To join me on a virtual sketching trip, download a travel sketch-journal here.
I add tutorials to them so you can learn the techniques and details you see in the sketchbooks.

My former workshop students asked me to upload my workshop workbooks to make them available to everyone. So you can also download a workbook and give yourself a workshop! Enjoy!

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Leaving Costa Rica ~ Dec. 19, 2010

When I woke up it was raining a torrent.
Hmmm...this did pose a problem for the adventurer who hates rain down her neck. However, there were lots of things on my little deck table to sketch.

So as soon as it was light enough (6:30ish) I was tackling the pile of treasures I'd collected on the beach the day before, including some odd little horned things that look like bullhorn acacia seedpods. Anybody know anything about these in Costa
Rica? I've seen something similar in Kenya, but I didn't know they were here...(I just googled "bullhorn acacia," and that's what it is, for sure!)

As I sat sketching in the dim morning light, the flock of Great Curassows flitted by again. These big birds (turkey size) move very fast, and this was the best picture I could get ~ all the others were blurred. The males are solid black with a yellow beak decorations, but the females are this wonderful cinnamon red with barred tails and
those tasselled black-and-white topknots! Stunning!

Later that morning, during a lull in the rain, I decided that I was going hiking anyway. The uppermost trail, Passiflora, beckoned, and I took off with my sketching bag encased in a plastic bag to protect my sketchbook and
watercolor pencils from a possible shower. Here's the Passiflora Trail at right looking a bit mysterious.

There were lots of things to see, including lichen-striped trees, termite nests attached to monkey-ladder vines, and monkey-ladder vines in tangles. I stopped to watch squirrel monkeys in the trees overhead, and then, in a pattering rush, rain was coming down. I raced for the nearest tree with dense leaves and pressed up against the trunk (glad it wasn't a thorny one!).

good, dense canopy like the one at left can provide fair shelter for a short rain, then water starts dripping through and you have to dodge around a bit to find a dry spot. I never did take out my sketchbook on that hike.

The wet earth and bark gave off a spicy, earthy scent,
and as the rain shower trailed off to mist I resumed my hike, soon coming across these pretty woody flowers, which I sketched later under drier circumstances.

I was starting to feel forlorn ~ this was my last full day at El Remanso, as I was scheduled to catch a plane the next day. Of course, WHERE that plane was going was really exciting, but still......

But to cheer me up, Mother Nature sent along another adventure. Adri saw me sketching heliconias along a path and asked
if I'd seen the boa.

"No!" I exclaimed, and she grinned, saying "Then come see!" and
led me to a tall shrub near the swimming pool where, right at eye level, a small boa constrictor was engulfing a Great Crested Flycatcher (Gera had identified the bird ~ it was way too far down the snake's gullet for me to tell).

boa had apparently been waiting, hidden by leaves, when the bird landed on the branch next to it. The bird was no match for the small snake, which immediately wrapped itself around the bird and squeezed. So much for Tweety-bird! When I got there, the boa had been engulfing the flycatcher for more than an hour.

The snake
had anchored its body to the branch with a couple of tail loops, and hung down below, coiled twice around the bird. With glacial speed, it was patiently inching its mouth upward around the bird's chest, which was probably three times the diameter of the snakes body. In the long photo at left, the widest part of the snake, right below the yellow feathers, is the snake's open mouth. The little pink blob at center is its lower front "lip."

Standing only inches away, I sketched and photographed the process. There was only time to get the outline in the fading light, so I took photos to help me finish it later. The whole process took several hours. Having gotten there late, it was
dark by the time I finished sketching. By by the light of my flashlight I could see the yellow breast feathers and rufous wing feathers through the stretched-tight skin of the snake's belly. The whole adventure was, in a word, awesome.

By the way, the last picture of the boa's dinner, at
right, was taken at dusk. On the disk, I could scarcely see the image. But in Photoshop I was able to improved the contrast considerably, since you can see it pretty well here. I still haven't added the boa's markings to my sketch yet. Maybe by the time I do the tutorial (next month) I will be able to show Before and After images of The Snake's Dinner.

Tomorrow I'll write about leaving Costa Rica and arriving in amazing Iquitos, Peru (not Quito, Ecuador ~ that's a different place).

'Til then!


Elizabeth said...

Your adventures in Costa Rica sound wonderful! Lovely sketches.

Irene said...

Thank you, Elizabeth. I'm having loads of fun reliving/writing about them on this cold, rainy Oregon day!

donna said...

This is a wonderful post. But the snake gave me the creeps a little. And they don't usually bother me.

Irene said...

Such things aren't for everyone! There were several guests at the lodge who were a bit leery of it, too.

I've had lots of exposure to such things and my main reaction is intense curiosity.

I guess I've pretty much come to terms with the old phrase "Nature, red in tooth and claw" (I think that's from Tennyson), although I can get as sentimental as anyone else.....

Edgardo Flores-Albertazzi said...

Those "bull horns" are really a thornes from an acacia. It is called "cornizuelo" (horned) or Acacia CornĂ­gera.
Those holes are made by ants, that live inside the cornizuelo and keep parasites away.
It is a common plant in Costa Rica.
Here a link for the description of the plant:

Renie said...

Thank you, Edgardo. I appreciate the information, and the link is very good, too. I live in Belize, now, and we have the cornizuelo here, as well -- and those ants bite HARD! They protect the plant well.

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