Launching the cruise
Jungle Crocodile Safaris. In addition to the boat captain, the tour included a bilingual guide to help us spot the animals. The company was founded in 1993 by Mario Fernando Orjuela Castro, a veterinarian who specialized in species such as crocodiles, boas, and iguanas. Tours last about two hours.
The river crocs
American Crocodile (Crocodylus acutus) is not traditionally aggressive toward humans. However, some tour guides have been known to entertain tourists by feeding the crocs. This has led the creatures to associate humans with food, not a good idea. After a series of attacks on people, environmental officials began to enforce an existing law against such feeding.
Birds along the banks
sprey (Pandion haliaetvus) is Costa Rica's largest raptor. It's talons are especially adapted to fishing, with two toes facing forward and two back. This enables the bird to grip with the fish's head forward, making for more efficient flight. The Osprey also has valves in its nostrils that close when it hits the water. It is a migratory bird, traveling from Florida to Brazil, with stops in Costa Rica or elsewhere along the way. Most of the birds I show here were identified for me by either Tom Holeman or Georgia Conti, my two bird experts. My thanks to both.
Stilt (Himantropus mexicanus) has an extremely sensitive bill that it uses to probe the mud for worms, tadpoles, crustaceans, and small fish. Most Black-necked Stilts are residents of Costa Rica's coastal areas, but some are migratory from the Caribbean. (Bird i.d. by Tom Holeman)
Yellow-crowned night-herons live in marshes and estuaries. They can be found along Costa Rica's Caribbean and Pacific Coasts. The Yellow-crown night-heron (Nyctanassa violacea) gets the last part of its common name because it is a night-hunter. However, the bird will also feed during the day if the tidal conditions are right. Its thick bill is especially adapted to catching crabs and crayfish. (Bird i.d. by Georgia Conti)
Tri-colored Heron (Egretta tricolour) is found along both of Costa Rica's coasts in river estuaries, marshes, and mangrove lagoons. In addition to striding slowly through the water while feeding, it will also use its feet to stir up prey from the bottom. Sometimes the Tricolored Heron will crouch, hop, and then spear its prey with its sharp beak. (Bird i.d. by Tom Holeman)
Willets (Catoptrophorus semipalmatus) are locally called Pigüilo. These birds are quite noisy, making sounds like "keeek" and "whreek." Some Willets migrate from Costa Rica through Panama to the South American coasts, but others remain in residence here. And why not? The Costa Rican humans' favorite saying is Pura Vida ("Pure Life"). If you listen closely, you may hear the resident Willets call out the same thing. (Bird i.d. by Tom Holeman)
Neotropic Cormorants (Phalacrocorax brasilianus) are also called Olivaceous Cormorants. They are about the size of small ducks and have been around for a long time. Fossil evidence for cormorants goes back 30 million years. In order to better chase fish, their primary prey, the cormorants' legs are set far back on their bodies. Like Brown Pelicans, they will sometimes dive to fish. Other times, like White Pelicans, they swim in groups in order to herd the fish close to shore so they can more easily gobble them up. (Bird i.d. by Tom Holeman)
Other interesting river residents
Rio Frio cruise, but that one was bright green. The proper name for this creature is Basiliscus plumifrons. The common name comes from the two separate crests along the lizard's body and tail. They can be found along river banks throughout Central and northern South America.
This completes Part 9 of my Costa Rica series. I hope you enjoyed it and, if so, you will leave any questions or comments in the Comments section below or email me directly. If you do leave a question in the Comments section, PLEASE include your email address so that I can respond.
Hasta luego, Jim