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.

Bird Quiz Winner: Randall Jimenez!

Felicidades a Randall Jimenez for correctly identifying the Buff-fronted Foliage-gleaner! An uncommon to rare resident of the Cordillera de Talamanca on the Pacific slope, this individual was photographed on the road to Las Tablas in March 2019.

An educated guess says this hole on the roadside embankment is probably the bird’s nest entrance. Note it is an oval shape, wider than it is tall, typical of the members of this group that nest in burrows, like the more commonly seen Chiriqui Foliage-gleaner and our special resident of San Vito, the Ruddy Foliage-gleaner.

Special thanks to Ellen Beckett, Jean-Phillipe Thelliez, Tom Wilkinson, Roni Chernin, Nancy Nelson, Dorothy MacKinnon and Sara Clark for playing along with us!

Quiz Bird #2 Revealed/La Respuesta del Prueba #2!

Sigue en espanol

Quiz Bird #2 had nine entries, two of which were correct: Lesser Goldfinch (Carduelis psaltria).

Lesser Goldfinch photographed by Jo Davidson.

Lesser Goldfinch photographed by Jo Davidson.

Our Official Winner is Suzanne Gross of Piedades, Santa Ana, who came on one of our walks at the Wilson Garden last December. Due to the difficulty of mailing cookies from San Vito, Suzanne has generously donated her one dozen Chocolate Chips to our next Bird Walk at the Wilson Garden.

Other entries included two orioles, two tanagers, a vireo, a warbler and a seedeater.

Thanks for a great job Photographer Jo Davidson on making sure the bill was hidden behind a leaf: we fooled everybody except Suzanne and member Jim Zook.

Gracias a nuestra miembre Jo Davidson para su foto de un Carduelis psaltria!

Tuvimos mas respuestas este vez, pero solo dos de nueve estaban correctos.

Felicidades a Suzanne Gross de Piedades, Santa Ana: su respuesta estaba correcto: Lesser Goldfinch!

Bird Report: Tropical Mockingbird

Mimus gilvus: Tropical Mockingbird.

Mimus gilvus: Tropical Mockingbird.

A Tropical Mockingbird, Mimus gilvus, has been spotted on the grounds of the Catholic church in downtown San Vito by Wally Barton. It is slightly larger than a thrush, predominantly gray on the back with white bars on blackish wings, white below, white patches in the wings and tail.

Historically this interesting species has had a discontinuous two-part range from Mexico to Honduras and then in northern South America, however, in the 1930s an introduced population was found in Panama. This might explain its occurrence here. The Birds of Costa Rica by Robert Dean and Richard Garrigues suggest this species is becoming established in Costa Rica where breeding pairs have been reliably found in Siquirres and Limon for many years. Reports of sightings have come from disparate locations like Bagaces, Arenal, San Isidro de General and Cartago and a breeding pair has been seen in La Union de Sabalito for the past five years. Closer to home, one or two of them have been visiting feeders near the San Vito Hospital and these (or this individual) may have taken up residence in the church yard.

They like open habitats with trees and shrubs so town parks and gardens are ideal. Readily visible, they often perch out in the open on telephone/electric lines or tops of bushes and trees.

Eating a small lizard!

Eating a small lizard!

Mockingbirds eat insects, small vertebrates and fruit. Their song is unmistakable: a long musical series of repeated phrases. Apparently, unlike Northern Mockingbirds, they do not mimic other species.

Quiz Bird Revealed/La Respuesta del Prueba!

Sigue en espanol

Thanks to new member Jo Davidson for her photo of a female Blue-black Grassquit!

Female Blue-black Grassquit. Photo by Jo Davidson

Our contest had four entries — all wrong, so we are eating the cookies ourselves and hoping for better results next time.

Entrant #1 and #3 thought our bird was a female Indigo Bunting to which we say, “Good try, but please note the description in A Guide to the Birds of Costa Rica by Stiles and Skutch saying ‘ . . . females below much less streaked than female Blue-black Grassquit.’ ”

Entrant #2 postulated a female Slaty Finch but, again, note bill shape and description, “. . . faint, sparse dusky streaking on breast and sides. . . Upper mandible blackish. . .”

Entrant #4 threw caution to the wind calling our grassquit a Bobolink. Bobolinks are quite a bit bigger than grassquits although I will happily admit discerning size in a photograph is often more difficult than in the field and all our contestant had to go on here for comparison were some leaves.

Gracias a nuestra miembre nueva Jo Davidson para su foto de una hembra Volatinia jacarina!

Todos los respuestos estaban incorrectos, entonces vamos a comer las galletas yo mismo y esperar una resultada mejor proximo vez: jajaja!

Pat Morgan Wins the Big Birdfeeder Competition 2013

Pat Morgan's Golden-olive Woodpecker.

Pat Morgan’s Golden-olive Woodpecker.

SVBC member Pat Morgan is the Grand Prize Winner of the Birdfeeder Competition for 2013 with a total of 25 species! At the end of December, she spotted a Golden-Olive Woodpecker, took this photo and jumped into First Place ahead of six other entries.

Gail and Harry Hull of Finca Cantaros are the Runners-Up with a total of 24.

Because the counts were so close both competitors will be awarded a prize at the SVBC Annual Meeting in February (date to be announced shortly).

Now is the time to start your Feeder List for 2014! Have your binos, a notepad and a pencil at the ready so you can record all species in accordance with the rules: the bird must either land on the feeder (or hanging fruit) or be seen feeding on fallen pieces on the ground underneath.  Ready? Set? GO!

Northern Cardinal. Photo by

Northern Cardinal. Photo by Suzanne Dargie.

And just for a laugh, here is a species that probably won’t be seen on our lists any time soon.  Barb and Wally Barton’s niece sent it along to remind them of the frozen northland!

Big Birdfeeder Competition Closing Dec. 31, 2013

Tropical Mockingbird, Julie Girard's ace of trump. (Photo by Julie Girard)

Tropical Mockingbird, Julie Girard’s ace of trump. (Photo by Julie Girard)

Don’t forget to send us your Birdfeeder List for the Big Birdfeeder Competition by the end of this month — December 31, 2013. We’ll have a nice prize waiting for you at the SVBC Annual Meeting in February!

So far, we have three ‘official’ entries and two ‘unofficial’ entries so please send us your completed list TODAY!

You have only SIX days left to submit your list to us at: sanvitobirdclub@gmail.com




A Birder’s Bird

A guest “Viewpoint” written by Greg Homer, a birder’s birder who has led many trips to Costa Rica over the years. Greg and his wife Helen are our newest members. . . . .

It’s possible — even probable — that in the entire history of the world no non-birder has ever uttered the phrase “Ooh look, a Thrushlike Schiffornis!”.  But this wonderful creature, described by field guide author Richard Garrigues as “. . . a non-descript olive-brown bird . . . ” and somewhat more generously by the great Alexander Skutch as ” . . . not brightly colored”, is most definitely a joy to behold when seen by a birder.

Greg Homer, on deck at his new digs near the Wilson Botanical Garden.

Greg Homer, on deck at his new digs near the Wilson Botanical Garden.

Toucans, motmots, most parrots and many tanagers fall into a category of birds often referred to as Charismatic Avifauna (C.A.).  These birds are so colorful and/or charming that both birders and non-birders alike stop what they’re doing to give them a look. It’s extremely easy to love a Bay-headed Tanager or Fiery-billed Aracari.

But the Thrushlike Schiffornis most certainly does NOT fall into the C.A. category.  Not only is the Thrushlike Schiffornis non-descript and not brightly colored, it does not live a particularly exciting or charismatic lifestyle (at least not to all of us non-Thrushlike Schiffornises).  The terms ‘sluggish’ and ‘secretive’ and ‘solitary’ are often used to describe its behavior.  The song of the Thrushlike Schiffornis is unlikely to ever become a Top 10 ringtone.  And, on top of all that, there is the name — to me, ‘Thrushlike Schiffornis’ sounds more like a medical diagnosis than a bird.

“Mrs. Hartoonian, we have the results back on that culture we did on your eye.  You have thrushlike schiffornis.”

 “Is that bad?”

“Well, it isn’t good; but these days it is treatable with antibiotics.”

And get this. . . in my copy of A Guide to the Birds of Costa Rica by F. Gary Stiles and Alexander Skutch (first edition 1989), the Thrushlike Schiffornis isn’t even called a Thrushlike Schiffornis.  Back then it was listed as a “Thrushlike Manakin . . . which may possibly be a Thrushlike Mourner.”

When I was a kid back in the citrus belt of California, family, friends and neighbors used to look at me, smile and then tell my parents, “Well, there’s a face only a mother could love.”  And so it goes for the Thrushlike Schiffornis — a bird only a birder could love.

Wilson Walk Washout!

The Bird Walk scheduled for last Saturday, Nov. 2, was rained out — the first time this has happened since we began leading regular bird walks years ago. With all the rain we get annually in San Vito, it’s surprising this doesn’t happen more often!

Raining, pouring and heading your way. (Photo by Michael Olivieri.)

Raining, pouring and heading your way. (Photo by Michael Olivieri.)

We will reschedule for this coming Saturday, Nov. 9 and hope for better luck.

In the meantime, it might be fun to start listing the species that are visiting your bird feeders. Migratory species that spend the spring and summer in North America are back. Species like Baltimore Orioles, Summer Tanagers and Tennessee Warblers all readily come to fruit feeders so you should be seeing them regularly now.

Spending a few minutes each morning jotting down the birds on your bananas will sharpen your ID skills and, if we start a little competition, might encourage getting more feeders into action.

Here’s my list from the weekend, a total of 15 species including 7 tanagers (Blue-Gray, Golden-hooded, Silver-throated, Cherrie’s, Summer, Speckled and Palm), 2 toucans (Fiery-billed Aracari, Emerald Toucanet), 1 saltator (Buff-throated), 1 euphonia (Thick-billed), 1 honeycreeper (Green), 1 woodpecker (Red-crowned), 1 thrush (Clay-colored), and Blue-crowned Motmot,

We’ll be waiting for your list, so send it along by clicking here to contact us!

English Language Students Attend Bird Walk

We were happily overrun with students from the CaRob Instituto de Ingles in San Vito on a recent Bird Walk at Finca Cantaros, a change in venue from our regular twice-monthly outings at the Wilson Botanical Garden.

Lush trails at Finca Cantaros. Photo by Barbara Barton.

Lush trails at Finca Cantaros. Photo by Barb Keeler-Barton.

Alma Dionisi, one of the Instituto’s English teachers, brought her class of 10 via minibus for a two-hour bird walk followed by an English language practice session. Wendy Russell Bernstein, Barb Keeler-Barton, Roni Chernin, Caroline Torres, Susan England and Judith and Joe Ippolito were all on hand to help out – both with bird spotting and practicing conversational English.

The idea for this walk came from Wilkin, one of Alma’s students. Wilkin is a passionate birder, a friend of SVBC Member Cecilia Sansonetti’s and has birded with us several times in the past. Unfortunately he cannot attend more of our walks at the moment because his Saturday mornings are occupied with learning English!

Chatting in English in the Rancho Grande. Photo by Barbara Barton.

Chatting in English in the Rancho Grande. Photo by Barb Keeler-Barton.

It was a large group but we nonetheless managed to see 28 species of birds including one neotropical migrant, a Black-and-white Warbler, sighted by Susan England. Thanks to Alma for organizing this fun morning and also to our loyal volunteer helpers.