Two of the Country’s Five Jays Have Hit Our Patch!

Brown Jay, photo by Jo Davidson.

Suddenly we have two species of jays to be pursued in San Vito: the garrulous Brown Jay and the far more flamboyant Black-chested Jay.

Brown Jays have been with us for some time now – not in great numbers as in the rest of the country but every so often one or two pop up, giving their “piyah, piyah” call. This usually brings us up short and, as we struggle to place it, this unmistakeable fellow glides into view.  Traveling in “Boisterous parties” is how they are described in the second edition of The Birds of Costa Rica by Garrigues and Dean.

Black-chested Jay. Photo by Pepe Castiblanco.

Meanwhile, Black-chested Jays are far less common with a range formerly restricted to southern Caribbean lowlands. They have been seen sporadically over time in and around Coto Brus; for example near the Panama border at Canas Gordas.  In contrast to their brown cousins, they are described as “. . . a bit more furtive.” But now we have a small flock up in Concepcion, above the Wilson Botanical Garden/Las Cruces, that can often be seen in early morning near the open-on-weekends restaurant Los Jilgueros. In fact, Sr. Gamboa, the owner, is quite attuned to these handsome birds and can often point a hopeful birder in the right direction.

Jays fascinate us for many reasons. They are loud and have a big presence — when you are near a jay you know it. They have personalities with definite likes and dislikes, complex social systems, tight family bonds and some species are good mimics. They’re smart and can solve problems posed by researchers like their fellow corvids, crows and ravens. Often Costa Rican birders who visit the United States come back with the North American Blue Jay at the top of their Favorite Bird list.

Bird Walk Tomorrow: Sunday, October 27!

Northern Waterthrush: a migrant to watch for! Photo by Gail Hull

Please join us for a free Bird Walk at the Wilson Botanical Garden tomorrow morning, October 27, at 7:30 a.m.

As usual, we will meet at the Reception Building and have binoculars and bird guides to share.

Many migrants have arrived in the past several weeks so we will look for them as well as whatever other beauties we can find.

Look forward to seeing you there!

 

Welcome White-winged Doves!

We have been waiting for quite some time for these angelic-looking birds to show up in our beloved southern zone and it appears our vigil might be over.

White-winged Doves. Photo by Jim Zook

First, a pair was spotted in September near La Union de Sabalito by Jim Zook who was on the job doing bird counts for Stanford University. Shortly thereafter, one was found by Randall Jiménez Borbón, a Pajarero Del Sur member and Detectives de Aves teacher, in his garden in Linda Vista just south of San Vito on the road to Ciudad Neily.

In the Stiles and Skutch Guide to the Birds of Costa Rica (published in 1989), they were considered a ‘. . . locally abundant permanent resident in dry Pacific NW, south to Jaco.’ In more recent times, they are described as ‘. . . common resident in northern Pacific and across the Central Valley . . . ‘ by Garrigues and Dean in the second edition of The Birds of Costa Rica. You can see the trajectory; it was just a matter of time.

They are pretty easy to see if you are expecting them: Garrigues describes them as “. . . commensal with humans. . . ” and goes on to say they favor open areas and are often seen feeding along roadsides. They look a lot like Mourning Doves except for the white band down the length of the wing – this is easily seen at rest and a lovely display in flight. Further, Mourning Doves have long, tapered tails and black spots on their wings, both of which are lacking in the Whities.

From November to May, our resident populations are joined by migrants from the southwestern US. The entire range goes from Arizona, New Mexico and Texas in the US; throughout Mexico and down through Central America to western Panama, as well as throughout the Caribbean islands.

Breeding season is January to March, so we will try to keep an eye on the Sabalito pair. And, meanwhile, keep a sharp eye out as they may turn up at your house any day now!

October Big Day: Join Us in the Field on Saturday the 19th!

How to participate

  • Get an eBird account: eBird is a worldwide bird checklist program used by millions of birders. It’s what allows us to compile everyone’s sightings into a single massive October Big Day list—while at the same time collecting the data for scientists to use to better understand birds. Sign up here. It’s 100% free.
  • Watch birds on 19 October: It’s that simple. You don’t need to be a bird expert, or go out all day long. Even 10 minutes in your backyard will help. October Big Day runs from midnight to midnight in your local time zone. You can report birds from anywhere in the world.
  • Enter what you see and hear on eBird: You can enter your sightings via our website or—even easier—download the free eBird Mobile app. You can enter and submit lists while you’re still out birding, and the app will even keep track of how far you’ve walked, so you can focus on watching birds. While you’re downloading free apps, try out the Cornell Lab’s Merlin Bird ID app for help with identification. Please enter sightings before 23 October to be included in our initial results announcement.
  • Watch the sightings roll in: During the day, keep an eye on how the lists are growing in different parts of the world. Follow along with sightings from more than 150 countries. Stats will be updated in real-time on our October Big Day page.

An Exquisite Visitor

Stop the presses! Male Rufous-crested Coquette debuts in San Vito. Photo by Pepe Castiblanco.

For several weeks in September, excitement ruled the birding world of San Vito as a male Rufous-crested Coquette was found feeding at an Inga tree on the road to a nearby neighborhood called Piedra Pintada. It was a THRILLING find — a new species for CR!

This captivating, tiny bird was a source of delight and fascination for the many birders who came running to see it, along with unsuspecting motorists puzzling over the crowd that suddenly appeared daily at 5:30 am clamoring out of cars and off motorcycles with telescopes, tripods, binoculars and cameras.

Look at this flare!

The RCCO has a short history here. It was reported in 2016 and again in 2018 at Rancho Naturalista in Turrialba. In the second edition of The Birds of Costa Rica by Richard Garrigues and Robert Dean it is listed in the back under ‘Rarities’. Historically, it is included in A Guide to the Birds of Costa Rica by Gary Stiles and Alexander Skutch, published in 1989, that cites four male specimens taken near San Jose in 1892 and 1906. It can be found in six other countries: Panama, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and Bolivia.

What about the tail?

Considered ‘uncommon’ where it occurs, it zooms around like a large bee. It has two ‘country cousins’ that share the same status of ‘uncommon’: the White-crested Coquette and the Black-crested Coquette. ‘Whitey’ is endemic to southern CR and western Panama so we are often hosting birders who hope to see it at the Wilson Botanical Garden. ‘Blacky’ can be found in the Caribbean foothills —  Arenal Volcano National Park is a good place to look — and is likewise beelike and difficult to find.

The lesson here is that you never know! It could easily appear in your garden on one of our beautiful flowering trees – Corals and Mayos will start flowering soon – and roadsides and gardens have hedgerows of Rabo de Gato (Stachytarpheta), favored by many species of hummingbirds.

Can’t have too many photos of this wonder so here is just one more.

A special thank you to Pepe Castiblanco, co-owner of Casa Botania Lodge, for these photos.

Please read this article about the decline of bird populations in the Western Hemisphere

Here is a link to the study that many of us, professionals and amateurs alike, are thinking about today. Please take a moment to actually read the study — and not just the headline. It is a dire message we must consider as we go forward with our lives here on earth.

Scarlet Tanager, a migrant from North America. Photo by Jo Davidson.

Read the study here by clicking here. 

You can read the ‘summary’ or the entire article if you want more detail. As many have said, “There is no Planet B”! 

We would like to hear your comments — and how we can work together, going forward, to stem this frightening trend.

Rose-breasted Grosbeak, another migrant from North America. Photo by Gail Hull.

 

The Children’s Forest of Coto Brus, Part 3

The Musical Arts of ‘Pest Network’

Pest Network performing as ‘Pajaros de Bobos’. Photo by Michael Olivieri

A big surprise was waiting at the end of each future forest tree planting day at Finca Cantaros for the Detectives de Aves students, as ‘Pajaros de Bobos’ popped out of the woods to sing and dance, as well as play percussion, guitar and recorder!

Integrating the arts with environmental and sustainability education is an idea that has taken hold over the past several decades and was in full ‘swing’ here recently, grabbing some gleeful attention from our student reforesters!

Sabalito students enjoy the performance organized by Carla Azofeifa in red at rear. Photo by Alison Olivieri

As Arts-in-Residency participants at the local Jaguar Luna Arts Collective in Copabuena, Sean Smith and Félix Prater entertained the students with great verve, color and flair.

As most SVBC members know well, Lesson’s Motmots “whoot” and “whoot” in gardens and forests throughout the country so these larger-than-life Bobos’ repeated multi-syllabic refrains, “Escucha! Escucha! El ritmo! El ritmo!” reverberated in our ears in quite a similarly tuneful way.

Sean? Or Felix? Thank you for your part of this exciting project. Photo by Michael Olivieri

We want to extend huge thanks to Sean and Félix for bringing each of the Childen’s Forest Tree Planting days to such exciting finales with their invigorating and unexpected performances.

 

The Children’s Forest of Coto Brus, Part 2

Tree Sources

The first 50 trees for this future forest were donated by Finca Las Alturas de Coton. The tree species include roble (tropical oak), amarillon (a hardwood), aguacatillo (wild avocado) and inga (pollinator attractor). You can watch a short video about Las Alturas, narrated by the manager Fernando Castañeda, by clicking here.

Rod de Sousa at Las Cruces

The OTS Las Cruces Biological Station’s Native Tree Nursery, started and managed by Rodrigo de Sousa, contributed more trees and Rod helped with placement and reforestation expertise.

Maria Rosa Rodriguez Rodriguez also provided trees for the new forest. She has a highly regarded booth at the local Feria de Agriculturas on Saturday mornings at the Campo Ferial de San Vito from 7 am to noon. Many SVBC members consult with Dona Maria for flowering plants, shrubs and trees for their gardens.

More Collaborators

LSAMP Las Cruces 2019

A university student group from the OTS Las Cruces Biological Station’s program called the Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation (LSAMP) Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) came to observe the program in action as well as help plant trees.

Coordinator Scott Walter.

The group’s Coordinator Scott Walter is a longtime OTS staff member and SVBC supporter.

All in, this is a great project with volunteers spanning generations from the 5th grade to senior citizens: SVBC-ers share the same curiosity, fascination and reverence for wildlife and natural history. From now on, ‘habitat restoration’ is our middle name.

The Children’s Forest of Coto Brus, Part 1

Dr. Lilly Briggs is up to something very wild in her new digs at Finca Cantaros: she’s working to create The Children’s Forest of Coto Brus — or, perhaps a little more melodically speaking, El Bosque de los Ninos de Coto Brus.

We talk endlessly about our Detectives de Aves environmental education program from the Cornell University Laboratory of Ornithology. In fact, Lilly is one of the co-authors of this curriculum, Lesson 9 of which is a Community Project.

This Flows So Well

In the first two weeks of July, students from six participating schools chose to plant trees as their Community Project — so they, and we, are part of the reforestation effort that will ultimately create The Children’s Forest.

Alexandrina is all smiles with her ‘personal’ part of the future forest. Photo by Peter Wendell.

The staked out young trees have been GPS-ed by SVBC President Peter Wendell and every student was photographed with his/her planting. Lilly is encouraging them to come back whenever possible to check on the tree’s growth and — one day — to bring their children and grandchildren to see their trees in the future mature forest.

Each school heard a talk on the history of Finca Cantaros, given by former owner and reforestation leader Gail Hewson Hull, followed by a discussion of the importance of trees for healthy environments and habitats, and, lastly, a brief demonstration of tree planting techniques.

Escuela Copal from Concepcion; Director Jairo Murillo accompanied his students. Photo by Peter Wendell.

The students fanned out in the pasture directly east of F. Cantaros to find their own personal sapling that they then planted with shared shovels, big smiles and great vigor!

As of the end of July 2019, 110 trees were planted by an equal number of students.

To date, participating schools include Escuelas Santa Rita, San Marcos near Sereno, Copal in Concepcion, Los Angeles, Linda Vista and Gonzalo Acuña in Sabalito. We will update this list as the forest grows!

Hello and Goodbye: Please Welcome Dr. Lilly Briggs!

Most of our readers are familiar with the beautiful Finca Cantaros, a public center of activity in San Vito that until recently was owned and operated by Gail Hewson Hull and Harry Hull. This magical place has hosted many of our bird walks, research projects by international scientists, educational opportunities and other events that SVBC-ers cherish and, yes, we all cried at the Hull’s Farewell Party.

In her element. Photo by Michael Olivieri

But please join us in welcoming the new owner of Cantaros, Dr. Lilly Briggs from the Cornell University Laboratory of Ornithology. With Jennifer Fee, of the Laboratory of Ornithology Education Department, Lilly is the co-author of the BirdSleuth-International (aka Detectives de Aves) curriculum with which SVBC members work daily and happily!

After earning her PhD in 2016 at the Department of Natural Resources at Cornell, Lilly now works as a Postdoctoral Associate in Education and Citizen Science Programs. To learn more about Lilly’s career and see her publication list, visit this page.

Their legacy lives on in San Vito; we send every good wish to the Hulls.

‘Goodbyes’ are hard — sob, sniff — we miss the Hulls and wish them well in their new desert habitat in New Mexico.

‘Hellos’ are fun — whoo hoo! — please join us in a warm welcome and a huge hello to Lilly!