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15th. January, Ara Ambigua. The route to the first lodge was quite scenic driving over a pass at 2,200 m. The country is very green still with lots of forest and large trees even in more cultivated areas. The driver stopped for me to view two impressive waterfalls and have a coffee in a restaurant at the second one. There I first saw a banana bird feeder visited by many colourful birds including an emerald green toucanet and some blue-chested humming birds. It is relatively easy at such bird feeders to have good close-up views.
16th. January, La Selva. My first organised tour was to La Selva a nearby biological research station to which students come from many affiliated universities. In a group of five I was guided round the wide concreted tracks in the forest. The leaf-cutter ants also find these a convenient highway but know to keep to the edge in order to avoid being trodden on. After leaving the open area around the reception buildings we soon crossed the Sarapiqui river and entered the jungle. The bridge gives a higher level view which enabled us to spot some small bats resting in a tree. Our next sighting was of a tiny red and blue poisonous frog (blue jeans frog) and a small lizard, otherwise the sightings were mostly of birds high in the trees, notably the large Keel-billed Toucan and a Pale-billed Woodpecker, striking with its vivid red head and black body.
17th. January, Tirimbina. For my last day in the Northern part of Costa Rica I needed another interesting destination and on recommendation of the lodge staff I arranged to visit Tirimbina a nearby private park like La Selva also spanning the Sarapiqui river. In the morning I walked round all the (single trail) tracks open to the public, about 5 km. I only caught glimpses of fleeing lizards but the track is itself spectacular with 2 long suspension bridges over the wide river and some other parts with smaller wooden bridges and stairs.
18th.January, Trogon Lodge. The long transfer to Trogon Lodge was quicker than I had expected and I arrived in the early afternoon having left at 9.45. We returned to San Jose by a different road through the Braulio Carrillo National Park but it was less scenic than the outward journey because of the heavy traffic and the high trees on each side which obscured any view. After passing through San Jose and Cartago at about 1000m above sea level, we ascended to a high ridge at 3000m for much of the rest of the journey. The final part was a steep descent on a rough road to the lodge at 2500m.
19th. January, San Gerado de Dota. At 5.30 the next morning a group of seven guests met in the lodge to start the Quetzal tour. It was still fairly dark and very cold and the guide spotted a small patch of frost! The search for this mythical bird with its enormously long tail feathers was quite successful. We saw plenty of quetzals mostly from the road just above the lodge but the lighting was not good for photography. Some people took photos through the guide’s telescope with their smartphones which seemed to work surprisingly well.
20th. January, Paramo tour. The following morning I was with the same young man again, this time for the Paramo tour. Paramo being the type of vegetation at the top of the ridge at 3000m, which is just above the treeline. We reached almost to the highest point, Cerro de la Muerte 3491m, but it was not really a hike since we drove most of the way. The mountain is so called because the high ridge presented a major obstacle to early settlers and some died in the attempt to cross it. Unfortunately there were very few birds or other wildlife to be seen and it was basically a botanical excursion.
21st.January, Osa Peninsula. I left at 8.00 for the transfer to Corcovado and the El Remanso Lodge where I would be spending the most time. It was an even longer transfer with the same driver as I had before and he even had to drive back to San Jose the same day, a total of 12 hours driving! I was glad I would myself be flying back to San Jose. Starting again on the high ridge road we soon descended to San Isidro and then left the trans-American highway to reach the Pacific Coast at Dominical. Many attractive flowering trees could be seen on route.
22nd.January, El Remanso. The first excursion was a birding walk starting at 5.30am. We drove back to the edge of the forest and saw a range of birds including Little Blue Heron, White Ibis, Yellow-headed Caracara, Crested Caracara, Green Kingfisher, Bare-throated Tiger-Heron, Great-tailed Grackle and many others although often far away. There were also two agoutis and both three and two toed sloths to be seen.
23rd.January, Ridge Trail. This morning I made the so called long hike with the same guide, now just the two of us. First sighted were a pair of Black-mandibled Toucans and then some ground dwelling birds: a Great Tinamou and a pair of Great Curassow. These turkey size birds have become very rare because of being hunted for food. Both male and female sport a fine crest but the colour of their plumage is quite different. The male is jet black with a bright yellow wattle while the female has a black and white head and tail with brown body and wings.
24th.January, Cara Blanca Trail. I set out in the morning on my own to explore one of the remaining trails and was fortunate to see the Jesus Christ lizard, which is able to run on water to escape predators. Particularly the juveniles which have a more distinct stripe down their backs are able to perform this feat. They are also known as Basilisk Lizards of which there is also a bright green species.
25th.January, River Walk. With the same guide as before (Felix) I walked again part way down to the beach and then cut through to a river bed which we walked along. It is best to walk in the water because there can be snakes hidden under the fallen leaves on the banks. I had borrowed wellington boots for this purpose from the lodge. The idea is to see snakes and frogs but we only saw one species of poison dart frog in yellow and black.
26th.January, Birding excursion. I set out for another birding excursion early on my last full day at El Remanso. This time I did get a shot of Scarlet Macaws in flight although it is not very sharp. The mostly green Red-lored Parrots did pose well though including one in flight. Other birds seen were a pair of Orange-chinned Parakeets, a Roadside Hawk, Gartered Trogon, Tropical Kingbird, Red-breasted Blackbird, Magnificent Frigatebird, White-crowned Parrot and Wood Stork.
27th.January, San Jose. I had a last swim in the pool before saying good-bye to all the staff including the manageress whom I had not met before. She was very nice, quite young, quite attractive and quite pregnant. There were no stops on the return drive to Puerto Jimenez since it had been left to the last minute, but no problem. The flight in the small plane (20 seats) was good with views over Costa Rica as we flew along the Pacific coast.