Update!!

Wow, it’s been over 10 months since my last update on this sight. Since then, I’ve been extremely busy, to say the least. The Ornithology Club at Ohio State has been back up and running, and I have made plenty of new friends in the birdwatching community. Most recently, I have had the opportunity to bird with Christian Hagenlocher of The Birding Project. This is just a small little update, but hinting of things to follow! As May approaches, my friend and I are finalizing our plans for a Big Month, with the goal of seeing over 250 species between Ohio (BWIAB) and the New England states (and possibly NY too!). Stay tuned for more updates!

Happy Birding!

Costa Rica Day 10

The Final Full Day in Costa Rica.

The end is finally here. We checked out of our hotel in the morning, and headed off on a drive to Manuel Antonio, one of the most famous National Parks in Costa Rica. We stopped and got pictures of a Chestnut-Mandibled Toucan that was sitting in the trees near the entrance of the park, before taking the trek from the entrance to the beach front. While most of the others immediately went swimming, I instead chose to hike one of the trails surrounding the beach, in search for birds and wildlife. I was able to spot some Brown Boobies from the shore out on some rocks, along with some mammals including a raccoon during the hike. Once I walked back to the beach, I only went up to my knees in the water because the current was strong and I also didn’t have a towel to wear. Once we ate lunch at a beautiful little shop outside of the park, we began our long drive back to San Jose.

During this drive we hit some heavy traffic, which made it impossible for us to get to our hotel in time to change before dinner, so we instead headed straight to dinner, where we were still over an hour late. However, the other group and the performing people were more than generous in waiting for us to start the performance, a show of traditional Costa Rican dance. After we ate and watched the performance, we then said our thanks to our guide and bus driver, giving them some gifts to show our thanks. We then went back to our hotel, where some of us chose not to sleep at all in order to enjoy our final moments in Costa Rica.

Looking back, being able to visit Costa Rica was a dream come true. I made some amazing friends, witnessed a new culture, and laid eyes on some of the most beautiful landscapes I’ve ever seen in my life. The people of Costa Rica are the friendliest I have ever met, full of love and respect for nature. I would return here in a heartbeat, not waiting for any excuse other than to be with the people there. If you get the chance to visit, take it. Costa Rica is a country and a people we all could learn from. Pura Vida!

Happy Birding!

Costa Rica Day 9

A long day of Mangrove Planting.

The day started off early with the spotting of some owls, a female Green-Breasted Mango, and a Mangrove Hummingbird. It then also included an extremely long day of planting mangroves. I was selected as the official photographer, to document the whole day. I took over 1700 photos, all of which I’m proud of.

It started off with a small presentation of what we would be doing, before going out and collecting some baby plants from the trees, sorting through them, and then cutting up water bottles that would act as an early pot for them to grow in near the planting site. We then headed down towards the planting site, where we cleaned up the area, collected sand, and began to fill the bottles up that had been previously cut. Then we took a lunch break, before returning, planting the new saplings, picking up the older ones, and then hacking our way through the brush on the side of the river to get to the planting site. Once here we planted the older mangroves, before heading back to the hotel where we played a few of my pictures from the day for people to see. It was an exhausting day, with high humidity, hot temperatures, and exhausting work that tired us out. Thankfully we were able to relax for a bit after the events of the day before dinner, enjoying time together, and spending part of the evening on the beach, enjoying our final night in the “real Costa Rica” as our professor put it. Tomorrow is the final full day, a day that came much faster than expected.

Happy Birding!

Costa Rica Day 8

As we left Monteverde earlier, I finally got my wish! A Keel-Billed Toucan flew right over our bus and landed on a tree directly above us! I definitely got some amazing pictures, and I can’t wait to share them.

Our day today was largely spent driving to our next hotel, which happens to be our final hotel while in Costa Rica. Our one major stop for the day was a boat and mangrove tour to see crocodiles up close, something that was awesome but also very scary! Dozens of birds were seen on this cruise, including Scarlet Macaws and Mangrove Warblers. I added quite a few new birds to the life list, coming closer to the goal of 175 species seen on trip (including birds I had previously seen in the USA). After this cruise, which beforehand included some intriguing bathroom stops, we continued the drive down to the final hotel.

Once we arrived at the final hotel, many of us had a nice struggle with learning how to open the doors, which had very interesting locks in them. Our day was done once we got to the hotel, which was good because for the third time during the trip, the skies opened up and drenched us, with by far the most lightning, thunder, and rain I have seen and heard on the whole trip. The rest of the day was spent going through pictures, catching up on previous journal entries, and just enjoying a relaxing time. We even were able to teach some people how to play Texas Hold ‘Em, so they day can definitely be counted as a plus. Just a few more days in Costa Rica, the goal of 175 must be hit!

Happy Birding!

Costa Rica Day 7

Day 7 may have been our most packed day yet on this trip. We started off with a morning hike of the Santa Elena Cloud Forest Reserve, which is run by high school students, where we learned about how they got involved, and the conservation efforts the reserve is undertaking. We then began our hike through the beautiful forest, where we saw a few birds, but heard the most important one on the list: the Resplendent Quetzal. Hearing this bird brought chills through me, as it is such a beautiful and highly respected bird. After this hike, where we witnessed different biodiversity than we did at Tenorio due to elevation, we headed off towards a couple hours of horseback riding.

The horseback riding was an adventure in of itself, as it was my first time on a horse since a scary incident that happened in Yellowstone years ago. Thankfully my horse didn’t fall this time; however, he never wanted to walk down a slope, turning his head around each time to look at me and make sure I wanted him to follow the horses in front of us. One of my friends had an allergic reaction while on their horse, which made it harder for them to enjoy the horseback riding. However, going through the trees and up and down hills was very fun, and taking many pictures along the way definitely made it worth it. Once we finished the horseback riding, we returned back to the hotel, where we ate yet another delicious lunch.

After lunch we had some relaxation time before we headed off to the orchid garden in town to get a tour of all the different types of orchids. The tour was a little underwhelming as there wasn’t as much color as I thought there would be, but I was able to spot a new hummingbird in the process of being there. We did get to see the smallest orchid in the world, which was smaller than a pinhead. We then walked around the garden on free time, with the guide teaching me how to use a speed light to take better macro photos. Once this tour was over, we headed to a tree planting with the Reserve we were at earlier, at a location down the street from our hotel. After we planted these trees, and learned a bit more about the local involvement in reestablishing the biologic corridors to the Pacific coast, we headed back to our rooms for a bit before heading off on our night walk.

The night walk was fascinating, as we saw and heard creatures we normally wouldn’t see during the day. We saw kinkajous, an armadillo, sleeping birds, a couple Mottled Owls, and some insects and snakes! I actually added two new species of birds this night, the owl and a sleeping Keel-Billed Toucan! Sadly I haven’t seen a Keel-Billed Toucan during the day yet, but hopefully that comes soon!

Happy Birding!

Costa Rica Day 6

The gods were in our favor today it seems! We woke up nice and early to eat our final meal in La Fortuna and pack the bus, and amazingly Arenal was visible in its entirety for the first time! I ran and even put off my morning shower to make sure I got some memorable pictures of the volcano visible over the city, especially over the central church. After breakfast and once the bus was packed, we began our next drive towards our new home for a couple days, Monteverde. We drove our way around Arenal Lake, a manmade lake that is the largest in Costa Rica. At its center is a submerged town that was destroyed when Arenal erupted almost 50 years ago. We made multiple stops throughout our drive around the lake, before stopping and having a small lecture next to some wind turbines on the hillside.

Once this lecture was complete, and we took some photos, we got back onto the bus and drove to a small town and school, which has a single digit number of students. On this specific day, two students, who were cousins, and their mother/aunt were there. They told us about their school and education, the classes they took, their favorite subjects, and what they want to be when they grew up. We then shared the same information with them, before they let us see their little cultural museum and shared some of the local cheese with us. It was a fascinating experience, learning the education here in Costa Rica, and how similar it is to the United States, but also how different it is.

After the school, we headed to our new hotel in Monteverde. Once we checked into our rooms and dropped our stuff off, we sat through some EXTREMELY heavy rain, which put our next activity, ziplining, in doubt. However, the sky broke just in time, and we were able to make our trip a couple minutes up the road to take part in the ziplining course. It wasn’t a bad course, but the last two really long, really high lines really made it worth it. At the end of the day, it was another awesome day in Costa Rica with some amazing people. Not much bird watching, just some Emerald Toucannets spotted as we were leaving the zip lining location.

Happy Birding!

Costa Rica Day 5

Day 5 can be summed up in just a few words: one of the most strenuous days of my life. Today was spent at Parque Nacional Volcán Tenorio. We hiked about 6 miles up and down the side of this volcano, culminating in seeing the Rio Celeste, one of the most beautiful pieces of water I have ever seen in my life. It looks as if the sky has been liquified and poured back to Earth for all of us.

The day started off rough however, as the road was closed so we had to walk from our bus to the park entrance, about 1 KM away. There is only one other road that leads to the entrance of the park; however, this road is only accessible from the Pacific side, and on this day we were on the Caribbean side of the mountains. Once we got to the entrance, the humidity finally began to set it. After our entrance was paid for, and we were warned that the trail would be extremely muddy, we headed off on our way. Almost immediately, most of the group, besides the guide and I, motored off towards our first destination; the waterfall. This is mostly because we got caught up looking for a bird. When we finally caught up with the rest of the group, they were all taking a break before heading down the hundreds of steps towards the waterfall. We quickly made our way down, as everyone knows going down is easier than coming up, where we set our eyes on the smooth-flowing water that makes up the Rio Celeste. We spent a decent amount of time here, taking many pictures, along with getting a lesson on how to take long exposures. The trek up took longer than the trek down, with multiple pauses due to the intense heat and humidity. We then continued along the trail towards the lagoon of blue water, where once again the guide and I fell behind, as we spotted warblers, manakins, and a trogon on the trail. Finally the trail got insanely muddy, with shoes sinking in at every step. We caught up with some of the group at one of the overlooks, before making our way down to the lagoon where we also ate lunch. After lunch we turned around again, and look a slow, leisurely walk back to the entrance.

After we arrived back at the entrance, we walked back to our bus again, past the road work that had closed the road earlier. We then got on the bus and drove down the hill to a little entrance to the river, so that most of the people in our group could go swimming. I chose not to go in the water, and just enjoyed the relaxation of finally being able to sit down. While sitting I was fortunate enough to hear a Chestnut-Mandibled Toucan calling, a new bird to my list at that time. Once again, after this we got on the bus and headed back to the hotel, to enjoy our final evening in La Fortuna. It was a beautiful town, and it was a pleasure to be here the past four days. Hopefully I will be fortunate enough to return again one day.

Happy Birding!

Costa Rica Day 4

The goal for day 4 was reached: I officially broke 300 species of birds! Overall the day was pretty slow, but also extremely insightful.

We woke up early before heading to pick up a second guide, from a different tour company. He was going to be our tour guide on the boat cruise at Caño Negro Wildlife Refuge, and help us spot and identify the different animals we would see. We then drove the approximate two hours to the refuge, where we first ordered lunch and used the bathrooms before driving to the boat launch and boarding our boat. Immediately, the second species we saw was the Green Heron, my most wanted bird and the bane of my birding existence. Throughout the next two hour tour, we heading in both directions up the river, spotting sloths, monkeys, and dozens of birds. At one point we came to the boarder mark that signified the border between Nicaragua and Costa Rica! At one point during the cruise, I saw my 300th species, the Purple Gallinule. For the first time ever, people congratulated me on my sighting. Our guide announced it to the whole boat, and everyone clapped. It brought a huge smile to my face, to see people happy for me while birdwatching, something that I’ve never seen before among my peers. We also saw caimans, the border of Nicaragua, and some amazing views while out the boat cruise.

After this cruise we headed off to lunch, where the skies opened up and gave us some fascinating views in the open-windowed restaurant that we were eating at. The food and drink was delicious, and we all sat and discussed the wonderful sights we had seen during the cruise. After lunch, we headed back to the hotel, with many of us falling asleep on the drive back. We made one pit stop however, at a restaurant that had trees FULL of iguanas next to it, where we spent a couple minutes so people could use the bathroom, get ice cream, and take pictures of the iguanas. It was really cool to get as close to the iguanas as we did, giving us an opportunity it approach animals that usually stay a decent distance away from us.

The day was slow, with only one spot visited, but extremely memorable. Once back in town some of us walked around before dinner, exploring more some of the local spots we hadn’t been to. Tomorrow entails a very strenuous day, yet a day I have been looking forward to for a long time. Hope you can’t wait to hear all about it!

Happy Birding!

Costa Rica Day 3

Day 3 is officially in the books. It was a relatively slow day, as we only visited a chocolate plantation and the La Fortuna Waterfall.

After our first traditional breakfast while in Costa Rica, we headed off to Rainforest Chocolate Tours, where we received a tour of the local chocolate plantation, where the chocolate is only grown for this tour alone. We heard about the history of chocolate, how it is harvested, and how it is prepared, before helping to make our own fresh chocolate, which we tried in all different forms, from the pulp, to the crushed bean, to the way the Mayas and Aztecs drank it, to liquid chocolate heated over a stove. It was amazing and delicious! It was also insightful to hear about how different plants are used to help the pollinators breed and to provide suitable habitats for them. There were also plenty of birds, which added quite a few new species to the list.

After the tour we returned to eat lunch, and then relaxed for about an hour before heading to La Fortuna Waterfall, which was absolutely beautiful. The trek down took a while, as it was about 500 stairs, but definitely worth it as I was able to spot a Howler Monkey traversing overhead. Many people went in the water around the waterfall, but personally, I did not feel completely safe, especially after slipping on the rocks surrounding it to take a picture of the falls. I would rather not get injured and risk not enjoying the rest of the trip!

Overall, today was once again extremely enjoyable, a testimony to the fascinating biodiversity that Costa Rica holds in its small, yet beautiful lands. Learning how the locals not only live off of the land, but also in sustainable ways, along with learning about one of the most popular treats in the world and how it is prepared, have given me a greater look into a lifestyle I would have struggled to understand if I had not been witnessing it first hand. Tomorrow yields a new day, and a trip to Caño Negro, for a boat tour. I am so excited for this tour!

Interested in today’s lists? Check them out here and here.

Happy Birding!

Costa Rica Day 2

The first full day in Costa Rica is complete, and let me say, having a guide who is a wildlife and landscape photographer, along with a relative expert of the local birds. He’s been helping me spot things throughout the day, and take photos of many different birds, especially the highlights of today: hummingbirds.

I woke up early, approximately 5:45 AM CST to see if the birds were awake outside. Immediately I saw a couple new species, including a Blue-Gray Tanager and Incan Doves. The sun was already high on the horizon, and breakfast was soon coming. We ate at Denny’s, sadly not having a traditional breakfast, but overall good enough to tie us over for the long day. After eating we returned to our rooms, where we packed up and loaded the buses. On the way to the bus I was talking with the tour guide, who was able to point out to me another bird, the Palm Tanager, that was seated right under the windows of the hotel. We decided that our goal for the trip should be 150 birds, a number that he believes is extremely reasonable.

Our first drive took us to Cafe Britt, where we received a tour of the factory, and witnessed how coffee is made, along with all of the effort that it takes to make the perfect coffee. While here, I spotted only a single bird, a White-Throated Magpie-Jay, which was relatively hidden from site due to the netting I was under, but was identifiable enough after consulting the tour guide and describing the silhouette that I saw. During this stop we also visited the butterfly garden, and explored the gift hop too. Next, we headed towards the oldest national park in the country, Parque Nacional Volcán Poás, where it was extremely cloudy in the beginning, but began clearing up eventually, leading to some decent shots of the crater and its mineral pool. A few species were also spotted here, including the White-Collared Swift. We then headed to lunch at a local family-run restaurant, where I had a papaya smoothie that was absolutely delicious.

On the way to our next town, La Fortuna, where we will be spending the next four nights, we intended to visit the La Paz Waterfall. Unfortunately, a downpour quickly occurred, and while many people got out at the pull-off to take pictures, I stayed in the bus and took pictures from within, mostly to avoid getting my camera wet. Soon after the clouds broke up and the sun shown through, giving us great view of the San Fernando Waterfall, which we had views of from two locations, including a pit-stop that included hummingbird and papaya feeders, attracting approximately ten different types of birds all within inches of our faces. Then we continued on to La Fortuna, a small city at the base of the Arenal Volcano, where I sit now as I write this. In the short time we have been in this city I have added quite a few species!

As always, check out the full sightings from today here, here, here, and here.

The first full day of Costa Rica has come to an end, but the memories I am making will last a lifetime. Being able to see nature on this scale, and with this amount of biodiversity, is fascinating. Experiencing the lifestyle, seeing the country, and meeting the people has been an extremely eye-opening experience. These next days will hold many more adventures, memories, people, places, and of course, birds! I cannot wait to continue to delve deeper into the beauty that is Costa Rica. Pura Vida!

Happy Birding!