Costa Rica Travel Diary - p 1

26 February 2004
Sometimes when your plane arrives at the San Jose international airport, the Costa Ricans on board clap their hands and say "Pura Vida!" just as the plane touches ground.  It's natural that they should feel this way.   For most, it is indeed the good life in this peaceful tropical country.  And did I mention the birds?  840 species, more than exist in all of North America.
    In this trip I'm exploring the Pacific lowlands in the southern part of Costa Rica, and then the highlands:  the Talamanca range south of San Jose.   Both areas abound in beautiful birds - I've a long shopping list of species that I hope to see and photograph.



27 February 2004
Today I fly to Puerto Jimenéz on the Osa peninsula, where Scarlet Macaws feed in the trees around the park.  From town it's a short taxi ride to Bosque Río del Tigre Lodge.  The lodge banana feeders are busy when I arrive:  Cherrie's and Blue-gray Tanagers, Buff-throated Saltator, and the incredible Red-legged Honeycreeper.   As if on cue, a Baird's Trogon, one of the special birds of the Pacific foothills, shows up and starts calling.
    My corner room is completely open to the forest on two sides - I fall asleep to the sound of the Río Tigre nearby, as well as calls of Least Tinamou and Common Pauraque.  A mosquito net covers the bed.  Bats sometimes roost on the ceiling of the room, so it's there partly to keep bat guano from falling on you as you sleep, which I think is a great idea.

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28 February 2004
After coffee at dawn, I'm off to visit a mating lek of Orange-collared Manakins.  The handsome chickadee-sized males gather in dense understory near the trail.  Each has cleared an area on the ground about 3 feet in diameter containing 3 finger-sized saplings.  Whenever a female appears, he drops down to the saplings to perform for her:  hopping from one sapling to the next, calling and also making a mechanical sound with his wings.
    Photographing manakins is difficult.  They're not shy, but in the dark understory I must set the camera to a high ISO of 800, which introduces graininess into the photo. A very low shutter speed (1/15th second!!) is needed to get the shot.   Somehow I manage several acceptable ones in two mornings of work.

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29 February 2004
Drama in nature:  a female manakin, having succumbed to a male's charming antics, is nesting near the parking area.  She builds the nest and raises the chicks alone, while the male remains at the lek, dancing and seducing other females.  When I described this arrangement to fellow guest Mary, a retired American now living in San Jose, she responded with "Well, isn't that just!"  She was somewhat mollified to learn that among other birds, such as tinamous and phalaropes, it is the female who is the free spirit and the male who alone cares for eggs and young.

new-motmot.jpg (318557 bytes) 1 March 2004
Yesterday the manakin chicks hatched, but today the nest is empty.  Our prime suspect is the Blue-crowned Motmot, a jay-sized bird that lurks in the understory.  The one that we sometimes see near the lodge is feeding a grown fledgling of its own, so perhaps we should just be philosophical and consider it part of nature's food chain.


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