Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Costa Rica Trip Report: Day 8 at Bosque Del Cabo

Since we needed to head to the airport after breakfast, I am up and out at 6AM. I wanted to try to find poison dart frogs one last time. So, I headed down the Pacific trail to the mini waterfall on the trail to see if any are out. On the way, I scared about 10 coatis out of a palm tree. They scattered in all directions and it all went down too fast for me to get a picture. I came up empty on the Pacific trail except for an Agouti foraging. However, I started to see some action as soon as I left the trail.


Continuing on back towards the cabina, I couldn't help but spend some time photographing the birds near the soccer field. The trees here were alive each morning and evening with a huge variety of birds. Here is a list of the birds we identified in and around the soccer field during our stay. Black Vulture, Turkey Vulture, Blackhawk, Yellow-headed Caracara Great Kiskadee, Scarlet Macaw, Red-lored Parrot, Swallow, Great Curassow, Passerine's Tanager, Red-legged Honey Creeper, Masked Tityra, Hooded Tityra, Rufus-tailed Hummingbird, Lineated Woodpecker, Pale-billed Woodpecker....you get the idea. I did manage to get the semi decent shot of a Golden-hooded Tanager. It is such a pretty bird.


After enjoying the birds for as long as I could, I headed off for our last meal. We enjoyed our trip so much it was really hard to pack up and leave. Bosque del Cabo is truly an exceptional place for nature and wildlife lovers and the only thing that made leaving easy was knowing that we would be back again.

Kevin ended up being our driver on the way out. He mentioned that he had seen the owls yesterday along the road so he would look for them again today for us. I don't know how he spotted them, but he found them hidden behind some branches on a limb huddled together. It's been a long time since I have seen something as adorable as this...


So, we left Costa Rica and Bosque del Cabo behind. But, we were taking with us some incredible memories, none better than the last one of the two Vermiculated Screech Owls.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Costa Rica Trip Report: Day 7 at Bosque Del Cabo

We were up early again today since it was our last full day and we didn't want to waste a moment of daylight. We decided to walk to the main garden and up the road a bit to check to see if the sloth was back. I still hadn't gotten a good enough sloth picture. The main garden had the usual assortment of birds, monkeys, and coatis. As we walked up to the soccer field, we could hear scarlet macaws. Sure enough, a pair was out in one of trees in really good light.


We even got a glimpse of the beautiful Red-legged Honey Creeper, but it was too far away for a decent picture. Walking across the soccer field, we headed into the jungle to look for the sloth. It was back in almost the same location as last time. It must wander off to eat and then come back to this area to sleep. Unfortunately, it was all tucked in and not moving. So, no new pictures.

After breakfast we headed back out to the Titi trail. We have had some great sightings on this trail so why not try it again. Butterflies were the highlight of this trip on the Titi trail. Color seemed to flutter by everywhere. About halfway in, we encountered our first ant swarm of the trip. Ant swarms can attract lots of birds hoping to get their fill and this one was no exception.



The rest of the hike was uneventful but we did see a Great Tinamou and a Yellow-headed Caracara along the road on the way back. The sloth was still sleeping so we headed back to the cabina to wash up for lunch. The monkeys around our cabina were putting on a show that delayed us getting to lunch.



Spider Monkey

After lunch, we planned to do the grand loop. For us the grand loop starts by walking up the road, heading down the Golfo Dulce trail through the tropical garden all the way to the intersection with the creek trail. Then, we take the creek trail back across the river and come out near our cabina. I think I mentioned it before, but this is a great loop and takes you through all kinds of habitats. Since we were walking past the sloth anyway, we stopped in again. It was finally awake and feeling photogenic.


We also encountered some Golden-naped Woodpeckers in the trees around the soccer field.


As usual, the howlers were out in the tropical garden.


We had to walk right underneath them and one of the males exhibited some angst as we did this so we didn't linger. Monkeys tend to show angst by breaking branches and dropping them or sometimes going to the bathroom. You don't want to be underneath either of these displays. As we walked through the tropical garden, a flash of white caught my eye. It turned out to be a dog which caught us pretty off guard. It was very friendly but didn't belong on the grounds. Unfortunately, it decided to follow us down the Golfo Dulce trail. We were hoping that it came up this trail from the beach and was just returning home...but no. It had decided to hang out with us and scare all the wildlife away. We tried to shake it numerous times but it would always come bounding up the trail tongue flapping and tail wagging. So, we gave up on hiking the grand loop and headed back to civilization to see if one of the staff could take it off our hands. On the way back, we finally found an obstacle that the dog would not cross....the suspension bridge. We were free at last! After this, we lounged on the deck for an hour or two and watched all the goings on around our cabina including the myriad of birds that fly by.




We signed up for the sunset walk with Phillip since we had never done a tour with him before (his vacations have coincided with our trips to Bosque so we really didn't have previous opportunities). Even though we really didn't see anything new on the tour since we take frequent night hikes, the information that Phillip provided was really informative and helped us learn more about this great place. If you visit Bosque del Cabo, do take a tour or two with the guides. You won't be sorry. We ended up seeing bats, wandering spiders, two Cat-eyed snakes, more frogs, more Pauraque, an Opossum, and a brief sprinkling of rain (only the second time all week).

After another great dinner we headed out for our last night excursion. We started by heading up to the pool to find the Masked Smilisca again. Tonight must have been spring break for them because they were out in force and the only thing missing was a keg. First, we saw this one on a bar stool checking out the other frogs.


Then, we headed over to the pool to find two frogs enjoying a dip.


Lastly, the "spring break" motif was proven by this lovely couple.


After leaving the frog festivities at the pool we headed to the small pond for our last chance to see an adult Red-eyed Green Tree Frog. From our earlier hike with Phillip we learned that due to the drought like conditions, the tree frogs just weren't coming down out of the trees. So, that would explain why we could hear them but couldn't find them. Oh well, maybe next time. We did have our last sighting of the Arnold Schwarzenegger like Smoky Jungle Frog, some marine toads, a tarantula and some banana frogs. So, as our last day ends, we reluctantly head off to bed.




Sunday, February 8, 2009

Costa Rica Trip Report: Day 6 at Bosque Del Cabo

Our Howler Monkey alarm went off at 5AM today. So, we were able to get out early. We decided to hike the Titi trail once again since we had good luck so far and it would be great to see Squirrel Monkeys again. The first part of the hike was uneventful but we did have pretty good looks at Spider and Capuchin Monkeys. Just as we finished the steep climb up the "root stairs" I saw movement in the undergrowth. Two years ago, our lone Collared Peccary sighting was in this same area. Wouldn't you know it, the movement in the undergrowth was a peccary this time as well. This one was moving away from the trail but knowing that they travel in packs, we stood still and waited. A minute later, 4 more peccaries came rustling into view and crossed the path less than 10 yards from us. A couple even stopped to check us out.



That was a cool encounter and made us wonder if a game trail of some sort existed in this area. That would explain sighting peccaries in the same location as last trip. In any case, we continued on quietly hoping to encounter something else. Where there was peccaries, there might be cats...right?

We rounded a bend in the trail and I immediately put up the stop signal. On the trail ahead of us was a Great Tinamou. These birds have one of the coolest calls, but this one had made no noise so we were lucky to stumble upon it. Thanks to the way the early morning light shone through the canopy, the blue undertones of the Great Tinamou really were highlighted.



Eventually, the tinamou wandered off the trail and into the jungle. It didn't seem to mind our presence at all. This was our best look ever at this usually elusive bird.

The rest of the trail was relatively uneventful. However, as we were walking down the road back towards the lodge, we saw some movement just off the side of the road. Some low palms were moving pretty good like something was tugging at them. Upon closer inspection, it was another Collared Peccary. Just as we were getting close to look, the Bosque del Cabo range rover came driving past taking some people to the airport. This startled the peccary and it ran deeper into the jungle.

Further down the road, we stopped at a fallen tree stump to look for woodpeckers that we had seen in this area before. One was around but playing hard to get. But, more movement caught our eye and it took me a moment to find the source. It was a beautiful Blue-crowned Motmot. We had seen one before in Belize last year but not this close and not in decent light.


After breakfast, we decided to hit the Zapatero trail. This trail is much like the Saino trail in that there are quite a few ups and downs and you feel the brunt of the rainforest humidity since any breeze never seems to find its way this deep into the forest. We didn't see anything of note for quite a while until we came up to a tree beside the trail. As I stepped past the tree, something "jumped" from just off the trail towards the undergrowth, I didn't see what it was but heard the cry of "snake!" from my wife. Obviously, the snake hadn't jumped but we seem to have startled it as much as it startled us. With hearts beating a mile a minute we backed off a step or two and stopped to search for the snake. Once again, we didn't have our snake ID guide with us (You would think we would have learned this lesson by now). So, we didn't know if this snake was venomous or not. Regardless, it wasn't running away so we stayed a respectful distance and managed to get a few good shots.



Phillip, the Bosque del Cabo naturalist, identified this as a Neotropical Bird Snake. Non-venomous but apparently another feisty snake. Which would explain why instead of slithering away from us, it held its ground and even inched closer trying to decide if we were friend or foe. After a while we pressed on. Our hearts were still beating pretty good (a snake encounter will do that to you) when we heard more rustling a ways off in the undergrowth. We stopped and looked for movement. Into sight wandered a Northern Tamandua.




This is typically a tree dwelling anteater, but this one was cruising along the ground in search of termite mounds. It never got that close to us so getting a clear picture was tough, but it sure was fun watching it wander around. Apparently, they have pretty bad eyesight and we don't think it even knew we were around. We think the Tamandua, with it's tuxedo like vest, is pretty darn adorable so this was a particular enjoyable sighting. Check out the claws:


The Zapatero Trail ends at the tropical garden and from there we crossed the suspension bridge and headed back to our cabina. Just as we rounded the bend in the trail at the intersection of the trail that leads to the overlook, I saw a mother and two tiny peccaries on the trail. They shot out of sight just as I fired off one shot. The result is blurry, but proof that we saw the tiny little peccaries if only for a moment.


Once again, we stayed still and waited to see if more peccaries crossed and sure enough, they did. Two more crossed so there were five in total. This was an unexpected treat so close to "civilization". It wasn't even noon yet and we had seen 11 peccaries. Not too shabby.


After lunch we headed back to the Titi Trail. We really wanted to increase our chances of spotting a puma and we thought this was the way to do it. Since the afternoon was not typically a great time for wildlife, our expectations were low. We even joked that every time we went looking for something, we wouldn't see it. Instead, it would pop up another day when we weren't looking for it. So, we decided our quest this afternoon was for an ugly brown bird. Hoping instead that we would see something completely different. Well, as it turned out, our plan worked, sort of. All we saw on this hike were gorgeous birds. The Titi trail was alive with bird life, coatis and agoutis. All told, we saw Red-lored Parrots, Violacious Trogon, Fiery-billed Aracari (a fantastic bird), Black-throated Trogon, Red-capped Manakin (I forgot how loud their wing "smack" was...but we didn't see the male moonwalk), and more. But, no pumas again...





Once darkness set in, and after our nightly visit to the bar, we headed off to the small pond to see what was out. Before getting there, we saw familiar eyeshine in the grass of the garden. It was another Virginia Opossum wandering around. It didn't seem to like our gaze and quickly wandered into the undergrowth. At the pond itself, we ran into our friend the Smoky Jungle Frog, another Cat-eyed snake, and this Marine Toad.


After dinner, we decided to mix it up a bit. Previously, we had seen the organized sunset hike start at the pool to look for critters. We had never thought about this so we headed up there first. Boy, had we been missing out. There is a frog called a Masked Smilisca that apparently comes out around the pool every night. We were able to find one enjoying a dip in the pool.


After leaving the pool we decided to hike down the road to the Titi trail. Phillip had told us that the Ocelots like to mark the "gate" near the Titi trail as part of their night rounds. For this outting, we decided to take our night vision since photography wouldn't be the emphasis. The night vision monocular is really cool because you can stop and scan and see eyeshine much better than with flashlights and of course, the animals can't see you as well.

We didn't get very far down the road before we spotted eyeshine. Based on the one bright whitish eyeshine low on the road and not moving, we guessed correctly that it was a Pauraque. We ended up seeing two along the road including one that would jump up a few feet to catch insects and then flop back down. The night vision really let us see the bird exhibit normal behavior since it wasn't in the beam of a flashlight. But, this bird also posed for a picture.


We walked slowly up the road and all the way to the entrance to the Titi trail. We stopped regularly to listen and scan the trees for eyeshine. We were hoping to find a Kinkajou in the trees but no such luck. With no cats in sight, we turned around and headed back. Just as we reached the makeshift thatched gate, we saw eyeshine in the bushes. We excitedly stopped and waited for the creature to emerge. Our hopes of seeing a cat were dashed again as a Virginia Opossum emerged and foraged around in the leaf litter. Cute in its own right, but not a cat. The rest of the walk back was uneventful. I have uploaded a video of the night vision sightings from the hike here.

No cats again today, but all in all another great day in paradise.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Costa Rica Trip Report: Day 5 at Bosque Del Cabo

Day five started out with a trek down the main driveway looking for birds since they flock to the trees around the soccer field. In an hour's time we saw a pair of Pale-billed Woodpeckers, a Lineated Woodpecker, Green Honeycreeper, Red-legged Honeycreeper, the Masked and Black Crowned Tityras, and a pair of Kiskadees that are nesting in one of the trees. We also spotted Spider Monkeys, Capuchin Monkeys, more Coatis, Agoutis, frogs and lizards. It seemed everything was out this morning except a Puma.




After breakfast, a troop of Capuchin Monkeys moved through the trees around our cabina. I was able to get some great action shots of them including a mother and baby.




We then headed off to the Tropical Garden to the Golfo Dulce trail and looped back via the Trogon Trail. We saw more Spider Monkeys, some Howler Monkeys (which we saw everyday in the Tropical Garden area) and more coatis.



In the afternoon, we signed up for the birding tour with Carlos. This tour takes you offsite to some fields about 15 minutes away. The diversity of birds here was amazing even for us non-hardcore birders. Carlos was an incredible spotter and even found an iguana in a tree that was probably a quarter mile away. The main reason for us taking this tour was to get closer shots of the White Ibis that frequent the river meanders through these fields. There were probably a dozen or more White Ibis feeding in the river but they were too far away for decent pictures. Luckily, 4 more flew in to feed and did a fly-by on their way.

White Ibis

The tour was worth it as we heard a Laughing Falcon and Great Tinamou and saw a ton of birds most of which we didn't write down. But, they included more Scarlet Macaws, Caracara, Parrots, Parakeets, Orioles, Doves, Martins, Herons, Egrets and more.

Before dinner we made a trek down to the little pond on yet another fruitless quest for the Red-eyed Green Tree frog. Besides the usual suspects at the pond, there were two night hawks in the area that we later identified as Pauraques.



Since the small pond was turning into a bust for Red-eyed Green Tree frogs, after dinner we decided to go to the big pond in the tropical garden. We hadn't been out to the tropical garden at night before but since people stayed out there in the garden cabinas...how bad could it be? The first big obstacle is the suspension bridge which is a bit gnarly at night but wasn't much of a problem. As we entered the garden, we shone our flashlights all around looking for eyeshine. Eyeshine in the trees would mean noctornal birds or better yet a Kinkajou, while eyeshine on the ground could be spiders, mammals, or birds. Basically, only nocturnal creatures have eyeshine so you know it is a creature of the night once you see eyeshine. Well, we immediately saw eyeshine across the garden on the way to the pond. As we got closer to investgate, the eyeshine became two distinct eyes looking at us that started to move. As we got even closer, we saw the owner of the eyeshine.


It is an Virginia Opossum that didn't seem to care too much about us so we were able to get pretty close. We ended up seeing 2 more on the trip, but this was the closest that we got to one. We also spotted a nighthawk but couldn't get close enough to identify it. Typically, if you see bright single eyeshine it is probably a nighthawk or pootoo. Dull or faint single eyeshine is probably a spider or frog But, things get really exciting when you see bright dual eyeshine because that means a mammal most likely.

The noise coming from the pond in the garden was deafening. Frogs, toads, insects and probably birds were in full chorus. The people who stay in the cabina next to the pond have to try to sleep with this going on. In any case, the chorus of calls diminished as we toured the pond but we were able to see some very cool new frog species.



But, no Red-eyed Green Tree frogs. Oh well, still it was a very fruitful night hike. On the way back, we saw an assortment of insects and spiders including this Whip Scorpion.

Whip Scorpion