As advertised, Arlyne and I are in Costa Rica. We’ve been here before, but this is The Great Adventure. We thought about it for a few years and decided to make it a life event. When you’re retired, do you ever really go on vacation? I think we’ve really done it this time.
We landed in San Jose the evening of June 12th and, courtesy of Arlyne’s brother, were driven straight to Puntarenas, on the Pacific coast, where Arlyne grew up. We’re going to be in Costa Rica for two months. We’re truly fortunate that Arlyne, well really both of us, have family and friends here. As I write this, we stayed at her brother’s (Arturo) house for five days before coming back to San Jose to help with his wife Ana who was having surgery. She’s doing fine now, glad we could help.
During this first week, we did some planning. There are so many cool places to go in Costa Rica. The first thing that happened, however, is that two of the country’s numerous volcanos decided to misbehave. Turrialba had a moderate eruption and threw rocks, smoke, ash and gas into the air. It isn’t actually closed right now but it’s being watched. Another volcano, close to the capital of San Jose, is Irazu. Although it’s putting out some smoke and smoldering a bit, we have a tour to this iconic site in two days. Of course, on the slopes of Irazu, there is a small bird called the volcano junco. We’ll be looking out for this bird while we check the sky for flying rocks. That’s one of our plans..
When we were initially in Puntarenas, we took a trip to the citrus farm of a family friend. The birds love this place, especially the parrots. How nice! Rafa Oreamuno, the owner, took us around his sizable property on a golf cart. We saw birds we knew, like caracaras, cattle egrets, tropical kingbirds, and clay-colored thrushes (the national bird of Costa Rica) all over the place. Then, we approached a small pond and spotted a group of birds we didn’t recognize. I jumped out of the golf cart and started taking pictures. Then I realized we had something special as I saw crests on these fairly sizable birds. I didn’t know what I had but managed to find out later. My nearly 30 year old Costa Rican bird book didn’t include these birds. I wrestled with the photos until it struck me. They were lapwings. On the trusty internet, I found that southern lapwings had, over the years, moved up from South and lower Central America and were now in Costa Rica. Beautiful birds with huge red eyes, distinctive coloring and a wonderful feather running back from the top of the head. Check them out. Besides this, I snapped a photo of a flying northern jacana and got a special, perfect shot.
A couple of days later we moved ourselves to a friend’s house in Alajuela, near San Jose. I’ve known Ronald and Teri for 50 years and Arlyne grew up with them. There are birds around their neighborhood but it wasn’t until we drove to a mountainous area near the Poas volcano that we struck our first birding gold. Stopping to preview a beautiful hotel in the mountains, we thought we would plan a day tour of their nature area, which is incredible. Walking in from parking area, we heard loud squawking from a tree and saw a terrific new bird, the Montezuma oropendula! We were beginning to tap into the bird life of this beautiful country.
The very next day, we went to a nearby animal rescue/rehab facility, which is quite large actually, covered with native trees, vines and vegetation. One can walk through this beautiful place and see truly unique birds and other animals. We were struck with the numerous iguanas that roam freely throughout. Green, gray, blue…all different sizes. Of course, we can’t add injured and caged birds to our list. But guess what? Birds from the “free” world, as Arlyne puts it, are welcome to the enormous grounds and we began to see them. We added a cute yellow-throated euphonia carrying nesting materials, a Hoffman’s woodpecker and a yellow-olive flycatcher which was also building a nest.
Tentatively, we added a black-mandibled toucan to our growing list because there were two of them flying around the facility, apparently free as, well, birds. We’ll keep this toucan in reserve because we expect to see more of them later, when we go to the Arenal Observatory Lodge, near the now sleeping Arenal volcano.
I’m hoping to update you with more of the Draper’s Costa Rican Adventure in subsequent blogs. For you non-birders, I’ll throw in some interesting stuff about Costa Rica and how we’re enjoying our time here. I think worldwide news outlets are probably keeping everybody informed about the volcanos.
We have a dear friend who is coming down to CR to join us for several days on Sunday. I hope she doesn’t mind iguanas, high temperatures and humidity and our more or less outdoor life. We don’t like to sit by the pool or lay on the beach. It’s OK but not too much of it.