Friday, 21 September 2012

Cano Negra Lodge - 11th - 13th August

The journey from El Silencio took us down from the highlands and out towards the north.  Initially in sunshine we watched dark clouds approach us from the west, and eventually we drove into a torrential thunderstorm as we turned off the main road onto the track that led to Cano Negra.  some of the fields were flooded from the ditches and in one area we saw a group of five Wood Storks, and three Roseate Spoonbills.  By the time we reached the lodge the rain had stopped, but the skies threatened more.  As we checked in we became aware that there were not too many people staying here, in fact at that moment we were the only ones.  The room thankfully had air conditioning as it was extremely hot and humid outside.  This wasn't El Silencio, but it was another adventure. 

Once we had sorted ourselves out we decided to walk around the grounds while it was still dry.  The main difference here was the number of parrots flying over calling.  They would perch up high in the trees presenting a challenge judging the light for photographs.  This is a Red-lored Parrot, and they could be seen frequently around the lodge, as they bent their heads to groom you can see the diagnostic blue head and a red patch in front of the eye. 

With the lodge not that busy the wildlife had taken over.  Kiskadees and Tropical Kingbirds could be seen everywhere, and Tanagers were in all the bushes.

This is a White-collared Seedeater that would alternate between the grass and the bushes, singing with a soulful song and whistle.  They were quite common in the area usually being seen as a pair, the females being mostly brown.

We had seen Passarini's Tanager in Selva Verde, but here they seemed to be everywhere in the bushes and trees.

As well as the common flycatchers such as the Great Kiskadee, and the Tropical Kingbird this Dusky-capped Flycatcher was a welcome find.

As the skies got darker and more rain threatened, more and more parrots and parakeets flew over the lodge gardens.  These Olive-throated Parakeets sat nicely in the tree branches picked out by the weak sunshine that managed to force its way between the dark storm clouds.

Shortly after this the heavens opened and we had torrential rain with thunder and lightning.  The thunder and lightning seemingly over head with some incredible claps. 

We quickly learnt what the chains hanging from the corners of the cabins were for, with the rain pouring down them to the ground.

The rain continued off and on into the night, but by morning it was dry but still extremely humid and damp.  After breakfast we set off with Enrico our guide, we were going to tour the river and lagoon, but first we had to walk through the village to the jetty.  The village was quiet with just a few dogs around, and we boarded a small boat without any cover at all, perfect for wildlife watching but useless against the threatening rain.

As we left the jetty we saw a Spectacled Caiman swimming across the lagoon.  It was only a small one, but any crocodile species in the water looks menacing.  We headed up river and pretty quickly it started to rain.  On the banks of the river we saw a Great Egret, and a Jesus Christ Lizard, and then on the opposite side a Snail Kite flew along the hedges and settled in a tree.  Unique to the wetlands it has a very pronounced hook on its bill that allows it to winkle out snails.

The rain was on and off and we turned into one of the lagoons, the area is crossed with power lines and the kingfishers would use these as vantage points, watching the water below.  This is an Amazon Kingfisher.

The lagoons were full, apparently in the dry season you can walk across these, but today they were full of water about four to five feet deep and covered with lily pads.  The lily pads providing an environment for the Northern Jacanas.  There were family parties everywhere all at varying ages.  The parent birds would rush of with wings raised showing the characteristic yellow feathers in an attempt to draw us away from the youngsters.

In the middle of the lagoon was a group of trees that was occupied by Anhingas, they had nested here, and the young birds are the white ones sitting in the trees with their wings held out.  What you can't see is the Spectacled Caiman that is lying under tree in the hope that some one may fall in.

We circled around the lagoon and then made our way back out, scattering more Jacana families as we went through the lily pads.  The flowers were quite impressive appearing as a feathery white flower rather than the normal petal.

As we approached the river, another kingfisher was on the wires, this time it was a female Ringed Kingfisher.

We made our way up river against the flow, it was still raining but not so heavy.  In the trees above us Neotropical Cormorants could be seen and heard, their calls being very distinctive.  They were nesting high up in the branches and could be seen flying in with beaks of sticks and twigs.

A little further on and a large raptor at the top of a tree caught the eye.  It was a Crested Caracara, they are seen as something between a vulture and a hawk, as they quite readily feed on carrion as well as catching prey.  The adult bird looks very impressive with the red face markings and the black cap.

In the bushes by the side of the river there were quite a few small birds, they were impossible to photograph though.  the most impressive was a Barred Antcatcher, and the Tody Flycatcher.  A green Ibis was a new bird that perched on an overhead branch, the green feathers looking iridescent even in the dull conditions.

The Rio Frio was very full and fast flowing, and many branches and logs were being washed along past us.  Another kingfisher presented itself on one of these.  This is a male Green Kingfisher.

And a little further on a dead tree stump in the middle of the river had provided the perfect nesting site for a Black-cheeked Woodpecker

Parrots had been quiet up to now, but we were treated to a flock of Orange-chinned Parakeets.  They flew into the tree as pairs and then decided to call loudly to each other.

The highlight of the tour for me though was finding another trogon.  This is a Black-headed Trogon, and we managed to see both the male and the female, the male having the lovely violet green plumage on the back.

Heading back we zipped along with the flow of the river, we managed though to pause to see this small group of the wonderfully called Grey Chacalacas moving through the trees.

No river boat tour would have been complete without the obligatory stop to see Long-nosed Bats roosting under a log.  This view does provide some variation though.

A Great Egret provided a nice picture against the dark background on the bank.

While this River Turtle looks like it is riding this branch down river.

Leaving the boat and fighting our way through the trees to the road we walked back to the lodge.  We paused for a couple of beers, and as we drank them I was alerted to the calls of a small bird in the car park.  When I investigated I saw that a Banaquit was getting very worked up at it's reflection in a car door mirror, and was calling loudly at itself.  This went on for sometime before the owner of the car scared it off.

After lunch we took the time to rest, it was still very overcast and humid, and it looked like more rain could come at anytime.  There wasn't much else to do but sit and watch the goings on around the lodge.

The first to arrive were the parrots, a group of Red-lored Parrots appeared in the trees outside the cabin.  They announced their arrival with the usual loud calls, then they settled down to preen.  They stayed in pairs and would move slowly around the branches, carefully positioning their feet on the branches.

I sat and watched the antics of the parrots and the comings and goings of the flycatchers and a small House Wren.   A Rufous-tailed Hummingbird buzzed around the heliconas, but didn't stay still for very long.

Movement in the trees turned into some heavy crashing and rustling, which turned into the arrival of some Spider Monkeys.  This upset the parrots who left the trees making a really loud noise  This individual sat out in the open eating the leaves and fruit, taking the time to look around it.  At one stage I am sure it looked at me, but seemed unconcerned and continued eating.

Later in the afternoon I went off for a walk around the village with Enrico.  He had a good knowledge of the birds, and seemed pleased to have someone that was truly interested and wanted to see them.  We had seen his skill at finding the birds on the river tour, but as we walked around I was in awe at how he could spot these birds without any binoculars.

Our first stop was in a butterfly garden, while I these were not in the wild, it was nice to get a closer look at some of the lovely species that you could find here.  Even though they were in captivity they would not stay still, only this Owl Butterfly paused.  I wouldn't normally have included this picture as it is a cage, but I thought it shows of the amazing camouflage this insect has, and how it must look to a potential predator.

We walked the lanes and tracks around the edge of the lagoon, stopping every so often for Enrico to point out a bird or listen for a call.  He found this Squirrel Cuckoo in a tree scrambling about on the trunk.  It became apparent that it was eating caterpillars.  As we looked closer we could see about a dozen caterpillars together under a branch.  The cuckoo would come down pick one off, and then go of to eat it, and then return for another.  We returned a little later and there were still caterpillars there, but no sign of the cuckoo so it wasn't too greedy.

We took one lane down to the river and the lagoon we had explored earlier that day in the boat.  Enrico continued to amaze me as he found Tropical Peewee, Grey-capped Flycatcher, Masked Tyralet, Cinamon Becard, White-winged Becard, and Rufous-winged Woodpecker.  The woodpecker was a winter migrant, and Enrico said it was one of the earliest he had seen.  At the edge of the water you could see across the flat land, and Enrico pointed out the tip of Volcano Arenal through the clouds.  It didn't stay long, and was quickly engulfed again in the cloud.  The round trip by road is about 90 kilometres this has skirt around the wetlands as the crow flies the distance is probably about 40 kilometres.  The volcano will be our next destination.

We walked back along the lane, and found a Lineated Woodpecker attacking a pole.  This is very similar to the Pale-vented Woodpeckers we had been seeing in Torteguero and Selva Verde, but it has a white stripe from the base of the bill and a red crest that distinguishes them from the Pale-vented.  This individual is a male due to the red patch below the white stripe, this is missing in the female.  It was very determined to get into the pole, and seems to use this pole regularly from the condition of the wood.

It was now getting quite gloomy, and we began to make our way back to the lodge.  The road now had houses and gardens on either side, and movement in one of the gardens caught my eye.  A large "chicken" like bird was walking across the grass, when I found a hole in the hedge I could see that it was a Grey-necked Wood-Rail.  It was about the size of a small chicken, and walked slowly away from us into the vegetation at the back of the garden.

That was it for the day, and I headed back to the lodge, and dinner.  The numbers had now reached three couples in the lodge, we had dinner and then an early night.

In the morning, I had a bit of a misunderstanding with the time on my watch, and we were up very early.  So one we had packed, we took the opportunity to walk around the grounds again before breakfast. 

For once the sun was shining, and it was hot despite the time of day.  As usual there were plenty of Great Kiskadees calling from the roofs of the cabins and the surrounding trees and bushes.  This Tropical Kingbird spent most of the morning flycatching from the building opposite our room.

A slightly smaller flycatcher caught my eye, it wasn't as brash as the Kiskadees and the bill is a lot finer.  It was a Social Flycatcher, and despite its name it was all on it's own.

Helen pointed out this "little white bird" high up in the tree, and when I managed to find it I realised that it was something different.  It is a Black-crowned Tityra, which is similar to a masked Tityra but without the red in the bill.  The bill is quite stout, and they feed on insects and small frogs and lizards.

As usual the parrots arrived, and once again the Red-lored Parrots performed and called in the trees outside the room.

The parrots were not the only ones busy in the trees, Montezuma's Oropendulas were also feeding on the fruits, they were pull off a fruit and then trap it with their feet, and use the massive bill to chisel into the fruit.  The seed or stone would then be dropped the noises moved between the calls of the Oropendulas, the movement of the leaves as they foraged, and the thump of the seed as it dropped on the floor.  These large birds are related to orioles, and look spectacular in flight with their yellow tail feathers that give them their name (Oro = gold).

After breakfast we still had a lengthy wait for our pick up so we continued to walk about.  Enrico had mentioned that there had been a Pygmy Kingfisher seen near our room but it wasn't there today, despite some careful looking.  He did find me another new bird though, in the trees near the pool was an Olivaceous Piculet.  This is a tiny woodpecker about as big as a blue tit.  It is olive green in colour, with white flecks on a black crown.

Back at the room and a Black-cheeked Woodpecker decided to preen in the tree right next to the room.  I would have missed it if Helen hadn't have called me over.

As we were about to leave a small party of Spider Monkeys came through the tree tops.  This time there was a mother carrying a baby.  It didn't seem to bother her as she swung from the branches.

Our driver arrived a little before the arranged pick up time, so we set off a little earlier than planned.  I had hoped to see the Roseate Spoonbills again, with it being dry I wanted to try and get some photos, however unfortunately the flooded area where we had seen them was devoid of any birds.

The countryside was grassland with palm trees dotted in amongst the fields.  As we drove along it reminded us of the scenes from Jurassic Park, and as we came around a bend you expected to see herds of Diplodocus grazing past palms.

As we passed a small pool Helen spotted something on the water, our driver stopped for us to get out and we found it sitting on the water under a small tree.  It was a small grebe, and as soon as we saw it it dived, and then came up even further under the tree.  When it came back up I could see a dark grey head, and black bill, but the striking feature was a yellow eye.  it didn't allow a photo, but when I got back in the car and looked it up I found it was a Least Grebe.

From here we drove back along the road we had arrived on two days previously, and then made our way towards La Fortuna.

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