Sunday, February 10, 2008

Pura Vida!

Just back from an action-filled ten day romp through Costa Rica. There, it was sunny and warm and filled with flora and fauna of nearly every size, shape, and hue. Here, I'm listening to the winter Ohio winds howl and try to push 20 degree air into cracks and crevices in the house. It's good to be back?
In between dealing with all of the stuff that piles up after nearly two weeks away, I'm sorting through and labeling hundreds of "keeper" photos. That's out of perhaps 3,000 pics snapped. My retention rate isn't good, but that's the great thing about digital - bad photographers like me can just keep snapping until one works out.
This trip was awesome in the extreme, and that's in no small part because of our Costa Rican guide, Noel Urena. He is easily one of the best birders in the country, and likely all of Central America. I like to think I have somewhat sharp eyes conditioned over a few decades of bird-seeking, but the jungle search-image is vastly different. The way Noel spots small birds like woodcreepers, manakins, and warblers in deep, dark, dense foliage lush enough to mask a jaguar is nothing short of amazing.

My traveling partners Barb Fate and David Hughes, along with Noel, tallied 344 species of birds, 15 species of mammals, and countless species of butterflies, dragonflies, other insects, not too mention plants. Among the birds were 34 species of Neotropical migrants - species that nest in Ohio or elsewhere in North America. One hundred and forty-two Wilson's Warblers. Ninety-nine Black-throated Green Warblers. Twenty-three Summer Tanagers. Forty-eight Chestnut-sided Warblers. Etc... Very interesting to see "our" species in the jungle, and it always gives me a broader apreciation and perspective on these global wanderers.
For now, here's a few photos from Costa Rica before I return to digging out from e-mails and whatever...

An eighty-five foot waterfall at La Paz Waterfall Gardens; truly a tropical paradise. This area receives about 145 FEET of rainfall annually.

Mantled Howler Monkeys. A youngster on the left, with an adult female. That's her hand-like foot dangling down. Howlers travel in troupes, and the males sound off every morning around 5:15 am just like clockwork. Their bellows can carry for a mile, and sound like a dozen coon hounds locked in a one-car garage played through a stack of Marshall amps. Rather terrifying, if you don't know the origin.
Black Guan, Chamaepetes unicolor. These large, pheasant-sized birds are related to chachalacas and quail, and normally are quite arboreal. Here, at a little known placed called Bosque de Paz (Forest of Peace) deep in the middle elevation cloud forest of the Caribbean slope, the guans have become accustomed to visiting feeding platforms. It was here that I had one of the most exciting raptor encounters ever. Standing nearby the feeders one evening at dusk, things were eerily quiet with few birds about. Suddenly, a guan burst from the wall of dense jungle vegetation at top speed, then jigged hard to the left. Hot on its heels, nearly on top of it, was an Ornate Hawk-Eagle, one of the most spectacular of avian jungle predators. Hunter and hunted shot by perhaps 15-20 feet from me, and I suspect my unexpected presence surprised the eagle and threw its timing off enough to allow the guan an escape, barely. The unsuccessful predator landed on a low branch maybe 200 feet away, and treated us to wonderful looks of this amazing bird.

We were thrilled to find this bird at Bosque de Paz. It is a Buff-fronted Quail-Dove, Geotrygon costaricensis. While not all that rare, they are often very difficult to observe, as these tiny doves forage quietly on the jungle floor in dense, nearly impenetrable vegetation. To boot, they don't vocalize often, so even becoming aware of their presence is difficult. Noel's sharp eyes found the bird after we saw it run into the jungle from afar. Once located, it was very tame and allowed us to approach within 15 feet before finally bustling off into the growth.

Sunset over the Pacific, near Dominical, Costa Rica. I look forward to my next trip to this place. While only half the size of Ohio, Costa Rica boasts a bird list of 977 species, twelve Life Zones, over 1,200 species of orchids, and no doubt countless yet to be discovered flora and fauna.


Tom said...

Sweet stuff Jim, welcome back to Ohio, can't wait to see more pictures.


Julie Zickefoose said...

Ah. Buff-fronted Quail Dove, served on a bed of bok choi. One of my favorite presentations.