Costa RicaCosta Rica

Sunrise with the Birds, Sunset with the Bugs

Destination: Drake Bay

Two other guests and myself meet our guide, Kenneth at 5:30 for a early-morning bird watching hike. We begin by immediately spotting a pair of blue-grey tanagers and a group of scarlet-rumped tanagers frolicking about in some hibiscus shrubs.

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We spend the rest of the morning (2.5 hrs) hiking horse trails that dips into a variety of ecosystems including regenerating forest, old cow pastures and dense jungle. Our guide is knowledgeable and can identify all of the birds and is good at spotting birds with his scope.

All in all, we spot more than 30 species of birds including: a pair of red-capped manakins (which we really had to hunt for and bush-whack through dense undergrowth for a good view), golden headed tanagers, white lined tanager, yellow-legged honeycreeper, yellow crowned euphonia, Baltimore oriole, bi-colored antbird, variable seed eaters, bananaquits, fiery-billed aracaris, several flycatchers, a ringer kingfisher, rufous-breasted wren, greater antshrike and several hummingbird species.

The rest of the sunny day passes calmly at the Jinetes de Osa Lodge. I have a little free time to explore the beach and catch up on some work.

I have a night tour scheduled with "the bug lady" tonight and I have heard wonderful things about her tour. I need to save my energy.

Fresh bread at dinner (again -- I'm really getting spoiled) and fish, fresh caught earlier today fuel me up for my night walk.

We depart around 7:30 with a small group (they don't allow any more than eight people). Tracie and John are our guides, and we first learn one of the tricks of the trade -- how to locate frogs and other animals using their eye shine.

By holding the flashlight just right, you can see many animal's eye shine including spiders, frogs, mammals and many others. We first learn to spot spiders. Pairs of little green sparkles all of the sudden appeared in the grass and we found countless spiders (you know the rule, you are never more than three feet from a spider -- well.. maybe you don't want to know ...)

The trick also works for frogs and other mammals. Different animal's eyes reflect different colors and you can often tell what animal's eyes you are seeing just by the color of their eye shine.

Along the walk we encountered several species of frogs, a tail-less whip scorpion, a long horned beetle (which actually flew into our path) and some really interesting and very well camouflaged spiders called trap-door spiders. They literally have a door to their home consisting of a flap of moss (or earthen door in some cases) that they can open and close at will and can keep it closed with a force of 14 oz by using their legs and fangs to keep it shut.

Because it lacks a stinger and is harmless, Tracie catches one of the tail-less whip scorpions and offers us the option to hold it. Several of us allow the scorpion to walk on our hands and arms. As the scorpion is passed from one person to another, its long antennae probe each new person's skin as it moves creepily up our arms.

Tracie and John are able to find many of the trap door spider's homes one day when a herd of army ants passed through and all the trap doors were temporarily open to allow the ants to pass through. When army ants come through, you just let them pass through and don't fight them. They clean as they go and don't usually stay long, so it's better to let them pass than to try to kill or re-route them -- they bite and attack in large numbers if angered.

Our final treat is a chunk-headed snake. It is a mildly venomous snake, though not prone to striking. Tracy gently handles the snake for our viewing pleasure. Snakes are so sneaky, I always feel lucky to see one.

The "Bug Lady's" tours have received rave reviews from reputable sources like the Lonely Planet, Frommer's and Foder's travel guides. Let me tell, you that she has no problem living up to her reputation. Her tour is one of the most informative and personal tours I have been on. You will learn things about insects that will intrigue you and make you realize just how wild and wonderful that crazy insect world is. I even thought the giant cockroach was cute! The tour is not recommended for bug or snake phobics and reservations are suggested. (see contact information below)

We all returned ready for bed, after such an interesting walk. I personally was excited for tomorrow's adventures.

Sunrise with the Birds, Sunset with the Bugs in Pictures

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