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Erin

I coddiwomple through life, guided by my love of nature and insatiable curiosity.

Day 2: Monteverde Cloud Forest Biological Reserve

I was up early the following morning for a wildlife tour of the world famous Monteverde Cloud Forest Biological Reserve. True to its name, we were hiking in a cloud most of the time. Thankfully, it was only a drizzle, or as they say up here, pelo de gato (a fine, cat hair-like mist).

The reserve protects 26,000 acres of virgin forest, covering six life zones in the Cordillaren de Tilarán (mountains that form the continental divide between the Caribbean and Pacific coasts). There were many moments during our three hour stroll that the verdant landscape reminded me of the Hot Rainforest in Olympic National Park. 

According to our guide, the woods were unusually quiet that day but I enjoyed chatting with my companions, lovely folks from both Denver and Houston. Thankfully, we did manage to spot a few stunning birds, especially at the hummingbird garden near the entrance. Overall, a wonderful way to spend a day!

 

Day 1: Wandering and Night Tour

For my first full day in the cloud forest I followed a meandering road up to a massive Strangler Fig (Ficus aurea)These towering, Gaudí-esque trees are crucial components of a healthy cloud forest. They not only provide food and habitat for a wealth of animals but they can support thousands of epiphyte plants and mosses on their broad branches. While much of the area here had been heavily logged and is now a secondary forest, Strangler Figs were often spared since their unique growth pattern meant their wood held little commercial value.

After a quick bite for dinner I was whisked off for a nighttime tour of the nearby Kinkajou Preserve. As we munched delicious guavas off the tree, our guide enthusiastically pointed out various creatures along the way. Though sadly, the park’s namesake was not one of them. The Costa Rican Orange-kneed Tarantula (Megaphobema mesomelas) and the Side-striped Palm Pitviper (Bothriechis lateralis) were favorites among the young people in our group while I was partial to the sleeping Hoffmann’s Two-toed Sloth (Choloepus hoffmanni).

It was a great introduction to the cloud forest and its denizens, I just wish my photography skills had been up to the challenge!

 

Santa Elena Impressions

What a difference from my recent beach stay! Santa Elena is located at about 4500′ elevation, up in the cloud forest. It is a good 20 degrees cooler up here so I finally get a chance to wear pants!

I have a private room in a cute hostel near the center of this little town. The mountainsides around here are dotted with parcels of privately owned, protected land. Many of these reserves offer guided tours (which, thankfully, include transportation to and from my hostel).

In addition to having a rustic road system through most of the countryside, Costa Rica has yet to utilize any method of addressing. This lack of organization makes locations difficult to find, especially for visitors. Some Ticos tackle this problem by posting hand-painted directional signs showing their houses. I’m not sure how functional they are but they’re fun to look at!

Dashing, By Any Name

While there were Scarlet Macaws noisily fussing about in the trees high overhead this Yellow-throated Toucan* (Ramphastos ambiguus) was the center of attention at the shuttle stop on the way to Monteverde. This colorful character had a big personality befitting his size; averaging 20 inches in length and weighing 1.5 pounds. Of the six toucan species found in Costa Rica, this is the largest (and no surprise, this one tends to throw its weight around when claiming territory or food sources).

The striking design appears to be taken from a child’s coloring book; iridescent black, red, yellow, white, and green feathers with pale blue feet and a humungous two-toned beak. It all seems a bit superfluous for a forest-dwelling, fruit-eater, but I admire the flair.

I didn’t hear him vocalize but I’ve read that it sounds like “Díos te dé” (Spanish for “God give you…”). They speak Spanish, por supuesto.

*AKA: Black-mandibled or Yellow-breasted Toucan.

Sea Biscuits

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Fossilized and Modern Sea Biscuits, Santa Teresa, Costa Rica November 2019

My daily beach wanders usually turn up an interesting find or two. I stumbled across a fossilized Sea Biscuit (Clypeaster sp.) early on during my stay and the partial, contemporary one just recently.

I’m having difficulty pinning down an exact age for the fossil but they first enter the record during the Eocene (around 37mya). I suppose once your form has been perfected there is little reason to change it.

Note: The fossil is underside up, the other is top up. Also, I must content myself with just the photo, as Costa Rica prohibits the removal of any nature items from the country.

 

 

Chao, Santa Teresa

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Sunset, Santa Teresa, Costa Rica November 2019

Magical sunsets made my time on the Pacific Coast so very memorable! Though I am looking forward to visiting the cloud forest at Monteverde, I will certainly miss this quaint surfing village.

Maybe Not Such a Good Idea?

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In-line, Electric, Showerhead Water Heater, Santa Teresa, Costa Rice November 2019

Most Tico homes don’t have the necessary wiring or amperage to support water heater tanks (not to mention the fact that heating water requires a lot of electricity, which can be expensive). Those logistics coupled with the fact that hot water isn’t often necessary in this warm climate means that a simple, cheap option is often installed (note that I didn’t say that it was safe or even effective).

Enter the suicide shower, an in-line, electric, showerhead water heater. My first night using one was truly a shocking experience. There weren’t any instructions and since the water wasn’t warm, I reached up to adjust the knob. The little zing I received for my efforts immediately encouraged me to give up on that idea. I finished my cold shower in a hurry.

I have since learned that these devices seldom work, no matter what the setting. Now, I just try not to worry about it and hope for the best. Which is actually a pretty good way to deal with life in general, don’tcha think?

Yard Bird 8

This White-throated Magpie-Jay (Calocitta formosa) was surprisingly reticent to have its photo taken. Sadly, I was not able to capture the resplendent, long tail that makes this bird so distinctive (I suggest looking it up, it really is worth it). The male sports a much longer one than the female. I believe this to be a female, based on the complete neck ring and additional black above the eye.

As with the rest of the jay family, it is a noisy character with a large repertoire of sounds. I just never know what I’m going to find in my yard!