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jbnbsn99 in Costa Rica

Discussion in 'Costa Rica' started by jbnbsn99, 5 Jul 2016.

  1. jbnbsn99

    jbnbsn99 Well-Known Member

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    So, by popular request (read: two people asked me to do this...), here is my account of my trip to Costa Rica.

    A little before Christmas, my dad got the idea that he wanted to take the whole family on a trip to Costa Rica. This would be the first major trip either of my parents had ever taken, and the first time either had left the country (apart from brief border crossings to my uncle's place in Mexico). By Christmas, the flights, rental house, and travel accommodations were booked.

    Day 1 - July 3
    We figured out it would be cheaper to drive the 5.5 hours from our home in far north Texas to Houston and fly out of there. Our flight out was at 7:50 PM. One terrible hamburger at the air port later (seriously people, mayonnaise is a garnish, not something to be included with equal amount to the meat), and we were on the plane. By my calculation, we passed over 4 countries on the flight (Mexico, Belize, Honduras, and Nicaragua) before touching down in San Jose at around 10:30. We didn't get to our house on the Pacific coast until a little after midnight. No birding or wildlife on day 1. Well, unless you count the copious unidentifiable bats swarming all over the porch of the rental house in Tarcoles.
     
  2. vogelcommando

    vogelcommando Well-Known Member

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    Think this is gonna be a very intresting trip-report ! Costa Rica is very high on my personal wish-list. Very curious to what you have done and seen at this very beautifull country !
     
  3. jbnbsn99

    jbnbsn99 Well-Known Member

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    Day 2 - July 4th

    There's nothing like being woken up at 5:30 in the morning after a late night getting in by frisky iguanas scampering in the metal roof.

    Whelp.

    The sun was up, the macaws were screeching, might as well put on pants.

    I went out into the garden to see what could be seen. Right away, I start ticking birds off my list. Easiest here is of course the Scarlet Macaw. They're everywhere, loud, and easy to see. Evidently though, they're not found in most of the rest of the country. Only this little fishing village.

    The yard is full of fruit trees (mostly mango). There's even a mango pile in the back corner where good fruit goes to die. I mean ferment. I mean attach flies. I mean cause retch inducing stench. That said, the pile of mangoes does attract some birds. Best one is a Gray-Necked Wood-Rail Didn't think they'd be that easy to see.

    So anyway... this house has funny locks. Shut the door, and presto, you're locked out. I did not know this. I had to wait for someone else to wake up in order to go back in and put on shoes. And get my camera. And by bird field guide. And bug spray.

    It's well over an hour before someone else is up.

    Most of the rest of the day is piddling around the house. There's a trip in to a grocery store, but mostly, my family is the non-adventurous type. By non-adventurous, my mom's idea of a vacation is going somewhere and sitting by a secluded pool reading a book. Thing is, she has a pool in the back yard at home and loads of books. I want to get out and do things. I want to see things that I can't see anywhere else. There's a rainforest within seeing distance, yet getting there is seemingly off limits. I feel like Tantalus looking at a glass of water.

    Le sigh...

    I guess I eat some mangoes.
     
  4. Chlidonias

    Chlidonias Moderator Staff Member

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    I read that as "I feel like Tarantulas looking at a glass of water" and went "hmm..."
     
  5. Arizona Docent

    Arizona Docent Moderator Staff Member

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    I love mangos (or is the plural mangoes?). The idea of getting a ripe one fresh off the tree is utterly enticing. Not enticing enough to make me go to Costa Rica, but still...
     
  6. Zooplantman

    Zooplantman Well-Known Member

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    Do you have an itinerary to travel around the country? Or playing it by ear?
    Are you on the North Coast? Or Central?
    And most importantly: will you be going to Corcovado?
     
  7. jbnbsn99

    jbnbsn99 Well-Known Member

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    We're in the central coast. Corcavado isn't in the plans, but Carara is.
     
  8. Zooplantman

    Zooplantman Well-Known Member

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    Tortoguero is fascinating as well but sounds like the family is staying local. I have been to Costa Rica several times but never made it to Corcovado. Always wanted to. Have a great time!
     
  9. jwer

    jwer Well-Known Member

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    The rest of Costa Rica is childsplay compared to Corcovado. We've spent 2 nights at La Sirena and they must be among the best 3 days ever.

    Enjoyed Tortuguero and Monte Verde as well, but that was almost too easy... When at Tortuguero, make sure to go out on the beach at sunrise and catch the last struggling females (or even hatchlings) back into the water. Also very impressive.
     
  10. jbnbsn99

    jbnbsn99 Well-Known Member

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    Day 3 - July 5

    I slept in a bit this morning. The bed sucks, but I needed sleep. It's not so much a mattress as a pad on top of a wooden slat.

    I'm still stuck at the house, so all my birding is still within walking distance. I'm able to pick up a few more birds along the little river by the house, but it turns out that's a local hangout and there's a group of people hanging out on trail most of the day. Me, being recluse, I'm not one for talking to people and the locals want nothing more than the chat incessantly. Whelp, that trail is off limits now.

    On another note, my dad broke the antenna off on the rental car, so we had to take the car into Jaco, the nearest big(ish) town. Only birds here are pigeons and grackles and inappropriate swimwear. Also, it's crowded. I don't like crowded. Also, we're in the shadows of the mountains and the rainforest. They're still off limits. I'm screaming internally.

    We get back to our house, and I immediately go for a walk. I walk for about two hours along the dirt roads of Tarcoles. It's threatening rain the whole time. I'm able to pick up several birds this way including Variable and White-Collared Seedeater, Common Black Hawk, and Piratic Flycatcher.

    The rest of the day, the agenda is to lay by the pool and listen to an American baseball game on my dad's iPad.

    By nightfall, I decide to go out and listen for any owls possible. In the neighbor's tree is a Crested Owl and down the path I head a distant Tropical Screech-Owl.

    Bird tally - 62 (34 lifers)
    Mammal tally - 1 (1 lifer)
     
  11. Arizona Docent

    Arizona Docent Moderator Staff Member

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    What is the mammal? Did I miss that somewhere in your posts?
     
  12. jbnbsn99

    jbnbsn99 Well-Known Member

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    Variegated Squirrel
     
  13. jbnbsn99

    jbnbsn99 Well-Known Member

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    Day 4 - July 6th

    Today, we got to do some real wildlife watching. We signed up for an early morning tour on the Tarcoles River. The Tarcoles is home to a huge population of American Crocodiles. In all my years of zoo-going, I'd never before seen an American Croc. Well, wild is always better than captive in my book. We saw plenty of crocs right away. Since it was early, my family was the only group on the boat, so we got a little more personalized tour than I would expect is normal. I'm picking out birds right and left. Most were birds I knew very well from back home. In fact, a lot of the area reminded me of areas of south Texas along the Rio Grande. Well, minus the crocodiles. With all the wildlife present, I only add three life birds (Common Tody-Flycatcher, Yellow-Headed Caracara, and Boat-Billed Heron). I also pick up a Mangrove Warbler. Now, this is a bird that I could rightfully call a separate species. Several lists maintain it separately, but many keep it lumped in with the American Yellow Warbler. The breeding ranges don't overlap, the calls are different, they're visually distinguishable, yet they are maintained as a single species. Oh well, it's what we call a bankable species to add later to my lifelist.

    The rest of the day is lazy. I end up taking a three-hour nap in the heat of the afternoon. Then dinner at a seafood place, the bed.

    Bird Tally - 73 species
    Mammal Tally - 1 Species
    Reptile Species - 4 species
     
  14. Arizona Docent

    Arizona Docent Moderator Staff Member

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    I saw wild American crocodiles on a boat trip in the Everglades two summers ago. It is, as you say, very exciting. While Costa Rica reminds you of South Texas, the Everglades are nothing like my home in Southern Arizona! :p
     
  15. jbnbsn99

    jbnbsn99 Well-Known Member

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    Day 5 - July 7

    This is to be my big day. I had arranged for a personal birding guide to the Carara National Park. I met Franklin at 8:00 just before the gates opened. Right away, Franlin started pointing out birds that I would never have found. My list started to climb rapidly. We hiked around the park for about 3.5 hours ticking off birds right and left. Franklin was able to get several really tough species that are usually not found. Highlights include three species of trogons (Baird's, Slaty-Tail, and Gartered), several hummingbirds, and Little Tinamou.

    The biggest problem I had was with humidity. I wear glasses full time, so I couldn't see half of the time because my lenses were fogged over (also my binocular lenses and camera lenses). Photography was as difficult as I've ever had before. I had to keep the camera in manual mode for most of the tour in order to focus through the thick trees.

    There were many times along the trails at Carara that I thought of zoo design and how well executed zoo rainforests are. Nothing comes close to the real thing.

    I left Carara with 33 more year birds, 32 of which were lifers. I also pick up several new mammals including Hoffmann's Two-Toed Sloth, Central American Agouti, Geoffroy's Spider Monkeys, and 2 species of bats.

    After finishing the rainforest, lunch back at the house, then a long nap. I've been napping more in this trip than I have in the last decade. I think it's the heat that's completely sapping my energy.

    I honestly cannot remember what I did in the evening. Oh, I did have a Ferruginous Pygmy-Owl tooting outside my bedroom as I was drifting back to sleep.

    Trip Tallys
    Birds - 108 (70 lifers)
    Mammals - 6 (all lifers)
    Reptiles - 4
    Amphibians - 1
     
  16. Arizona Docent

    Arizona Docent Moderator Staff Member

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    The only zoo rainforest that comes anywhere close to reflecting reality (that I have seen) is Masaola Rainforest at Zoo Zurich.
     
  17. Zooplantman

    Zooplantman Well-Known Member

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    It is often discussed, but when it comes down to it the numbers of visitors, the need to accommodate strollers and wheelchairs, the perceived public objection to the heat and humidity push design in the wrong direction.

    Best simulation I have seen is Eden Project and that still feels like a forest park in the tropics.(But it is in Cornwall)
     
  18. Arizona Docent

    Arizona Docent Moderator Staff Member

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    @ jbnbsn99 - I see you started a new thread on another topic, so you must have internet access. Where are the updates to this thread?
     
  19. jbnbsn99

    jbnbsn99 Well-Known Member

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    Ah yes. Day 6 - July 8

    It was raining when I woke up. Usually the rains held off until later. Nope, the one day I had early plans, it was wet. Franklin, my guide from the day before, and I were due to go to the mangrove nearby and look for American Pygmy Kingfisher. He arrived late thinking I wouldn't be up to the hike through the mangrove in the rain. As if!

    We spent a little over an hour in the mangrove. The only way in was via a narrow board walk. By narrow, it was less than a foot wide. I'm a big guy, and I don't do narrow well. About four feet from the end, I slipped on the wet wood and nearly fell into the mangrove. Did I mention there were crocodiles here? Oh my, yes. Crocodiles.

    Anyway, Franklin starts picking out birds like Panama Flycatcher and Mangrove Hummingbird. We're always on the lookout for the kingfisher. At one point, we hear a Laughing Falcon off in the distance, so that means crossing the slippery, narrow boardwalk once again to look for it. Best bird was a hard to find Mangrove Vireo, which Franklin said at the onset of the day we wouldn't get. As we ere finishing up, we hear a high pitched tooting, followed by a related tooting, followed by yet another type of tooting. First one was a Ferruginous Pygmy Owl, the it was a Gartered Trogon, then it was a Black-Headed Trogon. I wouldn't have believed Franklin that those three same sounding birds were actually different, but my eyes had to trust him. The two Trogons were unmistakable, and I knew the owl call from the previous night.

    No Pygmy Kingfisher though.

    After drying off, we went to the beach just south of us at a resort. Mom likes the beach. It's a place she can read. I walk up and down the beach trying to find birds. I only add two more, Yellow-Green Vireo and Masked Tityra. I hop in the water for maybe 10 minutes, then we decide that we've all had enough excitement for the day.

    Lunch is next, followed by a long nap. Then dinner. Then bed. Birding in Costa Rica is done. I'm slightly shy of my goal. I wanted 100 lifers, but I only garner 80. I do add nearly 100 year birds though.

    Tallies
    Birds - 118 (80 lifers)
    Mammals - 6 (6 lifers)
     
  20. jbnbsn99

    jbnbsn99 Well-Known Member

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    Day 7 - July 9

    Up at 4:00 AM. Our flight back to Texas is at 8:00 Am, so it's an early day. We have a driver back to the airport. It's about an hour and a half back into San Jose. Getting through airport security is much longer here than back in Houston. Good thing we prepared early. We're into the boarding area by 7:00, and boarding starts at 7:15.

    Thankfully, the flight isn't as sardine-cramped as the first flight was. My sister and I track our location to see what new countries we can see. I have a moment of silence as we pass over the Chicxulub crater in memory of our fallen dinosaur comrades.

    To keep myself occupied, I do some work on a symphony I've been composing for a few months. I get some good work done on it. I always seem to get work done on it in situations like this. Last time, it was a long bus ride.

    We touch down in Houston early. Getting back through customs is a pain. I get my passport flagged for some reason. Honestly, the only thing I'm bringing back in are new coasters for my living room.

    The drive back is uneventful. Parents are listening to show tunes the whole time. The, about an hour south of Dallas, there's a massive to do in Dallas. We're going to be going right through a SWAT scene, or close to it. On top of that, we pass the funeral procession for one of the fallen officers from last week's Dallas sniper attack. We pull over and pay our respects. The highway is lined with people waving flags. It makes for a somber ending to an otherwise quirky trip.