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Posts Tagged ‘monkeys’


Today we go birding. We see a Buff-throated Saldator in a cecropia. We also spot several kiskadees loudly calling and flying out of a thicket. We think that it may be a snake, which would cause the birds some consternation.

After breakfast we go to Johnny Diaz’s to work. I ride in the red truck. At one point, the radiator fails. So, Andrus, Oscar, and I hang onto the side of the SUV on our way up the mountain. It seems dangerous, but I believe that it is actually much safer and more comfortable than riding in the bed of the truck. The only problem is overhanging branches, which can, if you do not pay attention, smack you in the face. I feel like Indiana Jones (except without the Nazis). On our way up, we see a Blue Ground-dove, whose light blue coloration is surprisingly pretty.

At Johnny’s place, we chop, shovel, plant, and mark off two hundred trees. The work is exhausting, especially as more and more people seem to be falling victim to a viral infection.

After the work, Johnny takes us to gather some pejibayes. These orange, starchy fruit grows high up in palm trees in large clumps. Oscar climbs what must be 50 feet up the tree and is then handed a long pole to knock the fruit out of the tree. Back by the road, which leads to an absolutely gorgeous vista of the surrounding valley and hillsides, we walk back to the cars. I can only imaginewhat this place must have looked like without pastures and when it was covered by thick, dark, lush forest.

View of the surrounding valley

View of the surrounding valley

We realize that the SUV, which drove ahead, had Mary’s keys. So, we wait for Johnny to catch up to them on his quad. While waiting, we drink coconut milk, which is not as creamy as I expected. Instead, it is a slightly flavored water.

The ride back in the bed of the truck is very uncomfortable as we are surrounded by shovels, machetes, and buckets. Sitting on the edges hurts your tail bone and squatting in the bed kills your knees. On the side of the road, we see two three-foot-long iguanas and what I believe to be a basilisk lizard basking in the sun by the river. The iguanas are a dark greenish-black and have a brownish-red head.

After returning, I go to the watering hole. I wash and sit there like a lizard, warming myself on the hot rocks below and the sun above. While there, I see a bright, lime-green butterfly, a Ringed Kingfisher, and a bird I thought was a Black-crowned Tityra. Upon my return, Andrus thought it sounded like a Masked Tityra. I wish I had my binoculars so that I could see if it had a red bill and facial skin, the distinguishing mark of the latter bird.

Ringed Kingfisher

Back at base, we have a lecture on the causes of deforestation. The main reason the forests here are deforested is to simply get them out of the way of plantations and cattle ranches. Some of the wood is used, but it is largely done simply to clear land so that it can be used “efficiently.” After dinner, I go to sleep.

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Birdwatching today is a huge success. Any doubts about my aracari sighting yesterday are placated as I see two more today. They appeared to be a pair. Ricardo claims that the aracaris stir up the other birds. Perhaps he is right, because I also see another Bananaquit, a Dusky-capped Flycatcher, which I identified by its color, crest, and lack of visible wing ba rs, and a Red-legged Honeycreeper, whose reddish or pink legs pointed me in correct direction for identification.

Fiery-billed Aracari

Fiery-billed Aracari

After breakfast, we head to Playa Ballena. This is a relatively small beach and a national park. Immediately upon driving into the parking lot, we see howler monkeys. the howlers found here are the Golden-mantled Howler Monkey. The males have a dark gold collar of fur. They lie around lazily as howlers often do. Their characteristic, booming vocalizations are not heard. We see some males, females, and two babies. The latter are the most active. But, perhaps someone should provide them with more instruction, as Ricardo mentions that most monkey autopsies (I smell a CSI spinoff) reveal broken bones from poorly executed jumps.

Golden-mantled Howler Monkey (male)

Golden Mantled Howler Monkey mum and baby

The beach is much nicer than the one in Dominical. There are no other people here besides us, so we can enjoy the waves and swim around.   We have the beach all to ourselves. The blue green water rises and falls in a froth of bubbles resulting from the crashing waves breaking just offshore. The water is warm, so simply floating on ones back with the son on your face is a wonderful feeling, as you bob up and down on the waves.

Playa Ballena

Playa Ballena

After swimming, we begin our lesson. Ricardo points out an amarillon tree, which are natural to this area. They produce nuts which are known as beach almonds. The shells are hard to crack by any animal, save for the strong bills of macaws. The nearby coconut palms were planted, but their seeds can survive for long durations in the ocean, making them a very successful species here. Unfortunately, they do not hold the beach soil as well as the amarillon.

In the distance, we see several islands. There are three small ones to our left and one large one toward the right. These islands are classic sea bird nesting sites, because there are no predators, the birds can nest on the ground (their feet are adapted to paddling; not perching), and the sea breeze helps them hunt.

On our walk, we see breadfruit, which brings to mind Mutiny on the HMS Bounty, and Balsa wood, whose remarkably light wood feels hollow if rapped with your knuckles. We also spot crabs on a rock spot just a few feet off of the coast, as well as two Scarlet-rumped Cacique. They are generally insectivorous, but here, they seem to stare hungrily at hermit crabs scurrying from coconuts on the ground.

Scarlet Rumped Cacique (Photo by Greg A.)

Scarlet Rumped Cacique (Photo by Greg A.)

After lunch, we sit on the rocky beach, watching the waves. It is absolutely serene. The waves roll in, and as they go back out to sea, they pull pebbles with them, making a rumbling sound if the waves are not too close together.

Playa Ballena

Aptly named Blue Crabs

Just before we leave, a long, thin, green snake falls on my legs. Matter of factually, I say, “Oh, look…a snake just fell.” Sarah, who was sitting next to me, responded with, “Wait…what?” followed by kicking. The snake, now agitated, slithers up closer to me. Now, the situation is a bit out of control, so I shake it off of me.  Ricardo claims that it is a vine snake as it sends its head from branch to branch in the tree above us with great agility. It is not venomous. Had I known that, I may have grabbed it, but perhaps Sarah’s response was the safer one in that sudden situation.

Vine Snake

Vine Snake

Back at the base, I go for a hike. I learn about TFI’s money problems from Sarah, so we decide to try to get funding from the Student Association. We also see a female Blue-crowned Manakin. Admittedly, it is not a male, nor is it a lek, but an awesome find nonetheless. It was particularly astounding as she is very difficult to see due to her fantastic camouflaged green plumage. Perhaps the cryptic coloration of the female is another way to hide the nest. After the hike, we have further lectures on deforestation and go to sleep after a long day.

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Apparently, not only humans can be nice to others simply for that warm, fuzzy feeling we get inside.  Until now, most scientists believed that other animals were incapable of altruism.  Sure, primates often groom each other and some animals share food, but those actions could be attributed to selfish motives like aiding select individuals (the animal equivalent of a spoils system).  However, scientists from the Max Planck Institute of Evolutionary Anthropology reported that chimpanzees responded with spontaneous altruism toward other animals and humans in a recent batch of experiments.

chimp.jpg

A chimpanzee in the wild

One experiment caged a number of free-ranging chimpanzees with a door locked by a chain on the other side of the room.  On the other side of the room, scientists placed one chip and some food.  The scientists wanted to see if the one chimpanzee would unlock the door and let the other, unrelated chimps get at the food.  3/4 times the chimpanzee with the food would, in fact, open the door.  This experiment proved that the chimpanzees are willing to help others with no expectation of an added reward. 

In another experiment, a human (with whom the chimp never interacted) pretended to be struggling to reach for a stick.   A chimpanzee would exert itself and climb up a tall poll in order to reach the stick to bring it to the human about 75% of the time.  This, it turns out, is as often as a 18-month-old child would give a pen to a struggling person.

These experiments show, first off, that chimpanzees are able to perform altruistic acts.  Also, in terms of evolution, this suggests that chimps and humans received the altruistic inclinations from some common ancestor before human culture developed. 

People always say that humans act in morally acceptable ways because of culture and society.  Without these two variables, humans would still be living in a selfish state of dog eat dog and chaos.  These experiments prove that in our very nature, we can behave well or poorly to others.  It is purely our choice. 

P.S.  Yes, I know that chimpanzees are apes and not monkeys, but “ape see, ape do,” sounds stupid.

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