morphos, yiguirros, capuchins, and coatls

After two weeks on the coast, we endured another gruelling day on the bus, climbing ever higher and higher into the mountains, over rougher and rougher roads to reach Monteverde, famous for a cloud forest reserve, and numerous trails and wildlife attractions all designed to drain as many colones from touristas as possible. Drawn by forces beyond our control, today we took in two attractions, Jardín de Mariposas (the butterfly garden), and “Natural Wonders” — a slow 90-minute tram ride through the forest. Tomorrow we plan to take in the cloud forest. In the meantime, here are some notes and photos from today.

Even on the 2 km uphill walk to see the butterfly exhibition, we encountered much wildlife, including a group of white-throated capuchins (a monkey very common in this area), some white-nosed coatls (the local version of the raccoon), and numerous birds we could not identify.

The Butterfly Garden is a family-run facility with international volunteers invited in as tour guides — and our guide, Lindsay, did a really good job of taking is through the insect and butterfly exhibit, and then into the large enclosed gardens, each representing some of the butterflies one would find in different parts of Costa Rica. The first garden featured the famous morpho butterfly that Costa Rica is so well known for, although hard to get a good photo because only the top of their wings are blue, so visible only in flight. The owl butterfly, featured below, is happy to sit still for photos! Also featured below are a number of other butterflies and a leafcutter ant.

It was then over to “Natural Wonders”, a former farm that was allowed to return to forest about 15 years ago, at which time an aerial tram was built to slowly take vistors through the area — it took about 90 minutes to do the trip, with one stop for a walking tour and a second stop for a treetop coffee break. It wasn’t really a “wonder” but certainly a relaxing afternoon floating through the trees. We did catch glimpses of a number of birds including a yellow-winged vireo, a quail-dove, a yiguirro (a clay-coloured robin – Costa Rica’s national bird), a blue-crowned motmot (pictured below), a chachalaca, and a piapia (brown jay). We also spotted a large group of white-nosed coatls, and some agoutis – both also pictured below.

By the way, just before I took the picture of the capuchin monkey, I said to Deborah — “they’re in a perfect position over the trail to drop down on us like in the movies” and as I stopped to take some pictures, one swung to a branch that promptly broke and while it quickly grabbed the next branch, an 8-foot section of the tree crashed to the ground, about an arms-length from Deborah. Spooky!

white throated capuchin

Butterfly

Butterfly

Glass Butterfly

Owl Butterfly

Butterfly

Blue-crowned Motmot

white-nosed coatl

Butterfly Garden

leafcutter ant

agouti

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