Monday afternoon, 2/14
Earlier in the morning, we had met Roger Meléndez Pereira (he does private guiding as well—contact him at monasarmp@hotmail)—our leader, guide, naturalist, travel agent, den mother all rolled into one (right). As we gathered to leave, we met the bus—and the all-important driver, Dago—that would be our chariot for the next 12 days. (During our travels, we saw many buses that were the same model as this Toyota—seemed to be a popular vehicle for turismo. One had to be careful to board the correct bus.) As we headed to Carara and the hotel, I read billboards and road signs, trying to decipher them. My rudimentary Spanish was certainly rusty. I started writing down unknown words in my little notebook, so I could look them up later in the Spanish-English dictionary on my Kindle. (Sounds pretty dorky, I know. But I had a great time and my Spanish made its way back into my brain.)
Once we got out of San José, the scenery became considerably more interesting and lovely than the road signs. We stopped at a store/restaurant after a bit and did a bit of birding along the roadside while waiting for folks to finish up. I was still struggling to see birds, although I confidently ID’d the cattle on the hillside and their compañeros, the Cattle Egrets. Aha—a familiar species. Unlike others who were reveling in new species, I was finding comfort in a familiar face. Need to work on that, my dear—that is not the purpose of this trip.
We reached Villa Lapas in time for a late lunch. (Lapa is the Spanish word for macaw.) After room assignments, we dropped off our things and headed back to the dining area; our luggage would be magically delivered to our rooms while we ate. (Now this is the way to fly, I’d say.) Spiny-tailed iguanas scattered themselves along the walkway. As we would every day, we took a break during the heat of the day—time for exploring on your own (although the birds would be taking breaks too) or resting or unpacking or whatever. A good tip about your optical equipment (both cameras and binoculars)—don’t leave them in your air-conditioned bedroom. If you do, they’ll fog up when they hit the warm, humid air outside. Instead, put them in the bathroom and shut the door. We did this every time we were in an air-conditioned room and it worked like a charm!
Z and I wandered around a bit, starting to sort out all of the kiskadee-like flycatchers. Large size and rufous wings and tail—Great Kiskadee. Large size, no rufous, huge bill—Boat-billed Flycatcher. Smaller size—most likely a Social Flycatcher (a pair was building a nest on one of the poles) but could also be a Gray-capped. Look at whether the white supercilia are prominent (Social) or not (Gray-capped). We easily became familiar with the eponymous “kisk-a-dee” call of the Great Kiskadee, which would be burned into our brains over the next few days. We also became familiar with Tropical Kingbirds—“TKs,” as we soon learned to call them—which would indeed be como arroz (very common, literally “like rice”) everywhere we went.
While we’re talking about como arroz, 2 voices you would do well to learn for this area are the Clay-colored Thrush (or Robin)—the national bird of Costa Rica—and the Rufous-naped Wren. Both have a variety of calls and songs, but you can get a flavor of the timbre of each with these recordings. (You can explore other songs and calls of these and myriad other birds at the marvelous site Xeno-canto.) At least you’ll be able to eliminate these songsters as something worth working hard to track down. Odds are, they’ll show up on your doorstep before you know it.
We gathered later in the afternoon for a ~2.5 hour boat ride on the Río Tárcoles, the river that creates the boundary between the North and South Pacific regions. The mouth of the Tárcoles is important since it attracts a huge variety of herons, shorebirds, terns, and mangrove specialists. Scarlet Macaws migrate daily along the river, moving between feeding areas in the wet forest interior and their nightly roosts in the coastal mangrove swamps. We used a boat from the Crocodile Man Tour; however, we didn’t do the croc tour—just went bird hunting. The species there were a nice mix of familiar faces and new species. A familiar face—a Green Heron (below left). A new species for us—a Bare-throated Tiger-Heron (below right; click on either photo to see a larger version). You can get a hint of the bare throat of the Tiger-Heron—the bright yellow below the bill. Several times, we saw a pair of Scarlet Macaws fly overhead, squawking and squabbling like an old, irritated married couple. It rained pretty hard during the trip, but we stayed dry under the roof of the boat.
For dinner, we crossed an elevated walkway to a different dining room in the replica of a colonial village, called Santa Lucia. (We stopped to admire a large spiny-tailed iguana on the abutment of the walkway.) Since we were a bit early, we wandered over to the bar (La Cantina) and chatted with group members over various libations. Dinner was lively—at least one large group seated near us was definitely a fun-loving crew. (We heard the next day that one of the members of this group had broken her leg on the zip line. Fun is in the eye of the beholder…) A small band entertained during the meal and some of that group started dancing. Party on, Garth! A bit much for me, so I headed back to the room to relax and look up some Spanish words.
Click here to proceed to Carara National Park.