Bird Walk This Sunday! / ¡Caminata para ver aves el próximo domingo!

I hope every had a great weekend! We are still planning to have our first public bird walk for a long time this Sunday at the La Reserva Biológica de Sabalito. In order to make sure that everyone remains well, we will be following these protocols:

  1. Everyone will need to have a mask.
  2. Each group of birders will be limited to 10 plus a guide. We can have more than one group.
  3. Handwashing/alcohol will be required on arrival and departure.
  4. Everyone who wishes to attend must let us know before hand by filling out this FORM, or going to the FaceBook of the Reserva and following the instructions.
  5. This time there will not be an opportunity to socialize and drink coffee after the walk, but we hope that changes soon.

Remember that the walk is free, and that binoculars will be available. However, we ask that a voluntary contribution to the Reserva of at least 1 mil be made for each parked car. I hope to see you there!

Here is a map to the entrance of the Reserva / Aquí es la ubicación de la Reserva:

Espero que todas disfrutaran de un fin de semana excelente. Tendremos nuestra primera caminata para ver aves abierta al público en mucho tiempo el próximo domingo 28 de febrero en la Reserva Biológica de Sabalito. Para mantener todas saludables, debemos de cumplir los protocolos siguientes:

  1. Todas las personas deben de utilizar la mascarilla.
  2. Cada grupo de pajareros es limitado a 10 personas y la guía. Podremos acomodar más que un grupo.
  3. El lavado de las manos y/o alcohol es requisito al llegar y salir.
  4. Cada persona que quisiera asistir tiene que llenar este FORMULARIO o ver el FaceBook de la Reserva y sigue las instrucciones.
  5. Después de la caminata no podríamos tomar café y chistear, pero ojalá que se pueda en el futuro cercano.

La caminata es gratis y binoculares están disponibles para prestar. Sin embargo pedimos que para carro que viene se hace una donación voluntaria de 1 mil a la Reserva.

¡Espero verlas todas el domingo!

Bird Walk on Sunday the 28th!

We will be having a bird walk on Sunday the 28th of February at 7 AM at the beautiful Reserva Biológica de Sabalito. There will be guides, binoculars and good company, or so we hope! I will be posting more details next week, but I wanted to announce it today so that you all can mark it on your calendars. We currently have no limit on the number of attendees, but we will be limiting the number of people per guide to 10, and we ask that everyone who intends to come fill out this form. People who don’t fill out the form in advance won’t be able to participate.

More next week, including maps, etc. I hope you all are as excited as I am!

Hay más información en español en el Facebook de la reserva aquí.

Where We Bird: Las Pangas

Rice is nice. Rice fields are also an AB-SO-LUTE-LY fantastic habitat in which to observe and study birds.

When I’m not here in San Vito I also live near California’s Sacramento Valley, which is also a wonderful rice field/bird observing destination; home to hundreds of thousands of migrating wildfowl as they move from Canada and the Arctic down the Pacific Flyway.

Sandhill Cranes: photo courtesy of Chico Enterprise-Record

We are fortunate to have the rice fields of Las Pangas very near to us in San Vito (see directions below). A tour of Las Pangas has become a vital destination for birders who live in or visit the southern zone. As with the northern rice field habitat, Las Pangas hosts thousands upon thousands of migrating ducks and other shorebirds that are seldom otherwise seen. Just this year (2021) several birders were able to view and to photograph the White-cheeked Pintail duck; normally exclusive to South America. Our profound wet season this year inundated Las Pangas with much higher than normal water levels, providing greater resting and feeding space for these often weary migrants. Several birders have told me that Las Pangas rivals the wetlands of Palo Verde up in Guanacaste.

Las Pangas is also home to several bird species seen almost no where else in Costa Rica; Scrub Greenlet, Rusty-margined Flycatcher and Brown-throated Parakeet to name but a few.

But I know why you’re here and it’s not to read…it’s to see bird photos from our wonderful local naturalists. I get it…I get it…and I’m fine with it.

Roseate Spoonbill, Wood stork and Snowy Egrets: photo courtesy of Helen LeVasseur
Savannah Hawk: photo courtesy of Randall Jimenez (how about those long legs!)
Paint-billed Crake: photo courtesy of David Rodriguez Arias (one of the most secretive birds in the world)
Lesser Yellow-headed Vulture: photo courtesy of Yeimiri Badilla
Red-breasted Meadowlark: photo courtesy of Helen LeVasseur
Fork-tailed Flycatcher: photo courtesy of Randall Jimenez

How to get to Las Pangas? When you get to Ciudad Neily crossroad, don’t turn right, don’t turn left…go straight. Follow the signs to Coto 47. Take the rural road on the right, just before you cross the first big bridge. This road is an ‘up-and-back’ road, not a loop. Four-wheel drive recommended but not necessary in the dry season.

Oh…and probably a good idea to wear shoes.

Photo courtesy of Helen LeVasseur (she wanted me to go stand by it to give it scale but I wouldn’t do it.)

Ask the Experts: #8

Do bird song playback devices do any harm? Let’s ask our experts.

From SVBC member Elizabeth Van Pelt from Devon PA:

Hello San Vito Bird Club Experts!

As a long-time birder and believer in ‘going with guides’, I find myself more and more uncomfortable with too much guide-generated playback to attract birds’ attention and get them closer to the group. It seems to me this practice forces birds to use energy to check the source of the calls/songs, fight off ‘intruders’ and otherwise engage in extra, unnecessary behaviors. How do you, as professional guides, suggest I handle this?

Pepe Castiblanco: Co-owner and proprietor of Casa Botania B&B and professional birding and nature guide.

Playback has always been a topic of division between both bird guides and birders. On one hand we have the birder that travels thousands of kilometers to see as much as possible in two weeks and on the other hand you have the guide that wants you to be happy and satisfied with his/her sightings. However, there is an ethical paradox because most of your success as a guide for that particular customer or in general as a guide that wants to give a good tour, will depend on playback in order to produce and materialize as many and as exciting bird species as possible.What I do in that regard is to evaluate the situation and know my birds. If someone asks me to find a Bran-coloured Flycatcher in January, is very likely that I will wait to hear the call and walk in that direction instead of playing it back since I know that they are nesting and I won’t under any circumstances, do it myself or allow anybody in my group to do it cause I have the moral authority and the ethical obligation to do so. When a bird is not in a nesting season and I’m playing it back and it doesn’t react after hearing the first couple of calls, it’s also a very clear sign that it’s not interested and I won’t play it any longer. So there are some times when we don’t use it:Nesting, feeding and mating season,and when we don’t have a reaction from the bird. For the rest, I could play it a couple of times for the bird to come out from behind a tree and move a couple of feet to the side so we can see it. If it stays long enough for the picture, that’s a bonus but seeing it should be enough.

Omar Sidebe: Turacao Tours owner and guide, Loango National Park, Gabon (Africa)

Oh my goodness, as to the use of bird song playback devices it is a question of degree. Just as with ice cream bars…to much is not good but once in a while is most pleasant.

Birds are quite robust and generally not the frail creatures some think. Birds are perfectly capable of handling a bit of added stress now and again; it may even strengthen and embolden them. Playback devices do, indeed, cause them added stress. But we must also remember, stress that comes when these same birds see a group of massive upright bipedal primates walking through their neighborhoods…’pishing and pishing and pishing’.

Playback devices? Limit the frequency and duration of the playback; the birds will be fine. And limit your ice cream bar intake too!

David Rodriguez Arias: Tropical Biologist and natural history guide in Monteverde, Costa Rica.

As guides, this is one of the most interesting and important aspects that we have to deal with. Using playback to attract birds works most of the time. Nevertheless, those aspects you are concerned about, in terms of what we are really doing to the birds, is still unknown. Based on my experience, using playback to attract one specific species is sometimes the best tool I can use. There are customers who really like birds and like to get at least a glimpse of one target, but in some situations these people cannot go right into the place where the bird is found. I think at times it is better to attract the bird to us, instead of going deep into the bushes with the risk of being bitten by a venomous snake. I know people who say: “You don’t need to do that, go and look for some other species.” But we all (as birders) know the joy we have when we can find that nemesis we have been chasing forever.

I have to be very clear about this, because I know there are always people who just want to find a bird, no matter the way. Those guides/customers are the ones who sometimes show less respect for Nature. Nowadays there are different ways to use a song or a call of a bird, so my recommendation is if you want to use them, remember we don’t know exactly how the playback is affecting the species we want to attract, so be careful to use playback for short periods of time and not close to the nesting areas. And always keep in mind that no matter how careful you are, you are still affecting the routine of the species you would like to find.

(Black-chested Jay responding to a playback recording; courtesy of Helen LeVasseur)

Special Online Event Tomorrow!

The Detectives de Aves team is hosting a special online class tomorrow afternoon at 4PM as a part of the Finca Cántaros Festival de Bienvenida a las Aves Migratorias. If you would like to get a look at some of our teachers and get an idea about what happens in a Detectives class, please tune in to the Finca Cántaros Facebook page tomorrow at 4PM!

How Should We Handle Bird Walks Now?

I hope everyone is healthy, sane (as much as is normal anyhow), and keeping busy during these strange times.

We would really like your input on the best way to start having Bird Club events and walks again. We know that there are variety of opinions on the best ways to deal with Covid and to stay healthy, so we really need you to share your thoughts and feeling on the subject!

Below you will find a link to brief survey on Google forms where you can share with us your willingness, or lack thereof, to participate in Club activities under the current conditions. Please be assured, however, that we will always be committed to complying with the directives of the Ministerio de Salud regarding all required protocols for public gatherings and outdoor activities!

Thank You!

Ask the Experts: Question #1

Please join me in welcoming our three birding Experts as you San Vito Bird Club members have your birding questions answered on a weekly basis:

Jim Zook: Professional ornithologist, bird population specialist for Stanford University and co-author of ‘The Wildlife of Costa Rica‘.

Pepe Castiblanco: Co-owner and proprietor of Casa Botania B&B and professional birding and nature guide.

David Rodriguez Arias: Tropical Biologist and natural history guide in Monteverde, Costa Rica.

QUESTION #1: What family of Costa Rican birds are your favorites?  And why?

Pepe Castiblanco: Wrens are by far my choice. They not only have a unique physical characteristics that differentiate each one of them but they also have a remarkable sense of rhythm, making them the most musical family of all, battling each other in complicated musical lines when one of them often starts the phrase and the other one completes it making a perfect composition worth of a Grammy or a Figaro selection!

Jim Zook: Too many to pick just one. My favorite family to listen to is the Troglodytidae (Wrens). Think Song Wren. My favorite family for common names is the Trochilidae (Hummingbirds). Snowcap, Coquette, Woodstar, Mountain-gem. My favorite migrant family, the ones I most miss when they aren’t here? Parulidae (Wood Warblers). My favorite family name is the Rhinocryptidae. Camouflaged Rhinoceroses? Sorry, it’s just the Tapaculos. My favorite new family is the Rhodinocichlidae (Rosy Thrush-Tanager). If ever there was a species deserving of its own family this is it. Favorite pelagic bird family and the one most likely to produce some stunning surprise? Procellariidae (Tubenoses). But the family that has probably been my favorite, ever since I started birding, is the Accipitridae (Hawks). Lot’s of old familiar faces and challenges that still make my heart soar, plus the possibility of something new – that Harpy Eagle that’s out there waiting for me.

David Rodriquez Arias: It is hard to tell which are my favorites family, but well, here I give you three that I like the most. My favorite family of birds of Costa Rica is Trogonidae, because my first project when I started getting in touch with birds at my university was about Trogons. Also, thanks to my father (who is a farmer) I have been in touch with Quetzals since I was 5 years old, due to I went with him to his farm, and Quetzals were nearby us. So, that also made me focus in this family when I was at the university.

I also like the Charadriidae (plovers and sandpiper-like birds) family, because of the incredible journeys they do every season. I always think about all the things they can see during their migration movements. I also like to watch them when they go to rest. All together in a small place, sometimes hundreds of individuals of different species sharing that place they have chosen.

And the last one is Trochilidae (hummingbirds), because of the amazing adaptations they evolved to survive in different habitats. I also like the way how the evolved to fly and their stunning plumages. Moreover, they play an important role in the forest, another incredible adaptation of natural selection between a bird with a plant.

Thank you gentlemen for your responses; insightful and wise.

Next week we pose Question #2, which was submitted by SVBC member David Fielding:

‘The Sunbittern’s wings, when spread, each have a big beautiful eye-like spot. What do you suppose is the evolutionary reason for that spot? Is it to scare away predators? Is it to attract a mate? Are the wings spread to display the spot during courtship? . . . Or is it for both reasons?’

Las caminatas para ver aves están suspendidas.

Para colaborar en los esfuerzos para limitar los casos de COVID-19 y par no poner en riesgo a las poblaciones vulnerables, hemos decidido suspender las caminatas para ver aves hasta que el estado de emergencia termine. ¡Ojalá que sea pronto!

Pero uno todavía podría disfrutar de las aves y la naturaleza durante estos tiempos difíciles. Por dicha, siempre hay oportunidades para ver aves en el cantón de Coto Brus, incluyendo desde su propia casa. Si quisiera salir y caminar por la calle pública para bajar el estrés, hacer ejercicio y ver aves, sugerimos que explore los siguientes lugares de acceso fácil:

  • La antigua Ruta de la mulas or Ruta de los Conquistadores que anda desde el lado norte de la finca El Tangaral hasta el rio Java. La entrada es unos cientos metros norte del restaurante Cascata del Bosco y entre El Tangaral y la casa azul. ¡Ojo, es un camino pequeño! Puede ver y escuchar muchas especies de aves por allá.
  • La ruta de los Pinos que va desde el rótulo de la Chiminea a la par de la Finca Cántaros hasta el aeropuerto. Allá, además de aves, se puede ver muchos árboles actualmente en flor.
  • El camino que va desde en frente del hospital y anda al lado del río Java hasta Santa Clara. Es un camino largo y inclinando, pero vale la pena. Si tiene mucha suerte podría ver los zopilotes blancos (sí, blancos) y unos nidos de los Oropéndolas.

¡Que todos y todas quedan sano y salvo y que salgamos de esta emergencia más fuerte y unificada que nunca! Nos vemos pronto.

El Bosque de los Niños de Coto Brus — Video

I just wanted to share this really impressive video about the Children’s Forest project at Finca Cántaros. It is a wonderful project that all of the members of the Club can feel proud for having supported. The San Vito Bird Club, through the Detectives de Aves program was, is and will continue to be a key collaborator in this project, and a supporter of environmental education in the cantón. Please enjoy!

Yo quisiera compartir con todos ustedes este vídeo muy impresionante sobre el proyecto del Bosque de los Niños de Coto Brus en la Finca Cántaros. Es un esfuerzo maravilloso, y todos los miembros del Club pueden tener mucho orgullo por lo haber apoyado. El Club de Aves de San Vito, por medio del programa Detectives de Aves fue, es y será un colaborador muy importante en el Bosque de los Niños, y un patroncinador de la educación ambiental en el cantón. ¡Por favor disfrútelo!

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.