Finca Cántaros Environmental Association

Something great has come out of this strange and terrible pandemic: the Finca Cántaros Environmental Association. With the Class A brain of Dr. Lilly Briggs whirring and whirling while the world was at a seeming standstill, here comes a new nonprofit organization dedicated to environmental education, forest restoration and research with three key action words: “Learn. Connect. Act.”

Canada to Costa Rica and Back

Based in Canada but operating in San Vito, the FCEA will have impact and influence in the Canton of Coto Brus but also the entire country. Working with Proyecto Cerulea partners Ernesto Carman and Paz Irola, Lilly had the country’s second MOTUS tower installed and has already downloaded information on migrating Swainson’s Thrushes, originally tagged in Canada(!).

The Website

And that is just ONE of the myriad projects being worked on by Lilly’s knowledgeable and energetic team. They have just launched a new English-language website — we encourage all our members to take a look. It is beautiful and packed with information about the ongoing projects, plus you can meet the team.

The Projects

Interested in, well, birds? Of course! Weekly Bird Counts are conducted at Finca Cantaros following strict protocols. What about bats? Monthly site visits by the Monteverde Bat Jungle crew are gathering information on local bats and watching natural reforestation in action, especially in the Children’s Rain Forest of Coto Brus, just outside Cántaros’ forested area. Reforestation? There’s a Tree Nursery collaboration with Osa Conservation! Sustainable food production? Women Committed to the Earth is a program working on agroecology practices applicable to local conditions. Art and Science? What about Nature Sketch from the Robert Bateman Foundation? And finally we circle back to the SVBC sponsored program, member-supported Detectives de Aves, now being taught in local schools for the first time in almost two years.

Bird Walk Sunday, May 9

Please join us this Sunday for a free Bird Walk on the Poro Road. We will meet at 7:30 am down the hill where we leave the cars. As always, we will have binoculars to lend.

Directions: from Las Cruces toward San Vito, take the first unpaved (lastre) road to the right after the hospital. From San Vito toward the hospital, take the unpaved road to the left after Soda La Negra.

The walk will go for about an hour. If we are lucky, we might see a pair of nesting Riverside Wrens or Double-toothed Kites! We don’t have a sign-up link this time — we will be there anyway.

REMINDER: International Migratory Bird Day and a Global Big Day occur the day before, on Saturday, May 8. Don’t forget to bird around your house, along the road or at your favorite spot and submit your list to eBird.

Please Buy Virtual Cookies and Cake . . .

As part of the Finca Cantaros Environmental Association’s Earth Day Celebration, SVBC members’ ovens were fired up for a Bake Sale. Take a look at the yummies below and place your order via PayPal. It’s easy as pie (!) — all you do is go to your PayPal account and search for ‘Finca Cantaros‘ or ‘info@fincacantaros.org‘ to make your donation.

Galletas de Dulce by Pedro

Now for the Strawberry Cake:

Queque Rosada de Fresa

And, while you are at it, please go to the brand new English-language website of the Finca Cantaros Environmental Association: www.fincacantaros.org — prepare to be impressed and proud to participate!

Watch this space for an article about this new nonprofit organization. We are so excited to have these wonderful neighbors and when you meet the team, learn the vision and hear about ongoing events and activities, you will be too.

Oh, wait, if you really DO want cookies or cake, email us and the next time you are near we will see that you have some.

Celebrate Earth Day 2021 on Saturday, April 24 at Finca Cántaros

Join us on Saturday, April 24 for an Earth Day Festival at the Finca Cántaros Environmental Association from 9 am to 3 pm.

As you can see from the posters below, the team has created all kinds of activities including guided walks, workshops (How to Make a Vegetable Garden, Exploring Nature) and two science talks, one about bats and one about bird migration (The MOTUS Tower) PLUS the 1st Annual Science Fair for elementary school students!

Meet your new neighbors! Practice your Español! Bring your recyclable glass to trade for a glass! Buy treats at the Bake Sale* and enjoy live music and art presentations!

All activities will be outside and adhere to Covid protocols. This will be a fun-filled day in a strange and difficult time so please treat yourself by visiting the AAFC — Asociación Ambiental Finca Cántaros!

And here is the schedule:

*If you would like to buy virtual cookies and make a donation to the new Asociación, please go to your PayPal account and enter ‘Finca Cantaros’ or info@fincacantaros.

Tomorrow’s Bird Walk Postponed!

We are sorry to report we had no sign-ups for tomorrow’s Bird Walk at Las Cruces/Wilson Botanical Garden, so it is officially cancelled.

In two weeks, we will schedule a free Bird Walk at a different location and hope you will join us!

Meanwhile, Finca Cantaros will host an Earth Day Celebration next Saturday, April 24! We urge you to attend and meet the new team — your new neighbors. Details of the event will be posted here on Wednesday.

San Vito from the Finca Cantaros Mirador, photo by Alison Olivieri

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. https://www.casabotania.com/en-gb

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. https://www.facebook.com/david.rodriguezarias

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!