Arenal Volcano and surrounding area
On our second day in La Fortuna, we took a 3-in-1 tour to the Mistico Arenal Hanging Bridge Park, La Fortuna Waterfall, then a short hike to a view point to see the volcano (see my detailed Tripadvisor review of the tour here). At the trailhead to the hanging bridges, we saw a flock of Montezuma Oropendolas. These are very social birds that build hanging nests on tall tree branches. I had read about them in Alexander Skutch's books and was delighted to meet them in person. (Click on each image to see the high-resolution version)
Then off we went to the hanging bridges.
There were many vipers coiled up around branches or on the lichen and bromeliads covered tree barks. They are very docile, and some are surprisingly colorful.
We spotted a pair of birds in the understory -- Rufous-tailed Jacamars. This is a bird that looks like an oversized hummingbird, one that I had heard of before and was glad to see with my own eyes.
Other creatures, such as this lizard, also lurk in the forest.
A beautiful moth caught my attention (note the translucent lattices on its wings), I was later told that this is one of the dioptine notodontids, probably of genus Dioptis vitrina.
In one small hole on the slope next to the trail, we found a frog sitting in it. This would be one of the few amphibians I saw on this trip -- Costa Rica is known for its colorful tree frogs (among other things!), unfortunately for me, I did not see many (all the more reasons to go back!).
Another famous dweller in the forest is the Leafcutter Ant; they gather the leaves to grow fungi that they eat.
The tour company provided fruits and drinks for us after the hike. We admired the view of the volcano while we enjoyed the tropical fares.
The second activity on our program is going to La Fortuna Waterfall. This was a rather crowded place, with throngs of people ziplining, swimming, etc. They even allow people to get into the pool just below the waterfall, which made a noisy gathering. The waterfall itself is pretty impressive, though.
La Fortuna Waterfall
La Fortuna Waterfall
The highlight of this day came during lunch at a hotel near Arenal Volcano (I think this was Catarata Eco Lodge), when a dazzling succession of tropical birds came to the garden to feed. I barely remember what I hastily ate, but I spent most of the time snapping away. The tropical birds are really most beautiful.
A rather plain-looking bird also came to feed -- this was the Clay-colored Thrush. At the time I did not quite understand why, amongst all the colorful and exotic birds that can be found in Costa Rica, the Ticos picked this bird as their national bird. But I would appreciate this later -- this is the most tireless songster I have ever seen, it keeps pouring out its melodious songs for hours on end, especially during the early morning hours. Its varied songs remind me of the Nothern Mockingbird at home.
I would also photograph my first hummingbird on this trip in the garden -- a Rufous-tailed Hummingbird (I had seen quite a few prior to this, but these high-energy fliers were always too fast for me to photograph).
After lunch we took a short hike to a view point to see the volcano upclose. At the trail head, we found a few large Crested Guans in the trees. Even their turkeys are prettier in the tropics.
The hike was shorter than I thought, and we would not get too close to the volcano. However, a rainbow manifested itself just below the cloud-shrouded volcano, giving the scene a magical glow. Looking back, we could see the forest-clad mountain slopes and Arenal Lake in the distance.
View from the hill near the volcano with Arenal Lake in the distance
We took another hike through the forest below the volcano, where I saw a Broad-billed Motmot (not shown), but the light was very dim in the forest for good pictures. After the hike, our friendly driver "spotted" a bird for me -- this is a Yellow-naped Parrot that was hanging out in a tree outside a shed. I think it actually spoke some Spanish words. Obviously somebody's pet, I did not count it as one of my new birds. It is a lovely bird nonetheless.
I did count a bird that I photographed later -- I marked this one as a Tropical Pewee after much research (there is a slight chance that it could be an Eastern Wood Pewee).
Tropical Pewee (?)
Tropical Pewee (?)