Sunday, March 20, 2016

Costa Rica Day 5 - March 20, 2016

We woke up this morning to the natural light creeping into our room and more aches creeping into our backs.  We won't miss that bed.  Once again, I enjoyed coffee on our balcony while looking at mostly clear views of Arenal and the birds flitting around from bush to bush.  Not to mention the unique calls of the Montezuma Oropendola.  Very relaxing and peaceful...

After another breakfast of "the usual" we headed out to hike the trails one last time.  I finally got some good photo ops of one of my favorite birds, the Red-legged Honeycreeper:
Red-legged Honeycreeper

We also finally saw the owner of a tree hole we had passed by many times the last few days.  It was a Pale-billed Woodpecker:
Pale-billed Woodpecker

It had rained a bit overnight which coated the flowers in lovely little droplets:

But, the highlight of the morning was our first, and last, snake at AOL.  We had just entered the rain forest when I caught site of this Bird-eating Snake slithering across the path.  Looks like it was close to shedding its skin based on its eye color:
Bird Eating Snake

Bird Eating Snake

A small group of White-nosed Coati was hanging around the trail just past the snake.  Most were up in trees eating but one came down long enough to pose for a picture:
White-nosed Coati

White-nosed Coati

As we packed up our stuff, we noticed a Variegated Squirrel outside in a tree going back and forth across a bare limb.  As we watched, we saw it grab some branches, disappear into the leaves at the end of a big branch, and rustle around a bit.  Then it would run back, grab another branch, and repeat.  Either it was building a nest or an awesome tree house:
Variegated Squirrel

Variegated Squirrel

As a final AOL photo, here is the view from our balcony towards the lake.  You can see the lodge's Observation deck, the huge metal "antler" like feeder, and of course Lake Arenal.  We didn't see a room that had better views of the lake and volcano.  It was tough to say goodbye to that view. Lake Arenal

But, it wasn't tough to say goodbye to some things. Our Tripadviser review kind of sums things up.  Also, AOL was packed with people the whole weekend and we learned that they come by the bus loads just to hang out on the Observation deck.  Weekdays were much less crowded.

Our driver picked us up on time and were were off to Tirimbina Lodge.  It's about a 2.5 hour drive and we stopped on the way at a place known for Green Iguanas.  They were obviously well fed and rather tame but I snapped some photos anyway.  There were a couple that were massive.  This one looks pretty big...

Green Iguana

Until, his big brother came along...
Green Iguanas

The rest of the drive we pretty good.  No San Jose traffic to worry about during this journey but the roads were still narrow and winding.

We arrived at Tirimbina Rain Forest Lodge in the late afternoon and immediately decided to hike around a bit to get the lay of the land.  We had a night walk planned in the rain forest and wanted to scope it out a bit.  To get to the rain forest, you have to walk across a 260 meter hanging bridge (one of the longest in Costa Rica).  This is not for the faint of heart and I am not a fan of heights which made it worse.  But, the journey was aided by a Two-toed Sloth that was in a tree towards the beginning of the bridge.  It was just a ball of fur but standing there watching it with other people as the bridge swayed a bit actually helped me get accustomed to it.  The rain forest itself was hot and much more humid than at AOL.  But, it was also pretty dead and we headed back to our room with no noteworthy pictures.  There were two more sloths near the lodge that would become great photo subjects in the days to come.

We had read reviews that the food at Tirimbina was so-so.  They claimed they could accommodate all diets but when we got there the kitchen was not really interested in changing anything even when one of the front desk folks talked to them for us.  That was disappointing.  But, dinner turned out to be pretty good.  In fact, it was the Spaghetti that was the best surprisingly.  Spoiler Alert, the meals went downhill after this one...

At around 7PM we met our guide, Raymond (a free lance guide brought in by the lodge) who asked what we wanted to see.  "Frogs and Snakes" we said.  "No Problem" he said and almost guaranteed we would see a Fer-de-Lance. Nice...

Not 5 minutes later right outside the restaurant, Raymond's girlfriend Diana spotted a snake.  Diana joined us, Raymond explained, because she wanted to see what Raymond did on night hikes.  She turned out to be an awesome spotter bringing up the rear of our group of 4.  Anyway, the snake was a really pretty Blunt-headed Tree Snake.  Notice the big eye:
Blunt-headed Tree Snake

Once across the bridge (boy are we glad we did it during the daytime first), we saw some tiny frogs like the Dink Frog, a Glass Frog, and another one that I am still trying to identify.  Not long after that, my flashlight caught something just to the right of where Raymond stepped..."SNAKE"!

As an experienced person would, Raymond froze as I explained that there was a snake a few feet to his right.  It turned out to be a small Fer-de-Lance which is just as dangerous as a fully grown adult.  It was probably sitting off the trail and Raymond disturbed it giving me the opportunity to spot it moving.  With its camouflage it sure would be tough to see coiled up in the leaf litter:

Fer-de-lance (Terciopelo)

Raymond was a wealth of knowledge about the animals.  We talked about snakes and "dry bites" where they bite but don't waste their venom.  He said that the Fer-de-Lance creates venom like saliva and it doesn't run out.  So, "dry bites" are almost unheard of since there was no need to conserve venom.  Not that any of us planned to find out.  But, that was a close call for Raymond.

Raymond was also an awesome spotter. He heard something dropping from the canopy and was able to locate a Kinkajou for us based on that alone. No eyeshine, no rustling, just some debris dropping.  That takes experience.  I thought I got a decent picture only to look at it after returning home to see that a leaf blocked it's head...darn it!  But, the private parts are in focus.

We (Me actually) spotted two more snakes that were on the trail.  One was a harmless Northern Cat-eyed Snake but the other was another small Fer-de-Lance.  Both were almost impossible to see along the trail unless they were moving.

An auditory highlight of the walk was hearing an owl nearby which Raymond identified as a Crested Owl.  Boy, we would love to see that owl but none of us could pinpoint a location. So, hopefully, we might have better luck in the day time.

The hike ended with a cool little Fitzinger's Rain Frog:
Fitzingers Rain Frog

It sure was a productive hike with about 1/2 dozen frogs, 4 snakes, 1 Kinkajou, a Crested Owl calling and a few cool insects and spiders.  But, it was also a little too exciting when it came to close run-ins with small vipers.

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