As we drove through little towns i could see that every television was on to the game and small crowds were formed at every one, watching, all the school kids were wearing Costa Rica team jerseys and soccer balls were being bounced around everywhere.
Eventually the paved road we were on ended and a gravel road continued on through km's of pineapple fields, oh right, this must be the rough 36 km from Pital to Boca Tapada we had to travel to get there. I could tell our driver was not impressed by having to drive his fancy new van on it but what could he do? a fare was a fare. He took it slow actually, it felt like a long time and finally we saw a sign for the resort and later a steep muddy road and we were at the resort.
It all worked out in the end for the driver because there were still 10 minutes left in the game and he got to watch. All the lodge employees were celebrating the eventual win and we met Kurt, the owner with a huge smile on his face, he apologized for the commotion and said it was a historical match for the country, i understood completely.
Kurt told us that Jorge had already come in at 7am, i found out later that he left his place in Alajuala at 2am to make the drive up, dedication.
the lodge was pretty darned spectacular, it was on a hill, surrounded by small lagoons, there were canoe's free to use, a couple of forest trails, nice cabins (with hammock on porch) and best of all, they had feeders up in a couple of spots next to the dining area/shooting platform. We had a roof over our heads as well so shooting in the rain was no problem, it would come in handy as we had a fair amount of rain during our visit, including very loud thunder storms at night that would shake the walls of the cabin. The stars were huge at night, as were the mosquitoes and tiny black biting flies that went to town on my wife, leaving her arms and legs covered in bites, we had had mosquitoes at all the spots we had stayed at already, they were just starting to add up now, even on me.
We unpacked in our cabin quickly and i was soon back at the shooting area, i could see plenty of activity, the bananas they were using were attracting all sorts of species.
I didn't realize at the time, but honeycreepers were a house specialty and i got my fill, up close.
One could just stay set up in one spot all day and not get bored, plus you could eat your meals there too, no reason to leave right?
Other birds around the feeders included
Finally we met up again with Jorge and he said he had been shooting already that morning and had some spots to show me now.
We headed into the forest about 100 metres to a small shack with hummingbird feeders, few hummers around and we weren't looking for them this time anyways, Jorge wanted to show me a Slaty Antshrike
what a beauty, later we headed back to the feeders and shot some more.
I asked Kurt later if they had been getting any toucans in lately and what he told me wasn't encouraging, he said that having just nested, it was possible that the toucans were relying on insects and other proteins when feeding now and the bananas were not being visited, lately.
No worries because we were planning something else as the real main attraction of this visit, costly but maybe worth it if everything worked out - Kurt knew of a blind setup close by that specialized in vultures, King vultures specifically, if we wanted, they would buy a cow's head and place it in a pit next to the blind for us.
The meat would cost a certain amount and if the King vultures never showed, that was all we had to pay for, if the birds did come, then the overall price was increased substantially, no real problem because Jorge and i were splitting the cost and i couldn't think of a more unique bird to shoot, how many opportunities like this come up?
We woke up next morning and met up at the dining/shooting area and got busy. the staff would inform us if they saw any King vultures circling above but so far, nothing.
We shot the feeders and got our fill of honeycreepers, breakfast was served and we took a break to sip some coffee and eat some eggs, rice and beans (typical breakfast). It was raining but a good morning so far, suddenly it got a whole lot better :)
2 toucans (twocans) in a tree, next thing we knew, they were down on the perches going for the bananas, we went bananas (ok, maybe just me) but finally, here was what i had dreamed about, toucans on a nice perch, and up close, i had to back the tripod up and move around some tables to get them all in, at 500mm, they filled up the viewfinder nicely. The birds struck quickly and were gone, as luck would have it, i got some shots of a new toucan for me Keel-billed Toucan
It didn't end there though, next came a gang of Collared aracaris, raiding the bananas with gusto.
wow, so much fun, time to finish breakfast though.
Having done just that we were startled momentarily when one of the staff with binoculars on shouted King Vulture!
it was on.
the most luxurious blind i've ever been in. It was obviously constructed specifically for vultures because it had sealed windows, vultures can smell extremely well. We were so close to the action though, i knew Jorge and his 800mm were challenged even more than i was and we all hoped the birds would fly onto a distant perch so we could full body in frame. King vultures are pretty amazing (spectacular?) birds, much larger than Turkey or Black and when they came to feed everyone else got in line behind them.
While we concentrated on shooting the King vultures we didn't forget to shoot the Turkey's and Black vultures as well.
It was kind of a surreal experience, almost like sitting at home watching a nature show on your big screen TV, the sounds were something else as well, the hollow thudding sound the skull made when ripped at was ever present. thankfully we never saw any real gore, it was all hidden away below eye level in the pit.
After high-fiving each other for getting some decent shots (Api shot video of the whole feeding as well) we headed back up to the lodge.
When we got back we were treated to a stunning pair of Black-crowned Tityras at the feeders.
In the afternoon Jorge drove us down towards Boca Tapada to do some road-side birding, had we not been with him, we would never have seen any of these next birds.
Blue-black Grassquit (a very small bird)
Caribbean and Pacific races of Variable Seedeater
We had an awesome time shooting these guys but the road was getting more busy and it was time to head over to Adolpho's (lodge manager) place to check out the feeders in his yard, for a small donation towards keeping the bananas stocked one could visit and shoot all they wanted. His place was small but lush and jungle-like, he even had hummingbird feeders up, since the birds he was getting were pretty much the same as up at the lodge, i didn't shoot much new, although this hummingbird was pretty cool.
The next day we were treated to another show by the toucans (3 of them this time along with the aracari gang)
Later we went for an afternoon drive through some back-country roads and shot
(right when this bird landed on the fence so nicely Jorge realized his memory cards were full, he had to run back to car to change em up and when he got back the bird had flown, i felt bad for the guy, i knew he really wanted one).
Last bird i will post from Laguna Del Legarto is this Broad-billed Motmot, it was our last night there and we had shot some amazing birds, Jorge had to head back down to his home and work and we said our goodbyes, he was like the candy-man in that he showered us in Costa Rican snacks! plantain chips and corn chips, bags and bags (he worked as a sort of distributor for a snack food company and had a lot of product in his vehicle.
It was great to meet another bird photog, i could relate to his passion, and even though his english was shaky, and my spanish was even more shaky we still understood each other completely, he would point to his ear suddenly out in the field, next he would point to his eye, and well, that's universal for "i hear a bird"! to any birder.
I told him we have a place for him to stay if he ever comes up to Canada, i'd love to show him my part of the world.
Anyways, Laguna del Legarto had a lot of different frogs in the forest, i never saw any of them because i was shooting birds but at least my wife got to shoot them on our last day with the help of a guide at the lodge, she did really well.
To be continued!