I’m a bit of a bird nerd – that is, a birdwatcher – and have been since I was young. Growing up, we had an old copy of Golden Books “A Guide to Field Identification BIRDS of North America” and I would study that book for hours in spite of its missing pages,the lack of which deeply annoyed me. I poured over the pages of between the covers of each book in the Life Nature Library series, each picture gazed at again and again, each caption nearly committed to memory. The hours I spent gaining knowledge from the books in the home library were reinforced by witnessing birds around the farm, from the Great Horned Owl that perched atop the old silo to the rare visit of a Snowy Owl one winter as the family worked together cleaning the barn and even the surprise of finding a Eastern Screech Owl sheltering from the winter winds inside the garage that had been filled with an abundant crop of hay that year.
During later years, when I found myself married and enjoying the expensive hobby of feeding the local songbirds, color me happy (and a bit surprised) when I could rattle off the names of songbirds rarely, or never, seen in the area where I grew up. My front yard is a veritable bonanza for the feathered kind with a variety of feeders* and food to choose from**, in fact we call it “The Feeding Station”. In the spring when the Ruby-throated Hummingbirds and Baltimore Orioles arrive, they make a point of finding me in the house; the hummers stare at me through the windows until I notice them and the orioles come tapping their way around the house at each window until they find me and then go wait for me to fill their feeders. They have me well-trained.
When the Chickadees have tattled on me to the neighborhood that I’ve gone out and refilled the feeders, I can count about two dozen different species of songbirds right out my windows. With the Spring Migration, those numbers swell and include the Indigo Bunting, which had three of that species arrive our first spring in this house and have multiplied every year since – last year saw nearly 20 of the brilliant indigo birds at feeders and on the ground, gleaning seed that had been dropped. I can’t wait for their arrival this spring as well.
Nosara, Costa Rica, is a place that in the words of Bibi, our host, “People only come to Nosara for a few things: hiking, bird watching, yoga or surfing.” If you’re into any or all of those things – you should put Nosara on your list of places to which to travel. Wildlife in general abounds but everywhere I looked there were birds! On the first morning at Casa Banda I was relaxing on the front porch in the rocking chair with a book and heard a flutter of wings and sat with mouth agape as four feet in front of me was a bird I’d never before seen but it was beautiful and had two long, lyre-like tail feathers. It turns out that it was a Long-tailed Manakin; sadly, I didn’t have anything near me with which to take its picture. Parakeets and parrots flew overhead away from the coast every morning and every evening they headed back toward the crash of the waves. Great Kiskadees played in the bananas, cuadrados and plantains on the grounds of Casa Banda and collected insects from the surface of the water in the pool – we even got to see a baby practicing this move after it watched its parents.
There were flocks of Fork-tailed Flycatchers that sat high up in the top of a large tree, all in formation facing into the breeze. Hummingbirds of all kinds of varieties whizzed about the garden at Casa Banda, visited the feeders next door at Bella Vista Mar, and on our river wildlife tour we saw even more. And speaking of the river tour, that is where the large birds really made a showing – they were everywhere. Herons of all sizes, shapes and colors. Sandpipers, plovers, gulls, shearwaters and petrels. A Summer Tanager male was spotted by Mr. Muse, a bright red spot nearly hidden by greenery. Then there were the birds of prey and those that came after from the commonplace Red-tailed Hawks, Ospreys, and Black and Turkey Vultures to the Crested Caracara and Laughing Falcon, which we could hear but not see.
No matter what direction we looked, there were birds. Big ones and teeny-tiny ones. Silent ones and birds that seemed to have a need to make a noise wherever they flew (like the hummingbirds). For someone like me who could watch birds for hours on end, this was truly a magical week and I want to go back just to see what other species I can spot! If you’re a bird watcher – I highly recommend putting Costa Rica on your list of bird watching locations to visit.
*How many feeders do I have? I currently have 13 bird feeders and 5 squirrel feeders (placed away from the bird feeders… not that it really deters them – after all, they have destroyed my Christmas lights in the past).
**What do I put in my feeders? I get the BEST variety of birds using Black-Oil Sunflower seeds, Peanut “rejects”, and suet or “dough”. I have one feeder filled with Niger/Nyjer seed and it is fairly well ignored other than a few weeks in the early spring – the finches showing a preference for the Black-Oil Sunflower seeds.