Puerto Viejo Sarapiquí, Costa Rica, 27-31 March 2019

On the 26th March we travelled from Cahuita back to San Jose, arriving in the early afternoon at the wonderful Hotel Casa Ridgeway. Imagine our surprise when we were told there was no water available between the hours of 10am to 10pm. The entire city was on restrictions. The reason? El Nino and altered weather patterns resulting in reduced rainfall.

The following morning we caught a bus to Puerto Viejo Sarapiqui (PVS) – a journey of two hours. So very civilised. As Costa Rica is a small country, we are not experiencing any of the long haul bus journeys in our previous trips to South America.

Above: the blue dots indicates Puerto Viejo Sarapiquí.

Our delightful host Alex, and his family, own Posada Andrea Christina Bed and Breakfast in PVS. It is located approximately half a kilometre from the town centre. A sloth was high in the trees near the front gate. Alex bought two acres of deforested land, a block sloping down to a creek, back in 1975. He lived overseas for ten years, then returned in 1985, and commenced planting numerous species in 1987. E-bird indicates 248 species have been identified on these two acres. Alex, however, has a list of 260 species. Aged 69, he has not lost any of his passion about nature and the environment – he delights in sharing his knowledge. We experienced a couple of sunny warm days when we first arrived – it was a delightful relief to walk into his gardens and experience the immediate cooling effect of all the tall trees and vegetation. I must add the other days were overcast with rain in the afternoons or evenings. This was wonderful as it brought out all the frogs. Alex showed us Red-eyed Green Frogs one evening – four pairs were in full ‘courtship’ mode. The next afternoon, he showed me some of the jelly-like eggs sacks laid under hanging palms leaves. He was like a proud new dad….. On our first evening, Alex was very excited to show us ‘Click bugs’ that appear shortly after dark. Yes, they made a clicking sound, but they are Pyrophorus – they glow constantly when in flight. In contrast, fireflies flash.

We frequently heard Mantled Howler Monkeys, and breakfast near the bird feeder was a delight with Scarlet-rumped Tanagers, Blue-grey Tanagers, and Green Honeycreepers being regulars.

Above: at the bird feeder; left: female Scarlet-rumped Tanager; right: Blue-grey Tanager.

We visited the La Selva Biological Reserve located nearby and participated in a three hour guided tour. The reserve covers 1600 hectares of well preserved old growth forest and sixty-one universities are involved in research. E-bird indicates 493 species. Our guide George asked us what we were interested in. We said we were interested in anything he wanted to show us. John and I found the tour fascinating. For me, it was one of those experiences where you understand the tour guide was highly knowledgeable in his given field, and he explained so many fascinating interconnections between plants and animals and insects. Apart from other general information. It made me realise what a small bubble of a world I live in. So, that said, here is some information and photos from that morning, in random order:

Above: Strawberry Poison Dart Frog

There are two types of sloth. The two toe sloths are brown, can’t hear and can’t swim. The three toe sloths are grey – they can hear and swim. Sloths defecate (poo) once a week. And only on the ground. When on the ground they are very vulnerable to an attack by either pumas, jaguars, leopards and ocelots. All these fore mentioned animals inhabit the reserve. When sloths poo, they loose about a third of their body weight.

Woodpeckers have a cavity behind their brain – when they drum, or peck on a branch, their tongue rolls up into this cavity. Thus they don’t bite their tongues when drumming on branches.

There are 114 bat species in Costa Rica and 72 in La Selva.

Above: Honduran White Bats

George told us about a philodendron type of plant that opens its flower/s around 6pm every evening. Beetles are attracted to the pollen, then after a certain time the flower closes so the beetles are then trapped until 6pm the next evening. Bingo! The beetles are covered in pollen, and are able to pollinate other philodendrons.

Above: Peccary – a pig species.

Above: Keel-billed Toucan. The bill is lime, turquoise and red – it’s a shame the morning was overcast when I took this photo.

Above: Collared Aracari.

We strolled home from La Selva and along the way were extremely excited to see a solitary Great Green Macaw – these birds are endangered. (A few mornings later we saw two pairs fly overhead). We met an older man with a bag of tuber like vegetables. He appeared to be perhaps a little drunk, or maybe had a hang-over as I thought I could smell alcohol. He was very keen to engage us in conversation, and I did my best to explain our limited Spanish. John commenced wandering along the road, leaving me to ‘deal’ with him. Suddenly he was kissing my hands, and had he had the opportunity he would have been hugging me. I pulled away, saying ‘Adios, mi amigo’ and walked to John and told him what had happened. And I said: ‘Well, he hasn’t heard about the #Me-too movement’.

We took back roads for a large portion of the walk home, but eventually we had to walk along the main highway. There was no footpath along the section we walked, and the side of the road sloped down towards fields. Billy-goat slopes. As an aside, the township of PVS has decent footpaths. I became extremely tense at one stage as two huge trucks had to pass on this narrow road – I swear the truck missed me by only inches.

Above: narrow bridge

Other mornings we would walk along a grassed road between paddocks – this road was great for open canopy birdwatching. At one particular location some trees were ripe with small berries – each morning we saw Collared Aracaris, Yellow-throated Toucans and Keel-billed Toucans. Then we followed dense jungle trails looking down onto the Sarapiquí River – some great birds seen were: Snowy Cotinga, Laughing Falcon, Amazon Kingfisher, Green Kingfisher, Red-rumped Woodpecker, Rufous Motmot, Keel-billed Motmot and Black-cowled Oriole. We had hoped to see a Sunbittern, but no luck. We have been using the Merlin bird app from Cornell University (USA) for this trip – it is a wonderful free resource with pictures, maps and calls. We have downloaded maps for countries we plan to visit – it is well worth having a look at this app. Their aim is to eventually list every country and bird….The Merlin app describes the Sunbittern as: ‘One of the most dazzling of all the world’s birds; the intricate yellow, red and black pattern on the spread wings is otherworldly’. Oh well, we still have a chance when we visit Nicaragua. You simply can’t see everything!

Above: squirrel

Puerto Viejo Sarapiquí has a population of 9,600 as stated in the October 2018 Lonely Planet Guide. This seems hard to image as there is one main street with shops, restaurants, and various stores. We were constantly surprised by a high police presence – whenever we were in town late afternoon for a meal we always saw police cars driving slowly around with flashing lights. No sirens. We wondered why there was such a high police presence – we certainly never felt threatened, here, or anywhere else in Costa Rica.

There was a carnival over the weekend at the end of March – these ‘toffee apples’ caught my attention and I thought they would make a good entry in the Royal Melbourne Show.

Above: ‘toffee apples’.

Our next destination is Santa Elena.

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