It was quite a few years ago I became interested in doing a Big Day, but it wasn't until 2014 I gave it a try. The first two attempts were not very productive having not planned the best route, but in 2015 I set a new route and together with Jairo Jiménez we also set a new record for Costa Rica and third highest in the world tallying 351 species.
This year we decided it was time to do it again, but for a very different reason. This time we were going to use the Big Day as a fundraiser to support the Cabanisi Project which is one of the several conservation projects led by Get Your Birds!. This project is directed towards the conservation of the Cabanis's Ground-Sparrow (Melozone cabanisi). The donations will be used to underwrite important research documenting the loss of habitat threatening this species' survival.
Abiding by the American Birding Association's rules for a Big Day the GYB team was ready to go: Paz Angulo, Jairo Jiménez and myself. We drove the afternoon prior to our starting point at some small cabins in Las Juntas de Abangares, Guanacaste. As we arrived we were excited to hear Ferruginous Pygmy-Owls singing in the tree above the cabin, thinking for sure this would be our first species on the list.
At the stroke of midnight we all hopped out of bed, drank some coffee as we stood outside to listen for the pygmy-owls, but we never would have guessed Melodious Blackbird and Clay-colored Thrush were going to be the first birds on our list! These two species are not usually nocturnal, but they were eating insects under a street light. We began our drive through the dry forest, using a spotlight and listening for calls and soon had picked-up Common Pauraque, Barn Owl and Double-Striped Thick-knees. We drove from Las Juntas to Colorado which is right on the Nicoya Bay, then south following the coast through Abangaritos, Costa de Pájaros, Punta Morales and finally reaching Caldera just before sunrise. By this time we had logged 26 species including several owls, nightjars and shorebirds.
The Mata de Limón estuary road near Caldera was very active at sunrise, on one side of the dirt road is mangrove and on the other dry forest with open fields providing a great combination of habitats. Many typical dry forest species such as Banded and Rufous-naped Wrens, White-throated Magpie Jay, Cinnamon and Steely-vented Hummingbirds and Nutting's Flycatcher, as well as several mangrove specialties such as Mangrove Vireo, Panama Flycatcher, Northern Scrub-Flycatcher and the mangrove sub-species of Yellow Warbler.
From here we drove further down the coast to the mouth of the Tárcoles River where we added a few more waterbirds like Roseate Spoonbill, Wood Stork, Bare-throated Tiger-Heron, Brown Pelican and Magnificent Frigatebird.