Community Outreach, Environmental Education, Land Conservation and Forest Restoration

Water conservation lessons learned from indigenous youth

Blogpost by Jonathan Navarro Picado, Healthy Rivers Program Coordinator

Children teach us new things every day and they are full of surprises; the only thing they need is a bit of motivation. 

The community of Alto Laguna in Osa, the only indigenous reserve on the Osa Peninsula, is full of forest, life, stunning sunsets and inspiring people. The students of the school in the community received a talk about the importance of the rivers. But more than teaching them, they taught us through art the understanding they have of this natural treasure and the community’s connection with water. 

Some children, like Yendry, teach us the importance of watersheds, in which small rivers contribute to a major river, one that reaches the sea. It is said that “rivers are the veins of our planet,” and she understands that very well. Our planet’s water is connected.

The children also represent what they have seen around them. Pastureland also plays a large role in the landscape in this region. But if Angie is able to plant trees around a river in her imagination, why not plant them in reality as well? If these trees are not there in a few years, then perhaps the river will not be either. 

Water flows, yes, of course, and life also flows. Jacqueline, teaches us how there is life in the rivers from the mountains to the sea. But there is something that we have not taken into account: as well as water and life, pollution also flows. It is a very common problem to pollute our rivers; if we pollute this river in the upper part, what is flowing is death. That is not what is in the mind of a school girl who has grown up surrounded by forest, so let’s each do our part to contribute a drop of water to help Jacqueline to keep Osa’s rivers healthy.

Land Conservation and Forest Restoration, Science and Research

Endless forest interactions

Blogpost by Jonathan Navarro Picado, Healthy Rivers Program Coordinator

Whether we perceive it or not, the forest is alive; there is movement, there is disorder, and—most importantly—there are endless interactions. This last word is the key to help make this hidden world clear to our human “worlds,” which are so short and tiny in comparison to the existence of these forests.

When you walk through the old growth and secondary forests of the Osa Verde BioStation (Piro), you can see everythimg from herbs, seedlings and shrubs to gigantic trees hundreds of years old. Commonly seen are a great diversity of birds and insects, and sometimes one can have the good fortune to observe peccaries or to spot a small wild cat.

Epiphytes crawl up the trunk of a mature rainforest tree. Photo: Jonathan Navarro Picado

Now, there are many other things that we cannot witness, either because they occur at scales unimaginable to the human being (at a microscopic level, like bacteria, or in the heights of treetops) or because it would take months or years to notice the patterns of a certain event. One way to notice these small scale changes that happen in the forest is through observing the difference between day and night. In the night, more sounds are heard, even different events or movements are observed.

Observing a higuerón seems impressive to us all, but the interactions are what fascinate biologists: the complexity of their pollination related to certain wasp species, the presence of hemiepiphytes (a plant that stays in another) that present the majority of fig trees (Ficusspp) and how they affect the development and biology of other plant species. In addition, there is a large number of birds that feed on the fruits of Ficus and are also their dispersers. The Fig tree is related to an endless number of animals and events. This is considering only a specific tree; therefore, the amount of interactions in the forest is unimaginable, more taking into account that over time new relationships will appear.

The sad thing about all this is that as you learn more about the complexity of a forest and the interdependence among all its components, when you hear that people are cutting down a forest, extracting endangered species, polluting of rivers, hunting and causing many other environmental problems, you realize that the impact is at the ecosystem level and that recovering the conditions of a forest with all its interactions will take years or even centuries.

Bats residing in the hallowed-out old Ajo tree (Caryocar costarricense). Photo: Elène Haave Audet

When a person for personal and economic interests cuts down a tree that is hundreds of years old and says “there are many other trees” or even plants a new one, perhaps he or she does not know or does not share the great feeling of entering the cave formed at the base of a great old garlic tree (Caryocar costarricense), of feel part of nature itself. More importantly, perhaps he or she does not see the amount of bats that depend on said cave, the facilitation in the dispersal of seeds, the great source of food for so many animals and all the storage of carbon during decades that helps us to be here today delighting in all these interactions.

That’s why I want to be part of those interactions in a positive way, through inducing positive change. As the change from being a Osa Conservation Restoration & Rewilding Field Course student to being the Coordinator of the Healthy Rivers program here, I hope that this challenge helps to conserve many interactions in the veins of our planet.

Jonathan, with fellow students in Restoration & Rewilding Field Course, identify aquatic insects as indicators of healthy river ecosystems. Photo: Hilary Brumberg

Birds, Community Outreach, Land Conservation and Forest Restoration, Science and Research, Sea Turtles, Volunteers and Visitors

Repeat volunteers reflect on growth of restoration plots and science programs

Blogpost by Robin Morris and Steve Pearce, General Volunteers

It seems like yesterday when we walked through the gate to the Osa Verde BioStation (Piro) for the first time in January 2017 and were greeted by a group scarlet macaws in the trees snacking and squawking.  We’re here now for our third winter excursion, and I have to admit we’ve done some cool things the last couple years.  

Robin enjoying a two-year-old balsa forest. During Robin and Steve’s 2018 visit, they helped clear plants around the small balsa saplings, and in 2019, they helped preparing bird boxes to bring wildlife to the young balsa forest. Photo: Steve Pearce

One of the projects we’ve helped with here is reforesting abandoned farmland.  Seedlings of balsa trees have been planted, and on a previous stay we were given small machetes and told to clear the plants around the seedlings, a project we lovingly christened ¨Weeding the rainforest.¨ It felt somewhat silly and hopeless, but when we came this year, we found new forests of balsa on the former farmland, proving conservation work frequently requires patience to see results.  Part of the reforestation process is creating habitats for animals, so this year we helped set up bird boxes to encourage birds to move into the new forest, sort of like opening a piano bar to lure lounge lizards.  

“Conservation work frequently requires patience to see results.”

Robin helping Manuel relocate a sea turtle nest on a patrol with Manuel Sanchez. Photo: Steve Pearce

One of the great lures to volunteering here is the Sea Turtle Program.  A newly hatched green or Olive Ridley turtle could give cuteness-lessons to puppies or kittens. When we first came here two years ago, the program was led by local legendary naturalist and photographer Manuel Sanchez.  Last year we even got to checked on the hatchery in the afternoons so he could have a vacation.  The Sea Turtle Program, like much work in conservation, is a steady commitment. Now the program has several dedicated enthusiastic staff members, frequently assisted by volunteers like us.  But the work is still the same, patrolling the deserted beach on breathtaking mornings, finding and relocating nests to the hatchery, releasing the hatchlings to the sea, as well as excavating nests to determine mortality rates among the eggs.  And after releasing young turtles for three years, it’s fun to watch people melt.

“The Sea Turtle Program, like much work in conservation, is a steady commitment… And after releasing young turtles for three years, it’s fun to watch people melt.”

The Osa features a splendid variety of wildlife, from squirrel monkeys and scarlet macaws to cane toads and green turtles.  Each trip has brought new sightings or exciting moments of discovery.  But one creature has almost brought our marriage to an end each year.  No, a jaguar has not attacked us on a footpath.  Snakes have not ambushed us in the bathroom.  And no, a crocodile has never attacked us on the beach. The problem is that Steve always falls in love with the paraque.  

Steve’s girlfriend, a paraque, resting in the pavilion. Photo: Steve Pearce

A nocturnal species, the paraque birds frequently sit along the paths of the research station and even in the pavilion, occasionally sweeping through to feed on insects drawn by the light.   They make an assortment of whistles to other paraques in the area and flop about when people walk near.  They sometimes make cooing ¨bwot¨ sounds.  Local folklore includes tales of the paraque calling travelers into the forest to get them or their children lost.  A paraque sometimes follows us to our cabina and bwots to lure me outside.  Attempts to photograph them at night usually yield nothing but a red dot in the darkness, further evidence of their supernatural nature.  

The paraque is a heartbreaker though, for when we asked another volunteer what her favorite mammal and bird of the Osa were, she replied ¨squirrel monkeys and Steve’s girlfriend.¨  We hope to leave at the end of the week without Steve pining for his girlfriend at the airport.

Land Conservation and Forest Restoration, Science and Research, Sustainable agriculture

New plant record for the Osa Peninsula: Cipura campanulata

By Marvin Lopez Morales, Botanic Assistant

Not long ago, the Costa Rican ethnobotanist Jorge Luis Poveda visited Osa Conservation. For me, it was an honor and pleasure to meet him. 

Luis Poveda in the forest during his visit to our Conservation campus. Photo credit: Osa Conservation

A simple and very friendly person, he has so many stories to tell about his personal experiences, plants, and teaching a wide variety of people. Poveda has devoted many years of his professional career to projects against cancer, Costa Rican Trees, and Manual of Plants of Costa Rica, among others. In addition, he is a passionate naturalist, and he writes poems inspired by nature itself. 

In one of his walks through Cerro Osa, he saw a small plant that caught his attention that he had not seen before in the Osa Peninsula, Cipura campanulata. It was the first report of this species for the area. Our botanist friend, Reinaldo Aguilar, who lives in Puerto Jiménez, confirmed the discovery.

View of Cerro Osa, natural habitat of this beautiful plant. Photo credit: Osa Conservation

It is a Monocotyledonous plant, belonging to the family of Iridaceae plants. For the country, Costa Rica, there are 6 generaand 14 species registered, among them the genus Cipura, which consists of 5 species in total. 

This plant is found only in the continent of America, with a wide distribution range that extends from Mexico to Colombia and Venezuela and Antilles. In Costa Rica, it is found mainly to the north of the Pacific slope and in the plains of Guanacaste between 0 to 300 meters above sea level. They reach a height of about 20 to 60 cm high, and their leaves have a resemblance to rice plants with white flowers in the shape of a small bell that open very early in the morning and also close in a short time. Because of their small size, they are ideal to have as ornamentals.

Cipura campanulata in its natural environment. This plant has the potential to be used in our gardens as an ornamental plant. Photo credit: Rich Hoyer

This plant flowers once a day. If you get to own one of these wonderful plants, you can be sure every morning that this grass-shaped, bushy plant will have a small flower to brighten the morning, wishing you good morning. Sit with a good coffee and admire the beauty of this fragile and helpless little plant.

One of Poveda’s poems:

La Montaña Mágica

Sí, eres mágica, eres hontanar de sabiduría, eres pan nuestro de cada día.

Oh Montaña Sagrada que nutres nuestras vidas,

joyel de aventuras, sacrosanto vergel,

estancia de mi vejez.

–Jorge Luis Poveda Álvares”

Land Conservation and Forest Restoration, Science and Research, Uncategorized

“Restoring forests for bats” and beyond: NASBR 2018

Blogpost by Elene Haave Audet, Restoration & Rewilding Research Field Assistant

This October, I ventured out of the sanctity of the jungle to present at the 48thNorth American Symposium on Bat Research (NASBR) in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. Over 300 researchers from across the globe gathered to share bat stories, communicate their research, and further our understanding of this hugely diverse mammalian group. Because of its location, the conference offered many opportunities to discuss the conservation of bats in the tropics, presenting a great opportunity to share Osa Conservation’s work on surveying bats in the restoration plots.

The Osa Bat Family, Priscila Chaverri, Gloriana Chaverri, Beatriz Lopez, Elene Haave Audet and Doris Audet, at NASBR. Photo: Elene Haave Audet

It was very exciting to see our Restoration and Rewilding efforts so well received by a bat-savvy audience. Researchers were curious to hear about the ways in which Osa Conservation is “restoring forests for bats”. This project is focussed on attracting bats to areas that are actively being restored, for example by planting flowering trees like the balsa, and installing two-meter-tall bat boxes, all with the aim of restoring bat diversity whilst the forest is regenerating.

Micronycteris microstis bats are feeling at home in this bat box, installed by Dr. Chaverri’s team at Osa Conservation. Photo: Elene Haave Audet

Excitingly, the bats of the Osa Peninsula were able to reach the audience in Puerto Vallarta beyond the scope of the restoration project, by researchers conducting work at and around the Osa Verde BioStation. Beatriz Lopez, from the University of Florida, discussed gathering bat echolocation calls on the Osa Peninsula to document species diversity, and Dr. Doris Audet from the University of Alberta, shared her research on bat exploratory behavior in the field. The conference was also a wonderful opportunity to discuss advances in bat research in Costa Rica with Dr. Gloriana Chaverri from the University of Costa Rica, who has planted deep roots of bat research on the peninsula over the course of her career. 

The presence of bat research on the Osa Peninsula, and Osa Conservation’s important contributions to supporting that research, was very well represented at NASBR 2018. The Osa Verde Biostation is truly a gem for bat diversity, with over 50 recorded species of bats to date, and sharing Osa Conservation’s involvement in conserving and restoring habitats for bats ensures that those contributions are recognized and appreciated by the bat community at large. 

Elene, identifying a bat by measuring its forearm, as part of the diversity surveys in the restoration plots. Photo: Elene Haave Audet

Land Conservation and Forest Restoration, Science and Research, Uncategorized

Variety is the spice of life: Monitoring the wildlife in our ecological restoration and rewilding plots

Blogpost by Alice Connell, Restoration and Rewilding Research Field Assistant

Alice monitoring the effectiveness of log piles in attracting amphibian and reptile species to the restoration and rewilding plots. Photo: Sophie Blow

My work is never the same from one day to the next on the Restoration and Rewilding Program, which encompasses many diverse projects that require frequent monitoring. There is plenty to do, I always arrive at lunch hungry and satisfied after mornings of hard work. I want to give you an insight into my first month of being a Restoration and Rewilding Research Field Assistant.

We are employing a variety of approaches and techniques across the rewilding plots in order to “rewild” an array of animals to return to recently reforested abandoned grassland. Our idea is that as the overall species diversity increases, inter- and intra-species interactions within the regenerating areas will begin to re-establish. With some patience and continuous monitoring, we the aim to demonstrate a restored harmonic ecosystem functioning of the Osa Peninsula, and its associated key ecosystem services.

A medium bird box installed to offer shelter for birds. Photo: Alice Connell

One project in the restoration plots is the installation of nesting and roosting boxes to attract birds and bats. To accommodate a variety of species, there are 5 bird box designs, each differing in dimension of the entry hole and the box itself. The frugivorous species belonging to both birds and bats play a vital role in increasing the rate of seed rain, and consequently, the rate of seed dispersal and reforestation.

One day of my week is dedicated to surveying the wonderfully diverse bats that are choosing to use the rewilding plots. The morning’s duty involves erecting mist nets in preparation for the evening’s bat survey. Come the evening time, the team heads back out into the field to open the nets. When the clock strikes six, the monitoring begins, and the excitement of the possibility of catching a new species record ripples through the team.

The species, Micronycteris hirsuta, was recently caught for the first time in one of the rewilding plots. Photo: Alice Connell

The following morning, decaying log piles and epiphytes (such as bromeliads) are translocated to the rewilding plots to increase microhabitat availability, in an effort to rewild amphibians and reptiles. Such microhabitats occur naturally in the primary forests, usually providing refuge for different invertebrates, such as centipedes and millipedes, and for amphibians and reptiles, such as leaf-litter frogs and sun-basking lizards. It is always a pleasure to find a fer-de-lance coiled peacefully within a log pile in a rewilding plot. While the log pile project is relatively new, we have already observed a rapid return and colonization of several amphibian and reptile species within a short period of time, which is highly encouraging.

Undeniably, a huge effort, in terms of time and determination, is required to create a biodiverse and ecologically restored forest ecosystem. Fortunately, the team of highly-motivated and enthusiastic people that constitute the Restoration and Rewilding Program indicates a promising future for Osa’s forests.

A Northern Cat Eyed Snake coiled peacefully within a log pile in a rewilding plot. Photo: Alice Connell

Community Outreach, Land Conservation and Forest Restoration, Sustainable agriculture

Into the wild: Revealing the secrets of wild vanilla

Blogpost by Charlotte Watteyn, doctoral researcher at KU Leuven (Belgium) and the University of Costa Rica, collaborating with Osa Conservation

If you think about vanilla, you immediately start to imagine delicious ice creams, cakes and other yummy sweets. But where does this vanilla come from? Well, it is extracted from the fruits (beans or pods) of orchid vines, producing an intense aroma resulting from a complex of molecules. These orchids belong to the genus Vanilla (Orchidaceae), a diverse group of climbing hemi-epiphytes growing around trees with their aerial roots. The genus contains over 100 species and is pantropic, meaning that they are present all around the tropics. However, the aromatic vanilla species, the ones that produce the lovely smelling pods, are native to the Neotropics.

Overview of the 5 different vanilla species growing in our study region ACOSA (Area de Conservacion Osa). Photo: Adam Karremans

Nevertheless, when you buy vanilla and take a further look at the country of origin, you will probably read “Madagascar.” But Madagascar does not fall within vanilla’s native growing regions, so only the introduced species that was brought over from Mexico a long time ago, Vanilla planifolia, is cultivated in Madgascar. Vanilla cultivators in Madagascar have to pollinate flowers by hand, because natural pollinators are absent, and use intensive production systems. Furthermore, the market chain involves several intermediaries that keep prices artificially high by holding back large quantities, explaining the currently high market prices. As a result, we realized there is a need for innovation in vanilla cultivation.

We want to determine the possibility of contributing to a more sustainable vanilla provision through a joint land sparing and land sharing approach (SPASHA), ensuring the conservation of wild vanilla populations while cultivating the economically interesting ones in a sustainable agroforestry system. There are several wild vanilla species, known as crop wild relatives (CWR), growing in the lowland tropical rainforests of the Neotropics, with presence of pods (that smell very nice!), indicating natural pollination. However, there is very little known about the distribution, biology and ecology of both the orchids and their pollinators. We are interested in determining the potential to cultivate wild vanilla and therefore create an alternative income source for local communities.

Left: The beautiful flower of Vanilla trigonocarpa. Middle: Fruits (green beans) of Vanilla hartii, the result from natural pollination, a mysterious process that we will study in more detail during the coming year. Right: Flower buttons of Vanilla hartii. All three species are native to the lowland tropical rainforests of Costa Rica and are growing within our study region ACOSA. Photos: Charlotte Watteyn & Ruthmery Pillco Huarcaya

As part of the study, we made experimental plots, where we planted four aromatic vanilla CWR—V. hartii, V. odorata, V. pompona and V. trigonocarpa—in both reforestation areas and organic cacao plantations. One of the plots is located at Osa Conservation’s Osa Verde Agroecological Farm. We will measure growth and survival rate over time, as well as production and pollination processes during later stages.

We will be monitoring the vanilla’s success over the next few months and keep you updated with the first results of this exciting (and delicious) research!

 

The planting team at Osa Verde (Marvin, Johan, José, Ruth and Charlotte). We planted 120 vanilla plants, 30 plants of each of the four species, in our experimental plot within a 3-year old reforestation area with a mix of native tree species that act as tutor trees. Photos: Charlotte Watteyn and Ruthmery Pillco Huarcaya

Land Conservation and Forest Restoration, Science and Research

Restoration’s exciting night life

Blog Post by Elène Haave Audet, Restoration and Rewilding Research Field Assistant

 

Elène holding a Noctilio leporinus, the Greater bulldog bat, which fishes from streams. Photo: Doris Audet

For many of us, the creatures of the tropical forest that dare venture at night remain elusive and mysterious beings, their ways of life foreign to us daytime dwellers. Among these enigmatic animals are bats, the group of mammals with the second largest number of species in the world, whose charismatic presence in the tropics will not go un-noticed to the keen nocturnal observer.

Like many sensitive animals, bats are particularly special as a group, since many species require natural areas that have not been disturbed by human activity to find food and places to live. Thus, the presence of many different bat species can provide information about the health of an area. For this reason, Osa Conservation has started sampling the diversity of bats in areas that are being actively restored into forest, after years of use by humans. Overtime, the presence of different types of bats in these areas will help determine the success of restoration.

Vampyrodes caracciolli, the Great striped-faced bat, the second of two new fruit eating bats on the OC property, enjoying a well- deserved fig. Photo: Hilary Brumberg

After seeing the restoration plots for the first time this May, I was convinced that the bat diversity in these areas would not be exciting: that is, I expected to find very little diversity, since the restoration areas are in their infancy and have very little forest cover.

Was I ever wrong! The bat life in the restoration plots is teaming with diversity. After four months of sampling, we have recorded 24 different species of bats, ranging from those that eat insects, fruits, nectar, fish, and yes, even blood. To add to this excitement, two species of fruit eating bats recorded in the restoration areas had not been previously detected on the Osa Conservation property!

Why, then, has the bat nightlife been much more exciting than anticipated? Although the restoration areas have very few trees, the surrounding areas are lush with tropical forest, providing ideal habitat for these endearing creatures. This is very encouraging news for restoration initiatives, as connecting the surrounding forests with restored habitats will continue to support the diverse lifestyles of our nocturnal friends, so they may continue hunting insects, fishing bats, and snacking on figs.

Now every night of sampling is an adventure, and I cannot wait to see what other bats we will encounter in these deceptively rich areas!

Chiroderma villosum, the Hairy big-eyed bat, one of two new fruit eating bats encountered on OC property, posing handsomely. Photo: Elene Haave Audet

 

Land Conservation and Forest Restoration

Keeping Up with our Vanilla Conservation

Blog Post written by Ruthmery Pillco Huarcaya, Research Field Assistant Biodiversity & Conservation

I love vanilla! But did you ever wonder where it comes from? From the vanilla bean. But not from a tree; it comes from an orchid, which grows up the tree as a vine.

However, it is not that simple. Each flower opens for only 24 hours and must be pollinated within 8-12 hours. If pollination does not occur the flower wilts, drops from the vine, and no pods are produced. The vanilla bean’s pollen is covered by a little septum (called the rostellum) that separates the anthers (male features), and stigma (female features). This means the some creature to go in and break this septum; a pollinator. It also means that vanilla conservation is a tedious and difficult task. 

Vanilla Plant

Photo by Ruth Pillco Huarcaya

 

(The history of vanilla, and more about pollination and conservation, can be found here)

Costa Rica has approximately 12 species of vanilla, at least four of which are found around the Osa Conservation’s biological station and adjacent landscapes. Only two species are grown to produce commercial vanilla: V. planifolia and V. madagascariensis. Because the natural pollinators are unknown, pollination is performed by hand, and low levels of genetic diversity are expected in cultivated plants.  

camera trap for vanilla

Photo by Ruth Pillco Huarcaya

Many Vanilla species are threatened in the wild. Here at Osa Conservation, we want to understand the ecology of wild vanilla, and gain a better understanding of their habitat preference, and reproductive strategies. We want to know where they like to live, who their pollinators are, and who disperses their seeds. This could help us to develop proper conservation strategies, and allow us to test profitability for commercial production in areas such as secondary forests, restoration plots and fruit gardens.

Vanilla pollination

Photo by Ruth Pillco Huarcaya

To do so, we have been using wildlife camera traps to monitor the flowers and beans, and have spent hours directly watching the flowers. So far, a population of Vanilla hartii was found flowering, and after a few long hours of observation and camera trapping, the little Stripe-throated hermit hummingbird was observed visiting their flowers; a potential pollinator or a nectar thief?

Our work will continue until we can really discover the secrets behind wild vanilla in the Osa Peninsula.

Environmental Education, Land Conservation and Forest Restoration, Science and Research

Agalychnis spurelli : A personal excerpt by Andres Jimenez

This blog piece was taken and translated directly from Osa Conservation’s Wetland Program Coordinator, Andres Jimenez, and his very own personal blog.

***

While I wait here for the fog on my camera to evaporate, and while the few clean clothes I have left are drying, and while none of my shoes are fully covered in mud, here I am dedicating myself to editing photos and writing this blog! Little did I imagine (although one always has hopes) that on a rainy night…wait…let me correct myself – during the deluge, where for a few moments I envisioned myself constructing a small boat in order to begin having to collect two of each kinds of species like Noah himself – I would come across an explosive reproductive session of these wondrous red-eyed frogs in the middle of the day!

Agalychnis spurelli - the gliding tree frog.

Agalychnis spurelli – the gliding tree frog.

The previous night I walked something like 6 hours with a great report of local creatures including: two vipers, one anteater, an armadillo, and countless horned spiders, but then again this experience also left me (as my misfortune would have it) with a camera lens completely and utterly fogged – an issue that will become ever so relevant when I later arrive to the focal point of the swamp in this mentioned tale. Anyways, I don’t want to distract you all with the tales of my night-time adventures, lets get directly to the frog; or better said, the avalanche of frogs. Agalychnis spurrelli, also known as the gliding tree frog, is a beautiful and rare frog that, prior to this tale, I had only managed to see in the wild twice in my life. This particular tree frog is about 40 mm by 70 mm, that is to say it has some 7 cm from its mouth to its anus, which in reality is quite large for a frog species. For those who are not so familiar in the ways of amphibians, that measurement is for this frog’s body size, the legs, that are often rather much larger and longer, are not included in this measurement. This frog species tends to live on the canopy of a tree, and it often moves as though walking on a tightrope, placing one hand in front of itself, followed closely by his feet: a feature I would like to add this is very popular on all TV channels.

It’s very likely that you have before seen, or perhaps are aware of, some of the cousins to this wondrous frog – maybe you have even caught glimpses of them on TV. Agalychnis spurrelli cousin frog has a red body, red eyes and specks of colors running around it side. Clearly our Agalychnis spurrelli and its cousin are very spectacular creatures, and I would imagine that this often results in people  wondering what the thought process behind their given common names is, being that the names are so unique as the frog themselves. According to many biologist, and as it was reported by Savage 2002, this “gliding tree frog” has the capacity to jump in a “parachute” style giving rise to it’s common name. You see, after the frog jumps, it positions it’s body with a 45 degree angle, maintains both it’s legs straight, outwards and parallel to the ground, and this enables the frog during it’s descent, (or in some cases ascent) to use it’s suckers, more commonly referred to as it’s digits (that are extremely sticky) and anchor itself to the vegetation in one spectacular and graceful jump; it goes without saying that the jumps can be very wide, and inclusively the frog is furthermore capable in using it’s webbed digits to execute large spins in the air.

Enough with side notes and distractions – back to the main story at hand: at my arrival to the earlier mentioned swamp, where my colleagues already prepared their photography equipment for shots of the area, what called my attention at that movement was the strange movement in the trees that was on the other side of a marshy swamp. Sheer curiosity willed me to pull my binoculars expecting to observe a bird, but to my great fortune (finally!) I couldn’t have been more wrong. The movement in the branches continued, and it was low and high, far and wide, it was thousands and thousands of frogs that were jumping from tree to tree, branch to branch, in a spectacular display that made this self-proclaimed amphibian lover go running through a swamp with little precaution for the vipers near my feet…I know what you’re thinking…I’m not exaggerating.

An explosive reproductive session.

An explosive reproductive session.

At this point I took out my camera, prepared the camera lens, hung the camera strap around my person, and jumped into the swamp. A swamp -like the majorities of open water – is stagnant water covered in vegetation…so sometimes they are deep…and other times they are not…the point is it can often be hard to tell. But in any case, here I was in the water, and I begun to approach the frogs little by little, inch by inch, I was more nervous than I thought I would be, that’s for sure. With one wrong movement, I could jeopardize my hopes of this anticipated photo. I approached a little bite more, and at this point the water was creeping into my boots, and starting to rise quickly (at this moment I had to remind myself that this was my last clean pair of pants….err…my last cleanest pair of pants….). With the water officially up to my waist I suddenly recalled… my camera lenses I realized was completely fogged up! Clearly the previous nights adventure had cost me dearly! Only some 20 photos after initiating my photographic campaign came through, and my camera decided to not recuperate from the previous nights tryst. The irony! One photo would be produced foggy, I’d clean the lenses, take anther photo, and it would be foggier than the first! I’d change to another lens I had, still foggy. I’d clean the lens once more, everything seemingly according to plan…and then the inner camera would fog up…it was a nightmare ! I wasn’t able to capture a single worthwhile photo during the whole moment.

When I had given up on everything a ray of sun emerged; and I’m not being metaphorical. There was a sliver of light permeating through the forest – I was swift to head in it’s direction and there, finally, I was able to detach the len and allow them to dry in the light. After a few long, torturous, and endless few minutes (that I of course spent enviously looking on to the frogs jumping in bliss) one of the lenses finally decided to cooperate – my hopes were answered…. or were they? The sun quickly disappeared once more and now the problem was another: there was no light; it was totally dark, and how was I to capture this moment without the right amount of light? Those of us who have taken photos within the forest without sun know that pictures will come out totally dark. But I was fortunate in one thing, there was a bat biologist, Melkin, who offered to let me borrow his flash and once readied onto my camera I once more jumped into the swamp.

In the process of being lugged around - a lazy male is carried by a female to the site of her choosing to deposit her eggs.

In the process of being lugged around – a lazy male is carried by a female to the site of her choosing to deposit her eggs.

We return then to the swamp: behind the lenses of my camera an Agalychnis spurelli walks through the leaves carrying a male on her back. These frogs prefer to reproduce at night in ephemeral puddles off water, like swamps, that have some foliage to cover the water. They only reproduce during the rainy season, where the males look for a perch to call out to the females on. In the majority of the cases the swamps tend to have several couples, that after their initial courtships ritual, will situation themselves on a leaf. Following the females deposit of egg on said leaf, a male will then fertilize said eggs. What is particular about these frogs is that, generally speaking, before they deposit their eggs on to the leaf, the male will embrace the female, (the male is about twice her size) and then the female will carry her partner to the site of her choosing for depositing her eggs. As you will see from my photos, the loafer males are so huge that they even apparel to be asleep while the poor female lugs him around doing all the work! Well then, now that we are clear on the basic of reproduction of this species we ask: what set apart this morning from all the others? The serious response: thousands of frogs reproducing at once in the same place at the same time, in the day. What many will deem “and explosive reproductive session” that occurred in the middle of the day! Imagine how much it must have rained for these creatures, who primarily reproduce at night, would willingly decide to reproduce during the plain light of the day! A great moment to have to pulls one’s camera and take an image that is worthwhile, right? The previous night it had rained so much that the ambient condition for these frogs was so perfect that the previous nights frog orgy lasted well into the morning of the following day. We biologist arrived, as my mother would have said, with milk and bread, just in time to take a few photos of the previous nights partners. I leave you with photos and history. Now you know: next time that you are in the low parts of the Caribbean or the Pacific and you should have rainfall to rival that of the deluge, take a camera, and looks for a swamp in which to enjoy the great reproductive explosion of amphibians (if you’re lucky).

***

“If you would like to see more of Andre’s photos please click on the following link to check out his personal blog about his wondrous adventures with the Agalychnis spurelli .”

Data Entry Services India