Tuesday, May 29, 2007

9. Arenal to Selva Verde (5/29/07)

Tuesday, May 29, 2007
A day that cleared quickly to sunny after the sun rose over the edge of Arenal Volcano.
Sunrise over Arenal Volcano
We were up at 5:00 AM for birding on the grounds of and down the road from the Arenal Vista Lodge. Lots of plants on the grounds as well.
Arenal Vista Lodge grounds
A female Cecropia Cecropia obtusifolia tree with seed pods
The howlers were making themselves heard.
The dominant bird was the Montezuma Oropendula (Gymnostinops montezuma) as they flew back and forth to a colony of nests in a very tall tree.
Oropendula nest colony in lower branches of a
Eucalyptus Eucalyptus sp. Tree
Other sightings: Yellow-headed Caracara (Caracara chimachima - heard), Red-lored Parrot (Amazona autumnalis), Rufous-tailed Hummingbird (Amazilia rutila), Steely-vented Hummingbird (Saucerottia saucerrottei), Purple-crowned Fairy (Heliothryx barroti), Rufous Motmot (Baryphthangus martii - heard), Broad-billed Motmot (Electron platyrhynchum), Rufous-tailed Jacamar (Galbula ruficauda), Chestnut-mandibled Toucan (Ramphastos swainsonii), Plain-brown Woodcreeper (Dendrocincla fuliginsa), Northern-barred Woodcreeper (Dendrocolaptes sanctithomae), Gray-capped Flycatcher (Myiozetetes granadensis), Piratic Flycatcher (Legatus leucophaius), and Bananaquit (Coereba flaveola).
I'm getting better at this, but the group still sees more than I do!
There was a Bananaquit nest in tall weeds on an embankment by the side of the road. The occupants were restless, darting around, and then we noticed rustling in the weeds nearby. A rat! Another mammal we saw was a White-nosed Coati (Nasua narica) with its very long tail, out on a tree limb.
After breakfast of watermelon, pineapple and mango slices, scrambled eggs and gallo pinto, cheese and "meat" slices, we loaded onto the bus.
Jimmy, Jerry, and Enrique loading the luggage
As we left the area, we had another clear view of the top of Arenal Volcano, obviously active with steam coming out the vent.
Smoking Arenal Volcano (Photo by Brynne)
Enrique stopped the bus on a bridge, so that we could look for birds, and there was a Ringed Kingfisher (Ceryle torquatus).
Ringed Kingfisher (Photo by Linda)
Rather than wait for us to move off the one-lane bridge, a man with a string of horses went down to ford the stream.
Horses fording the river
We started seeing classic vistas of Arenal Volcano with its symmetrical shape, and Enrique stopped the bus for a photo op.
Arenal Volcano with a side vent
Sighted a Tropical Mockingbird (Mimus gilvus).
Photo Op (Photo by Kent)
Another stop to see a Brown-throated Three-toed Sloth (Bradypus variegatus) in its favorite tree - the Cecropia. So exciting!
See the sloth?
Three-toed Sloth (Photo by Linda)
Through binoculars you could count the toes and see the greenish tinge of algae growing in its fur.
We passed Cassava (Manihot esculenta - cassava is being studied as an alternate fuel source), Pineapple (Ananas comosus), Papaya (Carica papaya), Guava (Psidium guajava), Plantain and Banana (Musa sp.) plantations. Banana bunches are covered with plastic while growing on the tree to keep out insects and birds, so that pesticides do not have to be used. Most of the pineapple plantations here supply the Dole Company.
Time for a pit stop! And entertainment as we stopped at the Restaurante Las Iguanas that set out ripe papayas to attract the Green or Common Iguanas (Iguana iguana) that live in the surrounding area. To us, the older iguanas look tan/brown and they were huge, up to 6-7 feet long including tail.
Las Iguanas stop (Photo by Linda)
"This papaya is MINE!" (Photo by Brynne)
Characteristic large circular scale at angle of jaw (Photo by Kent)
The iguana would grasp the papaya in his jaws, then shake his head until the papaya broke off leaving a more manageable piece in his mouth.
(Photo by Kent)
Why does this one have his forefoot upside down?
(Photo by Brynne)
We continued eastward, passing pineapple and orange processing plants, and trucks from countries as far as Germany.
Costa Rica has been reforesting with imported trees where it is known how to farm them, such as the Mexican cedar. Reforestation with native trees hasn't worked because the results are not always as expected. There is a lot of inter-crop farming in Costa Rica and sometimes the plants need the other to survive.
Jimmy told the story of Henry Ford who purchased acres of land in Brazil to start a rubber plantation. They cleared the land and planted rubber trees that were native to Brazil, but never had a successful harvest. Why? Fertile soil had eroded, a leaf blight fungus arrived, and two hundred saplings were planted per acre where they occur naturally at only 7 per acre. Ford lost $20 million on the venture.
Cloud forests occur at 6,000 feet or higher, the exception being Monteverde at a lower altitude. Jimmy pointed out "broccoli" trees with yellow flowers, so-called because from a distance they look like yellowing bunches of broccoli. They are actually Kapok (Ceiba pentandra) trees, a buttressed and very tall tree considered sacred by the Mayans as a link between the earth and the heavens. Black Pepper (Piper nigrum) vines are often inter-planted with shade coffee plants. The Mountain Almond (Dipteryx panamensis) tree is endangered and the only tree in which green macaws will nest (they also eat the nuts). When the trees go, so will the green macaws. Saw a Crested Caracara (Caracara cheriway).
Passed through towns and small cities, each with a church.
A nice town church
School children wore uniforms of blue oxford shirts and navy pants or skirts.
Soon we arrived at the Selva Verde Lodge.
Next: 10. Selva Verde Lodge.

No comments: