25 March 2013

Cruisin'...COSTA RICA (22 Feb)

We enjoyed a superb, relaxing meander through the mangroves and around the mouth of the Tarcoles River, near Carara National Park. The boat had barely spluttered to life when a Bare-throated Tiger-Heron was spotted, ever-so-slowly, prowling the muddy banks-a lifebird for me right off the bat! Large, menacing, but unmoving, jaws were waiting in the shallows, which revealed a number of American Crocodiles lurking with intent to attack anything that strayed into its substantial range. 

Then  a flash of blue alerted us to a strikingly beautiful Turquoise-browed Motmot perched alongside a steep bank. The normally difficult to see Boat-billed Heron was anything but; instead of being buried within a tangle at close range, to the frustration of photographers like me on the boat, this time it just sat out in the open, unblemished and set out perfectly for photography, with it odd, swollen bill in full, glorious view. Scouring the edges eventually led us to cryptic pair of nocturnal shorebirds, the goggle-eyed Double-striped Thick-knee, which were visibly panting from the intense heat, and which shared the shore with a pair of Southern Lapwing (a bird that is still scarce, though spreading, in Costa Rica). 

Although it was a very gentle, slow cruise, and we never traveled far, we also never experienced a dull moment: Mangrove Swallows were a constant presence, sallying regularly low over the water to pick insects out of the air or to dip in the water to drink, flashing their clean white behinds as they did so. The ride finished with a meander along a mangrove-lined section of the river, where tall mangroves provide habitat for the subtle Panama Flycatcher, which was, eventually, teased out of its hiding place high in the mangrove, and a few Mangrove Warblers were also seen, along with a regular number of Common Black-Hawks, standing like sentry posts, as if "guarding" the mangrove roots from invasion from foreign enemies. A good smattering of ibis and spoonbills were seen too, with a sprinkling of northern shorebirds, down here for the season to avoid the cold Boreal winter. It was an extremely enjoyable trip, which ended with a large squadron of Lesser Nighthawks emerged at dusk to hawk around the boat dock. An extremely relaxing afternoon indeed, with several lifebirds to boot (tiger-heron & Panama Fly). 

More to come from Costa Rica soon...

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