Monday, 4 September 2017

15th August - Curu Nature Reserve, Tambor, Costa Rica

Through the night the sound of the waves breaking on the beach, sounded like a wild storm was going on outside, and that and the air conditioning that kept the room cool did not prepare us for the day as we opened the hotel room.  we stepped out into a warm sunny humid morning, and almost immediately the glasses misted up!

Today we were off on a day trip to Curu Nature Reserve, and then to Tortuga Island for some snorkeling.  After breakfast we waited for a pick up that would take us down to Tambor where we would meet a boat that would take us out across the bay.  On arriving at the dock we walked past local fishermen who were attending to their catch, and then out onto the dock.  There were a lot of small boats about, but nothing that I thought we would be using.  Then a small boat with a sun canopy, and a single outboard motor stated up.  There were seats along the side, but all in all it was quite small, and not what was expected.

As we sat waiting to leave I looked around at the other boast and their captains!


The Brown Pelicans, mostly juveniles were gathering around the end of the the jetty waiting for the remains of the gutted fish to be thrown i, some preferred to wait on the boats.

Our first stop was to be a journey up the Pochote river.  This meant crossing Ballena Bay, or the Bay of Whales.  The crossing was not too bad, the swell reduced through the shelter of the bay.  As we entered the river it was high tide, mangroves lined both sides, and Mangrove Swallows sat on the overhead power lines.

Cruising slowly up the river I hoped for a Kingfisher, this though was not to be.  Helen found a juvenile Black-crowned Night Heron hidden away in the branches of the mangroves.


We disturbed a Whimbrel from the same area, and this flew away but we managed to relocate it a little further up the river.


It was joined by a Green Heron and Spotted Sandpiper.  Just as it began to look interesting we were told it was now to shallow to go any further and that we had to turn back.  As we headed back down the river we stopped to watch the small crabs on the mangrove stalks.
 


From the Pochote we headed out of the bay and into the open ocean, the swell now increased and the ride was a little more bumpy as the small craft rode the waves.  we we re heading for the Caru Nature Reserve.  We landed on Playa Curu, and Helen and I got off, our French travelling companions stayed on as they were going snorkeling on the island.

After drying off our feet and putting on walking shoes we paid the entrance fee and set off with our guide into the reserve.



Curu is privately owned and part of a large farm which combines sustainable agriculture and forest management with the protection of wildlife and nature.  Of the 1,496 hectare property only 5 %  are protected under the terms of a "wildlife reserve". This zone encompasses the 200 metre wide beach area, together with the mangrove estuaries and rivers.  Curu boasts a rich and diverse wildlife in five different habitat types that range from marine zones and mangrove swamps, to tropical dry and moist forest, as well as farmland.


We were walking through the mangrove swamp to start, along the main track that led to the beach.  Crabs were all around us of varying size.  As we walked past they would scurry away into their holes in the mud.

We came across our first iguana of the trip, we had a fleeting glimpse of one as we rode down from Monteverde, the van almost hitting it as it ran across the road.  This one though sat on the trunk of a tree basking in the warm morning sunshine.



then a large brown and cream butterfly flew past with that "floppy" style of flight exhibited by the Blue Morpho.  It settled on the side of a tree trunk and we could see that it was a Calico Owl butterfly.  



As you can see the butterfly has two large round eyes. It is thought that the eye pattern is a form of mimicry. It is known that many small animals hesitate to go near patterns resembling eyes with a light-colored iris and a large pupil, which looks like the appearance of the eyes of many predators that hunt by sight.  The main predators of Caligo are apparently small lizards such as Anolis.



They only fly for short distances so that any predator has problems following them.  Their preferred flight time is dusk, or under the darkness of the forest canopy.  Their Latin name Caligo may also refer to this behaviour as it means "darkness".

On a nearby tree there was another butterfly, this one a Gray Cracker.




Birds were busy in the trees above us, a Tropical Gnatcatcher moved quickly through the trees not stopping very often.  A female Rose-throated Becard did though above us.


In the palms Rufous-naped Wrens were very active.



 While a Clay-coloured Thrush was searching for food along the edge of the path in front of us.



 Light dappled through the leaves of the trees, and where the sunlight came through there would be butterflies.  This Adelphia Sister was to become a very common butterfly.



A small river meandered around alongside the track, and we passed it several times. Warning signs highlighted the presence of crocodiles but we never saw anything.  


There was the brief sighting of a Belted Kingfisher as it sped past, and the familiar call of the the Spotted Sandpiper as it flew off as we approached.  Fortunately this Bare-throated Tiger Heron sat still by the side of the water.  It was dark and I had to enhance this picture to show the heron.



 Small Lizards were now using the sunny spots to warm up.  These are Amevia Lizards.



Probably the same species but at different stages of maturity.



 Everywhere the bright orange colours of the Heliconia flowers stood out against the dark background of the forest.



More butterflies, this is a Long-tailed Skipper.



In flight this butterfly was electric blue, but once settled it kept the wings tightly closed, and I have not been able to identify it.



Leaf cutter ants crossed the path, and there trails could be seen extending well into the forest, the paths standing out where these tiny ants have moved back and forth.  Why they travels such long distances is a wonder as there are leaves all around them!



 More butterflies were seen as we turned off the track and into the forest.  This looks like a type of Swallowtail, but may also be a Heliconia butterfly mimicking one.  I could not identify it positively.



This is a skipper, and while you cannot see it here due to the dark background and bright sunshine the lighter areas on the upper side were electric blue.



A Julia Longwing.


 As we walked alongside the river a Pair of Raccoons came down to the water, and then crossed and disappeared into the forest. 

Birds were active in the trees about us.  This is the back end of a Barred Antshrike.  You can make out the black and white bars on the wings and tail that give it the name.



The path them came out into an opening where there was a large pond, surrounded by verbena, that was covered in Sulphur Yellow butterflies.  As we walked forward we were aware of a female White-tailed Deer standing in front of us.


Access was difficult to the flowers but we could walk down to the pond.  Again signs warned of crocodiles but our guide seemed unconcerned.  The pond was covered in Lily pads, and on the leaves a pair of Northern Jacanas were busy feeding.


Scanning around the edge of the pond I found a small duck sitting motionless by the side of the water.  It was a Black-bellied Whistling Duck.


Movement in the trees surrounding the pond revealed another Bare-throated Tiger Heron.


We left the pond and headed back into the forest.  As we crossed the river once again a Black Iguana was sitting on one of the overhanging branches.


We were heading back towards the main track, and again the path opened out into a clearing.  A pair of Rufous-naped Wrens were extremely vocal, annoyed about something in the grass close to the tree they were in.  We searched the grass but found nothing that could be considered a threat!


Out on the main track we stopped under some tall trees, a woodpecker was busy moving along the low branches.  This is a Hoffman's Woodpecker.


An Inca Dove sat confidingly on a low branch, allowing a close approach.  The detailed markings are quite beautiful, but this is a common dove, similar in standing to our Collared Dove.


Our guide then pointed out our first monkey of the trip.  A Howler Monkey lounging in the branches high in the canopy.


A typical pose for this the largest of the Costa Rican monkeys, and he seemed to be totally unconcerned with us watching him.


As we headed back to the reserve centre we passed the meandering river once again.  The Bare-throated Tiger Heron was still there, but this time a little more animated as it hunted in the shallow water.


A green lizard appeared to have replaced the iguana we had seen at the start of the walk.  This looks like a Green Iguana, not yet fully mature.


As we crossed a small stream we noticed the fish in the water below.  They were easily seen by the white spots they had just above the eyes.


As we changed out of our boots a dark blue and yellow bird, a Trogon, flew past, and fortunately settled in a nearby tree.  As is always the way with trogons it sat with its back to me. 


From the eye ring, and the pattern on the tail this is a Black-headed Trogon.  I tried to get a better view but it flew off into the darkness of the forest.

We now had to wade out once again into the sea to get into the boat.  here you can see the size, not a grand cruiser!



As we headed out to sea, looking back you can get an idea of the beach.



We headed out to Tortuga island where we were to snorkel.  we approached one of the small rocks off shore, but looking down the water did not look very clear.  I went in, and swam up to the rocks but could not see beyond about a foot from my face.  I could just make out a few Sargent Major fish, but they are mostly surface feeders.  The snorkeling lasted about 15 minutes before I decided it was a waste of time.  I climbed backinto the boat and we headed to the island for lunch.  We spent about an hour on the beach for lunch, with Frigatebirds and Pelicans cruising by.  We were not the only inhabitants it appears this is a popular spot, and as we left the floating banana was being toed out with helmet clad riders clinging on.

The journey back to Tambor took us between Tortuga Island and Alcatraz Island.  The tide rushing between the islands making some impressive waves to ride.  Once out in the open the swell was again very heavy as we rode the waves back to Tambor.

Back at the hotel we settled in at the pool and alternated with dips in the ocean.  The waves were incredibly strong and represented some quite challenging forays into the sea.

As the light faded the Orange-fronted Parakeets gathered once again in the palms surrounding the balcony.



  This evening the sky was clear enough to give us the first sunset on the Pacific Ocean, with pink light being highlighted by the spray from the crashing waves.


 Tomorrow was planned to be a quiet day, but I am sure we will have to go off exploring the grounds at some stage.



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