I'll Not Be Home for Christmas (Costa Rica - Part 3)

12/24/2021 - 12/15/2021


Slowly racking up posts for this trip. Let's see... there is the post for Esquipulas and the post for Manuel Antonio. This one will be relatively short and covers basically a day's worth of time. Carmen had headed to Costa Rica to take Spanish lessons in Quepos. I followed and met her at the end of her first week; enjoying a weekend together and catching up on some wish list items for her. Throughout the week, I alternated between relaxing in the room and heading out to a couple of locations. In the evenings, we would head to various restaurants (my favorite was the Chinese/Pizza place; yes, you could order Chinese food or Pizza, and they even had carryout roasted chicken) and catch-up on our day. One evening, we headed down for a local Christmas celebration with a light show and Latin-flavored Christmas music.


Now, it is the end of the week. We are heading north as soon as she wraps up classes. The room is packed and everything is ready to go, right? Not quite. She still had some things she wanted to do before we left. It was sunset by the time we left town. Driving after dark in Costa Rica is not the most fun I have ever had. We had a three hour drive north to San Jose. Most of it was on windy, unlit, two-lane roads through various towns. It is Christmas Eve; so, everyone, for the most part, is indoors and celebrating. Christmas Eve is the peak of celebration for most Costa Ricans. As we came to suddenly backed-up and crawling traffic along an unlit stretch of road, it became apparent that not everyone was indoors and celebrating. One guy was running drunkenly down the middle of the road; swaying in and out of traffic as it attempted to get around him. Luckily, that was the worst of it. We finally hit the toll road and slipped into the hotel we always visit when in Costa Rica - Bougainvillea Hotel. Normally, we would get up and bird the grounds the next morning, but I wanted to hit the road right away. We even skipped breakfast.


We were heading to Laguna Del Largarto near the Nicaraguan border. I had a couple stops to make along the way, though. The first place was just north of Braulio Carrillo NP. There is a place labeled as a former butterfly garden that hosts Black-crested Coquette. I wanted to sweep crested coquettes this trip, and this was the best place I knew to try. No joy. The place was gated with no way in. Well, it is Christmas. We headed on and got to Sarapiqui. Since we were in the area and had some time to kill, we headed to one of my favorite places to stop - Dave and Dave's.


I tell everyone about Dave and Dave's. The father and son run a converted palm oil plantation as a nature reserve. Their property actually backs up to some of the fragmented farmland bordering Braulio Carrillo. Greg Basco (a favorite photographer of mine) helped them arrange the original feeder setup there. Since then, many famous wildlife photographers have shot there, and National Geographic has been there several times to film (including an upcoming film on hummingbirds). It has been a little bit since I have been here. They have rearranged things a bit. Both the Daves are looking a bit older (aren't we all?). But they are both still the same great people who are enthusiastic about and love what they do, and it is contagious. You cannot go here and not have a good time. Even on Christmas Day, they were happy and gracious hosts. The nice thing is that you can stop here and safely shoot while you have your luggage with you. You are back in a protected area, and you do not have to worry about your car while there. It makes for a perfect travel break.


We shot and talked for a while. It can be a little distracting, and I forgot to check camera settings at times. So, I blew a few photos. That's about the worst things I can think of. The from pavilion keeps you dry while you a shooting an endless parade of birds. Three species of toucan visit here: Yellow-throated, Keel-billed, and Collared Aracari. You can see both Montezuma and Chestnut-headed Oropendula, too. While they mostly offer the traditional Palm, Scarlet-rumped, Golden-hooded, and Blue-gray Tanager mix, they do spice it up with a beautiful Crimson-collared Tanager from time-to-time. Cute little Olive-backed Euphonia dance around for a spot to feed. Interestingly, both Black-headed and Buff-throated Saltator were present; even is the Black-headed was very shy. Variable Seedeater and Ruddy Ground-Dove shared the ground with Gray-headed Chachalaca, while White-collared Manakin and Red-throated Ant-Tanager skulked in the bushes. Around back, White-necked Jacobin did battle with the Crowned Woodnymph and Rufous-tailed Hummingbird for dominance at the heliconia. On occasion, the shy Bronze-tailed Plumeleteer would jet in for a sip or two before disappearing again. Masked bandits (Bananaquits) commonly raided the flowers, as well.


Throughout the whole thing, one of the Daves would be there to chat and tell you about the birds you are seeing and answer questions about life in Costa Rica.


We stayed until well past lunch and then headed out. We tried to find a nice soda along the way to eat at, but they were all closed. We drove on to our final destination and got there just in time for some shooting before dinner. You can read about that in the next post, though.


Thanks for reading,

Mike





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