Saturday, April 20, 2013

Carara National Park

We stayed in Jaco, not for the beach or for the surf, but for its proximity to Carara National Park.  The park itself doesn't open until 7am and then you have to go to a sub-office to pay for your permit for the day before selecting the trail you want to walk.  We left our hotel before dawn and drove instead to Tarcoles where there's a small river down to the Pacific Coast.

A family of White Ibis were feeding in the early morning light:


Further down a Bare-throated Tiger-Heron, you can see in this juvenile where they get their name from:


The end of the river and the buffer between it and the Pacific Ocean:


We left Tarcoles and headed the short distance to Carara.  Mr Over-Excited of Northampton spotted a Scarlet Macaw fly out of the park, across the road and alight on a very tall tree nearby.  The local drivers weren't amused but I couldn't not stop and take a picture could I?


We parked-up, paid, and then headed to the main trail of the park.  En route we passed the same group of French birders we'd met at La Ensenada.  We also passed other birding groups.  The guides were quite upset we were doing our own thing and were either pushy in trying to sell other stuff they had organised or sniffy when we were close-by.  We overcame this by spotting a really good number of birds, some of which some guides then jumped on to show their parties.  I should point out that some guides were genuinely friendly, but it was a fairly mixed bunch we encountered, reinforcing our doubts about long-term guided tours in future...

We actually had a really good morning birding and spotted lots of birds, including this Black-hooded Antshrike:


It's not all birds, when you go looking for them you tend to be in the right place to see lots of other wildlife  as these white-face capuchins demonstrate:


Something fascinating about the tail of the monkey on the left:


One bird that we saw pretty much everywhere was the Chestnut-sided Warbler:


We saw them in all sorts of differing plumages, hopefully a bird firmly imprinted on the brain now... time will tell!

The forest has lots of Ant related birds including this Dot-winged Antwren:


A Dusky-capped Flycatcher was singing and feeding:


Our first Northern-barred Woodcreeper:



The sound of 'popcorn' alerted us to the present of a Manakin lek, in this case an Orange-collared Manakin lek.  This male in particular was fluffed up and displaying for an extended period::






Fabulous birds, and like the other Manakin species they perform intensely as soon as a female arrives.

Further down the trail we encountered two Rufous-naped Wrens, hanging upside-down to feed:


And then a loud cackle overhead drew our attention to a pair of Scarlet Macaws, settling high above us to feed.  Amazing birds and absolutely great to see them extending their range through the National Park system, they are recolonising places they've not been seen in for over 70 years thanks to the dedicated efforts across the country and internationally.  Costa Rica really does deserve recognition for its work in creating space for and then investing in the diversity of life.



Other birds encountered included a Slate-headed Tody-Flycatcher:


I swear I saw a White-tipped Sicklebill feeding on this plant, I was fractionally too slow to capture it though:


Towards the end of the trail, at least the bit we were going to do, a small marsh/swamp area:


With a lone Great Blue Heron looking for food:


Carara is as good as it is billed.  Lots of birds, a huge park with some access, and Scarlet Macaws.  Fantastic!  We headed back to our hotel in Jaco smiling broadly.

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