Environmental Education, Science and Research, Volunteers and Visitors

A Night with Bats

Bats. These nocturnal creatures tend to get a bad rap. Associated for centuries with mythical creatures of the night, and used as Halloween decorations to add eeriness to a haunted house, the real life mammal often gets overlooked. OC aims to change that by collaborating with experts and educating the public on the crucial role bats play in restoration.

Recently, Osa Conservation was honored with a visit from 2 remarkable scientists in the bat world: Cullen Geiselman, bat biologist and board member of Bat Conservation International & Gloriana Chaverri, a University of Costa Rica professor and respected bat biologist who conducts ongoing research at OC’s properties.

Chaverri and Geiselman visited Osa Conservation to brainstorm with OC on how we can help make people aware of how crucial this magnificent animal is to the Osa and the myriad ecosystems they inhabit.

Along with OC Science & Education Director, Jim Palmer, they explored Chaverri’s research sites and visited Osa Conservation’s newest property, Osa Verde. Osa Verde will, among other things, be the site of experimental restoration plots where researchers and students will study the process of forest succession in the Osa to help improve reforestation efforts. (For more information, please visit http://osaconservation.org/visit-the-osa/volunteer/tropical-reforestation/). This site will be important for bat research and conservation efforts as we study their impact on regeneration through seed dispersal and monitor their presence in strategically placed bat boxes.

One night of the visit, under the cover of the dense canopy and the starry Costa Rican sky, these expert bat wranglers set up mist nets to capture and study bats. Volunteers and visitors watched in awe as they collected data on the bats and released them.

It was a fun, successful visit. OC staff and station visitors learned a lot from hearing about the work of Geiselman and Chaverri and taking part in an evening of mist netting. We all gained a great appreciation for these cute mammals and OC looks forward to sharing this information and spreading the message! Bats rock!

Fast Facts About Bats!

  • Bats eat bugs! In the U.S. bats are estimated to be worth more than $3.7 billion a year in reduced crop damage and pesticide use.
  • Bats are important pollinators! Some of the commercial products that bats help provide include: bananas, peaches, cloves, carob, and agave.
  • Bats play a key role in reforestation! Fruit-eating bats help repopulate tropical forests by dispersing the seeds of fruiting trees over wide areas. Bats are important seed dispersers for avocados, dates, figs, and cashews – to name a few.

Source: Bat Conservation International

Community Outreach, Environmental Education, Science and Research, Volunteers and Visitors

Environmental Festivals in the Osa

World Environment Day, 2nd Anniversary of the Luis Jorge Poveda Álvarez Arboretum and inauguration of the Centenary Forest.

In early June, we had three important celebrations: World Environment Day, the 2nd anniversary of the Jorge Poveda Álvarez Arboretum and the inauguration of the Centenary Forest.

World Environment Day was celebrated in early June, and had participation from diverse groups of people. We had students from various educational centers participate as well as people from organizations and businesses with various fields of focus, like mangroves in the case of Fundación Neotrópica, sea turtles in the case of LAST (Latin American Sea Turtles) and sustainable forest plantations in the case of LACT. The support and participation of local farmers and artisans with the exhibition and sale of their products topped off a great turnout.

Furthermore, this y11011808_442506935917583_1591210675148998070_near we celebrated two important events in forest culture. First, the second anniversary of the Luis Jorge Poveda Álvarez Arboretum was on June 14. This museum of trees on the Osa Peninsula includes emblematic and threatened species like the ajo negro (Anthodiscus chocoensis), the camíbar (Copaifera aromatica), the nazareno or purpleheart (Peltogyne purpurea Pittier), the cristóbal (Platymiscium pinnatum) and the breadnut or Maya nut (Brosimum alicastrum).

Lastly, on June 15 was the inauguration of the Centenary Forest. This day pays homage to the 100 years of the institutionalization of National Tree Day by President Alfredo González Flores, and also to honor the people and institutions that have worked toward the conservation of the forests like Don Álvaro Ugalde, Daniel Janzen and Winnie Hallwach. This has been and initiative of the Golfo Dulce Forest Reserve, as a strategy to promote forest culture in the communities of the Osa and to promote an appreciation for the forests and their ecosystem services.

Celebrations like these are crucial to community outreach, especially to the younger generations. By celebrating how far we’ve come and our accomplishments in conservation, we get people excited about nature and inspire more action to protect it in the future!

Science and Research, Volunteers and Visitors

Golfo Dulce Poison Dart Frogs

Submitted by Steven Waldron; Seattle, WA

Twenty years ago, I backpacked and hiked along the wild beaches and coastal rainforests of the Osa peninsula and became acquainted with some of the fantastic wildlife that the region is well-known for. Near the Sirena station at Corcovado National Park, I became intimate with the loud squawks of Scarlet Macaws sailing overhead, the crash of surprised tapirs bolting through the forest, and the pre-dawn chorus of Howler monkeys. One of the sensory aspects I appreciate most about exploring this region is the rich array of sounds that greets the rainforest naturalist. The forests of the Osa are alive with every kind of exotic screech, hoot, cry, whistle and howl. However, there was one voice that alluded me during that first trip many years ago; that of a little poison dart frog unique to the region, Phyllobates vittatus, the Golfo Dulce poison dart frog. Though the call of Phyllobates vittatus was certainly in the mix of the rainforest cacophony that greeted me back then, I just didn’t know how to identify it and discover its secrets within the complex mystery of the jungle matrix. On a recent trip to the Cabo Matapalo region, I was focused on encountering this beautiful red/black/green jewel of a frog and to document some of its natural history and beauty in photos.

From my research, I knew that Phyllobates vittatus is endemic to southwestern Costa Rica and found from Domincal in the north to (likely) the Boruca peninsula in the south. Due to its limited distribution, P. vittatus is listed by the IUCN as an endangered species. P. vittatus is known to inhabit primary forest microhabitats near streams; it’s diurnal and dwells in the leaf litter of the forest understory. Phyllobates vittatus is one of the true poison dart frogs with another sister species found in the Caribbean slope of Costa Rica and Panama (Phyllobates lugubris) and three other known relative species in the Chocó rainforest of Colombia (Phyllobates aurotaenia, Phyllobates bicolor and Phyllobates terribilis). The evolutionary links to the Chocó appear to be a common theme in Osa natural history.

19881843978_7859cdbac4_oDuring our first day in the Matapalo forest, my wife and I went for a late afternoon walk along a perennial creek with a rocky stream bed covered in fallen leaves. It seemed like the ideal habitat for Phyllobates vitiates, and it was! My wife found our first Phyllobates vittatus hanging out in a sheltered spot below a fallen log. Interestingly, I found this very frog in the same spot during my informal surveys over the course of the next week. P. vittatus appears to be fairly territorial in its habits. As the night was approaching quickly, my wife and I decided to resume our Phyllobates search for the following morning. A few hours after the next dawn, we were rewarded with the discovery of several vocalizing males singing from the creek banks. Luckily, I was able to photograph the frogs in their microhabitat and witnessed several courting male/female pairs.

Despite their toxic nature and bold coloration, P. vittatus is a fairly shy frog that is more often heard than seen. Once you learn the song of this frog, you realize that they are locally abundant in the Osa forests. However, the calling males will usually quickly fall silent and retreat into rock crevices or leaf litter when they feel threatened or discovered. Without this interruption, the typical reproduction process would proceed as follow:

The male P. vittatus serenades the female as she looks on. If all goes well, and both parties are mutually interested, the pair will retire to a sheltered spot in the fallen leaves where they will lay 7 to 21 eggs. The eggs will hatch in a couple of weeks; during that time period the male will periodically return to the developing embryos and moisten them with water shed from a specialized patch of vascularized tissue on his posterior. When the tadpoles hatch, they will then be visited by their father, climb onto his back and he will hop off into the forest to find a small pool of water for them to complete their development into little frogs some forty-five days later.

As our days of birding, botanizing and frogging unfolded during our relaxing week in Cabo Matapalo, the song of Phyllobates vittatus was a constant companion as it greeted us cheerfully from nearly every creek, spring and stream bed along the forest trails we visited. I came to look forward to hearing it as much as I enjoyed the raucous call of the macaws, the screech of the parakeets, the complaints of monkeys and the crashing of waves along the wild beaches. I realized that Phyllobates vittatus presence in these forests is a small but critical voice in the rich tapestry of biodiversity that gives southwestern Costa Rica its unique and charming character.

Environmental Education, Science and Research, Volunteers and Visitors

Bats Abound!

The Magnificent Gleaning Phyllostomines of the Osa

Submitted by : Doris Audet and Elène Haave Audet, University of Alberta, Canada

Slide1 (1)

Among the rich bat fauna to call Osa Conservation home, a select group speaks to the pristine nature of its old-growth forest: the gleaning phyllostomines.  These large-eared members of the highly diverse leaf-nosed bat family favour habitats of high ecological integrity that include mature forests and undisturbed riparian corridors.

They kindly allowed us to take before going on with their lives.

They kindly allowed us to take their photos before going on with their lives.

Phyllostomines are typically found in low abundance throughout their ranges, however since we started surveying the bat fauna around the Piro Biological Station in 2012, eight of the 33 bat species that we identified belong to this special group. This represents about half of the phyllostomines species expected to inhabit the lowlands of the Osa Peninsula.

 

 

Phyllostomines are primarily insectivorous, and their unusual manoeuvrability allows them to forage within the forest understory, either gleaning their prey from the vegetation or catching them in flight. Some of the larger species, such as the frog-eating bat (Trachops cirrhosus), also include vertebrates in their diet.  Their large, sensitive ears allow them to eavesdrop upon the mating calls of frogs and insects. The similar sized white-throated round-eared bat (Lophostoma silvicolum) has the peculiar habit of roosting in live termite nests, making it one of the rare bat species known to dig out its own shelters.

Slide3

Striped-headed round-eared bat

 

The striped-headed round-eared bat (Tonatia saurophila) (shown right), like many other phyllostomine species, occurs in low abundance and is relatively rare throughout its range.  Consequently, we have much to learn about their lives in the wild.

 

 

Slide4

Common big-eared bat

The smallest of them all (shown left), at around 5 g, is the common big-eared bat (Micronycteris microtis). As its name suggests, it is among the more frequently encountered bats of this group;  nevertheless, it is unlikely to appear in highly disturbed habitats. Common big-eared bats are known to include fruit in their diet, as is probably the case for many other more secretive phyllostomines.

 

The star of our bat encounters at Osa, the woolly false vampire (Chrotopterus auritus) (shown below), is the second largest bat species in the New World, with a wingspan of over half a meter.  Ten times the weight of the common big-eared bat, it is one of the top nocturnal predators.

Slide5

Woolly false vampire bat

 

The presence of diverse phyllostomines in Osa’s old growth areas is good news for the outcome of forest restoration, as they will provide the source populations necessary to re-colonize restored areas as they become suitable. On each of our visits to the Osa, at least one additional phyllostomine species revealed its presence, and we are eager to continue discovering what bats call this forest home!

Community Outreach, Environmental Education, Marine Conservation, Sea Turtles, Volunteers and Visitors

Yoga and Conservation: a pair meant to be

When I came to a yoga retreat in the wilds of Costa Rica, I had no idea one of the best memories I’d take home at week’s end would center around turtles–tiny baby ones, all girls.

But when Manuel Mendoza of Osa Conservation visited Blue Osa Yoga Retreat & Spa to tell us about the work he and his team of volunteers do to protect these magnificent, highly endangered creatures, I couldn’t believe how paramount the need was, and was excited to become involved.

I dragged myself out of bed the next morning at 5:30 am–quite an accomplishment as rain pelted the metal roof of my temporary home, lulling me into a deep sleep I’ve only achieved on tropical vacations. My travel companions and I bounded into two 4-wheel drive vehicles and headed south along a pothole riddled road to the end of the Osa Peninsula, one of the most bio-diverse regions on earth.

Manuel greeted us at the gates to his compound, an open-air Cocina with a separate building for offices and research, surrounded by immense green space and backing up to rain forest as far as the eye could see. This did not look like a suitable home for sea turtles.

The Blue Osa crew was directed to choose from a bushel basket of rain boots, the purpose of which was somewhat lost on me since I was already completely soaked, head to toe, just from making my way from the car. Manuel said we would make a short hike along a muddy jungle path to get to the hatchlings waiting on us to set them free into the great Pacific.

This was not a leisurely stroll through the woods. We walked at a brisk pace, wading through rivers, tripping over enormous tree roots, and slipping in the mud as we went.

Finally, in harmony with the jungle sounds, the roar of the Pacific drew us near and motivated me onward through the unfamiliar territory.

When the forest cleared, churning waves pounded down aggressively in front of Osa Conservation’s hatchery.

Manuel took us through deep sand to the hatchery where we became mesmerized at the big life coming from the group of small creatures. It was otherworldly to reach down and touch the babies, the textures of their feet and shells connecting me to nature in a way I’d never been before.

They scuttled around the buckets we hauled down the beach toward the release area. Our emotions were running high at the task ahead.

Manuel indicated the proper spot and gave us guidelines for the release experience. The numbers were not in the little ones’ favor. Of our 250+ hatchlings only one or two were likely to survive due to the factors working against them. But we didn’t lose hope.

It was a mix of emotions as we pulled each little life from the large green containers and encouraged them down the wide stretch of beach toward the water, which calmed a bit in their good fortune.

The journey for them was short, but for me it had a long-lasting effect. Watching the babies get swept bravely into the sea inspired me. I was filled with joy to have participated in such a pivotal experience.

When I returned to Blue Osa that evening, I spent time on my yoga mat thinking how the impact the hatchlings had on me exceeded the impact I’d had on them–and how Osa Conservation’s efforts are impassioned and infectious.

My body might have been recovering from the hike–achy and blistered–but my soul was content. Rainforest hiking and nature preservation had never been in my immediate skill-set, yet I found a way to make a difference in the Osa.

About The Author

When photographer/writer Leah Wyman found herself in the midst of a quarter-life crisis, she left her job in the church world for the sanctuary that is Blue Osa. A classical singer, composer and conductor with a B.M. degree from Manhattan School of Music and further studies at the University of Oxford in England, Leah is finding inspiring new ways to use her voice–in harmony with howler monkeys, scarlet macaws and crashing ocean waves at blueosa.com.

Community Outreach, Land Conservation and Forest Restoration

Introducing the new Osa Conservation Interpretative Trail!

In order to create public access stations for environmental education purposes, Osa Conservation recently built and inaugurated a 2.5-mile interpretive trail. In this easy journey, adventurers will find 23 stations labeled to help them understand and interpret the ecosystems, species and ecological associations that cross the path, which is a representation of the biological richness of the Osa Peninsula.

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Birds, Land Conservation and Forest Restoration

Protecting an Iconic Species: Community involvement in Scarlet Macaw conservation

The Scarlet Macaw (Ara macao) is a species in danger of extinction. In Costa Rica, there are only two healthy populations of scarlet macaws, the largest of which is located on the Osa Peninsula. This population is estimated to be between 800 and 1200 individuals (Dear et al 2010). This population was almost completely eliminated due to the illegal removal of trees for timber and agriculture, hunting for food, and illegal trade of Macaws as pets. During the last two decades, commercial logging and hunting of birds has decreased significantly, and the population of Macaws of the Osa Peninsula has increased rapidly. However, the loss of natural cavities in the trees used as nests for these animals has greatly limited the recovery of their populations. A study in recent years recommended long-term conservation that combines environmental education in local schools, community involvement, and stricter penalties for hunters and the Lapa Roja habitat destroyers (Guittar et al 2008).

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Birds, Land Conservation and Forest Restoration

Reviving a Rainforest Helps Keep Migratory Birds’ Winter Home Wild

By Carolina Herrera, NRDC

Wondering where that brightly colored songbird that visited your yard during the summer disappeared to when the temperature dropped? Many songbirds and other migratory birds spend the cooler months in Latin America’s tropical rainforests, so preserving their winter habitat is essential to their survival. That’s one reason why NRDC partnered with the group Osa Conservation to help Revive a Rainforest on Costa Rica’s Osa Peninsula, one of the most biodiverse places on Earth. With the support of our members we’ve been helping to restore 50 acres of degraded tropical rainforest by planting carefully selected native tree species.

Six hundred and fifty species of birds make North America their home and breeding ground. While some of these birds are permanent residents many are migratory, with migration paths varying from short, medium to long. Approximately 350 species breed in the US and Canada and then winter all the way in Latin America and the Caribbean where they need to find sufficient food and safe nesting locations. The Yellow Warbler, Tennessee Warbler, and the Canada Warbler are just three of the many species that journey long distances during their seasonal migrations to Costa Rica’s Osa Peninsula.

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Community Outreach, Environmental Education, Land Conservation and Forest Restoration, Miscellaneous, Sea Turtles

Thank You to all our Staff and Volunteers

RFA’s and interns pose for a photo at our annual Sea Turtle festival this past September

November is the peak of the rainy season here in Osa, an ideal time for staying in, curling up with a good book and listening to the sheets of rain pelt the tin roof. Not so for the OC staff and our brave visitors and volunteers who have been working rain and shine to help us with various conservation projects! This month we’re finishing up the Sea Turtle season and will be saying our goodbyes to our amazing Research Field Assistants that have made the program possible. Sai, Emily, Bre and Katie, we are incredibly grateful for your dedication and contribution this season. Thank you also to Katharine, Jamie and Alyssa, our field assistants who joined us for the first half of the season and all of our volunteers.

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Land Conservation and Forest Restoration

The Rare Festival of Fruit: Our mission to protect a hidden treasure

A recently planted Zapote Olimpico seedling.

During this past July, while walking through the Cerro Osa forest, Agustín Mendoza, one of the most charismatic members of Osa Conservation’s conservation and land management team, heard sounds and a great deal of activity at the top of the canopy. As he came closer to the site, he realized that the clamor was coming exclusively from a Zapote tree (Pauteria Sp). This tree was full of juicy fruits characterized by an exquisite orange color and a sweet scent that invaded the monotonous serenity of the forest. In the top of the tree he found a complete troop of spider monkeys that jumped from branch to branch, 35 meters in the air, taking advantage of the sudden abundance of this unusual feast.

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