzus ferrugineus): three

Cocos Flycatcher (Nesotriccus ridgwayi): several seen daily

Eastern Kingbird (Tyrannus tyrannus): one

Bank Swallow (Riparia riparia): a group of 12 seen daily

Cliff Swallow (Petrochelidon pyrrhonota): “One was seen clearly each day in the company of the other swallows. It was easily identified by its square tail, buffy rump, streaked back, pale forehead and chestnut face and throat. This is the first record of this species for Cocos Island.”

Barn Swallow (Hirundo rustica): two seen daily

Yellow Warbler (Dendroica petechia aureola): several individuals of the island’s resident race

Cocos Finch (Pinaroloxias inornata): numerous

Dickcissel (Spiza americana): one adult

Bobolink (Dolichonyx oryzivorus): a group of five males in breeding plumage

Spot-breasted Oriole (Icterus pectoralis): one adult and three immatures seen—this species was introduced to the island in 1954

Baltimore Oriole (Icterus galbula): one adult male


Additionally, here is a list of pelagic species identified during the voyage to and from the island:

Pink-footed Shearwater (Puffinus creatopus)

Wedge-tailed Shearwater (Puffinus pacificus)

Sooty Shearwater (Puffinus griseus): 2

Audubon's Shearwater (Puffinus lherminieri): 1

White-faced Storm-Petrel (Pelagodroma marina): 12

Masked Booby (Sula dactylatra)

Brown Booby (Sula leucogaster)

Magnificent Frigatebird (Fregata magnificens)

Great Egret (Ardea alba): 1 flying well out at sea

Red Phalarope (Phalaropus fulicarius): 20

Pomarine Jaeger (Stercorarius pomarinus)

Parasitic Jaeger (Stercorarius parasiticus)

Long-tailed Jaeger (Stercorarius longicaudus)

Brown Noddy (Anous stolidus)


The O.T.S. is planning to operate a similar trip again next year and should soon have details available for anyone interested in participating.



Cedar Waxwing Follow-up

After seeing all the reports of Cedar Waxwing (Bombycilla cedrorum) mentioned in the last edition of the GBN, several readers sent news of their sightings, and groups of birds continued to be seen well into May (contrary to my erroneous comment in the previous newsletter):

28 Feb: Ginger Constantine reported a small group of five feeding together on the property of the EcoLodge in Nuevo Arenal. [She also helped form part of the bigger picture by mentioning that on 20 March, the first flock of the season arrived at her home in Bar Harbor, Maine, “supplanting the Bohemians that had been with us all winter.”]

16 Mar: Mark Garland, Charlie Gómez, and a group of birders from New Jersey Audubon saw a flock of about 25 Cedar Waxwings over the lower Tarcoles River, while on a mangrove boat trip.

04 May: Jim Zook had a group of twenty birds near Guápiles.

10 May: Jim again found some waxwings near his home in Naranjo, this time a party of eight birds.

12 May: Luis Sandoval wrote that he had seen at least 100 individuals feeding in a fig tree (Ficus sp.) in Getsemani de Heredia, both on this day and the day before.



Additional Migrant Reports

Other North American migrants of note reported since the publication of the last GBN included:

Sanderling (Calidris alba): On 18 June, Russell Namitz “saw a flock of 7 Sanderlings in basic plumage at Esterillos Centro. They were foraging and flying back and forth between the creek mouths on the beach located in front of the Alburgue Felicidad. Stiles & Skutch say there are no summer records, but I'm sure they have been recorded by someone before this.” Perhaps so, but noteworthy, nonetheless.

Black-throated Blue Warbler (Dendroica caerulescens): In early December, Rudy Zamora found one individual at the San Pedrillo sector of Corcovado NP.

Yellow-rumped Warbler (Dendroica coronata): On 13 March, Mark Garland et al. encountered a solitary bird “in the paramo brush along the road to the towers at Cerro de la Muerte.”

Yellow-breasted Chat (Icteria virens): On 20 March, Mark Garland et al. spotted a lone bird at La Ensenada “along the trail that leads off from the salinas amid mangroves, maybe 30 or 40 meters back from the perimeter road.”



Sightings of Note from Down South

Rudy Zamora got in touch to inform me of a Black-chested Jay (Cyanocorax affinis) that he saw during the last week of May, while at the Wilson Botanical Garden. It would seem that the bird stayed around for a while, because Daniel Martínez reported a second sighting of a single individual on 04 June. The later bird was seen by Christopher Montero, an O.T.S. naturalist guide, right in front of the dining area.

This species has been seen several times in the past few years in the general area (e.g., Sabalito and Río Negro), but these constitute the first reports from the garden itself.

Another species that has been gaining ground in the southern Pacific portion of CR is the Crested Oropendola (Psarocolius decumanus). And on 17 July, while driving on the PanAmerican Highway, Noel Ureña saw a single bird in flight, about one kilometer south of the bridge over the Térraba River. Birders passing through that part of the country ought to keep an eye out for a potential colony in the area.

[Noel also advised against driving to Puerto Jiménez at the moment, due to the dreadful state of the road!]

And Gary Rosenberg reported a new location for yet another recent addition to the southern Pacific avifauna: Tropical Mockingbird (Mimus gilvus). During the March WINGS tour, he found an individual “along the road out to Los Cusingos outside of San Isidro.” Curiously, the mockingbird was at the exact same location where he had seen Pearl Kite (Gampsonyx swainsonii) in previous years. Readers may recall the first reports of Tropical Mockingbird in San Isidro from early 2003.



Red-throated Caracara Heard at La Selva

On the morning of 01 July 2005, Fito Downs was on the Sura Trail at La Selva, about halfway to the Arboretum, when he heard a Red-throated Caracara (Ibycter americanus). The bird called four times from quite close by, but was never actually seen because of the dense vegetative cover. Fito is quite familiar with the vocalization of the species, which, although increasingly rare in CR, is still common in the Bolivian Amazon and the Darien region of Panama—both areas where Fito has worked as a naturalist guide. Accompanying him were Orlando Vargas and a group of tropical biology students.



Dry Forest Doves Dispersing East

Joel Alvarado was surprised to find an Inca Dove (Columbina inca) perched in a fruiting tree (Hamelia patens) in front of his house in La Virgen de Sarapiquí this past 13 June. Though a common species in the northwestern portion of CR an in the western Central Valley, this may well be the first record for the Caribbean versant of the country.

In the same message, Joel also mentioned that his wife, Ileana, saw a White-winged Dove (Zenaida asiatica) in the schoolyard of the local high school on 08 June. Joel is only aware of three other sightings of this species in the Sarapiquí region: Isla Heliconias near Isla Grande (Mike Keller), the entrance road to La Selva (David, Daniel, and Leonardo Garrigues), and the center of Puerto Viejo (Erick Castro).

Joel’s report prompted an interesting reply from Julio Sánchez, in which he recalled how White-winged Doves have been becoming more numerous and spreading east across the Central Valley in recent years. It was only four years ago that Julio first heard one near his home in Cartago, and now it is the most common species of pigeon or dove in the area, perhaps even having displaced Red-billed Pigeons (Patagioenas flavirostris) to some extent.

Both Inca and White-winged Doves are quite commensal with humans, which obviously favors their dispersal. So, perhaps it’s only a matter of (relatively little) time until they are a common part of the increasingly deforested landscape of the northern Caribbean lowlands.

On a related note, Fito also reported that he has been seeing a pair of Hoffmann’s Woodpeckers (Melanerpes hoffmannii) near his home in Guápiles almost daily since January.



Mystery Bird Photo Quiz

Congratulations to Max Vindas, Noel Ureña, Paco Madrigal, Leonardo Chaves, and Oliver Komar for having correctly identified the mystery bird from the previous edition of the GBN. For those who were unable to ascertain the bird’s identity, here is a more revealing view of the same Brown-hooded Parrot (Pionopsitta haematotis).

Here’s a photo that I took at La Selva Biological Station on 14 April 2005. Can you identify the species? The answer will be announced in the October 2005 newsletter. Good luck!



Thanks to everyone who contributed news of rare sightings and good finds. I hope that you've enjoyed this newsletter and welcome any comments at or if you're in Costa Rica, feel free to give me a ring at 293-2710.

Wishing you all great birding,

Richard Garrigues



April 2005

White-crowned Pigeon, Lark Sparrow, Cedar Waxwing, Northern Harrier, Long-billed Curlew, Dunlin, Warbling Vireo, Crested Eagle, Rusty-margined Flycatcher, Southern Lapwing nest, Mangrove Hummingbird study

January 2005

Red-billed Tropicbird, Pink-footed Shearwater, Arctic Tern, Black Storm-Petrel, Masked Booby, Herring Gull, Parasitic Jaeger, Cory’s Shearwater, Yellow-breasted Chat, Golden-cheeked Warbler, Dunlin, CBC results, Eurasian Collared-Dove, Blue-tailed Hummingbird, Greater Ani, Red-throated Caracara

October 2004

Black-vented Shearwater, Sabine's Gull, Brown Noddy, Brown-chested Martin, Cerulean Warbler, Blackpoll Warbler, Connecticut Warbler, Violaceous Quail-Dove, Rusty Sparrow

July 2004

Dr. Skutch eulogy, Shiny Cowbird, Crested Eagle, Cinnamon Woodpecker, Warbling Vireo, Keel-billed Motmot, Rufous-necked Wood-rail, White-throated Magpie-Jay

April 2004

Rusty-margined Flycatcher, Striated Heron, Red-billed Tropicbird, Masked Yellowthroat, Black-headed Grosbeak, Cape May Warbler, MacGillivray's Warbler, Bullock's Oriole, Crested Eagle, Uniform Crake, Paint-billed Crake, White-rumped Sandpiper, Maroon-chested Ground-Dove, Rufous-vented Ground-Cuckoo, Tropical Mockingbird, Blue Seedeater

January 2004

Christmas Bird Count results, American Bittern, Gray Kingbird, White-eyed Vireo, Brewster's Warbler, Great Swallow-tailed Swift, Unspotted Saw-whet Owl, Maroon-chested Ground-Dove, Worldwide Ornithological Literature website

October 2003

Cory's Shearwater, Swallow-tailed Gull, Black Tern, Gray-breasted Crake, Gray Kingbird, Orange-crowned Warbler, Blue-headed Vireo, Bobolink, Lincoln's Sparrow, Peg-billed Finch, Buffy-crowned Wood-Partridge, rare raptors

July 2003

Greater Ani, Green Heron, Bat Falcon, Orange-breasted Falcon, Swallow-tailed Kite, Keel-billed Motmot, Spot-tailed Nightjar, Black-whiskered Vireo, Lincoln's Sparrow, Yellow-breasted Chat, Mouse-colored Tyrannulet, Strong-billed Woodcreeper

April 2003

Large-billed Tern, Green Heron, Golden-cheeked Warbler, Yellow-rumped Warbler, Keel-billed Motmot, Red-throated Caracara, Pheasant Cuckoo, Wattled Jacana, Tropical Mockingbird

January 2003

Christmas Bird Count results, Southern Lapwing , Short-tailed Nighthawk, Lanceolated Monklet , Sunbittern, Magnolia Warbler, Prevost's Ground-Sparrow, Tricolored Munia

October 2002

Golden-cheeked Warbler, Migrant monitoring, Southern Lapwing, Harpy Eagle, Violaceous Quail-Dove,Wedge-tailed Grass-Finch, Rusty Sparrow

July 2002

Dr. Skutch update, Veraguan Mango, Pearl Kite, Red-breasted Blackbird, Tody Motmot, Mourning Dove, Red Knot, Pinnated Bittern, Black-and-white Owl

April 2002

Harpy Eagle, American Avocet, Pacific Golden Plover, Ruff, Cave Swallow, Southern Lapwing, South Polar Skua, Maroon-chested Ground-Dove

January 2002

Southern Lapwing, White Tern, Chipping Sparrow, Black-headed Grosbeak, Ash-throated Flycatcher, Migrant warblers, hummers and more hummers

October 2001

South Polar Skua, Pomarine Jaeger, Sharpbill, Long-billed Curlew, Lovely Cotinga, Black-banded Woodcreeper, Blue-and-yellow Macaw, White-tipped Sicklebill, Bicolored Hawk, Lanceolated Monklet

July 2001

South Polar Skua, Silvery-fronted Tapaculo, Scaled Antpitta, Pearl Kite, Scarlet Macaw, Mystery hummers, White-eyed Vireo, Nashville Warbler, Masked Duck

April 2001

Crested Oropendola, Rosy Thrush-Tanager, Wattled Jacana, Brown-throated Parakeet, Lanceolated Monklet, Black-banded Woodcreeper, Lovely Cotinga, Cinnamon Teal, Silvery-throated Jay, Migrant wood-warblers, Violaceous Quail-Dove

January 2001

Crested Oropendola, Lark Sparrow, Oilbird, Double-striped Thick-knee, Pheasant Cuckoo, Y2K CBCs, Ochre-breasted Antpitta, Crested Eagle, Rufous-necked Wood-Rail

October 2000

first migrants and rare warblers, disappearing migrant shorebird habitat, Mallard (sic), Rufous-necked Wood-Rail, Scaled Antpitta, Black-and-white Owl

July 2000

Blue-tailed Hummingbird, Prairie Warbler, Tiny Hawk, Red-throated Caracara, Western Slaty-Antshrike, Red-breasted Blackbird, Clapper Rail, Swallow-tailed Gull

April 2000

Green-winged Teal, Painted Bunting, Green Ibis, Western Slaty-Antshrike, Pearl Kite, Southern Lapwing, Lanceolated Monklet