The morning forest was damp and cool, the sun too low for warmth. Songs I couldn't identify from birds I couldn't see issued sporadically from every direction except directly overhead. The trail descended gradually, parallel to the creek, then opened onto a clearing flanked by the lodge to the right and dining area to the left. The birders, of course, were already active. Binoculars to eyes, field guides clamped under arms, they peered and pointed in silence to newfound species. Other guests headed directly to hot coffee and conversation.
Suddenly the bushes beside the steps to the dining area rustled and as heads turned, the long nose of a coati (a relative of the raccoon and an opportunist of equal impudence and skill) poked through. This particular animal had only a single eye and had come to depend for its living on the daily handouts of the charitable kitchen staff.
Then, sharp at 7:30, platters of scrambled eggs, bacon, fresh papaya, pineapple, cantaloupe, toast, and the obligatory gallo pinto (Costa Rica's own version of fried rice and black beans) were carried from the kitchen to the long table, seating ten on each side. Pitchers of blackberry juice were called for from one end and dutifully passed from the other. Later, breakfast over, the guides detailed the morning's walk to the lodge's guests as I put on my pack and headed into the forest.
To move at my own pace, I set off alone along Sendero Platanillo, a little-used path that winds gently downhill to the river bordering the Rara Avis reserve. Tree roots and vines crisscrossed the trail like trip wires and I walked with care. There were shallow streams to wade and muddy hollows to cross. And even though it hadn't rained in two days and the higher ground was fairly dry, my pant legs were soon coated with fresh mud. Overhanging trees hid most of the sky leaving the forest in dark shades of green and brown, broken just ahead above the leaf litter by the scarlet flash of a single passionflower.
Before I could tuck my camera back into my pack, the amorphous shape of a tiny clear-winged butterfly floated in jerks along the path and came to rest on a frond over the trail. Its transparent wings made it virtually invisible in the forest, reminding me that active searching of branches and leaves was required to detect the creatures hidden around me.
My renewed vigilance was soon rewarded when I spotted a small leaf that seemed to sport legs! This leaf-mimic katydid was a rare find, particularly during the day when these insects remain motionless and so undetected by predators.