Bruce in kayak.

"We specialize in small group travel, which minimizes environmental impact, increases safety standards and allows for personalized, enriching and authentic experiences."

— Bruce Smith, founder and owner, Seascape Kayak Tours Inc.

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Posts Tagged ‘Costa Rican birds’

COSTA RICA’S BEST KEPT SECRETSJanuary 20th, 2011

Feliz Año Nuevo.

We thought it was time to post a new blog entry, finally! I think we have definitely transitioned to Tico (Costa Rican) time.

I am very happy to introduce you to a new member of the Seascape team. Nick Hawkins, who hails from New Brunswick, will be working on an internship / assistant guide basis in Costa Rica for the next several months. Nick is a marine biologist, keen naturalist and wildlife photographer. His enthusiasm for facilitating connections between guests and the natural world is clearly evident. Look for Nick’s photos to appear with blogs and Facebook posts in the future. Bienvenidos, Nick.

We hope that you will join us for a warm water escape in Costa Rica this winter.

Bruce

Hello friends! My name is Nick Hawkins; I am a biologist and naturalist guide from Fredericton, New Brunswick. I first heard of Seascape last summer, when I lived in St. Andrews, NB, and worked as an interpreter aboard the whale watching boat the Quoddy Link. I contacted Bruce via e-mail and expressed my interest in guiding. We then met at his place on Deer Island, where we discovered that we shared a similar outlook on ecotourism, sustainability and what it means to be a nature guide. Before I knew it I was packing my bags for Costa Rica, booking a flight for the 7th of January.

After arriving in San José, I traveled west to the Nicoya Peninsula, to Tambor, Seascape’s Southern base. I was happy to leave the busy urban areas, thick with tourists, cars and construction. I watched it all disappear as I took the Paquera Ferry across the bay of Nicoya. Bruce met me on the other side and we drove along winding roads to Tambor Tropical. The resort is made up of small luxury suites built of exotic hardwood such as teak and bloodwood. They are nestled under a tranquil grove of large palm trees, directly adjacent to the ocean. The suites are spread out over the property, which is teeming with life. I unload my gear and talk with Bruce, trying to ignore the urge to seek out the sounds of the strange animals all around me. Bruce senses my anxiety and sends me for a walk up the estuary, the Rio Panica, which empties into the ocean next to the resort. I grab my binoculars and guidebooks and set-off up the river.

By this point I am well aware of the level of biodiversity in Costa Rica, but am yet to experience it. What I find on that thirty-minute walk will forever serve as a defining moment in my life, when I am introduced to the biologic potential of a tropical forest. I am greeting by a plethora of bird life…I count and record 26 new species in this short amount of time and miss dozens more. Flocks of Snowy Egrets glide over Tri-colored and Little Blue Herons, which run and lunge after small fish. Brown Pelicans and Royal Terns plunge into the surf in pursuit of small fish. A Ringed Kingfisher gazes down from his fishing perch; this species is the largest kingfisher in the Americas, twice the size of the familiar Belted Kingfisher. Small forest birds flutter through the tropical growth, their yellows, blues, and oranges mixing with the red blossoms of flamboyant trees. Hummingbirds zip in all directions, freezing in place momentarily to grab a sip of nectar. Scissortail Flycatchers and Tropical Kingbirds perch high up on the treetops, bursting from their resting place to snag flying insects, before returning to their perch in wait for the next suspended morsel. I am absolutely floored by the abundance of life, and I haven’t even left the resort yet. What awaits me in the depths of the protected habitat soon to be explored fills me with an excitement I haven’t felt since I was a young boy.

The next morning Bruce takes me to Curú Wildlife Refuge, from which most of the kayak trips depart. A 20-minute drive from Tambor, Curú contains Costa Rica’s first private National Wildlife Refuge. When we arrive at the center of Curú ,I hop out of the truck and gaze around at the tropical paradise that surrounds me. The only way to describe Curú is that it looks and feels just like you’re in Jurassic park, a real lost world. The forest floor is littered with coconuts, which cover the ground like the leaves we rake off our lawns in the fall. Hermit Crabs are nearly as abundant as they scurry throughout the undergrowth. Something catches my eye… I look down and watch as a Spider Monkey climbs onto the back of the truck and sits on the cab. She reaches out and holds my hand in a compassionate, human-like gesture. I am completely dumbstruck. Her name is “Trina,” a rescued spider monkey who now calls Curú home. White-faced Capuchin Monkeys leap from tree to tree in the canopy overhead, which shades the forest floor from the strong sun.

We carry the kayaks through a narrow corridor of palms, which opens up to a long beach surrounded on both sides by steep hills. There is no one on the beach, except the crabs throwing sand out of their burrows and a few sunbathing iguanas. The bay is full of Brown Pelicans and magnificent Frigate birds, all diving and swooping to catch the masses of sardines that have come into the shallows. We launch our kayaks directly into this swirling mass. The Frigate birds soar within feet of my head; they remind me of pterodactyls with their huge angular wingspans and relatively small bodies. They dive down and snag fish from the surface with impressive agility, never wetting a feather. The Pelicans have a different tactic, they plunge head-first into the shallow water, dozens at a time, bobbing to the surface to snap down their catch before taking off.

We paddle our way through crystal clear water, watching as flocks of birds fly against the steep backdrop of tropical forest, which bounces the many sounds across the bay. It is like being in a giant amphitheater set in the Cretaceous period, a place forgotten by time. Bruce leads me to a small secluded beach at a point of land called Quesera; palm trees lean over powder white sand and turquoise water. This is the beach where we will be setting up our base camp for the multi-day expeditions. From here we will do day trips to the surrounding Tortuga Islands, named after the sea turtles that lay eggs upon their beaches. Stingrays, Dolphins, Moray Eels, Flying Fish and giant Manta Rays also guard these islands.

We paddle back towards the undisturbed panorama of hills, valleys and beaches. Not a man-made structure is in sight. I begin to realize that Tambor and Curú may be Costa Rica’s best-kept secrets, amazing destinations away from the masses of tourists and busy urban centers where a private adventure in pristine habitat is still possible.


Halcyon DaysMay 3rd, 2009

We write this during the final countdown to our seasonal departure from Costa Rica. There are seven days left until we leave to run the summer kayaking season on Deer Island in the Bay of Fundy, New Brunswick, Canada. Seven halcyon days.

The rainy season has begun. A few nights ago, we were driving home from Curú Wildlife Refuge at dusk when the first substantial rain began to fall, making the dirt roads suddenly oily and greasy. We nearly got stuck in the slippery mud dropping off a friend who lives near the river.

Green HeronCOMMONLY SEEN GREEN HERON ON THE PANICA RIVER.

 

 

Last night we were awakened by a deafening roar of rain, the first true torrential downpour that lasted several hours and brought a fresh, cooler feeling to the hot, sticky air. As a result of this hard shower, the water in the ocean in front of Tambor Tropical and in the nearby River Panica has turned to a ruddy red. We paddled up the Panica this morning at high tide and saw a variety of birds, including beautiful pink Roseate Spoonbills and tall, regal white Wood Storks. Every paddle offers opportunities to see a tremendous number of wading birds such as egrets and herons, the most common being the Snowy Egret, Little Blue Heron, Tricolored Heron, Tiger Heron and Green Heron.

 

Boat billedNOT SO COMMONLY SEEN BOAT-BILLED HERON, ALSO ON THE RIO PANICA.

 

 

Two days ago, we saw a heron we hadn’t seen before in the Panica River, the Boat-billed Heron, which searches for fish at night. Its shoe-shaped bill is thought to help it catch food in lower light, in which precise spearing of fish with a narrow bill would be difficult. The bird was hiding in the thicket and very shy, but we got some decent photos that show its huge, human-like eye and unmistakable bill.

 

We also saw a Belted Kingfisher this morning, one of five types we see in Costa Rica, the others being the Ringed, Amazon, Green and American Pigmy. The kingfisher has been the subject of a fair amount of folklore, hearkening all the way back to Greek mythology. There is a myth that Zeus was jealous of a female character, Alcyone, for her power over the wind and waves. In a jealous rage, Zeus killed Alcyone’s husband by destroying his ship with lightning. Alcyone threw herself into the sea to join her drowning lover and they both turned into kingfishers. So through the years sailors believed the kingfisher could protect them by calming stormy weather; they referred to the kingfisher as the Halcyon bird. Kingfishers were also thought to nest for seven days of peace and calm when rearing their young, and these were called the Halcyon Days. (Les Beletsky, Costa Rica Travelers’ Wildlife Guide.)

 

BeltedTHE BELTED KINGFISHER, ONE OF THE HALCYON BIRDS OF GREEK MYTHOLOGY.

 

 

The paddling season in Canada is shaping up with plenty of day trips and multi-day experiences on the calendar May through September and we’ll have to hit the ground running once we arrive. Meanwhile, as we pack gear, clean boats, store belongings and prepare to depart, we are listening to the Howler Monkeys, watching all the birds, feeling the rains move over the sea, and trying to get every ounce of enjoyment we can out of our final halcyon days in Tambor.

 

When we next communicate with you, it’ll be from an entirely different climate at the opposite end of the Americas, but one with just as much beauty and joy to offer paddlers, wildlife lovers and everyone who makes the time to visit our very special corner of the universe: Deer Island. We hope to see you there this summer.

 

Pura vida,

 

Bruce and Frances