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Along a River Green

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

For St. Patrick's day, I'm going to take you down a lovely green Costa Rican river. One of the most relaxing and fun things we did was our afternoon cruise on the Rio Sarapiqui. Just sit back and look for birds. We could do that! 

On the way we saw banana plantation workers lined up at the bank to get their money. Mario said they are waiting to cash their checks. They want to see the money, he said. 

Perhaps to spend some at 
El Palacio.

To buy some breadfruit--something I'd love to try someday.

Breadfruit trees are amazing, with huge lobed leaves and a rounded form. I understand it's edible at all stages, but fairly soft when ripe. It's roasted, boiled, or fried, and used in place of potatoes, so it's starchy. Not sweet.
I would like to taste it someday.

Soon we made it to the boat, and our cruise started. There was a foot belonging to someone napping at the dock. Seemed like the thing to do to document that.

 Our pilot was Esteban.

I'd seen so many anhingas in Florida in January I felt I was seeing an old friend.

Another familiar outline--this a Neotropic cormorant, a more gracile relative of the double-crested we know so well. 

But this young bare-throated tiger heron was a nice surprise. So well hidden and fierce! Tiger herons get their name from the striking barred plumage of the immatures. They generally don quieter pinstripes for adulthood.

A bay wren popped out for a glimmering second. What a beautiful color. So many tropical passerines are that rich, rusty red brown, but the bay wren is the prettiest brown of all.

More studies in brown and green...a pair of broad-billed motmots were hanging out near a bank where they may have been excavating a nest. They dig enormous holes with bills and their tiny feet, kicking the dirt out, kingfisher-style.

Glorious birds, with surprising turquoise on their throats. 

They looked like they had little bow ties on. Motmots are Coraciiformes, related to kingfishers.

 The little racquet-tips on their tails are fetching. The barbules around the tail tips are weak and the motmots preen them away to reveal the racquets. It's not given to us to know their function. Maybe chust for nice.

Speaking of nice: Long-nosed bats on a riverside tree. Love them! And these were the only species of bat we were lucky enough to see this year.

They utterly vanish if you don't know to look for them on their exposed daytime roosts. There are at least seven in the lower photo.

Massive root systems, clinging to an undercut bank.

A lone spectacled caiman. I remembered when I was a kid and some of my friends had tiny stunted baby caimans in tanks. We all thought they only got about a foot long. We were actually bonsai training them with poor nutrition and husbandry. I saw an 11-foot black caiman in Guyana. 

Some guys, fishing. I love shooting wildlife on the river. 

 An Amazon kingfisher was fishing, too

 alongside his smaller, rounder cousin, a green kingfisher. I love the oily viridian of their backs.

Another boat much like ours passed

and I wondered if they'd been lucky enough to spot a female slaty-tailed trogon, my favorite plumage of my favorite trogon.

I don't know who dipped a charcoal-gray bird in red paint, but I'm glad they did. Trogons are probably the most fun bird to draw from life because they sit so patiently, slowly turning their heads, looking at everything as if they're seeing it for the first time. They seem a bit dopey, but they're actually foraging, examining the leaves around them with keen eyes. When they sally out in a flurry of red, yellow, orange, blue, or green, snatch a huge katydid and return to the perch to bash it into pulp, you know they aren't just daydreaming up their on their branches. It's never good to assume anything about birds until you get to know them.


Great shots! You went at the right time. A friend of mine who's a professor at the U. Of Toledo took a group of students shooting a documentary to Costa Rica right after you left. Volcano erupted last Friday as they were ready to fly out Sat. They're still "stuck" sleeping 4 to a bed, breathing ash, and hoping to get out soon.

Posted by Deb Wingert March 17, 2015 at 7:02 AM
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