Sunday, January 18, 2009

Costa Rica Earthquake Impacts

You've probably heard about the devastating earthquake that recently struck Costa Rica and killed at least 23 people. It's the worst quake to hit Costa Rica in 18 years. I received an email today from the tour guide who led my first tour there in 2005. I was sad to hear that two of the sites we visited on that trip were destroyed and people we met were lost in the disaster. The first memorable site we visited was the La Paz Waterfall Gardens where we saw many beautiful hummingbirds including the endemic Coppery-headed Emerald, the gorgeous Black-bellied Hummingbird, and the pixie-like Magenta-throated Woodstar. The site was a beautiful resort and included a very fun waterfall-themed bathroom. The resort suffered severe damage in the quake. Pictures are below.

The second site, and most tragic story, was our visit to a tiny, family-owned restaurant called El Mirador in the town of Cinchona. We were welcomed into the restaurant to view their feeders that were backdropped by a spectacular waterfall. The fruit feeders were visited by many tanagers and Prong-billed and Red-headed Barbets. Their hummingbird feeders were visited by Magnificent Hummingbirds and Violet Sabrewings. While eating delicious snacks and drinking coffee, the little daughter of the owner came over to show us her "pet" - a tarantula about the size of my palm. It happily crawled over hands and she giggled at my fear of the spider. Tragically, El Mirador was destroyed in a mudslide due to the earthquake and the family perished. As my friend Mike put it, I'm thankful to have been lucky enough to experience this tremendous place.

An Emerald Toucanet (or Blue-throated Toucanet depending on who you ask) at the feeders at La Paz

Coppery-headed Emerald - this fella is angling in such a way that his feathers look black in parts

The La Paz Waterfall itself. The road that looks out to this was washed away by a mudslide.

Barbets at El Mirador Restaurant

Female Red-headed Barbet eating what I think is papaya

The view from El Mirador


Zoe Ann Hinds said...

What incresible photos! I especially enjoyed the ones of the hummingbirds, as I have never heard of those those species before.

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Pat O'Donnell said...

Fantastic photo of that Coppery-headed Emerald! Here in Costa Rica, its hard to believe that Cinchona is just gone. That was one of mine and the Birding Club of Costa Rica's favorite spots. Nearby Virgen del Socorro is done as a birding site until who knows when.

flowergirl said...

yes that is most definitely papaya! the barbets are sure having a feast. Spectacular photos!

Kolibri Expeditions said...

It made me very sad to hear about the earthquake and your story about the little girl with a pet spider - that now has perished in the mudslide breaks my heart.
When the big Earthquake hit Pisco/Paracas/Ica in Peru and shook capital Lima severely in August 2007, our little daughter was only 6.5 months and in custody with her grandparents in our Lima home, as my wife and I was travelling to the UK and British BirdFair. We got the news when I connected to the internet arriving at Heathrow. The short lapsus between finding out and talking to Elita´s parents was horrible. Fortunately, all was well, but it was a hell of a shake.

Larry Jordan said...

Patrick I am always devastated to here of one of the worlds great birding places lost, not to mention your wonderful friends you made down there. My heart goes out to you and the people of Cinchona.

I hope to make it to Costa Rica some day for a thrilling birding experience. In the meantime, your excellent captures of the Toucanet, Coppery-headed Emerald Hummingbird and Barbets will have to hold me over.

S Elliott said...

HOW TO MAKE A DONATION: I am so sorry about the family at the restaurant and your loss. We were at La Paz Waterfall gardens when the earthquake struck 2 weeks ago. The epicenter was right on top of the gardens. I have heard the the owner wants to reopen the Peace Lodge and the gardens as soon as possible..we were in the butterfly gardens when the quake struck. This was very fortunate for us as several lost their lives at the waterfall in a landslide. I found out how to make donations..there are over 2500 poeple in tent shelters who can never return to their land in Chichona and Vara Blanca (the nearby villages) because their land is destroyed. I went to the local Western Union and it was very quick and easy. For individuals and corporations in the United States wishing to donate to
the Earthquake disaster relief efforts in Costa Rica, Western Union has set
up a Quick Collect® account benefiting the Costa Rican Red Cross. Western
Union will provide U.S. customers with no fee Quick Collect® money transfer
services for donations up to US$1,000 until March 2, 2009. Customers should
make donations by requesting code city EARTHQUAKERELIEF CR and enter
EARTHQUAKERELIEF, CR in the account field.

S. Elliott said...

This is very good encouraging news about La Paz Waterfall Gardens at this link...

Also, they have set up an earthquake relief fund where we can make donations in the US to help the hardest hit town rebuild. They state "Before we go on to tell you about the construction on our property and our future plans, please let us tell you about the surrounding communities.
The town of Cinchona, which is the next town down from La Paz, was the hardest hit. They are still finding people in homes and cars who did not make it through the Earthquake. Contrary to news reports, the death toll is closer to 60 at the moment.

Many of our employees live in this area. Many of them have lost family members and their homes.

For those of you interested, we have set up an account for donations. The La Paz Earthquake Community Relief under the direction of Lee Banks, will allocate funds to those in the area that need to build (or rebuild) their homes. We will maintain an accounting of the use of these funds on our website along with photos of the reconstruction.
We are accepting checks made out to:
“La Paz Earthquake Community Relief”
c/o Cindy Banks,
1807 SE 14th Street,
Fort Lauderdale, FL 33316

Federico Herrera said...

I am the son of the owner, the hummingbird feeders and the others with the barbets were in my home.
We all are right, the little girl with the spider as pet is my little sister.
You can see pictures of mi home and how is right now here:

I was with my mother, my sister and my girlfriend at the birdwatching, the house fall down completely, the little town of Cinchona doesn´t exist anymore and we lost many friends.
Thanks for your feelings!!!

Patrick Belardo said...

Federico, that is FANTASTIC news. I guess the person who told me the news was incorrect. This is great to hear. I am glad you are safe, but very sorry for the loss of your home and your friends.