2019 Costa Rica Tour Day 4

By Susan Mahr

January 19, 2019

Today was a free day, with a few people going off on the optional tours to learn about mangroves or visit Corcovado National Park. We met for breakfast around 7:00 to partake of the typical buffet with fruits, pastries, eggs, gallo pinto, bacon, plantains, pancakes, etc., sitting at the same long table we were at the night before.

Those who were interested met Margherita at 8:00 for an informal bird and plant walk. We started near the parking area, spotting many small and large birds in one of the trees near the reception building, including a red-billed pigeon, several palm tanagers, oropendolas, and giant cowbird. Margherita identified the sound of a lineated woodpecker, but we never saw the large bird. We slowly made our way along, stopping to look at a turkey vulture perched on top of a high pole with its wings open to the sun and the ornamental Buddha’s lamp (Mussaenda philippica) with its large white bracts (other varieties are pink) and small, orange star-shaped flowers.  There was also a magnificent frigatebird soaring high in the air.  We hiked up the hill just below the Yoga/Mediation center and stopped to look at a large wasp nest, with Dan giving a mini-lecture on social hymenoptera. The next stop had passion flower with its complicated, bright red flowers and hot lips, Psychotria sp., with elaborate bracts that look like puckered lips, with small white flowers in the center, followed by blue fruits. As we headed down the hill, Margherita heard a slaty-tailed trogon and soon had the female set up in the spotting scope for everyone to look at. We also saw the male, but it wasn’t in as convenient a spot for viewing (although Susan followed it elsewhere when it flew off and got a much better look at it). It was already quite warm and steamy (low 80’s but feeling closer to 90 with the humidity), with some pesky flies and some small sweat bees landing on us, but no biting flies.

We continued walking slowly down the gravel road in a short loop back to the reception area, stopping frequently to learn about the various plants or try to look at the constantly-moving birds. As we stood in the parking area, Margherita got a phone call – it was Andreas telling us to look up, as there were rare king vultures circling among the many turkey and black vultures overhead! We got a great look at three of the large, white and black birds with a bright red neck and beak as they soared above us. Suddenly they were out of sight and we headed toward the pool where someone spotted a crested caracara perched on top of a cecropia tree, then there was a kiskadee posing for us and a tropical kingbird down by the pool. We were just getting ready to head back to our rooms when Margherita heard a yellow-throated toucan, so we went over to try to see that bird (actually there were two of them), but they were a bit difficult to see in the dense foliage of the tree.

By 9:30 everyone had dispersed, with some opting to relax in their rooms or on the balconies, and others meeting at 10:00 to go into the small town of Uvita with Andreas and Margherita and down to the beach at Ballena National Marine Park. It was quite warm, so a quick dip in the huge pool was refreshing. The tropical sun was quite strong, so no one spent a lot of time out of the shade. Some people enjoyed lunch on the shaded terrace of the restaurant near the pool. The cicadas droned on, their sleep-inducing noise punctuated by twittering of small birds, whooping of oropendolas and whistles of blackbirds.

At 3:00 Susan, Dan and Richard met Margherita near reception to take another nature walk, this time down the hill. It was very warm as we moved slowly along, stopping to look at various birds up near reception, including brown jay, bananaquit and Baltimore oriole, then moved on to look at an inga tree, cashew tree in bloom, a breadfruit tree, and other plants along the way. We heard a gartered (=violaceous) trogon calling, and it kept responding to Margherita’s whistles, but it never came into a spot where we could see it. We went down to the cabins where the drivers and guides stay, and then followed the rocky dirt road slowly up the hill looking at more plants (a large Ficus tree dropping small spherical fruits, Panama hat palms, a red-blooming Erythrina, etc.). There were all kinds of little warblers and a few tanagers flitting around high in one sparsely leaved tree, and a little further on we spotted a pair of yellow-throated toucans up in anther tree. We continued on through an area where the density of cicadas was much higher than elsewhere and the sound nearly deafening. Brown and orange butterflies flitted around certain bushes, and a tinamou called in the distance. Instead of heading down to the river to walk a long way back, we headed up to the lookout point and Margherita called the hotel to ask to have the driver pick us up in the little truck as it was already after 4:30 by then. As we were waiting for him to arrive, a grey-headed chachalaca flew into a tree, then many oropendolas, and then a lone fiery-billed aricari (a tiny toucan with a bright red upper bill). As we were watching all these beautiful birds, a pair of yellow-throated toucans came to join the party, while a yellow-headed caracara, a hawk, and some vultures soared overhead.

The sunset wasn’t as dramatic tonight with few clouds in the western sky out over the ocean, but it was still a pretty orange and peach color, anemic at first, but eventually changing to striations of deep pinkish-orange with dark grey clouds that had suddenly moved in. Everyone met in the restaurant again at 6:30 – with some people gathering near the pool earlier for drinks. This time we’d pre-ordered off the menu earlier in the day, with everybody getting a variety of dishes that suited them, with one starter, one main and one dessert. Cookie returned from her Corcovado adventure just as we were sitting down. Most people finished eating and quickly dispersed to their rooms by 8:30.

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