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Thank you, Tropical Wings!

Well, the explorers have returned from their incredible journey – all the way from northwest Wisconsin to Costa Rica and back. In the following weeks, we’ll have lots to share…but while we’re sorting through 20,000 photographs, Renny and Ethan wanted to let the Tropical Wings Foundation know just how much this trip has meant to them.

Dear Tropical Wings,

My name is Renny and I’d like to take my time to thank you. I can’t thank you enough for funding this trip and giving me the opportunity to experience everything I did in Costa Rica. Exploring the jungle with a camera and taking magnificent boat rides… it was a dream.  Not only did I have the time of my life but in a way I found myself along the way,. Being able to have these life experiences changed my outlook on life. With this new knowledge I’ll be able to come home and continue on my path to a better life. Deep down I keep getting these feelings of true happiness and success, and it’s thanks to you guys. You have no idea how happy I am. Thank you all so much.

Renny Fons


Dear Tropical Wings,

I am extremely appreciative for the opportunity to come on this trip to Costa Rica. Down in Costa Rica we have seen abundant amount of migratory birds along with many species of animals that coexist with them. We have amazing pictures of both migratory and resident species such as toucans, crocodiles, and poisonous snakes. I can’t begin to express my extreme gratitude for getting the opportunity to go on this trip.  It is something I would never have had been able to go on without the help of you and your extreme generosity.
Thank you,
Ethan Reinhardt

Greetings from Costa Rica!

Funded through a generous grant from an organization called Tropical Wings, we’re taking two recent NWP graduates to Corcovado National Park in Costa Rica.
This project is part of a “sister park” initiative involving our awesome partners at the St. Croix National Scenic Riverway, other national parks throughout the midwest and national parks in Costa Rica. The initiative centers on promoting conservation and awareness of our shared neotropical migratory birds: our winged friends that grace us with their presence half the year, and then spend the other half hanging out amongst the monkeys and palm trees in Central America.
Our mission is twofold: First, to capture beautiful photographs of “our” birds in their Costa Rican habitat, and second, to connect with Costa Rican youth through nature photography. So, while this trip is about telling the story of a shared conservation mission across international borders, it’s also about telling the story of shared humanity.
During the trip, we’ll be posting updates – so be sure to check back often!

Today we entered the rainforest. 

By way of a bumpy ride on a 15-passenger prop plane from San Jose, we landed this afternoon on an impossibly small dirt runway flanked by astonishingly unfamiliar forest.  Even more astonishing was the 97 degree heat index that greeted us–giving new meaning to the idea of a warm welcome, especially having departed from minus 40 wind chills just two days ago.  A very vintage Land Cruiser delivered us to our first night’s destination, a quaint open air bunglaow in the town of Drake, overlooking the Pacific Ocean, on the edge of Corcovado National Park.

Our young photographers, Ethan and Renny, wasted no time.  Within the first hour, simply sitting on the porch of the bungalow, they spotted three of our target migratory species:  A baltimore oriole, ruby-throated hummingbird, and indigo bunting.  The oriole kindly posed for some great photos.  Seeing “our” birds here for the first time, and having just completed the arduous journey ourselves, we were reminded of the power of the story we’re here to document. 

It’s already evident that one of this adventure’s biggest challenges will be to stay focused on the migratory species we’re here to photograph.  We are surrounded by so many charsimatic resident creatures!  In just the several hours of daylight we experienced so far in Drake, we saw macaws, toucans, monkeys, vultures, 3-foot lizards, and over a dozen little birds that we can’t even begin to identify.  Costa Rica’s Osa Peninsula is already living up to the hype as one the most biodiverse locations on planet earth. 

After a brief swim in the ocean, and a supper of local Tico cuisine, we now sit back at the bungalow gearing up for the real adventure that begins tomorrow.  We’ll meet our guide and take a boat an hour down the coast to the wild and remote Sirena Station at Corcovado National Park, one of Costa Rica’s–and this planet’s–natural gems.  There, we’ll spend four days photographing the birds we followed south to this piece of paradise, united with them in our shared knowledge of north, now so profoundly distant. 

We are so grateful to Tropical Wings for making this adventure possible, and for the logistical support of the National Park Service, SINAC (Costa Rican Park Service), and Rotary International.  Stay tuned for more updates in the coming days!  

-Ben Thwaits


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