Introduction to My Thoughts. When I was a kid, I read Edgar Rice Burroughs books about Tarzan of the Apes. I read the comic books too. I dreamed of life in the jungle. Growing up in Arizona didn’t quite match up to the African jungle.
Here in Costa Rica, land of volcanos, exotic animals and primary jungle that hasn’t been disturbed by man for centuries, my little dream has been realized.
The birds here are colorful and have wonderful songs. The other animals are truly exotic to us as well…….iguanas, iconic frogs, snakes, monkeys, coatis, tapirs and many more. Arlyne and I have found remnants of historic (and prehistoric) Costa Rica in the places we’ve been and where we’re going. Volcanos are smoking, rivers and lakes have crocodiles and alligators, the birds are lit up like holiday lights. I’ll never see a jaguar, an ocelot or a margay in the wild, but I’ve seen them here in near natural surroundings. They are some of the planet’s most beautiful creatures.
Irazu Volcano. We began our adventure with a trip to Irazu volcano, where delightful birds live their lives at 3432 meters (over 11,000 feet). We loved Irazu, the now sleeping volcano, but were delighted to encounter three high-altitude birds, the volcano junco, the sooty thrush and the sooty-capped chlorospingus. Some birds have straightforward descriptive names but others seem overcooked by long dead ornithologists.
We love to photograph birds in lush, photogenic, natural surroundings. My historic first look at the iconic volcano junco at Irazu was on the rim of a picnic area trash can. I didn’t have any problem with that and of course saw the little guy in better spots soon enough.
A highlight was seeing the Turrialba volcano in the distance, sending smoke and hot gases into the sky. This active volcano is of course being monitored.
Nest-building. I will likely never be able to show you all the birds we photographed but on our way back from Irazu, we had lunch at a coffee plantation/restaurant and spotted a pair of Passarini’s tanagers. Only in Costa Rica would birds nest in a small bush next to the parking lot and a busy walkway. The beautiful black and red male seemed totally
stressed as he darted in and out of the bush, presumably making sure everything was ready, while the sweet female waited patiently across the path for him to tell her it was OK. He eventually did, and then nervously perched on guard duty after she flew deep into the bush. It was a memorable encounter.
La Paz Waterfall Gardens and Wildlife Refuge. A couple of days later we drove up to the barrier that prevented us from going to the Poas volcano, which has been closed since we arrived due to poisonous gases from the crater. Poas has been inactive since 1955 but has just awakened. We took a fork in the road and stopped at La Paz Waterfall Gardens and Wildlife Refuge. This facility could be termed a tourist trap by jaded visitors but wild birds and other animals are in beautifully designed natural enclosures because they have been rescued from illegal hunters, confiscated by the government or donated by their owners.
We birders know, of course, that wild birds love the surroundings and come here to live and nest. We found several in the trees and gardens. Dozens of hummingbirds darted and swirled through a large natural area that had only a few feeders. We saw green
thorntails, green-crowned brilliants and black-bellied hummingbirds. Although officially wild birds, they have become reasonably accustomed to humans.
It was here in La Paz Gardens that we were introduced to my first and probably only ocelot. A jaguar also prowled a large enclosure. Arlyne and I also met Tomas, a lovely margay. He has been here for many years and responds to his name.
The La Paz Waterfall Gardens and Wildlife Refuge, as its name implies, has five quite spectacular waterfalls, embedded deep in the jungle. I was robust enough to take the steep, wet stone steps down to two of them. It was here that my vision of Tarzan emerged. I felt energized, even as I clambered back to the top level where I had started, sweating profusely from the world class humidity.
As Arlyne calls them, we saw several “free world” birds that love this neighborhood and raise their families here. Even leaving a place like this (which I didn’t want to do) it’s
easy to search for a few more wild birds that hang out here. We saw a swallow-tail kite, a Montezuma oropendula, and a Sulphur-bellied flycatcher (which has been seen frequently in Arizona). Very cool!
More wildlife adventures awaited us as you will see in my next post.
Bob and Arlyne Draper