Monday, May 28, 2007

7. Arenal Lake (5/28/07)

Monday, May 28, 2007
A 5:00 AM birdwalk behind our building of rooms helped me to catch up on birds the others had been able to identify the day before, such as the Ruddy Pigeon (Patagioenas subvinacea), Hoffmann's Woodpecker (Melanerpes hoffmannii, which was acting like a flycatcher), Dusky-capped Flycatcher (Myiarchus tuberculifer), Clay-colored Robin (Turdus grayi), Buff-throated Saltator (Saltator maximus), and Bronzed Cowbird (Molothrus aeneus, actually quite common!). Of course, the group was getting ahead of me with new birds, but I did see a Sulfur-bellied Flycatcher (Myiodynastes luteiventris), Passerini's Tanager (Ramphocelus passerinii), Yellow-faced Grassquit (Tiaris olivacea), and White-eared Ground Sparrow (Melozone leucotis).
Saw a Forest Floor Millipede (Nyssodesmus python).
Forest Floor Millipede (Photo by Linda)
My sandals were literally caked with a half-inch of mud after this outing. Many of us left our shoes at the door of the hotel restaurant. Breakfast was [cheese and peppers] omelet, watermelon and pineapple, gallo pinto, cassava cake, fried platanos, and french toast. Checked out of our rooms and the luggage was loaded on top of the bus.
We left Monteverde at an altitude of about 4757 feet in the clouds. Visibility was poor as we passed coffee plantations behind living fences made from cut branches of the Gliricidia Tree (Gliricidia sepium). The leaves of a Coffee (Coffea arabica) plant are large, shiny and veined, and the beans develop only on new growth. In order to decrease cutting down the rainforest to make way for coffee plantations, Costa Rica is working with shade tolerant varieties. Stopped to see a tree full of noisy White-fronted Parrots (Amazona albifrons).
Lots of familiar plants: the Perennial Peanut (Arachis pintoi), flowering Yucca (Yucca sp.), blue Morning Glory (Ipomoea sp.), double Hibiscus (Hibiscus rosa-sinensis), Hydrangea (Hydrangea sp.), Turk's Cap (Malvaviscus arboreus), Canna (Canna sp.), Impatiens (Impatiens walleriana), Periwinkle (Catharanthus roseus), Begonia (Begonia semperflorens and also Angelwing/Begonia coccinea and begonia tuberosa), Mexican Heather (Cuphea hyssopifolia), and Lantana (Lantana urticoides).
We were again on the bumpy gravel and dirt roads. Just when I thought I couldn't take it any more, we turned onto a paved road! Hallelujah! It was on that bumpy ride that I accidently erased all the photos on my new digital camera (thus, needing to borrow pictures from Linda for this blog!) Made a pit stop at a place with coffee, souvenirs, and a tilapia fish pond out back with resident ducks, including Muscovy Ducks (Cairina moschata).
Muscovy Duck & Ducklings
As we came out of the clouds we passed free-range cattle, these being the breeds with which we are more familiar.
Saw an Eastern Meadowlark (Sturnella magna) and a White-throated Magpie Jay (Calocitta formosa).
At last we arrived at about 1150 feet above sea level and started circling Lake Arenal. Much warmer here. We saw Coconut Palms (Cocos nucifera), Bougainvillea (Bougainvillea spectabilis), Mimosa (Samanea saman), Rose of Sharon (Hibiscus syriacus), Mandevilla (Mandevilla sanderi), reddish tank bromeliads, and more flowering trees. Real estate was a big new business and very competitive. Some realty signs had paint splashed on them and the victim company made a statement on a billboard about the mentality of competitors who would damage their signs.
We headed west around the southern end of the lake and then east on the northern shore. Up on a ridge was a row of large wind turbines for producing electricity. An argument against wind power is that it kills birds, but hopefully that is unfounded; roads kill more wildlife. Made a stop to see howler monkeys; New World monkeys are the only ones with prehensile tails.
Mantled Howler Monkey (Photo by Kent)
Saw Gray-headed Chachalaca (Ortalis cinereiceps), more Keel-billed Toucans (Ramphastos sulfuratus), and Black Vultures (Coragyps atratus). Had a Tricolor or Rainbow Eucalyptus (Eucalyptus deglupta) grove pointed out and saw what looked like mistletoe in some trees.
Another pit stop at a German Bakery in Nuevo Arenal. The line to the restrooms was long, so Brynne took us next door to the Austrian Bakery where she had stopped with the Rodriguez family in December. We then bought some goodies from the German Bakery (a cookie with strawberry preserves, a chocolate croissant, and a bobe - pastry filled with coconut, caramel and macadamia nuts: yum!).
We continued our journey round the lake. Saw many cecropia trees and lots of heliconias, like Birds of Paradise plants gone wild.
Looking south over Arenal Lake 
First view of Arenal Volcano, as usual it is covered with clouds
Started driving around Arenal Volcano and stopped in the town of La Fortuna for lunch. Here we had a great view of the volcano, with the top clear of clouds. We were so lucky to get this rare clear view.
Volcan Arenal from La Fortuna
Ate at the Lava Rocks Restaurant.
Lava Rocks Restaurant
Glass-enclosed patio of the restaurant
Fancy straw presentation
We had tacos that came with french fries, and Squirts. Came with dessert of ice cream; we chose ice cream sandwiches from the freezer which had a sticky door.
Meanwhile Enrique went to get gas and to change a tire that was low on air. So that Enrique later had a chance to eat lunch, the group walked over to the central plaza in front of the church, a wide open space filled with plants.
La Fortuna Catholic Churcch
Central Plaza
Classic view of the Arenal Volcano 
behind the church beyond the plaza fountain
 - with Jerry, Brynne & Kent
Next: 7a. Arenal FYI.

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