When I first arrived here in San Antonio, on the slopes of the Turrialba Volcano, I had little idea of what bird species I would find. One of my earliest sightings was of what I thought was a flock of about 8 Eastern kingbirds (Tyrannus tyrannus) perched high in a tree during a late afternoon mist. Since in subsequent years I have seen neither hide nor hair of this bird in our area, I dropped it from my list of San Antonio sightings. Today I can finally reinstate this migrant flycatcher, without any certainty at all that my first sighting was indeed of this species.
I now keep the hours fitting for an elderly man: to bed before 9 and up at the crack of dawn. Two days ago, 5:30 am May 9, I shuffled out to the back of the house, blinked up at the row of trees on the top fence, bordering the headquarters of the Volcano park guards, and noticed among the usual kiskadees, saltators and chachalacas a neat black-and-white kingbird on one of the topmost bare branches. I nipped back inside for the binoculars and cautiously approached, to be rewarded by good close-up looks at what was a common sight for me when I lived in Texas: a handsome Eastern kingbird, complete with white-tipped tail. For a while he was seen off by a Black-headed saltator but soon returned to the same tree. Alas, he flew off before I could return for my (rather rudimentary) camera, a machine that often does not function at all. Is it charged, is it already full of images, can I point it in the right direction, zoom it and still get the bird? The answer to at least one of these questions is usually NO.
Nevertheless, my kingbird sighting made for a happy day with species number 163 for the San Antonio list. I have seen it previously in Costa Rica only on the Caribbean coast, where it is a very common passage migrant. Stiles & Skutch reckon it occurs at up to 1700 m on the Caribbean side from March until as late as mid-May, while Garrigues & Dean restrict it to mid-March to early May, by which time they should all be back home in eastern North America. I have seen no other migrants at all since mid-April but, whatever the case, I’ll certainly be on the look-out for the Eastern kingbird for the rest of this month.