Friday, February 17, 2017

Manuel Antonio

A Gentle Sloth

It’s about a five hour drive from Monteverde to Manuel Antonio, most of it along the coast. Our driver was nice, but not a birder. He seemed disappointed when we didn’t want to stop for a picture of the ocean or the crocodiles at the bridge over the Rio Tarcoles. We’ve seen crocodiles and were more anxious to get to our destination. Birds we would have stopped for.

Named for a man who for years owned a small shop near the entrance to what would become the tourist mecca it is today, Manual Antonio is both the name of the town and the national park it supports with hotels, restaurants, and souvenir shops. I guess he was like the unofficial mayor of the area. The real town, Quepos, is just up the beach a few miles. 

Our hotel was at the top of the hill across the road from the good views of the bay. It included a nice restaurant and a pool with plenty of trees to attract monkeys for our entertainment. Almost right across the road was El Avion Restaurant, built around a Fairchild C-123. This plane is the sister plane to the one that was shot down over Nicaragua in 1986 setting off the investigations that reveal all the sordid details of the Iran-Contra Affair. President Reagan who had said no dealing for hostages was, in fact, selling arms to Iran to raise money to aid the Contras fighting the Communist Sandinista government in Nicaragua. Oliver North coordinated these efforts. Also involved was Evergreen Air, an Oregon company that today owns and exhibits the Spruce Goose, that monstrous wooden plane built by Howard Hughes. That is also an interesting museum if you are ever in the Hillsboro area west of Portland.

Today this plane’s wings hold up the ceiling of the first floor and provide room for a bar on the second floor. The fuselage is called the Contra Bar and is open every night until 2:00 am. It’s a fun piece of history where we had a nice dinner while watching the sun go down. 

Mnauel Antonio is Costa Rica’s smallest national park. Visitors are limited to two trails that lead to one of the nicest beaches in the area. Our guide led us on the trail to the beach where we spent a bit of time enjoying the sun and sand. Along the way we saw several birds, sloths, iguanas, a raccoon, and several different insects. It was a nice pleasant way to spend a morning.

Our other tour took us north of Quepos for a boat ride through the mangrove trees. Timing was crucial because the outgoing tide could prevent our boat from getting back to the dock. Our guides pulled into the shore at one point to let the Capuchin monkeys play with us on the boat. One guy let a monkey sit on his head. I remembered being warned when we were in Belize that monkeys love to steal glasses. What really concerned me though was the poor girl who let the monkey sit on her shoulder. The monkey thanked her by peeing all over her top and she did not have a replacement with her. 

Don't disturb the flies

On our last day in Manuel Antonio, I hired a bird guide to help me find a lot of birds. Arranged through the hotel, my guide, Andres Martin Chavez Rojas, was excellent. In addition to guiding, he studies birds for different organizations and is an expert at collecting and sharing their vocalizations. He was also an expert at taking my iPhone to get excellent pictures through his scope. I was most pleased with the way he made sure that I was clear about the identifying marks on some of the smaller, specialty birds. We started off at 6:00 am. I expected we would drive for an hour or so to some rural area, but we got out of the van about one mile from the hotel and started birding right there. Then we walked down the road off the main road where we found many more birds, some with the help of the neighbors. After a couple of hours there, we were back on the main road where we hitched a ride for another mile or so and a different side road, this one much more rural. It was a great day and a good lesson for me about where to look for birds. In all we saw 61 different species and got pictures of about 20. 
Ruddy Ground-Dove
Ferruginous Pygmy-Owl
Red-lored Parrot

Blue-crowned (Lessons's?) Motmot

Pale-vented Pigeon

Charming Hummingbird

Crested Caracara

Gray Hawk
After dinner, we got a good night’s sleep to prepare for another day of travel to Corcovado.

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