BirdsCaribbean Global Big Day in a Big Way

Birders, in general, tend to be an enthusiastic bunch – and the constraints of the current circumstances actually added extra incentive to find creative problem solving solutions, in finding new birding locations or ways to be safely be in familiar ones.

The BirdsCaribbean Global Big Day video compilation provides proof positive. Enjoy!


Global Big Day at Macaw Lodge – May 9, 2020

Marco Umaña, Santiago Adaniz, Hugo Santa Cruz and Beto Guido (from left to right) / Birding Guides in Costa Rica

My name is Hugo Santa Cruz and I’m excited to write about the Macaw Lodge Global Big Day outcomes. As I’m new to the La Paz Group site, let me introduce myself. I’m a birdwatching and neotropical ecology guide in the Central Pacific of Costa Rica and Bolivia. I’m also a nature photographer and consultant for ecotourism projects and management of protected areas. 

The Global Big Day is an initiative of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology that has been held since 2015, to raise awareness about the conservation of birds and their habitats. Birdwatchers and photographers from around the world contribute to the census of birds through the eBird platform; an increasingly popular citizen science management tool among birders.

Birders across the globe persisted with the Global Big Day despite the crisis caused by COVID-19, surveying birds either in literal “backyard birding“, or carefully enjoying the fresh air of parks and natural areas within access.  This year’s event had record-breaking participation with more than 48,500 registrars and more than 15,000 submitted lists.

In this edition of the Global Big Day, Costa Rica registered 676 species, obtaining the seventh place worldwide among 172 participating countries.  The Macaw Lodge Private Forest Reserve stood out among the best hotspots in the country, achieving the eighth place with 137 species of birds registered in a single day, inside our Ecological Sanctuary.

Our team of expert guides and birdwatchers began our Big Day census at 00:00 hrs., starting the first records with species of nocturnal birds. We then continued the count at dawn, moving through the different micro-ecosystems of Macaw Lodge. Continue reading

In Anticipation of Global Big Day, 2020

In a bit over a week, the Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s yearly push for a massive, coordinated citizen science effort in birdwatching will take place. On May 9th, I’ll be trying to see as many bird species as I can within my neighborhood of New Haven, Connecticut, just like I did last year, when I photographed the Black-and-white Warbler pictured below (recently featured as a Bird of the Day, if it looks familiar). But this time around, I’ll be part of the Spoonbills Dream Team, raising money for the BirdsCaribbean campaign to support the Journal of Caribbean Ornithology.

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Must-see Aerial Insectivores in the Greater Antilles: Part 5/5

Northern Potoo perched on a fence post near the Windsor Research Station, Trelawny Parish, Jamaica. (photo by Justin Proctor)

This post is part of a series; visit Part 4 here.

Let’s move now from the diurnal species to a nocturnal favorite, the Northern Potoo (Nyctibius jamaicensis), which has been featured here before a couple times. These birds actively hunt for insects at night by sallying out from low-lying perches where they remain camouflaged and motionless until prey is spotted. If you’ve got a little bit of energy left in you after the sun goes down, and you also remembered to pack a decent headlamp or flashlight, I can’t encourage you enough to just go for a little walk down a quiet road nearby.

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Must-see Aerial Insectivores in the Greater Antilles: Part 4/5

White-collared Swifts in flight, Jamaica; top photo is a good depiction of the species viewed head-on from a mountain top. (with the observer positioned at the same elevation that the swifts are flying) as they come together to flock in the evening. (photos by Justin Proctor)

This post is part of a series; visit Part 3 here.

In Part 3 I introduced you to the smallest swift you’ll find in the Greater Antilles, so it seems appropriate to bring the largest swift of the region into the equation. An all-around phenomenal bird, the White-collared Swift (aerial insectivore 4) doesn’t get the attention it deserves, and I think I know why. Wetmore and Swales summarize the problem perfectly:

…through its great speed in flight so annihilates distance that flocks may appear temporarily almost anywhere.” (1931)

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Must-see Aerial Insectivores in the Greater Antilles: Part 3/5

Antillean Palm-Swifts in flight as well as entering and exiting nests located within the hanging fronds of palm trees, Jamaica. (photos by Justin Proctor)

This post is part of a series; visit Part 2 here.

Antillean Palm-Swift (Tachornis phoenicobia)

This is going to be the most noticeable and easy to identify swift out there. However, that doesn’t mean you’re going to get a really good look at one right away. They are fast, and they are small. Luckily they are gregarious and colonial nesters, which means that you will usually come across them in large numbers as they forage or move into and out of their nests – which, amazingly, are a blend of saliva, plant fibers, and feathers attached to the undersides of dead, hanging palm fronds.

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Must-see Aerial Insectivores in the Greater Antilles: Part 2/5

Cave Swallows in flight from multiple angles under different lighting conditions, Jamaica.

This post is part of a series; visit Part 1 here.

Cave Swallows (Petrochelidon fulva)

These little guys are a great species to start with because they are known to all of the Greater Antilles islands. One of the best contexts to find Cave Swallows in would be nearby to one of their communal roosts / nesting sites. Terrestrially, look around cave entrances or pocket-like formations in the sides of rocky cliffs. Coastally, look for limestone formations along the beach or just offshore. If they are there, you won’t miss them. Their nests are primarily made up of a mix of mud and plant fibers that have been attached to a vertical wall. If you can manage to get close, you might be lucky enough to see a pair of Cave Swallows sitting still in a nest giving you that famous 1000-yard stare.

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Must-see Aerial Insectivores in the Greater Antilles: Part 1/5

Illustration by Justin Proctor

Are you tired of really crisp, up-close views of beautiful Caribbean birds? Are you repulsed at the idea of having an extended period of time to view a bird, jot down detailed notes about its breath-taking plumage, and really connect with the moment? Well, I knew it; and I’m happy to say that here at Proctor & Proctor Inc., we can offer you something much more challenging! Let’s start by having a long, long look at the following Rorschach test (pictured left). And if at any time it becomes painful to keep your eyes on the image, just keep looking…

Alright, let’s reflect. Did you see a hamster? If you did, I’m gonna ask you to just kindly walk away now. If rather you saw some intriguing silhouettes of our feathered friends in front of our beloved Yellow Star, you’re sitting pretty. And if you took one quick glance and were able to immediately identify all the different species present, I think we can probably get you a movie deal.

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