On our last day in Guanacaste Province, we decided to head for Parque Nacional Palo Verde. The park protects several major rivers that feed into the Golfo de Nicoya, as well as a huge lagoon, supposedly teeming with waterfowl, including the endangered, prehistoric-looking Jabiru. Unfortunately, (as we came to find out upon arriving at the park after a loooooong drive down a washboard dirt road) the Guanacaste Province has been suffering from a drought for the last two years.
Although we are supposed to be in the rainy season now, the lagoon had only small patches of water far from the viewpoints set up by the park. From the mirador at the top of the Sendero Roca, we could see birds gathered in these tiny puddles, but we could not access the puddles ourselves to glimpse whatever avian life was enjoying them. (However, we did see about a dozen wood storks and two northern jacana in a canal along one of the many agricultural fields on our way into the park, so we were not entirely unsuccessful in our quest for waterfowl.) Palo Verde has several very short trails, some of which provide placards describing the trees. Several different ecosystems and ecotones can be seen here, including dry tropical forest, wetlands, river/riparian and most interesting to me, limestone forest.
Despite the drought and lack of water, we were almost constantly swarmed by the little buggers. Combined with the oppressive heat and humidity, it was just too much for us to take. We abandoned our last hike of the day, nearly sprinting for the car. Alex took the photo below of the monkey skeleton about 100 yards before we made it back to the car. Sorry to say Palo Verde National Park felt like a bit of a bust.
But all was not lost! We had read about a waterfall not far off the main road near Bagaces and decided to stop to check it out. After making a donation to the local school to gain entrance then paying what felt like protection money to the guy in the parking lot to keep our car safe, we navigated the steep descent to the falls. After the heat and oppressive mosquitoes of Palo Verde, Catarata Llona de Cortes felt like Shangri-La.
The waterfall is wider than it is high, and crashes down on the rocks below creating an inviting shallow pool just begging for you taking a dip. A wide sandy beach is the perfect compliment as you laze under the large trees gazing up at the falls and the other revelers around you. We took turns cooling off and relaxing on the shore and simply appreciating the amazing ending to an otherwise exhausting and difficult day. Llona de Cortes will forever be remembered as “La Catarata que salvo el dia.”
New birds since last post: groove-billed ani, striped-headed sparrow, rufous-naped wren, common ground dove, tropical kingbird, dusky nightjar, great-tailed grackle, white-winged dove, eastern meadowlark, red wing blackbird, yellow tailed oriole, green heron, northern jacana, great egret, snowy egret, wood stork, inca dove, limpkin, roadside hawk, streaked backed oriole, gray crowned yellowthroat, fulvous whistling duck