Thu, Sep 4, 2008 at 10:57 AM
I wanted to send you a quick note on a morning of birding at Chomes on the Central coast here in Costa Rica.
Yesterday morning, Sept 3, a group of Costa Rican birders got together to see what we could turn up at the Chomes shrimp farms located on the eastern edge of the Gulf of Nicoya. I awoke at 3:45 AM, coffee, and out the door and soon picked up Jim Zook en-route to the coast. Steven Easley and his wife Magda picked up Vernon Campos around the same time while Ernesto Carman and Elaida left even earlier from Platanillo near Rancho Naturalista - all with the same goal - to look for rare migrants that might be coming through this time of year. Jim and I stopped along the entrance road to Chomes to look over swallows perched on the wire, our best bird there were two Purple Martins, a transient migrant and not common to say the least. We also stopped and scanned a ploughed field which had many shorebirds since it was high tide but we decided to put that off till later in order to take advantage of the high tide at the shrimp ponds. We met up with Steven, Magda, and Vernon at the first ponds - Jim and I caught up with the Least Terns and one winter plumage Black Tern they had located and noticed both Bank and Cliff Swallows migrating through as well. There were lots of shorebirds present - the usual suspects - and the largest collection of Semipalmated Sandpipers I have ever seen in this country. After going through this group carefully we continued to the ponds closest to the gulf. Here we found Franklin's Gull, Caspian Tern, Marbled Godwit, and Collared Plover along with the other more typical shorebirds present. Ernesto and Elaida drove up at this point and I went with them back to the front ponds (they came in a different route) as Ernesto needed Least Tern as a life bird. We nailed that for him and joined the rest of the group at a viewing point over the gulf. The others had located an American Oystercatcher so we caught up with that, Yellow (Mangrove) Warblers were present as well which is always nice to see, but no sign of the Parasitic Jaeger Steven photographed just 4 days prior with Magda and Bart Brown. We drove around more ponds which were full of water thus no shorebirds but did see a Zone-tailed Hawk fly over. Back at the ploughed fields now and we could see shorebirds flying about at times along with MANY Whimbrels but they seemed to disappear in the rows of the fields, out of sight. We decided to try and enter the farm and after Jim talked to the administrator we were able to drive around (aimlessly at times) to bird the fields proper. It was frustrating to still have distanct views of groups of shorebirds irratically flying over the fields but not get definitive looks at them. Possible Baird's, possible this, possible that was becoming the theme. A Pearl Kite flew over which took our eyes momentarily off the fields to the sky above. The habitat looked great and I felt like a rarity had to be in the next field, now the next, another, another...and this went on for a couple of hours. After making it back out to the main road we decided to give the original ploughed field one more try. With patience we watched as shorebirds would occasionally take flight only to disappear again except for the numerous Whimbrel which did not hide as affectably. We could see size difference in the Whimbrel flocks but were still not able to make out the species at they were quite distant. Steven spotted something of potential, gave me directions and I quickly had my scope on it. My announcement of "BUFF-BREASTED SANDPIPER!!!" was first met with a sense of shock or disbelief (as it would me as well), but my insistence gave everyone cause for hope and soon we had 4 scopes on this mythical transient migrant through Costa Rica. A new Costa Rican bird for everyone in the group and a life bird for Jim, Ernesto, Elaida, and Vernon. Our determination had paid off in a big way - this is a bird that I thought I would perhaps never see in Costa Rica. There are very few records of this species in Costa Rica - perhaps overlooked but also because there is only a narrow window of opportunity, late Aug and early Sept being what we thought would be the best time to find one here. Soon Baird's Sandpipers made an appearance - another life bird for several in the group. Steven decided to try and photograph the Buff-breasted and set off across the field. Jim and Ernesto noticed a number of shorebirds on the back field and they headed out that way while the others watched from the road. Both were successful - Steven was able to get excellent photos of the Buff-breasted and Jim and Ernesto found a lone Upland Sandpiper which didn't stick around long enough for the others. We joined Jim and Ernesto and although we missed the Upland, we did have exceptional views of two Buff-breasted and several Baird's Sandpipers which were much enjoyed. A pause at the aqueduct to get rid of extra pounds of mud on our shoes and we were out of there. Steven and Magda headed off to Miravalles, Ernesto and Elaida to Arenal, and Jim, Vernon, and myself back to the homesteads. In the end we were all delighted with the day of birding, everyone had something to celebrate.
Hasta pronto amigos!
Fri, Sep 5, 2008 at 11:06 AM
Hi Richard,still riding the high from those Buff-breasted Sandpipers! What a thrill. Kevin forgot to mention a Harris's Hawk and a Blue-and-white Swallow, both of which I thought were interesting.
Fri, Sep 5, 2008 at 12:11 PM
To: Richard Garrigues
Hey,the field where all the good stuff was is on the left side as you drive in, after the second bridge. You'll see it easy enough. It is a big open muddy field that has been plowed, There are a few scattered little cotton plants coming up and in the SW corner there is a knee high stand of dry stems where the Double-striped Thick-Knees hang out. The next field on your left is in pineapple and there is a road with many tall trees that separates the two fields. You can get a glimpse of the field from the road but better to go in. We had to ask for permission to enter but the administrator gave us a free reign. The offices are back about 200 m towards the bridge on the E side, white gate with sprockets on the gate posts.Google maps coordinates 10.'5645, -84.88089.