Miscellaneous / 08.08.2012

By Hansel Herrera Vargas Hansel Herrera Vargas, a Costa Rican biologist with a Bachelor's degree from Berry College, Georgia, USA, is Osa Conservation's new volunteer coordinator. The following is his first-hand account of his move to the Osa. Hansel  has been very busy this summer, as the 2012 Sea Turtle Volunteer Program is well under way. Apply today for this opportunity to experience the wonderful Osa Peninsula! [caption id="attachment_4049" align="alignleft" width="300" caption="Mamon Chino (Photo: Mario Melendez)"][/caption] I embarked on my first journey to the Osa Peninsula just before sunset on a rainy July afternoon. The road south brought glimpses of a magical landscape where the  jungle mixes with the sea. My lungs filled with dozens of new scents: the sweet smell of Mamon Chino (Nephelium lappaceum), the soft smell of Carambola (Averrhoa carambola), the stench of Nonis (Morinda citrifolia), the Mimbro fruit (Averrhoa bilimbí), guava (Inga edulis), cocoa (Theobroma cacao), and many others. The road to Puerto Jimenez brings one across many rivers and many histories. There are dozens of towns and cities dotting the road from Costa Rica's capital to the Osa, and the nine hour bus ride is filled with sightings of beautiful mountains and valleys, exotic birds, and ancient trees.
Miscellaneous / 24.07.2012

By Andrea Johnson [caption id="attachment_4002" align="alignleft" width="300" caption="A mango tree in the Osa"][/caption] Mango season arrived for Osa Conservation in June. The trees at Greg Gund Conservation Center have been dropping their luscious fruits for several weeks now in a display of bounty almost reckless to those of us from northern climes who grew up with scarce and pricey supermarket exemplars. Sometimes the mangoes drop unprompted, perhaps with a light push from the breeze. Often they fall half-eaten and accompanied by a telltale rustle of leaves as white-faced capuchins (Cebus capuchinus) take their pick of the crop, or flocks of red-lored parrots (Amazona autumnalis) and chestnut-mandibled toucans (Ramphastos swainsonii) descend for another feast. Best for those of us consigned to wait below, every new rainstorm (for the rainy season has arrived as well) also brings a rain of whole, perfect fruits.
Birds, Volunteers and Visitors / 03.07.2012

Spend this holiday season where the rainforest meets the sea, in the most spectacular and underbirded corner of Costa Rica. [caption id="attachment_3853" align="alignleft" width="204" caption="A Gartered Trogon sits perched atop a tree in the Osa Peninsula"][/caption] The Osa Peninsula harbors over 460 species of birds including the healthiest population of Scarlet Macaws in Central America, three species of leking Manakins, Yellow-billed and Turquoise Cotingas, King Vultures and the Osa endemic BCAT. Migrant birds that frequent the Osa Peninsula include the Golden-winged Warbler, Olive-sided Flycatcher, Prothonotary Warbler and the Baltimore Oriole. Home to the largest remaining tract of tropical lowland rainforest and intact mangrove ecosystems along the tropical Pacific coast of Central America, the Osa Peninsula is the wildest and most magnificent region of Costa Rica. To get an idea, check out our 2011 Christmas Bird Count summary.
Marine Conservation, Science and Research / 19.06.2012

[caption id="attachment_3816" align="alignleft" width="315" caption="A video still of a Pseudorca, or false killer whale, in Golfo Dulce"][/caption] Brooke Bessesen conducted Marine research at the Osa in 2010 and 2011 as a recipient of the Greg Gund Memorial Fellowship. Check out her Golfo Dulce report on our website. Jorge and I were always thrilled to see dolphins, as they are icons of the sea. Luckily, sightings were relatively common (only sea turtles were seen more frequently) and these graceful cetaceans graced our bow almost every day we were on the water....

Marine Conservation, Science and Research / 06.04.2012

[caption id="attachment_2471" align="alignleft" width="300" caption="Side by side, you can begin to see the characteristics that visibly differentiate the three sea turtle species we documented inside Golfo Dulce."][/caption] When we began our research, nobody expected us to find very many sea turtles inside Golfo Dulce — most sea turtle activity was thought to occur on the Pacific side of the Osa Peninsula. It turned out that chelonids were the most frequently seen family of animals, accounting for 38 percent of our total sightings. Discovering such significant numbers of sea turtles was one of our most important findings. Sadly, fishermen with many years of experience in Golfo Dulce say the sea turtles there have declined at least 30 percent in recent years. Jorge and I documented three species: Pacific Black sea turtles, still commonly referred to as “Greens” (Chelonia mydas agassizii), Olive Ridley sea turtles (Lepidochelys olivacea) and Hawksbill sea turtles (Eretmochelys imbricata). Locals also reported seeing near-extinct Pacific Leatherback sea turtles (Dermochelys coriacea) inside Golfo Dulce. That’s four endangered species of sea turtles utilizing the embayment. Amazing! Our biseasonal data show Golfo Dulce to be a year-round feeding and breeding area for endangered Green sea turtles. We logged over a hundred sightings of them between both surveys. This species, by far the most common, was usually observed in the upper regions of the gulf resting at the sea surface. But we also documented Green sea turtles mating in all four quadrants of the inlet, so their use of the fiord waters appears widespread.
Marine Conservation, Science and Research / 23.03.2012

[caption id="attachment_2461" align="alignleft" width="300" caption="Dolphin B43 shown alongside a rendered outline of its dorsal fin. We saw this individual five times."][/caption] An unexpected but delightful result of our survey work in Golfo Dulce was the identification of about 80 individual Bottlenose dolphins (Turciops truncatus), some of which can be seen in the Appendix of my 2010 report. How does one go about identifying dolphins? Well, pioneering biologists studying various species discovered ingenious ways to distinguish individuals. Jaguars have unique spots. Gorillas have unique nose prints. Dolphins have unique dorsal fins. By examining the shape, natural markings, scars and trailing edge, a dorsal may appear as distinct as a fingerprint. Of course dolphins don’t sit quietly at the surface while you study the intricacies of their dorsal patterns, so ID work is best done through photos. Luckily, we managed to get photographs for almost 90 percent of our dolphin sightings.