Before arriving in Costa Rica we had decided on four places to base ourselves for a two-week stay, based in part on Barrett Lawson's site guide to the country "Where to watch birds in Costa Rica" (Helm, 2009).
Lawson's book is very thorough, and what comes across well is the notion that moving a short distance to a new site can produce lots of new birds. Different elevations and different habitat types can hold differing sets of species, even though Costa Rica is not a big country.
So we moved from "Caribbean Middle-Elevations" (Rancho Naturalista) to another part of the same zone, Arenal Volcano National Park. While Rancho is a former coffee plantation in a fairly rustic corner of the country, the volcano at Arenal and the nearby town of Fortuna have become the centerpieces of some fairly intense tourist activity. Hiking, horse riding, zip-lining and white-water
rafting are all industries that got kick-started when tourists came to gawp at Arenal Volcano, which was active between 1968 and 2010.
We stayed at Arenal Observatory Lodge.
|Observation deck at the Lodge|
|Oropendolas in control - apart from two Brown Jays|
The hotel was busy and well-run, but not exclusively for birders. The much-vaunted view of the volcano was obscured by mist for most of our stay, but the birds were more than adequate compensation. The deck at the front of the restaurant had a fine view of the bird-feeding set-up, which was usually dominated by Montezuma Oropendolas.
|Arenal Volcano - we could almost see the top !|
And, of course, many of the other birds we saw were new to us, both on the trails and along the access road.
Although we had seen one rather mangy Coati at our previous site, at Arenal they went around in large groups, and were obviously well used to cadging scraps of food from visitors.
|Shall we be friends ?|
Here's one who thinks Jemi is going to give it some food. Wrong ! Obviously, we had no intention of feeding any animals that should be "wild".
|Don't think we'll try this in the Hire Car|
Finally, photographed from the car at a small bridge, another member of the "Green Kingfishers of Central America" set !