01 May 2014

S-T-R-I-P-E-D O-W-L!!! (Costa Rica) Late Feb.

On my second day on my return to Costa Rica, Andrew Spencer and I returned to pick up fellow Tropical Birder Cameron Cox, coming for his first visit to the country. His arrival in "paradise" did not go so well. He arrived fine, minus his luggage, from Ecuador (where he had been leading tours). So after a quick stop at Walmart (yes, Walmart exists in Costa Rica!) to stock up on cheap t-shirts, and make sure he did not wear the same undergarments for the next 5 days, we were on our way up to the Caribbean Northwest. Our destination was to be Cano Negro, a vast wetland area. As Cameron did not touch down until late afternoon, we had no hope of making it there for that day, but decided to push on as far as we could before one of us literally fell over from driving fatigue. As it happened, Andrew is a bit of a demon when driving, and pushed on all the way to near midnight, when we rocked up at a hotel near the town of Los Chiles, very close to the refuge at Cano Negro. 

Anyway, you might be wondering wear the birds are going to fit in? Well, in truth there was to be little time for birding en-route as we aimed solidly for our destination. However, I knew we were entering into the heart of STRIPED OWL country. I had yearned for this bird for years, as I am an absolute owl fanatic, and this one looked a bit special in the field guides. I also knew that the method for finding them was a bit odd; they frequently perch on roadside wires in the open at the edge of clearings and plantations, and I knew we would be driving for a steady period in darkness through just the right kind of places we might find one. So, and once Cameron was soundly asleep, Andrew had to suffer me waving a spotlight around while we were blasting along at high speed along deserted roads in the remote far northwest. The high speed was challenging, my eyes were watering, and despite being in the tropics, my hand was chilled to the bone. However, we pushed on, and I could feel that I was pretty much the only one interested in finding this damned owl, (Cameron's snoring from the back was evidence enough of that). As we neared Los Chiles, with hopes waning, suddenly I noticed a massive brown lump sitting on the wire. At the speed we were going, we were soon beyond the lump, so Andrew excitedly turned the car around. And there, in the spotlight sat a splendid Striped Owl, completely unconcerned at the spotlight focused right on it. It must have felt like an A-list celebrity over the next five minutes as Andrew and I took a stream of flash photos, as we revelled in this mega moment. I had always remembered a phrase written about Northern Hawk Owls, being "Fearless of Man". This Striped Owl had clearly taken a leaf out of that owl's book. It had no fear, but was full of splendour. We spent the night in a strange, run down, castle-themed hotel near Los Chiles, finely poised for our visit to Cano Negro the following day...

1 comment:

Steve Blain said...

Brilliant! You do tell a good story matey.