Day one Tortuguero: Breakfast at our San Jose hotel was followed by a quick shoot in the gardens, a pack up and we were off to Tortuguero in our Toyota 20 seat tour bus. Along the way we saw 3 toed and 2 toed sloth lounging in cecropea trees. The best one was sitting under an umbrella of leaves with more green under him to complete the picture. We arrived at the dock, loaded on the boat and floated down the river toward the Caribbean and our jungle lodge. After lunch we took to the water in our 30’ power boat that got us face to face with snowy egrets, toucans, and bare throated tiger heron. At 4:30 it was time to check the beach to see if there were any green sea turtles hatching. A hawk glided into a low bush and as we approached we could see the little turtles scrambling for the waves. The sea was rough and the windblown foam on the black sand created an intriguing back drop for fisheye and macro shots. We got soaked as the waves pounded the shore; whisking the little turtles to a new life at sea. This was one of the most satisfying photo opportunities I’ve ever had. Maybe we will get lucky tomorrow…..Tonight we did a little night macro workshop that included bull frogs, leaf-litter frog, and a beautiful multi-colored frog we couldn’t identify. The new LED flash kits are really working well.
Day 2 Tortuguero: Out on the canals at 6:00 for little blue herons, male basilisk lizard, and jacana. I’ve chased jacanas all over the world trying to get the straightup wing stretch after they land. This morning I got it…perfectly! Back at the lodge we walked the grounds and had a troupe of white-faced capuchin monkeys go through. Best shots were of a mother and baby. Some of the group got shots of howlers and squirrel monkeys. This afternoon was all about the turtles. We went to the beach as the dark clouds gathered and had 2 massive hatchings go to the sea. With the practice we got yesterday and the discussions of what we could do better or different this was an unqualified success. Tonight was another frog hunt with the red-eyed tree frog as the main event.
Day 3 Tortuguero: This was a busy morning!!! The light was soft and there was no rain. We shot all morning and here are a few highlights. Great curassow, juvenile tiger herons with their rust and white stripes, basilisk lizards, spider monkeys, white faced capuchins, caiman, collared aracari, and best of all a flock of highly endangered great green macaws. Our boat guy this year is great! Forward, backward, closer….all done in an instant! This afternoon was an “on land” frog macro shoot. A red-eyed tree frog was walking on a branch and gave us great views of his multi colored sides and legs. High f stop and flash made the distant background black. Stunning.
Day 4 Tortuguero: It rained cats and dogs all night and this morning’s boat ride was a wash out. Instead we had a lovely breakfast, loaded up the transport boat (with a roof on it) and photographed on our trip out. Perfect shots of slatey-tailed trogon, a glorious tiger heron, and a basilisk lizard lying out on a log. Now we head to the rain forest where we hope it will be dryer….On the way we got a couple of faciated tiger herons on the San Jose River. Selva Verde feels like home! We got my favorite suite of rooms, had lunch and started shooting. The forest is packed with birds! We put a few bananas out and had Chestnut mandible toucans, Blue-gray, palm, and summer tanagers, orioles, red-legged honey creepers, olive-backed euphonia, variegated squirrels and more. We shot for a couple of hours before it got too dark. Back at the room the flash batteries were HOT when I put them in the charger! Tonight we found the most amazing larva. It hung from its head. The lower body was shaped like a false head….it looked EXACTLY like the head of a viper. Wait till you see the photos!
Day 5 Selva Verde: We got to sleep in. 7:00 breakfast! Then it was a rain forest bird shoot with some new species for us…my favorite was the golden hooded tanager. 2 new frogs, as well. The afternoon was spent at the lodge where the chestnut mandible toucans were calling back and forth with their massive bills thrown straight up! Tonight’s macro shoot was a male glass frog keeping watch over 3 clusters of eggs. Lots of them had squirming little tadpoles in them. Lighting them from below showed the translucence of this unique amphibian.
Day 6 Selva Verde: At least it’s raining…The rivers are up 10 feet in the last 5 days and the small ones are running backwards! We waited for the rain to stop…..When there was a lull we drove to La Selva…on the way in to the reserve I spotted a big mushroom. When I say big I mean HUGE. There were three of them growing really tight around a palm tree. 3 feet across! This is one of MANY life shots from this trip. You NEVER see these. They are huge and a result of the decaying leaves in a leaf cutter ant nest. They only grow when there are torrential rains and we have had those. I took some straight 60mm shots but Louise drove me back to the lodge to get the 10.5mm fisheye that was on my bed. I am such a idiot. After the mushrooms we went into the reserve and photographed peccaries, Rufus – winged woodpecker, and great tinamu. Back at the lodge Yehudi found an eyelash pit viper for an exciting macro shoot! Off to Quetzal Valley in the morning.
Day 7 Sevegre: We got our stuff on the bus, had breakfast, and left Selva Verde early. I am happy to get off the Caribbean Slope, over the mountains and to the drier Pacific slope. We had once in a lifetime shots simply because it rained SO hard for SO long…the hawk moth larva that looks like a snake, the glass from with all the eggs, and the out of this world leaf-cutter mushroom…but I need to dry my clothes! Over the mountains and through the Central Valley and up 8,000 feet to the Telamanka Mountains we found a spot for lunch with hummingbird feeders. We shot the whole afternoon. Distant backgrounds and flash made for nice photos of Magnificent, violet-eared green, the tiny scintillent, and the endemic (and colorful) firey throated hummingbirds. The most dramatic moments were with a young firey throated waiting to be fed by its mother and being attacked by a violet-ear.
Day 8 Sevegre: Today is quetzal day. Our regular wild avocado trees are not bearing fruit right now so we went to a new place for me in another valley. There were 2 male and 1 female on top of a ridge. We were able to follow them along the valley as they ate fruit from different trees. We had some good chances at them before we went to the top of the valley for lunch. Chicken, fresh vegetables, and trout from the mountain streams later we started in on photographing the mountain birds. There are oak forests all trough the valley so acorn woodpeckers were common. We had 6 at one time within 20 feet. Other birds we saw were: yellow-thigh and large-footed finch, sooty thrush, flame-colored tanager, Wilson’s warbler, flower piercers, Rufus-napped sparrow, ashy-capped tanager, white-throated mountain gem and magnificent hummingbird…I’m going to stop now. I’m starting to sound like a birder…
Day 9 We had an early morning hummingbird shoot that was sunny but in the end turned out OK. Lots of the blue-eared violets were in, but also some magnificent and a single scintillent that gave us some good looks. We had a quick breakfast, packed up, loaded and began the road home.