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Tuesday, January 4, 2011

The BPE Excursion Part I – Dry Tropical Forest

Sunday January 2nd Everyone arrived safe and sound around midday. We loaded the vehicles and headed for a site that Coop, Ash and I had photographed on an earlier trip. Upon arriving, we broke out the picnic lunch and everyone got acquainted. Then we fanned out for the first serious photographing. Rock-lined riverbed, petroglyphs, flowering plants, flowing water, and Costa Rican families enjoying the cool water.

About 90 minutes later, our need to photograph temporarily satisfied, we headed on north to the Area de Conservacion Guanacaste (ACG), specifically the Santa Rosa Station, headquarters of this amazing World Heritage Site. Everyone quickly moved in, had a chance to walk around a little and begin to see the local flora and fauna, exotic looking but harmless insects and beautiful vines in flower. Here we met up with Pablo Vazques, an employee of the Education Program of the ACG, who will be accompanying us, giving us invaluable information about the natural history and getting some good additional training for his photography efforts on behalf of the ACG. The group is formed, and ready for a week of exploration and photography. First impressions were of interesting insects and flowers, including a giant grasshopper.

Then it was time for dinner in the mess hall. About 7 we convened in the conference room where Coop led a quick briefing. Finally, we moved to the porch of the dorm block for a little socializing (for those who were not overly jetlagged), and an early night.

Monday January 3rd First thing in the morning, Coop's emailing was serenaded by a beautiful woodpecker - Drycopus lineatus or the lineated woodpecker - pounding away 3 meters behind him.

After breakfast, we walked from the administrative area to the national monument called La Casona – a beautifully- maintained and restored Spanish Colonial Hacienda. Along the way, we were frustrated by a solitary male howler monkey who stayed tantalizingly close but with his back to the sun. We stopped around an enormous strangler fig tree that was a perfect backdrop for a session on using your tripod and maximizing depth of field.

Reaching the Casona late in the morning, the light was excellent for close-range and interior shots.

 Just before lunch, Dan led Mike, Sarah and Alan down the Sendero Natural and along a currently-dry streambed to a set of petroglyphs. After lunch, we all piled into two vehicles and headed to Sendero Los Patos, another rocky streambed which is one of the few places that retains water throughout the dry season. Everyone had a chance to smell jaguar urine at a pozo marked by a resident male jaguar.

Having seen a number of large male and female ctenosaurs (the dry forest iguana), we were delighted to encounter a colorful baby just off the trail.

The afternoon ended with views of the late afternoon and sunset from lookout places. The light and the sky were not particularly good for photography but it was fun to see. After dinner, everyone downloaded a day and a half’s worth of images and we had a share and critique session. Some very good shots by a hardworking group!

Tuesday January 4th As we submit this entry, we're packing to go to Pitilla, a field station adjacent to one of the cloud forest sites. No electricity and no internet at Pitilla, so next entry will be Thursday night.

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