Migration brings new species to San Antonio

Mourning warbler – now officially appearing in San Antonio

Migration is now in full swing.  The rains are starting to become heavier after months of sunny mornings with showers later in the day.  Our most familiar migrants are now here: Baltimore orioles, Summer tanagers, Red-eyed vireos, and of course a host of warblers now exiting, undeported, the United States.  Yellow warblers, Tennessee warblers and Chestnut-sided warblers are the most abundant, but it’s an exciting time because careful observation can reveal a host of others.  The Mourning warbler (Oporornis philadelphia) likes to stay close to the ground, usually where there is heavy cover, and so I was fortunate to catch two glimpses of handsome males this week.  Of course, I cannot exclude the possibility of the very similar MacGillivray’s warbler, which looks about the same (I’m told) except for its white crescents above and below the eye.

Eastern wood-pewee banded at CATIE, Turrialba

Eastern wood-pewee banded at CATIE, Turrialba

Another species that I knew was here, but for which I lacked absolute confirmation, is the Eastern wood-pewee (Contopus virens).  I think only the call note can safely distinguish it, for me anyway, from the Western wood-pewee.  Happily, a peweeing bird has been on my fence-line for a full week now, and the call note also distinguishes it from the resident Tropical pewee that has been at home here for many weeks.  With these three Contopus, you’re supposed to look at the bill colour because the Western’s mostly dark bill is a good marker, but I never seem to be able to make up my mind.  I’ll stick to the differences in the call notes.  Obviiously, out of migration season, the Tropical is the only possibility, right?  Wrong.  Both Eastern and Western can be winter residents, and, to make matters worse, the Garrigues guide tells us that the Western may possibly be resident in the highlands.  Fortunately, the Tropical is usually very yellowish below, even if it refuses to give a call note.

The third really nice sighting this week was the Yellow-billed cuckoo (Coccyzus americanus) that sat in full view for a good half hour above the Rio Guayabito at the bottom end of the village.  A guest at our house has in the past reported a Black-billed cuckoo in migration here, so I was glad to get the opportunity to see the rufous wings when the Yellow-billed flew from one side of the river to the other.  I have no photo, so can anyone help?


The Dusky-capped flycatcher (Myiarchus tuberculifer) was also present on my walk by the Rio Guayabito.  This is always the most likely member of the genus, though the much larger Great crested flycatcher is another possibility.  The Dusky-capped is well-named, as the darker head contrasts very well with the paler throat.  It is particularly common down the hill at San Diego.

Dusky-capped flycatcher, our commonest Myiarchus

My weekly visits to San Diego have been the highlight of my week for some time now.  The Brown-hooded parrot continues to appear there regularly.  This week, my brief visit was rewarded by close-up views of a pair feeding on nancis and jocotes.  I have now planted two jocote cuttings here at home in the fond hope of attracting these very pretty and relatively quiet parrots.  Chalo, my gracious host every week, reported the Lineated woodpecker from near his cabin and this was swiftly confirmed on subsequent visits.  An even better sighting of Chalo’s that I hope to confirm soon is the Black-throated trogon (Trogon  rufus).  This would be only the second trogon species that I can report from our area, not counting the Resplendent quetzal that is a resident higher up the mountain.  The Violaceous trogon (now renamed Gartered trogon) is fairly easy to find adjacent to almost any forest patch, though it has not appeared in San Antonio so far.  The Black-throated should be fairly easy to distinguish because of the green head and yellow bill of the male, or the brown head of the female.  Chalo reports a female.

I’m hoping to get out and about to see what else may turn up in what remains of October, a great month for birdwatching in Costa Rica.

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