Archive for August 20th, 2010

I wake up early in the morning to do some bird watching. I spot an Emerald Toucanette flying across the front of the porch. This bird has a large yellow and purple bill much like a toucan, but is smaller and colored a brilliant emerald green. We also see a Slate-throated Redstart flitting around the cecropias in front of the porch. It is a small black, sparrow-sized bird with a yellow breast and rusty path atop its head. Jeff put a number of hummingbird feeders around the porch. Soon we pick up a number of bird friends. A Green Hermit, a large green trap lining hummingbird frequents our feeders. Trap lining hummers go to a set order of flowers for nectar. In this way, they have a nearly constant supply and the flowers are pollinated regularly and in a order conducive to their reproduction. A Purple-throated Mountain Gem and Violet Sabrewing, both hummingbirds, come by to check out the feeders. It is nice to simply sit here and not think. Instead, we just exist in that point in space and in that point in time. We also spot a Ruddy Pigeon, a Common Bush-Tanager, whose green and yellow form can often be seen leading mixed feeding flocks, and a Tropical Parula, which has a blue-grey back and yellow-orange chest.

Green Hermit

After breakfast, we move up the hill for a field trip. Over the day, we reach 5,000-6,000 feet. We see some orchids. These flowers have complex reproductive structures geared specifically for pollination by Euglossine bees. Many of the bees pollinate just a single type of orchid. In return, the orchids produce chemicals which contribute to the bees’ longevity.

The moss is similar in color to that found at La Georgina. We also see bromiliads and palm fruit. Further up the trail, we see a heliocampus, a tree with what is known as sunfruit. This early successional tree puts all of its energy into growth, and as a result, has no chemical defenses and often has holes in its leaves.

An eracea elephant ear with its characteristic Jack-in-the-Pulpit-esque flower and heart shaped leaves is found. An aricacea, with is leathery leaves is also found nearby. Due to the dampness of the area, leafy liverworts dominate. This corresponds to the increase in nonvascular plants with an increase in elevation. Nonvascular plants can grow where they cannot in lower elevations, like on vascular plants. this happens because at lower elevations there is more heat and desiccation. There are also fewer flycatchers and insects for vascular plant pollination. Nonvascular plants, on the other hand, only need water for reproduction. Here there is so much water and so many non-vascular plants, that old leaves will become overgrown with bryophytes.

Also near the cabin is a ceracia, a composite flower (multiple flowers in the same head). The ceracia goes from herbaceous to woody. These belong to the rubiaceae, which is part of the coffee family.

Ricardo points out two types of stranglers: figs and eclusea. The figs start out on other trees’ bark and have alternate leaves, while the eclusea starts primarily on branches and have oppositely arranged leaves.

On a stump we find a number of bryophytes. There is a turquoise basidial lichen, which has gorgeous green swirls of color, thallus liverworts, which are flat, club, feather (more common with less moisture stress), filmy, and cushion moss (adapted for drier conditions). Ricardo also shows us a nearby strange seed pod. This brown legume is called makina and is a host plant for Morpho butterfly larvae. It also has a painful urticating hairs. While smelling it (it has an almondy smell), I accidentally stick my nose a bit too close and get pricked. Naturally.


Terrestrial crab

Basidial lichen

A nearby piperaceae, with its candle-like inflorescence/flowers and jointed stem, catches our eye. Nearby is a jelly lichen, as well as a foliose/thallus lichen. We also see a club moss and spike moss, both of which are not true mosses, but are vascular.

Filmy fern

Tree fern


On a nearby stump, we see liverworts which are very green. Most lichen are leathery and dull colored. There is also a hornwort. This bryophyte is thinner than liverworts, which have scalloped thali. Hornworts, on the other hand, have a long pole that splits as its reproductive structure. It takes part in sexual reproduction, as it involves spores. Thalus liverworts have two kinds of reproduction: sexual and asexual. They have little reproductive cups which produce gemmae inside. This is asexual reproduction. It also has a palm tree-like reproductive structure which is sexual (spores).

Toward the end of the hike, we pass through primary forest, where we hear black-bellied wood quail and see a fantastically colored walking stick.

Big tree in primary forest

Walking stick

After lunch, the trail crew heads up with Ricardo to fix up the trail. I spot a weevil and some leaf cutters, which is odd for this elevation.

We have a dinner discussion about the Montaverde are, some of which I already mentioned, after which we study for the upcoming test.

Late at night, we stand out on the porch watching fireflies. Their flashing amazes me, as I rarely see them at home. I recall how sometimes they self-organize to synchronicity. Fascinating behavior, but their sporadic glowing is enough to hypnotize me to slumber.

Evening in the cloud forest

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