Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Caño Negro Wildlife Reserve

During our Arenal stay, we had the option to explore the wild world of the Caño Negro Wildlife Reserve.  It is a MUST SEE location for birders.  And anyone who loves wildlife. And it's easy.  You just get on a boat and float down the river.

I listened to our guide speak about this oddly colored Mantled Howler Monkey.  She shared with us the whole story about how this color sequence happens with Howlers but I got lost in the discussion.  It was very Jamie and Cersei Lannister like.  Anyhow, I was more interested in the societal behaviors of this poor monkey.  

Imagine being born this way.  You are prone to more attacks because you stick out like a sore thumb.  Therefore, your community abandons you. How would you feel?  For months this male was depressed.  That is until this female found a liking for this sexy ginger Howler.  Today, he is a new man monkey and very happy. His story choked me up a little.  I should also add that he is only one of the two known oddly colored Mantled Howler Monkeys in Costa Rica. 

Our guide was excellent.  So was our boat operator. Before the trek into the reserve, I asked her about a certain bird.  I don't know why I did it.  I just did. If we found it, it would make for the second coolest sighting of our trip after the Spotted Antbird. Turns out, they both had seen the bird recently!  I nearly messed myself.  Tip to birders traveling abroad. Always speak with the locals.  We don't have time to naturally absorb everything around us.  Communication is key as you will see.  There is nothing to be ashamed of here.  In Tucson, I can diddle daddle and explore weird spots on my own for birds.  I don't have that luxury while on a tight schedule. This is why networking is VERY important.

People go "goo-goo-ga-ga" over these cute little Green Iguanas.  Much like our little turtle issues here in the US, the locals like to take these cute tiny iguanas and make them pets.  Then they grow up to look like the big guy below.  Not so cute. Still.  That is one cool looking iguana. 

During our trip to Chiapas, Mexico two years ago, we spotted our first Red-legged Honeycreeper.  They were everywhere in Costa Rica.  I was finally able to get a nice capture of one on this day trip. 

Kingfishers.  Who doesn't love them?  At this reserve, you have the chance of spotting 6 different species of Kingfisher!  We only spotted 3 of them.  The most common of the species was the Amazon Kingfisher. 

Then I heard talk of bats.  I like them too!  But they were difficult to find.  These are the Proboscis Bats.  

Why do they line up like this on the tree?  To look like a snake so that the predators won't eat them.  Clever strategy. 

I love bats.  And anytime we get to see a new species, I get excited. 

Oh!  That's right.  I'm a birder.  Focus!  The Amazon Kingfisher......

Our boat continued slowly down the river where we found this pair of Black-headed Trogons.  They looked so weird perched on a branch together.  There they sat as still as they could be as if they were posing for an artist to paint them. 

I love reptiles but they do scare the crap out of me. Please don't let this boat flip!  This Spectacled Caiman is the reason why the monkeys won't swim across the river.  

Then the moment we had been waiting for arrived. The tour guide looked in our direction and said, "The Great Potoo is here."  It took everyone on the boat several minutes to find the bird.  How in the world do people find these birds?!!  They look like branches!  Our excitement was contagious because the rest of the passengers got out of their seats to see what were were jammerin' about.  It was kind of a bonding moment for all of us.  The birders suddenly became bird instructors:)

After everyone saw the bird, it was back to the mammals.  Everyone wanted to see a sloth.  Personally I was more interested in observing the White-throated Capuchins. It was incredible.  We observed three species of monkey in one day.  The Capuchins are difficult to spot.  They are probably the most tricky to observe in the wild. 

This family of Capuchins moved stealthily through the leaves proving once again, even with an advantageous viewing spot, that they were tricky to capture on camera.  The focus on my camera wasn't quick enough sometimes.  Or if I did get a shot, it was blurry.  I think this species of monkey is the most intelligent of the three.  Howler Monkeys intimidate.  Spider Monkeys are lazy and go with the flow.  But Capuchins.  They can be stinkers.  Remember my mention of a monkey throwing mangoes at us on Coiba Island in Panama?  It was the White-headed Capuchin doing the throwing:)  

Then.  It happened for the vacationing teachers wanting their sighting of a sloth. The boat erupted into a frenzy of "WHERE?!  WHERE?!!" Please don't tip the boat over. There are caiman in this river. 

Brown-throated Sloth
We had a great time on the river and saw lots of birds like the endemic Nicaraguan Grackle! Ok.  I'll be honest.  That bird is really boring. It basically looks like a smaller version of a Great-tailed Grackle. But if you're a birder....

And the coolest observation of the day for me came from this nesting Golden-hooded Tanager. 

It was hard to keep track of the bird among all the leaves, but we watched the adult build that nest. 

As we ate our lunch, we watched the incredible wildlife show happening around us.  

It had been a return to the hot and humid habitat of the tropical lowlands.  Luckily for us, we were shaded under the roof of our boat. Also note, I'm wearing a second shirt to cover up the sweat. But my gods, it was a good day. 

And yes.  It was as beautiful as it looked.  The secret to planning a trek is locating yourself in birdy central areas with options to do day treks nearby. This was an awesome day.  

We were served a wonderful and hardy Costa Rican meal.  Our journeys to Arenal and Caño Negro would come to a close. Stay tuned for our next exciting journey as it will take us into the clouds......
For the Caño Negro report, click here


  1. Replies
    1. It was. NOW, I'm back in the AZ heat wanting to return:)

  2. Stunning photos Chris and what a wonderful day you had. Great story about the monkeys and the amount of wildlife you saw was just amazing. You must have so many memories of this trip :)

    1. A lot of wildlife memories. I was so focused on the search and science that I did a poor job with the fun human stuff. I am going to remedy that situation in the future with some human planned activities like ziplining or rafting.

  3. Hello, Chris! This is any awesome post and report. I remember taking this same boat tour during my Costa Rica trip. I loved all the monkeys and the birds. Those bats are cool too. Happy birding, enjoy your day!

  4. Wau Biutiful bird ! Upeita kuvia linnuista ja viidakon eläimistä.


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