Science and Research, Sea Turtles

Double Your Donation to Osa Sea Turtle Conservation

Today SEE Turtles launched its effort to raise money for Friends of the Osa’s annual Sea Turtle Festival.  SEE Turtles is a project of the Ocean Foundation that promotes conservation tourism by acting as a resource for travelers to connect with volunteer programs or to donate to organizations protecting sea turtles and educating communities.  Through the matching fund launched today, you can donate to support FOO’s Sea Turtle Festival in 2011.

Kids present a performance on sea turtle life cycle

Children perform the life cycle of sea turtles at the Second Annual Osa Sea Turtle Festival

This past September, Friends of the Osa’s Second Annual Sea Turtle Festival was successful in attracting children and their families to the Osa Peninsula’s Carate Beach to learn about sea turtle species, like Olive Ridleys, Green Turtles, Hawksbills and Leatherbacks.  This annual sea turtle festival has been an effective way to develop community interaction and create local understanding about the issue of sea turtle egg poaching.  Through activities, presentations, and contests for children, Friends of the Osa not only spreads awareness of our work but we also take preventative action by ensuring people don’t participate in sea turtle disturbance and habitat destruction.

SEE Turtles covers administrative costs so that 100% of your donation goes towards our 2011 sea turtle festival that educates the community about sea turtle conservation.  The goal of this matching fund is to raise $2,000.  Because sea turtle conservation is an important aspect of FOO’s mission to protect the globally significant biodiversity of the Osa Peninsula, Costa Rica, we encourage you to check out the SEE Turtles website to learn more about SEE Turtles and sea turtle conservation beyond the Osa Peninsula.

Volunteers working with sea turtles on the Osa Peninsula, Costa Rica

Volunteers working with sea turtles on the Osa Peninsula, Costa Rica

Remember that Friends of the Osa also operates a sea turtle conservation program that is open to volunteers from July to December every year.  Volunteer to help save the Osa’s endangered sea turtles!

Birds

Featured Bird: White-crested Coquette

Male White-crested Coquette

Of all the hummingbird species, the coquette males that are most highly adorned with ornate feathers that are there to likely help in territorial defense and enhance species recognition.  The White-crested Coquette (Lophornis adorabilis) is the only coquette found here on the Osa Peninsula and is regionally endemic to south western Costa Rica and Western Panama.

The male of this species, which is also sometimes called Adorable Coquette, is known for its white crest and long green cheek tufts and may be arguably one of the most sought after birds to see when one visits this region.  They wander through forests high in the canopy and low along forest edges feeding on the nectar of flowering Inga, Vochysia, Stachytarpheta and Lonchocarpus plants and will also take small spiders and insects.  They hover with their tales cocked upward while feeding.

Male White-crested Coquette showing cheek tufts.

While courting a female the male will make short arcs side to side not much more than about a foot in either direction in front of the female.  He uses his colorful good looks to defend his flowers within his territory and the female takes on all nest duties with no help from the male.  The small lichen covered nest holding two minute white eggs is placed on the fork of a branch along the forest edge or a clearing and is not very well concealed.

They are said to be found from 300 meters up to 1220 meters but we have seen them here at the Piro Research Center which is near sea level as well as up along the Greg Gund Conservation Center’s northern border at Cerro Osa which sits at about 300 meters all within the last month.  At the moment they are engaged in reproductive behavior which takes place during the rainy season from December to February with courtship seen as early as October.   The male will lose his ornate regalia when the breeding season is over.

Birds

Birds and Rain

Gray-headed Tanager at Playa Piro

So how do birds survive in a tropical rainforest when it rains a lot?  Let me be clearer; when it rains nearly every day for 2 weeks straight?  The rainy season here in Costa Rica lasts from May to November increasing in the amount of rainfall as the season progresses.  October and November are notorious for being the wettest months of the year.

Well, the pattern seems to be holding up this year as expected.  Over the last few weeks the rain has let up very little and as it went on and on, I started to wonder; how do birds keep themselves fed with so much rain, and intense rain at that?  Obviously when there are gaps in the rain the birds can take advantage to hunt or search for fruit, but when it rains hard for hours or days at a time the opportunity to feed becomes limited, fat reserves would likely decrease and stress levels increase.

When birds are faced with seasonal rains many of them will migrate downhill where, as it turns out, there is less rain.  It rains quite a bit more at higher elevations than it does at lower elevations and we have seen that pattern play out right here between the Piro Research Center located just above sea level, and the Greg Gund Conservation Center at Cerro Osa which sits at about 250 meters.  The difference in elevation wouldn’t seem that dramatic, however in the month of October alone Piro received 74.9 cm (29.5 inches) of rain while Cerro Osa received 145 cm (57 inches).  That is nearly double and impressive considering that Cerro Osa is only a mere 2 km uphill from Piro.

Seasonal migrational movements are common in tropical bird species which roam the forest in search of food resources during the non-breeding season while temporary migrational movements may also be just as common place for those birds escaping inclement weather here in the tropical rainforest.  Food resources are not generally more abundant at lower elevations but the feeding opportunities that less rain provide may offset that enough for birds to get through the rainy season.

Male Orange-collard Manakin

You can go to Friends of the Osa website for up-to-date weather data or to see maps of Piro Research Center and the Greg Gund Conservation Center and the connectivity between the two areas via our interactive trail maps.

The Gray-headed Tanager (Eucometis penicillata) photograph was taken here near Playa Piro between storms by Friends of the Osa’s Sea Turtle program coordinator Manual Sanchez as he was headed out to the beach for turtle beach patrol.   Sitting under a large palm leaf is probably a good way to keep somewhat dry during a downpour.  The Orange-collared Manakin (Manacus aurantiacus) comes from Gianfranco Gomez at the Drake Bay Rainforest Chalet.

Both birds are common resident species found here on the Osa Peninsula and here at Friends of the Osa.

Community Outreach, Environmental Education

Water Workshops on the Osa Peninsula Protect Aquatic Ecosystems

In October, Friends of the Osa’s Environmental Education program, working with ACEPESA (Central American Association for the Economy, Health and Environment), started conducting workshops in the community of La Palma, Costa Rica.  These workshops are designed to raise awareness about appropriate water management and are part of a larger project, “Capacity building in coastal communities of the Golfo Dulce to improve sanitation conditions.”

The objective of this project is to contribute to community awareness about the responsible use of water resources and the proper management of wastewater through the construction of bio-boxes as a mechanism for treatment of gray water.

Workshop topics are: 1. Water and its importance to human life and ecosystems, 2. Water and watersheds, 3. Mangrove ecosystems, 4. Golfo Dulce ecosystem, 5. Global warming and its impacts, 6. Water and its effect on health and the environment, and 7. Alternative sanitation and rainwater harvesting.

This project is relevant to the conservation of the Osa Peninsula’s aquatic resources including rivers, mangroves and the Golfo Dulce, helping to mitigate pollution and deterioration of these vital ecosystems.

Find out more about Friends of the Osa and our other conservation work on the Osa Peninsula by visiting our website, or plan a trip to the Osa Biodiversity Center.

Sea Turtles, Volunteers and Visitors

Sea Turtle Conservation Program: October Update

We’ve completed another month of the sea turtle conservation program on the Osa Peninsula, Costa Rica and we’re getting close to the end of the nesting season. After 4 months of tireless work by our field coordinators, field assistants and volunteers, we have registered a total of 1233 sea turtle nests, between Piro and Carate (Fig. 1). As I mentioned earlier, for logistical reasons, we cannot gather daily information from all beaches and visits to Rio Oro beach have been very limited, so this number of sea turtle nests should be considered a minimum; i.e., the actual number of sea turtle nests on these beaches is higher than reported here.

Figure 1. Total nests registered, according to month, beach and species. CM: Chelonia mydas agassizii, DC: Demochelys coriacea, EL: Eretmochelys imbricata, LO: Lepidochelys olivacea

Of these 1233 recorded nests, we know that at least 242 (20%) were predated. Of predated nests, 43% were by humans, while the remaining 57% were predated by dogs, pigs, crabs and other animals. We can reasonably estimate that approximately 10,600 eggs have been illegally removed between Piro and Carate for human consumption (assuming that each nest had 100 eggs and they were all taken).

If we focus on the Olive Ridley sea turtles (Lepidochelys olivacea), the most common sea turtle species on the Osa Peninsula, not taking into account the Rio Oro data, as the data that we have doesn’t appear to be representative of the real situation, we can see that during the 2010 season, Carate beach is where we find the greatest amount of illegal harvesting of eggs (Fig 2). Throughout the season, more than 50% of reported predation is caused by humans, a situation that hasn’t occurred on Piro and Pejeperro beaches.

Figure 2. Percentage of Olive Ridley sea turtle nests predated by humans and other animals according to month and beach.

Remember that you can help us save sea turtles that visit the southern part of the Osa Peninsula in several ways: 1) tell others about our project and the importance of protecting sea turtles, 2) by volunteering with sea turtles or 3) by making a donation to support our sea turtle program or the other conservation work that Friends of the Osa does on the Osa Peninsula.