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Big Day Record in Costa Rica

Birdwatching Selva Verde Lodge

Photo: Birdwatchers in Sarapiqui, Costa Rica.


Hot on the heels of a new ‘Big Day’ world record set in Ecuador last month, two birders in Costa Rica have achieved the highest-ever one-day count of 351 species in their country and claim the third highest world total.

Travelling 250 miles by car and more than four miles on foot, the two intrepid participants – Ernest Carman Moyher and Jairo Jimenez Chavez – scored their total between the hours of 1.20 am and 9.45 pm on 25 October, using American Birding Association rules. Ernest logged all 351 species, while Jairo managed to personally record 346. Species of note in a Costa Rican context seen on their mammoth birding trek included Snowy Plover, Upland Sandpiper, Grey-cheeked Thrush and Chuck-will’s-widow, all scarce migrants from North America.

This news comes hot on the heels of a newly claimed world record in Ecuador, set on 8 October by a team of four with a concluding count of 425 (equalling around 4 per cent of the world’s total number of bird species), using a route with a theoretical list of about 1,000 species. The new Costa Rican result beats the previous third place record of 335, also set in Ecuador earlier this year.

Despite two disappointing Big Day trial runs in Costa Rica, the two birders were confident that final modifications made to their route would pay off. Describing their itinerary on the American Birding Association’s Listing Central website, they began at 1.20 am north of Puntarenas with typical nocturnal dry forest species such as Common Pauraque and Ferruginous Pygmy-Owl, along with two Common Potoos – a substantial range extension for this species. They also caught up with several dry forest species as they gave their first calls of the day, including a sighting of the endangered and endemic Mangrove Hummingbird.

As thunderstorms threatened, they approached the highlands from sea level to 2,450m as they reached 200 species, and were greeted by heavy fog and rain at that highest point. Skirting the drier flanks of a volcano to the west they found two mixed species flocks containing most of the highland endemics, including  Flame-throated and Black-cheeked Warblers, Slate-throated and Collared Redstarts, and Scintillant and Volcano Hummingbirds – a further 40 species were added to their list.

More mixed species flocks – typical of tropical forest areas – added the endemic Blue-and-gold Tanager, as well as several of the other brightly coloured Costa Rican representatives of this group. They drove through a heavy rainstorm and made it to Las Brisas NR where the list grew rapidly as the pair identified species after species of Neotropical migrant: Summer and Scarlet Tanagers, Chestnut-sided, Black-and-white, Bay-breasted, Golden-winged and Blackburnian Warblers and American Redstart.

As the sun went down, Little Tinamou, Uniform Crake and Broad-billed Motmot called (heard-only birds count on most ‘big day’ lists) and – as they stood at 344 species – it was time to score just a few last nocturnal birds. From the balcony of a guest house they added Short-tailed Nighthawk and Great Potoo flying and calling in the twilight and a Crested Owl calling from the forest nearby. Lastly, after several nightjar species, the two managed to log their last species in the form of a pair of Black-and-white Owls, bringing them to the new record total of 351.