Friday, June 26, 2009

In Granada

Wakako and I spent a few days in Granada, trying to get away from the daily grind (ahem) of field work at Laguna de Apoyo.

We visited a 'butterfly reserve', went in a so-called 'eco-tour' of a 'private natural reserve', drank juice from a freshly harvested coconut, enjoyed creature comforts such as fast wireless, excellent pizza, and great coffee, and witnessed the arrest of a boy held at gunpoint. I place the first items in quotation marks, because this is Nicaragua, sometimes called "the poor man's Costa Rica", where they try to imitate Costa Rican tourism success stories, but often end up producing a simulacrum of that experience. I don't mean to bitch about this, but the butterfly reserve was little more than a small net-covered garden where a fraction more butterflies were flying around compared to outside the garden, and the 5 dollar admission seemed pricey. (The 7 dollar admission to the one I visited in San Jose, Costa Rica a few weeks ago on the other hand was worth it.)

The guided eco-tour was recommended to us by the tour company as great for birding, and in fairness, the birding there was pretty good. But we were birding in habitat quite similar to that of Laguna de Apoyo, and were seeing familiar birds everywhere. I felt a bit sorry for our guide David, who worked hard to identify birds he spotted or heard, and then enthusiastically would bring a bird to our attention, only to hear us say "yes, those are cool birds, and it's amazing how common they are here." No matter what bird he came up with, we jaded birders had already seen or heard the species many times before. At one point, he became quite excited because he thought he had spotted "the national bird of Costa Rica". Someone had once told me which bird this is, but I had forgotten. He had forgotten the English and scientific names of this bird, so for a while there was confusion about this "national bird of Costa Rica". Eventually, we worked it out, and the answer came as a bit of an anti-climax: Clay-colored Thrush (or Robin). Think about it: a country with a ton of endemics, with many colorful, exotic birds, chooses one of the drabbest, dullest birds around that is common from south Texas all the way down to northern Colombia. Its songs are pretty, but even vocally, it isn't exactly unsurpassed. It just doesn't make sense.

We did get great looks at a pair of White-necked Puffbirds, saw another Osprey, found a Royal Tern, saw some Northern Jacanas and Purple Gallinules, and many Black-headed Trogons. Also several Bare-throated Tiger-Herons (one pictured at top of post), and lots of Howler Monkeys. We enjoyed this trip, but I didn't see any new birds, and I was clearly a lot more knowledgeable about birds and butterflies than our guide. That's OK. This wasn't one of those specialist tours where the objective is to tick off as many species as possible. I've never been on one of those and I don't see myself doing that anytime soon.

From the ferry port in Granada we observed four Black Terns, although we didn't see any on our 20-minute boat trip to the 'private nature reserve'. I've entered my Black Tern sightings into eBird, where they now show up as the southernmost records for this species in June.

Common Morphos were the most common butterfly in the butterfly garden outside of Granada.

In an orchard around the butterfly garden was this Ferrugineous Pygmy-Owl.

We never did figure out what the kid who was arrested at gunpoint on the beach near the ferry port was arrested for. Less than a minute before his arrest, he was swimming in the water along the pier - where the city sewage runs into the lake - and asked us for some money. He did not strike me as a hardened criminal who could only be captured at gunpoint, or who needed to be hit with a police club while lying on the ground, but obviously the Nicaraguan police has a much better handle on these things than I do.

1 comment:

Alex Lamoreaux said...

I visited Costa Rica in March 2007 and my first bird in the country was a Clay-colored Robin. I soon learned that it was the National Bird; I have been completey puzzled ever since....

Awesome blog by the way!