Thursday, March 7, 2013

Day 4: into the lowlands

After a pleasant couple of days in the central part of the country we crested over the mountains and dropped onto the Caribbean slope.  We found out what the mountains were blocking.  First clouds, then mist, then a torrential downpour (as we descended a wide but unlined "highway" with 18 wheelers frequently passing in the middle lane around blind curves in either direction) washed us out from a mid-elevation stop at Braullio Carillo Nat'l Park.  We arrived in the lowlands with a little spare time.  Not surprisingly Steven knew how to fill it.

Toucans and Passerini's Tanager stated appearing along the roadsides.

Mike spotted a Bare-throated Tiger-heron foraging along the grassy shoulder.  We actually turned around for it (though did end up seeing another a few days later).
With the extra time in the evening we drove onto a side road where Steven knew that Great Green Macaws sometimes appeared before going to roost.  We quickly saw Red-lored Parrots, Olive-throated Parakeets, and a Bat Falcon as mist turned to light rain.  The macaw then started calling.  I had hoped we might get to see one (it and quetzal were the two I most wanted to see of the birds I thought we had a chance at) and we drove a little further to get closer to the tree.
Sure enough, there was a distant Great Green Macaw, the first (and only) wild Macaw I've ever seen feeding in some kind of nut tree.  After a couple tries it pulled a nut off and, holding it with its foot, manipulated it with its bill to work the husk off.  For some reason when he flew I only fired a couple bursts instead of just holding down the shutter in full auto so I've got a gap in the montage below.
Apparently these birds are dependent on big isolated mature trees in the middle of open areas for nesting and foraging.  A conservation project is in place that actually buys the individual trees they use (for up to a couple thousand a pop) so the birds don't lose the trees they most depend on.  Per Steven their numbers right now are at least stabilized.

An Olive-crowned Yellowthroat popped up from the hedgerow we stood in front of watching the macaw.

Dusk came quickly, dropping the heat (though humidity remained at least 95%), I don't know when I've been more thankful for air conditioning on this trip than in the lowland motel.  The humidity was good for amphibians though.  Mike and Mindy located a Red-eyed Leaf Frog (if I have the name right), one of the charismatic jungle dwellers we've all seen pics of.  Mike was nice enough to take me back to it.

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