Aquatic Health, Community Outreach, Environmental Education

“Picnic in the River,” a nationwide celebration of rivers

Blogpost by Kristina Graves, Healthy Rivers Program Research Field Assistant and Masters Student at Imperial College London

Having just arrived at the start of the week, I was really excited to hear that Osa Conservation was hosting a “Picnic in the River” in celebration of Costa Rican rivers and their importance to people and wildlife. I thought it would be a great way to understand the context of rivers in the Osa and community and throw myself headfirst into learning some Spanish. 

“Picnic in the River” is an annual festival in which communities across Costa Rica celebrate rivers as part of the International Day of Action for Rivers. This year, we hosted the largest ever Osa Peninsula “Picnic en el River”, thanks to the 71 community members who come out to our Osa Verde BioStation (Piro) to celebrate rivers. 

The Osa Community celebrated Costa Rica’s rivers, along with 170 groups across Costa Rica, in honor of the International Day of River Action. Photo: Jo De Pauw

The day started off with a buzz in the air and a tangible excitement among the staff in anticipation of the day. It all kicked off when three buses arrived bringing children from local schools and their families to the station. 

After introductions, workshops were led by Hilary Brumberg (Healthy Rivers Program Coordinator), and Mariam Weyand (Sea Turtle Biologist), and Marlon Jiménez Castro (the local aqueduct administrator), to highlight the many uses people have for rivers and how rivers function as a connection between the land and the sea. Marco Hidalgo (Coordinator of Ecosystem Resilience and Community Outreach) explained how the iNaturalist application can be used to register the incredible wildlife found in the Osa. The children, who were initially shy, seemed really enthusiastic as they called out their ideas and got involved in the presentations. 

Participants learned about aquatic biodiversity and competed in a mini “BioBlitz” to find as much wildlife as they could. Photo: Osa Conservation

The children had two dances prepared for the day, and outfits to match! They came dressed as iconic forest creatures and plants and they looked fantastic. It was great to get involved with them at the end and share their enthusiasm for nature and the day in general. 

In the afternoon, families were split into two groups and led to either Piro River or the nearby Piro Beach, where Piro River meets the sea, to get an opportunity to experience first-hand the diversity and ecological importance of their country. The kids participated in a mini wildlife BioBlitz, each competing to find the most different types of wildlife to records on their iNaturalist “nametags.” Nature really showed off with some turtle hatchlings at the beach and lots of shrimp, fish and insect larva in the stream. There was also time for a quick dip in the stream afterwards to cool off!

To celebrate declaring Piro River “healthy” based on a high diversity of aquatic wildlife, the kids celebrated with a dip in the stream. Photo: Jo De Pauw

Overall, it felt great to be part of a “Picnic in the River” celebration on the same day as 170 groups across Costa Rica in honor of the International Day of River Action. I had a great first introduction to the community and streams in the Osa Peninsula and I am so excited to get stuck in to the projects and be a part of the work Osa Conservation are doing here.

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.

Uncategorized

Osa Conservation’s hidden treasures

Blotpost by Sophie Blow, General Volunteer

I came to Osa Conservation as a volunteer as part of my year abroad from university to improve my Spanish. I study French, Spanish and Portuguese at Warwick University in the UK and I couldn’t think of anywhere better to immerse myself in a different culture and way of life, while improving my Spanish at the same time, than the beautiful Osa Peninsula. During my spare time as a volunteer, I try to explore the site as much as I can, to discover what’s hidden in and around my new home.

Here are my four favourite spots around the Osa Conservation site to immerse myself in the breath-taking nature that surrounds me on a daily basis:

  • The rocks at sunset

Behind the plots of the finca lies the perfect hideaway for looking out over the ocean during sunset. Whether I fancy a dip in the rock pools, doing some yoga as the sun falls or having some quiet time to reenergise after a busy day, the rocks is the tranquil setting I head to. 

  • The beach at sunrise

A 4:30 wake-up call for morning patrol along Piro beach can be difficult for me to stomach, but once I see the vivid paint strokes of deep reds and burnt oranges illuminating the morning sky, I know I made the right decision not to snooze my alarm. 

  • Cerra Osa at sunset

Cerro Osa might seem like a bit of a trek to watch the sunset, but once I sit on the patio, you’ll understand the beauty of this remote location. There’s no better way to watch the sunset than sat on the rocking chairs, everyone in stunned silence by the amazing site that fills the sky. Overlooking a clearing filled with thousands of trees, it’s hard to find a better viewpoint to watch the blazing reds of an Osa Peninsula sunset. 

  • The bat roost on the Ajo trail

Osa Conservation site boasts many trails through the primary forest for you to explore. If you decide to delve deeper into your surroundings, put the bat roost on the Ajo at the top of your Osa bucket list. In one of the biggest and oldest trees on the trail, a small opening at the base of the tree opens up a whole new world for you to discover. Nestled away inside hides hundreds of frog eating bats that have made this ancient treasure their home. 


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