The Island of Costa Rica?

Tropical Fantasy | Resplendent Quetzal

When you mention Costa Rica people often envision a tropical isle in the Caribbean, decorated with colorful birds, white sand beaches and rich rainforests. Though most all of that is true, one point is decidedly false. There are a few common misconceptions about this popular photographic destination and being an island is right at the top of the list. It doesn’t help that the name of Costa Rica’s capital city, San Jose, is easily (and often) confused with the capital city of Puerto Rico, which is San Juan. Costa Rica is not an island, though in some ways Costa Rica does have an island like feel to it. One can easily enjoy a quiet morning along the Caribbean coast, followed by a breathtaking drive through the cloud forests and mountains, and still arrive at the Pacific coast in time for a sundowner overlooking the ocean.

Cloud Atlas | Costa Rica

Costa Rica is a small country in Central America, bordered by Nicaragua to the north and Panama to the South. It comprises a total of 19,700 square miles, which is roughly equivalent to the size of West Virginia. Despite its relatively small size, this country boasts more than 10% of the world’s biodiversity with 19 different ecosystems! Costa Rica has been a bastion of democracy and stability in a region that has seen its share of revolutions and civil unrest. Costa Rica is recognized as a land of peace-loving people and has been without a standing army since 1946.

Color Pallet | Keel-billed Toucan

Conservation here is very important. Costa Rica is moving toward carbon neutrality faster than any other country in the world. A major goal of the Costa Rican government is to be the first carbon offset country in the world by the time they celebrate their 200th year of independence in the year 2021.

Heart of the Tropics | Costa Rica

This beautiful country is broken up into seven different provinces and during our recent photo tour my group visited six of them. We enjoyed being transported in our own private bus by our dedicated driver, Santiago. He was an expert of navigating the roads of Costa Rica and kept our luggage and camera gear safe at all times. Santiago arrived at the entrance to our hotel and ushered us away in a spacious 18 passenger bus with plenty of room on board for the group to spread out and have their camera gear close at hand. As you travel across this lush countryside one has to resist the urge to grab your camera and go chasing off into the rainforest every time you pass over one of the regions countless, beautiful streams!

The shadow of our bus as we travel out of San Jose up to the mountains.

For my Costa Rica photo tours I partner with the very best native guide. He graduated in 1996 as a biology major from Costa Rica University. Shortly thereafter he began guiding trips and now has nearly two decades of experience under his belt. He’s an endless wealth of knowledge and an incredible photographer as well. More than once on the trip he identified a bird species by simple characteristics like the color and shape of their bills. Due to his background in the field of biology he’s always mindful of the well-being of our subjects and his knowledge in that regard is indispensable.

Morning Glory | Scarlet Tanager

Costa Rica is far more than just colorful birds. During our ten day photo tour my group was able to photograph Howler Monkeys, Coati, Crocodiles, Sloths (including a mother and baby), as well as a wide variety of frogs, snakes, bats, insects and owls. There were endless breathtaking landscapes and multiple waterfalls to enjoy as well. To see a sample of the subject diversity that we photographed take a moment to browse my Costa Rica portfolio here at this link.

Midnight Snack | Orange Nectar Bat
Eye Candy | Spiny Glass Frog
Nectar Bar | Fiery-throated Hummingbirds
Cover Girl | Eyelash Viper

If you’re planning to visit Costa Rica, one term you should be familiar with is “Pura Vida” (pronounces poo-rah vee-dah). Simply translated, it means, “simple life ” or “pure life ”. In Costa Rica this is more than just a saying, it is their way of life. Another thing you should be aware of is the food. It is delicious! The portions are plentiful and hunger is never a problem. If tropical drinks are your thing, then you’re in for a treat with their Pina Coladas. The only warning I’d give you is to stay away from eating the Mangos that my guides will offer to pick for you fresh off the trees. I say this for the simple reason that the Mangos from the supermarket back home will never be the same!

Spotlight | Red-eyed Tree Frog

I’ll be taking another group to photograph this incredible country again next year and the trip is already sold out. If you’re interested in joining us in 2021 you’ll find next year’s itinerary at the Tropics of Costa Rica Photo Tour. This is truly a magical destination filled with species diversity and stunning landscapes. It is for good reason that Costa Rica is the only country that can make the claim ‘Pura Vida‘ and you’ll need to visit to experience it for yourself.

Your thoughts and comments are always welcome.

Nathaniel

The Golden Canopy | Costa Rica

Magee Marsh – An Avian Kingdom

Chronicles of Nature

Seeds Of Spring | Northen Parula WarblerBirds were my first love. I became captivated by the avian world at the tender age of eight. Growing up in Maine I was in the great outdoors at every chance watching these masters of flight and identifying new ones to add to my life list. Today birding has become a far more main stream hobby than it was back then.

Sunset Salute | Great Blue HeronIn those days the bird watching field trips that I went on were attended by elderly birders – and me. I didn’t care though, those folks thought it was great to see someone from the younger generation as passionate as they were and they eagerly shared their knowledge. I studied everything about my feathered friends and was inspired to draw pictures and even wrote some poems about them.

As I became more serious about my artwork I wanted to ensure that my drawings were my own rendering from start to finish. So I saved my money for a few years and bought myself a Pentax K-1000 camera and a Sigma 500mm mirror lens which allowed me to capture an image of my subjects to draw from. During the next couple years my love of photography continued to grow, eventually overtaking my interest in drawing. I had hopes of one day embracing this hobby as a career and in time I set aside my sketch pad altogether and jumped into my new found passion feet first.

Fast forward a few decades and my love for birds is still as strong as ever. I‘ve since realized those childhood dreams of becoming a full time nature photographer. These two factors led me to visit Magee Marsh this spring during The Biggest Week In American Birding  to participate in one of the largest birding events in the world  and in hopes of expanding my portfolio with some of these colorful songsters. I returned home two weeks ago and the very thought of this place brings a smile to my face. Known as one of the birding meccas in North America, Magee Marsh covers a vast area on the shores of Lake Erie and is the perfect combination of marsh, wooded areas and open water, with a variety of fringe habitats that attracts songbirds by the thousands. The neo-tropical migrants (some from as far as South America) stop there to feed and rest up, awaiting the ideal weather conditions so that they can finish their journey across the vast expanse of Lake Erie up into Canada.

Songs Of Spring | American RedstartThe variety of species is astounding and bird lovers come from all corners of the world to witness them, particularly the warblers. It was quite a spectacle. As a photographer I prefer to shoot alone most of the time, but I have to say that it was an incredible experience being surrounded by hundreds of other people that all shared the same passion and appreciation for birds that I do. We all automatically had our love for birds in common and conversations flowed naturally and easily between complete strangers. At any time I could easily find solitude by walking off onto one of the quieter trails, and often did so, those  locations yielded some of my best images from my trip.

During my visit I met a number of other photographers and bird enthusiasts that I am connected with online, but had not yet met in person. I also had the honor of exchanging a few words with Kenn and Kimberly Kaufman. Kenn is universally known as one of the world’s most renowned bird experts and his wife Kimberly is the Executive Director of the Black Swamp Bird Observatory . The Black Swamp Bird Observatory works through research and education to promote bird conservation, is responsible for organizing  The Biggest Week In American Birding  and conducts regular bird banding sessions. I’m proud to call them both friends and greatly respect their talents and efforts. They were both wonderful event hosts.

I still remember my first experience of a warbler migration in my youth all those years ago in Maine, it was wonderful… this was spectacular. There were birds absolutely everywhere you looked. I would arrive each morning before dawn and not leave the Marsh until after sunset, back at my hotel room the songs of the birds would still be echoing in my ears until long after dark.

Pools Of Sunshine | Prothonotary WarblerIf you wish to experience the thrill of the Spring songbird migration I encourage you to add this destination to your future travel plans. I intend to return again next year, until then I’ll enjoy reliving my time there as I continue to process more image files from Magee Marsh. Be sure to watch my Newest Images Portfolio  for additional photos from this trip.

Happy Birding!

Your thoughts and comments are always welcome.

– Nathaniel

 

* Natural subjects in their natural habitat – All of these photos were taken in the wild on natural perches, none of the birds were called or fed.

A moment with Kenn & Kimberly Kaufman

A moment with Kenn & Kimberly Kaufman at Magee Marsh