Archive for ‘Nature Notes’

Day 5: Curi-Cancha Reserve

For my last day in the cloud forest I was joined in my ramblings by Marcel and Mariza, retired school teachers from the Netherlands. Though the woods were fairly silent we had a lovely time chatting while wandering the winding trails of the Curi-Cancha Reserve.

A special treat was stumbling across a group of seven agoutis hunting, and squabbling over, large (and presumably tasty) acorns. We finished our warm afternoon with our own sweet treat, ice cream made fresh at the local dairy. It was a delightful way to wrap up my visit!

Wait for the surprise ending – things got a little heated under the old oak tree!

Day 4: Eco Paz Park

Searching around on the map the night before I found a small, free park in the hills above Santa Elena. Since that was a rarity in the area, I decided to check it out. The next morning I packed a lunch and headed uphill. The park wasn’t that far but the 4500′ elevation and hilly terrain of the area were a bit of a challenge for a girl who has spent the last two years living at sea level.

The park had several winding trails and even a lovely stream running through it. The velvety brown seed pod of the Macuna tree was one of the first things to catch my eye. This is the tree responsible for the hamburger sea beans, like the ones I found this past summer on the beaches of the Texas Gulf Coast.

I was delighted to see my fourth species of toucan, the Keel-billed (or more colorfully, Rainbow-billed) Toucan. After following an industrious line of Leafcutter Ants through the park for awhile I settled on a mossy stone near the brook for lunch.

A tiny movement to the side caught my eye so I slowly raised my camera and turned toward it. There, peering at me from behind a leaf, was a handsome Blue-crowned Motmot. To say I was delighted is an understatement! I later learned that they nest in the banks of waterways, earning them the common epithet of “banco bravo” (riverbank guard).

It was a really great way to spend another day in the cloud forest!

Day 3: Ecological Sanctuary

My next excursion, the Ecological Sanctuary, was a hilly 1.3 km walk from Santa Elena. This property is family-owned and primarily consists of secondary growth forest. They allow visitors to wander the grounds for a fee but they also grow coffee and bananas to supplement their income.

Surprisingly, the open areas of this reserve proved to be very fruitful. I discovered several new-to-me species of birds, marveled over the clear wings of the Glasswinged Butterfly, spent quality time watching an adorable agouti, and sadly, lamented the recent demise of a precious porcupette. Clear views of the Nicoya Gulf and Peninsula were a special treat.

Though I was alone on the trails my visit was nowhere near silent as a myriad of insects were abuzz.

Day 2: Monteverde Cloud Forest Biological Reserve

I was up early the following morning for a wildlife tour of the world famous Monteverde Cloud Forest Biological Reserve. True to its name, we were hiking in a cloud most of the time. Thankfully, it was only a drizzle, or as they say up here, pelo de gato (a fine, cat hair-like mist).

The reserve protects 26,000 acres of virgin forest, covering six life zones in the Cordillaren de Tilarán (mountains that form the continental divide between the Caribbean and Pacific coasts). There were many moments during our three hour stroll that the verdant landscape reminded me of the Hot Rainforest in Olympic National Park. 

According to our guide, the woods were unusually quiet that day but I enjoyed chatting with my companions, lovely folks from both Denver and Houston. Thankfully, we did manage to spot a few stunning birds, especially at the hummingbird garden near the entrance. Overall, a wonderful way to spend a day!

 

Dashing, By Any Name

While there were Scarlet Macaws noisily fussing about in the trees high overhead this Yellow-throated Toucan* (Ramphastos ambiguus) was the center of attention at the shuttle stop on the way to Monteverde. This colorful character had a big personality befitting his size; averaging 20 inches in length and weighing 1.5 pounds. Of the six toucan species found in Costa Rica, this is the largest (and no surprise, this one tends to throw its weight around when claiming territory or food sources).

The striking design appears to be taken from a child’s coloring book; iridescent black, red, yellow, white, and green feathers with pale blue feet and a humungous two-toned beak. It all seems a bit superfluous for a forest-dwelling, fruit-eater, but I admire the flair.

I didn’t hear him vocalize but I’ve read that it sounds like “Díos te dé” (Spanish for “God give you…”). They speak Spanish, por supuesto.

*AKA: Black-mandibled or Yellow-breasted Toucan.

Sea Biscuits

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Fossilized and Modern Sea Biscuits, Santa Teresa, Costa Rica November 2019

My daily beach wanders usually turn up an interesting find or two. I stumbled across a fossilized Sea Biscuit (Clypeaster sp.) early on during my stay and the partial, contemporary one just recently.

I’m having difficulty pinning down an exact age for the fossil but they first enter the record during the Eocene (around 37mya). I suppose once your form has been perfected there is little reason to change it.

Note: The fossil is underside up, the other is top up. Also, I must content myself with just the photo, as Costa Rica prohibits the removal of any nature items from the country.

 

 

Yard Bird 8

This White-throated Magpie-Jay (Calocitta formosa) was surprisingly reticent to have its photo taken. Sadly, I was not able to capture the resplendent, long tail that makes this bird so distinctive (I suggest looking it up, it really is worth it). The male sports a much longer one than the female. I believe this to be a female, based on the complete neck ring and additional black above the eye.

As with the rest of the jay family, it is a noisy character with a large repertoire of sounds. I just never know what I’m going to find in my yard!

Yard Bird 7

This juvenile, Bare-throated Tiger-Heron (Tigrisoma mexicanum) likes my neighbor’s roof. It flies up there in the evenings after spending the day hunting for typical heron food (fish, amphibians, insects, and small rodents) along the creek that runs behind their house. The name refers to the distinctive feather-free, yellow skin under the bill. The adult version of this bird is quite dapper with a vibrant rufous waistcoat (or in proper birder parlance, flanks).

Interestingly, the only U.S. record of this species was found in Hidalgo County, Texas on the western Gulf Coast, near the border with Mexico. Not too surprising since the Brownsville area is a well-known birding hotspot. I would be interested to learn when that was but can’t seem to suss it out.

Arboreal Termitaria

While researching Black-headed Trogons I learned that they are unusual in their family, as they take the easy way out when building a home. Instead of carving holes in trees they just utilize arboreal termite nests. There are certainly plenty of them to choose from down here!