The Gone Birding Newsletter

Vol. 7, No. 4

October 2006

Migrant Reports

For the fifth consecutive year, a group of local birders has been sharing information about sightings of migrant species. Participation, percentagewise, was acceptable this year with some 15 people (out of the 40 on the mailing list) actually sending data—even though much of the participation was spotty, at best. Thanks to Andrew Walker,Daniel Martínez, and Paco Madrigal for their regular contributions.

Since the information is generated in a completely nonsystematic manner, it is quite impossible to make any statistically valid comparisons with previous years. Nonetheless, in speaking with several other local birders, it seemed as though there was a general sense that migrant activity was a bit slow these past three months.

As follows are some of the more noteworthy sightings that I was aware of:

Northern Harrier (Circus cyaneus): Seen by Robert Dean in the vicinity of Laguna del Lagarto Lodge (near the Nicaraguan border in the northern central Caribbean lowlands) on 21 October 2006.

Black-billed Cuckoo (Coccyzus erythropthalmus): On 05 October, Paco Madrigal was birding about 150 meters down the road from the entrance bridge to Hotel de Montaña Savegre, when he spotted a bird foraging in an apple orchard. It stayed quite low, usually no more than a meter off the ground, and Paco was able to take several photos. A week later, on 12 October, another bird was found at Rancho Naturalista. This individual was along the lower trail system and was seen by Herman Venegas and two guests.

Blue-headed Vireo (Vireo solitarius): Lance Barnett reported seeing two birds in mixed flocks near the Dantica lodge, above the village of San Gerardo de Dota, on 07 October.

Yellow-throated Warbler (Dendroica dominica): On 08 September, Andy Walker had “a beautiful adult at Rancho Naturalista. It was gleaning in the pine trees (and heard calling) at midheight, it then dropped low down and showed incredibly well for about 30 minutes before we had to leave. As far as I am aware this is the first Rancho record of this species.”

Then, on 23 September, Noel Ureña discovered a bird in some pines in front of his house in San Isidro de El General. It was his second sighting of the species in CR.

And on 24 September, Paco Madrigal found an individual with a mixed flock near San José de la Montaña. Likewise, it was his second occasion to see this uncommon warbler in CR.

Palm Warbler (Dendroica palmarum): On 25 October, Kevin and Steven Easley “had a western race Palm Warbler at Manzanillo (south of Cahuita), right near the soccer field. Steven got some smashing photos of it. Also there we had Magnolia Warbler (Dendroica magnolia), Common Yellowthroat (Geothlypis trichas), Veery (Catharus fuscescens), and lots of other migrants.”

Cerulean Warbler (Dendroica cerulea): On 07 September, Daniel Martínez and Ernesto Carman produced the season’s only report with two to four indivduals at Kéköldi.

MacGillivray's Warbler (Oporornis tolmiei): On 27 September, while birding near his house in San José de la Montaña, Paco Madrigal got good looks at an adult female and clearly saw the broken eye-ring as the bird perched briefly, just a meter above the ground.

Bobolink (Dolichonyx oryzivorus): On 06 October, Jim Zook found a bird in a pineapple plantation near Volcán de Buenos Aires. Interestingly, it was almost in the same place and on the same date that Jim had seen a Bobolink two years previously.

Rose-breasted Grosbeak (Pheucticus ludovicianus): On 04 August, I was quite surprised to come upon a juvenile male perched in an Erythrina tree on the grounds of the Hotel de Montaña in Monteverde. Normally, this species doesn’t begin showing up in CR until the middle of October. However, upon checking data from the previous four years of migrant tracking, I found that Luis Sandoval had seen a juvenile or a female on 12 August 2005, near Getsemani de Heredia.

A Pelagic Report from out of Herradura

On the morning of 19 August 2006, Jim Zook, Bruce Young, Adolfo “Fito” Downs, Jim Wolfe, and Paul Murgatroyd left the marina at Herradura Bay (NW of Jacó) for a two-day pelagic trip aboard the Floating Bear—a 52-ft. Beneteau sailboat skippered by Capitan John Cornwell, who was assisted by Juan López. In his report, Jim Zook mentioned that this was a more pleasurable experience than the previous pelagic trips he’d been on due to several factors: a longer vessel, a smaller (i.e., quieter and less smelly) motor, and very calm seas. Originally, the plan had been to spend the night of 19 Aug at sea; however, due to some problems with the ship’s electronics, they anchored that evening in the Quepos harbor, instead. Here’s the route they followed:

At 8:00 on 19 Aug they left Herradura Bay and cruised 32 km S; at 10:30, changed course and went SSE for 23 km; at 12:15, upon reaching a point 57.5 km WSW of Quepos, turned and navegated to Port Quepos, arriving at 16:30. At 6:40 on 20 Aug, they left Quepos and cruised 50 km SW; at 10:15, turned and headed NW for 41 km; at 13:40, at 34.5 km SSW of Herradura, began returning directly to port; however, at 14:45, they detoured NW to observe some birds in the mouth of the Gulf of Nicoya; at 15:15, at a point 21 km SW of Herradura, they returned to port, arriving at 16:30.

The following is the bird list that Jim sent. The numbers given are a sumation of the two days and are only for birds seen at sea (vs. in port).

Audubon's Shearwater (Puffinus lherminieri) – 38

unidentified gadfly petrel (Pterodroma sp.) – 1; the most likely candidate is Galapagos Petrel (P. phaeopygia).

Wilson's Storm-Petrel (Oceanites oceanicus) – 86

Leach's Storm-Petrel (Oceanodroma leucorhoa) – 30; all of the white-rumped form.

Wedge-rumped Storm-Petrel (Oceanodroma tethys) – 6

Black Storm-Petrel (Oceanodroma melania) – 5

unidentified storm-petrels (all with white rumps) – 15

Brown Booby (Sula leucogaster) – 243

Brown Pelican (Pelecanus occidentalis) – 8

Magnificent Frigatebird (Fregata magnificens) – 22

Little Blue Heron (Egretta caerulea) – 3 adults

Whimbrel (Numenius phaeopus) – 4

unidentified peeps (Calidris sp.) – 5

Red-necked Phalarope (Phalaropus lobatus) – 62

unidentified gull (Larus sp.) – 1; probably Lauging Gull (L. atricilla) in first summer plumage

Sabine's Gull (Xema sabini) – 24

Brown Noddy (Anous stolidus) – 1

Bridled Tern (Onychoprion anaethetus) – 11

Least Tern (Sternula antillarum) – 1

Black Tern (Chlidonias niger) – 41

unidentified tern (Sterna sp.) – 2

Cliff Swallow (Petrochelidon pyrrhonota) – 16

Barn Swallow (Hirundo rustica) – 5

Curiously, although several pods of dolphins were encountered, only the largest group had any seabirds with it, and then a mere two Audubon’s Shearwaters.

Most of the storm-petrels were found among the group of birds foraging at the mouth of the Gulf of Nicoya, and were observed well as the boat was able to approach them quite closely. The Sabine’s Gulls were usually found sitting on the water, sometimes in groups of up to seven, and all were adults in basic plumage or just beginning to molt into breeding plumage. Many of these gulls were in the flotsam driftlines along with phalaropes and Black and Bridled Terns.

Lovely Cotinga at Arenal

There were multiple sightings of Lovely Cotinga (Cotinga amabilis) at Arenal Observatory Lodge the last few months. The first I heard of was by Paulo Valerio, who photographed either a female or a juvenile in late July. A few days later, on 28 July 2006, Leo Chaves saw an adult and a juvenile male (“almost entirely whitish, but with turquoise feathering on the breast, wings, and back”) feeding in a fruiting tree at the edge of the garden, near the upper entrance to the Saino Trail. On 01 and 02 August, it was Paco Madrigal’s turn to see an adult male in the same tree, at 6:00 both days.

On 20 October 2006, while having breakfast at AOL with Bob and Rosemary Butt, I was approached by a guiding colleague, Marco Paris, who told me that at around 6:00 he had seen a male Lovely Cotinga in some trees below “La Casona.” Finishing our meal, we promptly headed down to the area, but an hour’s worth of watching yielded no cotingas, though fortunately the birding there was non-stop and quite entertaining.

More Motmot Mingling at Arenal

Carlos Jiménez wrote to say that he has joined the ranks of those who have witnessed a Keel-billed Motmot (Electron carinatum) in consort with a Broad-billed Motmot (E. platyrhynchum). In early September, while birding the trail at El Silencio (near Tabacón in the Arenal area), he came across both species on the same perch.

“In addition to sharing the perch, they also hunted together. On two occasions, the Broad-billed Motmot caught an insect and the Keel-billed Motmot attempted to take the prey from it.

“I can’t say that one was feeding the other, simply that they shared the same branch and feeding area.”

Mangrove Hummingbirds at Playa Venado

On 16 August 2006, while birding with Tom and Tanya Gross, we saw both a male and a female Mangrove Hummingbird (Amazilia boucardi) along the edge of the small mangrove at Playa Venado. This Guanacaste beach is a few kilometers south of Playa Junquillal, and about 20 km south of Tamarindo, where John and Maureen Woodcock have reported this species several times.

One has to wonder if this species might not also be present at other mangroves farther south on the Nicoya Peninsula.

Violet-headed Hummingbird in Santa Rosa NP

I visited Monteverde with a group of birders in early August, and as we were standing on the viewing platform below the little waterfall on the Río Trail, one of the group struck up a conversation with another birder who happened to arrive at the spot. It turned out that he was a German ornithologist who worked with the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology and had been in Costa Rica for several years studying communication systems in parrots and parakeets. His study was based in Santa Rosa NP and he was enjoying a respite from the tropical heat by visiting Monteverde. As I drew the group’s attention to a bathing Purple-throated Mountain-gem (Lampornis calolaemus) that had come to the top of the lower fall, our conversation turned towards these tiny avian wonders. The scientist (whose name I unfortunately did not get) mentioned that they have been finding Violet-headed Hummingbirds (Klais guimeti) for several years now in the evergreen forest along the park entrance road. I am unaware of any other reports for this species in the northwestern Pacific lowlands, though I did find three individuals on the Pacific slope of Rincón de la Vieja Volcano, while birding at Buena Vista Lodge (at an elevation of about 700m) on 21 November 2003.

Coincidentally, Vincent de Boer recently sent some sighting reports from his stay in Costa Rica earlier this year. Among the more interesting ones, I thought, was his mention of having seen a female Violet-headed Hummingbird along the road above Hotel Villa Lapas, on 17 March 2006. The exact spot was by the big lefthand curve, with a pullout and a viewpoint on the right. The elevation is nearly 500m at the site.

Slate-throated Redstart at El Rodeo

On 21 August 2006, Mathias Kümmerlen was birding at Quebrada Honda, which is along the entrance road from Ciudad Colón to El Rodeo Forest Reserve. He was hoping to find some early migrants, but instead encounterd a pair of Slate-throated Redstarts (Myioborus miniatus). This sighting represents what is apparently the first record for this species in the general El Rodeo area.

Other Interesting Sightings

Kevin Easley sent news of some noteworthy recent sightings. In the afternoon of 08 August 2006, he had two male Red-breasted Blackbirds (Sturnella militaris) along the entrance road to Casa Turire, near Turrialba. The birds were calling, too. Kevin wrote, “These were initially found by Freddie Madrigal. According to my records, these represent the 2nd and 3rd records for this area (I had a male near Platanillo a few years back). Then five minutes later, we saw a Tropical Mockingbird (Mimus gilvus), also at Casa Turire. This bird was initially found by Ernesto Carman just a few days prior and was the first record for the area. Green Shrike-Vireo (Vireolanius pulchellus), in a flock on the Mine Road near Platanillo, is worthy of mentioning as well as it is seldom reported from there—it was new for the area for both Ernesto and myself.”

In mid-October, Kevin was in Caño Negro and during a boat ride through the lagoons had “a stunning Pinnated Bittern” (Botaurus pinnatus). Earlier in that same trip, though, they had already seen two Pinnated Bitterns and a Least Bittern (Ixobrychus exilis) at the El Tigre field, southeast of Puerto Viejo de Sarapiquí.

I’m pleased to report that as of 21 October, there was still no sign of change at the El Tigre field. Rumor has it that the landowners are planning to convert it to a pineapple plantation—as they have already done with higher ground surrounding the low, marshy area.

Christmas Bird Counts Coming Up Soon

Here are the dates and contact information for the various CBC activities that traditionally take place in Costa Rica—at least as much as I’ve been able to find out. All interested birders are welcome to participate. Hope to see you out there!

Carara: 03/12/06 Randall Ortega 643-1983 or 889-8815

Aerial Tram: 14/12/06 Daniel Torres 711-0018

Cartago: 17/12/06 Julio Sánchez

Grecia: ?????

Monteverde: ?????

La Selva: 30/12/06 Rodolfo Alvarado 766-6565 ext 139

Fila Costera: 03/01/07 Noel Ureña 771-9686 or 354-9074

Mystery Bird Photo Quiz

Congratulations to Bill Tice and Paco Madrigal, who correctly identified the mystery bird from the previous edition of the GBN.

This fledgling Resplendent Quetzal (Pharomachrus mocinno) was photographed at Hotel de Montaña Savegre on 01 June 2006 and just goes to show that these birds aren’t born beautiful. I waited for a while, hoping to get a photo of an adult feeding the juvenile, but had to move on before that ever happened. So, for those doubters, the best I can off is this alternate image, which does show a hint of the green plumage on the upper back.

Normally, at this point in the newsletter I would be introducing a new mystery photo for you to ponder. However, I have decided that this will be the final edition of the Gone Birding Newsletter. Instead of uploading a quarterly bulletin with news of rare bird sightings and other interesting ornithological news pertinent to Costa Rica, I hope to soon add a page to the website that will be similar to theXenornis website, maintained by Darién Montañez, for rare bird sightings in Panama. This will have the advantage of conveying news much more quickly, although it does mean that the reader will have to remember to check the site for news since there will be no more email messages announcing new editions. I trust that the new format will actually be an improved service to everyone interested in Costa Rican birding news and look forward to your active participation!

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


[If you’re looking for information about a specific species, click on the link above and use the Google “Search This Site” feature to find all relevant references.]


July 2006

Cocos Island trip report, Swallow-tailed Gull, American Pipit, Mottled Petrel, Red-footed Booby, Keel-billed x Broad-billed Motmot, Brown-chested Martin, White-crowned Pigeon, Double-striped Thick-knee, Black-cowled Oriole, Striped Woodhaunter, Nashville Warbler

April 2006

Rufous-vented Ground-Cuckoo, Solitary Eagle (not), Crested Eagle, Harpy Eagle, Black-and-white Hawk-Eagle, Slate-colored Seedeater, Plain-colored Tanager, Black-cowled Oriole, Brown Noddy, Red-footed Booby, Black-throated Blue Warbler, Mangrove Hummingbird, Yellow-breasted Crake, Rusty-margined Flycatcher

January 2006

CBC reports, Tropical Mockingbird, Keel-billed Motmot, Scaled Pigeon, Crested Eagle, Yellow-margined Flycatcher, Long-billed Curlew, Cave Swallow, Prairie Warbler

October 2005

Shiny Cowbird, Pale-breasted Spinetail, White-winged Dove, Crested Eagle, Solitary Eagle, White-tailed Hawk, Ocellated Poorwill (not), Tricolored Munia, Rusty Sparrow, Buff-breasted Sandpipier, Golden-cheeked Warbler, albino hummer, Rosy Thrush-Tanager

July 2005

American Pipit, Cocos trip report, Cedar Waxwing, Black-throated Blue Warbler, Yellow-breasted Chat, Red-throated Caracara, Black-chested Jay

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