Saturday, December 05, 2009

Costa Rica: Sarapiqui River

I originally thought of renting a taxi for my free Sunday but was persuaded instead to take a bus tour. Unfortunately, I ended up being the only person for the recommended tour - a day birding trip to Carara National Park - and so it didn't run. Instead I took a 3-in-1 tour, starting at 7:15 and visiting the Sarapiqui River, the Selva Verde reserve, and the aerial tram near the Braulio Carillo Park before returning to Los Yoses at about 5:30.

Although I would have preferred a birding-focused trip, the 3-in-1 tour turned out to be very good. The driver was very pleasant and there were only four other passengers in the minibus. We started with an almost 2-hour drive through the huge Braulio Carillo rainforest park and down through some picturesque scenery to Sarapiqui. On the final stretch of the road we were treated to flyovers by numerous Black and Turkey Vultures.


The main feature of the morning was a 90-min
ute ride in a smallish boat along the Sarapiqui River. I had heard that these rides often last only an hour but ours was very unhurried and lasted well over the scheduled time.

From the moment we set off, we were accompanied by Mangrove Swallows, which swooped low over the water and stopped every now and then to perch on the boat's roof.

The next birds to appear were all familiar ones: a Tricolored Heron, an Anhinga in breeding plumage, and several Spotted Sandpipers.

Tricolored Heron


After admiring several dogs lazing on the riverbanks and a group of cows accompanied by Cattle Egrets, we had a very brief glimpse of a new bird: Green Kingfisher.

Cattle Egret

The guide/pilot pointed out a troop of Howler Monkeys, and then a family of White-faced Capucin Monkeys, followed by more Howlers.

Howler Monkeys

Howler Monkey

Capuchin Monkey

We also had great views of Green Iguanas sunning themselves on the upper branches of trees. I hadn't realized that iguanas could be so big or so colorful! These were well over 6 feet long and all shades of gold and orange.

Apart from Spotted Sandpipers, birds were few
and far between. However, a brief look at several male Passerini's Tanagers and a couple of Montezuma Pendulas was soon followed by great views of Chestnut-mandibled Toucans in some banana trees.

Passerini's Tanager

Chestnut-mandibled Toucan

Back at the jetty, while the others had a bathroom break, I spotted a Swainson's Thrush and then a bird I couldn't identify. I later discovered it was a female Passerini's Tanager. Both were in shade too deep for photos and I had to content myself with a picture of a butterfly and some nearby houses. Boy, what I wouldn't give for a garden like those and others I saw in Costa Rica!

As it was now about 11:00, we got back into the bus for a 20-minute drive to the Selva Verde reserve, the second featured stop on our trip.

Tomorrow: Frogs, Iguanas and Birds at Selva Verde

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