Birds, Bugs, and Binoculars
Written by Max Beal, Northland College
After catching a ride in a cattle truck from Rincon, we unloaded our things and settled into our new home at Osa Conservation’s Lomas del Sierpe station. The station sits just off the road high up on a hill surrounded by dense jungle. We spent the rest of the day furnishing our concrete platform with hammocks and bins, and enjoying the running water, electricity, and refrigeration. Instead of tents, we were able to fit ourselves into a couple of screened-in sleeping platforms.
We all slept in the next morning and went on a day hike to familiarize ourselves with the trail system we would be using for our next project: looking for five birds of concern. For the next week, we were up at 5:30 AM to start bird surveys, which consisted of playing the calls of five rare birds (Yellow-billed Cuckoo, Baird’s Trogon, Black-cheeked Ant-tanager, Wood Thrush and Kentucky Warbler) at ten points throughout the morning and waiting to see the presence and abundance of birds at the site.
Lomas del Sierpe is located at the northern end of Gulfo Dulce and acts as a biological corridor for wildlife moving to and from the Osa Peninsula, giving us the opportunity to see an incredible amount of species. In addition to finding four of our birds of concern, we saw a pair of Collared Peccary, a pair of Tayra, a Tamandua, a Spectacled Owl, a Lesson’s Motmot, a group of bats with suction cups for hands, and groups of Red-capped Manakin lekking (moonwalking on tree branches to attract a mate).
In addition to all of the wildlife we saw, an incredible amount of insects swarmed the lights on the platform each night including a few of the largest moths I’ve ever seen and a grasshopper we named “The Cow of the Sky.” To top off the first few days, Tony, one of Osa Conservation’s land managers, grilled us a fish he caught on the beach as a welcome gift.
After a few days of bird surveys, we took a day to do an otter survey on a small tributary of the Esquinas River that runs through the trail system. Besides some difficulty with knee-deep mud at the mouth of the stream we made good time and finished early. To celebrate, we swam in the chain of waterfalls near the headwaters of the stream which, besides the occasional fish bite, was a relaxing way to spend the afternoon.
With a couple more days of bird surveys under our belts we set off one morning to replace camera traps set on the property line. After a few steep hills, some river walking, and a sighting of a Fer De Lance we successfully retrieved our camera traps and over 4,000 photos of animals on the property line! On our way back we stopped to swim in a second chain of waterfalls and some of us finally found a use for all of that red clay soil from the jungle.
Our last day at Lomas del Sierpe was devoted to taking a natural history quiz, with a break for a photoshoot on a well-placed vine along the way. Now we’re back in Puerto Jiménez enjoying good food, soft beds, and clean laundry while we attend meetings and introduce ourselves to the landowners with whom we’ll be working next, as we conduct rapid biological assessments for FONAFIFO. But tomorrow we’re back on the colectivo headed to Osa Conservation’s Piro station for our next adventure: midterms!
(Round River’s program in Costa Rica is made possible by our partnership with Osa Conservation.)