Aquatic Health, Marine Conservation

Aquaculture: A Sustainable Solution to the Global Seafood Crisis?

By: Clara Gomez

The world’s seafood stocks will have completely collapsed by the year 2050, scientists say.  According to a study done by a group of economists and ecologists, the growth of the human population combined with unsustainable fishing practices and the devastating loss of biodiversity will lead to the collapse of fish populations in the next 35 years, if trends continue on their current path.

If the idea of losing all of the world’s fish scares you as much as it scares me, then you’re wondering how we disrupt the current “trend” of unsustainable overfishing.  One option is through the use of aquaculture.  Aquaculture, also known as fish or shellfish farming refers to the breeding, rearing, and harvesting of plants and animals of water environments including ponds, rivers, lakes and the ocean.  

Although the global community is just beginning to think of aquaculture as a potential solution to the dilemma of depleted oceans, the fact is that it’s not a new practice. In fact, although historians say that the cradle of aquaculture existed in China 4,000 years ago, recent archaeological evidence (2003) suggests that the Gunditjmara tribe of Australia already had a system to raise and cultivate eels in in the southeast of the country 8,000 years ago.  The system was so efficient (after being designed as an alternative method for procuring food) that traditional practices remained stable throughout history!! Or at least not until Stephan Ludwig Jacobi appeared on the scene, at some point in the early XVIII century.

Thanks to Jacobi and his article ‘Von der künstlichen Erzeugung der Forellen und Lachse’, aquaculture became a part of mainstream science due to the success based off of his experiments in the external fertilization of trout and salmon. Not only in terms of self-sustainability, but also of commerce at an industrial level. From then on all manner of projects and investments began, and thus was born the second generation of aquaculture─ the modern aquaculture we all know today, and which is currently reinventing itself to adapt to a society increasingly aware of its impact on the environment.

Part of this shift in the way aquaculture utilized is the utilization of what’s called Integrated, multi-trophic aquaculture.  While it sounds complicated, it’s an idea that involves the raising of diverse organisms within the same farming system, where each species utilizes a distinct niche and distinct resources within the farming complex.  This allows the fish to be raised in a much more biodiverse, nature-like setting. Additionally, this system utilizes a circular economy–the idea that the waste from one product serves as nutrients for another.  So, raising plants and fish together both cuts down on cost and waste. This current of change, in conjunction with the holistic approach that Osa Conservation has in regards to conservation, is what prompted the organization to plan the future fusion between a multi-trophic aquaculture project (still in development), and its already successful sustainable agriculture program. A large number of scientific publications (many published by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations) support these projects, and the tropical climate of Costa Rica is perfect for local breeding of sea creatures.  What’s the harm in trying?aquaculture, circular economy

If successful, this new project of integrated, multi trophic aquaculture would be extremely beneficial in the following three areas:

Ecology:

The integrated, multi-trophic aquaculture system mimics the relationships among organisms in the natural world (not just by raising aquatic organisms and terrestrial plants together, but also by using one organism’s waste as input for others).  It also ensures both the optimal use of resources and the reduction of water pollution and eutrophication levels.

Economy:

This new and improved system of aquaculture represents a positive step towards the self-sufficiency of Osa Conservation, and as such also represents a reduction of costs in terms of food imports from San Jose. Likewise, the implementation of a new food cultivation system could mean new employment opportunities for locals.

Pedagogy:

Not only is the integrated, multi-trophic aquaculture system is easy to understand, but it has the potential  to include human waste as part of its cycle. That means that both the system’s facilities (eg tanks external fertilization, duck ponds, rice fields, etc) as food produced through it (eg shrimp species, and native fish) have potential to serve as educational material for both the local community and visitors of Osa. What better way is there to learn about aquaculture, than to see how everything works and then personally taste the final product?  Adopting a system of aquaculture in the Osa will allow OC to expand upon its teaching capacity and further embody its own standards of sustainability.  

 

Sources

1.“Aborigines may have farmed eels, built huts” ABC Science Australia:http://www.abc.net.au/science/news/stories/s806276.htm

2.“Analysis of the Aquaculture Market in the Costa Rican Metropolitan Area. Instituto Costarricense de Pesca y Acuicultura (2010): https://www.wpi.edu/Pubs/E-project/Available/E-project-121410-115309/unrestricted/Analysis_of_the_Aquaculture_Market_in_the_Costa_Rican_Metropolitan_Area.pdf

  1. “At a Crossroads: Will Aquaculture Fulfill thePromise of the Blue Revolution?” (SeaWeb Aquaculture Clearinghouse report, PDF): http://www.seaweb.org/resources/documents/reports_crossroads.pdf
  2. “Biomass Accumulation and Water Purification of Water Spinach Planted on Water Surface by Floating Beds for Treating Biogas Slurry”Journal of Environmental Protection (2013, PDF): http://file.scirp.org/pdf/JEP_2013111911133739.pdf

5.“Contribución de la pesca y la acuicultura a la seguridad alimentaria y el ingreso familiar en Centroamérica” Organización de las Naciones Unidas para la Agricultura y la Alimentación — FAO  (2014,PDF): http://www.fao.org/3/a-i3757s.pdf

6.“Culture of Fish in Rice Fields” (FAO, WorldFish Center. 2014) PDF:http://www.fao.org/docrep/015/a0823e/a0823e.pdf

7.“History of Agriculture” FAO Corporate Document Repository. http://www.fao.org/docrep/field/009/ag158e/AG158E01.htm

  1. FAO “Animal-Fish Systems: Integrated Fish-duck farming”

    http://www.fao.org/docrep/005/Y1187E/y1187e14.htm

9.“Food from the sea. Remarkable results of the experiments in cod and lobster,(Pittsburgh Dispatch. aquaculture, 1890): https://www.newspapers.com/clip/3798097/food_from_the_sea_remarkable_results/

  1. Integrated Multi-Trophic Aquaculture: What it is, and why you should care…..

and don’t confuse it with polyculture. (2006, PDF): http://www2.unb.ca/chopinlab/articles/files/Northern%20Aquaculture%20IMTA%20July%2006.pdf

11.National Oceanic and Atmospheric Atmenistration (NOAA): http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/aquaculture/what_is_aquaculture.html

  1. All Seafood Will Run Out in 2050, scientists Say (Charles Clover, 2006)

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/1533125/All-seafood-will-run-out-in-2050-say-scientists.html

Volunteers and Visitors

Treefrog Breeding Frenzy!

Cesar Barrio-Amoros holds a PhD in biology and is a notable taxonomist, herpetologist, author, and photographer. Following his experience in the Osa, reflected below, Cesar has planned to lead a reptile and amphibian workshop at Piro Biological Station next May or June, the beginning of the wet season.

I have traveled throughout most of Latin America in search of amazing herping spectacles. In the Galapagos, I saw marine iguanas (Amblyrhynchus cristatus) and Galapagos giant tortoises (Chelonoidis nigra). I witnessed an astonishing diversity of poison frogs in Peru and made some interesting scientific discoveries on the Tepuis of Venezuela. My curiosity has now led me to one of the tiniest countries: Costa Rica. Here, the herpetological diversity is bewildering and vibrant. Due to Costa Rica’s intense biodiversity, it is not difficult for a photographer to capture nearly all of the herping species in a matter of years.

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The gliding treefrog (Agalychnis spurrelli) was on the top of my herping list after learning about it on a BBC documentary. I have actually seen the individual species in the Caribbean and Pacific lowlands. However, I never saw one of those impressive reproductive aggregations where thousands of frogs gather in a pond and lay millions of eggs in just a few nights.

I was envious of the photographs my colleague, Manuel Sanchez, captured while working at Osa Conservation’s Piro Biological Station in the Osa Peninsula. I immediately scheduled a visit to see the event. When I arrived, Manuel informed me that the area was full of frogs, thousands were laying eggs in amplexus (amplectant pairs).

Around 6:00AM the next morning, we left for our journey along with herpetologist intern and researcher, Michelle Thompson. At the site, we noticed some bushes moving and, upon further investigation, realized there were a few frogs still laying eggs. The great wave was the previous night so only about 10% frogs remained.

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Still, it was a breathtaking sight because they were completely surrounded by millions of eggs! Michelle and I were amazed — this was quite an experience for a herpetologist. Next time, I need to arrive a few days in advance in order to catch the whole spectacle!

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

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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.

 

 

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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.

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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

What’s happening with Foo’s Community Environmental Education and Outreach Programs?

Parade for International Year of Forests Celebration

Stencil painting activity with ASCONA for International Year of Forests

Puerto Jimenez students performing a traditional dance for International Year of Forests celebration

Check out these exciting programs and events happening in Osa!


INTERNATIONAL YEAR OF FORESTS

In celebration of the United Nations International Year of Forests, FOO’s environmental education program began tropical rainforest workshops in April with students and teachers from 13 Osa schools.

There was an exciting opening event on Saturday April 30th, with the participation of MINAET and ICE and the collaboration of organizations such as TNC, Neotropica, Yaguara, ACEPESA, Shark Quest, ASCONA and RANA Group.  The event featured fun education and recreational activities as well as lectures and presentations of research happening throughout the Osa Peninsula.

The celebration will continue in August, September and October with a student reforestation campaign aiming to plant 4,000 native trees along Osa’s deforested stream banks!

Face painting fun at International Year of Forests event

SUSTAINABLE WATER MANAGEMENT
This year, Friends of the Osa’s environmental education program has partnered with the Central American Association for Economy, Health and Environment (ACEPESA) on a project called “Capacity Building in Coastal Communities of the Golfo Dulce to Improve Sanitary Conditions.”  This program serves to educate the communities of La Palma, Guadeloupe, Puerto Escondido, and students and teachers of 10 Osa schools, about the importance of watershed protection and the sustainable management of water resources.  Through this program, students will learn about the merits of alternative wastewater management systems, such as bioswales—systems that function as wetlands, catching and treating domestic wastewater naturally to prevent contamination of groundwater, rivers and soil.

YEARLY TRASH PICK-UP

In July, FOO will again host the annual community beach clean-up!  With the support of many Osa community members, we will pick up trash along the sea turtle nesting beaches from Piro to Peje Perro lagoon, as well as along the beaches and mangroves of Puerto Jiménez. Look out for posts and pictures from this amazing yearly event.

SEA TURTLE EDUCATION
In the months of October and November, FOO will be hosting sea turtle education workshops at Independence School and Academic College in La Palma. Look out for posts and pictures from these upcoming events.

Birds, Volunteers and Visitors

Go Wild, Go Birding!

International Migratory Bird Day 2011

Just to set the scene… the following is a bit of what I wrote to you last October 2010 in recognition of a well known day that pays homage to migratory birds all throughout the Americas.

“Have you ever sat and marveled at the wonder of bird migration; the journey that birds undertake between their winter and summer homes?  Well if so, you’re not alone, and it is a cause for celebration!  Each year hundreds of thousands of people gather to celebrate International Migratory Bird Day (IMBD) in support of migratory bird conservation.

International Migratory Bird Day is officially recognized on the second Saturday in May in the US and Canada in celebration of migrants coming home to breed, while in Mexico, Central and South America and the Caribbean IMBD is celebrated on the second Saturday in October when migrants are returning home for the winter.  Here in Costa Rica IMBD is actually celebrated in April as migrants are starting their journey north.

There are almost 350 species of birds that migrate between their nesting grounds in the north to their wintering grounds in more favorable climates somewhere south.  Unfortunately many migrant bird species are declining facing many threats on their wintering and breeding grounds as well as on their migratory routes.  International Migratory Bird Day was thus created as not only a day to celebrate migrant birds but as a call to action in their conservation.

Migratory Woodthrush. Photo by Frericks

Each year IMBD celebrates with a particular theme.  Last year we celebrated the Power of Partnerships and brought you some of the many partnerships Osa Conservation has related to bird science and conservation.  This year’s 2011 theme is Go Wild, Go Birding orVive Salvaje, Observe las Aves.”

The focus of Go Wild, Go Birding is to reach out to youth and adults to experience and learn about birds, bird watching and conservation.  Some of the many program and educational activities that folks are engaging in are:

*  IMBD Festivals

*  The International Conservation Walkathon,

*  The Christmas Bird Count (CBC) and

*  The CBD 4 kids which is a half day CBC, and

*  The Big Sit which is 24 hours of birding around the world.

Educators are also including birding activities in their classrooms such as

*  Workshops in helping birds at home

*  Go Birding Geocache

*  Making bird masks

*  Leading a bird walk

Truly the amount of bird activities one could dream up is countless!  We here at Osa Conservation conducted our first annual Osa Peninsula Christmas Bird Count last December which was a great success and are planning to continue our new tradition this year.  Many people got involved who now have a new interest in birds and birding. We also initiated our new avian monitoring program which will monitor, in part, abundance of both resident and migratory birds on the Osa.  We plan to expand our birding program and educational activities in the near future – so keep an eye out.

So we here at Osa Conservation say “Go Birding, Go Wild” and there truly is no better place to do so than here on the Osa Peninsula.  With well over 400 species of birds in this little corner of Costa Rica there is plenty to keep you busy for quite a long time

And remember that because there is more than one officially recognized date, everyday, including today, is International Migratory Bird Day.

For more information visit Environment for the Americas.  IMBD 2011 artwork was designed by John Muir Laws and Genevieve Margherio.

Birds, Volunteers and Visitors

Osa Peninsula Christmas Bird Count

Red-lored Parrots

This year Friends of the Osa organized the first annual Costa Rica Osa Peninsula Christmas Bird Count, a more than century long Audubon Society tradition.  This year actually marks the 111th Audubon CBC and on December 17th 2010 Friends of the Osa along with Osa Peninsula lodges, the Osa Peninsula Birders Association, Osa bird experts and enthusiasts headed out at dawn and dusk to count as many birds that could be seen, heard or flushed out from under foot.

All throughout the Americas citizen scientist volunteers from Canada down through Argentina come out, in some parts of the world in frigid cold temperatures, to count birds on one single day between December 14th and January 5th as part of a long running tradition in avian conservation and science.  Those of us here in the tropics didn’t need to worry about freezing temperatures.  We were out instead in t-shirts, shorts and our signature black rubber boots with the same eagerness to document the birds of the Osa this year and for years to come.

Common Tody-Flycatcher

We covered an area the size of a 15 mile diameter circle that included Puerto Jimenez, Playa Sandalo, Dos Brazos, Matapalo, the National Wildlife Refuge and Carate just south of Corcovado National Park.  Each participant walked routes and trails through lush tropical rainforest, palm and almond tree lined beaches, lagoons, creeks and rivers that run through one of the most biodiverse areas on the planet; the Osa Peninsula.

The Christmas Bird Count helps protect bird species and their habitats.  Data collected from volunteers is used by biologists and other interested parties to study the long-term health and status of bird populations throughout the Americas and to see how populations have changed over time and space over the last 111 years.  Scientists have used CBC data to detect birds in decline from fragmentation and/or loss of habitat and effects on populations from climate change as well.  We will now be able to include Osa birds in Audubon’s database to help protect and conserve them for years to come.

We would like to thank Luna Lodge, Bosque del Rio Tigre Lodge, Iguana Lodge, Lapa Rios, Bosque del Cabo, El Remanso, the Osa Peninsula Birding Association, and many individuals that participated in the count.  Lets do it again next year!

For more information and history on the Audubon Christmas Bird Count visit http://birds.audubon.org/christmas-bird-count

Also visit our website at http://www.osaconservation.org

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.