The River Trail

The air was almost suffocating in its stillness. Not even the hint of a breeze. I had never felt so utterly alone. Besides me, there wasn’t a sole on this trail. Doubt crept in. Was this a mistake? Was it simply too dangerous to be in this jungle alone – especially so early in the morning? Was my car safe at the entrance to this trail? I was on the River Trail in Carara National Park regarded by many to be the single most productive bird trail in all of Costa Rica, but I hadn’t seen hardly anything in the first thirty minutes. A brief one-minute span earlier produced a Tawny-winged Woodcreeper and a Gray-headed Tanager, but that was it.

Tawny-winged Woodcreeper

Tawny-winged Woodcreeper

Gray-headed Tanager - River Trail, Carara NP, Costa Rica

Gray-headed Tanager – River Trail, Carara NP, Costa Rica

Unfortunately, it appeared that I wasn’t the only one walking on the River Trail. The fresh paw print of a puma was in the bare dirt beneath me.

Puma track

Puma track

That only heightened the feeling of loneliness. Eventually this type of a behavior would lead me into trouble. A loud crash close to my right made me jump. But it was only a couple of White-throated Capuchins.

White-throated Capuchin on the River Trail. Carara NP

White-throated Capuchin on the River Trail. Carara NP

I continued to walk deeper into the trail. A pair of Scarlet Macaws broke the silence as they flew east towards the mountains. That was enough to break the trance that had settled over me. A Dusky Antbird flitted in a dark clearing and I plunged in after it no longer worried about pumas. All feelings of loneliness were quickly forgotten. This was a life bird for goodness sakes!

Female Dusky Antbird

Female Dusky Antbird

Soon afterwards a Chestnut-backed Antbird flew out onto the trail before it darted back into cover. I chased it into the woods and…bingo…snapped a couple of photos.

Male Chestnut-backed Antbird

Male Chestnut-backed Antbird

Now birds were starting to sing and chatter. Maybe I had just been too early in the morning. Birders in the neotropics covet antbirds and their relatives and I was now on a hot streak. A boldly patterned male Dot-winged Antwren was gleaning insects next to the trail. Another lifer!

Male Dot-winged Antwren on River Trail, Carara NP, Costa Rica

Male Dot-winged Antwren on River Trail, Carara NP, Costa Rica

And was quickly followed by a female Black-hooded Antshrike, my fourth lifer of the morning.

Black-hooded Antshrike

Black-hooded Antshrike

Both these birds were right in front of me at eye level.

On my return to the trailhead the birds were extremely active and I added an additional three life birds.  Here are a few of the birds that I saw.

Orange-collared Manikin -lifer

Orange-collared Manikin -lifer

Rufous-tailed Jacamar

Rufous-tailed Jacamar

Streaked Flycatcher -lifer

Streaked Flycatcher -lifer

Carara NP is a great place to bird and I wish I had allocated an extra day.  Actually the top attraction to Carara isn’t birds at all.  It’s the scenic Tarcoles River.

Tarcoles River looking east

Tarcoles River looking east

Specifically the tourists flock to the bridge over the Tarcoles River.

Tourists coming to the Tarcoles bridge

Tourists coming to the Tarcoles bridge

to look at the special celebrities under the bridge.

Tourists looking over the bridge

Tourists looking over the bridge

These are American Crocodiles (the real deal – not Caymens) some over ten feet long.

American Crocodiles on the Tarcoles River

American Crocodiles on the Tarcoles River

American Crocodile - notice the narrow snout

American Crocodile – notice the narrow snout

Notice the narrow snout of this crocodile.

Cerro Lodge

Cerro Lodge

Cerro Lodge (only 10 minutes away from Carara) was our base of operations to explore the Tarcoles-Carara-Jaco region.  It’s a pleasant eco-lodge with a real tropical feel to it.  An open air dining area complete with Milk Frogs (the largest tree frog in Costa Rica),

Mlk Frog (Phrynohyas venulosa)

Mlk Frog (Phrynohyas venulosa)

a stand alone cabin with an open-air shower (notice the iguana on the roof),

Our room at Cerro Lodge - notice the Black Spiny-tailed Iguana on the roof

Our room at Cerro Lodge – notice the Black Spiny-tailed Iguana on the roof

open air shower off our room

open air shower off our room

and attractive tropical gardening everywhere. The rooms now all have air conditioning which had been a complaint in some of the trip advisor posts.

The grounds at Cerro Lodge

The grounds at Cerro Lodge

Tropical Wonderland at Cerro Lodge

Tropical Wonderland at Cerro Lodge

We had a bit of excitement on our last morning at Cerro Lodge, when upon waking I could hear Scarlet Macaws squawking in the trees.

Scarlet Macaws feeding at Cerro Lodge

Scarlet Macaws feeding at Cerro Lodge

Scarlet Macaw

Scarlet Macaw

All in all Linda and I enjoyed this part of the trip very much.  It was the perfect ending for Linda who would fly home the next afternoon.

Sunset on the Pacific

Sunset on the Pacific

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One Response to The River Trail

  1. Jim Vanderpoel says:

    Awesome shots of the crocodiles! Deep forest birds great too! What a trip.

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