Eight of us Ocean Hills residents recently enjoyed a nine-day trip to Costa Rica, and this was my first trip out of the United States to a place on my “bucket list.” Our first lodging was in Tortuguero National Park on the Caribbean Coast of Costa Rica — reached only by small river boats. After a lengthy boat ride, we reached our lodging, situated on a riverbank in the lush, tropical rainforest.
What to do first — unpack? No, I grabbed my camera and binoculars and went out to explore the rainforest. I spotted someone looking into a tree with binoculars. What was up there, I wondered? Two colorful Keel-billed Toucans! How lucky that this person, Jack, was also a birdwatcher. As we later discovered, he and I were the only birdwatchers in the tour group of 40. And so the hunt for birds and other wildlife began.
During the two days at our first lodging, Jack and I explored the grounds starting at 6 a.m., searching for colorful and unusual birds yet to be discovered. Some of them allowed a quick look, while others lingered long enough for a photo. Many of their names were as unusual as the birds themselves—such as the Green-backed Euphonia, White-collared Manakin and the Masked Tityra where the male looked totally different from the female. Howler monkeys were heard howling as they ran across the lodge roofs. We spotted a Three-toed Sloth, along with colorful butterflies. But I was surprised there were few flowers in bloom, and few hummingbirds — not what I had expected.
Three river cruises on our tour took us to different locations where some of the birds were unique to each area. Many of them were pointed out and identified by our Costa Rican guide, Alejandro. He would excitedly call out, “there is an Agami, birdwatchers come to the front,” “Boat-billed Heron,” “Amazon Kingfisher,” “Bare-throated Tiger Heron” with chick in a nest, “Anhinga” holding its wings out to dry. Snowy Egrets and Little Blue Herons were plentiful along the riverbanks. Iguanas and other lizards of all sizes and colors perched on rocks and tree branches. Caimans, a smaller kind of crocodile, were on one river while American Crocodiles were on another. We watched Squirrel and Spider monkeys swinging and gliding among the trees.
At one point, the boat was pulled over to the riverbank and Alejandro got a leaf with a tiny frog that had a red body and bluish legs. This was a Blue Jeans Poison Dart Frog — not to be handled! In times past, native peoples used its poison to tip their darts.
On one cruise, Alejandro pointed out, “Common Potoo.” Egads! What could that be? There it was, looking like an erect, slender stump of a tree branch. Farther upriver, Alejandro called out, “a Great Potoo!” What? An even bigger, light brown “stump” in a tree? Yes, there it was! Later he yelled out, “Scarlet Macaws ahead in the sky!” But being quite far away, they were difficult to see except for the red color.
The last day of our trip ended at Manuel Antonio National Park on the Pacific Coast. While some went swimming, a friend and I decided to walk the trail away from the beaches. A short distance ahead was a photographer peering up with his camera. It turned out he was taking pictures of a big woodpecker with bright red face and crest and a light tan bill — a Pale-billed Woodpecker. Later, we came upon some Capuchin Monkeys. A few came down looking for fruit pods on the ground. They sat at eye level next to the trail peeling open the pods, as if posing – oblivious to the people around them taking pictures.
And so our wonderful trip came to an end. I left footprints, and came away with photographs and 50 new birds to add to my “life list.”
By Joan Comito.
President, OHCC Birdwatchers Club