Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Day 1 (Continued) - 2017 Costa Rica Journal

For the first 3 days of our trip we stayed at the beautiful Arenal Observatory Lodge. 

The Arenal Volcano, thought to be a mountain, suddenly erupted in 1968, destroying the small town of Tabacon. There were several more eruptions through 1998, but the volcano has been considered dormant since 2010. In the early 1970s, scientists from the Smithsonian Institution began monitoring seismic activity at Arenal Volcano.

The lodge was built in 1987 to accommodate researchers from the Smithsonian Institute. The grounds include 870 acres within what is now designated as Arenal Volcano National Park. The 29,692 acre Arenal National Park was founded in 1991. The lodge is located between Arenal Volcano, Cerro Chato Volcano, and Lake Arenal.  There are 7 miles of trails surrounding the lodge.

We arrived at our hotel with only a couple hours of day light left.  We had reserved the Smithsonian room as it has a glass wall that looks out over the Arenal Volcano and has a private patio.
Wall of glass

Private Patio

Arenal Volcano from our patio

Lake Arenal view from our patio.
The hotel grounds are beautifully landscaped with flowering trees, shrubs and water features.

Even our maid was into flowers!

She was also very creative with towels and linens!
Elephant created from towels.

Even with only a couple of hours of day light to bird we still saw some beautiful birds and mammals.

Rufous-tailed Hummingbird

Montezuma Oropendula

Yellow-throated Toucan

White-nosed Coati
Next time:  Day 2 - Birds, Monkeys, Caimans and more!

Day 1 bird list: 34 birds

Gray-headed Chachalaca
Crested Guan
Great Curassow
Cattle Egret
Black Vulture
Turkey Vulture
Ruddy Ground Dove
White-winged Dove
Violet Sabrewing
Coppery-headed Emerald
Rufus-tailed Hummingbird
Red-headed Barbet
Prong-billed Barbet
Emerald Toucanet
Yellow-throated Toucan
Great Kiskadee
Tropical Kingbird
Clay-colored Thrush
Tennessee Warbler
Chestnut-sided Warbler
Passerini’s Tanager
Blue-Gray Tanager
Palm Tanager
Silver-throated Tanager
Green Honeycreeper
Thick-billed Seed Finch
Buff-throated Saltator
Grayish Saltator
Common Chlorospingus
Summer Tanager
Great-tailed Grackle
Baltimore Oriole
Montezuma Oropendola
Mammals: White-nosed Coati

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Day 1 - 2017 Costa Rica Journal

Way back in July Mark asked me what I wanted for my 60th birthday.  I told him I wanted to go to Costa Rica again.  Since July is not the best time, we decided to wait until January.  We could also combine the trip with our 34th anniversary.

This is our third trip to Costa Rica.  As in the previous 2 visits we stayed in 2 different areas.  We have never stayed at the same place twice and our main focus is birding, although we also look for butterflies and critters.

We drove into San Antonio the night before and met our friends Sharon and Rick at a hotel close to the airport.  Bright and early the next morning (4:15 a.m.!) we caught the shuttle to the airport.  Our flight didn’t leaving until 6:45 but for international flights we had to check in 2 1/2 hours early.

It was a very short flight from San Antonio to Houston with a 1 hour delay in Houston then on to our destination, San Jose, Costa Rica. 
Flying above the clouds. 
Costa Rica from a few thousand feet up.
Mark and I always make a bet during the flight as to what bird we will see first thing off the airplane.  This is a very serious bet as the loser has to buy Blizzards when we get back home.  Mark’s guess was a House Sparrow and my guess was a pigeon or dove.

Our flight landed a little late and apparently there wasn’t any place to put the plane.  We ended up on the tarmac where we boarded buses to take us the rest of the way. 
Leaving the plane. 
Buses ready to whisk us away! 
Standing room only.
It took a while to get unloaded and find our luggage.  Our driver was patiently waiting for us and we were on our way.  We’ve always had drivers on our trips and wouldn’t consider renting a car and trying to find our own way around.  Traffic in San Jose is crazy!  Imagine the worse traffic jam you’ve ever been in then add 100 motorcycles weaving in and out and driving down the middle of the road. Add in a few street people walking down the middle of the highway selling popsicles and other unidentified things ...  It’s nuts!

It was about a 3 1/2 hour drive to our first hotel.  Along the way we passed a beautiful waterfall and our driver pulled over so we could take some pictures. 
A little while later we stopped at a small outdoor food stand called Mirador de Cinchona for a break.  Our driver told us there were bird feeding tables and we could walk to the back and take pictures.  This place was incredible!  Our driver was not in any hurry and we were able to see some beautiful birds. We saw the following birds in the first couple of minutes.  Don't forget that you can click on the pictures for a larger version. It's worth it!!
Emerald Toucanet 
Red-headed Barbet male
Red-headed Barbet female

Silver-throated Tanager

Coppery-headed Emerald

Passerini's Tanager male

Next time:  A continuation of Day 1:  Our beautiful room, all about the wonderful area, and our bird list for the first day.

Guess who won the bet?  Me!  I’m looking forward to that DQ Blizzard.

Saturday, December 31, 2016

Stick A Fork In Us...

We're Done!!  We led our final bird walk at Goose Island State Park on New Year's Eve. We had a great group of ten people and located 53 different species of birds which is the most we've seen in our two months here.

Yesterday we led our final "Woods Walk". The feeding station that we've been maintaining is starting to see more action, and I finally got a picture of the resident Buff-bellied Hummingbird that feeds there.
Buff-bellied Hummingbird
The rarest bird that we found during our walks was a Black Scoter. This sea duck isn't expected in Texas, but we had one (and briefly two) that stayed at the park for two weeks. Not a really fancy looking bird, but it sure got some folks excited!
Black Scoter
We get a lot of new birders on our walks, and by far the most popular birds are the big and/or colorful ones. Getting a Roseate Spoonbill in the scope can turn a "maybe" bird watcher into an excited birder.
Roseate Spoonbill
A cooperative White Ibis standing on the observation platform hand-rail is also a popular sight.
White Ibis
We've given our "Bird Host" sign to the couple who will begin bird walks next week, and we're getting packed up to roll out of here on New Year's Day.

We plan to return next year and look forward to picking up where we left off.

Happy New Year!!


Wednesday, December 28, 2016

A Little Something for the Tree

Our time here at Goose Island State Park is winding down quickly.  In addition to four bird walks a week, we also offered two Jr. Ranger programs on Saturdays.  Although most of the Jr. Ranger programs were not very well attended, our December “Make a Christmas Ornament” program tended to bring in a pretty good crowd.

Several of the parents would make their own special ornament too.
First you start with a clear, plastic ornament.  Then you add sand.  This is native sand that Mark and I picked up at Rockport beach.  Next you add little shells and sea glass (non-native, these where in a box for our use).  Then you replace the top plug and write whatever you want on the outside with our gold or silver paint pens.

That’s all it takes to make a beautiful Goose Island State Park Christmas ornament!

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Time for a Christmas Bath...

We visited the park bird feeding station on Christmas morning to see what the birds were up to. In addition to feeders there are a couple of water features that the birds seem to love.
Ready, Set...
Once the Northern Cardinals got going, a little Orange-crowned Warbler got in line. 
I'll just let you finish. 
When the last Cardinal hopped out, the Warbler jumped in.
Orange-crowned Warbler
For such a tiny bird, an Orange-crowned Warbler can make quite a fuss!
Splish - Splash
In addition to the water features, we have seed feeders and peanut butter mix. Our first Pine Warbler of the season took a liking to the peanut butter log. 
Pine Warbler
While we didn't see it at the water or on a feeder, a sneaky White-eyed Vireo popped out just long enough to give us a quick look. 
White-eyed Vireo
Merry Christmas from Teri and Mark, and the birds at Goose Island State Park!!


Monday, December 12, 2016

Did You Bite Off More Than You Can Chew??

We have seen quite a few Great Blue Herons here on the coast. Occasionally we're lucky enough to see one catch a fish. They have to swallow their meals whole, and yesterday we saw one that had speared a really nice fish, but wasn't able to enjoy it.
Great Blue Heron with Fish
The heron worked and worked to position the fish different ways, but it was just too wide to swallow. Too bad, because it looks like it would have been quite a meal. 

Great Blue Heron with Fish
Earlier in our stay we saw a different Great Blue Heron catch a large fish. This fish was more streamlined than the first. It didn't take long for the heron to flip the fish into the correct orientation and swallow it right on down!  You can see the lump in its throat in the next picture.
So are you hungry now for a nice fish dinner??


Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Charlie's Pasture

As we've been exploring the area around Goose Island State Park, we've come across a (relatively) new birding site in Aransas Pass named Charlie's Pasture. This large wetland has been improved with over a mile of trails and boardwalks as well as a viewing tower.

Remember to click on the pictures for a larger view!
Roseate Spoonbill
Our first visit was on a windy and overcast day that didn't lend itself to picture taking, but we returned on a beautiful morning and found conditions perfect for bird viewing and photography.
Snowy Egret
Several larger birds were flying over the boardwalk and allowed us great looks. On bird walks we refer to the Snowy Egret as wearing "Golden Slippers" and they show up well in this shot.
White Ibis
Probably the strangest bird at this site is a wayward flamingo. While many folks see Roseate Spoonbills and think that they are flamingos, this one really IS a flamingo. The story goes that this Greater Flamingo escaped from a Kansas zoo and has been around the Texas coast for about 10 years. Kind of sad, but interesting!
Greater Flamingo
For shorebird fans, this is a good place to see Greater and Lesser Yellowlegs side-by-side.
Lesser and Greater Yellowlegs
Other less colorful shorebirds abound as well. We got great looks at Dunlins and Dowtichers.
In winter plumage they aren't very colorful. We look forward to seeing them this summer when they'll be much brighter!
Dowitcher species