Tag Archives: Corcovado

Day 25 – Final flights of Angel’s and more (sodden) wildlife

Wednesday 15 March 2023 – Against all my expectations, the night in the bunks proved to be a great deal less unpleasant than I had been expecting. OK, the occasional disturbance came as someone used a flashlight to see themselves to the loo, and for about an hour there was a very annoying snorer in, I think, the neighbouring bunk. But, that aside, both Jane and I awoke feeling, if not fully refreshed, then at least not completely enervated by the whole business. Whilst I’d been backing up photos at lunchtime yesterday, Jane had attempted a nap and said that the bunk area was very hot; but by the night, it was a tolerable temperature – although no bedclothes were needed.

So, up at 0430, and ready to leave at 0500 with Angel. We were, unsurprisingly, not the only ones embarking on an outing, and the soundtrack as everyone got ready was supplemented by Howler Monkeys in the nearby trees.

Almost immediately we were on to something; the news spread that there was an actual Tapir to be seen, a juvenile Tapir crossing one of the rivers. Angel got us there in time to see it emerge from the waters.

Then, just as I was preparing to take some video

the Tapir shot off into the forest – spooked, we think, by a crocodile nearby. (The eagle-eyed among you will have spotted the croc beside the log in the first two photos above.)

Remarkably, the general excitement of actually seeing an actual Tapir (not that we were that fussed, as we’d seen loads of them, well, four, anyway, a couple of weeks before) was exceeded shortly after, since there was an adult still feeding nearby. My first view of it wasn’t all that encouraging, photographically speaking

(usual problem – vegetation getting in the way), but there were some people really quite close (you can see them in the background here)

and so I was able to scurry round and join one of those “blimey, here’s something interesting” groups of punters all trying to get their photos. Everyone – even the French guys – kept really quiet, and the animal seemed completely unconcerned.

I even managed some video.

Not that we were desperate to see another Tapir (hah! hark at us!), but it was quite something to have one grazing so close by. Later on, since we’re talking Tapirs here, we saw this:

evidence that Tapirs also strip and eat the bark off some trees.

We headed off to the shore once again, where we saw a Tiger Heron,

which stubbornly refused to turn to face us so we could more clearly see the stripes that give it its name, and also a Tricoloured Heron

which (of course) had buggered off before I got to see it, but Angel captured this shot for us on Jane’s phone.

One of the things we really wanted to get was a properly framed photo of a Scarlet Macaw. Angel obligingly found a tree where a couple were perched. The higher one was hiding behind a twig, and just as I found the lower one, it decided to leave, so all I got was this.

We’ve seen (and heard!) plenty of Scarlet Macaws, but still haven’t nailed the perfect portrait.

The only other thing we saw during the morning was a female Curassow

but generally the early morning start had been rewarding for our time of communion with a Tapir. So – breakfast time, and we had to “check out” of the Rangers’ Station, meaning clear any of our stuff from the sleeping area. We kept the wellies and the lockers until it was time to leave, thank goodness.

The breakfast break gave us a couple of photo opportunities. The first was the array of guides’ spotter scopes, looking highly reminiscent of walking palm trees.

The second was a chance sighting – at distance, as it crossed what used to be the airstrip – of a creature I’d never heard of:

a Tayra. If you see one, you can weaselly see that it’s stoatally different from anything we might see in the UK.

Thank you. Thank you for listening to one of the oldest known jokes in the English Language.

So, everyone set out again on the last of the guided tours associated with an overnight in La Sirena.

We came across a pool with a couple of groups looking at something. This was another “need the guides to spot the creature” scene. Your task, should you accept it, is to spot the wildlife in either of these scenes.

Here they are: two caiman.

How do these guys spot this stuff?

The next major encounter was one of my (many) sources of photographic frustration. We had the perfect vantage point to see a troop of Squirrel Monkeys as they went by. Jane captured this video (which appears to show one of the monkeys plummeting ground-wards at the very end – but apparently they are so light that such falls are unlikely to hurt them)

(the clicking sound you can hear in this video is me trying to get a decent shot) and what I came away with was this shot of mother and baby.

My frustration? I was so excited about actually being able to see them (rather than just seeing the foliage thrashing about) that I forgot to check which end I was at of my zoom lens. Of course, I was at the wrong end. If I’d been paying proper attention to the photography, I’d have got some closer and better images. Ho, hum.

Actually, the rest of the morning was fairly quiet, photographically speaking. It was also hot (I estimate at least 30°C, but then I might be exaggerating, here) and very, very, very, humid. My favoured clothing for this kind of activity comes from Rohan, and the shirts (all right, officer, I’ll come clean, shirt) I’d been wearing for the preceding days had been brilliant at wicking away the perspiration that pores out of me at these temperatures. But this particular morning was too humid and the general sweatiness of the whole thing was getting to me.


Once again, the guide-being-able-to-spot-stuff thing gave us a fascinating several minutes. If you don’t like snakes, look away now.

This was a Tropical Bird-eating Snake, some two-and-a-half metres long (a guess, I didn’t ask it).

and it was doing some very snaky things in its search for, I guess, birds to eat. I’ve cobbled together some video that Jane, Angel and his scope and I took.

Altogether very fascinating, and we spent quite a bit of time watching this creature being both sinister and spellbinding.

As we trudged along in an increasingly sodden state, I did take a couple of shots of further sylvan boskiness.

We were grateful for the Rangers’ work using local materials to create steps to help us poor stumbling, sweaty punters through the muddy bits.

We saw a few more creatures worth noting as we headed back to the Rangers’ Station:

Female Slaty-tailed Trogon

and we did see the busiest Leaf Cutter Ant trail <Clarkson mode ON> in the world <Clarkson mode OFF> (and this is actual speed, not speeded up)

and then we arrived back at the Rangers’ Station, where people were preparing to leave to catch a boat to wherever.

We walked to the reception point where we’d signed in, blimey, was it only yesterday? and there was a lot of milling about as we waited for about an hour for our group to be called.

Eventually it was our turn to walk along the beach

to re-run the Dunkirk thing again.

Our boat journey was not back to our original embarkation point, but on to Drake Bay, where we were assured that lunch was awaiting us. We were given instructions to follow a chap in red shorts who would lead us to the restaurant, which was good in theory, but he was a sprightly young thing who leapt off up the not-inconsiderable slope of the track to this restaurant, not giving a fig for his rôle as interim tour guide, and leaving us weary, sweaty punters well in his wake. Bastard. Anyway, we found the restaurant, and had a hasty lunch and eventually a “taxi” (4×4 pickup truck, thankfully with our suitcases from El Remanso on board) arrived to take us – along roads that reminded us uncomfortably of the Nicoya Peninsula – to our next stop.

Our next stop was a place called Tranquilo Lodge. After a bit of working out where the actual entrance was, we got a very pleasant insight into what awaited us. Bear in mind that we were both tired, hot and (in my case appallingly) sweaty after an intense 36 hours in the Corcovado National Park; bear also in mind that the place styles itself Corcovado’s Best Hotel; so the delightful welcome we got from Christophe and Sebastien, who own and run Tranquilo, really lifted our spirits as well as us and our baggage. The route to our room was up a very steep hill and we got a ride in Tranquilo’s lovely new golf buggy and Sebastien explained how everything worked and suggested that we should come to the bar to watch the sunset over a glass of something. He also provided some exceedingly important resources

so we were able to settle in to our room, with its splendid deck

before heading up for that sundowner.

We have four whole days here, with practically nothing to do except decompress. The last 48 hours have been wonderful (cold shower excepted); the four weeks that preceded it have been excellent; but it’s now time for us to relax and enjoy what looks like splendid accommodation.

I shall rhapsodise about Tranquilo in a future post. But, because there’s not a lot on our agenda for the next four days, I don’t know when I shall pen further deathless prose for your enjoyment. Check back in in a few days and see how things develop, won’t you?

Day 24, Part 3 – Second flight of Angel’s

Tuesday 14 March 2023, 1400 – I took the opportunity during our 90-minute lunchbreak to back up the photos we’d taken that morning and to recharge phone and camera in preparation for whatever wonders the afternoon had in store.

Almost immediately we hit the forest, Angel did his stop-and-point thing and even I managed fairly quickly to see what it was he was indicating – a Lineated Woodpecker. And the resulting image demonstrates elegantly why I always recommend to photographers that they shoot in RAW. If you shoot just JPEG, you’ll get something like this:

But with the extra detail available in a RAW image, you can get this:

We came across a Tinamou nest and its beautifully-coloured eggs –

I’m amazed that a coatimundi or peccary hadn’t made a meal out of it, frankly – and we saw a couple of Crested Guan at fairly close quarters, entirely unfazed by groups of punters, which meant they sat still for their close-ups, thus saving me some angst just in case I needed some for later.

We saw something new – a Scarlet-rumped Cacique (female, unfortunately – the male has wonderful orange decoration around the eyes, apparently) –

and something not new – a three-toed sloth, which Jane swears is smiling

but I’m buggered if I can see that. Never mind.

Then things got quite a lot more interesting quite quickly. The first sight was of the fourth kind of Monkey found in Costa Rica, the Squirrel Monkey. We’ve seen Howlers and Capucin and Spider Monkeys; and we’d seen in the distance the movements in the trees that signified Squirrel Monkeys coming through. But I finally got a clear sight of one of these small creatures (only about 25cm from head to bum) and I almost got a sharp photo, too.

Then The Word Got Out of something important to see and we scurried off in the direction indicated and – lo and behold! –

I got my Anteater shot, after all. I even got some video of it, too.

It had breached a termites’ nest and the termites were understandably less than happy about that so they went after it. This is why it is scratching and trying to use the tree to rub the attackers off.

Soon after that, I got my very first Potoo. OK, it was only a Common Potoo, but I’d never seen one before, so it wasn’t common for me.

This was another demonstration of the value of a long lens and a big sensor, as I was using, as opposed to a phone-and-scope setup. Angel managed to get this shot on Jane’s phone:

slightly larger, yes, but with chromatic aberration defects to detract from the overall quality.

We got another demonstration of the skill of guides. There are two birds in this scene, and I couldn’t see them for ages.

Yes, there they are:

male and female Yellow-Crested Night Herons.

We followed the river to the shore, where a Urania Fulgens moth obligingly stopped for a rest so I could take a photo;

and the beach had a dead tree on it with an extraordinary root system.

We saw Black Hawk Up,

and, as we neared the Ranger Station at the end of our tour, a Costa Rica take on the Monkey Puzzle Tree.

It was, in the end, a very satisfying day, despite the frustrations I felt at points along the way about my inability to (a) see things and (b) get photos of them.

Once back at the station, we had a shower. It was a cold shower. Jane reckons that that was exactly what she needed after five and a half hours and seven and a half miles in the sweaty forest. I reckoned it was fucking torture, and something I never want to do again.

Dinner was served from 6pm and we took the opportunity to go early, mainly because – guess what? – tomorrow’s start would be an early one. The facilities at the station are basic but well-organised; Jane got the top bunk and I got the bottom bunk, and we settled down for what we expected to be a poor night’s sleep, given that there are several other people in bunks in the same area

and we had to be up and ready to go out at 0500 the next day.

The next exciting episode will cover the night’s sleep and the following day’s action-packed, erm, action – come back in a day or so to find out how it all panned out.

Day 24, Part 2 – First flight of Angel’s

Tuesday 14 March 2023 (0900) – Having got our wellies on, we trotted off after Angel as he led us on our first tour.  It wasn’t especially hot – I don’t know in detail, and there was no internet available to check up on this kind of thing – but I suspect it was a few degrees short of 30°C.  But when we got into the forest, it became clear that the humidity was pretty high.

Angel explained a little of the history of the La Sirena Ranger Station as we headed off on this tour.  The site was once home to an airstrip and so there was a certain amount of exploitation of the resources – forest one side of the airstrip was cut down, leaving primary forest only on one side.  In the mid-seventies the government stepped in and closed down the exploitation by setting the area up as a National Park, and now the side that had been cut down is growing again, as secondary forest.  Numbers of tourists are carefully controlled, as is their behaviour when they are in the park.  The desire is to make it as natural as possible, so there is no feeding of the wildlife, which is left to get on with its own business in its own way.  The rangers maintain tracks through the forest and it is these trails which the various tours go along.

The experienced guides (and Angel is one such) know the patterns of wildlife behaviour in the various areas of the Park and so can do a little bit by way of tailoring their routes to match the desires of their groups, some of whom will have detailed and arcane species to seek, and others have a more general desire to See Stuff.  I’d put Jane and me about midway on that spectrum; having been here for over three weeks (and having been lucky on other tours) we’d seen a good selection of wildlife and only had a few boxes we’d like to tick.

So, come with us on a typical wildlife tour in Corcovado National Park.

The first thing that struck me as we walked along is that for an area which holds a reputed 5% of the world’s biodiversity, bugger-all happens. I had some kind of fanciful idea that the wildlife would be running, flapping and flying around us and making loud wildlife kinds of noise.  I suppose this image comes from having visited the Galapagos islands, where you actually have to step over some creatures because the buggers won’t get out of your way.

Corcovado is not like that.

A three-hour tour, such as we did this morning, consists mainly of following your guide and trying not to fall over the innumerable tree roots that cross the path – because there are a lot of trees in this forest, many of them quite magnificent.

Every so often, the guide will stop and peer around, sometimes trying to foment some kind of action by imitating animals or birds.

Then the guide will suddenly stop, point and tell you what can be seen. In the case of our group, this consisted of Jane quickly being able to see things, followed by many minutes of (normally) patient explanation by the two of them to tell me exactly which tree I should be looking at and exactly which branch the practically-invisible bird is perching on. Many more minutes follow whilst I try to get a photo of whatever it is that’s in focus and not obscured by the fucking vegetation which grows abundantly in these parts, for some reason.  Photographically there tend to be three outcomes; Angel uses his spotter scope, considerable skill and one of our phones to get an image; I get a fix on the animal and shoot off several frames in the hope that one might be in focus; or I give up because whatever it is that Angel has found I simply can’t see because of my deteriorating eyesight.

Occasionally it works, and I managed to pierce the vegetation to pick out a shot, like this Agouti, munching on mushrooms. (I have to say that the combination of a Nikon Z6, a 100-400mm lens and the camera’s ability to help getting the focus right by a capability called “focus peaking” was at times essential and hope this shot demonstrates that).

Sometimes (rarely, of course) the wildlife in question moves into a spot where in theory it’s possible to take a more satisfactory shot (the Agouti again).

Sometimes what the guide finds is so unutterably tiny and so distant that I have no chance of seeing it for myself, so a mobile+scope shot is the only way to get an image, like this long-nosed bat

which is tiny but which Angel not only could see but could find with his scope and muster the photo with Jane’s phone.  Very impressive and, for me, very frustrating.

The reason it’s frustrating is a philosophical one with its roots in copyright law. Because Angel took that photo, it’s not mine and so I can’t take any pride in it.  It’s lovely to see the creature an’ all that, but as I’ve said elsewhere in these pages, if I didn’t take a photo of it, it didn’t exist or never happened. There were times I was able to see things and still couldn’t get a decent shot. For example, we were wandering along, and I was several paces behind Jane and Angel when all of a sudden an anteater – a fucking anteater, one of the things we Jane really wanted to see! – calmly wandered across a log not twenty yards from me.  Could I get a decent shot? Could I buggery.

A combination of my own incompetence and there being too much vegetation in the way.  The best I could do, before the benighted creature disappeared from view was this.

Jane maintains this is a great image, and it is indeed sharp.  But I never caught the head and face, which means it’s not, to me, a satisfactory image. Angel was pleased that he saw it, too, even though all he got was a dwindling rear view.


When groups meet or get in earshot of each other, the guides communicate among themselves to say what they’ve seen and where.  And every so often there’s a frisson as something worthwhile is visible, like this Collared Forest Falcon

and you take your pictures and then turn round and see that The Word Is Out.

The guides all can hear things that normal people can’t and so they might hear the peep of a bird and know (a) where to look for it and (b) what they should be looking out for. They also look at the ground to see what clues there are there.  Often, it’s just scuffing where a Peccary or two has been rooting around for stuff; but sometimes it is another frisson, like, in this case, Tapir footprints.

We ended up scurrying through the trails, along with many other people, following reports of a Tapir having been seen.  Eventually we persuaded Angel to break away from this scurrying as we’d already seen Tapirs and we were getting fed up with (French) people pushing in in front of us.

The trail we then followed led to the beach

where, after a while, we saw a Black Iguana.

At first I thought it was a wooden carving that some unkind soul had put there to annoy punters like me, but no, it really was a genuine Iguana.

Other things we saw included a pair of Trogons, man and wife;

a decent view of a Tinamou, the “Forest Chicken”;

and a male Curassow (apparently auditioning for Yellow-Nose Day)

which was disinclined immediately to make way for us; but mainly what we saw were scenes of serene sylvan boskiness

which were pleasant enough but devoid of any further wildlife sightings of any pith or moment.

And then we were back at the Ranger Station and it was time for lunch, which is very works canteenish, but set up very efficiently.  Jane went vegetarian whilst I opted for the beef.  Jane’s decision was definitely the wiser.

Thus ended our first Flight of Angel’s.  We didn’t know what excitement (or otherwise) the afternoon might bring, and neither do you, which is why you should come back to read the next thrilling instalment. Yes, really.