When Luis Solano Pochet and Alvaro Cubero said that Boca Tapada is a bird photographer’s paradise, they were not exaggerating. We were able to see honeycreepers, tanagers, toucans, parrots, vultures and even hummingbirds, all coming to the exact same feeder at Laguna del Lagarto Lodge. The quantity for each of those species was also amazing, and they say that in December, they get even more species and in an incredible quantity. I’ll make sure to visit again at the end of the year.
We arrived pretty early at the Hotel for breakfast, and then walked to the hide where we would spend most of the morning, photographing vultures, and specially, the King Vulture with To The Wonder. The hide has special windows that let us see the outside, but from the outside it just looks like a black screen, so the vultures could not see us. Once you see the King, you stop thinking Vultures are ugly; even Black Vultures now look interesting for me. The smell inside is not so good, and most people were sweating all the time. I did not, seems that growing up in Golfito did pay off for this one. And the previous day it had rained, so we had to put on our rubber boots to walk all the way. The unexpected part is that two lizards put on a show in front of us. No, they did not do anything inappropriate, but they were cute.
After the vulture hide, we returned to the hotel for bird photography. Oropendolas, Toucan, Honeycreepers and Parrots were the most expected birds, but we also saw Woodcreepers, Woodpeckers, Hummingbirds, Tanagers and a few other species. Alvaro said that usually people can’t finish their lunch, and indeed the Toucans made their appearance while we were eating. I did not hesitate and left my lunch at the table while I grabbed my camera to try my luck at the toucans, and luck was on my side.
For the afternoon, we practiced macro photography with snakes and frogs. I do not have a proper macro lens, so I can’t get close enough (not that anyone would be too close to a venomous snake), but still I like the pictures I got. Both species of Poison Dart Frogs look amazingly venomous, and the Velvet may not look like it. but you are better off keeping your distance.
For the night, we went with the administrator to feed the caimans. No, I did not touch them, but some of the guys did. I was not scared, but I prefer to avoid any risk. We all lit our lamps, and their eyes glowed red in the shadows. They usually stay motionless until the guide threw them food.
The next day we got early (I mean, 5:00 am early) to the observation deck. Sadly at this time of the year, the amount of birds is not as impressive as in December, so we had to wait for about 1 hour before the first few birds appeared. After breakfast at 8:00 am, we headed to the administrator’s home to photograph some other species we did not see at the lodge. Orioles, Woodpeckers, more Honeycreepers and Tanagers were the most common. The most interesting sight we had was an Adult Black-cowled Oriole feeding two juvenile Shiny Cowbirds; cowbirds are known for hijacking other birds’ nests, which means other species carry the burden of raising their chicks. This oriole was working hard to feed the cowbirds. All they did was stand by the banana with beaks open and crying out loud, while the oriole desperately teared apart banana pieces and put them into their beaks. A clever, yet tricky way of ensuring the survival of their kids.
A female lizard warming in the morning sun
Portrait of a male lizard. We saw both lizards from within the hide, while we waited for the King Vulture
Another look at the female. Note the green and brown camouflage pattern over the body
The male shows orange tones in the face and spine, and has less brown over the body
One species of poppy that I haven’t seen before. The petals grow downward and then coil up, with the stem pointing downwards
A strawberry Dart Poison Dart Frog that our friends captured for practicing macro photography
All captured frogs are released back to the same spot where they where found, once the workshop ends
A velvet coiled in itself. It is well camouflaged when resting on the ground among the leaves
The eyes show the typical vertical line in the middle
A front view of the Velvet’s head. Even during macro photography, you really don’t want to be too close to this venomous snake
Low-power flash is used to illuminate the body of the Velvet and saturate more the colors
Low-power flash is also used for frogs. High power flash could actually burn the skin of amphibians, so you have to be careful
Another side view of the Velvet.
We also had the chance to photograph a Green and Black Poison Dart Frog
Portrait of the Green and Black Poison Dart Frog. It looks elegant to me
Their normal habitat comprises the wet forest floor, where lots of vegetation hide them from view
This frog is ready to hop into the action
This is a somewhat artistic picture of a Heron on the flight. I had no time to change settings as it flew away
A few of the participants in this great workshop. Luis is using the his characteristic black outfit and orange cap
This is Luis, our guide, recommending us the settings to use to capture those pretty birds
The Canon crowd took a little bit of time for resting
A lens is never long enough for us bird photographers
I got a second change to travel to Boca Tapada on November 25th, 2017, this time on a birdwatching trip with Fundación Rapaces de Costa Rica. I had the flu virus, so I pretty much stayed at the feeders most of the time, but I knew that would be wondrous, and this time we had plenty of migratory birds visiting the feeders, like the Baltimore and Black-cowled Orioles, and also the Summer and Scarlet Tanagers. I had the surprise to see the Sungrebe for my first time, gently swimming through the lagoon, while others in the group (so-called Team Agami) saw the Agami Heron during a boat tour through the lagoon. In general, a great experience topped off by a juvenile Bullet Ant bite and a Cayman that opened it’s fangs while warming up on the sun.
Portrait of the Cayman with open fangs. Notice the small orange bee near the nostrils
This frontal close-up was taken at about 4 meters of distance. When I tried to get closer, it went into the water.
This is not a menacing posture, the animal was just warming up on the sun
And now a sample of the birds seen at Boca Tapada:
Portrait of a Black Vulture. Note that this juvenile still has some hairs on the head
An Adult King Vulture fights off a Black Vulture. This King is fascinating
A Female Black-crowned Tityra resting atop a dead log. It was nesting on the other side
The male Red-legged Honeycreeper colors always amaze me. It is one of the most beautiful small birds I have seen
This Montezuma Oropendola got to the feeder and posed for the camera
The male Black-cheeked Woodpecker is pretty in my opinion. A female was also hanging around, but I did not get a picture of her
Groups of Brown-hooded Parrot 10+ strong would come to the feeders and pose for the camera
The Palm Tanager does not look interesting at first sight due to dull gray coloration
The Female Red-legged Honeycreeper (right) feeding a juvenile female (left). The juvenile shakes rapidly her wings to ask for food
Male Passerini’s Tanagers are difficult to photograph, because the body almost always looks deep black and all detail is lost in the picture
The Male Shining Honeycreeper has incredibly reach colors, just like the Red-legged. I love them both
The Rufous-tailed Hummingbird may be very common in our gardens, but it still is fascinating on the wing. And perched.
The juvenile Golden-hooded Tanager molting to the adult plumage. Juveniles are actually green, and they gradually acquire the amazing adult coloration. This one is just missing the golden hood.
The Collared Aracari is known in Costa Rica as the Gangster, as they always come in groups, bullying other birds that may be at food sources
A juvenile Bare-throated Tiger-Heron scratches the head before ambushing prey at the river’s edge
The left Aracari is an adult, while the right one is a Juvenile. The juvenile just has duller coloration in the beak, and less red on the chest
The delicate straw inside the bill of this Black-mandible Toucan is actually its tongue
The Blue Dacnis easily got into my list of favorite birds. It looks gorgeous, even on flash in a dark environment
“I am looking at you…” they both seem to be telling each other
This juvenile Red-legged Honeycreeper is half in the way of molting to the adult coloration. Streaks of blue and green are shown in the underparts
No wonder why every marketing material about Costa Rica includes a picture of the Keel-billed Toucan. It is gorgeous