Aves, Birds, Miscellaneous, Volunteers and Visitors

OC gears up for birding and filmmaking!

It’s that time of year again – birding time!

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Aside from the hundreds of native tropical birds who reside in the Osa, the peninsula is also winter home for many North American migratory birds. Every spring, they return to nest – the Scarlet Tanager, the Indigo Bunting, the Golden-Winged Warbler, the Baltimore Oriole, and scores of other migrant songbirds. And every winter, they make the perilous journey back to the rainforests of Central America to wait out the long cold season. Unfortunately, their wintering grounds are under intense pressure from development and natural resource extraction. The rainforests of Central America are being degraded at an alarming rate – and the birds that call these forests home – the endemic species and the migrants who winter there – have no where to turn. North America’s birds need a place that is still wild – our birds need the Osa.

Every winter, OC hosts birding groups from all over the world at our biological stations who come to see Osa’s magnificent birds and help us to protect their home. Unfortunately, aside from these avid birders, not many people understand the global significance of the Osa’s biodiversity or how many of our birds depend on it for survival – so this coming January, a film crew from Wisconsin will be traveling to the Osa with one of these birding groups to conduct a field shoot for the production of two documentaries – one to highlight the importance of the Osa as a biological hotspot, and another to document the efforts of Osa Conservation in protecting Osa’s birds – particularly the Yellow-billed Cotinga. From January 23 – 31st, 2014, this birding trip, led by veteran conservationist, OC board member, and birding addict Craig Thompson, will take the crew on a locally-guided tour of rainforest, beach, river, and wetlands to spot the most elusive Osa birds and interview local Osa residents.

Meet our crew!

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Luckily, our film crew are no strangers to filming in the jungle! Producer and writer Jo Garrett has been making documentaries for over 25 years. For the last decade, Jo and videographer Frank Boll have collaborated on a series of stories and documentaries for PBS on the plight of wildlife – including bats, black bears, pine martens, wolves, rattlesnakes, and more – but Jo’s favorite stories spotlight birds and the problems and successes in bird conservation. That passion led to the production of the documentary Our Birds, which highlights the struggles neotropical migratory birds face on their perilous journeys.

Frank Boll has trekked the world shooting stories for over 40 years. Frank’s most recent project took him to Peru in 2012. Funded in part by a grant from the National Geographic Society, Frank spent a month in the cloud forests, documenting the efforts of conservation groups working to save Peru’s critically endangered Yellow-Tailed Woolly Monkey.

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Kerman and Frank on location for a previous film shoot.


Kerman Eckes has worked for twenty years as a location sound recordist and sound designer for Wisconsin Public Television. She’ll get great stereo recordings of the birds calls of the Osa but she also brings other talents to the job: she’s fluent in Spanish, she’s an accomplished professor with a master’s in film production, and she’s served on video production crews in both Costa Rica and Nicaragua.

This film shoot will definitely put Jo, Frank, and Kerman’s skills to the test, as they trek through jungle and wetlands to document the stories of Osa’s birds. Filming birds in the wild also presents a unique challenge – perhaps even more so than other animals. Birds, especially warblers, are constantly moving – searching the trees and ground for insects, fruit, and other sources of food. How do you capture such tiny, quick creatures on camera, especially ones that are far away and so easily startled? The answer is to combine a camera and a telescope!

Videographers use a digiscope to capture birds on film – essentially a digital camera mounted to a birdwatcher’s spotting scope, which is a light, portable telescope. Frank uses a digiscope comprised of a Canon 60D DSLR camera attached to a Swarovski 30-70X spotting scope, pictured below:

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Due to their constant activity, following birds with such high-powered magnification presents another significant challenge. Footage often has to be trimmed to clips less than 10 seconds long that are later edited together – a serious time investment!

Check out some footage that Frank has already shot with his digiscope of one of Wisconsin’s migrants, the Yellow Warbler, known affectionately as the “little yellow comet.” We’re hoping to spot one of these little guys on our shoot down in the Osa!


Here’s some more footage shot by Frank, of two Orioles engaged in a “flyoff!”


This year, I’ll be joining this birding trip, so stay tuned for updates on the field shoot as it unfolds – direct from the Osa!

Read more about our film project here – and even help fund it!


Community Outreach, Environmental Education, Science and Research

Local students monitor water quality in the Osa

by Pilar Bernal, Environmental Education and Community Outreach Program Manager


Local students perform tests to measure water quality of streams in the Osa.


Osa’s Ant Defenders, an environmental club composed of 15 fourth grade students from the Saturnino Cedeño School in Puerto Jiménez, have started a program to monitor the water quality of Osa’s waterways this past November – starting with Quebrada la Ignacia, a stream that passes through town. These students will be analyzing the physical, chemical, and biological characteristics of the stream once a month.



With the help of Allegheny College in Pennsylvania and its program Creek Connections, Osa’s Ant Defenders will have the opportunity to perform chemical tests such as levels of dissolved oxygen, nitrates, phosphates, pH and alkalinity, and biological tests of coliform bacteria and aquatic macroinvertebrates. With the results of these tests, it’s possible to analyze the stream’s water quality, its changes over time, and possible sources of contamination that are affecting it. Here are the results from our first test on November 8:

Test Result
Temperature 79.7 degrees Fahrenheit
pH 8.15
Dissolved solids 140 mg / mL
Dissolved oxygen levels 7 mg / mL
Nitrates 0 mg / mL
Phosphates 0.025 mg  / mL
Total Alkalinity 85 mg / mL
Turbidity 25.5 JTU
Coliform bacteria 382.8 NMP / 100 mL

These results show favorable conditions for aquatic life in Quebrada la Ignacia. Nevertheless, the level of phosphates and the presence of coliform bacteria in the water reveals possible contamination from domestic wastewater in the stream. With the help of Osa Conservation, these students will continue to monitor the water quality of the stream and see how these values change in the coming months. The results will also be reported to our environmental board, with the goal of educating the community about the quality of its water sources and the importance of their conservation.


Science and Research, Uncategorized, Wildcats

Felines and their prey in the Osa

by Juan Carlos Cruz Díaz, Science Program Manager

Juan Carlos

Mammals are a very important element in ecosystems, and the rainforest is no exception. Wildcats as the top predators in an ecosystem provide control for the lower levels of the food web such as herbivorous animals, which in turn control biomass production. Everything is in perfect balance, so if a top predator is missing from the ecosystem, herbivores will increase in number and that will tremendously affect the biomass production, potentially leading to ecosystem collapse.

For this reason it is highly important for us to monitor the populations of wildcats but also their prey in order to have a better understanding of the status of these species and to be able to take actions for their conservation.

OSA view

Osa Peninsula.

This past August we completed our first year of interrupted camera trap monitoring for mammals and other species in the Osa National Wildlife Refuge, located in the buffer zone of Corcovado National Park, one of the most important places for conservation in the world.

After one year of monitoring, we’ve gathered information on 17 species, including 4 species of felids (large cats), 11 terrestrial mammals and 2 terrestrial birds. These species are all spread among 5 different feeding guilds – groups that share sources of food.

Image 1

Mammal species detected during the monitoring program from 2012 and 2013.

Among the wildcats, our cameras caught four out of the five species that are distributed throughout the peninsula – the puma, the jaguar, the ocelot, the margay, and the jaguarundi. The puma was by far the most common and abundant of all the large cats we captured! The ocelot came in second followed by the margay, with jaguars pulling up the rear with just 3 captures during the whole year!

Graph 1

Relative Abundance of the four species of wild cats detected in our monitoring program.

Of all species captured on camera, the most abundant were the paca (Cuniculus paca), collared peccary (Pecari tajacu), crab-eating raccoon (Procyon cancrivorus), coati (Nasua narica), the puma (Puma concolor) and the ocelot (Leopardus pardalis).

We have a special interest in feline species, so this graph shows the behavior of the four different species we detected in the data. Here we can see that felines were more active and abundant at the beginning of the rainy season – although by taking a closer look you can see that the most dramatic changes occurs in the puma, whose numbers are incredibly high at the beginning of the rainy season. Although there was an increase in observation for the other species during the rainy season, they are not as active as that of the puma.

Image 2

Photographic capture of a Paca.

Image 3

Photographic capture of a group of coatis.

In terms of behavior, we know now that the most abundant guilds are the frugivorous species – fruit-eaters – who are most abundant during the rainy season (May – November), which coincides with the peak of plant fruit production. Similarly, populations of omnivores, which eat both plants and meat, also diminished during the dry months (December – April) and rose again with the presence of rain. On the other hand, herbivores – plant-eaters – were active almost equally during the rainy and dry seasons. Finally, populations of carnivores – meat-eaters – peaked at the beginning of the rainy season, to coincide with the increase in their prey – the frugivores.

This abundance graph shows how the species that eat the same food types are dependent on factors such as rainfall for survival. In the case of herbivores that depend on fruiting trees for food, these species are limited to and dependent on the rainy season. Animals such as carnivores, which depend on herbivores as their food source, can thus also have their behavior influenced by the rainy season as a result. In this way we can see the behavior of these groups in a very general way.

Graph 2

Relative abundance of feeding guilds. RAI = Relative Abundance Index.

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Photographic capture of a group of collared peccaries.

Almost all of the species of medium and large sized mammals are normally distributed throughout the refuge, with the exception of the tapir and the red brocket deer. However, much still needs to be done to protect the habitat of wild cats, especially in places of high importance for conservation, such as Corcovado National Park and its surroundings. For this reason, we are eager to keep working and making this effort to assure a better future for these essential species, and especially for the jaguar – a cat whose conservation status in the peninsula is extremely delicate.

Image 5

Photographic capture of a Jaguar.


This conservation effort was made possible not only by researchers but also by dedicated volunteers, donors and our followers who spread the word. Please feel free to follow our “Monitoring program for wild cats and their prey” through our blog and web page and keep yourself informed about how can you help or contribute to the conservation of wildcats in the Osa Peninsula.

Image 6

Photographic capture of a Puma.

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