Where We Bird — the Wilson Botanical Garden

Entrance to the Wilson Garden, photo by Alison Olivieri

The San Vito Bird Club’s roots are here in the Robert and Catherine Wilson Botanical Garden at the Organization for Tropical Studies Las Cruces Biological Station — this is a long name for a magical place. Birders come from all over the world to this spot with its list of half of the country’s land birds. We have been offering bi-monthly Bird Walks here, free and open to the public since 2004, binoculars included!

In and around San Vito, we have many ‘specialties’ — birds not easily found elsewhere. Two of the most sought-after are reliably found here where you can stay in comfortable cabins with three meals a day included, a birder’s dream destination.

Ruddy Foliage-gleaner, Clibanornis rubiginosus, photo by Randall Jiménez Borbón, aka Ciccio

The Ruddy Foliage-gleaner can be found in early morning at the beginning of the Rio Java Trail. The best way to find it is to learn the call as it is usually vocalizing as the flock moves along the forest edge.

Another, smaller beauty — the White-crested Coquette — is also here in the Pollinator Garden and can be found at virtually any time of day. It is endemic to southern Costa Rica and western Panama

White-crested Coquette, Lophornis adorabilis, photo by Pepe Castiblanco

from the canopy to forest edge and gardens. You’ll have to be on your game as this exquisite creature is ‘bee-like’ in flight.

We are sure these coquettes are stealing your heart and reminding you to clean your binoculars.

And the female White-crested Coquette in this lovely photograph by Yeimeri Badilla


Continue to scroll down from here to see just a few more photos from of this special site. The lovely garden vista was designed by Roberto Burle-Marx, a renowned Brazilian landscape designer who was a board member of the Wilson  Garden in its very early days.

This is followed by the Canopy Tower donated by the SVBC in 2011. If you get lucky up there, you might even see a field mark on a fast-flying swift.

Meeting spot at The Wilson Botanical Garden, photo by Alison Olivieri

The Canopy Tower at Las Cruces, photo by Harry Hull III

The last beauty shot of the Wilson Garden Mirador, photo by Alison Olivieri

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!

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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!

Quiz Bird Revealed/La Respuesta del Prueba!

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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!

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




Kansas Students Invade Finca Cantaros

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Bird banders Julie Girard and Alison Olivieri gave a Mist Netting Demonstration on January 22, 2013 for students in Professor Jon Piper’s biology course at Bethel College in North Newton, KS, the landscape of which could not possibly be more different than San Vito!

Bethel College students at Finca Cantaros.

Bethel College students at Finca Cantaros.

The 16 students have been traveling in Costa Rica since January 3 and their stay here at the Las Cruces Biological Research Station gives them an OTS hat-trick for visiting all three stations, including Palo Verde and La Selva. Their interest in birds and, we hope, bird study, was piqued by close-up looks of at a handsome White-throated Robin, Speckled Tanager, one male and one female Rufous-tailed Hummingbird and two neotropical migrants, an Ovenbird and a Northern Waterthrush.

Over many years, Jon has been bringing groups of students to Costa Rica in January where they become familiar with the many different habitats in this tiny country. They participate in biological study projects, are continually quizzed and challenged and eventually have their final exam.

Beth Piper, seen at right.

Beth Piper, seen at right.

Several years ago, the Piper family came to live in San Vito during a sabbatical year for Jon and they have been missed by all of us associated with Las Cruces/ Wilson Botanical Garden ever since. It was good to have Jon’s wife Beth with him this year — if only for a moment!  We look forward to more Piper-style visits with curious, funny and bright students in years to come.

Las Anilladoras Julie Girard y Alison Olivieri dieron una demostración con redes de niebla el pasado 22 de Enero, 2013 para estudiantes del profesor Jon Piper del curso de biología del instituto  Bethel al norte de Newton KS, en donde el paisaje no podría ser mas diferente que el de San Vito.

Los 16 estudiantes han estado viajando por Costa Rica desde Enero 3 y su estadía aquí en la Estación Biológica Las Cruces completa el triplete perfecto luego de visitar las otras dos estaciones de la OTS en Costa Rica, una localizada en Palo verde Guanacaste y la otra en la Selva en Puerto Viejo de Sarapiquí. Su interés en aves y esperamos sus futuros estudios en esta rama, se hayan acentuado después de observar a muy corta distancia un White-throated Robin, Speckled Tanager, un macho y una hembra de Rufous-tailed Hummingbird y dos migrantes neotropicales: un Ovenbird y un Northern Waterthrush.

A Piper-style Pop Quiz -- answer: Mulberry bush!

A Piper-style Pop Quiz — answer: Mulberry bush!

Por varios años, Jon ha traído grupos de estudiantes a Costa Rica en Enero donde el grupo se familiariza con los muchos y diferentes ecosistemas que ofrece este pequeño país. Los estudiantes participan en proyectos de estudio biológicos, son continuamente evaluados con exámenes cortos y desafiados con la materia, eventualmente también son examinados al  final de curso.

Hace algunos años atrás , la familia Pipier vino a vivir a San Vito durante un año Sabático para Jon y han sido extrañados por todos los que tenemos relación con las Cruces/Jardín Botánico Wilson desde entonces. Fue grandiosos el tener a la esposa de Jon (Beth) con el este año—al menos por un momento! Esperamos con ansias mas visitas al estilo Pipier con mas estudiantes curiosos , graciosos y brillantes en los años por venir.

First Publication from the Avian Monitoring Project

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As the holiday lull draws to a close, we are pleased to ramp up to 2013 by posting the first publication resulting from our Avian Monitoring Project.

After seven years of work, we have had some interesting captures and re-captures but none as exciting as finding a Black-cheeked Ant-tanager in San Vito.

Please read our short paper, published in the Boletin Zeledonia 16:2 under “Comunicaciones” (http://avesdecostarica.org/page27.html). The Zeledonia is the ornithological journal published twice a year by the Asociacion Ornitologica de Costa Rica. You can find both English and Spanish versions, by clicking here.

En vista que los días festivos están llegando a su fin, estamos complacidos en comenzar el 2013 con nuevos bríos mostrándoles nuestra primera publicación del proyecto de anillado de aves del club de aves de San Vito.

Después de 7 años de trabajo, tenemos algunas capturas y recapturas  muy interesantes, pero ninguna tan única como el encontrarnos a un Black-cheeked Ant-tanager en San Vito.

Por favor lea nuestra pequeña publicación en el Boletin Zeledonia 16:2 bajo “Comunicaciones” (http://avesdecostarica.org/page27.html). Zeledonia es una revista de ornitología publicada dos veces al año por la Asociacion Ornitologica de Costa Rica. Ud podrá encontrar ambas versiones en ingles y español: haga click aqui.

Going to Heaven

Unidentified Butterfly (Photo by Alison Olivieri)

The other day, Liz Allen and I went to heaven. At least, if there is anyplace resembling heaven anywhere on earth, this would be it. And it’s only about two hours northwest of San Vito, near the town of Uvita on the Pacific Coast.

Heaven’s real name is “Butterfly Paradise” and it is part of the Osa Mountain Village community. It looks like a 16-sided circus Big Top but instead of clowns and jugglers, it’s full of butterflies. We found ourselves surrounded by shining blue Morpho Butterflies and many other drop-dead beautiful creatures going about their butterfly business.

For you butterfly enthusiasts, we saw Malachites, Swallowtails, Crackers, Postmen and Caligos. Not only that, we found caterpillars and a chrysalis with help from Dave Fishell who owns, designed and built “Butterfly Paradise”.

So, I say, let’s all go to heaven! Admission is $12 per person; children under 5 get in free. We can arrange a tour with Dave and a group discount for a Sunday morning in September. Let’s plan to spend some time in heaven and then have lunch at Citrus or Exotica, wonderful restaurants in nearby Ojochal. Send us an email if you are interested with dates that work for you and we’ll make a plan!

Let the Breeding Bird Surveys Begin!

Eastern Meadowlark (Photo by Julie Girard)

In the mid-1960s, the US Geological Survey initiated a long-term, large-scale international avian monitoring program with the Canadian Wildlife Service called the North American Breeding Bird Survey (BBS). It was undertaken in response to the noted decline of songbird populations accompanying the widespread use of DDT for mosquito control at that time. (To learn more about this effort in North America, please click here.) Continuing to this day, the BBS is run out of the Patuxent Wildlife Research Center in Maryland, home to the Bird Banding Laboratory where records of all birds banded in the US are stored. Although rampant use of DDT has declined as a cause of songbird mortality, bird populations continued to be subjected to numerous omnipresent threats including habitat loss, habitat fragmentation, land-use changes, chemical contaminants and other problems. These issues occur worldwide and need to be closely monitored so that local populations are not lost and species do not become extinct simply because no one is paying attention.

In addition to North America, many other countries around the world use bird monitoring surveys to estimate populations, understand species’ distributions and discern decline. Although many professional ornithologists and biologists take part in these surveys, the vast majority of participants are local birders practicing citizen science.

Laughing Falcon (Photo by Alison Olivieri)

This year, Gerardo Obando of the Asociacion de Ornitologica de Costa Rica (AOCR) has taken the initiative and begun a national program of Breeding Bird Surveys! These surveys can be either a single place survey, like a garden, or a route with at least 10 stops, 200 m apart, for five-minute bird counts. The surveys must be completed between May 15 and June 30, the height of many of our resident birds’ breeding season.

Your bird club completed three surveys in mid-June consisting of one privately-owned garden, a route through Finca Cantaros (one of our Avian Monitoring Project field stations) and a route through the Wilson Botanical Garden. Very special thanks go out to Mauricio Sarmiento of the OTS Las Cruces Biological Station for helping record the GPS coordinates of each point along both of the routes. Next year we need to add more routes and we will need more volunteers to accomplish this! “Ace Birders” of the SVBC: please come join us in 2013 — we need your help!

You can read about this new effort — and practice your Spanish if you are not a native speaker — by clicking here.  We are proud to be a new Institutional Member of the AOCR, about which you can read more by clicking here.

CR Banders Meeting 9 April 2012

InBio Parque, Santo Domingo de Heredia

The movers and shakers behind the Costa Rican Bird Banding Network hosted a day-long meeting at InBio Parque in Santo Domingo de Heredia on April 9 that started with an early morning Banding Demonstration led by Jorge Leiton who has helped at several of our mist netting project sessions in San Vito.

Attendees at Banders Conference April 9, 2012 (Photo: Sara Estrada)

Conference speakers delivered presentations on up-to-date research being conducted at several sites in Costa Rica, information on new tools and other innovations for bird monitoring projects, international capacity building provided by the North American Banding Council’s certification and training programs, a summary of one of Stanford University’s many long-term projects and information on the Banding Network and the new Costa Rican Bird Observatories. Additionally a LaMNA (Landbird Monitoring of North America) Data Analysis Workshop was held in the afternoon.

Jared Wolfe, a PhD candidate at Louisiana State University presented a paper, currently in review, titled “A Tropical Bird’s Dissimilar Response to Global Climatic Phenomenon in an Uneven Aged Forest.” The data for this paper were gathered at the oldest, continually-run banding station in Costa Rica at Tortuguero National Park on the Caribbean side.

VP Kate Desvenain and Sara Estrada (Photo: Alison Olivieri)

Another research project, from CATIE in Turrialba and presented by Fabrice DeClerck, showed a significantly increased bird population in agricultural landscapes by leaving unpruned the famous ‘living fences’ of Costa Rica, traditionally used to define pasture and agricultural acreage. Researchers at CATIE are teaching environmental education programs for teachers at nearby schools as well as involving the teachers and their students in their research projects.

C. J. Ralph of the USDA Forest Service displayed dazzling migration range maps for Indigo Bunting and Common Nighthawk created from eBird data. They literally made you want to run home to your computer and immediately update your eBird account. After seeing what C.J. was able to show, there is NO EXCUSE not to enter all your sightings and add to this powerful and complex data tool.

The San Vito Bird Club was well represented at the meeting and several members stayed for the afternoon presentation on data analysis that will surely benefit our Avian Monitoring Project.

Thanks to Pablo Elizondo of Partners in Flight and the Costa Rican Bird Observatories for an inspiring conference that provided new insights into bird population dynamics, a forum for exchanging ideas and answering questions, and stimulating new information.