Fan-tailed Warbler

Fan-tailed Warbler

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Costa Rica: Cano Negro Wildlife Refuge

During our stay at Arenal Observatory Lodge & Spa, we took advantage of a day trip to Cano Negro Wildlife Refuge that located about 2 hours north and is very close to the border with Nicaragua.  This is an amazing place of slow moving rivers and marshes and lagoons and it is prime habitat for many water birds.  This day trip was actually listed as a wildlife/nature trip.  The 3 of us along with 13 others boarded a bus (very comfy by the way!) and traveled through the countryside where we saw fields of pineapples and plantains among other crops.  We made a stop about midway in the small town of Muelle San Carlos.  We had a chance to visit the local restaurant Centro Tuistico Las Iguanas.  Just that name will tell you what this place is famous for: Iguanas!  As we were making our way to the bridge to view the iguanas in the trees, we were treated to a male and female Red-Legged Honeycreepers.  This bird was quickly becoming a favorite of mine!

Red-legged Honeycreeper - Male

Red-legged Honeycreeper - Female

But the iguanas were very impressive themselves!  They are quite large and the locals call iguanas 'chickens of the trees', because (get this!), they taste like chicken!!  These are Green Iguanas.

After this stop we headed on to Cano Negro Wildlife Refuge and once we arrived, we embarked on a boat ride on the slow moving Rio Frio.  What we quickly discovered was the fact that we were the only birders on board this boat.  The rest of the 13 were just interested in wildlife, especially mammals, which we did encounter as you will see.  But they got very intrigued with some of the birds that we saw and observed.  Always great to get others enthused about our avian world.  

 Amazon Kingfisher


Black-headed Trogon

 Golden-hooded Tanager

This next bird was a highly prized bird for me on this trip, a Great Potoo.  It is nocturnal, but during the day it will perch on a tree snag and freeze and look just like an extension of the tree snag or branch.  Would be very easy to overlook for many people.  When nesting they lay a single egg on the top of a snag and that is where it is incubated and the chick is hatched.  How they manage all of that without the egg or the chick falling off is incredible. 

 Great Potoo

 Mangrove Swallow

Red-billed pigeon

As I mentioned earlier, this trip was a wildlife adventure and focused on a lot more than just birds.  Now you get to enjoy the mammals and a few reptiles that we also got to see on this boat ride.

We had Mantled Howler Monkeys at many spots in Costa Rica, but our guides were quick to get us onto this one in this location.  It is a red color morph of this species and they claim that there are only 2 known red-morph howler monkeys in Costa Rica; this one and another in the southwest on Osa Peninsula. The vibrant color of this male was outstanding and he did have a normal colored female with him.  My 4th photo of the howler monkeys show the normal color, however that photo was taken elsewhere.
 Mantled Howler Monkey - Red morph

Mantled Howler Monkey - normal coloration

We also were treated to a fairly large group of White-throated Capuchin monkeys.  They were a lot of fun to watch as they moved through the forest, occasionally showing themselves and it included at least one female with a baby.

 White-throated Capuchin

The third and final monkey species that we got to view was this Spider Monkey.  It was sleeping on a branch and not showing any activity.  Might say it was acting a bit like a sloth.

Spider Monkey

Speaking of sloths, our guides knew exactly where to find one and point it out to us.  We had to look quickly to make sure it did not get away from us and hide in the trees!  HaHa!  Have always wanted to see a sloth and it really is cool.

3-Toed Sloth

This next mammal is one that we never would have seen without our very experienced guides.  These are Probiscus Bats and they are nocturnal.  They spend their days on the undersides of tree trunks and branches where they are hanging upside down.  Very well camouflaged.  

 Proboscis Long-nosed Bat

In the reptile department, we got to see a few Green Basilisk Lizards.  They are really cool and note their extremely long tails.  They are nick-named the 'Jesus Christ Lizard' for their ability to 'walk on water'.  They can run across the surface of water for quite a long distance.

 Green Basilisk Lizard

This is also an area where Spectacled Caiman are common.  They can lie in the water almost undetected such as the one in the first photo.  Occasionally, they will bask in the sun on the banks.

 Spectacled Caiman

This day trip was outstanding for birds and mammals and reptiles and was well worth the cost.  If you ever get to Costa Rica and get the opportunity to make a visit to Cano Negro, I would highly recommend it.

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