Migrants are early this year

Here’s a quick review of what’s happened so far regarding the start of the migration season.


Migrant Cliff Swallow, courtesy of Gilberto De la Cruz and the Asociación Ornitológica de Costa Rica

The two common southern migrants, the Piratic Flycatcher and the Yellow-green Vireo, have not been seen here locally since mid-June and late August respectively. The first northern migrants I found were Cliff Swallows and Barn Swallows on August 10 and August 23 respectively. A small number of apparently migrating Broad-winged Hawks passed over San Antonio on September 7, a very early date. No other migrants were in attendance.


Female American Redstart (Setophaga ruticilla), courtesy of Guillermo Saborío and the Asociación Ornitológica de Costa Rica

Also unusual, two days earlier, was the first migrant warbler in my garden, a female Yellow Warbler. No other migrant warbler has appeared in my patch since then but on the other side of Turrialba at Pavones on September 1, Steven Aguilar and I found 4 different species, American Redstart, Black-and-white Warbler, Blackburnian Warbler and Cerulean Warbler. The Ceruleans, 6 in all, were my first sighting ever of that species. Large numbers of Red-eyed Vireos were present on that same occasion, but this common migrant has not yet appeared here at home.


Red-eyed Vireo, courtesy of Andrey Acosta

We also identified 2 migrant Contopus flycatchers, at least one of which was an Eastern Wood-Pewee. We had to put the other one down as Eastern /Western since it did not call. Again, neither of these has arrived here in San Antonio yet, but the larger Olive-sided Flycatcher is here in numbers it seems. I found the first one locally at the La Muralla waterfall on September 7 and it has now appeared almost everywhere else in the Turrialba and Cartago areas.


Pectoral Sandpiper in migration, courtesy of Marcela Pérez and the Asociación Ornitológica de Costa Rica 

Finally, I know that migrant shorebirds have been in the Turrialba area for quite some time, even though it is sometimes hard to know whether or not some of them have simply stayed here as summer residents. This may particularly be the case with the Spotted Sandpiper. Because of the lack of suitable habitat in my area, other shorebird species are hard to find year-round. Nonetheless, though I missed the Long-billed Dowitchers at the Río Reventazón overlook at Ujarrás, I briefly saw there a Pectoral Sandpiper and a Wilson’s Phalarope through Ernesto Carman’s scope on September 11. This location is more than an hour’s drive from my own patch, however. The phalarope was my first view of that species here in Costa Rica.

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