December 2, 2022

image of red-lored parrots, kokoro lodge, costa rica

One March morning, Red-lored Parrots awakened us from their perch in the flowering trees above our cabin at Hotel Kokoro Arenal in La Fortuna, Costa Rica.  After breakfast, we headed off to Arenal Observatory Lodge to do some hiking and bird watching.

image of arenal observatory lodge sign, arenal, costa rica

Arenal Observatory Lodge is located inside Arenal Volcano National Park on a ridge amid tall Honduran Pine Trees and luxuriant rainforest.  We could hardly wait to explore.

image of white-nosed coatis, arenal observatory, costa rica

Even before parking the car, Bob and I spotted some Coatis.

image of montezuma oropendola nests, arenal observatory, costa rica

Also capturing our interest were huge pendulous nests hanging from trees like oversized Christmas ornaments.  We soon learned that they are the nests of Montezuma Oropendolas.

image of arenal observatory buildings, arenal, costa rica

Our first stop was at the restaurant and observation deck.

image of observation deck, arenal observatory, costa rica

To the delight of visitors, fruit feeding stations are erected just off the deck to attract the local birds.

image of montezuma oropendola, arenal observatory, costa rica

One of the first that we saw was a Montezuma Oropendola.  We quickly understood why their nests are so large.

image of montezuma oropendolas sharing food, arenal observatory, costa rica

It was especially gratifying when another Montezuma Oropendola arrived on the scene, and the two exchanged food in a courtship routine.

image of white-nosed coati, arenal observatory, costa rica

Just below the deck, White-nosed Coatis were taking advantage of dropped fruit.

image of white-nosed coati, arenal observatory, costa rica

White-nosed Coatis are related to Raccoons.  In Costa Rica, they are responsible for the pollination of Balsa Trees.

image of white-nosed coati in a tree, arenal observatory, costa rica

White-nosed Coatis stick their noses into the flowers of Balsa Trees to drink the nectar.  Pollen covers their noses in the process, and it pollinates other flowers of the Balsa Trees as the Coatis move around the forest.

image of a great curassow, female, arenal observatory, costa rica

A Great Curassow cautiously emerged from the vegetation at the edge of the grassy area.

image of a great curassow, female, arenal observatory, costa rica

Great Curassows are about the size of a Turkey and are hunted for their meat. The habitat at Arenal Observatory provides safety for these birds that are listed as a threatened species because of habitat loss and hunting.

image of arenal lake from arenal observatory, costa rica

From our lofty vantage point, Arenal Lake was visible to the west, sparkling in the morning sunshine.

image of jean on the danta waterfall trail, arenal observatory, costa rica

After lingering on the observation deck, Bob and I thought it was time to explore the series of trails.  We wanted to discover what Arenal Observatory was all about.

image of arenal volcano, arenal observatory, costa rica

Arenal Observatory Lodge originated in the 1970s as a small lodge to accommodate Smithsonian scientists who came to study the seismic activity of Arenal Volcano.

image of museum building at arenal observatory, costa rica

Arenal Volcano last erupted in 1968 after centuries of inactivity.  It was a short walk to the Museum where we found a collection of seismic monitors.

image of sign for seismic monitoring, arenal observatory, costa rica

This location is perfect for monitoring volcanic activity because of its proximity to Arenal Volcano, and it is protected by the deep canyon carved by the Agua Caliente River.

image of montezuma oropendola nests, arenal observatory, costa rica

Along the first stretch of trail, a colony of nests fashioned by Montezuma Oropendolas wowed us. Piercing the air were the sharp mating calls of these impressive birds.

image of montezuma oropendola nests in eucalyptus trees, arenal observatory, costa rica

Many of the Eucalyptus Trees were supporting large numbers of the substantial hanging nests.

image of montezuma oropendola gathering nesting material, arenal observatory, costa rica

We were pleased to see so many of the birds tending their nests and occupying the trees rather than just observing them at the feeding station.

image of jean on the danta waterfall trail, arenal observatory, costa rica

A sign pointing us in the direction of The Danta Waterfall Trail had us descending from the ridge down to the Danta River.

image of danta waterfall, arenal observatory, costa rica

A modest waterfall was our reward for the trek.

image of danta hanging bridge, arenal observatory, costa rica

Continuing on, a hanging bridge conveyed Bob and me across the Danta River where we merged onto the Yellow Trail.

image of white-nosed coatis, arenal observatory, costa rica

At the edge of one vast open area, numerous Coatis were foraging beneath some trees.

image of cattle in a pasture, arenal observatory, costa rica

Within the 870-acres of Arenal Volcano Lodge’s property are verdant pastures populated with cattle.

image of pastureland, arenal observatory, costa rica

Obvious everywhere was evidence of the farmland that once dominated this property.

image of a farm road, arenal observatory, costa rica

In fact, most of the 11 kilometres of trails at Arenal Observatory Lodge follow farm roads that served the cattle ranch.

image of a water hole and arenal volcano, arenal observatory, costa rica

At the edge of one fenced pasture, a work shed and waterhole stood within view of Arenal Volcano shrouded in fog.

image of jean beside a rainbow eucalyptus tree, arenal observatory, costa rica

The owners of Arenal Observatory Lodge are to be commended for their commitment to environmental protection.  Among the trees planted by the Aspinall family to reforest the one-time plantation are Rainbow Eucalyptus.

image of eucalyptus trees, arenal observatory, costa rica

Adjacent to the Blue Trail was a nice stand of these trees.  Rainbow Eucalyptus Trees get their name from the multi-hued bark.

image of peeling bark on a eucalyptus tree, arenal observatory, costa rica

Several times a year, a Rainbow Eucalyptus Tree sheds its bark to reveal a bright green inner layer.  The previous season’s bark peels off in strips that expose the bright new layer underneath.

image of rainbow eucalyptus, arenal observatory, costa rica

The new layer of bark then matures and darkens to myriad shades including blue, orange and even maroon.

image of bob and arenal volcano, arenal observatory, costa rica

Bob and I soaked up the bucolic atmosphere all the while taking in great views of Arenal Volcano.

image of yellow-faced grassquit, arenal observatory, costa rica

Yellow-faced Grassquits kept us company all along the way.

image of rainforest along the blue trail, arenal observatory, costa rica

Continuing along the Blue Trail had us descending into a section of Primary Forest nourished by a thin stream.

image of a dry riverbed, arenal observatory, costa rica

We were unsure if this was a tributary of the Agua Caliente River, but it was essentially dry.

image of a red calliandra flower, arenal observatory, costa rica

Every so often, a punch of colour in the shadows had Bob and I stopping to appreciate some of the local flora such as this example of a Calliandra Flower.  It is also called Scarlet Powder-Puff.

image of los congrejos trail, arenal observatory, costa rica

A side trail to a seasonal waterfall, Los Cangrejos, was bypassed since other hikers indicated that there was no water flowing over the precipice at that time.

image of dark clouds over pastureland, arenal observatory, costa rica

With tropical beauty surrounding us, even the threat of a developing afternoon shower didn’t concern Bob and me.

image of brahman cattle and cattle egrets, arenal observatory, costa rica

Opportunities for closeup views of some of the cattle were frequent in concert with a number of Cattle Egrets.

image of a brahman cattle, arenal observatory, costa rica

Brahman Cattle are the main cattle of choice because of their high tolerance to heat.

image of a brahman cattle, arenal observatory, costa rica

It is the hump over their withers that has evolved over time to store water.

image of arenal volcano through the trees, arenal observatory, costa rica

All of the farm roads cum hiking trails interconnect throughout Arenal Observatory property.

image of trail map, arenal observatory, costa rica

We branched off onto a series of trails, first Red, then Orange, followed by a section of road.

image of a forest trail, arenal observatory, costa rica

The Red Trail conducted us through some primary forest.

image of a lizard, arenal observatory, costa rica

It opened up where it connected with the Orange Trail. Off to the side of the gravel surface, we noticed some quick movement.  A Central American Whiptail popped up giving us a bit of a start!

image of fence posts along a gravel road, arenal observatory, costa rica

Rows of fence posts marched along one farm road leading up to White Hawk Villa.

image of bob and lush foliage, arenal observatory costa rica

From White Hawk Villa, a look-off again provided a wonderful view of Arenal Volcano and the surrounding rainforest.

image of a dorantes longtail butterfly, arenal observatory, costa rica

In one of the cultivated flowerbeds near White Hawk Villa, a Dorantes Longtail Butterfly was nectaring.

an image of bob amid many honduran pine trees, arenal observatory, costa rica

As Bob and I made our way back in the direction of the main observation deck, we passed through a nice stand of Honduran Pine Trees.  When the Aspinall family acquired the farm, natural primary rainforest only remained on about one-third of the property.  Honduran Pine Trees are one species of trees that they planted to reforest and prevent erosion.

image of a brown jay, arenal observatory, costa rica

Soon enough, it was time to again revel in the kaleidoscope of colour provided by the myriad birds coming to the fruit feeding station.  A Brown Jay squawked its approval with a mouthful of papaya.

image of a male hepatic tanager, arenal observatory, costa rica

A male Hepatic Tanager joined the fray.

image of red-legged honeycreepers, arenal observatory, costa rica

The brilliant blue plumage of Red-legged Honeycreepers amazed us.

image of landscaped property, arenal observatory, costa rica

And then it was off to explore another section of the landscaped property as we walked toward the Spa.

image of a spider monkey, arenal observatory, costa rica

Imagine our delight when the rustle of leaves above our heads alerted us to some Spider Monkeys.

image of a spider monkey foraging in a tree, arenal observatory, costa rica

As Bob and I observed, the Spider Monkeys were actively searching for fruit or insects to eat.  Though they usually forage in the morning and relax for the remainder of the day, this was late in the afternoon.

image of a spider monkey hanging by its tail, arenal observatory, costa rica

It is the inordinately long limbs and prehensile tail of a Spider Monkey that gave rise to the name of this species.

image of a howler monkey, arenal observatory, costa rica

There must have been an abundance of delectable fruit because we next identified a Howler Monkey sharing the same trees.

image of a lizard, arenal observatory, costa rica

A quick amble around the Frog Pond turned up no frogs.  They are most active after dark.  But a pretty lizard, perhaps a Striped Forest Whiptail, scurried through the leaf litter at our feet.

image of a striped forest whiptail, arenal observatory, costa rica

I think it was as surprised as we were!

image of a crested guan, arenal obseratory, costa rica

Planning on one last look from the observation deck, Bob and I meandered through the beautiful grounds in that direction.  I nearly jumped out of my skin when some loud honking emanated from a branch above our heads.  It turned out to be a Crested Guan vocalizing.

image of a crested guan in flight, arenal observatory, costa rica

Crested Guans are often characterized as playful, chasing each other and running around in circles.  Well, we couldn’t testify to that fact, but we were pleased to see this one take a short flight.

image of a crested guan, arenal observatory, costa rica

Crested Guans are also very large, again the size of a Turkey, and as such are hunted as a source of meat.

image of gate at arenal observatory, costa rica

Now on the Near Threatened List of birds, it is places like Arenal Observatory and Arenal Volcano National Park where Crested Guans find refuge and are more readily observed by people.

image of a great curassow, male, arenal observatory, costa rica

Bob and I were immensely pleased that we made one last stop at the observation deck.  Whereas we had seen a female Great Curassow in the morning, this time a male Great Curassow showed up.

image of a female great curassow, arenal observatory, costa rica

When a female Curassow lit on a branch below, the games began.

image of a male great curassow, arenal observatory, costa rica

The male Great Curassow was in hot pursuit.

image of a male great curassow, arenal observatory, costa rica

The female promptly ducked into the cover of vegetation with the male hot on her heels, all the while showing off his petticoats, typical courtship behaviour.

image of a howler monkey eating fruit, arenal observatory, costa rica

Tearing our eyes away from that action had its rewards when we noticed another Howler Monkey far in the distance beyond the observation deck.

image of a howler monkey eating pods, arenal observatory, costa rica

It, too, was gleaning fruit or seeds from the trees.

image of jean in the rainforest, arenal observatory, costa rica

We had spent the day at Arenal Observatory, from 9:30 a.m. until 5:30 p.m.  In total, our untrained eyes and ears only picked out 26 species of birds, but we came away with a real appreciation for what Arenal Observatory is all about through exploring 8 kilometres on the trail system.

From Greater Flamingos To An Italian Comacchio Picnic

Frame To Frame – Bob and Jean

feedback welcome

%d bloggers like this: