Costa Rica

This is a very special post. It is a post from Karen about the both of us, but from Alan. Since Karen would be off cruising with a friend I decided to attend a photography workshop in Costa Rica.

Tuesday, January 2
I received notice the night before, that the plane from RDU to Houston was delayed 3.5 hrs. This was great because it let me sleep in and reduced layover time in Houston. Flying today was great, not a single line anywhere. From check-in to TSA to passport control in Costa Rica, no lines!

Wednesday, January 3
Since I am here a day early, I decided to go to the park that is within short walking distance, the La Sabana Park. It is a nice green area in the city. I noticed there were a number of policeman patrolling the park. Some on bikes, some on motorcycles and some on horseback. I don’t know if that made me feel more safe or less safe. While wandering the park, I was able to add two new birds to our ever increasing list, a northern jacana and a blue-and-white swallow.

Thursday, January 4
The workshop starts today, so 6:00 breakfast. I met with the group, two folks are from the previous Costa Rica tour, Marianne and Patrice, and two new acquaintances, Tom and Beth. We have a 1.5 hour drive to our destination in Orotina. Our guide for today is Alvaro.

At our first stop, the targets were scarlet macaws and turquoise-browed mot-mots. We also got some nice photos of an iguana. After lunch we returned to see if the mot-mot would be more cooperative with its pose. Eventually it landed on the designated spot for the hoped for picture. We also got a spot-breasted oriole at the same location. We then headed out to try to photograph a lesser-ground cuckoo. Again our patience and Alvaro’s expertise paid off. Next we headed to another area where we got some pictures of white-throated magpie-jay. We had one more location to visit as the sun was going down. We were trying to photograph owls. We eventually got a pacific screech-owl to land where we could photograph it. Not a bad days work.

Friday, January 5
This morning need to be on the bus by 5:30. Today we are going to be on the river. When you are on the river it is always teeming with bird life. Unfortunately, I am already familiar with most of the birds that we spotted. The goal this morning were common black hawks and bare-throated tiger-herons in flight. The birds were definitely more cooperative today.

After lunch, we took the river in the opposite direction towards the ocean. The goal this afternoon is more common black hawks in flight, frigate birds and boat-billed herons. There were numerous magnificent frigates once we got near the ocean – also, large numbers of brown pelicans and neotropic cormorants. Next we went looking for a boat-billed heron. We didn’t have much luck but we spotted something even more exciting to me, an American Pygmy kingfisher. We spent quite a while photographing it before heading back to our starting point to see if the common black hawks wanted to put on a show. We got a couple pics of them and some yellow-headed caracara before we called it a day.

Saturday, January 6
Breakfast is at 6:30 today. We spent some time photographing birds from the deck. There was also a group of capuchin monkeys swarming around the feeders looking for fruit.

It is about a two hour drive to our next photography spot. We will be there the entire day. Main goals today are tanagers, and trogons. The first surprise was the destination, Karen and I had been here before. We were here for a canopy walk excursion when we took a Princess cruise around South America. We saw plenty of tanagers and some hummingbirds and a coati. The big attraction was the blue-and-gold tanager, apparently this is an uncommon bird at this location and there were local birders there to see them.

The hotel accommodations for the next few nights is the Tilajari Lodge, which is very upscale. It is an Eco resort and retreat.

Sunday, January 7
Breakfast is at 6:30. We are heading out for the river again today. Our goals are iguana, monkeys and boat-billed heron. I was surprised by the length of the bus drive (1 hr) to get us to our boating destination, mainly because there is a river/tributary right behind the hotel. The boat trip allowed us to get good pictures of both the mantled howler monkeys and the white-faced capuchin monkeys. We saw two basilisks also known as the Jesus lizard. We also spotted the boat-billed heron this time around. In addition we saw three types of kingfishers, American Pygmy (female), ringed kingfisher, and Amazon kingfisher. There were four Amazon kingfishers flying around the boat and we got a chance to get some nice in-flight photos.

I did a walkabout once we got back to the hotel, took a few photos but it was hard with the birds hiding in all the foliage. However there was a green iguana (actually orange in color – its mating color) that was hanging around waiting for someone to take a picture. I also spotted a hole in an old tree that some orange-chinned parakeets were using as a home.

Monday January 8
Breakfast is at 6:30. We will be heading to Cope’s which is a place we visited on the last Costa Rica workshop. We will be doing multi-flash hummingbird setups. While waiting for my chance at the hummingbird setups, I photographed a toucan, multiple oropendolas, honeycreepers, tanagers, acacari, and another Pygmy kingfisher and a multitude of parakeets. We also photographed a helmeted lizard and an eyelash viper.

Tuesday, January 9
We get to sleep in! Breakfast is at 7:00. We are headed to a different location for multi-flash hummingbirds this morning. We drove 1.5 hours to Catarata del Toro another location that we had visited on a previous workshop. The stars of this session are the violet sabrewing and hermits. I had a little trouble with the remote on the last session, I will need to check that out once I’m home. When I looked at one of the set of pictures, the focus was not set correctly so all those were throw-aways. I need to be more careful in the future.

Next stop is to photograph wild macaws in flight. Unfortunately, we hit road construction that delayed us 30 minutes or so. Once we got to the location there were macaws everywhere. There were 3 varieties, scarlet macaw, great green macaw, and a hybrid of the two species. We got to photograph them in flight as they followed the woman putting out food from one feeder to another. We shot from the side view and then we were able to position ourselves right by the feeder as they flew in.

We then walked to the main house and took some pictures as they perched. There were also capuchin monkeys hanging around the main house since they knew the macaws were getting more food. How close did they get, let’s put it this way, I’m hoping it is good luck if a monkey touches your lens hood?

Between the hummingbirds, macaws, and monkeys this is the first day that pictures rolled over to the second card.

Wednesday, January 10
Breakfast is at 7:00. We are off to Frogs Heaven but this time to do macro photography with snakes. Palm pit viper, boa constrictor, eyelash viper, Central American tiger rat snake, ambulated tree boa, brown vine snake, and fer-du-lance are on the docket. Some of the snakes were feistier than others, the tiger rat snake was a problem since he was lively and bit the handler.

Thursday, January 11
Breakfast is at 7:00. The original plan had to be scrapped because the place we were going had gone out of business, most likely they were not able to survive due to COVID. So we are headed somewhere else to photographed a three toed sloth. Then back to the hotel to check out and then drive back to the first hotel. I have an early pickup tomorrow in the morning at 3:00 am.