Friday, 27 March 2015


We were sorry to leave Tortuguero, we had a great time there and had seen a lot of birds and other wildlife. We wished we had booked another day or two as there was much more lurking in the rainforest waiting to be discovered. Maybe next time.
Tortuguero is on the north east, Caribbean coast of the country and the Osa Peninsula is on the south west, Pacific coast. It was too far for an overland trip so we were flying. The little six seater plane above (that's me checking the tyres etc.), was ready and waiting on the tiny airstrip directly across the river from Tortuga Lodge. It took us about three minutes to get to it by boat. About forty minutes later we were landing at San Jose.

From San Jose, the colourful Air Nature flight took about an hour before touching down at the small landing strip at Puerto Jiminez, (i'm sure the wheels touched the top of the palm trees just before hitting the tarmac)!

After refreshing coconut water, straight from the shells, we climbed into the four wheel drive vehicle for the forty minute bumpy drive to Lapa Rios, our eco lodge home for the next five nights. Before we reached it though, our driver asked us if we would like to see a 'special' bird. Silly question. After a short diversion up a deserted farm track he pulled up and announced that we were there. But where was the bird? After much head scratching and binocular scanning we gave up and asked for help. The driver pointed to a fence post about thirty feet away and there it was. A Common Potoo. It was roosting, absolutely motionless, perfectly camouflaged and out in the open. We grabbed a few pics of this strange bird before continuing on our journey. What a great start.

Lapa Rios sits on the edge of its own thousand acre rainforest and all the guided wildlife trips pretty much take part in it. On our first night we chose to try the guided night walk to see some of the smaller creatures that come out to play in the dark. There were lots of spiders like the Golden Orb Spider above. These are large spiders which spin golden coloured webs and can grow to about two inches across, not including the leg span! Several species of tree frogs were seen and a sleeping Blue Morpho butterfly, a spectacular insect that grows to five or six inches across. Their brown under wings are a complete contrast to their dazzling, electric blue upper wings whose tiny scales reflect light and flash brilliant blue as it flies through the forest. This 'sleeping' beauty was the only perched specimen we saw, so unfortunately no pics. We also saw several snakes including Cat-eyed Snake and the unmistakeable and very venomous, Coral Snake. Only one nocturnal bird spotted on this occasion which was the oddly named Chuck-Will's-Widow, a member of the Nightjar family. I actually watched this bird one night from our deck as it flew out in the semi dark to investigate a firefly.

 As in Tortuguero the dawn (sometimes pre dawn) chorus was provided by the Howler Monkeys. I woke to their chorus one morning and decided to try and record their roars on my phone. It was pitch dark still as I optimistically offered up the phone to their general direction, then the door opened and Carol informed me it was only half past two in the morning. Maybe even monkeys have sleepless nights! The recording was rubbish too.
Here are the other three species of monkeys that we saw................

...........Spider Monkey (above and below).

White-faced Capuchin above.

And the Red-backed Squirrel Monkey.

The only one of the four species without a prehensile tail, groups of these very appealing little monkeys work their way quickly through the trees and in doing so  disturb a lot of large insects. The White Hawk, pictured below, has recognised this as an easy way to hunt and is often seen following these small monkeys, catching the insects as they fly.

After the primate dawn chorus comes the avian version. This includes the Scarlet Macaws whose loud, raucous calls are as unmistakeable as their colourful plumage. For me, they epitomise the tropical nature of the location much more than any of the other parrots and parakeets that live in this area. To see a pair or more of Scarlet Macaws in flight against a bright blue sky, especially early in the morning is a sight to behold.  

This pair were seen on one of our early morning guided bird walks. The walks took place away from the rainforest giving us a chance to see some of the many species of birds in the area. The Macaws had colonised a big old tree in the middle of a small field, clinging on to the remains of what used to be primary rainforest until it was cleared for logging. Thankfully the logging has now stopped and secondary rainforest has regenerated in a lot of these areas.

The picture above was taken on the bird walk and is of a day flying moth called Green Urania, and Carol's foot. It's a very nice moth (and foot) and I include it in here because while we were in Tortuguero we were witness to what can only be called a mass migration of these creatures. From the moment we arrived, tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of them flew along and over both sides of the river. They all flew in the same direction and there was never a moment when the air wasn't full of them. It was an amazing sight but disappointingly I couldn't get a picture of one as they never settled. Indeed the only non flying specimen we saw was a squashed one on the small airstrip across from the lodge. This one only settled because it had a damaged wing.

 Here's another bird that everyone recognises. The Toucan, Black-mandibled Toucan. These amazing birds were seen most early mornings and evenings from our deck and we soon learned to recognise their quite delicate song which seemed a bit incongruous coming from such a massive beak.

Sloths are quite common in Costa Rica but sometimes very difficult to see. This Three-toed specimen was perched somewhat precariously in a large tree quite close to our lodge. The green tinge to its coat is derived from algae that live inside the fur and makes them even more difficult to spot among the leaves. The growth of the algae is kept in check by Sloth moths which bizarrely, also inhabit the fur. 

This is a White-nosed Coati, a common Costa Rican mammal some of which lived around our bungalow at Lapa Rios. They too had a habit of waking us in the wee hours as they fossicked noisily among the dry leaves on the forest floor.

And finally. 
This Iguana caused a bit of a stir when it brazenly sauntered up to the pool for a cool drink. Actually from the pool I mean, not from the waiter! One poor lady had the shock of her life when she glanced over to find it alongside her on her husband's sun lounger. He wasn't on it at the time. She soon vacated hers too!


Wilma said...

Great photos and post, Phil! You saw so much. I would be thrilled if an iguana sat down next to me ...

Mike Attwood said...

Hi Phil, Seems like the trip of a lifetime, makes me wish I was thirty years younger. Mike.

Greenie said...

Phil ,
After somewhat of a wait , the Osa Peninsula didn't disappoint .
Love the Common Potoo and the spider .
Another great series of colourful sightings .
As for the Iguana , how did it get in with that haircut ? Nevermind get a drink !

alan woodcock said...

Hi,great place,great birds,may go back myself some day for a third time,nice read.