Fieldtrip 1: Boat Billed Heron & Friends

Before I get to the events of the fieldtrip I would like to talk about the few days immediately before it.  That Saturday we went to Extremo, which is a ziplining park in Costa Rica.  There were 11 lines the longest of which was almost a kilometer long.  Thankfully that one we did not have to break ourselves on and we got to do it superman style.  It was so awesome and a great view of the canopy.  But when you approach the end you stop in all of about 3 seconds, which is really kind of terrifying with a giant tree at the end (you stop about five feet in advance).  But I stopped in time so it was ok.  Then about half of the group went and did the Tarzan swing, which is apparently what Costa Ricans like to more or less call bunjee jumping.

You walk out to the edge of this bridge that when other people jump with the so called swing moves the bridge up and down really dramatically.  So you walk a good seventy meters or so onto this jumpy bridge to watch the other person fall.  Then you get to the edge,  they attach the equipment, and you are staring at a straight free fall- then their only comment is lean forward and suddenly the gate is gone.   And then you fall and fall and then you fall some more.  It was awesome, but I do not think my adrenaline has pumped that hard through my veins in a very very long time.

White Nosed Coati

At the beginning of the fieldtrip we drove to Canas.  From that location we were able to visit the ArCoSa system, which is a system of three lakes dammed for both hydropower and for irrigation.  We also visited thermal, geothermal, and wind energy plants.  From there we also visited Rincon de Vieja, which is a Costa Rican National Park.  There were some great mudpots and other geothermal activity and it was a beautiful view.  Saw another White Nosed Coati while we were there, which was awesome.  Then we hiked to a waterfall, which was beautiful and a refreshing swim.  It was warmer than the one we have gone to just reccently from Monteverde, but not warm the way some of the beaches are (literally bathtub water near shore sometimes).

We were in the Canas for Independence Day, which was a lot of fun.  We got to watch a the parade, which had students from all around competing the way groups do in the states.  There were dance troops and lots of different bands- similar to high school bands.  Everyone came out to watch.

Specald Macaws near the hotel where we ate lunch. They are wild, but they are also fed to encourage them to stick around.

After that we stopped at a location with Specald Macaws flying around.  The birds are absolutely beautiful and after several years of volunteering at a bird sanctuary it was great to see a wild and free population.  They were heavily fed to make the hotel a tourist attraction, but it was close enough.  And they were literally five feet away, so I was able to get some unbelievable pictures.  I went a little click happy, so thank goodness for digital cameras (click happy = about 50 pictures).

Then we went to Isle de Chira, which is a fairly poor island community that relies on extractive resources.  We got to meet with local clammers and local fishers and find out how they were trying to convert the currently unsustainable use of the resource to a more sustainable

Me with the massive amounts of White Ibis in the background.

practice. Both of htese programs received funding from the UNDP.  As someone who has done Model United Nations for the last two years it is interesting to actually see the projects on the groun in their various successes and failures.  The fishermen were able to get some governmental support, but the clammers were not and their respective success and failures seemed hinged mostly on that fact (though there were many other factors including scientific research etc.).

When we visited the fishermen we got to see a lot of shorebirds including herons and an entire island (that goes away mostly with high tide) of White Ibis. When we stopped at the island we talked to a local fishermen fishing inside the refuge with the allowed single hook and like (no advanced methods to protect the breeding area).  He was explaining how to fish and Karen, our teacher, decided he should clearly explain to me.  He was speaking Spanish and yeah….no bueno.

We also went clamming, which was an experience in and of itself.  You have to climb through the mangroves, which is ridiculously hard.  The roots stick up way out of the mud, so you have to climb over them.  The local clamming association is all women who even clam when they are nine months pregnant though I have no idea how.  It really makes you appreciate the work of harvesting such an elusive resource.  The mud reminded me of a fieldtrip in gradeschool when we went to Padilla Bay in the NW of Washington- only you sank at least three times more!  We put on little cloth booties over our sandals, but I sunk in all the way to my hip so my shorts were as muddy as my feet were clean (from the cloth)!  Our clothes were absolutely rank after that part of the fieldtrip, so thankfully they let us wash one full set of clothes only two or so days after that.  (That’s the only laundry service we got for the full two weeks.  Having clean clothes when we got back was amazing!)

The Boat Billed Heron! As soon as I saw this in the bird book it was a goal to see one before I left Costa Rica! Accomplished.

We also went on this terrific boat tour where we saw monkeys, a turtle, lots and lots of birds, crocodiles, and lizards.  It was so cool.  We went on another boat tour again later, but this one was longer and without breakfast.  We saw crocodiles much closer and again a lot of different birds including most of the native species of herons.  We saw the little blue heron (which explains the Great Blue Heron which we also saw), Tricolored Heron, Tiger Breasted Heron, Yellow Night Crested Heron, and we saw the Boat Billed Heron!  The boat billed heron is one of the harder ones to find, because it hides inside the mangroves instead of stalking its prey on the shoreline.

The last place we stayed was in a resort like hotel that was absolutely beautiful and had great food!  We got to gout and play in the ocean, which was cold but not freezing.  The black sand beach looked absolutely beautiful regardless of the development along it.  And there was a huge flock of macaws nearby that I spent almost a half hour just watching as they flew around called to each other.  Despite having beach access it also had a pool, but the highligh and the reason we stayed was the tortugas or turtles.  We got to visit a beach where a volunteer group protects the turtles by moving the clutches into a protected area, counting them, and then releasing them into the water after they hatch.  We didn’t get to see a turtle in action laying the eggs, however we did get to see baby turtles that had hatched- and we got to hold them.  I was able to hold the baby turtle for ten minutes at least and originally it was still, but then it started waking up.  It was so adorable!

Wildlife was definitely a success on this trip.  😀