Uncategorized, Volunteers and Visitors

Cornell to Costa Rica

A blog by: Cody Stockert

Taking the opportunity to study for a block in Costa Rica is the best decision I have made in my four years at Cornell College.

This beach is located on the Osa peninsula of Costa Rica. My classmates and I accessed it using Osa conservation’s trails.


Why did I go to Costa Rica for class?

Cornell College is unique because we have a block plan schedule, which means we take one course at a time. Right now I am taking Biology 485 which at Cornell is the biology’s department’s senior research block. We do not have to leave the United States to fulfill this requirement, but I paid for the course by dedicating a portion of the income from my summer job. I think you would be a fool to stay on campus when you can have other choices. So while I am enjoying almost a full month in Costa Rica, I am not missing any class, just softball workouts.

My research project is looking at the relationship between the number of fungi and the state of decay of fallen tropical trees. You might think looking at dead trees on the forest floor would be really boring, but it has allowed us to go to the edge of the forest and see many things that we wouldn’t by just hiking a trail. For instance, today as Laurel and I were approaching a tree fall, Kaci gasped and when we looked up we saw a wild cat looking back at us! It was pretty incredible. We stood on the trail astonished it didn’t run away from us, but a couple minutes later saw a little spotted kitten trembling on the log.


The “wild cat” is known as an Ocelot. Seeing one in the wild is rare; their populations have been depleted because of human demand for their spotted coats. Ocelots are nocturnal, so we probably only saw it during the day because it had a kitten.


Sea Turtles

My personal favorite thing we have done on this trip is release baby sea turtles. Osa conservation has committed to restoring sea turtle populations by digging up their nests and moving them to their hatchery. The hatchery protects the sea turtle’s eggs from predation and habitat destruction. When hatched, the hatchlings are relocated to the beach and allowed to walk to the ocean. The female sea turtles, will return to their home beach in about 15-20 years to lay their nests. The largest nest we found was 54 cm deep and 31 cm across, with 111 eggs in it. I was amazed by the size of the nests created by animals that are typically half a meter in size!

Snake Encounter

On our first day in the field we were collecting tree fall data. I was climbing across a down tree with the measuring tape to get the height. The log was very decayed so as I was walking to the far end away from my class, the log collapsed and my foot went straight through the log. At the same time a brown coiled snake popped its head out of the log. I honestly don’t think I’ve ever moved faster. I jumped off the log cursing, heart beating, and shouting “SNAKE!” Professor McCollum then went to check it out, and informed me the snake was a fer de lance, also known as a tericopelo in Costa Rica. Fer de lance’s are a species of viper and also the most venomous snakes in Costa Rica. Once bitten, their venom solidifies your blood. Fortunately, I saw it before it saw me.

Small things Matter too!

Studying fungi has given me the chance to see how unique the rain forest is and to take a close look at some of the forest’s smaller organisms.

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For Osa it is a big pleasure to hear back from all the experiences our visitors have! A big thank you to Cody for sharing his own.



The Great Hummingbird War of outside our cabin

Written by Jeremy Novak (Cornell University Student)

In all honesty The Great Hummingbird War is a tad misleading for three very important reasons: 1) it is really more of a series of fights; 2) it wasn’t that great, more or less as entertaining as the morning news; and 3) the most recent fight had nothing to do with a hummingbird, but rather a moth. The Great Hummingbird War does have one big thing going for it, it sounds a lot more exciting than The Just as Entertaining as the Morning News Series of Fights That Were Only Partially Fought Between Hummingbirds of outside our cabin. It also rolls of the tongue just a little bit better.


The best place to start when talking about any war is the beginning: Many moons ago, long before I arrived at the Osa peninsula, someone planted two clumps of Rabo de Zorros (Stachytarpheta cayennensis) outside the cabin we are staying in. The only way to describe this battlefield is… lovely, as the two plants are wonderful and provide a nice purple contrast to the landscape. They also serve as a food source for the local hummingbirds, and here is where the conflict begins because hummingbirds are by nature are territorial. And Hummingbirds that feed off of these two plants are very territorial, thus every morning when we woke up for breakfast we would witness a spectacle that can only be described, with complete honesty, as an overly aggressive dance with juice breaks. When one hummingbird spotted another hummingbird in its territory it would fly aggressively towards this new rival. Then the rival would zip away to find a new spot just out of view of the first hummingbird and enjoy the nectar from the flowers. But our fierce battle is not over as this “juice break” is often short lived, when the hummingbirds encounter each other again they repeat this dance darting around the plant flying quickly and gracefully between flowers and stems in their rivalry over this one plant. But we must not forget the second Rabo de Zorro across the path from the first, for it is host to the same type combat each morning, featuring smaller but no less persistent and territorial hummingbirds. All wars must at some point come to an end, and the larger hummingbirds do so in a spectacular fashion. When their dance comes to an end both rivals fly straight up above the roof of our cabin where the sunlight makes this spectacle almost impossible to see, what happens up there I can only imagine, because when they are done, both hummingbirds return to the Rabo de Zorro then one of them leaves.

Now if this were a children’s story and not an overly dramatic rendition of one person’s morning observations, we’d have to end the story with “…one of them leaves never to be seen again” but it’s not because I’m pretty sure that the same hummingbird comes back to try again the next day.

As far as the issue of the moth is concerned one would think being able to tell the difference a hummingbird and a moth would be easy, but it is surprisingly hard when they are about the same size and both hovering about looking for nectar.  Our first morning here my professor, Andy, and I were watching the hummingbirds darting around the flowers when I saw a hummingbird smaller than size of your thumb, and pointed it out to Andy. He saw only a glimpse of it and told me that it was too small to be a hummingbird and that it must have been a moth, thus a week long argument began. Each morning that first week we would stand out by the Rabo de Zorro watching for the bird/moth to return. Latter during this week Manuel returned to the station and we got him to weigh in on our argument. He confirmed that some very tiny hummingbirds do visit the Osa on their migrations. A quick internet search reveals the same thing but where’s the fun in that? With new resolution that we could have seen a hummingbird that small, we continued our search. That is until the fateful day, when Andy managed to get a blurry, but convincing photo (below) of our little hummingbird, or should I say moth. Andy had been correct that the hummingbird we had seen the first day on the Osa peninsula was a moth.


Thus ends The Great Hummingbird War of outside our cabin, while the daily conflict of the local hummingbirds is not going to end anytime soon, we can rest easy knowing that the biggest conflict in this long great war has been put to rest.

Thank you Jeremy for sharing your experience !



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