Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Post #26 - Costa Rica, Part 3 of 3!

After 3.5 days in the cloud forest around San Gerardo de Dota, we piled in the car and headed towards Arenal National Park. To reach that destination, we would have to retrace out tire tracks back through San Jose and then northwest towards Arenal. The journey was relatively painless, and I added two familiar kites, Swallow-tailed and White-tailed, along the road.

Our second lodge, Finca Luna Nueva, was a very interesting and unique place. Nestled in the rainforest about 15 miles southeast of Arenal proper, the entire property functioned a sustainable, biodynamic farm. Most of the food we ate was grown onsite, and we learned quite a bit about the farm's inner workings in a series of tours that we took. It is work noting that this particular lodge does not put out hummingbird feeders or fruit of any sort. The property is incredibly birdy, moreso even than our first lodge, but it does not set up nearly as well for those interested in photography. We saw tons of birds, but few of them were ripe for photos.

Birding around out little cabana on the first afternoon, I found a completely different complement of birds than at the higher elevations. Unbelievably bright Passerini's tanagers bounced around in the underbrush while Squirrel cuckoos and Keel-billed toucans foraged overhead. Honeycreepers were well represented as Red-legged honeycreeper, Banaquit, and Scarlet-thighed dacnis all made appearances. Species such as Yellow-bellied elaenia, Common tidy-flycatcher, Buff-throated saltator, Yellow-crowned euphony, Masked tityra, and Red-throated Ant-tanager competed for 'best named bird' on the property. The capper if the first day was a Gray-necked wood-rail that sauntered across the unpaved road that ran right behind our cabana. With my lack of pre-trip studying, I hardly knew such a bird existed.

Rufous-tailed hummingbird

The morning of the second day was spent birding during the farm tour, and the afternoon was spent exploring the farther reaches of the property. Gray-headed chachalacas were conspicuous, as were gaggles of Montezuma oropendolas. Hummingbirds were represented by 4 species, and Social and Pyratic flycatchers joined the more numerous Great kiskadees and Tropical kingbirds in the more open spaces to hunt for insects. Other birds observed included Rufous-winged woodpecker, Barred antshrike, Laughing falcon, Olivaceous piculet, Streak-headed woodcreeper, Crimson-collared tanager, and the absolutely brilliant Green honeycreeper. I could scarcely turn around with finding some new and gorgeous bird. However, the highlight of the day was certainly the Three-toed sloth we found munching on Cecropia leaves. As a bonus , she was carrying a young one around!

Three-toed sloth

The following day was centered on our big zip-lining adventure, but I managed to squeeze in some early morning bird before we hit the road. Highlights from this rather short session included Black-mandibled toucan, White-fronted nunbird, Red-lored parrot, Blue-black grosbeak, and very brief look at a stunning Purple-capped fairy. 3 Crested guans appeared while we were eating breakfast. I had no idea they were so huge. Later that morning, I was even more impressed by the 2 Great curassows that crossed in front our truck as we were being hauled up the side of Arenal to start our Ecoglide zip-lining session. It rained very heavily during our zip-lining adventure, but it was fun nonetheless. A Rufous-tailed jacmar actually flew out of the forest and landed on the actual zip-lining cable before I scared it off as I quickly slid towards it.

Big grasshopper of some sort

Even bigger beetle of some sort (4" long body)

We were rained out that afternoon but returned to Arenal the following day. Since the EcoGlide property had been so birdy the day before, we actually made a quick birding stop there en route to Arenal proper. New birds on that visit included Smoky-brown woodpecker, Grayish saltator, Melodious blackbird, Black-crowned tityra, and Gray-capped flycatcher. I also found the more familiar Northern rough-winged swallow and a very late-migrating Red-eyed vireo. EcoGlide is not known as a birding destination, but they have very extensive grounds around which we were permitted to walk. This habitat is as good as the Arenal Observatory Lodge for those that take the time check it out.

Midday we hit the the aforementioned Observatory Lodge. Between the entrance road and the lodge, I added Spotted antbird, Southern rough-winged swallow, Hepatic tanager, Shining honeycreeper, and Buff-rumped warbler. Birding was admitted slow as it was getting very hot by the time we arrived. The two best birds I found were a gorgeous female Green Hermit in the parking area and 2 Sunbitterns on the road on the way out. As this foray marked the last real birding we were to do before we headed to San Jose that afternoon, closing out the trip with those two birds made for a fantastic end to our week in the country.

The trip was a rousing success. I saw tons of cool birds, and I had a really nice time hanging out with Sonia and her mom. It will be nice to visit the country again a some point, and I am sure this will happen in the not-too-distant future. I was just amazed at how fast the birdlife changed over just short distances. No where else have I observed such an incredible diversity of birds and animals in such a small area. I am sure some of this is just the tropics, but either way Costa Rica was really a special place!

May 14, 2015 - afternoon at Finca Luna Nueva
May 15, 2015 - entire day at Finca Luna Nueva
May 16, 2015 - early morning at Finca Luna Nueva
May 16, 2015 - mid- to late-morning at Ecoglide Zip-lining Adventure
May 17, 2015 - Ecoglide, round 2
May 17, 2015 - Arenal and environs

1 comment:

  1. It will sink in and you will be obsessed with the tropics man...