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I hope you will join in my adventures here in Humboldt County and elsewhere as I explore nature & people.



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Monday, June 25, 2012

Costa Rica Cloud Forest



 The second part of our Costa Rican adventure began as we departed Puerto Jimenez for Drakes Bay and then on to San Jose.


We were met by Pablo our driver and left San Jose driving over 2 hours through the city  ascending a steep narrow mountain road climbing 10,000 feet to the pass at Cerro de La Muerte toward our destination in the mountains near San Gerardo de Dota.
There were many slower trucks and buses and it was raining and foggy but that didn't stop our driver from passing them on this very dangerous winding road.
As we began to descend the Savegre canyon I was impressed by the different vegetation and life zones compared to the Rain forest. It reminded me of the Sierra Nevada foothills. 
 We stayed at this beautiful Sevegre Hotel De Montana


Gray-tailed Mountain-Gem (Colibri montanes coligris)
 Arriving at the Savegre Hotel and Reserve near San Gerardo de Dota we immediately noted a dozen birders with binoculars, spotting scopes and cameras surrounding the Hummingbird feeders that were placed near the hotel entrance.
 Our room at Savegre Hotel
Our newly constructed room was some distance from the main Lodge.
The rooms are large with both bathtub and walk in tiled showers and the lodge has a nice bar and large dining area with delicious buffet dinners and a variety of deserts.


Flame-colored Tanager (Piranga bidentata)
 It didn't take long for us to get out with camera and binoculars to search for birds.
Our first outing was lead by Melvin Fernandez who told us the story about how he got started as a professional "Naturalist Guide". 
He married one of the daughters of the Savegre Lodge owners and was employed in a large city as a welder.  His young wife was unhappy because she didn't like the city and was lonesome for her family. Melvin gave up his job and moved his family to the beautiful mountains near San Gerardo de Dota and worked in the orchards driving his "machine".  One day an elderly woman from the United States was out searching for birds and saw Melvin in the Orchard.  She asked him if he had seen any birds?  Melvin pointed out that there was a "bird over there and another over there"!  The lady
asked him why he didn't tell her the names?  Melvin answered "because I don't know the names".  The old lady handed Melvin her Field Guide to the Birds of Costa Rica and told him to learn the names and be able to identify at least 10 birds by the time she returned in a year.  Melvin learned his birds well and still has the book.  Today he can identify over 140 species that occur in the surrounding areas. 

Melvin Fernandez Naturalist Guide
Melvin is an excellent guide and he worked hard and diligently to find birds for us to see and photograph. This beautiful Long-tailed Silky- Flycatcher (below)is endemic to CR and western Panama.  It can be found in Cordilleras Central and de Talamanca, from timberline down to 6000 ft. elevation.


Long-tailed Silky Flycatcher (Ptilogonys caudatus)

Above the clouds from one of the highest spots in the Talamanca mountain range
near the continental divide.
Melvin drove us to this mountain top for the great veiws and to see the Volcano Hummingbird found only in the high mountains above 1200 m and is endemic to
CR and western Panama.

Volcano Hummingbird (Selasphorus flammula)
We also saw the Volcano Junco and this Green Spiny Lizard warming up on a rock in the sun.

Green Spiny Lizard (Sceloporus malachiticus)


We then drove down the mountain and stopped at another lodge called Mirador de Quetzals which had numerous hummingbirds at their feeders allowing for photo opportunities galore.
Fiery-throated Hummingbird (Panterpe insignis)
This hummingbird was amazingly beautiful and although difficult to get a good photo due to it's constant movement.



Magnificent Hummingbird (Eugenes fulgens) male



Resplendant Quetzal (Pharomachrus mocinno) male
 After considerable hiking up a  muddy road/trail in search of the Quetzal my wife Kimberley said calmly while peering into her binoculars "I'm looking at a Quetzal".
The highly sought after bird that we came to see was perched high in a distant tree in all of its beautiful glory.
That night we went out with Melvin after dark to look for Nightjars and owls.
After walking along a trail in the forest above the lodge we heard the call of the
Bare-shanked Screech-Owl (Megascops clarkii) which is fairly uncommon in the highlands and is endemic from Costa Rica to NW Columbia. 
After we looked and listened for more owls without success we were startled by a sound nearby. The sound turned out to be our guide playing a practical joke on us by tossing a rock into the brush above us.
Kimberley on the Sendero La Quebrada trail
                                               Black-capped Flycatcher(Empidonax atriceps)
                                   Yellowish Flycatcher(Empidonax flavescens)
The next day we hiked on the same trail and enjoyed the beauty of the mountain forests and it's many birds including the two flycatchers above. 

Flame-colored Tanager male (Piranga bidentata)
The more I try to capture quality photos of birds wherever I travel I realize and appreciate how difficult it can be often requiring much patience and more time than I usually have.
Collared Redstart(Myoborus torquatus)
Most of the birds that we saw were not photographed but I was fortunate to get a few good ones. The Collared Redstart above is endemic to CR and Panama and was photographed near the Sevegre river on our walk downriver to see the falls.
Collared Redstart
This beautiful little bird was very friendly allowing me to photgraph it a close range.

Black Vulture (Coragyps atratus)

Black Vultures roosting near hatchery along Rio Savegre
The Black Vultures were common and roosting along the Sevegre river near the Hatchery.  According to the locals the Savegre river is one of the cleanest rivers in Central America.
I
Green Violet-ear (Colibri orejiviolaceo verde)



 This was a place that I could spend weeks birding and fishing because of it's beauty and remoteness.  As we walked along this beautiful river we noted how peaceful it was far from the crowded cities with barred windows and heavy traffic.
The Hummingbirds were amazing and probably my favorites on this trip and this beautiful male Magnificent Hummingbird (Eugenes fulgens) was no exception.
The next afternoon we were driven to our last hotel a few miles north of the City of San Jose.
Flying out of Puerto Jimenez



Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Costa Rica Osa Pennisula

Hummingbird feeding on nectar (CLICK on photos to ealarge)
This year my wife surprised me with a Christmas gift of a trip to Costa Rica. We had talked about going to CR for many years and she decided that now was the time to go because in her words "while I was still physically capable".

I was initially excited about this dream adventure until two weeks prior to
departure when I stubbed my toe and fractured it.

The thought of hiking in the jungles or along the sandy beaches was no longer appealing but as my grandfather (Newton Lark) used to say “It’s a long way from the heart”.

I packed my bags a week in advance and repacked twice knowing that I usually take more than I really need.

We left the Arcata airport at 6:00 AM and had to change planes in San Francisco, California and in Huston,Texas where we had a 3 hour layover. The flight from Huston to San Jose, Costa Rica was about 3 hrs. arriving at 9:40 PM.

The process of going through customs went smoothly and our bags arrived safely. There was a mass of people jamming the exit on our way out to the street where we finally saw our driver holding up a sign with our names printed on it. We were told to wait while he looked for another person that he was scheduled to meet.
We finally got packed like sardines into a small Van and off we went on a drive that had us clutching each other and the handrail holding on as if we were on a roller coaster.

Our driver seemed in a hurry and made rolling slowdowns and rabbit starts at every intersection which had stop signs but used only in Costa Rica as suggestions apparently.
He turned into one narrow road that was jammed a half mile back so he pulled out of the line into opposing traffic and turned around deciding to take an alternative route. He then drove very fast through the back roads of the city and finally arrived at the small lobby of the “Adventures Inn” that was already jammed with other people checking in. Our room was adjacent to the lobby of the restaurant and we were kept awake for a while by American kids with loud voices.

Kimberley ready to board Nature Air
                                    Flying over San Jose, Costa Rica
After an early wake up and breakfast we were driven to a small airport where we boarded “Nature Air” on a small 20 + passenger plane for our trip to Puerto Jimenez. The flight took 45 minutes and had amazing views of the land below.
                                    The Osa Pennisula bottom left (looks like
                                      the head of an upside down seahorse)
We were met by our driver named Olman in Puerto Jimenez who picked up another man from Chile. As they say the journey is part of the adventure and the road was very bumpy with several river crossings in a 4 wheel drive vehicle that obviously needed new shock absorbers.

Along the way we stopped to observe and photograph White-faced Capuchin Monkeys and Spider Monkeys.
                                         White-faced Capuchin Monkey
We passed a couple of other lodges located near the beach and then ascended a steep bumpy road passing plastic tents lived in by local Gold panners.
Gold Miner's lodge

After over 2 hours we arrived at Luna Lodge near Carate on the Osa Penninsula and were greeted by Javier with a cold glass of water.

The Luna Lodge located in approximately 60 acres in the Gulfo Dulce Reserve was even more beautiful than we expected and we felt the tropical rainforests energy and spiritual ambiance immediately upon arrival.

The natural landscaping and aromas of frangipani and Jasmine and other fragrant flowering plants titillated our olfactory senses while the sounds of Cicadas, exotic birds and the occasional howling calls of Howler Monkeys serenaded us.

 We were led to our private bungalow with palm roof, open air showers with lush private gardens and a nice private deck made of tropical hardwood with natural polished tree trunk pillars where we would sit and enjoy the spectacular views.
We spent the first hours after arrival walking up a steep rock pathway to the Yoga platform where the veiw was spectacular as we birded along the way.

Cooling ocean breeze blowing curtains on Yoga platform
The spectacular veiw from the Yoga platform
 The owners mother “Willy” is an attractive charming woman from Colorado who seems to be always present to greet you or tell a wonderful story about one of the guests or about her daughter (but “only if asked”) or about the history of how the lodge came to be. It was her daughter Lana Wedmore who as a sophomore in college 30 years earlier worked at another lodge nearby and was hiking one day on a steep slope deep into the rainforest when she came upon the site and decided that this is where she was meant to be. She was able to get a loan from the government to help build her dream which is now Luna Lodge.

Today Lana Wedmore is a leader in the conservation and protection of the surrounding Rainforest hoping to preserve as much of it possible from development and desecration.

                     
                             Lana Wedmore and her mother Willy
The Gold rush of the 70’s threatened the fragile ecosystem of the Corcovado Park but has now recovered since the mining was banned in 1986. Today the Corcovado is home to many endangered species including the Harpy Eagle and the Jaguar.

It was warm and humid but the Ocean breeze had a pleasant cooling effect and kept the biting insects at bay. We slathered our skin with sunscreen and insect repellent and headed off to a daylong adventure in the Corcovado National Park.

On our first long trek (9 miles) we were led by our guide Oscar Corderom along the beautiful Coconut Palm lined beach to the park’s entrance.

 I  made the decision not to carry my 400 mm lens and instead brought the Nikon Coolpix camera. My toe was burning with pain after about a mile on the beach but I soon forgot about it because I was focused on the intense diversity of birds and plants along the trail.
I tripped on a rock and rolled with the fall and jumped to my feet quickly hoping that no one noticed but they did anyway and I was more embarrassed than physically injured.

In retrospect I thought had I been carrying my Telephoto lens it could have been damaged from that fall. I hoped to get photos with our small camera but was really bummed when the battery went dead. I forgot to recharge it the night before. A tough lesson learned the hard way.
                                   The entrance to Corcovado National Park
As a result I didn’t get some photos that I could have of arboreal anteaters, Coatimundi's, and Sloths. Our new friends Greg and Rene from Colorado hopefully got some good photos that they promised to share with us.

I was hot and very tired at the end of the hike and when offered a cold "Imperial" cerveza by our driver that picked us up at the beach it was extremly welcomed and turned out to be the best beer I ever tasted.
The little falls below Luna Lodge was a beautiful hike.
                           
After a refreshing shower we had a great evening and excellent food in the dining area.
                                   The veiw of the blue Pacific from the dining area
                                    
                                  Kimberley writing notes in dining area

Hooded Mantis (Choeradodis rhombifolia)
The dining platform had wildlife right in our laps and example is this well disguised  Hooded Mantid on a leaf.

Hummingbirds everywhere sipping nectar from flowers


                                             Black-hooded Antshrike

                                        White-nosed Coati

We didn't have to go far to enjoy wildlife but did go kayaking and on walk along a shady lane were we saw a family of Howler Monkeys, Coati mundi, Sloth and Scarlet Macaws and many other birds. Our guide Oscar Corderom was excellent and greatly aided us in finding wildlife.
Postman Butterfly


Oscar Coderom Field Guide

                                            Magnificent Frigatebird
The Frigatebird silohuette was the best I could get on this occassion

Brown Pelicans flying over



While walking on the beach near the lagoon I was impressed with the large numbers of Brown Pelicans soaring over and gliding low over the surf.

Bare-throated Tiger- Heron

I stalked this magnificent Heron to get close enough for a decent photo without my telephoto lens,

Bare-Throated Tiger Heron

Ringed Kingfisher
While crossing the river I saw this beautiful Kingfisher and got out of the landrover and took the photo.

Heliconia sp.
The tropical plants on the Oso pennisula are many and varied with brilliant flowers.
Neotropical Fruit (Tent-making) Bats (Euroderma sp.)
While sitting out on the dining room platform we observed several bats flying around and the next day found one area that they used for daytime roosting under the cupped leaves of a palm.  These tiny bats belong to the subfamily Stenodermatinae and make a tent -like structure by biting and chewing the  veins and midribs of leaves so that it droops around them for protection.  Touching the leaves causes them to fly out.

Osa taking a nap after a long day at work
One of the staff members at Luna Lodge is a dog named Osa who greets everyone that arrives and on each day we return from a hike.  She seems to enjoy her job and often goes on hikes with some of the clients staying at the Lodge.
A special table was set up for us to celebrate our 20th anniversary year
This was one of our most memorable adventures and we soon realized that there wasn't enough time to do it justice and see all that we wanted to see in just 4 days.
If possible we would like to return to Luna Lodge and spend at least a week,
We saw and identified over 80 species of birds and 10 species of Mammals in 3 days but only got decent photos of a few.
Common Black Hawk (Buteogallus anthracinus)
On my next blog I will write about our adventure in the Cloud Forest of Costa Rica on the Rio Savegre.
Green Iguana (Iguana iguana)
We saw this Iguana on our return trip to Puerto Jimenez.
On our way to San Jose we had one last look at the rain forest below and thought of the thousands of organisms that live there and realized that we had barely scratched the surface and knew that one day we would return to this incredible paradise.