Along the Natchez Trace

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Birds and more Birds

Hola!  We stayed here at the hotel yesterday.  No need to go anywhere when there are more species of birds here than we ever expected.

The grounds here are wonderful... The landscaping is beautifully done and there are lots of terraces to walk down closer to the woods (jungle?) and wilderness.  The first thing we saw when we looked out our door was this pair of Rufus collared sparrows.  At first glance I thought of house sparrows...  but these are much more colorful.

Not too far outside our cabin door are bushes of bougainvilla...
These bushes grow into small size trees.  I think
 there are over 50 different colors of bougainvilla that you can find.  They are gorgeous!

We walked down the trail...  more trees and bushes...  some in bloom...  most I don't have names or species...
 The flowers on this tree were SO aromatic! 
 Look at the long, bean-like seeds... 

And here's Bill...
This hand of bananas had broken off the tree...  I wonder if they will get ripe?

We saw a gorgeous blue and black butterfly...  about the size of my hand.  But it was way too quick for me to photograph.

 Here I'm standing on one of the lower terraces...  looking up at the cabins.  Those are orange and other fruit trees in front of me.

A eucalyptus tree...  it's on the far right...  kind of a white skinny branch...  the leaves are in the front of the picture.

AND...  now...  for the birds!
 The blue-gray tanager is building a nest in this palm tree...  there are lots of these birds around!

 A Montezuma oropendola....  you can see his white cheek very plainly.  Weve seen lots of these when wintering in Mexico, but it's great seeing them again.

 Here he is in flight...  kind of blurred...  but you can see the yellow tail feathers here.

 My favorite of the day....  a Blue crowned Mot Mot. His tail is long...  you can't see the "tuft" of feathers at the very tip.  He's a big bird...  and they make a lot of noise in the trees.

A Sulphur-bellied Flycatcher....  another new bird for us.

A very blurry picture of a Rufus tail hummingbird.  At least I caught a  picture of his most identifyable part! 

We walked up the road a ways...  saw this neat hedge? maze? in a field. 

 This heart is huge!  Someone put a lot of work into that!  I just hope that it wasn't some love gone wrong...  kind of looks like two parts of a broken heart to me....

 Towards evening, Bill & I walked about a quarter of a mile...  maybe a half mile...  up this road...  we were heading for...

 this restaurant...

It is only open on weekends...  so we decided to have dinner out.
 We both got the garlic shrimp...  along with a slaw-type salad.  The french fries were a bit of a surprise to us...  I'm not sure how much of this is a typical "Costa Rican" meal.  I can say that it was very good and we cleaned up our plates.

Of course we had to have a beer...  Bill's is the Bavaria and mine is on the right.  Funny thing about this... I just got a comment from a former CR "resident"...  Clark Rambling...  and just last night he mentioned both beers.  Yes, Clark R....  you are right...  very good!

Carlos took us under his wing...  showed us all around the grounds of the restaurant...  which is being developed into a resort-type area.  A huge new party hall is being built...  there's a hotel, swimming pool...  the works.  Carlos was so friendly...  spoke English very well (our Spanish isn't real good)...  and we really appreciated his hospitality!

After the meal, and the tour of the resort, we walked back down the hill...  you can see the lights of the town, Grecia, in the distance.

It wasn't real late, but we called it a night.

Today (Saturday) we're going on a tour of Poas Volcano...  and also waterfalls. It's almost 7am and about time for breakfast.  So...

That's all for now...

Friday, March 30, 2012

Hola!  Yesterday Bill & I took the bus into Grecia...
 Here's Bill...  waiting at the top of the lane that leads down to our hotel.
And the bus came pretty much on time...  this bus stop is the end of the line, so the driver takes a 10 minute break before heading back into town.

Grecia, the nearest town, is about 5 miles from our hotel.  The big attraction there is the metal church...

The material for this church was imported...  and the story goes that it was sent to the wrong location.  It is a long, narrow church...  quite beautiful inside...

This is the week before Semana Santa (Holy Week)...  these people are waiting to have their confessions heard...

 This is the main altar of the church...  I didn't want to go up close because of the Lenten activities going on.

As in most Spanish influence towns, there will be a plaza, usually right next to the church.  The plaza in Grecia is big and full of people.
I'm standing on the church steps looking into the plaza...  you can see the fountain, and some of the landscaping.   

 And now I'm on the opposite side of the plaza.  That purple flowering tree is beautiful.  I can't think of it's name...  sort of like jacaranda...  but that's not right.  I might look that up later....
The church also had beautiful gardens.  This green heron was waiting patiently for lunch to swim by.  Green herons are found in the USA, so you might be familiar with this bird.

I love going into the markets...  there were several right around the plaza.  One, a grocery store, the person who looked like the manager had on a shirt that said "WalMart". We've been in other "Wal-Marts" in Mexico, and while they really are Wal-Marts, they don't much resemble what we are used to in the States.

 Here, the currency is the Colon.  One dollar American = five hundred colons    We went to an ATM yesterday to get colons.  We got 5,000 colons.  I checked my bank on-line when we got back to the hotel and $98.63 + $1.00 fee came out of our checking.  (the $1.00 was the bank in Costa Rica charge).  It's fun looking at the cost of all the groceries...  well, it's fun just looking at the groceries!
 Most of the fruits and vegetables I know and use...  but there are always a few that I don't recognize.  Especially the fruits....  and it's funny...  I don't like papaya or mango in the States, but here it tastes different...  kind of like the difference between a hot-house and a home-grown tomato.
 Hot Sauce!  This grocery had all these different brands.  You'll find many of the brands here that you find in the States... Kellogg cereals, Scott paper towels, stuff like that....  but I'm always checking out the brands you don't find in the USA.  Hey...  they even had Old Milwaukee beer at one of the stores.  Funny thing about that...  that's what we used to drink when we lived in Ohio...  then we went on the road and couldn't find Old Mil west of the Mississippi...  then we went back to Ohio a year or so later and I couldn't stand the taste of it.  Guess I can re-educate my taste buds for Old Mil here ;-)
 These are tamales...  wrapped in banana leaves filled with a pork filling.  I wanted to buy some but we weren't heading back for a few hours so I'll wait for another time.
Okay Donna K....  this one's for you!  If any of you read "Travels in Therapy" blog, you'll know exactly why.  I couldn't resist! 

 We stopped in a bar/restaurant for lunch.  That's a bowl of cerviche ....  the glare off that polished table really obliterated the picture.  Darn!  I can't even read the label on the beer.  I can say that the cerviche was very good...  and so was the beer!
Bill can attest to that, too.

We'd about walked ourselves out and headed back to the bus station. 

It was pretty much like every other bus station we've been in no matter what country.  A real mix of people ....  all ages, all levels of economic well-being, lots of hustle and bustle...  and lots of waiting for the right bus.  There's Bill...  dead center....  fitting right in.  We'd bought a couple bottles of wine to take back to the hotel...  he was tempted to cradle a bottle in his arm and sort of slump over...  but we get in enough trouble without even trying, so he passed that up.

We caught the bus and headed back to the hotel.  It was only late afternoon by that time, so we had plenty of time to check out some of the birds that live right here.

 There were several Brown Jays squabbling in the brush in front of our cabin...  The brown jay can sometimes be seen down in the Brownsville, TX area, and many birders travel down there in hopes of sighting one.  Here they are quite common.... but I don't tire of seeing them.
The Clay-colored Robin is also found in the Rio Grande Valley in south Texas.  It is Costa Rica's national bird and although rather drab looking, it sure is prevelant in this area.  It has a lovely, "Robin-like song (what would you expect?) and we hear it constantly.

Another bird we hear ... but only at night...  is the pauraque.  It's in the goat-sucker (whip-poor-will) family....  and can drive you crazy with its repetitious call.  Last evening one was just outside the door of our cabin.  Bill has bird songs as an Ap on his Iphone.  He pulled up the pauraque call and held it up to the door.  That bird outside sure didn't like that...  he flew away...  real close to the door..  and didn't come back for several hours.  I forgot to buy a flashlight yesterday so haven't got a chance to see those eyes...  burning like red coals....  at night.

Today we're just going to stay around here...  the birding here is quite good.  We don't really need to go look for the resplendent quetzal or anything exotic as we haven't seen all the common birds yet.

I think tomorrow we're going to take a tour to Poas...  a nearby volcano.

So much to see and do!

That's All For Today....

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Texas to Costa Rica

Hola!  It's Thursday morning...  I'll catch up my blog from Tuesday evening...  Celeste took us to DFW airport after she got off work.  We missed an exit and sort of got lost for a while...  took the scenic tour around the airport before finding the terminals.  By that time it was about 8pm.  Our flight left at 6am the next morning - we flew Spirit - and they said to be there 3 hours before takeoff.  It hardly seened worth getting a motel for those few hours so Bill asked the "hospitality" person if we could stay in the lounge area of the reservation area.  This person was SO accomodating!  Not only could we stay, he called someone who brought us cots and blankets and pillows!  Can you believe that? 
We chose not to use the cots, but those blankets and pillows sure were nice!  Here's Bill, taking a snooze sometime before 3am...   (those blankets are disposable...  my "save the world" side had a hard time with that...  but my personal comfort overruled)

At 3am the reservation counters opened...  although we had our e-tickets, and Bill had printed out our boarding passes, we had to check our luggage.  Then it was a long wait until the security area opened.  By 4am we finally got through all that.  Bill didn't even set off the beepers this time ;-)

Around 5:30am we boarded the plane, and shortly after 6am we left Texas and headed for Ft Lauderdale.  It was still dark at that hour, the flight about 2.5 hours....  but by Florida we could see that it would be a beautiful day.

We had only a short wait until our connecting flight to San Jose, Costa Rica departed. 
One last view of Miami.....

And...  2.5 hours later, our next view is...
Costa Rica!
That red and silver thing on the left is the wing of the plane.  Our seats were in row 29 of a 30 row plane.  We could see the mountainous terrain...  thought we saw a volcano or two.

The house we've rented in Cuidad Colon won't be available until April 1st, so Bill made arrangements for us to stay in a Bed and Breakfast/Hotel for 3 nights until then.  Jose Luis, the owner, came to the airport to pick us up.  It's about 30 miles and the nearest city to the hotel is Grecia....
Just one picture of the city at this time...  this is the all metal church...  We'll take the bus back into Grecia after I finish writing this... it runs every hour from this hotel.

Jose Luis is from Madrid, Spain; his wife is from Lithuania...  they met in Belgium while both were working at their careers.  They saved some money, spent a year travelling the world trying to decide where they wanted to live.  Bought this place in Costa Rica a year ago and then decided to start their family.  They have a 2 month old son, Kiran.

Here's where we're staying...
I'd call it a "cabin"...  each hotel unit stands alone...  each has a kitchette, full bath, microwave, fridge, TV, and .... YES!  Internet!  That "mountain" in the center background is the volcano "Poas". 

This is an agricultural region...  lots of coffee plantations and fields of sugar cane.  Also, Jose Luis told us there are pineapple plantations...  most of which is imported to the USA.

Behind our cabin are lots of banana trees...
Not ripe yet.... 

And the views from our front door are fantastic!

The elevation here is around 4,500'.....  (about the same as Albuquerque, NM)...  so the nights are chilly...  but the days are 70-80's. 

The rainy season will start next next month.  We'll probably catch the beginning of it before we leave at the end of April. 

One really exciting thing here are...  the birds!

The first picture is a hummingbird.  I don't know which species...  but I know we've seen two different kinds so far.  The bottom is a kiskadee...  I don't know if it's the same species as in the Rio Grande Valley...  We've also seen clay colored robins and quite a few species we don't even know.  But we've been here only last evening and this morning...  and have a whole month to go!!!

Here's Bill... 
You can't see it here, but Grecia is in the valley below him.   We ordered pizza delivered for dinner last night .. along with a bottle of red wine.  By 6pm we were exhausted and called it a night.  Around 10pm I woke up...  looked out over the valley at the lights in the town.  Saw the flowers, trees and lush mountain growth in the faint light.  Even saw some stars in the sky.  I kept hearing the call of a bird...  repetitious!  On and on and on.....   around 10:20pm it just quit.  I believe it was a paraque.  Tonight if I hear it, I'll shine a flashlight out to see if I can see the glow of red eyes.

This morning Jose Luis fixed a full breakfast...  toast, fresh fruit (papaya, pineapple, watermelon), fresh eggs (from nearby farm), bacon, hash browns, and orange juice.  Coffee, too...  but neither Bill nor I use much caffeine.....  Delicious!

So that's our first 18 hours or so in Costa Rica....

We'll take the bus into town before noon...  maybe have a late lunch there...  buy something to fix here for dinner this evening....  just wander around. 

That's All For Now....

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Wheelin' Around Heaven... and other Activities....

We've been entertained lately by aerial activities ...
This Red-shouldered Hawk appears several times a day...  usually in the afternoon.  His call is distinctive, bringing me out of my chair in an instant... as I grab my camera, run out the door and aim at the heavens.  There are always 2 ...  maybe a pair?  But sometimes there is a 3rd...   and yesterday there was a 4th hawk as well.  However, from the manuevers that went on, I believe this last hawk was intruding and a territorial scuffle had ensued. 
I wonder why a hawk's flight is called "wheeling"?

And...  at the other end of the size scale...
The Black-chinned Hummingbirds have returned.
This male is feeding on a salvia flower.  I caught his wings in flight so the picture looks kind of strange...  I wish the sun had caught the purple throat... 

Wildflowers are popping up all over!
This night blooming primrose is a welcome sight each morning.  The leaves look almost like a dandelion, but there's no mistaking the yellow flower.

Yes, just a weed.  A wild onion!  But isn't the bloom pretty?

I haven't Identified this purple flower yet...  thought at first it was a violet of some sort, but after looking closer at the leaves, know I need to check again....  I got lucky to catch a honeybee dipping into the flower.  Glad there are still honey bees around!

Another unknown (to me)....  All these flowers, and many more, are growing wild on our daughter's place, here in Texas.  I might ID them all ....  sometime....

The last picture of flowers is of one seen along many Texas highways....
Indian Paintbrush

You'll see huge patches of it...  sometimes growing among the bluebonnets or some other wildflower.  It is certainly a bright spot no matter where it grows!

Bill and I had some last minute errands to run yesterday.  One of those was to go to the local feed store and buy shelled corn for Celeste's deer feeders. 

The first thing I heard when we walked into the feed store was these peeps.  Yes, they had chicks for sale.  These are Rhode Island Reds...  pullets...  so in a few months, they'll be laying beautiful brown eggs.

(Just a little note...  when we lived in Alaska, sometimes we'd drive down to Homer.  One day there was this big sign outside a place... said... "PICK UP CHICKS HERE".  I did a double take before I realized it was a feed store...  not a bar)

Before RVing, Bill & I bought 50 chicks each year...  straight run.  Now... in theory, that means 25 are male/25 female.  We'd replenish our layers with the females, and replenish our freezer with the males.  Sometimes I miss the farm...  and baby chicks.... and then...  I remember how much it tied us down....

This feed store has its own mouser...
Looks to me like she's the Queen.  She didn't care one bit about those chicks just below her.

This plant stand certainly brought back memories!  Bill built one quite similar to it, only ours had "grow lights" above each shelf.  We'd start seeds in February...  four flats to a shelf...  four shelves.  Then when they were big enough, we'd put the flats into the greenhouse and start the next group of plants.  It took a lot of work, but we had our own organically grown food to eat so it was well worh it.

Oh yes...  we came after corn...
Ten Bags....  50 pounds each.....  That better last those deer for a while!

I might add here that the wildlife here at our daughter's is never hunted.  The deer and other wildlife are fed only to supplement their food supply...  and for everyone here to enjoy their presence.

This will be my last post for a few days.  We fly out of DFW early tomorrow morning...  to Ft Lauderdale...  then catch a flight to San Jose, Costa Rica.  Our rental house won't be available until Saturday, so we have plans to stay in a hotel north of San Jose   until then.  So it may be Saturday or Sunday when we'll have internet service again.  And...  as usual when we're out of the USA, we turn off our cell phone. 

Well, I guess it's time to pack...

That's All For Today...