Costa Rica 2000


Thursday, August 10, 2000  -  Tortuguero

We had our 6 am bird hike around the lodge.  We saw lots of  Keel-billed Toucans and many other birds, including nesting Green-backed Heron, Slaty-tailed trogan, Amazon Kingfisher, Blue-gray Tanager, Great Kiskkadee, Montezuma oropendula, Purple-throated Fruit Crow, White-lined Bat, and Variable Seedeater.

Keel-billed Toucan4-5 foot Iguana

Keel-billed Toucan in the back yard of the lodge; 4-5 foot iguana on tree overhanging the canal during our boat trip.


Caiman on our boat trip

After our 7 am breakfast, we took a 3 hour boat ride on the canals.  We saw quite a few birds and animals, including the 4 foot long iguana above.  The boat trip, with the bright, intense sun, was the first time I was more than just humid, I was hot.  There was a big cooler full of drinks that Elston offered after an hour or so on the trip.  We saw Yellow-crowned Heron, Anhinga, Neotropical Cormorant, Great Blue Heron, Little Blue Heron, Yellow-crowned Night Heron, Black Vulture, Turkey Vulture, Ringed Kingfisher, Spotted Sandpiper, Bare-throated Tiger Heron and Spider Monkeys.

Our boat had a motor that smelled bad, but when we were going down stream, that motor was shut off and an electic engine was used.  It was much quieter and slower.  Other boaters were paddling, and still other people, the locals, were paddling in carved out tree-trunks.  I asked Elston, and he said that it would take about a year to carve a boat out of a tree trunk.

black vulture on the left and a turkey vultureNeotropical Cormorant

Above is a black vulture on the left, and a turkey vulture with it's wings spread out on the right.  I never saw more birds just sitting around with their wings spread open as I did in Costa Rica.  All the (large) birds seemed to do it.  Elston said they were drying their wings.  The photo on the right is the Neotropical Cormorant.

Other boaters in front of us on the canal Bare-throated Tiger-heron Skyler caught Blue and Gold Snapper

Other boaters in front of us on the canal.  This bird is a Bare-throated Tiger-heron.  After our morning boat trip, there was time for swimming (in the pool) or fishing in the canal.  Skyler caught Blue and Gold Snapper (pargo azul y oro).

Poison Dart Frog Poison Dart Frog

Poison Dart Frog

At 2:30 pm we met behind the lodge for a short nature walk in the forest.  Other than Poison Dart Frogs, we really didn't see too much.  The frogs really are poisonous.  Elston only held one because he had no open wounds on his hands, he was not going to touch his nose, eyes or mouth, and he was going to wash his hands as soon as he got back.   I was very leery of snakes here, and we wore boots provided by the lodge.  Plus it was pretty muddy in places.  Elston did not recommend coming on the trail at night.  In a little pond across the sidewalk from the swimming pool lives a small Caiman (like a crocodile, except they don't attack people).  You get kind of a funny feeling when you look for him and can't find him.  While I went on the hike again with part of the group, Skyler and Asher left to go swimming.  When I was done, I found a note on the door that they went with Connie's family across the canal to collect sand dollars on the strip of land that the runway is on.

We had hor 'dourves at 6 pm of onion rings, fried cheese, and tuna on rolls, then supper at 7pm.

At 8 pm we took a boat ride to Tortuguero (the town) and walked to the beach for our turtle walk.  We timed our trip to coincide with the nesting time of the Green Sea Turtles.  These turtles weigh 150-200 lbs, and come to shore about 6-7 times from July thru September to lay eggs.  This proceedure wears them out so much that they only lay eggs every 2-3 years.  Plus, these turtles are very mature.  Since turtles live to be such an old age, they do not begin reproducing until around age 25-50 years old.  This is one reason conservation of the turtle is very important.  The turtle comes ashore and digs a hole so big that the huge turtle is burying her eggs about 1 meter deep in the sand.  She is in a kind of trans while she lays the eggs, which is the only time visitors may watch the process.  Once she is done, she covers the eggs with her powerful flippers, then digs a depression next to it to throw off preditors.  Then she slides back to the water.  Her tracks are as wide as tractor or 4-wheeler tracks.  Only the guide is allowed to have a light, and it is covered with red so it won't disturb the turtles.  Photography is not allowed, partly due to the flash, partly because it is their rule at this protected, 22 mile stretch of beach.  On this night, the moon was large and bright, and there were very few turtles out.  I understand on darker nights, there could be thousands of turtles on the beach at one time, each depositing approximately 150-200 eggs, about the size of a dollar coin.  25-50% of the eggs/hatchlings do not survive.  The mother turtle knows exactly how deep to bury the eggs.  At one specific temperature, only male turtles hatch, at another temperature, only female turtles hatch.  Outside of this narrow temperature range, the eggs will not hatch.  The eggs hatch in 2 months.  When they hatch, the baby turtles seem to be crazy, head for the water, get lost, turn circles, until they are finally eaten by a preditor or make it to the water.  But it is important for the turtle to find the water by itself, or it will not know where to come back to lay eggs when it reaches maturity.  Turtles always return to where they are born to lay their eggs.  There is some worry that there will be too many airplane, boat or housing lights and the turtles will not come at all.  They are taking steps to prevent this.  Volunteers work along the beach, and when a turtle is laying her eggs, they measure and tag it.  Our turtle was 97 cm from the neck of the shell to the tail.  They tagged her on the front flipper.  The tagging program began 40 years ago, and turtles that were tagged back then are still returning to lay eggs.  Male turtles never return to shore.

The boys fell asleep within one minute of going to bed.


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  Emporia State University

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