Day 7/23

Morning

This morning I get up early to return to the cafe where I have been photographing de Hummingbirds, but all feeders have been removed so there are no birds now. I drive back to the Children’s Eternal Rainforest. Actually it reopens at 08:00 (now it is 06:45) but my ticket of yesterday evening is still valid. It is a waste of time to wait here for an hour. I take the Monkey Trail and the Jaguar Trail. The latter goes far into the forest and descends quite fast into the canyon as well. Animals I barely encounter on the way in, so that is bit disappointing. Only 1 Aguti. Somewhere half way the Jaguar Trail it smells strongly like urine, a Jaguar maybe? I am not feeling completely confident about it, you never know. I find a particular photogenic tree.

Tree on the Jaguar Trail.

The trail descends even further down, but I have to keep thinking about the time. Ultimately 12:00 I have to leave the hotel and I have already been 1.5 hours on the trail, descending all the time. Furthermore, I can’t remember anymore whether the Jaguar Trail is a loop trail or not. Continuing now, most probably means I have to walk even further back up. I choose to play safe and start the return. The photo equipment weighs almost 20 kilograms and I really feel all that weight while going up. On the way I see a couple of big black birds and another Aguti. The last one stays a while on ease, but as soon as I open my bag, he leaves. The Tarantula hole of yesterday is easy to find and I repeat the trick with the stick. Forgot to take my flashlight and it is very difficult to see what I am doing. I am unable to get it out.

Back at the entrance I visit the guy at the desk. I am the only one in the park. In the past some cows have been killed and eaten by Jaguars. The farmers were compensated financially for every cow if they did not kill the Jaguar. Sometimes they even did kill them after receiving the money. If I ask him for the urine scent, he tells me that it most probably has been from a cat, but an Ocelot is much more likely than a Jaguar. They will be there as they need a large territory. It is possible that they visit this area sometimes. He has seen all types of cats here in the last 5 years be has never encountered a Jaguar.

There are virtualy know well known stories about Jaguars attacking humans. That is however completely different for the smaller Puma. He tells about a story of a ranger who fighed with a Puma deep in the forest. This took almost 2 hours and he has beaten the animal off him with a large flash light. In the US there are even more frequent attaques by Puma’s because there is less vegetation overthere. In the national parks you are warned often for Puma’s and they always tell you to fight back. Something that does not work with bears.

Then I return to the Hummingbirds . Yesterday I saw that some of these photographs were not as sharp as they could have been and I want to make another set to make sure. At the same time I will try to catch them flying, on photo that is. First I photograph a group of Bananaquits who seem to have claimed their own territory among the feeders.

Bananaquit.

A large blue Hummingbird knows his place among them.

Hummingbird.

Keeping a sharp lookout.

Hummingbird.

A bit further among the other Hummingbirds I see one of my favorites.

Hummingbird.

Let’s try to catch some flying. You can approach them as close as 10 centimeters with your face. This way you can have a really good look while they are slurping up the sugar water. The ratio between sugar:water is 1:3 to 1:4. Too much sugar will kill them. They drink an aweful lot of this stuff. Yesterday I succeeded to touch one at his chest with my finger while he was drinking. They are so small and soft! This particular one is the only one I saw drinking in flight.

Hummingbird.

This morning it is a complete frenzy. They roar throught the sky like madmans and do not allow each other close to the feeders, while there are liters of that stuff are hanging here. Especially the big blue one chases everything and everyone. They seem to fly on steroids. Sometimes they fly very close to your face, touching your skin with their wings. Some, like this one, hover about 20 centimeters in front of the feeder, take a dive to the feeder for a bit of sugar and come back to the same spot in the air. It all goes so fast, but this way I manage to capture one flying.

Hummingbird.

A nice quiet pose in the midst of this madness.

Hummingbird.

I return to the Bananaquits for some nice ones.

Bananaquit.

Bananaquit.

After an hour or so I have finished my second set. Now I am sure they are good. I have caught a couple of them flying. But these are not just that good yet. I need some more practice to make these perfect.

Afternoon

After a brief but necessary shower I check out and drive in the direction of Palo Verde National Park. I will not visit this today anymore. I have learned that with Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve. The parks all close down around 16:00. I travel via some secondary roads to La Ensenada. The bio’s had given that lead to me. At one of the only few spots where I can stop, I shoot a photograph of the surroundings.

Mountains between Monteverde and Palo Verde.

At some point I take a wrong turn ending up in Manzanillo, a somewhat African looking chaos. Lots of people on the street, a lot of waste, old cars and ragged sheds to live in. I turn back as soon as I hit the end of the street at the water.

Soon after I see my first snake. A squashed Boa with a length of around one meter if I have seen it correctly. La Ensenada is situated in a large natural area (La Ensenada Wildlife Refuge) and they do have a cabin for me with hammock. It is really hot here and on this side of Costa Rica there barely falls a drop of rain. I arrive around 14:00 and like to take a rest for some hours. The hammock is much too hot. The first couple of hours I roughly determine my route for the rest of this trip.

Around 16:00 the air cools down a bit and I go to the water. It is a small mangrove forest and there is weathered pier, that will offer some nice sunset possibilities. Some people are standing on the pier so I walk a bit on the beach instead where I scare off a couple of Turkey Vultures quite unexpectedly. These birds ‘hunt’ with their nose. They can smell rotting meat for several kilometers away, even underground. David Attenborough has made a nice piece of film about it.

The vulture lands in a tree somewhat further down the beach. I pass him very slowly without looking and he stays where he is. When I am far enough away from him I setup my tripod. The plan is to move towards him while making photographs. A trick I have learned the last time in New Zealand. Just approach him as close as you can and shoot a photograph at every step. If you notice that the bird is getting nervous then just wait for a while before continuing. This way you definitely have photographs and automatically the best possible as well.

One of the guys at the pier sees what I am up to and wants his bunch of photographs. He comes walking, way to fast and wild. The vulture looks from him to me and back and flies away. I see it happening and can not do anything about it. I would have had the same result if I had yelled or waved at the guy. I really hate this. The clodhopper. I could just shoot one photograph.

Turkey Vulture.

I walk a bit further on the beach, away from these guys hoping to see something else. In the distance there some Howler Monkeys. How far away would that be? The sun is already low on the horizon and the mangroves are in nice warm light. Here I should some photographs but I have to pay for it with a couple of muddy shoes. Stupid, I should have put on my high shoes for this.

Mangroves at La Ensenada.

Evening

The mosquitos are coming and I return to my cabin to put on my ‘dirty’ clothes with long sleeves. Back to the water and the light already starts to getting warmer. The sun is almost setting. I talk a bit with a Swiss couple and some Dutch people. The latter travel by bus and are barely able to tell me to what places they have been.

The pier just before sunset.

Pier just before sunset at La Ensenada.

Sunset over the Nicoya Gulf.

Sunset over the Nicoya Gulf.

Everything is bathed in a deep orange glow where the sun has set.

Nicoya Gulf after sunset.

Far out on the water I notice a small fishing boat that I can get a lot closer with the longest lens.

Nicoya Gulf after sunset.

As soon as the sun sets, everybody is gone. Such a shame, because the really beautiful light still has to come. Half an hour later, the light is supreme.

Nicoya Gulf and pier after sunset.

The long pier looks like it is giving light.

Nicoya Gulf and pier after sunset.

Compare this light with that of an half hour ago during sunset!

Nicoya Gulf and pier after sunset.

The orange glow gets more intense by the minute.

Nicoya Gulf after sunset.

Ripple patterns in the water are also photogenic.

Nicoya Gulf after sunset.

The pattern and colour vary depending on focal length and angle to the sky.

Nicoya Gulf after sunset.

After that it is getting darker very quickly, leaving an even more intense orange colour.

Nicoya Gulf after sunset.

The fisherman is returning to base.

Nicoya Gulf after sunset.

In the hustle I step onto my release cord, breaking it. Luckily I do carry I spare one. Light is fading away very quickly and as a result you can barely see. The moon adds a bit of light, but all the photo equipment is black. I should have got a flash light before setting out here, but it all went so quickly. Changing lenses one after the other and shooting like a madman (-;

This has been a very productive hour. A lot of vividly colored photographs are the result.

At 18:30 there is dinner. I would have expected to meet more animal/nature lovers but this afternoon two busses discharged a whole bunch of Dutch- and Swiss people that only seem to like playing cards. Yuk. A lot of noise and dumb chattering. Not my kind of people.

The food is very good. We get a Casada: a plate with a mix of everything: rice, meat, fruit, vegies and a tortilla. On every table they put a couple of carafes with limonade. I also get one of about 2 liters on my private table and I finish it completely. Unbelievable. After dinner I am done with it and retreat to my own porch. Everywhere around me I hear crickets, while typing this story.

Maps, Charts & Downloads

GPS Map with color coded altitude information

Color coded distance/altitude chart

Color coded distance/altitude chart, Costa Rica Dry Season 2011, Day 7

Download the original gpx file here.

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