Global Big Day

Our team of Daniel Martínez, Steven Aguilar, Andrey Acosta and yours truly enjoyed a birding feast this weekend. We divided the day into 3 basic locations: El Tapojo at 2800 m on the Turrialba Volcano; Guayabo National Monument at 1200-1300 m; and Lagunas de Bonilla at 500 m elevation. We had planned to finish at the Angostura Dam but never made it!

The emphasis for Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s Global Big Day (Antarctica to Zimbabwe!!) was on listing a maximum number of species in one day. This was tailor-made for me since I just love listings. It’s one of my several psychological flaws. Our team managed a grand total of 156 species, although several escaped me personally. Quite a few species were identified by voice only, which makes the encounter with them more easily forgettable than an actual sighting.

This post addresses mainly those species that were my own personal highlights for the day, not necessarily the rarest birds that we were able to add to our list.

Hummingbird, Magnificent , male San Gerardo de Dota (10)

Male Magnificent Hummingbird at San Gerardo de Dota, courtesy of John Beer

El Tapojo and the Turrialba Volcano road

Highlights here were the pair of Bare-shanked Screech-Owls (Megascops clarkii) that we saw at the Albergue del Quetzal by flashlight on the Friday evening before the count (voice only on count day), the 5 species of highland hummingbirds that we found, and a brief but very satisfactory sighting of a Wrenthrush (Zeledonia coronata). Arnoldo García’s photo below was taken on the other side of Cartago in the Cerro de la Muerte highlands.


Wrenthrush at Cerro de la Muerte, by kind courtesy of Arnoldo García

At a lower elevation on the Turrialba Volcano Road we spotted a female Flame-colored Tanager (Piranga bidentata). This sighting of what is a fairly common mountain bird was the first record that I personally have for the Turrialba Volcano slope. My previous views were always elsewhere, chiefly on the Irazú Volcano.

Guayabo National Monument

At the Monument we birded only on the road outside the park but this yielded a large number of species, the most notable of which, for me, was a Black-headed Tody-Flycatcher (Todirostrum nigriceps). For a change, we were afforded excellent views:

Black-headed Tody-Flycatcher Guayabo Andrey Acosta

The elusive Black-headed Tody-Flycatcher, courtesy of Andrey Acosta

This tiny flycatcher (3″) is an uncommon species that usually keeps high in the trees. Key identification points are the white throat and the dark iris. It is far outnumbered by the Common Tody-Flycatcher (Todirostrum cinereum), found in gardens almost country-wide.

Common Tody-Flycatcher, (Santa Rosa, garden)

Common Tody-Flycatcher at nearby Santa Rosa, courtesy of John Beer

Close by the Black-headed Tody-Flycatcher, Andrey found and photographed at close quarters a large Three-toed Sloth that was bent on descending a nearby tree:

Three-toed Sloth Guayabo2 Andrey Acosta

Hi folks!

Lagunas de Bonilla

This Bonilla is not to be confused with Bonilla Arriba, which is located much higher up the volcano close to Torito. Here, my highlights were a male Great Antshrike (Taraba major) and a pair of Blue Dacnis (Dacnis cayana), both of which I had never seen locally before. Of course, this location is perhaps an hour’s drive from Turrialba and is not even quite in Cartago Province. It actually belongs to the province of Limón. The common antshrike in our area is the Barred Antshrike (Thamnophilus doliatus), while our usual dacnis is the Scarlet-thighed Dacnis (Dacnis venusta), generally found at higher elevations than cayana. For visitors to Costa Rica, dacnis are small species of tanager that resemble honeycreepers but have shorter bills.

Photos to be inserted soon!

2 thoughts on “Global Big Day

  1. I traveled to ‘la Segua’ reserve near Chone Ecuador and joined two friends who are also guides .. lucky me, and we had a great day… the biggest surprise for me was a raptor i’ve never seen before, and we saw at least 100 — the Snail Kite. They live up to their name!
    Common and Purple Gallinule, White-throated Crake, Limpkins, Grebes, Whistling ducks, White-cheeked Pintails, Blue-W Teal, W Ibis, Gl Ibis, Egrets, Herns, Frigates as well as various flycatchers, seedeaters etc etc… There were many nests as well as chicks, which made the outing extra special. Why would anyone want to stay at home when the are so many great creatures to see in the wild?

    The Sloth, btw, was a wonderful addition to your day’s list! Our mammal for the day was a curious lone calf that tagged along like a puppy!


  2. Ah, the Great Ant Shrike. I hope you got a good long look at it! That Wrenthrush is a cool looking bird, I’ve not seen one. And of course excellent work by John on the Magnificent Hummer. Looks like it was a fun productive trip.


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