Costa Rica 2010

"Pura Vida!" - Costa Rican slogan

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Here it was January and cold in Canada, so we went elsewhere. We'd heard great things about the wildlife in Costa Rica and were looking for more than a lie-on-the-beach vacation. Costa Rica seemed perfect.

We arrived in San Jose and I started taking pictures almost immediately. This flower was growing on a bush on the hotel grounds.

The hotel in question was the Best Western Irazu. They did take great care with the grounds. This passion flower vine was climbing the trellis beside the jacuzzi.

We visited a butterfly farm near San Jose a couple days later. They really are a farm; the day we visited they were shipping some 'stock' back to Calgary.

The Blue Morpho butterfly is big but it looks pretty ordinary...

...until it opens it's wings. 

I liked the way this little guy broke up the fixed geometry of the leaves he was backdropped by.

Meanwhile, this one was resting by a stream.

The following day we left the capitol, heading for Tortuguero. We stopped by a little stream for breakfast.

Further on, our keen-eyed guide spotted a pair of Jabiru in a field. This was a lucky find, since the bird is normally only sighted on the Pacific side of the country's divide

Off the bus and onto a boat, we passed all sorts of waterbirds, still heading to Tortuguero.

This osprey was still drying out after a recent dive.

Finally at the resort, Pachira Lodge. This huge oriole is a Montezuma Oropendula.

The Golden Orb Spider is scary big, but harmless. This one is a bit worse for wear, having only seven legs left. The web turns golden as it ages and can be harvested for fishing line. 

Orchids are everywhere in Costa Rica.

I'm not certain what kind of spider this one is (that's tropical for leave it the frig alone), but it seemed impressive enough.

Dawn over a canal in the rain forest. There wasn't much light to work with often, but I had fun with it when I could.

We saw many of these Little Blue Herons. We took boat tours in the morning when they were fishing by the waterside.

We saw quite a few Toucans as well, but they were a bit more hyperactive and therefore more difficult to capture a good frame of in low light.

Another attempt to capture the light available in the rain forest, or as the guide insisted: Tropical Very Humid Rain Forest.

This is exactly the same species from three frames earlier; a Little Blue Heron. This one is in 'up periscope' posture though.

Anhingas, or Snake Birds, were everywhere, posing magnificently for my camera. I can only blame my own ineptitude that this is the best frame I have of one.

The Green Herons were as populous as the Little Blues, not to mention photogenic as all get out.

Egad! A bird I'd already seen and photographed before: the Great Egret. (Texas '08) Still, when they pose like this for you, it's hard to say no.

This is almost certainly a Bare-Throated Tiger Heron. There are other similar herons in Costa Rica, but this is the likely one.

This reticent fellow is a Boat-Billed Heron. After all the blatant pretty poses I'd been getting from the wildlife it was refreshing to have an obscure subject to challenge me. It is one of my favourite frames from the trip.

Another Green Heron. The herons and egrets were perfect photo subjects, as they sat patiently beside the water. It's how they hunt. 

A rare bird: an egret that is not standing still. In this case, a Snowy Egret. 

Boat tour over, we returned to Pachira Lodge to find that the local wildlife was now touring us. Howler Monkeys were regular visitors to the lodge's grounds. 

You can tell when someone is new to Costa Rica. They ask, "Why are they called "Howler Monkeys"? If haven't figured it out by day three, you're still in San Jose. 

Still at the lodge, we were soaking up sun and cerveza poolside, and this guy dropped in for the little berries on the tree.

A Collared Aracari is a kind of toucan, which is obvious I guess, but why he's named differently, I do not know. Here's he's eyeing another fresh berry.

I took dozens of frames of this guy. He'd eat a berry, sit and ruminate a while, then hork it back up, spit out the husk, and re-swallow the remains.

Still at the lodge, a White Collared Manakin. Formula for a tough shot: small shy fidgety subject in poor light. Win!

The next morning we were back on the water for another boat tour. The Little Blue Herons were again out in force.

This is the Pachira flower. 

Kingfishers were everywhere in Tortuguero, swooping and squabbling incessantly. Here, a Ringed Kingfisher takes a break.

Another tiger heron, and in this posture it's obvious that this one is a Bare-Throated Tiger Heron.

These little wee bats were roosting for the day inside a boathouse. Just pull in and look up!

When in Tortuguero do not feed the birds. This Green Heron knows how to feed himself, thanks.

Capuchin Monkeys aren't as common as Howlers, but they're not difficult to find either.

We were waiting for the boat to take us away. This Howler Monkey came to see us off. 

Our next stop was Volcano Lodge at La Fortuna. The place was just lousy with Rufous-Tailed Hummingbirds. 

The well-maintained grounds, with plenty of flowers like this were probably the main reason for all the little hummers.

It was a soggy morning, and the Black Vultures were doing their best to air out the feathers.

This flower is clearly some relative of the iris, but I couldn't say which relative. 

And here we have more orchids.  See third-previous comment, add emphasis. Incidentally, I should add that Volcano Lodge had the best food of any stop on our trip. They also had a cow-barn beside the grounds, which made wake-up calls redundant, but you can't have everything.

Another Rufous-Tailed Hummingbird. See also: earlier note about small hyperactive subject in low light.

Here's Arenal Volcano itself.  The ridge that extends out the left side of the frame marks the flow from the '68 eruption, and at least one former village. Thought dormant until then, it's now going off on average, every thirty minutes or so.

This is a Coati, not as I thought, a Coati Mundi. Coati Mundi I was quickly  educated, means a coati that is living alone, rather than in a troupe. This guy was definitely part of a troupe.

Here's another of the same gang of tropical raccoons.

Iguanas were a common sight too. This guy was hanging out (literally, in a tree even) by a restaurant, waiting for scraps. 

We took a nifty day trip from La Fortuna to Cano Negro, by the Nicaraguan border.  We saw this Caiman there.

Our keen-eyed boat driver spotted this Three-Toed Sloth. After he'd pointed it out to me about four times, I was able to find it. Yes, it's partly green, that's algae growing in it's fur. 

Two more Three-Toed sloths; a mother still carrying a child around.

Another Great Egret, in a somewhat more formal pose.

Another pretty flower. Yes, we're back on the grounds of Volcano Lodge.

Next day we travelled to Tambor Bay on the Nicoya Peninsula. We hit the ferry from Puntarenas, and the Magnificent Frigate Birds were out.

I read that you don't see boobies close to shore. Apparently this Red-Footed Booby doesn't read the same books that I do.

Yes, it's a Laughing Gull. Yes, it's common as dirt. Now enjoy the pretty picture.

Somewhat less common, this Scarlet Macaw is half-tame. The Barcelo resort in Tambor is trying to establish a colony of macaws, so they have cages for breeding pairs, but the majority fly free, like this bird. Four evenings out of five I saw macaws hanging around the resort, up to eight at once.

Whatever these fruits are (figs I thought), they were popular with the macaws.

Ok, tropical beach resort: here's your obligatory sunrise shot. (Sara's is better, ask her if you want to see)

If you ever visit this resort, go nowhere without a camera. This Lineated Woodpecker was seen one morning when we went for a stroll up the beach.

The lizard was likewise spotted while strolling the grounds. 

The resort also boasts a Nature Park. Step carefully near the entrance, since these Pacific Land Crabs scurry for cover at the slightest movement. 

Three cheers for a long lens, a little sunrise, and some slow careful stepping. 

A nice little flower growing by the side of a tidal lagoon.

Iguanas at Tambor: many and large.

The great thing about a 'family' resort: the incontinent shrieking beast-children swarm the pool. Sara has the beach to herself.

Ok, Sara has to share the beach with the Snowy Egret...

...and the Western Sandpipers...

...and the Whimbrel is kinda biggish, and he was here first...

...yeah, the Whimbrel can stay too.

It is 4:30 PM. Time for the macaws to return to the fig(?) trees.

After a beach day we pulled on our boots for a tramp around Curu Preserve.

Everything I read said "Yes, the jungle cats are there, but don't expect to see any." Thank you Oscar F. (our highly competent guide) (ask for him, seriously) After he'd pointed it out maybe six times I was able to get a line on this Jaguarundi. Until then I'd been on vacation, but this was a trip.

That's Barcelo's Tambor Beach resort, the tour desk in the lobby, to the right of the main desk, first kiosk is for off-resort tours. Oscar F. Tip well.

Oh yeah, and some Agouti. Skittish little rodents they are. Reportedly delicious, which might explain the skittish part.

We saw wild Spider Monkeys, but only in Tortuguero and at a distance. This is a pet that had been confiscated by police and was in for 'rehabilitation'. Maybe someday he'll be wild again.

Another Ringed Kingfisher. They weren't quite so boisterous at Curu.

Across the water for a little snorkeling and beach time at Tortuga Island. Disclaimer - this place is busier than the picture looks. Watch your stuff.

Next day was a trip to Cabo Blanco. We were promised birds. We saw birds, all right.

We also saw Vampire Bats roosting in a hollow tree.

Here's another Golden-Orb Spider. You can see (a bit) how the web yellows.

If you're not paying attention, you might think that the White-Throated Magpie Jay is just a Bluejay. The size is right and the blue colour is a dead match. But seen from the front, the crest is a giveaway. Bonus giveaway: no Bluejays in Costa Rica.

Another canny find by Oscar; a Yellow-Crowned Night Heron, roosting for the day in a large tree by the road as we drove back from Cabo Blanco.

I only had to be pointed at this guy once! Huzzah!! It's an (appropriately named) Roadside Hawk.

Montezuma, where Brown Pelicans are in stereo.

 Back at the resort the Great-Tailed Grackles run amok making, as the books says, "a wide variety of unmusical sounds". Hey, if you're pretty who cares if you can sing. (see also: Taylor Swift)

The size says crocodile, but the stripey tail says Caiman. Big caiman.

Off on my own in the Nature Park I sight a Turquoise-Browed Motmot. By myself! Nobody had to point. Even once!! (happy dance)

Same big Caiman. Thank you darling wife for the very long lens.

Bare-Throated Tiger Heron: my proudest frame of the whole trip. No guide. No cropping. No colour adjust. This is straight off the camera, folks.

Hibiscus were very popular everywhere we went in Costa Rica. I thought you should know that.

These little two-toned Squirrels were all over the place in Tambor. 

Last evening in Tambor. Last visit with the Scarlet Macaws.

And in the morning, a last walk on the beach. This guy's no bigger than a dime. Nor is he bigger than his own shadow.

Text and images copyright Glenn Gill. Permission is granted for personal use at no charge. Contact me for commercial use, or to order prints.