COSTA RICA - January 2016

January 12 - 18, 2016

Yet another wonderful trip to Costa Rica.

In November 2015, Nancy was making plans for us to attend the Space Coast Birding Festival in late January. She thought as long as we're going to be that far south, why not go a little further south to Costa Rica. She contacted our trusted guide and friend Diego Quesada and arrangements were made to visit Costa Rica on January 12th to January 18th.

On January 10, 2016, Nancy and I drove down to Titusville, Florida and on Tuesday, January 12th we flew to San Jose. Diego met us at the airport and off we went. This was our 6th or 7th trip to Costa Rica. This trip we did differently in that we stayed in only one lodge the entire trip. We took day trips from the lodge, rather than traveling from one lodge to another, avoiding all the packing and re-packing. We stayed 6 nights at the Poas Volcano Lodge. Beautiful lodge located about one hour north of the airport in Costa Rica's Central Valley and approximately 30 minutes from Poás Volcano National Park.

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- CINCHONA CAFE & LA SELVA BIOLOGICAL STATION 

For our first one day excursion we headed for La Selva Biological Station, heading north along highway 126. Of coarse we had to make a birding stop at the small cafe off the highway at Cinchona. One of our favorite birding-by-chair spots in Costa Rica. We have stopped at this cafe in Cinchona a dozen times in the past and it has never failed to be great birding from the back porch of the cafe. Hummingbird and fruit feeders off the porch always draw a large variety of birds. This day, January 14th, the bird activity was rather slow when we arrived; hummingbirds but little else. It was early and the fruit feeders were empty. Diego procured some bananas and stocked the fruit feeders. The minute he placed the first banana on the feeder the trees exploded with activity; Emerald Toucanets, Prong-billed and Red-headed Barbets; Blue-gray, Silver-throated, and Passerini's Tanagers to name a few plus all the hummingbirds.

Shortly after we arrived at the cafe, Ernesto Carman arrived with a small group of woman he was guiding around. We met Ernesto last January at his family coffee farm, Finca Cristina, near the small town of Paraíso, south east of San Jose. It was great to see him again. Ernesto carefully drew small maps for Diego where we could find Golden-browed Chlorophonias and Black-and-white Owls later in our trip.

In front of Cafe Cinchona, January 15, 2016

In front of Cafe Cinchona, January 15, 2016

After a long day, Diego at Poas Volcano Lodge

After a long day, Diego at Poas Volcano Lodge

It was hard to leave Cinchona but we pushed on to La Selva.

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But first, a brief story on Cinchona's recent history. The Cinchona Earthquake of January 8, 2009. This 6.1 magnitude earthquake had its epicenter very close to the Cinchona cafe and the Poas Volcano Lodge. Costa Rica's worst earthquake in a hundred years. Among the devastation, the town of Cinchona and the Cinchona cafe were totally destroyed and the Poas Lodge was extensively damaged. Highway 126 vanished in many parts. A total of 34 people lost their lives and thousands were left homeless. After the earthquake the small town of Cinchona was relocated and is called Nueva Cinchona. Poas Volcano Lodge was rebuilt to a high level of eloquence, but we are told the cafe off the highway in Cinchona is still not what it used to be.

Cinchona Cafe after January 8, 2009 earthquake. Photo from photo on cafe wall.

Cinchona Cafe after January 8, 2009 earthquake. Photo from photo on cafe wall.

Cafe Cinchona,  January 14, 2019.

Cafe Cinchona, January 14, 2019.

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Back to January, 2016. We spent a half day at the La Selva Biological Station. This is one of the most highly regarded tropical ecology research field stations in the world (so they say). The place has a lot of birds, and I mean a lot. You have to have a station guide with you to walk around, and between this guide and Diego we saw a butt-load of birds. Highlight was a Speckled Mourner (it's a bird, not some guy from Louisiana who likes to attend funerals). The Speckled Mourner is a poor bird without roots or a home. It was in the cotinga family of birds but recently placed in the Tityridae family after apparently much debate. It must be rough on the bird. The guide from the station and Diego had a long discussion on the taxonomy of this bird (it's what bird guides do). We had lunch at the station cafeteria with about 50 students and the day at La Selva was delightful and birdwise rewarding.

- CARARA NATIONAL PARK & RIO GRANDE DE TARCOLES

Our next major excursion was to the Central Pacific part of the country. We did two things; we took a boat ride down the Rio Grande de Tarcoles, and we hiked the Araceas Nature Trail at the Quebrada Bonita Ranger Station at Carara National Park.

The boat ride was with Jungle Crocodile Safari in Tarcoles, a very popular destination for both tourist and locals. Most of the boat operators stop and wrestle a croc or two, but Diego made special arrangements. We had a special bird guide operate the boat and there was no one else on the boat but Nancy, me and Diego. We skipped the crocs and concentrated on birds in the river and along the banks, of which there were many. A lot of shore birds (optional) and raptors, but highlights were Mangrove Cuckoos and Turquoise-browed Motmots.

After the river excursion we drove a short distance to a small trail, the Araceas Nature Trail which is part of the Carara National Park. It was a super birding trail, but boy was it hot. Nancy and I forgot how hot it gets at lower elevations along the coast of Costa Rica. We hiked for a couple hours but gave up because of the heat. In lower elevations you have to get out early and quit by about 2:00pm.


- A COUPLE OTHER VISITS: COPE ARTE and CATARATA DEL TORO


COPE ARTE: We again had the opportunity to visit Cope Arte at his home near Guapiles. Cope is an excellent and accomplished artist, naturalist, birder, and trail blazer. Cope has been tracking some owls he was very excited to show us. We drove a short distance from his house and followed Cope through the woods, no trail just charging through some thick wooded area. But the owls were not to be seen. He did take us trail blazing to see some Honduran White Bats which was rather amazing. Afterwards we spent a few hours at Cope's home watching and shooting birds from the blind or observation platform behind his house. Before leaving Cope showed us his latest artwork which was beautiful.

January 16, 2016  COPE'S FRONT PORCH

January 16, 2016 COPE'S FRONT PORCH

right to left: Cope Arte, me, Alina (Cope's daughter), Nancy, Su Vega, Diego Quesada

CATARATA DEL TORO:  We also visited Catarata del Toro. This is the cafe and bar near Bosque de Paz with the beautiful waterfall. I was at Catarata del Toro last year with Glenn Bartley doing hummingbird flash photography. We walked a new trail the owners of Catarata del Toro are working on. In a few years this trail should be an excellent destination for birding and photography.




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