Forest Observations: Costa Rica

Flower piercer in Savegre

Scintillant hummingbird - Savegre

We manged to take time out of enjoying the Cape Cod winter to perform a surgical strike into two distinct wild areas of Costa Rica over a short ten day window. Long a preferred destination by Eco-adventure travelers all over the world we had never taken the time to visit and were keen to get in on the experience. Our primary goal in this exploratory trip was to explore two significant  and different areas in the country – the magical lowland rainforest on the Osa Peninsula in the south and the spectacular cloud forest near San Gerardo de Gota and the headwaters of the Rio Savegre in the Talamanca Mts. What we found with the help of excellent local guides were some of the most beautiful bird life we have witnessed anywhere in the world. In fact we were successful in identifying more than 200 different species while on the ground in Costa Rica. 75% of which were birds we had never seen before anywhere..known as “life birds” among the active birding community. Here are a few of the images we recorded.

Yellow thighed Finch - Savegre

Silver throated Tanager

Golden Winged Warbler - A Rare Beauty, Osa Peninsula

Long tailed Silky Flycatcher

Black mandibled toucan, Osa Peninsula

Violet eared hummingbird

Collared Redstart

Incredible Scarlet Macaw

King Vulture

Mangrove Black Hawk

White Hawk and Scarlet Macaw share space but have different interests

Magnificent Quetzal (female)

Black chested Trogon

Magnificent Quetzal (male)

Tiny Hawk - Rare and hard to see in Central America

Sunrise Osa Peninnsula

Read more.. Tuesday, January 28th, 2014

Wild Cape Cod Notebook: Winter

This is the third post highlighting our walks on the barrier beaches on the Cape in the month of January. Still in search of up close and impressive images of the Snowy Owl visitors we venture onto Harding’s Beach in Chatham in the late afternoon to investigate. As those who follow this blog know even if your prime objective is elusive there is always something interesting to observe….always. Cutting to the chase – we did not find the owl this day but other visitors caught our attention.

Brandt Geese are passing through Cape Cod coastal areas still on their way south.

American Black Ducks take flight

Sanderlings are among the few shorebirds that winter over on Cape beaches

Dusk at the entrance to Stage Harbor looking south to South Monomoy Point

Sadly a Short finned pilot whale has stranded and died over night mysteriously

Read more.. Tuesday, January 28th, 2014

Travel Advisory

Apex Expeditions specializes in one-of-a-kind adventures to explore the world’s most fascinating places.

“Many of you might recognize Jonathan Rossouw here, a close friend, supreme wildlife guide and extraordinary tour leader specializing in remote destinations all around the world. We have traveled with Jonathan on many adventures including the now well known Ugandan Mountain Gorilla encounter which changed us both forever. We are wonderfully pleased to learn that a new venture has surfaced called Apex Expeditions and from examining their sneak peek website http://www.apex-expeditions.com/ looks like they will be visiting some of the most interesting and bio-diverse regions in the world. We also have learned that Jonathan has been involved in the design of most of the itineraries for the new venture and has been invited to also lead many of them beginning in 2015. This is terrific news for adventure eco-tourists, especially those who have followed our own adventures and wondered who, where and when to travel to the earth’s remote places. Do check these guys out. The groups will be intimate and trips will fill quickly. We might see you on one!”

Again their web address is  http://www.apex-expeditions.com/

Read more.. Saturday, January 25th, 2014

Wild Cape Cod Notebook: Winter

Orleans - Nauset Beach

We have spent a few days hiking the beaches on the Outer  Cape as well as on Barnstable’s  Sandy Neck enjoying the winter landscapes. Largely desolate and dramatic we have also been hoping for good views of one of the many Snowy Owls that have been visiting Cape Cod from the Canadian Arctic the past month. Though we have been fortunate with a couple of nice long distance sightings we continue to look for better images. As our search continues please get outside and  check out and appreciate the beauty of winter on Cape Cod.

Sandy Neck - Cape Cod Bay side

Sandy Neck - Great Marsh side

Wellfleet - LeCount Hollow

Eastham - Coast Guard Beach

Orleans - Nauset Beach

Truro - Ballston Beach

Eastham - Coast Guard Beach

Read more.. Sunday, January 12th, 2014

Wild Cape Cod Notebook: Winter

The new year greeted us with our first serious Nor’easter of the winter season. Circumstances set us up here on Cape Cod to be near the center of a convergence of several powerful low pressure systems which raced up the eastern coast packed with lots of moisture and collided with a massive arctic blast of frigid air and the result was significant coastal snowfall in often whiteout blizzard conditions with temperatures that plummeted near to zero degrees F. In Chatham we received about 12 – 14 inches and with drifts in the wind some north facing structures got buried. We clocked wind gusts to 56 MPH. Fortunately we did not lose power so the experience was exhilarating around a cozy fire. We worried about the birds and yesterday decided to range further afield to survey the land and wildlife.

Read more.. Sunday, January 5th, 2014

Patagonia: Magellanic Spring

Our recent posts about traveling in Ecuador and Peru got us to remembering our trek into Patagonia now five years ago. In this “hot stove league” time of year and while we gear up for some new adventures in 2014 take a peak at some images of mountain spring memories from out journey into Chile’s incomparable Torres del Paine park and then on to Argentina’s El Calafate thereby bracketing Patagonia. Some breathtaking scenery and a first hand look at one of the largest ice sheets on Planet Earth …third behind Antarctica and Greenland. The hiking was grand! If you are thinking of making the journey to Antarctica some day ( and we hope you do) consider adding  two weeks to see this area on the front end of your trip. You will not be disappointed. On this adventure we traveled with our friends at Zegrahm Expeditions in Seattle. We recommend them highly.

The Perito Moreno Glacier is a glacier located in the Los Glaciares National Park

Guanacos - Torres del Paine

Magellanic Fox in rest mode

White Tufted grebe and youngster

The Towers at Torres del Paine

Black faced Ibis in a field of wildflowers

Young Andean Condor

Dawn at Torres del Paine

Read more.. Saturday, December 28th, 2013

Ecuador: In the Cloud Forest

Capitalizing on our time in South America we continued our exploration of wildlife by journeying north to Ecuador. Yet another country set in the Andean Highlands and exceptionally bio-diverse especially in the bird world we were eager to spend a few days here before we ventured out to the Galapagos. From Quito,the capital city we journeyed north and west to a beautiful private reserve that had been rescued by an entrepreneur and restored with a superior lodge to allow visitors to enjoy a very special area of unique wildlife, Here is a description by the owners of the lodge – “The wonders waiting at Mashpi Lodge will delight the worldliest nature lover. Perched at 900 m (3,116 feet) above sea level and surrounded by lower montane rainforest and cloud forest, the Lodge is surrounded by a profusion of plant species, from ferns and bromeliads to hundreds of orchid species, many newly-discovered. A staggering 500 species of bird – including some 36 endemics – are estimated to inhabit the forest, fluttering through the canopy. Monkeys, peccaries and even puma make their homes inside the Reserve crisscrossed with waterfalls between dramatic, verdant hills.”

Read more.. Wednesday, December 18th, 2013

Wild Cape Cod: 2013 Rewind

It is time to look back on 2013 and remember some of the wonderful experiences and sights we have witnessed on Cape Cod this past year.

Read more.. Friday, December 13th, 2013

Green Water…White Death

wild cape cod

Third in a series of photographs leveraged to raise
awareness, the 2013 poster edition of wild cape cod
illustrates a story of predation and power.
Taken a few moments after a failed attack,
this photograph captures a great white shark
as she circles back for another strike at a one of
the area’s many seals.

Poster is 22″ x 28″ and printed on high quality photographic paper suitable for framing
Cost $50.00 signed and dated
Send inquiries to john@commonflat.com
All Proceeds will be used to support Cape Cod based conservation efforts

Read more.. Thursday, December 12th, 2013

Peru: High up with Mother Earth

Six months have passed since we trekked into the magical Sacred Valley high up in the Andes Mountains in Peru. Our journey there has had longer reaching effects and in looking back on our time there the memories are powerful. The impetus for traveling to Peru was centered around a long standing fascination with Machu Picchu, a desire to see this mysterious ruin first hand and to learn more about the people who made it more than 500 years ago.

Machu Picchu (also known as “The lost City of the Incas”) is located 2,430 meters (7,970 ft) above sea level and is situated on an Andes mountain ridge above the Urubamba Valley in Peru,  which is 80 kilometers (50 mi) northwest of Cusco, Peru. Most archeologists deem that Machu Picchu was constructed as a manor for the Inca emperor Pachacuti (1438–1472). It is the most renowned Inca construction that has been built and known to date.

Constructed in the 1400’s at the explosion of the Inca Empire, this lost city was abandoned less than 100 years from its construction. It was abandoned as a delayed result of the Spanish Conquest. It is likely that most of its population died from smallpox, launched by voyagers before the Spanish conquistadors.

Furthermore, because there are no historical records of the Spanish ever knowing of this fascinating Inca city, it was of vital importance to its survival, as most of the Inca constructions in the Cusco area were completely destroyed by the conquistadors and new European constructions were built on top of these destroyed ruins. However, today most of the remote structures have been restored in hopes of giving tourist an enhanced concept of what the buildings looked like from the beginning.

Moreover, although Machu Picchu was already known locally, it was anonymous to outsiders until American historian Hiram Bingham brought the mysterious wonder to international attention in 1911. Since then it has become one of the most important tourist attractions in Peru and worldwide.

In 1981, Machu Picchu was declared a Peruvian Historical Sanctuary and in 1983 it was declared by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site.

The Sun Gate - Inca trail ends here and marks the entrance to Machu Picchu

Torrent Ducks look over the Urubamba River

The first look at Machu Picchu

One evening at sunset we met with two Andean shaman or Misayoq, specialists in Andean rituals (commonly equated to priests). Misayoqs are believed to possess the ability to communicate directly with the mountain spirits and natural forces. We settled cross legged in soft grass near the fast moving water of the Urubamba River, considered sacred in the Valley, and participated in a ritual ceremony to make an offering to Pachamama “Mother Earth”  with thanks. The ritual is called a  Despacho (a Spanish word meaning “offering.” In Peru the word pago is often used meaning “payment” – in this context payment in the form of prayers and material gifts of food, alcohol and other items considered necessary. The offerings are usually made to the spirits residing in the highest mountain peaks (known as Apus) or to Pachamama (Mother Earth) or to a combination of the two.  We entered the ceremony a bit under briefed on the background but with an open mind.

The intent of the ceremony may be to bring about harmony and balance to the earth (such as abundant crops and fertile animals), honour a new beginning (such as a new house, business or marriage) or to get rid of an illness or negative energy. Despachos can also be made to ward off witchcraft and sorcery. Participation in the ceremony can help reinforce spiritual relationships between members of the community and cleanse each participant of negative or heavy energy. This heavy energy actually becomes part of the offering.

It is very important that the ceremony is treated with utmost respect and faith. It is often said that a badly made despacho or a ceremony that is attended by participants who treat it as a game can often do more harm than good.

We ended up mesmerized and very moved with good feelings as we concluded in pitch darkness after more than 1 hour. During the ceremony Pam and I were each asked to make a silent petition to Pachamama which we did without discussing our intentions and the Misayog transmitted these wishes by laying hands on our heads and adding items to a bundle of “gifts” to be committed to fire in a sacred place after the ceremony to seal the petition.

Only much later did we learn that not only did both of us wish for the same thing BUT our prayers had been answered when we learned more than three weeks later that both of our children were expecting there first BABIES! Whoa! Were we surprised and elated.  Be very careful what you wish for from Mother Earth – she may just grant it! Our very first grandchildren are expected to deliver on the same day in March 2014 from two different mothers.

Quetsuan Creation Myth - Cusco

Read more.. Thursday, December 12th, 2013