Annual Christmas Bird Counts Under Way

December 8, 2006

Christmas bird counting, the 106-year-old activity of identifying birds in late December, is on again this year in Costa Rica, in some cases for the more-than-20th time.

According to the TropicalScienceCenter of the Monteverde Cloud Forest Preserve, which is to hold its north-central Costa Rican bird count Dec. 20, the concept began in the United States to protest a 19th-century Christmas-time tradition of killing as many animals as possible.

The Monteverde preserve is on its 13th season of counting as many birds as possible, said this year’s organizer, Ricardo Güindon.

Counters at Monteverde set a world record in 2002 by identifying 379 species in 24 hours, Güindon said. Last year, 97 people counted a total of 11,250 birds of 366 species.

The Audubon Society is the official organizer of most Christmas bird counts, which happen in 24.2-kilometer-diameter circles during one calendar day in late December or early January. Audubon posts data from previous Costa Rican counts at http://cbc.audubon.org/cbccurrent/current_table.html.

The idea is for one’s team to count, from midnight to midnight, as many birds of as many species as possible (TT, Jan. 13). La Selva Biological Station, now on its 22nd Christmas bird count in north-central Costa Rica (to take place Dec. 30), boasts a cumulative species total of 489. Last year’s additions, according to its Web site: the pinnated bittern, the red-tailed hawk, the violet sabrewing, Hoffmann’s woodpecker and the white-winged tanager.

Christmas Bird Counts

Ornithology buffs and curious observers can participate in any or all of the following Christmas bird counts. In most cases, lodging and food are provided in trade for a hard day’s counting, which is more likely to start in the wee hours of morning than at the stroke of midnight. Most organizers welcome all, and put experienced bird counters in charge of novices.

Dec. 3 – Too late now, but maybe next year: Randall Ortega of Costa Rica Birding Journeys leads an early-December count at CararaNational Park, on the central Pacific coast. Tel. 643-1983 or 889-8815.

Dec. 14 (from midnight Dec. 13) – Teleférico (Rain Forest Aerial Tram), San José-Guápiles road (near the Caribbean-slope town of Guápiles), 25 routes. Tel. 382-8886 or 364-1841 (Daniel Torres).

Dec. 17 (from midnight Dec. 16) – Orosi/Tapantí National Park/Cartago, east of San José, 8 routes. Tel. 257-1433, ext. 319 or 253-3267 (Julio Sánchez, National Curator of Birds).

Dec. 20 (from midnight Dec. 19) – Monteverde Cloud Forest Preserve, Santa Elena, north-central Costa Rica, 30 routes. Tel. 645-5085 or 376-2967 (Ricardo Güindon or Oscar Fennel).

Dec. 30 (from midnight Dec. 29) – La Selva Biological Station, Puerto Viejo de Sarapiquí, north-central Costa Rica, 15 routes. Tel. 766-6565, ext. 139 (Rodolfo Alvarado or Orlando Vargas).

Jan. 3, 2007 (from midnight Jan. 2) – Fila Costera, near Dominical and San Isidro de El General, southern Costa Rica. Tel. 771-9686 (Noel Ureña, costaricabirdingtours.com).

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