Costa Rica: Great Green Macaws and more

Discussion in 'Shutterbug Street' started by LaSelva, 4/24/13.

  1. LaSelva
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    LaSelva Sprinting down the street

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    Me and my wife recently visited the Heredia province of Costa Rica. Our vacation destination was guided by a desire to experience the biodiversity of pristine, preserved rainforest as well as my desire to see Great Green Macaws in their natural habitat. I’m fascinated with (and love experiencing) the flora and fauna that parrots coevolved with and always strive to understand how that relates to their adaptations and behavior. In other words, I simply love to be in their world and to see how they live. My wife shares my interest in nature and I wanted her to experience the rainforest and more importantly, fall in love with ecotourism. We stayed at a wonderful lodge situated along the Sarapiqui (Sah-rah-pea-key) river that gives guided tours into the surrounding secondary and primary rainforest. Because of the inherent dangers to the inexperienced, many areas and especially primary forest, are only accessible via guide. To illustrate the point, a Fer-de-Lance (venomous snake) crossed our path during one of our hikes.

     
    April/May is the reproductive season of Great Green macaws as well as the beginning of the rainy season. This region is home to the Almendro (wild almond) tree coveted for building due to it’s hard wood and resistance to termites. The life cycle and distribution of the Great Green Macaw are dependent on this tree. An individual tree can come into fruit at any time of the year and these macaws follow this fruition. The Almendro is their primary food source as well as nesting site. So, for conservation purposes, Costa Rica has initiated a ban on the logging of this tree. Because many Almendro trees are on private property there are also ongoing efforts in this region to pay farmers not to cut them down. Great Green macaws seem to enjoy the fruit of the “Monkey-pot” tree as well. Related to the Brazil nut, these fruits have a hard coconut-like shell in which nuts are encased. You can Google search these South American trees for more information on them.

    Before setting off on our first early morning hike I expressed to our guide my interest in seeing Great Green macaws. He explained he could not guarantee me a sighting, something I expected beforehand, and I told him I understood. Content to hike, photograph and simply enjoy my surroundings, we began our first hike along a path that followed the river which could be seen through the trees as we went along. As we approached a clearing that gave us a view of the river as well as the forest on the other side we began to hear the unmistakable calls of macaws. Accross the river, in the distance and towering above the other trees, there was an Almendro tree. These trees stand out for their height and sparse foliage. My guide set up his spotting scope so we could get a better look. Upon seeing three Great Green macaws I became excited and before I could ask our guide suggested we go to the other side of the river and head towards that tree.

    We crossed a high bridge and began hiking through the forest. We eventually emerged out of the rainforest and were standing on a high point among open hills of giant ferns, wild coffee plants, and shrubs that sloped downward to the forest in the distance. We were now on the opposite side of the tree. By the time we arrived it had become alive with several more macaws flying in and out engaging in their early morning feeding and social activities. It was nearly impossible to get a good photograph due not to the height of the tree but the shadows created within it by the sun and silhouettes by the bright sky behind it. I did my best, constantly adjusting the settings on my camera, checking and re-checking my photographs. By the time this hike was over I got a few good photographs, was happy to have seen them (on our first morning there), and couldn’t wait to return.

    We headed back to the lodge for some lunch and relaxation after the fatiguing experience of hiking through the humid forest, and then positioned in the hot sun. Later that day we returned to the same location with a different guide. His name was Alex. Upon entering the clearing the Almendro came into view but this time the macaws decided to occupy an equally giant Monkey Pot tree to it’s left. They were feasting on it’s fruit.

    From an internet search: “The nuts and their contents are highly nutritious, so that on maturing, they are soon seized upon by animals. The gourds, as the coconut-like fruits are called, have been used as water vessels, as well as for ornamental purposes, once the contents are removed.”

    Alex immediately became excited at the number of Great Green macaws present and could not overstate how lucky we were. He told us that in the past visitors were lucky if they saw two at one visit. We were looking at a flock of at least a dozen! This time we decided to make our way downhill and get closer. In the hot sun we walked down steep hills, through ferns that grew up to our waists, coffee plants that reached our shoulders (all the while avoiding tripping over unseen holes in the ground) and through intertwined plants (we were not following a trail). Alex and my wife stopped and watched through his scope but I went on until I was as close to the tree as was safely possible. The macaws drop the coconut like protective shell once the fruit is eaten and I had no hard hat!

    Excited about my photos he asked me to show the lodge owner and founder who would love to see them. She and her husband opened this lodge 40 years ago after visiting this area and deciding to buy land to protect it. She had been given a Great Green macaw chick many years ago. It was raised at the lodge but flew off one day never to bee seen. The owner and the staff loved my photos and immediately requested them for use in their lectures so that other visitors could see the unique viewing experience that the lodge offered. I was happy to assist. We downloaded my photos in time for a lecture on Great Green macaws the next evening and they are now a regular part of this lecture and presentation.

    The guides told me I had photographed a rarely seen historical relationship between two endangered species - the Great Green macaw and the “Monkey-pot” tree (in the photo).

    From their face book page: “It's hard to get a picture of these two endangered species together, but David, his wife and Alexander (naturalist). Fortunally arrived at the right time when the Great Green Macaw feeding on Monkey Tree Pot. “

    Awaiting me upon my return to NY was an email my permission to use my photos for promotional purposes. Again, I was happy to assist. The owner of the lodge responded thanking me and added:

    “I will also be forwarding the photos to Centro Cientifico Tropical (Tropical Science Center) the organization that most works to protect the Great Green Macaw in the region.”

    This organization is currently working to link protected rainforest reserves to each other (called corridors) so that migratory routes (and therefore normal species behavior) are not disrupted.
    Back to whether or not my wife had fallen in love with ecotourism. On the way home she cried several times, a reflection of how I felt as well. The experience leaves and impact on ones heart.

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  2. LaSelva
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    LaSelva Sprinting down the street

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    Some more photos....

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  3. LaSelva
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    LaSelva Sprinting down the street

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    And more pictures.....

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  4. itzmered
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    itzmered Welcome to Parrotdise Administrator Celebirdy of the Month

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    stunning photos! What an experience you had. Can you share what lodge you went to? We are debating on if we want to take a land tour to Costa Rica in 2015 instead of a cruise
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  5. LaSelva
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    LaSelva Sprinting down the street

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    Yes, absolutely. It's called Selva Verde. I'm throwing in a few more photos....

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  6. juliashmulia
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    juliashmulia Jogging around the block

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    Wow, beautiful post, stunning photos. Thanks for sharing! :)
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  7. Katy
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    Katy Cruising the avenue Mayor of the Avenue

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    I'm speechless. Thank you, David.
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  8. AmiMayiplus12
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    AmiMayiplus12 Jogging around the block

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    W O W looks like Paradise! How awesome that you guys got to go!! Thank you so much for sharing such awesome pics!:)
  9. TikiLola
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    TikiLola Cruising the avenue Mayor of the Avenue

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    What an amazing experience and awesome you got to be involved! :highfive:
  10. zoo mom
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    zoo mom Joyriding the Neighborhood

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    Stunning pics. It looks like an awesome trip.
  11. Anne & Gang
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    Anne & Gang Riding the Skies Celebirdy of the Month Mayor of the Avenue Avenue Spotlight Award Avian Angel

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    absolutely stunning photos!
  12. expressmailtome
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    expressmailtome Ripping up the road Celebirdy of the Month Mayor of the Avenue

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    Amazing pictures! What a great trip! Matt
  13. SunUp
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    SunUp Rollerblading along the road

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    Fantastic! Sounds like an amazing trip. THANK YOU for sharing your photos...really beautiful and quite moving to see the macaws in the wild.
  14. rockoko
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    rockoko Squawk and Meow! Moderator Celebirdy of the Month Mayor of the Avenue

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    beautiful beautiful pics!!!
  15. sweet francis
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    sweet francis Jogging around the block

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    Gorgeous! I love those little green bat faces ❤
  16. ChromeScholar
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    ChromeScholar Rollerblading along the road

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    Love the pics, Costa Rica is on our list of places to visit.
  17. LaSelva
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    LaSelva Sprinting down the street

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    Thank you all, I’m glad my photos are appreciated. The great thing about posting them here is I get to tell the story behind them. Not to mention that on a specific forum photos of wild parrots are better appreciated. For those of you thinking about going, it’s a great place to become more intimate with the natural world. I’ve taken many trips to Europe as well as several cruises (and they were great) but Central and South America are truly unique. Costa Rica is beginning to teach neighboring countries that preservation rather than exploitation of the natural world is today’s commodity. When we go there and express an interest we reinforce that to all citizens. They are as enthusiastic as eco-tourists about that and it’s a win-win. Also want to add that guides are invaluable. Not just for your safety but because they can point out things that one would never notice on one’s own. For one, I would have never seen three species of bat on my trip if not for a guide pointing them out, and there are many others. Thanks again.
  18. ~Tiko~
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    ~Tiko~ Sprinting down the street

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    Wow, Thanks for sharing your trip!
  19. Bokkapooh
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    Bokkapooh Joyriding the Neighborhood

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    Beautiful pics! I am also planning to go to Costa Rica in a couple years and just really loved your pics!
  20. LaSelva
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    LaSelva Sprinting down the street

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    Happy Memorial Day all! I've got some quiet time and I'm resizing a few more pics in my camera to add to this thread.....

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