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Costa Rica Birding with Zick!

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

So yeah. I went to Costa Rica. Just back, in fact, as of Thursday March 6.  I was gone for 12 days. Way to kick the stuffing out of an endless winter. I canned a bunch of winter birding blogposts before I left, because I care about you, my readers, and I wanted you to have something to gnaw on while I was gone. I’ll admit it—I was a hot mess before I left. Fed up to my eyeballs with this horrific winter. Seeing no end to it. Wanting out in the worst way. And yet on the scale of all possible human travails, winter weariness is as nothing. I knew that, but I couldn’t get out from under it.

I was all balled up, too, about the Costa Rica trip, because it would be the first time I’d ever had the responsibility of leading people on a 12-day birding trip in the tropics. I’m used to leading 5-hour birding trips. Where everybody sees their birds and goes back to camp and then we do it again the next morning, and maybe one more, and then it’s over. This would be being “on” all day long for 12 days, in front of 12 people. And I wasn’t sure I could do it. I knew I could show people a good time, but I didn’t know if I could have a good time doing it, maintain an acceptable level of nice for such a prolonged period. I’m an introvert, plain and simple, and it scared me. My comfort zone is at my drawing table, or in the woods alone or with one other person. I can turn it on if I need to, but oh, get me back to the studio, the woods, the hayfield so I can think. For this reason, I'd resisted all prior offers to lead trips, no matter how sexy the destination. But Holbrook Travel made it all seem doable, attractive, even, and I decided to take the plunge.

I had planned to publicize the trip on my blog and maybe Facebook, but I never got the chance, because it filled up so quickly. I took flyers to two of my Ohio talks last spring and bam! the trip was full. I apologize to all those who might have wanted to go, who never even heard about it. I guess it’s a good problem to have, not to have to beat the bushes for trip participants.

 I finally got packed and got my bags and me down there and met my supercool co-leader, Mario Cordoba, and felt the warm breeze and saw a million flowers all blooming madly and I knew it would be OK. More than OK. Great. Intense. The people all seemed nice and compatible and the birds were good in the hotel garden. I couldn’t sleep that first night, though, for worrying about whether I was up to it all. Oh Zick. Oh ye of little faith. Truth to tell, Mario did ALL the hard stuff. He knew what birds we'd see, what stops we'd make, and carried the scope and dealt with the lodges and set the schedule. I was just there for sparkle and help in getting people on birds, to do a couple of talks and just generally help move things along.

So the next morning I got up, bleary and fraught but trying to act reasonably normal, and we climbed in a bus and took off for Selva Verde, Holbrook Travel’s proprietary lodge. It’s in the Caribbean lowlands near Sarapiqui.

 The first thing I pointed out when we got out of the bus was a male green honeycreeper pulling a female’s tail. She was squawking something awful. He kept chasing her down and yanking on her tail. Somebody asked me if it was courtship. “I don’t think so. I think he’s just pulling her tail, that’s what I think.” And a couple of people laughed, and we were off.


As we made our way to our rooms a green and black poison arrow frog hopped into view, keeping with the Seafoam Green theme. And I freaked out, because this was my first-ever poison arrow frog. Right there at my feet. I wanted to kiss it, but didn’t, because I suddenly no longer wanted to die. I wanted to live, and look at birds for the next ten days with a bunch of good people who wanted to do the same.

A black river turtle smiled at us from a pool. He wanted a chunk of sammitch, I was pretty sure of that, and said as much. And someone pointed to a sign that said PLEASE DO NOT FEED THE TURTLES.  Ha! Turtles can be hard to read, but this one wasn’t. We laughed again. We would laugh a lot in the next 11 days. 

Nearby, a big bull green iguana draped hisself over a branch. 

And a giant female golden orb weaver (Nephila clavipes) had a chat with her minuscule reddish hopeful mate. Who was also hoping not to be wrapped up and eaten as a snack. Her abdomen was as long as my thumb.

Yes, it was all going to be OK. It was going to be great. It was going to be birding Costa Rica with Zick and Mario!! (whom I thank for keeping this all accurate, and so much more).


Aw! Thank you so much for thinking of us and leaving some posts for us while you were gone. It shows what a kind, thoughtful person you are (as if we needed more proof!).

I can relate to the introvert in the midst of people thing. I, too, can be selectively outgoing. Then it's like a door shutting suddenly: "I-must-be-alone!" Doesn't matter where I am, I have to leave, lest I start acting like a toddler and crying. What REALLY sucks is if you have people in your OWN home and you can't get away nor can you get them to leave. That's undoubtedly why I don't entertain much.

Anyway, thanks for the pics of a warm place. We all need that after this winter. I feel like I've been under siege!

YOU and your posts have been my bright spot during this horrible, horrendous, very bad winter. Thank you, thank you, thank you. I'm glad you got to escape the cold, and even gladder that you are going to post about it.

We only got to the first day. I hope you fill us in on the next 11! I'm glad you got to see some things you have always wanted to see. Gorgeous photos and what wonderful memories for your group.

Posted by Lucy from MN March 11, 2014 at 8:11 AM

Of course you could do it. I can hardly wait to read the rest of the posts. I bet the trip was a gas and that you were an excellent host.


I'm so glad you found the experience of leading a group enjoyable, Julie. Good for you for trying it. I'm an introvert too, and that's why I've never yet signed up for group birding trips longer than one day. I'm afraid I'll be emotionally exhausted from prolonged interaction with a bunch of strangers, some of whom might be really irritating. I love the comments by Mimimanderly...I feel exactly the same way.

I'm amazed at the size difference between the male and female orb weaver spiders -- they don't even look like the same species. And that poison arrow frog? Awesomeness, that's what that is.

Wow! Looking forward to more Costa Rica posts! And good for you for taking on the challenge of doing something you weren't sure you wanted to do! And I don't doubt you were a big hit!

All that gorgeous color and warmth. I can't wait to see what else you saw. It looks spectacular already!

Of all the places we have gone birding, Costa Rica is top of the list for a return visit.
I am looking forward to the next instalment.

Can't wait for the next installment. Thanks for sharing your adventure with us winter weary folk.
Lynda in Michigan

Now, that's the way to kick the winter blues to the curb!

Spectacular opportunity and it seems to have turned out not so awful for the group leader.

Fantastic photographs of some of the exotic (to me) life forms!

Looking forward to the rest of the trip.

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