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.

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