Monday, May 28, 2007

8. Arenal Volcano Excursion (5/28/07)

Monday, May 28, 2007
After a group photo in the plaza, we headed back to the bus. Jerry and Linda spotted a basilisk under a flowering bush.

We drove back towards the Arenal Volcano and were able to see the top with smoke and ash coming out.
Arenal Volcano from the bus
As we crossed a bridge over a river, Jimmy shouted out to look for Black Phoebes (Sayornis nigricans) and sure enough we spotted the tiny birds on rocks in the water. Also saw Neotropic Cormorants (Phalacrocorax brasilinus) drying their outspread wings while perched on tree stumps in the lake. And Cattle Egrets (Bubulcus ibis, they are everywhere!). And howlers in the trees, but didn't stop this time. Saw Cotton (Gossypium hirsutum) plants.
When we were closer to the volcano, there were depressions in the ground - small craters from the boulders spit out from the volcano. In one water-filled crater we saw a pair of Northern Jacanas (Jacana spinosa).
Northern Jacanas
We entered the Arenal Volcano National Park.
The man at the gate had a conversation with Enrique and Jimmy, and the next thing we knew we were piling out of the bus to see an Eyelash Viper (Bothriechis schlegeli) curled up in the base of the leaves of a palm tree (it is also called a Palm Viper). It was a cute tiny thing you could hold in the palm of your hand, but it is highly venomous!
Eyelash Viper (Photo by Brynne)
Jimmy, followed by Linda, Jerry and Enrique, went to look for a second viper. The guy at the gate had to go point it out in the stone wall of the entrance sign. Apparently the snake did not take the opportunity to strike at Jimmy's rear end when he had his back to the wall searching in the wrong place!
We drove to a viewing platform to marvel at the volcano, now with the top covered in clouds.
(Photo by Brynne)
On the right side of the volcano, we could see puffs of ash appear at intervals going downhill. That was the evidence that these car-sized boulders were bouncing down the slope!
Trails of puffs of ash down the slope
When we were really quiet, we could hear the pop-pop-pop of the boulders bouncing down the mountain, sounding like popcorn popping. Just goes to show how far away we were! We did hear loud rumbling, but it was thunder.
We had been expecting to go to the hotel before going to the volcano, so many of us were wearing sandals and our hiking shoes were packed on top of the bus. Sandals or not, I was going on the hike to the lava flow. Jimmy thought it would take us 45 minutes and so we started off at a quick pace. No birding this time!
(Photo by Kent)
(Photo by Brynne)
The path was crushed volcanic rock and ash, not too bad. Went through an area that was being reclaimed by Mother Nature with pioneer plants of Wild Cane (Gynerium sagittatum) and Bracken Fern (Pteridium aquilinum).
Kent spotted an abandoned hummingbird nest on a branch along the trail.
In only a half-hour we reached the lava flow and climbed the piles of boulders. Many of us were happy with reaching the top of the lava flow and some of us ventured farther for a great 360 degree view from the volcano to the lake and back.
This gives perspective of how far it is across the lava flow
Arenal Lake
Arenal Volcano with Linda
Mission accomplished, we made our way back to the bus just as the rain began. Made a stop to watch noisy, busy parrots, a flock of White-fronted (Amazona albifrons) and another of Red-lored Parrots (Amazona autumnalis). Somewhere we also saw the Crimson-fronted Parakeet (Aratinga finschi), the Olive-throated Parakeet (Aratinga nana), and the Slate-throated Redstart (Myioborus miniatus).
The closer we got to the hotel, we saw and heard the Montezuma Oropendula (Gymnostinops montezuma). We had seen their pendulous nests hanging in trees on the drive to Arenal.
At last we reached the Arenal Vista Lodge, got our keys, and had our luggage delivered to our rooms. We had four beds in our room.
Our hotel room
Every room had a view of Arenal Volcano across the lake, even if it was foggy and covered in clouds.
Cloud-covered Arenal Volcano to the right
We showered, dressed, and met on an outdoor terrace to go over the birdlist. It was dark and you could see occasional burning red sparkles making their way down the side of the volcano. Those bouncing boulders!
Dinner was a buffet and we sat at tables of four. We had vegetable soup, black beans and rice, and roasted chicken. We were served flan for dessert. Kent had a Pilsen beer (another Costa Rican beer - Costa Rica has many fine beers due to the German presence in the country. Most are light pilseners and the main brands are Bavaria, Imperial, and Pilsen).
After dinner we explored the Arenal Vista Lodge complex, including a pool. But it was still so hot and muggy. We returned to the room to watch the red sparkles on Arenal Volcano.
Next: 9. Arenal to Selva Verde.

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