Sunday, March 20, 2011

Palo Verde, Costa Rica

I already posted some about my recent trip to Costa Rica, but without photos, so here is some more of the story, with photos this time. Some of the text is the same, some is new.  Enjoy!

OTS Palo Verde field station
The limegreen painted concrete cinderblock walls are characteristic for the Palo Verde Research Station, which is run by OTS (Organization for Tropical Studies), a consortium that arranges classes for students in the tropics and research facilities for scientists.
sunset over Palo Verde marshlands

sunset over Palo Verde marshlands

sunset over Palo Verde marshlands

The sunsets at Palo Verde are unbelievable beautiful.  The sun sets over the marshlands along the river Rio Tempisque, and as in all tropical countries the sun sets rather suddenly and you can see how it moves down the horizon and behind the bend of the earth.  

It is the dry season, but the marshlands still have water in them, enough to attract many ducks, herons, and other wetland birds.  For the birders, here are whistling ducks, roseate spoon bills, several kinds of white egrets, great blue herons, wood storks (crazy giant white birds), and many more.  Frogs in the millions, which you can hear but not see, and crocodiles you only see when they try to catch something and cause a splash.  It is a gorgeous place.

lookout point at Mirador

This morning I did I hike up on to the Mirador limestone hill, which is more like a tiny mountains.  The limestone is sharp-edged and has holes in it, so not really a nice thing to fall one, but sturdy to hold on to when you climb to the top.  I started in the early morning (8.30 AM), before it got too hot, so it was only maybe 27 degrees outside (Celsius that is, I guess 80 in Fahrenheit or so).
tropical forest
The dry season means that many trees have lost their leaves and are bare-branched temporarily, which makes it perfect for birdwatching.  I saw parrots (the screamiest bird in the forest!), woodpeckers, kingbirds, and a hummingbird.
tropical dry forest in dry season
After climbing the Mirador and looking at the fantastic view over the enormous river valley, with its snaking, meandering river on its way to the sea, I continued on the trail and ran into some other hikers from OTS.  They had just been watching two monkeys, two white-faced capuchins, try to catch a black and white owl.  I saw both the owl (flying away), and the monkeys who had given up the hunt and now were splayed like tired jaguars with their bodies and limbs draped across horizontal tree branches, high up in the trees.

white-faced capuchin monkey

bird watching

In a little grove of evergreen trees we saw two long-tailed manakins, which look like small birds of paradise.  Imagine black velvet colored small birds, with bright turquoise colored sides and wings, and then the most intense scarlet red on the back of their neck.  And that is not enough!  From the tail, two special feathers have developed into two long lyre-shaped extensions.  Incredible.  They meet and have leks, like competitions between the males over who gets to mate with the females, and we saw one of these lek places, even if it was too late in the day for lek activities. 

My Costa Rica photos are here if you want to see more, and the most recent ones are towards the end of this photo set.

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