Thursday, February 25, 2016

Seminole, FL (2/23/2016)

Technically speaking, this isn't a travelogue, since I'm not traveling.  I'm at home in Seminole Isle looking forward to a trip out west starting early April.  Until then, I thought some of you might enjoy a few images from Florida, especially the folks stuck up north in the throes of winter.  I'll start with a sunrise that Pam took a couple weeks ago with her cell phone.  We went out for the usual early morning walk to be greeted by this wonderful sky full of pink clouds.

Although I rarely bring a camera on my morning walks around the neighborhood, I decided to lug the camera with the big birding lens one morning after seeing a nice variety of birds several days in a row.  The light was excellent that morning, so there were good shots to be had.  The warblers were active, especially the palm warblers that are plentiful this time of year.

There are almost always a few starlings hanging out in our trees.  The birds are pests, but they do have beautiful coloring when the light hits them just right.

We also have plenty of mourning doves strutting around the grounds, refusing to move out of the way until the very last second, even if it's a car approaching them.

As I neared one of our ponds, a tri-colored heron swooped down and flew to the other side, where it undoubtedly felt safe from prying eyes.

At the next pond, a great egret waded about, searching for breakfast.  I thought the whole scene was nice enough to capture, so I did.

Crossing our little bridge, I spotted a mockingbird on the railing, giving me a quizzical look.

Strolling down to our "beach" (a small sandy spot on Long Bayou), I encountered the juvenile little blue heron I see quite often all over the grounds.  Little blues start out entirely white, then gradually gain a slate blue color as they mature.  I think it usually takes more than a year for the color change to be complete.  This one is just beginning to get its blue feathers, mostly around its head.

A yellow-rumped warbler landed by the shore of a pond and stayed there just long enough for a couple photos.

Cattle egrets are plentiful in the fields and pastures of Florida, but they also hang out in the vacant spaces of our development, eating insects they find in the grass.  Being mostly a bland, less attractive member of the egret family, they gain some alluring color during their breeding season.  This one is starting to get the golden orange breeding color on its head and chest.

Most mornings, I see three red-bellied woodpeckers clinging to one of several palm trees, or in one of the oaks on the property.  On this morning, I saw only one busily pecking away at the nest it was creating in an oak tree.

Eagles are less common in our development, but at least six different ones have been visiting us this week.  On the morning I had the camera, a mature pair roosted in a large pine tree, where I was able to get a few shots.  The next day, with no camera, I saw four juveniles fly into the same tree and stay for a while.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Costa Rica - Day 8 (1/26/2016)

The morning of Day 8 had us scheduled for a visit to Manuel Antonio National Park.  Since our hotel was only steps from the park entrance (we could hear howler monkeys throughout the night), we were at the gate early.  This proved to be important because the park is so popular.  Attendance is regulated to avoid overcrowding and, when we returned several hours later, there was a mass of visitors waiting to gain entry.  

One reason for the park's popularity is the number and variety of animals who live in the jungle there, said to be 107 species of mammals and 335 bird species.  Another reason is the large Pacific bay and beautiful sand beach.  Numerous hiking trails are available to access various scenic overlooks and provide a chance to see the wildlife in its native habitat.  Not having time for the full experience, we walked the main path about a mile or so to the beach, seeing mostly monkeys  along the way.  There were also iguanas, other lizards, a deer and a three-toed sloth.  Very few birds were seen, although we could definitely hear them.

White-faced monkey 

White-faced monkey
One man lured a monkey to the ground with a banana.  Although I don't like the idea of feeding the wildlife, I took advantage of the opportunity for close-ups of the little guy.

White-faced monkey

Three-toed sloth

Howler monkey
???? lizard
 After returning to the hotel, I had time for a few more photos of the building and grounds before we boarded the bus for our next tour stop.
Hotel entrance

Hotel from the pool
 Our final tour stop was at the Rain Forest Adventures, which offers several ways to visit what is called a transitional forest.  Since we were in the dry season, and the area has been in drought for several years, it was not truly a rain forest.  While there are zip lines through the jungle canopy, we were there to ride the aerial trams, much safer for a group of seniors.
Tram ride through the jungle.

Colorful tree

Mountain stream below

Torch ginger
Tram returning to base.
The aerial tram was intended to not only show us the jungle, but to let us see many birds that live there.  Unfortunately, we saw almost no birds and those were quite a distance from us.  Needless to say, this was a major disappointment.

Later, our bus returned us to San Jose for our last night in Costa Rica, which included a farewell dinner.  Our flight to Atlanta was scheduled early the next day, requiring that we catch a 4:30 am shuttle to the airport and uneventful flights back home.   Despite the discomfort inherent in a bus tour, and a little disappointment in the lack of bird sightings, we were pleased to have seen much of this beautiful country.

Time for a break now in the travelogue until the RV travel season gets underway, probably in April.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Costa Rica - Day 7 (1/25/2016)

Day 7 started bright and early with a bus ride through the cattle country of Guanacaste Province.  Tour Director Elston Valentine was on the mic, telling us all about the culture, government and taxation of Costa Rica.  It's a fascinating country and the most stable democracy in Central America.  They disbanded their army in 1948 and rely on diplomacy to make their way in the world.

Tour Director Elston Valentine

Cattle ranch

Cattle ranch
 Passing a Barbecue restaurant, I thought the statue of the Brahma bull seemed appropriate. However, I was a little concerned when I noticed there was also a statue of a monkey in the tree.
Barbecue restaurant
After lunch, we arrived at the Tarcoles River and boarded our pontoon boat for the promised wildlife tour. Right away we spotted a large crocodile heading ashore to sun himself.  On the closeup, notice the teeth that bad boy is showing.  Many birds were also seen during the tour, including scarlet macaws.  Unfortunately, the macaws were too deep in the jungle for me to get a photo..

Tarcoles River

Crocodile close-up

???? Lizard

Multi-colored iguana

Great blue heron with a fat catfish

Black-bellied whistling ducks

Tri-colored heron

Northern jacana

Black-necked stilt

Yellow-crowned night heron

Magnificent frigate birds

Magnificent frigate bird close-up

Mangrove black hawk
 Back on the bus, we made our way to the San Bada Hotel, a lovely resort on the Pacific Ocean and right next door to Manuel Antonio National Park.  On the way, we passed through a community that Elston described as home to many U.S. ex-pats and wealthy Costa Ricans. 
Impressive estate
 From the fourth floor, we had a good view of the hotel pool below.
 Once again, we were treated to a "Happy Hour" of free drinks.  The bar is on the 6th floor, which has a stunning view out to the ocean.  The sunset that night was pretty stunning itself, and included several para-gliders enjoying a spectacular ride.
Sunset and para-glider



Sunset and para-glider
 Later, we took time to visit the pool with friends.  It was a lovely swim on a warm evening.  Afterward, I came down and took a few photos of the beautiful hotel and pool.
Pool and hotel