Monday, May 23, 2011

Deadly Pretty Frogs, Joys of Banking in Costa Rica, and More

There's still one more day for you to tell us what you'd like to hear more about in our poll at right. Here's a medley of photos related to a few of those topics.

Birds! and other creatures
Here at Kekoldi, we have two species of the small, colorful frogs commonly known as poison dart frogs, in genus Dendrobates. We've heard conflicting stories about these guys: some people swear they can be deadly, others say just mildly irritating to the skin, and one person even mentioned licking one with no results. The general consensus seems to be that the more deadly species in this genus live in other countries. They're both very attractive, ranging in size from dime to half-dollar (different individuals of different sizes; the red frogs tend to be smaller than the green-and-black ones), and tough to photograph since they don't stay still for long.
Dendrobates pumilio. Elsewhere in the country, this one has blue legs.
They transport their tadpoles on their backs, which is amazing to see.
Dendrobates auratus. These seem to vary substantially in pattern
by individual. Some days, we seem to only see this species,
other days, only the red ones.
Another species pair we have is the white-collared manakin and red-capped manakin. These are in the same family, Pipridae, but different genera--there are manakin species throughout Central and South America. We've posted photos of each of these species, but this photo shows the two brilliantly colored males, caught the same hour, together. (The females are very pretty too: olive green in each.)
Left: Manacus candei; right: Pipra mentalis.
Yes, they really are that brightly colored.
People and places... and a random banking anecdote

Our co-volunteer Aaron, during our weekly Monday parrot count.
Aaron just left for a neat new Oregon state government job.
Before Aaron left, we took a few side trips. One was a day trip back to Cahuita with Aaron and Daniel for a combination of hiking and a bank errand. Continuing our horrible luck with optics, one of our pairs of binoculars broke (actually, both did, but Duaro cleverly fixed one pair for us). We ended up needing to order a new pair from San Jose. The transportation actually worked out very well; the money transfer was another thing entirely. Not only did we spend several hours waiting in the bank, to finally be helped by a new employee who clearly didn't know what he was doing, but Mike had to go back two more times because of errors the bank guy had made: once later that day, then again for a special trip to a different branch the next day. At last, we have our binoculars. But we're not looking forward to tomorrow's bank trip to pay for our monthly internet account. Can we do it in less than three hours?
We did finally manage to go hiking that day in Cahuita.
These could also be in the "birds and other creatures" section, but the abundant wildlife is part of what makes Cahuita appealing as a place.
One of the boat-billed heron parents has finally finished
brooding its chick, and enjoys some preening time to itself.
This nesting violet-crowned woodnymph doesn't have that luxury.
We also took an overnight trip with Aaron, Daniel, and Duaro to Gandoca to see nesting leatherback turtles. Sadly for us, but good for the turtles, they don't even allow non-flash photography on the beach at night, so we can't share the immensity of the adult female turtle we saw digging her nest on the shore, or the less-than-palm-sized hatchlings we got to see making their way down to the ocean. The next morning, we took a very scenic boat tour of the estuary, which has one of the only remaining mangrove forests on the Caribbean coast of Costa Rica. Our guide, Gilberto, was excellent; look him up if you're interested in turtle-viewing and other trips in Gandoca.

Notice we don't yet have any photos of food...which seems to be a popular topic. We'll get started on taking some. We've already got a list of some of the most interesting things we've eaten so far.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Day of the Oropendolas

First off, we've been extremely delinquent in responding to the people's will: you told us to get ourselves to Brazil, and to Brazil we go. In June, we're heading back to the Pantanal with our friend/guide extraordinaire Ailton Lara to the Pantanal Jaguar Camp. Ailton's so sought-after that we're competing with the crew of National Geographic for his time. We should clarify, since we've gotten a lot of questions, that we're not extending our six-month time away from home. This will be a side-trip, after which we return to Costa Rica before coming home as planned in mid-July.

In the meantime, we're very content with the hordes of birds we've been getting in our nets at Kekoldi. Today, we were stunned to get half a flock of chestnut-headed oropendolas. These are fairly large birds that don't usually come low enough to get caught in the nets, but we were on a ridgeline today that they kept crossing while foraging. We banded a total of seven, but a bunch more escaped from the nets as we approached. One of the nets actually collapsed under the combined weight.

Check out the enormous beak. It hurts, but not as much as the claws.
Above, Duaro has a laugh while Mike attempts not to get speared,
using a bag as protection from the claws.
Adult and hatching-year females (younger at right).
While we had the birds, their flockmates stayed very close to our site, calling for their friends in concerned voices. As we let them go, they went to join the others and had insane oropendola conversations about the ordeal. For those who haven't heard an oropendola before, you really should.