Sunday, April 7, 2013

Costa Rica - Day 2 (Part 2)- March 17, 2013

 After breakfast we headed out to Carara National Park.This park is ecologically unique because it is the only place in the Americas (at least this is what our tour guide on the boat told us) where wet tropical rainforest and dry tropical forest meet. This factor, plus the presence of the Rio Grande de Tarcoles (Tarcoles River) provides a rich biodiversity. The Tarcoles River is one of the largest rivers in the country and is home to one of the largest populations of American Crocodiles in the world.
     We first stopped at the ranger station to get information and pay the admission fee ($10 USD). The ranger spoke very good English and was extremely nice and helpful even when we were struggling a bit with using colones (Costa Rican currency) for the first time. We skipped the trails around the ranger station since they go through secondary forest and are not good for birding. Instead, we headed back towards the crocodile bridge and passed the entrance to the "good" trail's parking lot twice before we finally found it. The Carara area is notorious for petty theft so it is highly advised to not leave ANYTHING in the car, not even in the trunk. However, they do have "guards" stationed in the parking lot and around the crocodile bridge who will watch your car for you. We were there on a weekend, so I am not sure if this service is provided on weekdays. The guards are volunteers, so tipping them is expected. The sign in the parking lot suggested a tip of $4 USD. This amount was worth it considering our rental car was intact and nothing was stolen at the end of our hike. There was also a police presence at the crocodile bridge in addition to the volunteer guards/traffic directors.
The trail made you feel like you were in a scene from Jurassic Park (a few scenes from the first movie were filmed in Costa Rica!), but insects were at a minimum and no dinosaurs were spotted...except the lizards which were everywhere. Birds were plentiful and easy to spot. Since we were there in the dry season, some of the plants had dropped their leaves to save energy which allowed for good views through the otherwise thick vegetation. Some of the bird highlights included Tropical Gnatcatcher, Red-legged Honeycreepers, Bay-headed Tanager, Rose-throated Becard, Dot-winged Antwren, Laughing Falcon, Squirrel Cuckoo, Black-hooded Antshrike, Streaked Flycatcher, and Turquoise-browed Motmot.

Trail at Carara
At some point during our walk a few Coati ran across the path within a few feet of us and disappeared into the underbrush! We were so shocked that these animals would come that close to us that sadly nobody got photos of these adorable animals. However, we did get to experience the feeding frenzy of about 10 White-faced Capuchins. They were feeding in the banana trees right alongside the trail and over our heads at times. I nearly got hit by a very ripe, half eaten banana. I am not sure if that flying banana was intentional or accidental, but I do know for sure that it was launched by one of the Capuchins.
Most of the trail was bone-dry but one small section had a bit of water running across it. That little bit of water was all the Jesus Christ Lizards needed to show off their amazing skill of running across the surface tension of the water. They sure were quick about it! So quick that we were unfortunately not able to capture it on video.

Lizards are always smiling!
Ruddy Daggerwing

Dot-winged Antwren
Quite the hive!

Some sort of fruit
Banana flower sans fruit

White-faced Capuchin
Focused on banana selection
Even the baby got a piece!
Mmmmm juicy banana!
This is just hilarious!

The eyes of Iguanas are so pretty!

Cow watching me watching birds.

Only a portion of the Crocodiles in the Rio Tarcoles. Seen from the crocodile bridge at Carara National Park

This is how they fix holes in walkways and roads in Costa Rica. Place a large rock over it. I guess it is better to trip over /hit a rock then fall into a hole?

Stay tuned for Part 3 of Day 2 where we take a boat tour of the Rio Tarcoles and get a very special surprise!

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