Categories
Costa Rica living Introduction

Costa Rica Independence Day

Today, September 15th, is Independence Day for Costa Rica! This means a national day off to commemorate when Costa Rica declared independence from Spain in 1821. It also means an end to band practice at the Mauro Fernandez high school in Tibas with a concurrent commencement of afternoon peace for the surrounding neighborhood. For the past three months our neighborhood has been witness to the daily afternoon ritual of drum and xylophone madness. Interestingly enough, this torrent of sound seemed to coincide with the start of the daily afternoon downpours. It was like a staccato competition; the fury of adolescent angst against rain pounding on tin roofs. All this practice was meant for today when the band got to march through Tibas and sonically demonstrate why they are failing their classes. They marched along with several other school bands in a parade that lasted for about three hours. We watched the latter half of the parade along with hundreds of other people from the main park in Tibas. We missed the first half because we have a one month old baby. I think that’s going to be my excuse for everything. Like if someone asks me why I think it’s Tuesday when it’s Wednesday, where I have been, what have I been up to, I will show them a picture of Miranda. It was cool to see the second half though and didn’t miss our neighborhood high school because they finished up the parade.

When we got to the park, there were people everywhere. I don’t know where they came from. I mean I see very few people on the streets of residential Tibas. I guess they stay in their houses, watch TV and drink coffee (based upon experience with my mother in law). Well, they all came out today to watch the parade, drink “Imperial” (beer of Costa Rica), socialize and drink more Imperial. My father in law was one of those. In fact, he came down from the hills to watch the Tibas show (he lives higher up in Moravia). He said it was like driving through a labyrinth of parades to get here but it was worth it. Paul likes fiestas of all sorts; one of his favorite activities is singing karaoke at his house. Here he is shading his partner, Julieta, who in turn is helping Miranda partake in her drink of choice.

  

Here’s a patriotic shot of flag carriers passing in front of the church where we got married.

 

These kids announced the arrival of their school; Kamuk. I don’t know where that name came from but it makes me think of elephants.

 

 

Much of the Kamuk school carried placards denouncing television. Seriously, they were very anti-TV. These kids dressed as firefighters have a sign that says, “No more Tricks! TV producers respect us! You need us kids to help you with TV shows.”

 

 

This semi threw me for a loop until I realized it was carrying a float.

 

 

Then the float through me for a loop because it looked like it was full of garbage! Check out the fake Great-tailed Grackles picking at garbage next to some dirty kids.

 

 

It was actually a pro-recycling float and even had a singer! I couldn’t hear what she was saying but suppose it was something along the lines of, “Recycle, recycle before you are all smudgy and have to fight over garbage with

Great-tailed Grackles!” On the back of the float, a sign read, “Together we make a culture of peace”.

 

 

Kamuker girl scouts; sorry, no cookies today.

 

 

Most schools had someone dressed up like a red-cross worker. Poor kid; looks like he’s thinking of rescuing himself after marching around for hours in the tropical heat.

 

One school saluted the crowd.

 

 

 

There were even a few of these traditional “mascaradas”- giant puppet/mask like things meant to entertain and/or frighten (kind of like clowns except not as scary).

 

 

I think this one was supposed to be Che or Fidel saying, “Watch out kids! Here I come with my own special brand of forced socialism!”

 

The Mascaradas came with a cool pro-ecological truck.

 

 

There were also kids in traditional dress parading…

 

and in the audience.

 

Costa Rican majorettes.

 

 

Last but not least, the Mauro Fernandez band arrives on the scene with flags…

 

 

and then the fruits of the drumming practice we had been force fed. I must admit that their practice paid off and by the amount of applause they received I think the rest of Tibas agreed. 

 

Categories
Introduction Panama birding Panama trips

Birding at David and the Lost and Found eco-hostel, Panama

In early August, 2008 I took a short trip from Costa Rica to David and the Lost and Found eco-hostel, both in Chiriqui, Panama. I would have liked to explore more around David but due to time and transportation limitations, wasn’t able to look for Veraguan Mango. Nor was I able to bird the extensive mangroves and nearby forested islands in the Chiriqui gulf. Nevertheless, I hope to give birders an idea of what to expect and at the same time encourage them to explore underbirded, promising areas near David. I certainly hope to do so at some future time.

Birding in David

David, the second largest city in Panama, is pretty birdy as a result of green space in the form of empty lots, gardens and many remnant trees. Found in the Pacific slope lowlands of western Panama, David is hot and humid and located at the junction of drier habitats to the east and wet forests of the Chiriqui Endemic Bird Area to the west. As is the case of most urbanized areas, birding is better outside of the city but if you can’t do that at least you should see a fair number of widespread neotropical species. I visited Pedegral Port one morning hoping to get images of aquatic species. Although I didn’t get lucky with aquatic birds, it sounds like a boat trip through nearby mangroves would be very worthwhile according to Guido Berguido who apparently found Yellow-billed Cotinga!

Pedregal is found at the end of the main road heading south from the airport. There is a small yacht club with small restaurant. Overall, the place was undeveloped; don’t expect that to last for long! This would be an excellent place for mangrove education and tourism. I took a taxi there for about $3-$4. Buses are also available but may be infrequent.

The following is a list of species (most very common) recorded while casually birding around the Parque Cervantes and empty lots and shaded streets near the Purple House Hostel http:// www.purplehousehostel.com as well as a few hours one morning at Port Pedegral. There are certainly many more possibilities including at least a few owl species:

P= only recorded Pedregal

Magnificent Frigatebird (P)

Anhinga (P)

Great Egret (P)

Little Blue Heron (P)

Neotropic Cormorant (P)

Black-bellied Whistling Duck (P)

Spotted Sandpiper (P)

Collared Forest Falcon (P)

Yellow-headed Caracara

Crested Caracara

Black Vulture

Turkey Vulture

Pale-vented Pigeon

White-tipped Dove

Ruddy Ground Dove

Red-lored Parrot

Blue-headed Parrot

Crimson-fronted Parakeet

Orange-chinned Parakeet

Brown-throated Parakeet

Squirrel Cuckoo

Short-tailed Swift

Mangrove Swallow (P)

Grey-breasted Martin

Rufous-tailed Hummingbird

Blue-crowned Motmot

Lineated Woodpecker

Red-crowned Woodpecker

Barred Antshrike

Tropical Kingbird

Piratic Flycatcher

Social Flycatcher

Boat-billed Flycatcher

Great-crested Flycatcher

Dusky-capped Flycatcher

Common Tody Flycatcher

Yellow-crowned Tyrannulet

Southern Beardless Tyrannulet (P)

Yellow-bellied Elaenia

House Wren

Cay-colored Robin

Bananaquit

Baltimore Oriole

Orchard Oriole

Bronzed Cowbird

Great-tailed Grackle

Blue-grey Tanager

Buff-throated Saltator

Black-striped Sparrow

Thick-billed Seed Finch

Blue-black Grassquit

Yellow-faced Grassquit

Yellow-bellied Seedeater (P)

Below are some bird photos from David and Pedregal

Blue-black Grasquit; one of the most common neotropical bird species.

Crimson-fronted Parakeets are especially common in David.

Mangrove Swallows fall into the cute category.


Red-crowned Woodpecker is one of the most common birds in David

Ruddy Ground Doves are also pretty common

Tropical Kingbirds are aggressive!

The Lost and Found Eco-Hostel

The Lost and Found Eco-Hostel is probably one of the only hostels in the world nestled within it’s own cloud forest preserve. After running into several of their pamphlets at other Panamanian hostels, I finally got the chance to visit for a few days in early August, 2008. Located at 1,200 meters on the Pacific slope, aside from some shade coffee and a small orchard, this hostel is surrounded by a large area of old growth moist and cloud forest. Birding was pretty good around the hostel itself with American Swallow-tailed Kite being one of the more common, spectacular species. For most of the day at least a dozen graced the sky with their aerial acrobatics. Mixed flocks and frugivores often came through the trees near the hostel, especially the forest edge at the trailhead.

The few trails that accessed the forest were fairly muddy and rough but offered good birding and extended for a few ks. One trail apparently reaches a river and enters forest with a more Caribbean slope aspect. The upper part of the trail that follows a ridge with stunted trees and bamboo probably has specialties such as Maroon-fronted Ground Dove and Blue Seedeater.

Although one of the owners, Andrew, is there most of the time, it’s probably best to contact them before visiting. Both he and Patrick were very helpful and friendly. They manage the place quite well and even have a feeding platform for nocturnal animals. I look forward to my next visit.

For more information including pricing and directions, see http://birdingcraft.com/wordpress and http://www.moreinpanama.blogspot.com

Lost and Found email: thepanpro@yahoo.com

Phone: 65819223 or 66545961

The following is a list of all species recorded (66 total) during a stay of about three days with notes on abundance. As I was focused on bird photography, birders working the trails should come up with several more species. Regional endemic taxa are highlighted, a few photos at the end.

Little Tinamou

heard below orchard

Black-breasted Wood Quail

few coveys heard

Black Guan

a few seen fruiting trees

Turkey Vulture

a few seen

Short-tailed Hawk

1 seen

White Hawk

1 seen

American Swallow-tailed Kite

very common

Band-tailed Pigeon

a few flyovers

Ruddy Pigeon

1-2 heard

Chiriqui Quail Dove

1 quick flyby in orchard

Sulphur-winged Parakeets

good views of flyby flocks

Mottled Owl

1 heard

Squirrel Cuckoo

1 seen

White-collared Swift

100 or so in flock

Green Hermit

several seen

Green Violetear

several seen

Violet Sabrewing

a few seen

Rufous-tailed Hummingbird

a few seen

Mountain Gem species

a few seen

White-tailed Emerald

several in orchard-quite common

Orange-bellied Trogon

a few seen

Emerald (Blue-throated) Toucanet

several seen

Prong-billed Barbet

a few seen

Golden-olive Woodpecker

a few seen

Red-crowned Woodpecker

a few near road

Spotted Barbtail

pair in forest

Red-faced Spinetail

a few near orchard

Spectacled Foliage-gleaner

several-pretty common

Lineated Foliage-gleaner

one heard forest

Spotted Woodcreeper

1-2 seen

Wedge-billed Woodcreeper

1 seen

Olivaceous Woodcreeper

1 seen

Ruddy Woodcreeper

pair in forest

Rufous-breasted Antthrush

1-2 heard

Immaculate Antbird

a few heard

Slaty Antwren

few in forest

Three-wattled Bellbird

1-2 heard

Dusky-capped Flycatcher

1 pair

Tropical Peewee

1 orchard

Yellowish Flycatcher

common around hostel

Paltry Tyrannulet

several

Mountain Elaenia

a few

House Wren

hostel mascot

Gray-breasted Wood Wren

A few heard

Southern Nightingale Wren

1 heard

Orange-billed Nightingale Thrush

several, common around hostel

White-throated Thrush

1 seen

Mountain Thrush

few seen

Long-billed Gnatwren

fairly common forest

Tawny-crowned Greenlet

A few forest

Lesser Greenlet

Several

Brown-capped Vireo

Several

Three-striped Warbler

A few forest

Golden-crowned Warbler

A few

Bananaquit

A few

Tropical Parula

Several

Slate-throated Redstart

Several

Common Bush Tanager

A few

Scarlet-thighed Dacnis

A few

Silver-throated Tanager

Several

Bay-headed Tanager

A few

Crimson-collared Tanager

A few

Flame-colored Tanager

1

White-winged Tanager

Pair

Yellow-throated (White-naped) Brush Finch

Several

Here are a few bird photos from the Lost and Found eco-hostel

Saw this stunning White Hawk sitting in the pouring rain.

The most common, widespread Myiarchus Flycatcher: Dusky-capped Flycatcher.

Young Trogons are funky looking birds indeed! This is an Orange-bellied.

Here is the dapper adult male.

Orange-billed Nightingale Thrushes were very common.

As were Paltry Tyrannulets

And Spectacled Foliage-gleaners

This White-tailed Emerald is sticking its tongue out.

Categories
Introduction Panama trips

The Lost and Found eco-hostel, Chiriqui, Panama

There are two basic categories of travelers; those who travel because of obligation and those who travel because they want to. Sure, someone can fall into both categories (think business tripper who would rather be on a plane than drinking alone while playing solitaire in his/her post-modern apartment) or none (think an over-dramamined passenger who ends up continuing onwards to Oslo by accident instead of getting off the plane in London). Although I have traveled by choice in aluminum tubes at unnatural speeds and heights, purposely rode in buses on frightening mountain roads, and made the decision to take boats up muddy Amazonian tributaries, I think I have most often fit into both categories. For example, when I took a four day bus trip with a friend of mine from Niagara Falls to western Mexico during the winter break of 98, we were dual category travelers; I wanted to go there but was obliged to take the bus because of my personal funding situation while my friend wanted to see Mexico and felt obliged to get away from arctic January Niagara.

When I recently when to the Lost and Found eco-hostel in Chiriqui, Panama, I arrived as a traveler who not only wanted to stay there but also felt obliged to stay at an “eco-hostel”; a concept I have always dreamt of and hoped to see come to fruition. I had been intrigued again and again by their pamphlets at other Panamanian hostels; the Hospedaje Heike hostel in Bocas del Toro, Zuly’s Backpackers in Panama City and at the Purple House in David. Simple, photocopied pamphlets that told of a hostel nestled in cloud forest. I mean what a great deal!- affordable lodging shared with other like-minded travelers in beautiful mountain forest excellent for birding! Sounded like an ideal place to go for a border run; cheap lodging located in a natural setting. Somewhat in the middle of nowhere, it also sounded ideal for bird photography; nothing else to do, nowhere else to go but to concentrate on the birds.

 After some searching on the web I found their blog which had most of the information I needed including photos. I decided to contact the owners though because the directions seemed rather vague. They were something like watch for the sign on the right just after the village of Valle de la Mina along the Chiriqui-Almirante road. Patrick and Andrew got back to me in a very timely manner and assured me that the quoted prices and directions were correct, so off I went!

On July 30th, I left on the San Jose-David bus at 7:30 A.M. We were lucky with the weather and had a beautiful sunny ride up and over the high Talamanca mountains; home to Resplendent Quetzals, cold mornings and montane rain forest on Cerro de la Muerte. We made a few stops for bathroom breaks and lunch, arriving to the border around 1 P.M. Luckilly, things went quickly at the Paso Canoas border crossing that day with us back on the bus after only an hour and a half of waiting in lines, getting stamps and being confused. I spent the night in hot David at the Purple House Hostel (everything really is purple there!) and continued on to the Lost and Found Hostel the following day, arriving around noon (take the bus to Changuinola and get off when you see the yellow sign-about an hour out of David). Their directions are accurate; you really do have to keep an eye out for the yellow sign on the right hand side of the road just after the town of Valle de la Mina. It is obvious and says, “You have found the lost paradise” but you could miss it if you weren’t watching for it.

 

From the sign, it’s a pretty steep walk uphill to the hostel; ideal for going slow and taking in the beautiful surroundings. The climb is worth it because as far as hostels go, this is a really good one. The beds are huge, dormitories spacious, hot water showers, food and drinks are available for purchase (can also bring your own- much cheaper), cool outdoor area for eating and hanging out, awesome mountain scenery, and trails through primary rain and cloud forest. At night, nocturnal animals sometimes come to a feeding platform. If it’s raining (quite often) you can hang out in the game room to read or rent a dvd. The place is also kept clean and well-maintained by Andrew- on site most of the time. I got fewer photos than I had hoped for but not due to a lack of birds. Photos were tough because my equipment wasn’t quite adequate for the low-light conditions prevalent in cloud forest. That and because birds are for the most part impatient and love to fly away just as you get them into focus; camera shy or unfriendly- you decide.

The Lost and Found eco-hostel is perfect for travelers looking for very affordable lodging within a natural setting; an escape of sorts. It’s also an excellent option for field courses and research. The Lost and Found is probably one of the only cloud forest hostels in the world, and I look forward to my next stay. 

For the most up to date information, check out the Lost and Found blog at: http://www.moreinpanama.blogspot.com

 

Advantages in no particular order

Beautiful natural setting with trails

Good, friendly management

Hot water

Nocturnal animal watching

Game room to escape to when it rains too much

Readily accessible along the highway between David and Bocas del Toro

Fresh mountain weather makes nice escape from the hot lowlands

Guided trips possible to the nearby Fortuna forest reserve

 

Disadvantages in no particular order

The steep walk up to the hostel

Pretty isolated

Very buggy during the rainy season; mosquitoes, black flies and horse flies must die!

Here are a few photos of the place:

 

 

The yellow sign you don’t want to miss.

 

Another yellow sign welcoming visitors at the hostel; the cobra makes it cool!

 

The central dining, kitchen, hang-out area.

 

You can enjoy a coffee with beautiful mountain scenery.

 

 

Here is a Ringtail scurrying away from the feeding platform.

 

 

Its so wet that land crabs live here!

 

Lost and Found in the mist.

 

 

 

Categories
Birding Costa Rica Introduction

My Favorite Rain Forest for birding Costa Rica

Costa Rica has made a name for itself with its National Parks and protected areas. Monteverde combines beautiful cloud forest with excellent tourist infrastructure. Carara offers exceptional birding at the junction of humid and dry ecosystems. The Pacific beaches of Manuel Antonio are set against a rain forest backdrop. Wild and rough Braulio Carrillo, though, is my favorite. I admit I could be biased because this was the first place I experienced rain forest. The first place a White-necked Jacobin appeared out of the jade green surroundings to hover in front of my face. The first time I saw a White Hawk and a King Vulture; breathtaking neotropical bird species.

In addition to exciting birding in fantastic primary rain forest on every visit, I might also be biased because I could get there so easily; less than an hour from San Jose on any morning bus to Guapiles. Like most rain forest birding, some days are slower than others, you can easily get rained out for the entire day, and seeing the birds can be a serious challenge. Although I sometimes feel that the birding was better in the past (I used to see more Tinamous and Quail Doves), its still my favorite spot as well as my birding patch here in Costa Rica.

The 500 meter elevation of this very wet, Caribbean slope forest ensures a good mix of lowland and foothill species. Some of the forest dependent species that have become rare at La Selva still regularly occur at Quebrada Gonzalez such as:

Ornate Hawk Eagle

King Vulture

White-whiskered Puffbird

Antwrens and Antvireos

Tawny-faced Gnatwren

Ruddy-tailed and Sulphur-rumped Flycatchers

The place is especially good for large mixed flocks led by White-throated Shrike Tanager.

While I took pics of this male, the surrounding vegetation resounded with the calls of various Tanager species, Woodcreepers, Russet Antshrike, Scarlet-rumped Caciques and others.

On my last visit, I got some lucky shots of this juvenile Ornate Hawk Eagle.

and here this formidable predator looks like it is about to attack! In the Amazon, these guys are one of the main predators of Squirrel Monkeys and Macaws. A friend of mine saw one catch a Curassow- same size as a Turkey.

Quebrada Gonzalez is probably one of the easiest places in Costa Rica (and elsewhere) to see this spectacular raptor. Ornates are often seen in flight from the parking lot on sunny days from 10 AM to 12 noon.

My patch is also one of the best sites to see Black-crowned Antpitta. Well, to be honest, they occur here but are very difficult to actually see. While this male sang, a Little (Stripe-throated) Hermit buzzed around in front of the Antpittas face. It acted as if the Antpitta was a threat!

Green Hermits are the most common hummingbirds here.

I often see White-faced Capuchins, Spider Monkeys and other animals such as this diabolical looking Collared Peccary.

One rainy day, this Northern Tamandua was hanging out next to the ranger station.

I always usually see some cool lizards.

There are two trails; a well maintained 1 k. loop trail behind the ranger station and two longer loop trails across the highway that lead down to the river. The one behind the station is easiest, the trails across the highway sometimes blocked by fallen trees. They are open from 8 AM until 4:30 PM and cost $8 for non-residents, $2 for residents.

Quebrada Gonzalez is found along the highway from San Jose to Guapiles about 4 ks after the bridge over the Rio Sucio. By bus, take any bus to Guapiles from the Caribeños bus station and tell the driver to let you off at Quebrada Gonzalez. To get back to San Jose, flag down any passing bus; some stop, most don’t.

Categories
Costa Rica living Introduction

Giving birth in Costa Rica part two

After a bit of exhausted sleep, I went to my mother in laws for breakfast. One of the best things about Costa Rican mornings is the coffee. On the morning of August 9th (day one for Miranda), that fresh brew hailing from nearby volcanic fields hit the spot like a sunbeam in a November prison. Coffee, fresh bread, emergency room tales and anxious to see my wife and daughter; that was how I spent Mirandas first morning.

 

Ari called around noon to let me know she was alright and that she actually had a bed which meant that we could visit. After making plans to go to the hospital during visitor hours (4 to 7) with Ari’s mom, I went back to our place and finally packed the bag for my wife I’d been meaning to put together for days. Around 4, we headed back to the hospital to at last see Ari and Miranda. We told the security guards who we wanted to visit visit and were promptly told that we needed a visiting pass. The main glitch here was that the window for visiting passes was closed during visiting hours. That’s right, we needed to ask for our pass outside of visiting hours. Nor could I bring up anything for Ari. No, she wasn’t allowed any clothes. Ok, they could make an exception for the baby but nothing else! I was frankly losing my patience to say the least. Nearly 16 hours had passed since her birth and I had yet to see my child. The only reason I knew that my wife was OK was because she called me on borrowed cell phones. And they were telling me that I couldn’t see her because I failed to get a visitor’s pass during non-visiting hours. I realize its best to laugh at such silly times but the chuckles were a bit hard to come by. No, I was feeling rather like the active volcanos that make up a fair part of Costa Rica’s landscape. I somehow managed to act like most Costa Rican volcanos though and quietly let off steam instead of erupting in seismic fury.

 

Fortunately, my mother in law knew how to deal with the system and put her “strong character” to use. She basically let the gaurds know that she was going to drive them crazy with verbal fury until they allowed us entrance. Neither guard had the will to withstand such an onslaught so they gave in but would not budge on the clothing issue. So, we took turns staying below with Ari’s clothes while the other went up to visit.

Finally, 16 plus hours after Miranda was born, about 24 hours since I had last seen Ari, I got to see them both. The ocean’s wave of relief washed away all fears and I was at peace to see that Ari and Miranda were fine (thank God). Miranda was (and still is) beautiful and precious as all children are. We enjoyed our reunion along with our new addition and then Ari told me what happened up there behind the scenes of the Costa Rican hospital system.

 

This is the inside scoop:

“They were doing the fetal monitoring test when someone, I don’t know if she was a nurse or doctor, said, “Oops, I just broke your water”. No, it didn’t break on its own, she ended up accidentally breaking the membrane and so that’s why they kept me in the hospital. They gave me drugs to quicken the birth, to dilate me further but that seemed to be going pretty slow. In the meantime, I saw Karen. She was in a lot of pain and I tried to comfort her although there wasn’t a lot I could do. I am sure it was at least nice for her to have someone near whom she knew. I wasn’t in any pain at all. In fact, I couldn’t even feel the contractions. The only problem was that the baby wasn’t ready to come out. Sometime after about 6 centimeters of dilation, the staff told me that I had “meconized water” and seemed to be pretty anxious but refused to tell me anything other than that they were going to perform a C-section. No, they didn’t tell me why. Before that happened, one nurse even wanted to take away my monitor because she said I was assigned to another hospital and didn’t belong in Calderon Guardia. Luckily, a doctor refused to let anyone remove the monitor. I didn’t feel much of anything during the procedure and noone even bothered to tell me whether Miranda was alive or dead until I got to see her today. I got to hear all of the hospital gossip though. I don’t know where my clothes are, I thought they had given them to you. You should see it up here. The nurse in charge is like a sargeant. She told all of us; “Listen up mothers! No one leaves until they breast feed and change their baby!” You had a C-section? You can’t leave until you can show me that you can walk!”

Fortunately, Ari complied with all orders and was honorably discharged the following day along with our daughter Miranda. I saw the nurse she was talking about. If you have seen “One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest” or Pink Floyd’s “The Wall”, then you have seen her too. That nurse looked so disgruntled and sour, I’m surprised her mere presence didn’t curdle the very milk those babies had to drink. When Miranda cries for no apparent reason, maybe she is thinking of her.

 

We made it home safe and sound and despite almost having to return to the hospital after Ari’s Mom accidentally slammed Ari’s thumb in the car door, everything turned out fine. Later on, our pediatrician explained to us why Ari had the C-section. Ari’s water had broke, she hadn’t dilated much and Miranda had defecated in-utero; a delicate matter where the baby can choke on his or her own fecal matter. He also told us that the anaesthesia had affected Miranda a bit too because they had to give her oxygen.

  

Although everything turned out fine, the next time, I think we will look into private clinics.

 

 

Here’s Miranda!

Categories
Costa Rica living Introduction

Giving Birth in Costa Rica part one

“Miranda isn’t moving, I’m worried. If we don’t check this out, I won’t be able to sleep”, said my wife Ariadna on the beautiful Saturday morning of August 8, 2008.

Not wishing sleeplessness upon anyone, my wife least of all, I acquiesced to her desires and accompanied her to our doctor. Once again we waited to be attended and watched “Casos de La Vida Real” (“Cases from Real Life”) with the secretary accompanied by her commentary: “Oh no!”, “Just incredible”, “Can you believe some people?”, “You have to thank God that hasn’t happened to us!”.

Shortly after entrance into his office,the doctor alleviated our fears with an ultra sound that revealed Miranda doing the usual baby acrobatics inside the womb. He explained that Ari couldn’t feel Miranda’s movements because she was having contractions! Contractions are normal during the final stages of pregnancy so that was pretty expected. What was unexpected, though, was that Ari couldn’t feel the contractions. So, just to be sure, our doctor sent us to a colleague of his at Calderon Guardia hospital for some sort of fetal monitoring test. After cabbing it directly to the emergency room, Ari was allowed entrance straightaway. I had to stay and give the proper paperwork to the admissions people. Luckily, I spoke enough Spanish to give them the information they needed. Although some of the information wasn’t very useful, as in all things bureaucratic, what mattered most was that the paperwork was filled out. For example, they refused to accept our phone numbers because they were cell phones; we might change them. Never mind that we don’t have a land line. I eventually gave them the land line number for my mother in laws house. Too bad I didn’t give them a number in the States just for fun. In retrospect, its too bad the paperwork didn’t take longer because once it was finished there was nothing left to do but wait and wait and wait and wonder what was happening.

After about an hour of emergency room limbo, Ari called me. She said, “The hospital won’t let me leave. My water broke”. Since we were in the final month of pregnancy, I really shoudn’t have been surprised. I was though. I was downright taken aback. I mean we had to go shopping, I had to ready our place more for Mirandas arrival, I had to make a pizza dough; I wanted to eat pizza later that day! I realize this sounds trivial, but if you know what good pizza is, and have tried pizza in Costa Rica, you can probably surmise the importance of the situation. Nevertheless, I managed to brush those thoughts aside, get a hold of myself and then called my mother in law to let her know what was happening.

I stayed at the emergency room and waited and waited and waited and observed and learned how to play games on my phone. I also learned that some people lived in the emergency room; a feat easy to accomplish with its permanently open, welcoming doors, general chaos and gaurds only concerned with the door that opened to the bowels of the hospital itself. One of the emergency room inhabitants was an old woman named Julia. I know this because every once once in a while a moustached guard called her by name to tell her to leave, that the emergency room wasn’t a hotel, that he was going to call the police and most importantly that they were going to bring her to the shelter. He told us emergency roomers that Julia feared the shelter more than anything.That she hid herself nearby so they couldn’t take her away from the emergency room. She certainly didn’t look well, especially when she hacked up onto the emergency room floor, but I guess that wasn’t enough to admit her.

At least she wasn’t drunk. At least I don’t think she was drunk. She was pretty obstinate though; trying to evict others from her row of plastic seats. Not to worry that she wasn’t enibriated, that role was filled by a few other guys who either attempted to sleep or stumbled around the emergency room drooling on themselves. One ridiculously drunk fellow in loose camo pants was drawn towards any cop that showed up. He would somehow make it to his feet and drunkenly walk over to the police. We all hoped they would arrest him. They had better things to do though because they just ignored him. Miraculously he didn’t vomit; a spectacle that doubtless occurs on other days.

These emergency roomers were at least quiet; the vociferous one was a fierce-eyed woman with a foot tall afro who paced back and forth at the entrance, ranting about lawers and her kids. What a nice welcoming committee for those in distress; after making it past the ranter at the door, you have to avoid getting puked on by some drooling drunk, to then battle it out with Julia for a seat. It was no wonder that so many chose to wait outside, me included. As night rapidly approached, I watched the bats emerge from the nearby Parque España and waited for news.

After nightfall, the cops showed up a few times. Not for Julia, not for any sort of disturbance. No, they showed up with prisoners handcuffed and all and waited along with the rest of us. There were three prisoners total; they all looked like they had been drunk and fighting. One guy had gotten it fairly bad in the face. His girlfriend arrived and couldn’t believe what had happened; “Jose wouldn’t do that. He doesn’t get in fights!” Well he did on the night of August 8th. Heck, he even got arrested for it.

It was after dark as well when a couple of families got the worst news one can get. Right in front of everybody, they found out that their father or grandfather or whoever was dear to them had passed away. One poor 20 something was taking it pretty hard. He just kept saying over and over, between sobs, “It can’t be! It can’t be! It just can’t be!” while the ranter paced back and forth screaming about those damn lawyers and kids.  

I think it was around 9 P.M. when I saw a familiar face. It was Esteban!; the guy half of a couple we had became friends with during our pre-marriage course. And the other half, his wife Karin, was upstairs in labor. Esteban told me that she had been in labor for several hours and had 7 centimeters, meaning 7 centimeters dilation. It seemed like that was all he could say, “7 centimeters. Shes got 7 centimeters so its got to be soon. With 7 centimeters its got to be any time now.” I told him I had no idea what was happening with Ari but that supposedly someone would let us know. And not long after, he was called to go into the delivery room which meant that the birth of Isaac, their first son, was imminent. Fathers or whoever accompanies the soon to be mother, are only allowed into the delivery room for the final stages of labor. They literally tell you to hurry up so as to not miss out on the birthing.

It was easy to pick out the fathers in waiting; lone guys with a bag in hand, looking anxious, talking to no one; they didn’t want to miss getting called up to the delivery room. Esteban came back down after an hour; Karen hadn’t given birth yet, looked like it was going to be longer. I don’t know why he just didn’t stay up there. Maybe they kicked him out. In any case, just after midnight, a doctor came looking for me. Alright! I was ready to head on upstairs and be there for Ariadna! And then she gave me a case of the worries when she handed me a bag with Ari’s personal belongings and said that Ari was to have a C-section and that someone would let me know how things turned out. Yeah right! The only person who let me know was Ari herself! She actually collect called me right after surgery with a borrowed phone! She told me that she was fine but hadn’t seen Miranda yet. Someone else then hopped on the phone and asked me where I was so they could let me in. He let the guard know, I was allowed in and found my own way to the birthing area. A nurse came out looking for “the father of the c-section” and let me know that Ari was fine but I couldn’t see her until they had room in the maternity ward.

Apparently the hospital was filled to capacity and until a bed was available, Ari had to stay in the recovery room; off-limits to visitors. He did say, however, that someone would be right out with my daughter. I waited once again with a few other fathers. We took turns sitting in a wheel chair. We tried to stay awake. We laughed about nonsense because we were over-exhausted. We talked about the guy who left the emergency room with a light head wound; blood all over his shirt. He was mugged outside the San Pedro mall and barely escaped with his life (BTY:IF YOU GO TO THE SAN PEDRO MALL AT NIGHT, BETTER TO BRING A MACHINE GUN). One guy had been waiting for almost two days and actually missed the delivery of his son because they never called him in. He at least got to see his son sometime that night. Esteban also missed the birth of Isaak because he had gone downstairs and they didn’t want to let him back in. I actually got to see Isaak before he did! I think fathers missed the delivery of their kids because the place was so busy; something like a birth every ten minutes. So, after waiting to see Miranda until 3 A.M. without any hint at success, I decided to go home and see them both the next day.

Categories
Birding Costa Rica Costa Rica living

Yiguirro: The national bird of Costa Rica

Many places have a Thrush species that has become adapted to living around people. In much of North America, American Robins are as synonymous with front lawns as sprinklers.  Europeans have the Blackbird; immortalized in song by the Beatles and in prose by Shakespeare. In Costa Rica, Ticos chose the Clay-colored Robin (Turdus grayi) for their national bird. Opting for familiarity over splendor, it trumped spectacular species such as Resplendant Quetzal and Scarlet Macaw as well as undeniably cool birds like the Harpy Eagle. Clay Coloreds are THE garden bird of Costa Rica. Found from lowlands to cloud forest (where it gets replaced by the Mountain Robin), they sing a lot like their northern counterparts but are shyer; their presence usually revealed by their querelous, meow-like call. As their name suggests, Clay-colored Robins are also less colorful. My wife even goes as far as to call them downright ugly. These Yiguirros were at the Cinchona feeders. I think they look OK; judge for yourselves if you agree with my wife.

 

Monster Clay Colored Robin

 

Note the yellowish bill- field mark to separate it from Mountain and Pale-vented Robins.

 

More pics of the same bird; a juvenile molting in its head feathers.

Categories
About the author

About Pat O’Donnell

Hailing from Niagara Falls, NY, USA, I have been birding since the age of 7. Ever since, studying and observing birds have played a very important role in my life. After several visits to Costa Rica since 1992, I ended up moving to this beautiful and biodiverse country in 2007. I write about birds at this blog and elsewhere and work on birding apps and books. I also love helping others see birds and is why I help in organizing trips for visiting birders as well as guide them. Want to see more birds in Costa Rica? Contact me at information@birdingcraft.com. 

 

Categories
Introduction Panama trips

Some photos from a birding trip to Achiote, Panama

I recently went to Achiote, Panama for a few days. Achiote, on the caribbean side of the canal zone, is a village with access to the San Lorenzo National Park. It was pretty hot and humid, the birding and mammal viewing was great and I would love to go back especially during hawk watching season. Here is a link to a trip report I posted on Surfbirds: http://www.surfbirds.com/trip_report.php?id=1452

And here are some photos from the trip:

View from the overlook at Centro El Tucan in Achiote; community owned and run educational center and hostel. It was pretty good for birding too.

Centro El Tucan

Here are some pictures from the Centro overlook

Can you find the Orange-chinned Parakeets? There was a flock of 30 feeding on a Balsa tree in front of the overlook.

Female Flame-rumped Tanager

The most common Tanager in the area was Plain-colored Tanager. The blue on the wing coverts is usually hidden.

Pied Puffbirds were pretty common in the area at least by call; I had them at El Tucan, along the Achiote Road and at the restaurant in town.

I only saw Black-breasted Puffbird, however, along the Achiote Road in San Lorenzo National Park.

The Trogon Trail along the Achiote Road lived up to its name with..

Slaty-tailed Trogon

Black-throated Trogon

Western White-tailed Trogons were common along the road.

Not a bird but so what; cool flowers along Trogon Trail.

I got up close and personal with White-whiskered Puffbird.

The most common raptor was Yellow-headed Caracara.

Achiote Road was good for mammals too. This is a Geoffreys Tamarin.

And here is a Northern Tamandua.

Categories
Birding Costa Rica middle elevations

Birding Cinchona, Costa Rica

***Update*** Although tragically, the town of Cinchona was destroyed in the 6.2 earthquake of 1/8/2009 and the original Cafe de Colobries destroyed, it has been rebuilt. Fruit and hummingbird feeders attract many of the same bird species and it should improve with time.

Costa Rica has become quite developed for birding. Although lacking in canopy towers, the field guide has been updated, there are lots of excellent professional guides, protected areas with bird lists throughout the country and hummingbird feeders at many sites visited by tourists. Not all of the feeding stations, though, are accessible to the public. Cinchona is the exception; the feeders attracting up to ten species of hummingbirds, amazingly close looks at Emerald (Blue-throated) Toucanets, both Barbet species and others are at an accessible roadside stop and only cost $1.

Cinchona is located along the alternate, slower, curvier route to Sarapiqui that passes by Varablanca. It is about two hours by car from San Jose, three hours by bus. Last week, I did the three hour ride for a day of hummingbird madness; a welcome change from busy, almost birdless San Jose. Leaving on the 6:30 bus, the comfortably empty bus quickly filled up en route; we must have picked up passengers at every scheduled and unscheduled stop until folks were standing in the aisles. About 9:30, I happily relinquished my seat upon arrival at Cinchona, and stepped off the bus into fresh cloud forest air.

The Vista Cinchona hummingbird feeding station

The balcony was buzzing with birds.

One of the most common species was a Costa Rican endemic; Coppery-headed Emerald.

Great looks at Brown Violetear

Aside from very close looks at 10 species of hummingbirds, the fruit feeders also attracted Emerald (Blue-throated) Toucanet

You can get ridiculously close to Emerald Toucanets here!!

many Silver-throated Tanagers

Crimson-collared Tanager and

The Yiguirro or Clay-colored Robin

The views of a waterfall in a beautiful cloud forest filled canyon weren’t all that bad either.

For lunch I ate at the soda next door. They also had fruit and hummingbird feeders with much of the same. Although it was the quiet time of the day for birding, I still managed to see a Squirrel Cuckoo.

The rain starting at noon, I opted for the 1 PM bus back to San Jose as the following bus wasn’t until 5 P.M.

Tips and notes:

A sunny day might be good for raptor species.

Don’t be shy about giving a donation at the feeders.

If you have to take the bus, get the 6:30 A.M. to Puerto Viejo de Sarapiqui via Varablanca at the Caribeños bus terminal.

Make sure you tell the driver Cinchona or you might end up in the Sarapiqui lowlands (not too bad of an alternative actually).

This is a good site to combine with the nearby Virgen del Socorro road.

Don’t forget to stop at the beautiful La Paz waterfall!

Bird species recorded:

Bat Falcon: One flew into view carrying a small bird, a Green Violetear buzzing it the whole time.

Crimson-fronted Parakeet: flyovers

Squirrel Cuckoo

Blue and white Swallow

Green Hermit: occasionally at feeders

Brown Violetear: lots

Green Violetear: also lots, sometimes flaring their “violet ears” in typical hummingbird rage.

Violet Sabrewing: big, beautiful purple males.

Green-crowned Brilliant: a few always present.

White-bellied Mountain Gem: a few.

Rufous-tailed Hummingbird: 1 at the front feeders.

Coppery-headed Emerald: lots.

Emerald (Blue-throated Toucanet): a few coming in very close at banana feeders.

Red-headed Barbet: a pair in vicinity.

Prong-billed Barbet: a few.

Gray-breasted Wood Wren: a few heard.

Clay-colored Robin

Brown Jay

Bananaquit

Slate-throated Redstart

Common Bush Tanager

Palm Tanager

Silver-throated Tanager: lots

Blue-gray Tanager

Crimson-collared Tanager

Passerini’s Tanager

Sooty-faced Finch: calling from understory

Variable Seedeater

Rufous-collared Sparrow

Montezuma Oropendola