Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Costa Rica Blitz Blogging: Of Swallows, Seedeaters, and Getting Birds at Gamba

Time is running out...the blog window is closing. January is not a month to be blogging about birding in Costa Rica, as I will be very busy. With a great...many...things.

We left off in the tranquilo town of Golfito, where I picked up some absolutely debilitating food poisoning. It was easily the worst I've ever had. This was, predictably, immediately after I proudly declared that I would not get poisoned on this trip....and thus the puke train commenced later that night. A couple days later I thought it was Dengue Fever, had all the right symptoms, but it faded a bit too quickly for Dengue. If I got it where I think I did, the food was actually pretty good. Oh well, at least I picked it up near the end of the trip. Anyways, as popular as it is for birders to publicize their health problems, we should be talking about birding.

Dipper Dan and I weren't really planning on birding along Golfito Bay but we got quite a few trip birds on the mudflats...this sort of habitat isn't exactly widespread in the country, so it was refreshing to get some terns and shorebirds to work with. Of course, it was hell of scenic as well.

A little flock of Gray-breasted Martins were roosting under the roof of a dock. They put the CONFIDING in CONFIDING. It's always bizarre, almost surreal, to see a recent lifer so close-up, although it left my face quite intact.

This martin was crushed with a point-and-shoot. Remember those? Cute little bugger.

After Golfito we did some roadside birding south of Gamba. It was hot as fuck, but the birding was quality. As a great birder once said, "Middle of day is best for make good birding". This is true.

Great Kiskadees are common and widespread in Costa Rica, but thankfully they are not as painfully abundant as Social Flycatchers. It's hard to like Social Flycatchers after a while, because 99% of the time you look at them you are only doing so because you are hoping they are something else.

After the mediocre morning of birding, shit really started to pick up. Lifers began to appear again...Plain Wren, Blue Ground-Dove, and this insidious, little junco-looking bastard, a Yellow-bellied Seedeater.

They really do have yellow bellies, and we got to see quite a few of them. You know, one of the toughest things about blogging this Costa Rica trip is that I don't know jack shit about many of these birds, so it's hard to give them a lot of background. What do I know about Yellow-bellied Seedeaters? They look like juncos and Tricolored Munias, they like fields, and I think I like them. That's about it. We only saw them at this one spot, so there's not much more I can fill in. It's a sad state of affairs. Sorry....I have brought much dishonor to me and my family.

I'm a little more familiar with White-collared Seedeaters; this is one of those.

Oddly similar to a male Rose-breasted Grosbeak from this angle, with a less flashy breast patch of course. There are hella different subspecies of White-collared Seedeater, and the birds in Costa Rica look very different from what I've seen in eastern Mexico.

Now this...this is a bird. This a bird we know...yet it is almost a total stranger. Even those who haven't yet birded out of the country can recognize such a bland creature, for it is a rough-winged swallow. However, it might look a bit different to you...perhaps you are thinking, "Did Sibley just miss on this one?"

No, Sibley didn't miss on this one. This isn't just any rough-winged swallow...it's a Southern Rough-winged Swallow. Yes, there really is a counterpart to our familiar yet unloved Northern Rough-winged Swallow, which is nobody's favorite swallow, let alone favorite bird. Note the bright, contrasty rump and the rusty throat that make this an easy ID.

This is a fucking woodpecker! We saw an acceptable number of these tiny Olivaceous Piculets while in the country, but they were a serious pain to photograph. This was the best I could manage. Awesome birds, one of the many that struck a nerve with me.

Woodcreepers. You know I like woodcreepers, but when blogging about them all I want to talk about is how bloody hard they are to identify, which you likely know all about already because I keep telling you that over and over again. I had to break out the field guide just for posting this photo; I reckon this is a Cocoa Woodcreeper with its big, straight bill, spotted crown, standard underparts, etc.

There hasn't been a great deal of color in this post, so here is a poignant Yellow-crowned Euphonia for your trouble. Speaking of troubling birds, learning how to sort female euphonias was a major chore, so be ready for that group when you head south.

Fuck...you guys, I think I only have one Costa Rica post left. Thanks for staying with me on this trip...for all these years. It might be a while until the next (final!) CR post though, for there will be other birds to blog.


  1. Northern Rough-winged is _my_ favorite swallow.
    Not so showy in colors and avoiding the crowds the Banks like.
    I feel it's a kindred spirit.