Thursday, January 18, 2018


Hi Everyone,

I'm trying to catch up on the blog - between doing things, traveling, and the internet, I'm behind.  We actually got home yesterday afternoon, and as I write this, I'm sitting in my warm, buttery soft leather overstuffed chair with the sun streaming through my living room window.  Outside is 6 inches of fresh snow, and this morning it was 10 degrees F.  Now it has warmed up to a balmy 33.  Quite a change after Costa Rica.  After traveling for two weeks using an small old laptop with a broken hinge, I'm really happy to have my home laptop to write on, and my wicked fast internet to upload pictures on.

Anyhow, I've got several more ecosystem types and experiences to share with you.  We drove from the cloud forest down into the dry forests near the Pacific side of Costa Rica.  Luckily we left just before a huge storm hit the eastern side of Costa Rica.  The storm resulted in massive flooding, with several homes being lost.  On our side, we had uncommon wind, but it was clear and dry.  Anyhow, here's what we saw as we drove down from the mountains of the cloud forest and into the dry areas...

As we left, there was another beautiful rainbow, one of many we saw in Costa Rica.  I guess there are a lot of pots of gold. 

 Earlier in the blog, I talked a little about how some of Deb Hamilton's work involved getting farmers to plant windbreaks with native trees.  I don't know if these trees are from Deb, but his shows an example of wind breaks.  Studies showed that cattle raised in areas with windbreaks grew bigger and were more valuable than those that were raised in more open areas.  The line of trees provide habitat and migration paths for birds and other animals.  In one example that Mark reported on, a Jaguar that had a radio tracking collar would repeatedly come to a cow pasture that was in the middle of it's path, and it would walk all the way around the pasture in the tree belt rather than take the shortcut cross the pasture which was full of yummy things to eat.  And, it didn't eat the cows, but rather kept right on moving.

Here you can get an idea of what the areas that are just pasture look like.  This would have been forest in the 1800's. 

More shelter belts of trees between fields.  You can see some cows just up and to the left of center.  The views from the cliff edge road were amazing. 

These were the rolling hills we were looking at from La Calandria...but now we're driving in them. The gravel road is VERY curvy, has many step dropoffs and washouts, and lots of hairpin curves.

The amazing view with the gulf in the middle left of the picture. 

A typical Costa Rican house.  Most all houses were made with concrete and concrete blocks, so they are termite and rot proof.  Security from petty theft is very important, and almost all houses had fencing, wrought iron gates, barbed wire, and other security features.  This one was a little more remote and was not so protected.  Most houses, and all restaurants we went to had large open porch/patio/pavillion areas, where most of the living is done outdoors. 

A bar on the side of the road. 

This picture shows a lot, and will take explaining.  There is a long ridge of mountains running the length of Costa Rica, from two tectonic plates colliding.  In fact, the tallest mountain in Costa Rica is 12,532 feet high.  This picture was taken from the western, or dry side of the mountains.  As I mentioned earlier, the storm was on the eastern side of the country.  The trade winds and most storms come from east to west.  When the moist Caribbean air is pushed up by running into the mountain ridge, the air cools, the moisture condenses, and there are clouds on the eastern side of the ridge.  When the air makes it over the top and to the western side, it drops back down the mountain, warms, and the air is dry.  So, the clouds largely stay on the eastern side.  This picture shows the wall of clouds from the storm going from north to south down (left to right in the picture) the mountain ridge that divides Costa Rica.  I'd estimate that the clouds were about 10,000 feet high, and went all the way down to ground level on the mountains.  Here's the wild bit.  The wind was howling from the east to the west, yet as quick as the clouds formed on the east, they would dissipate on the west.  So the cloud you see is continually changing and different.

Pretty cool picture.  I used the wide angle to try to catch as much as a could width-wise, but by doing that, you miss the effect of the ominously impressive towering height of the clouds.  They were wicked high.

We stopped for lunch at a Jaguar Rehabilitation facility called Las Pumas Cat Sanctuary.   All the animals you see here were either found injured, or were owned by people that could no longer care for them.  Because of the various issues, these animals can not be returned to the wild, so they're in this preserve.   Above is a picture of some unusual animals that probably SHOULD be in a preserve :-)

Here, Mark models the "lovely" sunglasses he borrowed from Chloe. 

This White-faced Capuchin Monkey was very active.   These monkeys are among the smartest of primates and will rub on fragrant leaves and millipedes as repellents against insects.  They also use sticks as tools to get eggs from nests and to kill snakes by beating them, such as the deadly Fer-de-lance snake.  They live in female bonded clans and are omnivores, eating a mix of animals, insects, and plants.

He spent a good while checking out the fence (or his fingers). 

So, this is the icon of the tropical jungle, the Jaguar. The range for a male jaguar is between 1,000 and 40,000 hectares.  The males don't seem to overlap range.  So, it takes a LOT of land for jaguar to have an appropriate habitat.  During the height of the fur fashion in the 60's and 70's, as many as 15,000 jaguars were killed annually for fur coats.

This one was not as large as I expected, though I'm sure he would have NO trouble messing you up. 

 This mountain lion was no interested in posing for the camera.  Where as the jaguar's range is largely limited to areas near the equator, the very versatile mountain lion ranges from the tip of South America to the top of North America.  Like most mammals with wide ranges, individuals living near the equator tend to be smaller than individuals that live further north or south.  So, this one is relatively small.

This picture just shows that a cat is a cat is a cat.  This ocelot is passed out in the midday warmth.  During the fur coat frenzy, as many as 130,000 of the amazingly beautiful animals were killed each year to provide coats for vain women.  That's crazy to me.  It takes about 13 pelts to make one coat.  I say "put on a fleece coat."  The import of these furs was banned in 1972.   


This odd looking cat was a jaguarundi.  He's sunning himself, and that's very exhausting work for a cat.  He doesn't seem to have a care in the world.  He's about the size of a very big house cat.  Jaguarundis are the most diurnal of the cats.  The others are most active at night.  They have a home range of around 1,800 hectares, and the males may have a range as large as 10,000 hectares.  That's a lot of land for such a small cat, but studies in Belize have shown that they may travel up to four miles in a day. 

 Exhausted from looking at the camera, he clonked out.

Our guide, Mark. 

This is a crumby picture of a Jaguar far away.  This one...was big.  Very big.  He could definitely mess you up, and made me a little bit thoughtful.  I imagine those claws in my back, while the jaws clamp around my neck...  However, as Mark points out, Jaguars just don't seem at all interested in people, and while wildlife cameras show Jaguars walking down public streets at night, they are very elusive and mind their own business.  Mark gave the example that the cats are certainly around humans all the time (though we don't see them), and if they wanted to eat humans, they wouldn't have any trouble catching one.  But they don't.  They don't really eat cattle either, and prefer native species.  The example of the radio collared jaguar walking around the cattle in the pasture illustrates this. 

 Unless I got my pictures mislabeled, this lazy individual is a Margay.  These cats are nocturnal (hunt and active at night) an arboreal (live mostly in trees).  They are particularly peculiar because their hind feet are very flexible and can swivel 180 degrees behind them, like a squirrels, enabling Margay to down-climb trees in control.  So, these cats don't get stuck up trees like a common house cat.

While we ate our lunch, aggressive chickens tried to take our food.  Here, Coltin picked one up and shared a moment. 

Chloe, Deb, and Mark. 

We drove on until we got to our next home, The Gardens in Nosara.  This was a resort sort of place, and was quite a change after living in field stations.  It was nice, but the students seemed to prefer the field stations...both for location, and because they liked living with each other as a community, or family, in the same area. 

However, most everyone tried out and enjoyed the swimming pool... 

and the cool swinging egg chairs.

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