Humans Away, Animals Play

With the recent Covid-19 lock down and restrictions in Costa Rica, we have seen a resurgence of wildlife in town. With the tourists gone, the animals have come out to play. It’s like the word spread quickly, “The human hordes are gone.  Come on out.”

And come out, they have.


The last few weeks we have seen four toucans in the tree outside our condo.  They have been coming regularly, entertaining us with their singing, hopping from branch to branch, and showing off their beautiful colors and enormous beaks. What a treat it has been to have them linger in the tree, swoop across the yard on their way to the palm seeds in another tree, and even tantalize the iguanas.

One morning Brenda and I were enjoying breakfast on the patio when suddenly our toucan friends converged upon the tree. One toucan caught something in the reflection of our neighbor’s window and flew straight from the tree into their window. He rebounded and went back to the tree. In a minute or so, he took off for the window again.  He hit it lightly and rebounded again, back to the tree. We called our neighbors to let them know what was happening. They sat in the room (while we stood on our veranda) and watched that toucan fly a total of nine times into the window. He never hurt himself – at least we don’t think so.  Perhaps he had quite a headache later!

Speaking of iguanas, they have come out in droves. We see them daily on our condo grounds, as well as sunning in the trees outside our windows. As we walk through town, they scamper around our feet and sneak into the bushes, sometimes startling us because they are so well camouflaged that we don’t see them. Yesterday, as we walked home from a downtown shopping excursion, we counted 14 in one hotel yard, and 13 in another vacant area next to the sidewalk. They are big and small, but most often very good-sized.  Some are more than a meter long, including their long, strong tails. Some are verdant green and they hide in the grass undetected. Others are more veriagated in coloring, more like the rocks and dirt. They seem pretty harmless, but I hear that if they whop you with their tales, you’ll never forget it!

Scarlet macaws have been flying in groups of 12 – 14, squawking their way across the skies.  It is pure fun to watch their colors glisten in the sunlight. They mate for life, so they are always in pairs, except for one lonely widower. At least, we’re thinking he’s a guy bird, we don’t know for sure. He always accompanies another couple. When the winds come up, they soar through the air in between stops at the almond trees where they either snack or have a full-course meal on almonds. (Only squirrels and scarlet macaws have strong enough jaws to break open the almonds.)

The squirrels have been having a heyday in the trees. They have built nests, chased each other silly, and even tormented the toucans. We have been amazed at the nests they build by chewing off twigs and branches, and then working them into nests at the tops of trees. I think I’m most amazed by how fast they can chase each other over the tree limbs and never fall.

The whistling ducks have returned! These ducks stand on the fronds of the palm trees and survey the surrounding area. It is so unusual to see ducks standing in trees! But, they have a stately stance that can’t help but garner our respect.

Pelicans have been flying in formation through the skies, as if practicing synchronized swimming. They maintain the measured distance between one another, and they follow the leader as he/she sets the pace and direction for the trip. It is an amazing thing to watch them move across the sky as one, always keeping their eyes peeled for fish in the waters below. However, I’ve never seen them fish in formation. They seem to do that only when they are out by themselves or in very small groups. When the fly across the sky in formation, it is definitely a group effort and, I even wonder sometimes, if they are just showing off for us.

Click here to see a short video I took of pelicans flying over Jaco Beach:

The hummingbirds have been flitting around all over the place. I bought a feeder, and have been enjoying two that come and feed frequently. One, I think, has claimed it as his own, and is spending a lot of time about three feet from me outside my sliding glass door. His verdant green and brilliant blue wings mesmerize me when I should be editing a book.

Even the crocodiles have made appearances in town during this time. They have been reported in two of the small rivers that empty into the ocean in Jaco Bay. We’ve seen them before, but it is very rare.  To have three appear in just a short time is unusual. (See the blog photo at the top.)

Oh, and last, and CERTAINLY least, are the mosquitoes. They have won many awards this year for breeding skills! For some reason, probably very unrelated to the lock down, they are healthy and athletic, and they have been pesky and a nuisance.  So much so, that we have ordered screen doors when always before they weren’t needed. We’re hoping as the Covid-19 virus abates, so will they. We’d enjoy returning to our relatively mosquito-free life.  I have not bothered to photograph them for several obvious reasons, including the fact that they have not treated us well.

So, it’s been humanly quiet around town, but not so in the animal world. I’m just hoping that as things slowly open again, the wildlife will feel comfortable enough to show themselves frequently and remind everyone that they are one of the reasons people love Costa Rica so much.

Until next time . . . .

Paul, A Part-Time Expat

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