Cruising Upriver

One part of the tour that I was really looking forward to was the afternoon boat trip on the Tárcoles River. Judging by the advertising signs on our way to the dock, American crocodiles where the main draw for the tourist dollar on this wide, brown waterway. The larger than life crocodiles with massive, gaping jaws seemed utterly unreal, but we were here for the birds. 

We headed upstream keeping our eyes on the banks and skies for birds and scanning the wide waters for reptilian logs. On the port side, perched on a snag was the America’s largest kingfisher, a bird I had first seen on the Rio Grande on the US-Mexico border. Now here were two ringed kingfishers in one bin-view.

Our captain pulled off to the starboard and planted the bow into a muddy channel to look at a brown scaly “log”. This “log” was over three feet long and was the half submerged head of a massive male American crocodile. We all scrambled to the bow to get views and I got a quick sketch of the crocodilian in which I grossly underrepresented the size of its massive brain case. It was hard to tell how long this croc was but some mature males can reach 20 feet and weigh a ton! Time to get back to birding.

We turned and headed downstream and the birding made a quantum leap. Near the river’s end we came to a debris strewn beach. Everywhere we looked were waders: wood stork, roseate spoonbill, white ibis, Wilson’s, black-bellied, and collared plover, green and little blue heron, spotted sandpiper, and night herons.

We headed up another channel and picked up the impressive boat-billed heron, mangrove warbler, and green kingfisher.

The most impressive sight of the boat trip was soon to come as we headed back down the channel. The raucous calls of scarlet macaws surrounded us. Off to the port side was a tree ornamented by 20 macaws, a tropical Christmas tree in July. We had been seeing this iconic parrot, usually flying in pairs, for parts of the boat trip and it was awesome to see so many in one place as they perched in their roost tree.

A tree full of macaws, a great way to end a wonderful afternoon boat trip.

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