Saturday, March 30, 2013

Pocket Full of Sunshine

3/17/13      San Jose

Yet another early morning- our last in fact.  We departed the hotel around 7am for Poas Volcano.  It took us a while to get there but the sights of the valley over the guardrail-less road were beautiful.  We arrived around 8:30- before the clouds and before the crowds.  As soon as we began moving everyone started having coughing fits because of the sulfur.  It was pretty funny actually.  We very quickly made our way up to the crater where we had a beautiful view.  We took the appropriate number of tourist pics before splitting off.

Friday, March 29, 2013

When Did We Reach Paradise?

3/16/13       Hotel de Montana Paraiso Quetzal -> San Jose

We had an early morning walk to view quetzals this morning.  We saw the same nesting male as well as the female.  We also saw them do the nest exchange that they wouldn't do with us there yesterday.  We had a group half the size today so it made sense.  Hearing them call to each other from in and out of the nest was also really fun to hear.  The calls are only slightly different but once Jorge pointed it out it was easy to hear.

We left the Quetzal Lodge after breakfast and some last minute hummingbird pictures.  We took a quick jaunt to an area called ' The Towers' which is at an even higher elevation.  The vegetation is primarily small bushes, bamboo, and grasses.  We did see some Volcano Hummingbirds and Volcano Juncos, which was nice.  From there we began our mountain descent back into San Jose.

 Fiery-throated Hummingbird
 Volcano Junco
Volcano Hummingbird

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Until the Sun Makes the Hills It's Grave

3/15/13        Hotel de Montana Paraiso Quetzal

This morning I woke up early so I could take some more hummingbird pictures.  I did a lot of that today, actually.  Approximately 300 pictures in fact (not counting the ones I deleted).

Fiery-throated Hummingbird

We then had a yummy breakfast of cereal, fruit, eggs and ham, and toast before heading out on our morning walk.  This walk was pretty special because we were looking for a specific bird, the Resplendent Quetzal.  Here at the Quetzal Lodge, as you may have guessed, they specialize in Quetzal watching.  Before we even left the parking area our guide, Jorge, was calling for them.  It was amazing.


He then led us on a walk to an area with a known nest and we were able to spot a male Quetzal, both outside and then inside the nest.  We waited for a while for the female to arrive and trade off with him but Jorge believed there were too many of us and we were preventing it.  And so the walk essentially ended.  We did see three other quetzals before that, but they were brief sightings.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Like an Old Married Couple

3/14/13     Tapanti -> Hotel de Montana Paraiso Quetzal

The morning began with a bird-viewing at 6:30 AM.  I wouldn't call it a walk since we only walked over to the trout farm where we proceeded to hide from the rain for about an hour.  We stayed in that particular area because there was a Violet Sabrewing, a hummingbird, frequenting the area.  These guys are cool because they're very large for hummingbirds- 6 inches- and are vibrant purple.  We saw him twice over the span of 45 minutes before heading back to the room to finish packing before breakfast.

The bus arrived around 8:45 and we left for Finca Christina, an organic coffee plantation.  The owner, Ernesto, gave us a tour from plant to finished product.  He talked about all the different aspects of growing the crop, harvesting and pruning- both the crop and shade trees.  He discussed that although his son (an ornithologist) has made the farm bird friendly and has seen over 300 of 800 birds species in Costa Rica, the farm is still not certified bird friendly because of the way they handle their shade trees.  Trust me, there were birds everywhere- this place was like a bird sanctuary.  We then moved over to his processing buildings where they remove the beans, dry them, and sort them by weight.  They're then stored in silos until they're ready for roasting which his wife Linda is in charge of.

We were able to taste some coffee (I thought it was pretty good and I don't drink the stuff) and then purchase some.  They also have an online website.  Any price you see there includes shipping to your front door.  Feel free to check them out if you love coffee.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

A Tit Bit Nipply

3/13/13            Tapanti

We headed out at 8AM today.  Kiri Lodge, where we're staying, is not in the park so we had to walk to it.  It probably took around 30 minutes (to be honest my judging of time has gone completely out the window on this trip so I may be wrong).

Once we reached the park entrance we took use of the facilities while checking out the trail map.  Dr. George told us we'd be doing the Sendero Arboles Caidos Trail, which was around 2-3km, followed by the Oropendola Trail.  There's a spot by the river with a swimming hole on this trail.  Since I was already soaked to the skin, and we had only just entered the park, it sounded like a decent plan.

The rain calmed down by the time we reached the trail-head.  We were told the trail was steep, but I wasn't expecting it to start right away like it did.  It all worked out, though.  We steadily made our way up the mountainside in the company of trees completely covered in moss and epiphytes.  It was green everything... except for the mud.

The fun really began when we began the descent.  Portions of it were even steeper than the way up.  The people up front (Dr. George was in the back at the time) even considered sliding down on their butts in a couple of places.  It didn't fully come to that, but it was close.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Hairy Woodpeckers

3/12/13      El Zota -> Tapanti

I woke up early today because I was having an awful time trying to sleep.  No more than 20-30 minute intervals at a time.  So I was up and ready for the 6:30 AM walk with Dr. George, Kevin, Joey, and Burt. 

We went down the main road in a direction we haven't before.  I saw a Variegated Squirrel, not usually a thrilling sight, but in the rainforest it is.  We also saw some fun birds- Little Blue Herons, Blue Ground Doves, a Roadside Hawk, and a Squirrel Cuckoo.

After breakfast we departed El Zota on the army truck.  We made the transfer to the blue van and continued on our way.  Over an hour of the trip was unpaved roads.  We all cheered when we finally hit paved roads again.  We ate at La Casa de Dona Lela again for lunch.  Delicious.  We then began our 1.5 hour drive to the Kiri Lodge right outside Tapanti National Forest (a cloud forest).  The drive was pretty fun through the city.  There was a lot of interesting sights to see and jokes to crack.  We stopped at a market in Orosi and bought some fun food items.  I bought some chocolate wafer things and I already wish I bought more.  They're quite delicious.

Saturday, March 23, 2013


3/11/13    El Zota Biological Station

I set the alarm a little early this morning so I could be sure to be up and dressed while the Howler's were still calling.  Well they barely called at all this morning, at least right here in camp anyways.  I could hear them off in the forest.  After walking around for a bit I got my chance when they called from right behind the kitchen.  There were 3 adults in one tree.  The lighting wasn't the best, however, so the pictures I attempted weren't that great.

Breakfast was served at 6AM and we in the army truck and on the road to the primary forest by 6:30.  The path that would have taken us 1-1.5 hours walking took all of 30 minutes driving (very slowly).  Both groups went on this hike so we split up, our group going with Israel down the trail head, and the other group down the back side of the trail.  When we met on the trail we traded guides and continued in the same direction so we both walked the full trail.

This walk was unique so far because of all the herps we saw, including 3 species of snake and at least 3 species of frog.  The first snake was quite small and I was surprised Israel saw t at all.  And his moves to catch the critter were really impressive as well.  The most impressive find was the poisonous fer-de-lance that Dr. George spotted.  It was only a juvenile, but they can actually be more dangerous because they bite and inject poison into anything that moves.  The adults can at least control their poison injecting so you have some chance of surviving.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Did We Just Have a Moment?

3/10/13    El Zota Biological Station

Well my wish came true.  I woke up this morning to the sound of howler monkeys.  It's actually pretty creepy.  That was around 5 AM.  Our first hike was a pre-breakfast one around 6 AM.  We went down the road again, looking fr early morning species.  We spotted some Spider and Howler monkeys, an Agouti, and some fun birds like the Broad-billed Motmot and the Collared Aracari.

About 1 hour after breakfast we went on our second hike, seeing another Motmot and a Buff-rumped Warbler.  We met up with Israel at the entrance to a trail that goes near the lagoon we visited yesterday.  He had already taken the other group through the one way and was taking us back in the other direction.  This trip was really fun as it did not rain and this trail had a lot of interesting things along it such as: walking alms, strangler figs, and white tent bats!

The previous group actually encountered a caiman sunning on a board over a marshy area and startled it, which then startled one of the girls, who freaked out and broke one of the boards.  Near the very end of the walk we also spotted a White-faced Capuchin.  Normally they travel in groups but this female was a little far out of the group- snacking in the banana trees.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Lazy Birding

3/9/13    El Zota Biological Station

So sleeping last night was pretty interesting.  First of all, everything here is damp- including the sheets.  Takes some getting used to.  Second, about 45 minutes after laying down (I was drifting so I'm not positive), a Black and White Owl started calling from out in front of our building.  And he was just going at it.  Very loudly.  Not a sound I'm accustomed to by any means.  (really cool though).  Then a rainstorm rolled through a few hours later.  It cooled everything down, but man was it loud!  We were also told the Howler Monkeys would wake us up around dawn.  Didn't happen.  I still have hope though, we will be here for another three nights so I'm hoping we'll encounter some.

Our morning began with a short jaunt down to the lagoon where we spotted some fish, a Common Slider (turtle), a Brown Basilisk (lizard), and some Purple Gallinules (birds), all before breakfast!  Which was another tasty meal of rice and beans plus fresh bananas and watermelon.

After breakfast, and some birdwatching right in camp, we headed out on our first trek through secondary rainforest.  It was dark, muddy, and rainy.  It was awesome!  We didn't see many animals, just some poison dart frogs, though we did see some Baird's Tapir tracks.  We left the forest to trek along a rocky driveway for another hour.  We saw a LOT of species along this path because of the edge effect it creates with the forests.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Pura Vida

3/8/13               Newark -> El Zota Biological Station

Woke up at the buttcrack of night this morning.  Not the buttcrack of dawn, the buttcrack of night.  2AM to be exact.  I proceeded to get everything together for one final check before heading out to meet my ride at 3.  Kevin's dad was kind enough to drive Kevin, myself, and Michael to the airport.

By the time we made it onto the plane I was super tired and ready to sleep.  All I wanted was to pull down the tray table and sleep on it.  But alas, it was not to be.  It was snowing as we attempted to leave Newark International airport and the plane had to be de-iced on the tarmac.  I eventually just leaned my head on the seat back in front of me and fell asleep.  I was jerked awake about 30 minutes later as the plane took off, only to fall asleep again.  I was just happy to get some more sleep.

Getting into Costa Rica and through customs was overall pretty easy I think.  At least compared to my other experiences.  Anyways, we made it outside where we met up with our guide, Isreal, and our drivers.  We then climbed aboard an amazing blue minibus and began our journey.

We drove through San Jose to a restaurant- La Casa de Dona Lela- where we received platters of absolutely delicious Costa Rican food.  Rice, beans, tortillas, cheese, meats, salsas, plantains, and yuca.  So tasty. 

A Few Things...

Hi there everybody!

I have returned to the country (assume all emotions associated with leaving paradise and returning to a snowstorm)! I just have a few quick things before I start posting all about my trip. 

First: I will be posting about my trip as soon as I find some time.  Hopefully that will be soon, but I have a few important things to work on as well, so I apologize in advance if I skip a day. 

Second: I have turned on the Captcha word verification for comments.  I have been receiving a lot of spam comments lately and it's ticking me off.  I will try to remember to turn it off again once April comes around.  If you notice it then feel free to remind me to turn it off.

And I think that's it!  See you soon...

Thursday, March 7, 2013

I'm Going on an Adventure!

That's right, everyone.  I am going on a brand new adventure.  Another international trip to another beautiful destination, this time to Costa Rica! 

Tomorrow morning I depart for an eleven day trip to Costa Rica with my Tropical Ecology class.  Eleven days spent adventuring through the rainforests, in the warm weather, with some fun people.  I can't wait.  And soon after I return and get all my new travel posts out, it will be time for the A to Z April Challenge!  I have a definite theme this year and it won't take you long to figure out what it is.  See you soon!