Friday, March 25, 2011

Costa Rica 3: Off the bikes with Mom and Dad (February 19-23, 2011)

After Corcovado, we travelled up to San Isidro, which is several hours south of the capital, San José.  This was the view from the backyard of Casa de Los Celtas near Rivas (San Isidro), the charming Scottish-and-Welsh-owned bed-and-breakfast where we stayed for several days:

 Casa de los Celtas had its own host of interesting birds... seen below as photographed by Doug:

Speckled Tanager  

Green Honeycreeper

Golden-Hooded Tanagers

Red-Legged Honeycreeper

Clay-colored Robin, national bird of Costa Rica

Purple-Throated Mountain Gem

view at dawn of the central highlands north of San Isidro

Hoping to see a Resplendent Quetzal before we leave Costa Rica, we went to Paraiso del Quetzal in the highlands, where Jorge Serrano has converted an old farm into an ecotourist project centered on the quetzal, an increasingly rare and endangered bird in central America.

Jorge Serrano, our guide, complete with cellular phone and spotting scope.   

Quetzal hunters shortly after sunrise: Chris, Jorge, Jason and Doug

volcanoes seen in the distance, Poas the obvious one in the center-right of the photo

Collared Trogon - an excellent sighting!

Although Paraiso del Quetzal is known for its frequent quetzal sightings, we were having no luck on this gorgeous morning, until from out of nowhere an iridescent green bird flew from high in the canopy, flying out in an obvious courtship maneuver with its tremendous long green tail trailing, before landing in the tree below:

the quetzal is on the lower right-leading branch of the center tree of this photo, no wonder why they are difficult to spot in the forest

Resplendent Quetzal

the silhouette of the quetzal shows its beautiful long forked tail

... this was the cloud forest around Paraiso del Quetzal...

Volcano Hummingbird; female sitting on a nest in a cutbank

tiny Volcano Hummingbird eggs

At the central lodge of Paraiso, they have hung hummingbird feeders which attract the following species, among others:

Fiery-Throated Hummingbird

Magnificent Hummingbird...(above and below)

to see a short video of the scene at the above hummingbird feeder, see the following link:

...more cloud forest features from Paraiso del Quetzal...
Chris takes in the forest

bell-shaped flowers evolved for hummingbird pollination

Sooty Robin

Jorge Serrano's wife, Doug, Jorge, and Chris after a fabulous morning nature walk

Jason fabricating and repairing in San Isidro

back at Casa de los Celtas before we head back to San Ramón to meet Katie and Sonia
the ladies: Sonia, Chris and Katie

the group at Vista Verde Restaurant near San Ramón, before splitting up... Jason and Sonia back to Nicaragua for a month, Doug and Chris back to the states, and Jeff and Katie onwards to Panamá.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Costa Rica 2: on foot in Corcovado National Park (February 15-19, 2011)

After a cruel and hideous all-day drive from San Ramon south on the PanAm up and over the Cuerro de la Muerte mountain range & the Continental Divide (truck traffic, endless curves, fog, heat, potholed roads, dirt roads, etc., etc. - all of which are far more enjoyable on bicycles than in cars!) down to San Isidro & thence to the Peninsula de Osa, Doug and Chris dropped off Jeff and Jason at La Palma, near Corcovado National Park just at sunset.  From here, Jeff & Jason would trek to Los Patos Station entrance to Corcovado NP and explore the park by foot over the following 3.5 days while Doug and Chris would continue by rental car another 120 km to Carate, a sparsly populated outpost at the literal end of the road near the La Leona Station entrance to Corcovado National Park, touring the peninsula and staying in eco-lodges.

A basic map of Peninsula de Osa and Corcovado National Park.  The route we would take spans about 60km, going from La Palma to Carate, passing by Los Patos, Sirena and La Leona stations en route - thus crossing the heart of the park.  Our walk started along the Rincon River, and offered outstanding wildlife viewing:

Roadside Hawk

Scarlet-Rumped Tanager

gorgeous swallowtail butterflies seen along Rio Rincón

the track crossed the Rio Rincón a dozen times or so on our way to Los Patos station, along which we saw a number of species of birds:

Lesser Yellowlegs

American Ibis


Black-Striped Sparrow

the scene near Los Patos.  The park begins on the right (west) side of the river here.

crested anole lizard
sundown cicada shell
waterfall 2 km into the park from Los Patos.  great for a morning dip

the forest was exceptionally beautiful heading into the heart of the park, and we saw some exciting birds along the way here:

Chestnut-Mandibled Toucan

Pale-Billed Woodpecker

Black-Cheeked Ant-Tanager

some nice flowers as well:

Heliconia, a favorite of hummingbirds

evasive White-Whiskered Puffbird

Jason strings up his newly-sewn hammock across the trail for an afternoon rest

...some beautiful tree forms scattered throughout the forest...

... approaching Sirena station we saw some animated Squirrel Monkeys...

La Sirena Ranger and Research Station

... hiking the trails around La Sirena yielded some interesting sights...

the Rio Sirena meets the ocean

Wandering Tattler

amazing buttressed roots, a common feature of tropical rainforest

as we headed out of La Sirena, we had to ford the Rio Claro.  No problem, right?

Jason getting good and wet.  When Jeff crossed two minutes later, the tide had risen slightly, and the water level reached his chin! 

Whimbrels and Tattlers in the surf zone

a good deal of the walk from La Sirena to Las Leonas passes along or just next to the beach, making for some spectacular scenery

 ... Giant Anteater! the namesake of the Peninsula de Osa, and apparently a rare sight... he gave a good viewing for about 10 minutes  ....

Bare-Throated Tiger-Heron

Red-Legged Honeycreeper, seen while crossing a recent landslide

Common Black-Hawk

 sunset from near La Leona station

sunrise the following morning

Scarlet Macaw.  Rare in most of Costa Rica now, this endangered bird is common in Corcovado National Park, especially clost to the coast.

 While Jeff and Jason started their treking across Corcovado NP, Doug and Chris continued on to Carate.  While the all-day drive from San Ramon to La Palma may have been cruel and hideous, at least it was in daylight.  La Palma to Carate was driven at night, through pitch black rain forest and jungle, 120 km on mostly unpaved "roads" better described as dirt-layered/rock-strewn/mud-slicked/sand-trapped/non-shouldered/deep-potholed/hair-pinned/un-marked/single-laned/blind-curved/wash-boarded, ....  Scariest of all, there were at least 8 river/creek crossings, but there were NO BRIDGES, and at each crossing, the black, flowing waters hid their true depth from our headlights.  After finally reaching Carate, we managed to find our first Eco-lodge, Finca Exótica, were shown our open-sided thatched-roof cabino (shown below) and downed a full bottle of wine between the exhausted two of us.

brown pelicans seen along their day-hikes to La Leona

After a restful two nights, they backtracked 36 km (this time, in daylight) to another Eco-lodging,  Bosque del Cabo Rainforest Lodge, for another two nights stay:

Chris and Doug at waterfall.

view of Pacific coastline from Bosque Del Cabo

following are some amazing photos of scarlet macaws that Doug and Chris spotted while on nature treks:

Yo!  Que pasa?
On the way back to the nest.
Settled in & carrying on a conversation in their nest cavity high in the canopy!  Scarlet Macaws mate for life.

We gotta get outta this place.......

the photos below document some more of the diverse wildlife seen in this area of the Osa Peninsula:

squirrel monkey seen near Doug and Chris' cabin at Bosque Del Cabo

breaching humpback whale (!) near Carate, SPLISH........



While taking our first shower (outdoors, of course) at Bosque Del Cabo, we couldn't help but notice that we were being watched by a pair, of, oh-no, YIKES.....

Golden-orb Weaver Spiders.
The larger (7 inches in length) is the female, & the much smaller (on top) is the male.  This view is the underside.  The female's venom is similar to a Black Widow's, but (thankfully) not near as lethal for humans.

This is a topside view of the Golden Orb-Weaver, female below, male (much smaller) above.  Click to enlarge, and you'll see the typical skull face on the female's Cephalothorax, definitely signalling "DANGER!"

Owl butterfly

Rain forest orchid, blended by nature

Hummingbird delight

Pair of Chestnut-mandibled Toucans, (they mate for life), spotted by Chris & photographed by Doug at Bosque Del Cabo.

Red-lored Parrot, watching......


Flying squirrel.

Black-headed Tody-Flycatcher

Crested Caracara

Great Tinamou

White-winged Tanager

Blue-gray Tanager, landing.

Clay-colored Robin, landing.

Pair of Scarlet-rumped Tanagers, in flight, fighting over territorial rights.  A classic no-fly-zone battle.

Rain forest ferns.

Green & Black Poison-dart Frog

Banded Peacock-yellow butterfly

sunset near Corcovado National Park

After four full days of flora & fauna, the last two at Bosque Del Cabo,  Doug & Chris doubled back to Carate to pick up Jason & Jeff, then ventured once more on that %!~*^#<} 120 km "road" out of the Osa Penninsula & onward to San Isidro de El General in the highlands near Co. Chirripo, the highest mountain in Costa Rica.