To see a new species of bird is always fun but particularly if it is in a place where you have birded frequently. Flip and I have been traveling to and birding in Costa Rica since our hair was brown, not gray. Thirty years of bird-watching in Costa Rica should have netted us close to all the 878 species known to this Central American country. No such luck, but we haven’t been there every month of the year.
We normally visit Costa Rica between late December and early May. There are many South American feathered migrants that spend the summer (May to November) in Costa Rica. We have missed those. The magnificent and huge harpy eagle has only been spotted a few times in the past 30 years in Costa Rica, unfortunately not while we were visiting. There are ant birds which are very secretive that we have heard but never seen and various flycatchers. We will keep trying.
Our most recent trip was the result of winning an auction item for Organization for Tropical Studies to visit their research station La Selva (the jungle/forest). Located on the Caribbean side of Costa Rica, La Selva encompasses 1,600 hectares (3,900 acres) of tropical wet forests and disturbed land. We were treated to two walks with OTS’ best guide, Rodolfo, and it was due to Rodolfo’s keen eyes that we found a new bird.
At the end of a wooden walkway over an area that is wet during the rainy season, Rodolfo pointed out a hanging nest constructed with several species of grasses close to the ground. It had been built by a tiny little flycatcher — the black-capped pygmy tyrant. Rodolfo introduced us to this flycatcher’s call — sounded like an insect to me — but we never saw the bird that day. The following day Flip and I, not giving up easily, returned to the nest and hung out. Shortly after we arrived the black-capped pygmy tyrant shot into its nest. Not only did we see the bird but also he allowed us to take a few dark photos. It just goes to show, if at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.
Summer tanagers seem to have fallen out of the sky and landed in Edgartown. Ellen McEvoy Bassett and Neale Bassett have had two of these lovely tanagers at their feeder on Pennywise Path in Edgartown since April 6. They were still there as of April 13. Ann Floyd and Tom Barrett have spotted summer tanagers at their place also on Pennywise Path on April 8, 10 and 12. Maybe they are sharing tanagers with the Bassetts.
April 4 Alexa Mavromatis reported that a golden-crowned kinglet hit her porch window on Peaked Hill in Chilmark. The bird was stunned and probably pretty upset, but eventually flew away.
Indigo buntings continue to be in the news. Ellen McEvoy Bassett and Neale Bassett reported an indigo bunting at their feeder on Pennywise Path in Edgartown on April 2.
Bob Woodruff had a gorgeous male in full spring attire visit his garden on April 9. Bob added that watching the bunting lightened the task of ripping out an ancient pig pen. The same day Nancy Abbott of Lambert’s Cove called to say that she spotted the first of the season indigo bunting and tree swallows at her Lambert’s Cove house. Catherine Deese has had an indigo bunting at her Chilmark feeder since around April 9 as well.
Bert Fischer and Jane Slater both spotted a great egret in the marsh at Quitsa on April 10. Catherine Deese spotted two great egrets in Quitsa on April 12 and one in the Menemsha marsh the same day.
Edo and Bob Potter greeted their first barn swallow of the season on April 9. This is a bit early, although Tim Rich spotted an earlier barn swallow on March 21, 1999! Barn swallows usually arrive on the Vineyard mid-April. Lanny McDowell had a barn swallow in with tree swallows at the Oak Bluffs Pumping Station on April 11. Lanny also spotted a black-crowned night heron at the pumping station that day. Two pine siskins were still at his West Tisbury feeder as of April 13.
Katharine Colon and Sally Anderson were birding at the Oak Bluffs Waterworks on April 9 and spotted a white-eyed vireo as well as two eastern phoebes and three osprey. Katharine had seen the vireo the day before but wasn’t able to confirm its identity.
Barbara Murphy spotted an eagle sitting in a tree near her house in Chilmark on April 11. Her husband Chris verified the sighting and determined that it was a third year bald eagle. The eagle was being harassed by a flock of American crows so much so that it dropped the prey it held in its talons. Eventually the eagle flew off, but not until it retrieved his meal.
April 13 Alan Willens observed the pair of osprey ensconced on the Harthaven nest. He added that he was able to walk quite close to a pair of American oystercatchers on the Harthaven Beach. Hopefully the oystercatchers will nest there as they have in the past, so giving them a wide berth is important.
Gus Ben David watched eight turkey vultures and one red-tailed hawk soaring over the World of Reptiles and Birds on April 13. He also mentioned that the parula warbler is still around his feeders as is a pine warbler. The Bassetts had a pine warbler on Pennywise Path in Edgartown on April 9, and Penny Uhlendorf and Scott Stephens are hearing them daily at Pilot Hill.
April 13 Warren Woessner was at Katama. He spotted a male kestrel fighting the wind at the airport. At the Farm Institute he spotted two dunlin, two killdeer and ten black-bellied plover.
Penny Uhlendorf and Scott Stephens had their first tree swallows at Pilot Hill on April 7. They were excited to see that they have a great horned owl sitting on a nest nearby. On April 10 Scott saw four red-necked grebes and three puffins south of Noman’s Land. Then on April 12 Scott heard and then observed two osprey harassing an adult bald eagle over the house. That means there are probably two bald eagles hanging around the Vineyard!
And speaking of osprey, Rob Bierregaard e-mailed to say that Claws, the Delaware osprey from the class of 2007 is on the move. He made it past the Osprey Black Hole of Hispaniola and is in Cuba.
Last but not least, Tim Thomas called his mother, Marianne, on April 15 to announce that there was a great egret at the Bend in the Road on Beach Road. Marianne went down and not only spotted the great egret, but also a greater yellowlegs.
Please report your bird sightings to the Martha’s Vineyard Bird Hotline at 508-627-4922 or e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.