Thursday, July 6, 2017
Joining the 700/(800) Club
Way back last year, (mid 2016), I decided that I would love to go to Costa Rica for birding. Chris Rohrer was also interested and we decided to go for it. I had only been birding outside of the United States at a couple of places in Mexico; Sonora and Chiapas. The trip to Chiapas took place in 2015 and during that trip, I found my 500th and 600th life birds in a matter of 9 days. It gets harder and harder to add new life bird to your list once you reach a certain plateau. You have to get out of the United States to rack up the numbers. I certainly have a lot of birds in the US to add to my list, and will try working on some of them during my upcoming year.
As our trip to Costa Rica approached, my life list was slowly creeping to the next magical number of 700. When I left for Costa Rica, my life list stood at 689 species. I knew that 700 would finally come my way on this trip, but had no idea what I was going to end up with at the end of the trip.
Since I arrived the evening before Chris and Michael, I had the opportunity to do some birding before they arrived the next day. How many new species could I find on my own before they arrived? My first new bird, and #690, was Hoffman's Woodpecker. They are fairly similar to our native Gila Woodpecker in Arizona, and fairly common.
Hoffman's Woodpecker - Male
Hoffman's Woodpecker - Female
Number 691, was the Orange-chinned Parakeet and at the time, I had no idea how common this species was in Costa Rica. We found them just about everywhere we visited and they were quite numerous and usually traveled in noisy flocks.
This was followed by Streaked Flycatcher, #692, and then the very good looking Rufous-naped Wren at #693. I had looked forward to seeing the wren because it looked pretty handsome when I was studying my field guide prior to this trip.
Shortly after, I spied one of the less exciting lifers, the Tropical Mockingbird, #694, which looks a lot like a washed-out Northern Mockingbird that we have in Arizona. Most definitely not one of the most colorful birds around, but at least it is a new 'tick' to the list. (And relieved that it was not number 700!)
The next bird was one that was a bit off my radar, and it was not until I checked my photos to see that I had found a King Vulture soaring the thermals high above me. At 695, this was my best bird of the morning while being on my own.
I was able to add the Cinnamon Hummingbird, #696, prior to the arrival of Chris and Michael. Once they arrived, we found our way to the casita that we had lined up for our next 3 nights just outside of the city of Liberia. Once we got settled, we headed out the door to go birding and #697, was the Muscovy Duck.
Walking the tree lined road, we happened to stumble on a Black-headed Trogon, #698, which would have been an awesome bird for 700, but a birder can't always predict what will show itself at any given time.
Next up, at #699, was a unique and beautiful wading bird, the Southern Lapwing.
And now for number 700, (drum roll please), and one that I am happy to call #700, the Turquoise-browed Motmot. It is a good looking bird and has an unusual name. (Who doesn't like saying the word motmot? It just rolls off the tongue.)
Hitting the magical number of 700 was fairly easy and was expected. But how many more new bird species could I discover during the rest of the trip? Would 800 species be stretching my expectations? Only time would tell.
Our last few nights were spent in San Jose and at that time, I was so close to the 800 mark and I needed to go to a location that had a much different habitat than many places that I had already been to, so I actually had a guide take me to Carara National Park on the central Pacific Coast of Costa Rica. This place was hot, humid, and infested with mosquitoes, but the habitat was the home to a much different list of birds. As we started walking the trail we heard Scarlet Macaws, but could not see them, so I did not write that one down on my list, because I needed to see one to add it to my list. As we walked the trails, I started scoring new life birds in this dark, humid, tropical forest. Birds such as Gray-cowled Wood-rail, Royal Flycatcher, Cocoa Woodcreeper, Bare-crowned Antbird, and Lesson's Motmot, were all added to my life list. All this time Scarlet Macaws were calling and flying overhead and I at one time caught a very brief view of 2 of them flying overhead through the branches and leaves. Finally, at one clearing in the trees we heard them and as their squawking became louder, we knew they were flying our way and 2 of them flew overhead and I got great views of these majestic birds with their bright red colors and long magnificent tails. While I was unable to get photos, I was extremely happy to add this bird to my life list at number 800!
To be able to reach the 700 and the 800 marks both on the same trip is an incredible feeling. I ended the trip with a total of 126 species of new birds. Many were glimpses of some birds that were secretive and hard to find. Photography was tough and many birds did not get photos and some got photos that are of very poor quality and some turned out OK and a few are some I can be proud of. I will try to cover many of these birds in upcoming blog posts. There will be some horrible photos in my blog post on some birds and there will be some good photos as well. The horrible photos will never be seen on Facebook! They will only be posted on this blog. Stay tuned for further adventures! You will see photos of not only birds, but some mammals and reptiles as well.