Friday, 1 September 2017

14th August - Monteverde to Tambor, Costa Rica

After the cloud that wrapped itself around the hotel yesterday afternoon, it was nice to wake in the morning to see views of blue sky, some sunshine and windows of distant hills and mountains.  The parrots were still calling from the surrounding trees, but this morning the attraction was the view from the hotel balcony.

The clouds were constantly moving, and as they drifted away we could make out the distant Arenal volcano.

As well as calls of the parrots and parakeets the Social Flycatchers and Tropical Kingbirds are also very communicative, calling from vantage points the birds fly into gather together.

We had breakfast on the balcony watching the clouds unfurl away in the distance, today we were moving on, this time to the Nicoya Penisula away to the west.  Our destination was the town of Tambor.  However, we still had sometime before leaving to wander the grounds of the hotel in the morning sunshine.

The gardens were full of flowering bushes and trees, and we made our way down towards the pond at the bottom of the hill.  Yet another large flycatcher appeared, this time the Boat-billed Flycatcher, so called for the heavy size of the bill.

Even at this early hour in the morning there were plenty of butterflies on the wing, nectaring on the flowers of the bushes.  This is a Tiger Longwing coming to verbena.

At the bottom of the gardens by the pond we came across the Brown Jays that I had seen yesterday from the room balcony.  As ever they were in a group and very vocal.  As we approached they flew to the safety of the trees, but remained inquisitive watching us as I positioned to try and get a photograph.

Looking up from the bottom of the gardens the Hotel looked very grand situated on the side of the hill and surrounded by the trees.

In the trees surrounding the grounds there were a few Blue-gray Tanagers buzzing about.

The tanagers, comprise the bird family Thraupidae, in the order Passeriformes. The family has solely an American distribution, and are the second-largest family of birds, representing about 4% of all avian species and 12% of the Neotropical birds

At the bottom of the gardens the sun was able to light up the lawn and bushes, and this window of warmth was an attraction to the butterflies.  This is I think, a Squared Bent Skipper, as it sat in the sun it seemed to wrap the wings around the flower head.

We had seen the Banded Peacock briefly while in San Jose, but here we managed to get some great views.

I found a very sheltered sunny spot and the butterflies duly appeared.  This is the Montane Longwing

 Seen better from above.

The Tiger Longwing again, or Hecale Longwing, Golden Longwing or golden heliconian, is a heliconiid butterfly that occurs from Mexico to the Peruvian Amazon.  Heliconiid Butterflies are a colorful and widespread genus of brush-footed butterflies commonly known as the longwings or heliconians.   

These butterflies exhibit a striking diversity and mimicry, both amongst themselves and with species in other groups of butterflies and moths. The study of Heliconius and other groups of mimetic butterflies allowed the English naturalist Henry Walter Bates, following his return from Brazil in 1859, to lend support to Charles Darwin, who had found similar diversity amongst the Galapagos finches.

This was a smaller butterfly than the other longwings, and is a Black-bordered Tegosa.  Commonly found in elevations up to 1800m.

This is the Moneta Longwing, and here there is a good example of how the Heliconiids mimic other butterflies.  The Moneta showing a close resemblance to a fritillary.  This species is very migratory, and can be found at altitudes as high as 3,500m, and anywhere there is a sunny place.

No butterfly display would be complete without the presence of a Blue Morpho, and one came flapping into the area, expertly, for such a slow flight, weaving its way through the bushes and leaves, and of course not once stopping.

There are in fact 29 species of Morpho, this is Morpho helenor.

The flowers were not only an attraction to the butterflies.  A Steely-vented Hummingbird was jealously guarding a row of verbena bushes while perched in a tree above them.

It would swoop down, dart around the flower heads then return to it's perch below the canopy.

More butterflies though, this time a Pale Sicklewing.  This again is a fairly common species, a member of the “Batwing” skippers, and found at altitudes between about 200-1600m in habitats such as forest edges, roadsides and river beaches.

Another familiar sight amongst the butterflies is that of a large long-winged orange butterfly.

The dazzling orange Julia Longwing is widespread and common in the southern United States, Central America and much of the Caribbean,  they fly in rainforest and deciduous forests, but are commonly encountered in disturbed open habitats such as forest clearings, cattle pastures, along riverbanks, and in flowery gardens.

Our pick up was at 9.00, and we travelled down hill from Monteverde in lovely sunshine, and we could fully appreciate the wonderful lush greens of the trees and grassland around us, something that had been totally obscured when we travelled up a couple of days ago.

The views across the valleys were absolutely stunning.

As we descended Helen spotted several Swallow-tailed Kites soaring around the side of the mountain, and over the road.  We pulled over and were able to get some wonderful views of this spectacular raptor.

These birds are creatures of the sky, spending most of their day in the air and rarely flapping their wings. They tend to circle fairly low over trees as they hunt for small animals and insects in the branches. At times they can soar very high in the sky, almost to the limits of our vision.

There were also Turkey and Black Vultures circling with the Kites but I was also able to pick out a Short-tailed Hawk amongst them.

There are pale and dark versions of this hawk, this clearly being the dark phase.  Despite the name they do not have a short tail.  Distinguishing features are the black borders that tip the primary and secondary wing feathers.

And with the hawks and Kites drifting away that was the end of our visit to Monteverde.  We both agreed we should have spent more time here, the habitats and the hotel were superb, and there are still many more bird to see that will encourage us to return.  Our journey now takes us down to the Pan American Highway, and then to Punta Arenas, where we would board a ferry across the Gulf of Nicoya to Paquera.

As we drove down the road towards the Ferry terminal we ran alongside the sea where Great Egrets could be seen on the shore, Brown Pelicans on the water and above us soared Magnificent Frigatebirds.

The ferry departed at 11.00am, as passengers we had to board on foot and made our way to the top deck.  Around us we could see the forests and mangroves coming down to the waters edge.  Our next destination would be in a different habitat, dry forest as opposed to rain forest.

As we headed pout from the port Brown Pelicans cruised past us with effortless ease.

Ahead of us we could see the clouds building over the highlands of the peninsula.

As we moved into the middle of the Gulf there were rafts of dead wood and tree trunks moving north.  This is a feature of the Pacific Ocean, and as a result of the Californian current sweeping down the west coast of North America, this combines with the Equatorial count current sweeping north from Panama.

The logs though provided suitable resting places for the Black Terns.

What I thought at first was a log turned out to be a pair of Green Turtles in a mating embrace, only the males head can be seen rising high out of the water.

As we came closer to the east coast of the peninsula, we could see various islands just off shore.

The waves breaking on the shallower water surrounding the islands.

 Closer to shore large rafts of Brown Pelicans could be seen.

Docking in Paquera, a Snowy Egret was fishing on the shore, while Spotted Sandpiers flew across the open water.  Once off the ferry and reunited with our transport we headed to our destination. 

The Nicoya Peninsula is on the Pacific coast of Costa Rica. It is divided into two provinces: Guanacaste Province in the north, and the Puntarenas Province in the south.

This is one of the largest dry tropical forest areas in the Americas. Dry tropical forests are unique with many deciduous broad-leaf trees and vegetation that survive with much less water than a tropical rainforest. It endures a dry season lasting approximately eight months, yet is still home to a splendid diversity of plants, trees and wildlife.  Our trip though was timed in the wet season, which made it feel similar to the rain forests we had come from.

It took just over 30 minutes to reach our hotel, the Tango Mar Beach Hotel just outside Tambor.  Our room was on the beach, with spectacular views and sounds of the ocean.

We spent the afternoon by the pool, and then in the late afternoon retired back to our room.  The palm trees surrounding the buildings rang out with the noisy calls of Orange-chinned Parakeets as they collected ahead of going to roost.

Sometimes hard to see, every so often they would appear on the palm fronds in front of the balcony.

As with all parrots they are very social, and also active in pairs.  This couple had just exchanged some loud calls, and then went about biting each other.

Watching the parakeets I noticed movement below me around the flowering bushes.  It was another species of Hummingbird, the Cinnamon Hummingbird.

Cinnamon Hummingbird is completely cinnamon below, with bronze-green upperparts.  It is common in dry forests, where it is present year round.  Cinnamon Hummingbird occurs along the Pacific slope from western Mexico south to north-western Costa Rica.

Unlike many other hummingbirds the bill of Cinnamon Hummingbird is extensively red, with only the tip black, it was this that immediately alerted me to a new species.

The Cinnamon Hummingbird weighs in at about 6 grams, and has a body length of just under 10 centimetres long.

It was by now quite gloomy as the tropical day ended.  We would be heading out on the sea tomorrow, another adventure.

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