Day 4: Costa Rica

*Bare-throated Tiger Heron1 with Burrowing Python 052919 Hacienda Solimar
Solimar Ranch: Bare-throated Tiger Heron with a struggling Burrowing Python that eventually got away.

While I liked Hacienda Guachipelin, we had issues with some of the air conditioner units leaking causing several of us to wake up to water all over the place. I enjoyed the stay, but I was ready to move on. We pulled out this morning for the next stage of our trip.

IMG_3136

While traveling to Monteverde, we stopped at the Solimar Ranch for lunch and a guided tour of the ranch and wetlands. The ranch is just south of the mouth of the Tempisque River. The owner/guide was impressive – he was great at spotting birds and you wanted to stay near him at all times! I loved watching the basilisks run across the top of the water and searching for the various birds, crocodiles and flowers. Up near the ranch house, there were gardens with tons of butterflies. While we ate, we watched a male and female Rose-throated Becards build their nest. The pair took turns entering the nest and frequently sat near or on the nest the whole time we were at the house.

One member of our group – a University of Arkansas grad student – had a neat find! He caught a boa constrictor that was in the process of catching a green iguana! Below is a video of him telling the story.

IMG_3174

After Solimar Ranch, we made a pit stop in Abangares for gas (apparently, no one can be in the vehicle when you fill up so we all had to get out). We used this time to visit a souvenir store, and get sweets (mango milkshake) at Cafeteria Mi Finca. We also stopped at a roadside place – Cafeteria Horizonte – to take in the views.

We eventually arrived at Senda Monteverde Hotel. I joined a group for dinner at its restaurant, which was so dang good even if the desert was too rich for me to finish. We were greeted by staff with drinks once again and our cabins are pretty amazing. There was a mix-up with our cabins, but it was quickly straightened up.

Day 3: Costa Rica

Today, we toured Rincon de la Vieja National Park and saw “Las Pailas,” the bubbling mud pits created by a nearby volcano. It was naturally still raining but it didn’t deter us.

Once we got back to the hotel, I joined one other adult and three kids from my group for a horseback ride to Las Chorreras and Victoria Waterfalls. We had two other adults back out at the last minute because of nerves. My horse and I had a love/hate relationship and, taking a sliding ride uphill/downhill during the rain was slightly frightening at times. However, it was worth the trip. It was fun. It was also great getting in the last waterfall pictured below.

IMG_3077IMG_3089IMG_3102IMG_3109

Day 2: Costa Rica

Pacific Screech Owl2 052719 Costa Rica (Guanacaste)

Three Pacific Screech Owls greeted us as we left the hotel this morning to start the day. Like yesterday, it was cloudy and rainy so we decided to head over to the Santa Rosa National Park, which became a historical landmark in 1971. It is the site of the Battle of Santa Rosa and where Costa Rican independence was won. We walked through parts of mature dry forest to search for birds. We even found howler monkeys hunkered down to wait out the rain.

We wrapped up the day by visiting the hotel’s Volcanic Mud Hot Springs and dinner at a Curubandé restaurant where we tried various local dishes.

IMG_2900

There are optional morning and night walks each day. I opted to go on tonight’s walk.

IMG_2906

Day 1: Costa Rica

 

Great Kiskadee 052619 Hacienda Guachipelin
Great Kiskadee (Hacienda Guachipelin)

Well, I left today for my 2nd ever international birding trip!

The trip was organized by the Arkansas Audubon Society to raise money for its trust and to provide scholarships for students. I actually had several people with my group on my flights, which was nice. It made navigating the airport in Liberia, Costa Rica, a little easier. Once we met up with our tour guide and group, we stopped by El Jardin Liberia, a restaurant and souvenir store, for lunch before heading on to our first hotel: Hacienda Guachipelin in Rincon de la Vieja. We were greeted with drinks and musicians. We searched for birds as we wandered to our rooms, and later ate at the hotel’s restaurant.

Blue-gray Tanager

Turquoise-browned Motmot

Red-billed Pigeon

A walk outside

Crystal Bridges 21

March 20 is in 17 days. It is the start of spring and my favorite months of the year. I love flowers, the wildlife and burst of activity that happens. I’m already looking for things to do, which includes visiting Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art. I was going through photos today, and stumbled across these photos from my first visit to Crystal Bridges in July 2017.

Hollywood Plantation

img_1193

For Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, I traveled to Tillar, Ark., with my aunt to visit the Dr. John Martin Taylor House (also known as the Hollywood Plantation). The Arkansas Archeological Survey – University of Arkansas Monticello (UAM) Research Station was hosting a cemetery clean up of the Taylor family cemetery and Valley Farm cemetery, the nearby African American cemetery.

The two-story, dog-trot log house was built in 1846 alongside Bayou Bartholomew (which by the way is the world’s longest bayou). The 11,000-acre plantation was inhabited until the 1940s, and is on the National Registry of Historic Places. It has since been donated to UAM and is being restored as an education site for people to visit to learn the history of one of Arkansas’ earliest major cotton plantations.

The Taylors were from Kentucky. According to the Arkansas Historic Preservation Program (AHPP), the Hollywood Plantation got its name from all the native holly trees on the property. The family brought over slaves from its Kentucky plantation — there were 83 slaves according to the 1850 Census and 101 slaves by 1860. After the Emancipation Proclamation was issued in 1863, those slaves were given the option to stay on as tenant labor or travel back to the Kentucky plantation with the owner’s wife. That trip in fall 1863 was documented, according to AHPP.

We did get to tour the old Taylor house before work began. The house was built with slave labor, and our tour guide showed us a handprint that remains in the wall of a second-floor bedroom. I just want to know the story behind it — the upper story is the most original to the 1840s.

Our work for the day was primarily cleaning up the land in the Valley Farm cemetery. This is also believed to be the site of the plantation’s original slave burying grounds. According to staff, there are about 18 known graves (ranging from 1906 to 1926) there, and not all of the headstones for those graves could be found. See below for more pictures from the day:

img_1208img_1232img_1183img_1201img_1175img_1229img_1211

Bald Knob NWR

American Golden-Plover.042118.BKNWR
American Golden-Plover

I love Bald Knob National Wildlife Refuge. It’s halfway between my house and the Jonesboro/Wynne area so it’s an AWESOME place for me to take a break from interstate driving and have some fun. There’s different birds to see year-round, and I’ve gotten pretty lucky in the past several weeks. I’ve visited a lot more these past few months — especially since I finally purchased a 600mm lens.

The refuge is best known for migrating waterfowl, and I can usually find shorebirds there year-round. So far, my best finds have been an out-of-season American Golden-Plover, a White-faced Ibis and a Yellow-headed blackbird.

blue-gray gnatcatcher.042118.BKNWR
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
american golden plover.061018.BKNWR
American Golden-Plover
yellow-headed blackbird.042118.BKNWR
Yellow-headed Blackbird
nutria.042118.BKNWR
Nutria
Northern Rough-winged Swallow.062418.BKNWR
Northern Rough-winged swallow
dickcissel.062418.bknwr
Dickcissel
Yellow-breasted Chat.062418.BKNWR
Yellow-breasted Chat
eastern towhee.042118.BKNWR
Eastern Towhee
swamp sparrow.042118.BKNWR
Swamp Sparrow
white-faced ibis.042118.BKNWR
White-faced Ibis
great blue heron.062418.bknwr
Great Blue Heron

Birding around

 

Sunday’s find: A yellow-billed cuckoo (L) and a barred owl. Sunday marked the first time I’ve ever seen a yellow-billed cuckoo at the Bald Knob National Wildlife Refuge.

Providence!

I finally made it to Rhode Island! My Aunt Jo will be presenting at a conference this week so a second aunt, Cindy, and I decided to tag along.

  (Above: Sunrise as we take off from Memphis)

It meant today involved an early, but quick flight, shopping at the mall attached to our hotel to avoid the heavy rainfall once we arrived, and lunch at P.F. Chang’s.

 (Above: My new shoes) 

We won’t be here long but Aunt Cindy and I still adecided to take the day easy. The best part was hands down picking up Aunt Jo and heading to dinner. 

  (Above: Sightseeing while heading to dinner)

We ate at Kabob and Curry, Fine Indian Cuisine. I’ll admit I would never have ate there if my aunts hadn’t been with me. I would have missed out.
We had Nimboo Soda, a tradional Indian lemonade with mint and roasted cumin, and I ordered a sampler plate that allowed me to try a variety of dishes including vegetable samosa – a crispy turnover, seasoned potato and pea filling, a mango and mint chicken curry bowl, dal makhni – black lentils, red beans, ginger and tomato, and rice pudding for dessert.

   (Above: starter dish)

  
We all ended up getting a second helping of the rice pudding to take to the hotel for later.

 

Vulture circling

Turkey Vulture

A lone turkey vulture circled Branson as we conducted some major shopping at Tanger Outlets. The weather was perfect and we stopped at Garfields Restaurant and Pub along the river for lunch/dinner.

Yum and what a view. I watched a heron fly by along with five or six geese. House sparrows perched above the stores lining Garfields.

We ended up stopping by Cakes and Creams Desserts for the Ozark Mountain Sundae or the funnel cake with fresh strawberries with ice cream. It was the perfect ending to the day (well, along with a stop by the hotel’s pool and hot tub)! The only downfall was that the sundae and funnel cake was too good – we were completely full by the time we left. We’re planning a second visit before we leave!

Our sole other stop was to the Festival of Lights. Slightly disappointed by it, but still interesting. My aunt and grandmother loved it.

Here’s some pictures:

House Sparrow
House Sparrow

IMG_7741

IMG_7750

IMG_7755

IMG_7770

IMG_7773

IMG_7795

IMG_7799

IMG_7801