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Archive for August 17th, 2010


I wake up to go birding. This morning, we are treated to observing the national bird of Costa Rica: the Clay-colored Robin, which is a surprisingly dully colored selection for the country’s avian pride. We also see a Long-billed Starthroat, a hummingbird with a blue cap and very long bill. Finally, we see the aptly named White-shouldered Tanager.

After breakfast, we take more trees up to the bean field. On our way up, we see a Lineated Woodpecker, which is about the same size as the Pale-billed Woodpecker, but has only a red crest. There is also a big owl butterfly with a yellow eye-spot on the back of its wing which I have seen in the same place on the bean field trail for the past few days.

Owl butterfly

After dropping off our trees, we head back down the hill to do trail work. We decide to change the path near the stairs again by making another switchback in the trail. Once the machete work is done, we pick out an edge in the trail to make it flatter and easier to pass. We then move up to a higher portion of trail. At one point while machete chopping, Sarah cut a liana and a large branch fell but a foot away from me. Naturally, she is very apologetic. At any rate, no harm, no foul, but this is an example of what can happen here. The forest is physically connected by a network of lianas, mycorrhizae, and tangled branches. One small chop can bring something big from the top crashing down. That is a perfect metaphor for the interconnectedness of living systems and how they interact nonlinearly. We finish the switchback and pick it out. Sarah leaves because she was still not feeling 100 percent. Bryan and I work for nearly four hours today. I have to convince Bryan to finish the picking in the trail. The work is exhausting, but rewarding. It also makes the beer taste better.

After lunch we go to a local reptile zoo aptly named Reptilandia. They have an excellent collection of snakes and lizards from Costa Rica, and some from around the world. Perhaps my favorite was the emerald tree boa. It has a beautiful green color that is, as Steve Irwin would put it, “gorgeous!” The Komodo dragon is also interesting to observe. I particularly like how the plates had both Spanish and English. In this fashion, I learn new vocabulary like aves y pajaros (birds), serpientes, viperos, y culebras (snakes), ramas (frogs), murcielagos (bats), and sacco y mojado (dry and wet). Not all the snakes are out in the open and the banality of life in the cages makes me once again consider my stance on zoos. Although they can be a useful educational tool, they can also be depressing and cruel. Perhaps if all animals in zoos were captive bred or being rehabilitated then this ethical dilemma would not be an issue. Strolling in the garden is fun. It was nice to walk slowly and leisurely. I have not done this in quite some time. The one rule of strolling, I find, is that you must have your hands behind your back, as it signifies that you have no fear of falling. On our way out we learn that the owner was bitten by a venomous snake a few days ago. He was administered antivenin and made a full recovery. His passion is amazing to me, especially because it is a dangerous one.

We return to TFI. On the way back, I spot a Barred Antshrike, whose crest and black and white stripped coloration make him look like a jail bird (pun intended). I also see a Blue Dacnis, whose bright blue and black coloration and small size make him impossible to mistakenly identify. We also see a Violacious Trogon, which is a medium size sallying frugivore, that is, he will fly up and dive down, grabbing fruit from trees as he flies. His red orbital ring, purple head, yellow breast, and black and white striped tail makes him easy to identify.

Back at base, we talk about the vast diversity of arthropods here in the tropics. Because of their great diversity and abundance, they in part drive the diversity higher up in the food web. During lecture, while I am scratching my arm, I notice a large bump on my elbow. Upon further investigation, I notice that it is an engorged tick! The little bloodsucker must have been on me for some time, judging from his size. He is quickly removed and terminated with extreme prejudice. After dinner, I pack for Montaverde trip and fall asleep.

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