Tuesday, April 26, 2011

La Ssssselva

For anyone who loves being around beautiful primary and secondary rainforest, abundant wildlife, and friendly researchers, we'd highly recommend La Selva Biological Station. We spent the past week there on our time off for Semana Santa (Easter Week, which is a big deal in Costa Rica).

The peccary herd spends a lot of time around the station, and we were able to observe lots of great social behavior: animals rubbing in greeting and grooming each other, which we hadn't known was a pig-thing.

We took an excellent guided walk our first day there. Ivan, our guide, is a graduate of a guide-training program the station began several years ago. On our walk, we found an agami heron (super-rare), eyelash palm viper, great green macaws flying overhead (also rare), and best of all, Ivan spotted a silky anteater, which is hardly ever seen. 

Silky anteater...terrible lighting conditions and heavily cropped.
About the size of a large, fuzzy grapefruit when curled up.

Ivan with flaming seed, locally referred to as a "kerosene seed"
because of its ability to catch fire
The reptiles of La Selva were very impressive. In addition to the eyelash palm viper, we found a parrot snake, bird-eating snake, boa constrictor, and not one, but two fer-de-lance (terciopelo: one of Costa Rica's deadliest snakes). One night, we'd left our headlamps in our room and were considering walking back after dinner without them. The paths to the rooms are broad and paved, and the moon had been bright recently. But as soon as we set out, we realized it was a very unsafe plan: no moon, and 1 km in the dark with so much wildlife is a bad idea. Our new friend Matt, whose blog is very cool (photography envy), was kind enough to walk his bike with us and light the way. As soon as we started walking again, a couple coming the other way told us to watch out for the fer-de-lance near the trail 700 meters along. Sure enough, the enormous snake was there (on the other side of the trail from where it had been originally spotted), and as we watched, it crossed over the trail.

These were taken with a telephoto zoom lens and further cropped;
don't worry, we didn't get close to the deadly snake.
It showed no signs of aggression; just wanted to do its hunting. Our other interesting fer-de-lance encounter came a few days later when we were hiking in a remote area of the reserve and came to a streambed. We're always on the lookout for these guys in their favorite habitat, but we've never found one on our own before. Do you see it?

We didn't until we were almost on top of it.

Other reptiles:

Eyelash palm pit viper: deadly but highly sedentary and non-aggressive.
Also extremely tiny.
Parrot snake on a bridge (non-venomous)
Basilisk, also known as the Jesus Christ lizard
for its ability to walk on water. How Easter-appropriate.
Green iguana...Duaro from our banding group tells us it's a subspecies
because of the neat double horns on the nose.
It's the breeding season right now, and we were lucky to see plenty of young animals and bird nests. Also lots of adults gorging on the fruit trees and cicada boom.

Female great currasow. This tree was super-popular: her mate,
toucans, oropendula, crested guan, and peccaries were all foraging here.
Rufous-tailed jacamar bringing a tasty butterfly to his chicks.
Clay-colored thrush nest on our balcony. These eggs appeared over several days.
Among the neat researchers we met were a group of Canadians banding migratory birds whose field station we visited for part of a morning, hummingbird researchers, several grad students studying ants, one studying chestnut-backed antbirds (we went out with a few of her assistants to look at a nest), and two German bat researchers.

Color-banded bats, sleeping.
One of the only downsides we encountered came in the form of the beautiful but evil common pauraque. Very common, in fact. They're nocturnal, they like to hang out outside the rooms, and they whoop and holler all night at frequent intervals. We had to chase them off at ungodly hours, but they came back almost immediately.

Evil. So evil.
We leave you with some scenery. This is the area in which we found the second fer-de-lance. Next entry, back to bird banding. Today was fantastic for new-to-Kekoldi birds.

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