CATIE Christmas Count

My second Christmas Count this year was at CATIE, the famous tropical agricultural research and education centre located here in Turrialba. This seventh Christmas Count (it was not held last year) was split into two ably led groups, and 16 new species were added to the Christmas Count list. As usual, I missed several of the 103 species of birds spotted or heard by our group, led by Daniel Martínez, but I became familiar with a part of the campus that I had barely seen before. The other group did better for adding rarities but we had some beautiful views of species typical of the lowest part of the Turrialba valley, not far from the Angostura Dam, with sugarcane fields, plantations and hedgerows.

One of these is the Red-breasted Meadowlark (Sturnella militaris), formerly called Red-breasted Blackbird. Richard Garrigues’ photo below shows the dashing male, while the female looks similar to the female Red-winged Blackbird so familiar to North American birders. While the latter species is confined to northern Costa Rica, the militaris is spreading on the lowlands of both coasts in the southern part of the country, also reaching elevations as high as 1300 m.

A Red-breasted Meadowlark sits up and grabs attention.

A Red-breasted Meadowlark sits up and grabs attention.

Our walk began with a flock of Indigo Bunting (Passerina cyanea), a northern migrant which seems to like the brushy fields in this area. I have not found it in my home patch and the photo below dates from banding in CATIE’s sugarcane areas some years back. Today, only a couple of all-blue males were among the small group we found.

An immature male Indigo bunting on its way to being all blue.

An immature male Indigo Bunting on its way to being all blue.

Most parts of the CATIE campus can bring sightings of Green Ibis (Mesembrinibis cayennensis) and so it was on count day. Very unexpectedly, however, a Sunbittern (Eurypyga helias) popped up in what was essentially a rock-strewn ditch with water flowing towards the canal. This was one of many firsts reported this year for the CATIE Christmas Count.

Though we saw few tanagers, we recorded 10 species of warbler, including at least 5 Golden-winged Warblers. This endangered species is surprisingly common in our area, both in migration and as a winter resident. Here is the list of my own sightings:

  1. Gray-headed Chachalaca
  2. Great Blue Heron
  3. Great Egret
  4. Snowy Egret
  5. Little Blue Heron
  6. Cattle Egret
  7. Green Heron
  8. Black-crowned Night-Heron
  9. Boat-billed Heron
  10. Green Ibis
  11. Black Vulture
  12. Turkey Vulture
  13. Roadside Hawk
  14. Sunbittern
  15. Spotted Sandpiper
  16. Purple Gallinule
  17. Northern Jaçana
  18. Red-billed Pigeon
  19. Ruddy Ground-Dove
  20. White-tipped Dove
  21. Groove-billed Ani
  22. Rufous-tailed Hummingbird
  23. Collared Araçari
  24. Keel-billed Toucan
  25. Hoffmann’s Woodpecker
  26. Lineated Woodpecker
  27. Crested Caracara
  28. Yellow-headed Caracara
  29. Laughing Falcon
  30. White-crowned Parrot
  31. Crimson-fronted Parakeet
  32. Barred Antshrike
  33. Streak-headed Woodcreeper
  34. Yellow-bellied Elaenia
  35. Paltry Tyrannulet
  36. Common Tody-Flycatcher
  37. Yellow-olive Flycatcher
  38. Yellow-bellied Flycatcher
  39. Willow Flycatcher
  40. Black Phoebe
  41. Dusky-capped Flycatcher
  42. Great Crested Flycatcher
  43. Great Kiskadee
  44. Boat-billed Flycatcher
  45. Social Flycatcher
  46. Gray-capped Flycatcher
  47. Tropical Kingbird
  48. Yellow-throated Vireo
  49. Philadelphia Vireo
  50. Lesser Greenlet
  51. Brown Jay
  52. Northern Rough-winged Swallow
  53. Barn Swallow
  54. House Wren
  55. Stripe-breasted Wren (voice)
  56. Long-billed Gnatwren (voice)
  57. Tropical Gnatcatcher
  58. Clay-colored Thrush
  59. Northern Waterthrush
  60. Golden-winged Warbler
  61. Black-and-white Warbler
  62. Prothonotary Warbler
  63. Tennessee Warbler
  64. Gray-crowned Yellowthroat
  65. Mourning Warbler
  66. American Redstart
  67. Yellow Warbler
  68. Chestnut-sided Warbler
  69. White-lined Tanager
  70. Passerini’s Tanager
  71. Blue-gray Tanager
  72. Palm Tanager
  73. Golden-hooded Tanager
  74. Scarlet-thighed Dacnis
  75. Blue-black Grassquit
  76. Variable Seedeater
  77. Bananquit
  78. Yellow-faced Grassquit
  79. Buff-throated Saltator
  80. Black-headed Saltator
  81. Black-striped Sparrow
  82. Summer Tanager
  83. Indigo Bunting
  84. Red-breasted Meadowlark
  85. Melodious Blackbird
  86. Great-tailed Grackle
  87. Bronzed Cowbird
  88. Giant Cowbird
  89. Baltimore Oriole
  90. Yellow-billed Cacique
  91. Montezuma Oropendola
  92. Yellow-crowned Euphonia
  93. Yellow-throated Euphonia
  94. Olive-backed Euphonia
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