Biggy and Smally: Woodpecker Messenger Service

The smallest woodpecker in Costa Rica, the Olivaceous Piculet, is no bigger than a warbler!  This very charismatic, big-bird-in-a-small-bird’s-body is often seen tap-tap-tapping on a slender dry twig looking for bugs.  The tapping sounds the Piculet makes have given it the local name of the Telegraph Bird.

The biggest woodpecker in Costa Rica, the Pale-billed Woodpecker, (probably the model for beloved cartoon character ‘Woody Woodpecker’) is over a foot long.  Normally, the Pale-billed Woodpecker is identified by it’s robust and very loud two-note rap…’TOCK-TOCK’…but recently I discovered the actual call of the Pale-billed Woodpecker.  To my surprise the Pale-bill’s call sounds very much like one of those old electric Morse Code devices with the key!  Click on the ‘Listen’ button in the lower right corner of this eBird page.

If you’re an old Boy Scout or Girl Scout, listen carefully–maybe IT IS an actual Morse Code message coming from the Pale-billed Woodpecker.  What message might they be sending us?

(images from eBird)






Swainson’s Thrush: ‘Hello, I Must Be Going’

Go outside for a minute or two and then come back in and finish this article…go on, really.


OK, now you’re back.  There is a very good chance you saw, or more likely heard, a Swainson’s Thrush or two while you were out there.

During late March and early April, here in Coto Brus, it seems like someone has opened up a giant firehose; and from that firehose has come a mighty river of Swainson’s Thrushes (see below).

This Swainson’s Thrush visit with us will be a fairly brief one however; for the Swainson’s Thrush is a passage migrant through Costa Rica.  They have been wintering in South America and are now anxiously heading home to North America where they will build homes and raise families.

Listen for them.  You’re likely to hear their flutey, thrush-like musical trill.  Also, you may hear my favorite of their calls, which I call the ‘Dripping Faucet’ call.  Here it is.  Click on Listen (lower right) and then select the third recording from the top:

During this time of year I am always reminded of that wonderful Groucho Marx song, ‘Hello, I Must Be Going.’

Hello, I must be going
I cannot stay
I came to say
I must be going
I’m glad I came
But just the same
I must be going.


The ‘Clean-up Crew’ Gets a Cool Drink

Good citizen and San Vito Bird Club member Tom Wilkinson noticed something the other day.

A couple of his local vultures (aka: The Clean-up Crew) were walking about his property, gazing forlornly into his near empty rain barrel.  Recognizing how dry and dusty it has been lately, Tom surmised that the Crew members might be a little dry!  Keeping the countryside clean, as vultures do, probably works up quite a thirst, thought Tom.

So being a good citizen, Tom put a couple of bowls of fresh, clean, pure water out for them.  At first, noticed Tom, the Clean-up Crew members were were suspicious of the water bowls.  And being normal vultures, it’s possible they were not familiar with anything fresh, clean and pure.  But little by little they approached the water bowls; after a short while the two crew members drank the bowls dry!  Tom refilled them.

Well done Tom!  Good deeds, good fellowship and keeping a close eye on the creatures around you should be recognized and shared.

What is most amazing from this tale?  That Tom was able to recognize a ‘forlorn look’ on the face of a vulture.

SVBC members; please share your unique bird observations with us.  Click on the links below to send an email to Greg, Alison or Peter.

Greg Homer

Alison Olivieri

Peter Wendell

(photo courtesy of Tom Wilkinson)

Vultures thirsty

SVBC Bird Walk Photo Winner!

The San Vito Bird Club and Pajareros del Sur had a wonderful bird walk on Sunday, March 10th at the home of Cecilia Sansonetti.  We were pleased to escort over 40 birders!

As a new element of the bird walk, we started the first Bird Walk Photo Contest.  All people attending the walk were encouraged to submit A SINGLE photo taken during the walk.  This classic, perfectly lighted Squirrel Cuckoo photo (attached below), by Alison W. Olivieri, was selected as the first winner.

FYI: During our next and subsequent bird walks we will select two winning photos:

  • Wildlife Photo
  • People Photo

Hope you can take part.

(Squirrel Cuckoo photo courtesy of Alison Olivieri)

Sq Cu

Bird Walk Photo Challenge/Reto de Fotos en la Caminata

The San Vito Bird Club and the Pajareros del Sur have many excellent photographers, so let’s try something new on this next bird walk (Sunday, March 10th at the Sansonetti finca).

A Bird Walk Photo Challenge!  Here’s how it works:

  1. Each week, following the bird walk, we will review bird photographs taken during the walk. Photographers may offer a single photo for review.
  2. The very best photo taken during the walk will win a prize (something like a pastry from the bakery).  A panel of three non-photographers will make the selection.
  3. We will share that photo on the website!

Good luck and good shooting!


Bird Feeder & Bird Feeder Photo Winners: 2019

Congratulations to the following San Vito Bird Club members!

Judy Richardson: WINNER of the 2019 Bird Feeder Contest with 27 species!  What with the amazing bio-diversity of Judy’s beautiful property we can expect an even greater number of species in years to come.

Charles and Sarah Beeson-Jones: 2nd Place winners.  A total of 26 species for the Beeson-Jones’, including TWO hummingbird species.  FYI: Putting a hummingbird feeder on your regular feeder may be the wave of the future!

Jo Davidson: Winner of the Bird Feeder Photo Contest.  This beautiful but somewhat sloppy Speckled Tanager is our winner!  What perfect light.

Speckled eating papaya

Reminder: 2019 Bird Feeder Contest!

These are final days for the 2019 SVBC Bird Feeder Contest, so keep your feeders full and your eyes open.

The list of birds that have come to your feeder must be submitted to me…Greg Homer…no later than 8:30am, Sunday, March 3rd.  You may submit your list to me on paper or via email—

Whomever has seen the greatest number of bird species at their feeder will win!  Second most will also be a winner.  Any questionable species may be subject to review by me.  I am unbiased and am not in the contest.

Also, we have a Best Bird Feeder Photo category this year.  Please send a digital copy of your photo to me (see above) no later than midnight Friday, March 1st.  No more than one photo per contestant.

To be eligible you must be a paid-up member of the San Vito Bird Club.  Dues may be paid at the Annual Meeting.

Good luck all!

(photo courtesy of Helen LeVasseur)


The ‘Unmistakable Landmark’ Technique: Better Than “In that green tree over there.”

Birdwatching is usually best (and the most fun) when conducted as a collaborative effort.  Solo birding can be jolly good fun but birding with others is oh so much more efficient.  Two, three, four, five pairs of eyes are capable of seeing so much more than just a single pair of eyes.  But here’s the rub; what if birder #3 has very sharp eyes but is not very skilled in sharing the location of what he/she sees with his/her fellow birders?

We’ve all experienced this.

Birder #3: ‘I’ve got a Collared Forest-Falcon?’

Birder #1: ‘Where is it?’

Birder #3: ‘It’s right up in that green tree over there.’

Birders 1,2,4,5 all look up at an immense forest of ‘green trees’ and all the trees are ‘right over there’.  Next, there invariably follows a protracted and semi-comical routine of pointing, jockeying for position and further veiled descriptions of location such as:

‘It’s at 10 o’clock.’

‘It’s near those dark green leaves.’

‘See that shrub?  Go to the top of that shrub and you’ll see another shrub to the left but this one has some bare branches.  Well, from the top of the second or third highest of the bare branches you’ll see a green tree and…’

Often, by this time the Collared Forest-falcon has flown to a beach resort in Guanacaste.

And so, how can we improve in our ability to share a bird’s clandestine and often distant location to a group of fellow birders?

  1. Position your fellow birders behind you, if at all possible.
  2. Instruct them to use their eyes and not their binoculars, at first.
  3. Pick out an UNMISTAKABLE landmark as your starting point. Descriptors such as ‘over there’,  ‘green tree’, ‘dark leaves’ ‘straight trunk’ ‘thick foliage’ usually are not specific enough as a starting landmark.  This unmistakable landmark does not even need to be very close to where the bird actually is; but it must be unmistakable…unique!  In  photo #1 (below), you might select clouds as your unmistakable landmark. You might tell your colleagues, ‘See those two little lonely clouds poking their heads up between the bigger clouds?’

Photo #1

spotting 1

Once you’ve got them focused on the little clouds you can lead to the next most unmistakable landmark, and the next and the next, each one closer to the location.

Of course there are times when you’re trying to share the location of a bird at fairly close range.  The same principle applies; pick an unmistakable landmark!  In photo #2 (below) you might say; ‘See that bright red flower?  Start from that red flower and go about 3 meters to the right.’  Etc, etc.

Photo #2

spotting 2

Is this method foolproof?  Hell no.  But I do believe that using the unmistakable landmark technique as your starting point to share a bird location will give you and your fellow birders a much better chance of seeing more birds…quicker.

And don’t forget; If birding was easy, it wouldn’t be any fun.


No Bird Walk on Sunday, Feb. 24

Sorry fellow birding enthusiasts but we will not be having our regular San Vito Bird Club bird walk on Sunday, Feb. 24th.

HOWEVER…please join us the following Sunday, March 3rd for our big, big, big San Vito Bird Club Annual Meeting (at Cascata del Bosco)!

Details about the meeting coming soon!


Detectives de Aves teachers Carla Azofeifa and Paula Mesen with SVBC President Peter Wendell. Photo by Alison Olivieri