After a very long stretch of working long days, I got a text on Tuesday morning from a wildlife guide/friend who wanted to know if I’d like to join him at El Rey Wetlands for an afternoon of birding. While I was leaving the next day for Nosara and had to much to do, I just couldn’t pass up the opportunity.
Johan has his own guide business – Manuel Antonio Birding with Johan Chaves – and is sought after regularly by people coming down to Costa Rica who want to go birdwatching. He has seen over 500 birds in Costa Rica (there are about 850) and has a goal to reach 600 before the end of the year. He even just spotted a bird never before seen in Costa Rica while at El Rey a few weeks ago! I first met him when my friends from California were visiting and he took us on the Manuel Antonio National Park tour.
About 15 minutes south of Quepos, we turned off the main highway and traveled through an African Palm plantation, heading west towards the Pacific, eventually arriving at a marshland covered in rice fields. Johan told me that he doesn’t go into the marshland – 1. because the water is often deep and 2. because there are crocodiles and caimans who like to hang out there. Plus (3), it’s always best to stay on the trail.
El Rey is an easy short walk along an unpaved road with rice fields on both sides – we walked maybe 100 yards at most during the two hours we spent there. And while the area is small, there is an abundance of birds to be seen.
It’s so amazing to me how easy it is for Johan to find birds. I mean the trees are still thick with leaves from winter and yet he can spot a tiny little bird up in the canopy. My favorites of the day were the caracara (Mexico’s National bird), anies (related to the roadrunner), storks and the jacanas. Especially the baby jacanas. There were a few that were juveniles but then Johan spotted the tiny little fuzzy babies. Oh, so cute!
Then…the next day I flew to Nosara and a friend and I headed north to Playa Ostional in hopes of seeing turtles. Unfortunately, the turtles did not cooperate with my travel schedule and the arribada happened three days before but I was still hopeful that possibly a few might be coming onto shore at sunset.
There were about 10 either in the process of coming onto shore or already above the high tide mark and slowly and methodically digging their holes in the sand. All the while the vultures hovered and watched.
While I didn’t get to see the arribada with thousands of turtles coming to shore to lay their eggs, it is always a nice sight to see even a small number creating this miraculous event. What is not nice to see are people who think it’s okay to approach the turtles. In one instance, there was a guide nearby who told the people to move away. Unfortunately, there was no guide when a family literally tried to put their 2 year old daughter on top of the turtle for a photo. However the friend I was with saw it happening and ran over to the people telling them in Spanish that this was not appropriate and that turtles need space. The family just looked at us with disgust and ignored what she was saying. As we walked away, we knew that they would just do it again and sadly, the turtle who had just come out of the water, was turning around to go back in. It’s space had been violated and it obviously didn’t feel safe going further up the sandy shore.
I don’t know if the people don’t care or if they just don’t understand but it’s so disturbing to me, either way. These are endangered species and we should feel so fortunate to be in their presence and do whatever we can to protect them.
Enjoy the slideshow. Note: I have a very large zoom on my camera and any close-ups of turtles coming out of the water were taken at a far distance. Once the turtles begin laying their eggs, the guides allow visitors to get closer. Also, all of the soft white shells you see on the black sand are baby turtles that hatched (or that the vultures got to).