Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Life in the Hills

Our new temporary life in Costa Rica is off to a good start. The hills are still turning us into red-faced, drenched versions of ourselves, but we think we’re having a slightly easier time of it now than a week ago.

The Kekoldi station entrance is about 10 minutes by bus from Puerto Viejo de Talamanca. From the entrance, we hike up a forest path about 30 minutes to get to the station. There are various trails around the forest, most of which we still don’t know. In fact, one of our first days of bird banding here, we accidentally took the wrong trail in the early morning hours on our way to meet the team, and had to backtrack up an even steeper part of the hill than our usual route. We haven’t made that mistake again!

Emily with Keswar (left) and Duaro (right). Most of our banding
stations are in the field and we sit on a tarp. 

Here, we have a table!
Our team consists of Daniel Martinez, who’s been leading the operation since 2006, Bribri brothers Duaro and Keswar, Aaron, who’s just joined us from Kentucky/North Carolina, and us. They’re all very nice and intelligent, and the three of us Americans attempt to converse in Spanish as much as possible, only switching to English when we’re not sure of a word or phrase. I think our Spanish is improving, but it can be exhausting trying to think in another language all day.

Birds here have continued to be interesting, and for mammals, so far we’ve seen sloths galore, white-faced capuchins, and an olingo (which only Mike has seen so far, even though it apparently comes by the station every night). Favorite birds since last time, seen, not netted: a pair of spectacled owls during the day, great potoo that hangs out by the station, white-collared manakins that have leks all over, and woodpeckers of various persuasions including cinnamon, pale-billed, and black-cheeked. Oh, and spring raptor migration is happening! On any given day, we’ll see groups of hundreds of them—mostly turkey vultures, Swainson’s hawks, and broadwinged hawks—flying north, just over the span of a few minutes.

Spectacled owl...figures the long lens was back at the station.
This is cropped from a 50mm lens.
A few days ago, we had time off and went to nearby Manzanillo for hiking (both of us), snorkeling (Emily) and kayaking (Mike). The water here is a great temperature, and the reef is right off the shore—though the best reef is probably further out than swimming distance. There are boat trips for snorkeling, but we’re trying to be good about our budget.

Speaking of budget, here’s a question for you all: once we’re done with our program here in June, should we spring for a trip back to Brazil before we return to the states in July? We went to the Pantanal several years ago and had to purchase expensive 5-year visas, which expire in another few years. But since we’re in this part of the world already, maybe it makes sense to return on this trip, before we go home and “settle down” more permanently. It’s not cheap or super-close to get there, and the Pantanal and Amazon require guided tours and stays at fairly nice places. This could be our last chance for quite a while, though, and we’d still really like to see some big cats (and small cats!) and the ridiculous giant anteater. Last time, we saw Brazilian tapir, birds galore, and other neat creatures. But what if we return home jobless? Maybe we’ll regret the additional expense. The economy still seems pretty slow. Check out our poll on the right and tell us what you think. Other suggestions of favorite places with excellent wildlife viewing opportunities that come at a reasonable price?

Coatimundi, from our trip to Brazil in 2009. 


  1. Do eeet! Our economy isn't slow. I've stopped answering my phone because recruiters have been calling me non-stop. Go while your minds are sharp, your bodies are strong, and you have the time.


  2. You guys rock!! I'm just seeing your blog for the first time. Stay away as long as you can. Forget about the money. That will take care of itself. Safe travels... Joe