Bird Walks and Birding During the Coronavirus Situation

Social distancing, we are told, is vital to ‘flattening the curve’ of the coronavirus, or slowing down the spread.  This means we should all avoid crowds and limit physical contact with our fellow citizens. The San Vito Bird Club respects and agrees with this philosophy.

However we also believe that getting out of the house, breathing fresh air and interacting with nature is important to our health, both mental and physical.  

What better way, what better time than right now, during these days of worry and stress, to do a bit of bird watching?  Could this activity not be an antidote to some of our fears?

The following quote is from New York state’s Department of Environmental Conservation:

‘During the current COVID-19 public health crisis, getting outdoors and connecting with nature is a way to help maintain our mental and physical health.

Scientific studies show that time outside in nature, especially among trees, significantly reduces stress and anxiety, lowers blood pressure, improves mood, energy, and sleep, and boosts the immune system.’

This does not mean we are suggesting a pre-Coronavirus bird walk!  Those walks…always with much hugging, hand shaking and good fellowship…must be suspended for the time being.  BUT THEY WILL BE BACK! Oh yes, they will be back. For now we must keep some distance from each other. Let’s flatten that curve and keep this thing in check.

When the viral world is back to normal, we will announce the resumption of our hugging, hand shaking, good fellowship, constantly talking to each other when you should be watching birds…San Vito Bird Club Bird Walks!  Could be as early as in the next month or two.

So until that time, get out there and do some walking and birding; just you or just you and your loved ones/special ones.  

Where to go?

First of all, the best place to go birding is…where you are.  In Coto Brus there simply are no bad places to go birding. Hell, there are Gray-breasted Martins and House Sparrows at the Rio Java gas station.  So explore your own territory. You’ll be surprised what you’ll see and hear.

The second best place to go birding is…where you AREN’T.  Here are three superb and fairly unfrequented birding spots around San Vito.

  1. The Old Road/Magic Road: This spot has become increasingly popular with birders and may soon become a ‘destination site’.  It’s open and can be dusty but you should see many bird species on both sides of the road. Be sure to listen as well as watch.  Now is a great time to learn some of our local bird songs. This road is between the closed brown gate (closest to San Vito) of El Tangaral and the perfectly maintained light blue house.  Bring plenty of water and good shoes (a bit up-and-downy).
  2. The Sansonetti Road: We all know the cut-in-half car advertising La Chiminea, right?  It’s just past Finca Cantaros. That road goes up over the hill and comes out by the San Vito International Airport.  Check out the many flowering Inga trees along the road; they have white ‘floofy’ flowers. ‘Floofy’ is an Alison word.
  3. The Tres Rios Road: On the main road at the Neilly end of the San Vito Hospital is a mini-super.  Turn down that unpaved road and keep going down. When you come to a nice, shady, riverside spot…park your car and go birding.  Look for the white Vulture up on the hillside. Spend some time looking into the flowering Porro trees. See the Oropendola nests in one of them.

FYI: The best times to go birding are dawn and dusk.  We suggest the hours of 6am to 9:30am or 4:00pm to 6:00pm.

So for now, get out there!  And stay healthy, both menatlly and physically.

Contact Greg Homer with your birding question/concerns:

(photo courtesy of Helen LeVasseur)

Can You Identify Birds from Just a Silhouette?

In a perfect world every bird would pose on a bare branch in the full sun. That bare branch would always be real close to you and to your camera. That bird would slowly turn, showing off all aspects of its plumage and design, always while in full sun. That bird on the bare branch would patiently remain on that branch while you called over all twelve of your birding chums. As all of your loudly talking birding chums fumbled up their binoculars, scopes and cameras that bird would continue to pose.

Ah, but that is not our world.

In our birding world, the scenario described above has a rare-to-never occurrence rate. Birds are often secretive and private. Branches, leaves and the sun seem to almost have a perverse sense of humor when it comes to birding. Ergo, we must be prepared to meet these challenges head on and to identify birds under imperfect conditions. One of those imperfect conditions? Bad lighting. I refer to bird watching when the lighting is either so bright or so low that all you can see is a SILHOUETTE image.

Many bird guides, such as Cornell University’s Merlin Bird ID, offer silhouette images of the major categories of birds. Study these bird silhouettes.

San Vito Bird Club member Tom Wilkinson recently sent me a wonderful photo (see below). It is not actually a silhouette but a shadow! See if you can identify what group this bird belongs to and maybe even what species it is. Take a moment if necessary; and then scroll down to see a photo of the actual bird.

Here is the actual bird; living up in the roof of Tom’s house!

A Tropical Screech Owl! Listen to the Tropical Screech Owl by clicking the link below. The call is quite common at night. Click the green Listen button in the lower right of the screen to hear it.

Perhaps you have some silhouette or shadowy photos of birds? Send them to me and we’ll get them posted on this website and maybe have some fun.

And one other thing. At the start of this article I mentioned ‘…in a perfect world…’. Upon reflection, the world we live in is already a perfect world, even with its many flaws and frustrations.

Send your silhouette photos to:


Bird Feeder Contest Winners! 2020

Congratulations to the following San Vito Bird Club members; winners of our Bird Feeder Contest-2020.

Category #1: Most bird species at a single location feeder—Charles and Sara Beeson-Jones (see below)! The Beeson-Joneses lured 30 different species of birds to their feeder (located at Michael and Alison Olivieri’s rental house).

(photos courtesy of Helen LeVasseur)

Category #2: Best Bird Feeder Photo

The great Julie Gerard-Woolley won with this wonderful multi-Tanager feeder photo.

Category #3: Best Feeder Photo of an Unusual Bird Species—Jo Davidson with this spectacular photo of a Red-legged Honeycreeper on a papaya.

Many thanks to all who participated.

Special Bird Walk: La Troja! Sunday, March 8

Please see the attached information below. Our friend and neighbor, Jose Luis, owner of Restaurante La Troja in Limoncito is having a bird walk this coming Sunday, March 8th at 9:00am.

The trails of La Troja are truly special. The La Troja habitat, a bit drier than San Vito should offer several bird species rarely seen up here.

La Troja is about a 20 minute drive from downtown San Vito. Please try to carpool.

There will be no San Vito Bird Club walk on that day.

Let’s Have a Bird Walk: Sunday, Feb. 23

Please join the San Vito Bird Club for our regular Bird Walk, this coming Sunday, Feb. 23rd at 7:30 am. The walk begins at the Recepcion office of the Wilson Botanical Garden (Las Cruces) and will conclude up at the Comedor, where we can chat, have coffee and good fellowship.

Binoculars and field guides available as needed. Hope to see you there!

Streaked Saltator: photo courtesy of Alison Olivieri

SVBC Annual Meeting: Sunday, March 1st

All San Vito Bird Club members and future members.  Please join us for our 2020 Annual Meeting on Sunday, March 1st at Cascada del Bosco.  

Our Annual Meeting is traditionally a time for good fellowship, good food and lots of fun. Plus, this is THE PERFECT OPPORTUNITY TO PAY YOUR 2020 SVBC DUES

  • Resident Individual for $25
  • Resident Family for $50
  • International Individual for $20
  • International Family for $40

Additional donations to our education program Detectives de Aves, are also welcome and encouraged.

Meeting Agenda:
8:30-8:45—Meet and greet at Cascada del Bosco, with coffee/tea.  
8:45-9:00—Collection of membership dues and submission of bird feeder contest entries.
9:00-9:30—Welcome, 2019 Year in Review and What is Ahead: Peter Wendell.
9:30-9:35—Treasurer’s Report: Bley Fernandez
9:35-9:45—Taxonomy Update: Jo Davidson
9:45-9:50—Winners of Bird Feeder Contest: Greg Homer
9:50-10:30—Keynote Speaker
10:30-10:45: Final comments, art exhibit silent auction rules: Peter Wendell
10:45-12noon: Brunch is served.  c7,000 per person.

Hope you can join us!

Photo courtesy of Alison Olivieri

Bird Feeder Contest-2020!

It’s February; time for our annual SVBC Bird Feeder Contest.
Here are the ridiculously simple rules:
1. From Feb. 1-29 keep track of the number of bird species that land on or below your bird feeder.  Please limit your feeder viewing to a single location; don’t use one feeder here and one WAY over there.
2. Take your best bird feeder photo.
3. Take a picture of the most unusual bird species on your feeder.

THREE prizes will be awarded:

  • The greatest number of species.
  • The best feeder photo.
  • The most unusual feeder species photo.

To be eligible for a prize you must bring your list and/or photo to our SVBC Annual Meeting on Sunday, March 1, 2020…NO LATER THAN 8:30AM.  Also, you must have paid your 2020 membership dues!  Annual Meeting announcements will be coming soon.
Good luck.

Photo courtesy of Jo Davidson

Bird Walk Sunday!

Please join Greg Homer and the San Vito Bird Club for our next bird walk.

Sunday, Jan. 26 at the Wilson Botanical Garden (Las Cruces). Meet at Recepcion at 7:30am. Binoculars available as needed.

Who knows? We might spot the SVBC ‘logo bird’; the Turquoise Cotinga! It was spotted nearby very recently. Hope you can join us.

Justa Birds?

Birders can be pretty strange people. 

(That opening sentence may be tied for ‘Most-Obvious-Statement-Ever-Made’.)

But a couple of weeks ago during the height of our Rufous-crested Coquette-mania when we were all standing along the Pintada road peering up into the Inga flowers, I actually heard someone say, ‘Ah, it’s justa White-crested Coquette.’

Prior to this Rufous-crested Coquette sighting, anyone who got a good look at a White-crested thought themselves to be highly blessed and fortunate!  So how did the White-crested Coquette descend into being a ‘justa’ bird?

I can answer that question in one word: human nature.

We are most enthralled by that which is new.  The newest iPhone that includes a digital cup-holder, we must have it.  The newest food trend where the food must be cooked underneath a magic pyramid, we must eat it.  And in case of birders, the newest bird to show up…we must see it.

I’m not being critical (except for that magic pyramid thing) but I’ve never liked calling any bird, no matter how common and plain, to be a ‘justa’ bird.  Justa Clay-colored Thrush…justa Chestnut-sided Warbler…justa Black Vulture? Hell, when I used to take people birding in north Queensland, Australia the first time they saw a Rainbow Lorikeet (see below) their heads would practically explode with glee.  But after a few weeks of seeing these same Rainbow Lorikeets, as common as city pigeons, they too became justa birds.

Ah, justa flock of Rainbow Lorikeets.’  Crikey.

I know…’human nature’ is two words.

Answer to Sept. 11 Quiz Bird

Congratulations to the following SVBC members for correctly identifying our Quiz Bird for Sept 11, 2019 as, the Costa Rican Brush Finch:

Julie Wooley–Randall Jimenez–Christopher Stamp–Jean-Phillippe Thelliez

The Costa Rican Brush Finch (Arremon costaricensis) is primarily a secretive ground dwelling or dense understory bird. Similar Coto Brus birds: Black-stripped Sparrow, Orange-billed Sparrow.

What visual clues did our Quiz Bird photo offer to ensure a proper ID?

All white throat.

Thick black mask (only partially seen in quiz photo).

Greenish back.

Thank you all for participating. Complete photo of the Costa Rican Brush Finch shown below; courtesy of Gail-Hewson Hull.