Fiery-billed Aracari, Carara National Park, Costa Rica
My third and final CR guided tour would be Carara National Park. Because the park was 45 minutes north and there are some security issues linked with parking near one of the trails, I hooked up (thanks to the diligence of the Xandari staff) with a local naturalist and a driver. This time the guide was Ronny, a student majoring in Environmental Tourism. He had just passed a final exam on trees (held on-site at Carara, with its stunning levels of biodiversity) and was eager to show me what he had learned--cool, as far I was concerned.
There are some amazing areas of primary forest left there.
Carara is host to one of the classic examples of ant-tree-bird symbiosis: between the acacia, a species of ants that lives in acacia thorns--which emerge and defend the tree from intruders with painful stings and the ubiquitous rufous-napped wren, which nests there. Here are some photos of the giant-sized wren taken in Xandari.
Ronny also provided a hands-on demonstration of the strength of the leaf-cutter army ant. (That's an ant holding that stick)
The birding was also pretty good, though we arrived too late to see the trogons. The best bird of the day was probably the royal flycatcher (see blurry photo below). (It resisted displaying its incredible crown.)
Seeing (and hearing) a pale-billed woodpecker was also a highlight.
Because we had a driver (Maurice, who spend much of his time on the drive getting tutored in natural history from Ronny) we could also make stops on the way to Carara.
Here's a glimpse of a crocodile on the Tarcoles River.
Here's another glimpse at orange-chinned parakeets.
And chestnut-mandibled toucans (see the one hanging upside down)
And finally, the Scarlet Macaw, grievously endangered globally but a fairly common sight and sound in the area near Carara.
Complete list of birds seen on Carara tour: Magnificent frigate bird, bare-throated tiger heron, little blue heron, great egret, snowy egret, cattle egret, great blue heron, green heron, tricolor heron, crested caracara, yellow-headed caracara, gray-necked wood rail, purple gallinule, inca dove, orange-chinned parakeet, scarlet macaw, groove-billed ani, blue-throated goldentail, black-throated trogon (heard only), ringed kingfisher, green kingfisher, fiery-billed aracari, red-crowned woodpecker, pale-billed woodpecker, plain xenops, northern barred woodcreeper, black-hooded antshrike (female), chestnut-backed antbird, royal flycatcher, rose-throated becard, blue-crowned manakin, rufous-naped wren, chestnut-sided warbler, northern waterthrush.