Thursday, January 10, 2013

Day 12: Adios from Costa Rica!

Hello for one last post! It's Marci again, and I'm a junior Biology major from Chateaugay, NY. After 12 amazing days in Costa Rica our group is safely back in the United States. Our flight didn't leave Costa Rica until 3:30 pm, which meant we got to sleep in and have one last typical Costa Rican breakfast at our hotel. At breakfast we sang happy birthday to Amanda because it was her 21st birthday!! Then we set out to explore San Jose for a few hours before departing for the airport. We all picked up some souvenirs for friends, family, and ourselves. These mostly consisted of multiple bags of coffee per person, chocolate covered coffee beans, and bottles of green sauce (my parents were especially excited to try the green sauce after reading all about it in our blog!). My group (the girls and Professor Hope) also stopped for some delicious ice cream, while the boys and Professor Lewins had their own adventures at KFC. After somehow fitting all our purchases in our luggage, we loaded up our favorite van for one last time and were off to the airport. Our traveling went very smoothly, and there were some pretty funny moments to keep us laughing on the long plane rides (especially one involving Jared, the flight attendant, and #classicbill). We also celebrated Eric's 21st birthday by singing to him at midnight on the plane as we arrived in Boston! We all went our separate ways once arriving in Boston, but will see each other again soon when we head back to Saint Mike's to begin the Spring semester!

I'll leave you with a few group photos courtesy of Professor Hope, which I think sum up our trip very nicely. One of my favorite parts of the trip was getting to explore Costa Rica, aka one of the coolest places on the planet, with such cool people. It made every adventure we had that much more enjoyable! As you can tell from our previous posts, we all had a great time in Costa Rica. Our group shared so many experiences, leaning opportunities, and laughs while taking this class. I know I will look back at these 12 days and remember all the amazing things I saw and learned about, and especially how much fun this trip was! 

From our first lunch on the road to Monteverde

Boat ride on the Sarapiqui River

Our entire group by the Sarapiqui River! (minus Johnny)

Thanks for reading our blog!! Pura vida!


Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Day 11: Last Day in Paradise

Hola! My name is Kelsey and I am a junior at Saint Mike's currently living the dream in Costa Rica. Today was an early morning for all as the howler monkeys decided to make another guest appearance outside of our windows. The good news was that they literally acted as an alarm clock for Brianne, Emily and I as I forgot to set a real one (my bad). As the sun rose we all finished up our experiments mentioned by Jared in yesterday's post.

Brianne, Mary (aka Johnny), Amanda and I finished up on some bird observations and it seems we're followed by the monkeys that were playing close by in the tree tops behind us. But even with our loud friend we managed to get some great pics of an Aracari toucan and some gorgeous little tanagers.

photo cred: Mary

The other half of the girls finished up with their Antlions taking measurements under the raised rooms we were staying in while the "man team" finished up with their bird observations. Not only did they look at fruit preferences of birds but they also tried to avoid the local squirrel population which apparently also loves bananas. 

After all of our hard work we decided to reward ourselves with a quick dip in the pool. The Costa Rican sun claimed a few more victims as we are all slightly more pink than golden. But despite a few burns on our noses the pool time was paradise. Nick showed off his feminine side "buning" a few of the girls hair while Alex (our guide from the reserve) serenaded us with his favorite John Lennon song, Imagine. It was the perfect way to end our stay in Selva verde. 

After stuffing our faces and packing our bags we made our way to our favorite form of Costa Rican transportation- the oversized van. Once we were on the road the van, like many of our other car rides, was terrifying to say the least. We wove in and out of traffic and at one point I woke up from a nap thinking the whole vehicle was on fire. But silly me, it was only struggling to make its way up one of the many hilly roads. 

By far the most exciting part of the car ride was when traffic hit a stop to let a sloth cross the road. The little guy was slowly making his way as a local man used s broom to help sweep him along his way. When he realized that wasn't working in a time efficient manner he grabbed the sloth by a hunk of his fur on his back and flung him off the road. 

here we have an action shot by Jared

Once back in San Jose we all gave our independent project reports and learned a lot about the feeding patterns of birds in Selva verde and many of us learned what actually an Antlion is. 

Though many of us already miss the rainforest, we can all say for certain we had the best last dinner together at a local restaurant down the road from our hotel. The food was good and the conversation was great. There was even a cute cat in the kitchen we got to spot from a distance. We will all miss the #classicbill moments when we are home, but for now onto our last day as we make our way back to Boston!

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Day Ten: BOOM! Chachalaca

Hola! My name is Jared Peick and I am a a senior biology major from Concord, New Hampshire. Just when I thought that I was out of ideas for a new alarm clock ringtone, nature delivered me a new option for the future. Two words: Howler Monkey. If you have never heard the howl of a howler monkey, I suggest you look it up and turn up your speakers really high. That will give you a good idea of what we all woke up to this morning at 5:45.
Nick's Breakfast

Today's plan was to put our second tropical ecology research studies into action. The howler monkeys must have known that "Team Domination,"otherwise known as "The Man Team," needed to get up extra early to start their study. While chowing down on beans and eggs with plenty of coffee, we observed the food preference of tropical birds such as toucans. The menu we set out in front of them consisted of bananas, papayas and even fruit loops. Unfortunately Toucan Sam was a no-show and gives me reason to believe that he is only a Kellogg's myth.
Nick setting up the fruit 

Team "Mary, Brianne, Kelsey and Amanda" is working on determining the species richness of birds in the area and their visit time to a feeder. This was done by setting bananas out on a perching/feeding area and observing what types of birds show up and for how long in a number of set time periods.

The girls observing birds
"Ant Lions Inc." made up of Steph, Kate, Marci and Emily are looking to see if there is any correlation between the size of antlions and their holes and what kind of distances they are apart from each other. These holes are constructed for the soul purpose of trapping ants for food.

Marci digging up an antlion
We all took a swim break in the resort pool to escape the Costa Rican heat even though it wasn't even noon yet. We also got to witness a fairly large tree do it's best impression of a a Jenga tower when it fell loudly to the ground. Fortunately, both our group and the pool escaped the tree's wrath.

A bunch of us were lucky enough to see the howler monkeys from the morning up close and personal above the bridge over the river. We quickly found that the most important language in the country isn't Spanish, but rather monkey howling. We all are a little rusty in our translation but we hope to improve on it in the future. In all seriousness though, it was really surreal to be so close to the monkeys, see their facial expressions, and look directly into their eyes. Prof. Hope was able to snap some really great pictures of the monkeys that probably could be sold to some nature magazine.

Howler Monkey (courtesy of Nick)
We all enjoyed a lunch around noon and then got back to work on our research projects. It's a great opportunity to observe the kind of wildlife and vegetation in the area knowing that not everyone will have this same chance.

We also practiced our trigonometry skills when Prof. Lewins posed the problem of determining the height of a termite nest on a tree that we could not get close enough to measure. This is all in consideration of projects that could be done on future trips. Thanks to our resident math minor,Brianne, and our naturally gifted classmate, Eric, we were able to determine a plausible method using a protractor, laser pointer and a little math. We also found out that Prof. Lewins regularly confuses his eyes with his nose #classicbill #musthaveskippedanatomyclass.

We finished up the day with two organism presentations before dinner (Marci-blue morpho butterfly; Patrick-red-eyed tree frog) and two after dinner (Amanda- White-Faced Capuchin Monkey; Steph-Three-Toed Sloth). We had Italian food and fish for dinner. I would say that we all thoroughly enjoyed one of our last big group dinners together.

Prof. Lewins enjoying dessert and Prof. Hope
My dad told me to come back to the states with either a Costa Rican girl or a job. Unfortunately,I found neither. I do have a sunburn, though I don't think that will be something to brag about. Thanks to those of you who managed to read this lengthy entry. If it were done by Peter Jackson, it probably would have been split into three different entries.

We look forward to a shorter bus ride back to San Jose tomorrow and will be on our way home shortly.



Monday, January 7, 2013

Day 9: Wait, where's Johnny?!

Hi everyone! My name is Mary and I'm a junior biology major from Plattsburgh, New York. Costa Rica has been awesome so far, and I can't wait to tell you about what we've been up to!

Today we woke up bright and early and went for our first bird walk. We walked through the botanical garden across the street. Alex, our guide showed us all around the garden and pointed out some really cool birds! 

After out walk we had breakfast and headed to our boat tour on the Sarapaqui river. This area of Costa Rica has a great deal of species diversity and richness. Our guide informed us that there are 480 species of birds alone! We got to see a lot of wildlife including a few iguanas, caimans, herons, and green mccaws. After about 2 hours on the water, we returned back to the lodge and prepared for our next adventure.

The Sarapaqui river (photo credit Nick Kyratzis)

Green iguana

   After lunch we went on a self guided hike on the lodge property. We hiked for a while, and eventually ended up on a bank of the Sarapaqui river. It was a really beautiful spot, and we were able to get some great pictures. Exploring around the bank was the "best part" of Professor Lewins' day, as he found a Mole Cricket. It was the first one he'd ever seen alive. #classicbill. 

Professor Hope taking pictures!

Today was particularly awesome for me because it was the first day of activities I was able to take part in since New years eve. I had an emergency appendectomy, and was in the hospital from New Year's Eve until January fourth. Not quite what I had in mind for New Years plans! It has been so awesome rejoining the group.I'm especially fond of the "hey at least I have an appendix" comebacks whenever I joke around with someone. I'm so glad I was able to stay with the group and spend some more time in this beautiful country!

Pura Vida!

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Day Eight: Lions and Tigers and Snakes, Oh My!

Chestnut Mandible Toucan

Hi everyone! My name is Amanda and I am a junior at St. Mike's from Warwick, Rhode Island. Today was our first full day in Selva Verde and we saw so much!

Our day started at the glorious hour of 7am where we had breakfast with toucans! The lodge set up a small platform for the birds and left bananas for them to eat. We all got great pictures of the Chestnut mandible toucan and the Keel-bill toucan.

Keel billed toucan

Breakfast was waiting for us inside the restaurant. (Nothing like rice and beans, scrambled eggs, toast, and a cup of Costa Rican coffee.)

We met our guide Alexander right after breakfast. Little did we know, there was wildlife waiting for us  right outside the restaurant. Alexander found a blue jean frog (aka strawberry poison dart frog). We also saw the black and green poison dart frog.

Black and Green Poison Dart Frog

Blue Jean Frog

After another quick sloth sighting (which basically looked like a giant fuzz ball in a tree) we crossed the bridge over the Seraquipi river into the rain forest.This was no Monteverde cloud forest folks. Selva Verde is a true rainforest: hot and humid, lots of palm trees, few epiphytes (plants that grow on trees or other plants), and not so many vines. It was a huge change from the overcast 65 degree windy weather we had at Monteverde. But of course, the hot sun and humidity did not stop us from having a great hike. We saw lots of cool birds, an ocelot paw print, more frogs, and took a group photo in a 300 year old zora tree.

After crossing over the bridge again and exploring the botanical garden, we came back in our mud-covered boots for lunch.I discovered that cold blackberry juice is the perfect treat after hiking for four hours in the rain forest!

Then after the lunch, the boys stuck by the restaurant to do some bird watching.The girls went poolside to cool off, read, and tan. After a while the boys decided to cool off and play cards by the pool. We had a brief poolside encounter with some iguanas and basilisks (which are much smaller than J.K. Rowling described).
A Basilisk

After the pool I took out my field notebook and worked on plant and animal identifications. For this class we have to take pictures and identify some important plant families and animal species. We also have to give an oral report on our favorite organism. Just before dinner Kate gave her presentation on the Resplendant Quetzal, (which we saw here in Monteverde) and Jared gave his report on the basilisk (which we all saw during our hike that morning).

A few people got a surprise before dinner when they saw this guy by the path!!!!

It's a fer de lance, one of the most poisonous snakes in the world! I'm literally terrified to walk anywhere without scanning my surroundings now!
Dinner was full of chatter, laughing, and sending e-mails to home (we have limited wifi here). After a while we decided to go outside to see if we could find any animals. I found this red-eyed tree frog by a small pond!

The red eyed tree frog is Patrick's chosen organism, so he will have to give his report soon. My organism is the white- faced capuchin monkey. We haven't seen them yet but maybe we will get to tomorrow on our boat ride down the river or during one of our early morning bird walks. I hope we get to see one before our trip ends...the are only a few more days left!

Hasta luego!

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Day Seven: It's like Disney World, on a bus!

Hi! I'm Kate and I'm a junior from Marshfield, MA. Contrary to popular belief I am not still in San Jose at the clinic where Nick apparently thinks I have been all week. Also, I'm sorry the post is a little late in the day!

Yesterday we all woke up for to a lovely 6:00 AM hike through Monteverde in search of some birds. We saw quite a few orange-beaked birds and were missing Prof. Hope's identification expertise. We also saw some more easily identifiable birds such as the black guan and the common bush tanager.

After our intense morning of bird seeking we headed back to La Casana for an awesome breakfast prepared by our very own Inez. Breakfast was great and included some typical rice and beans, scrambled eggs, and toast with two different offerings of jam. Many of us piled on "the green sauce" (a common Costa Rican seasoning) as though we would never see it again. Here's a picture of Nick's ambitious breakfast:

After Breakfast we packed up and were picked up 10 minutes early by our van driver. Our first stop on the way to Selva Verde was the illustrious Mega Super grocery store to pick up snacks for our 5 1/2 hour ride. This detour is basically summed up by this quote: "It's not just mega, it's not just super, it's MEGA SUPER"-Bill

The ride was absolutely beautiful! We drove through rolling hills of coffee plants and two of our favorite sights on the ride were the reservoir near Arenal and Arenal volcano itself. We also came across some adorable coatis. Our bus driver pulled over and even reversed so that we could get pictures of them.  We also played "the wave game" for over an hour of the ride and gave some of the locals a laugh! Here are some photos!
The reservoir



On another note, we did our project presentations after dinner last night...
And the results are in...

The Bromeliad Group: There's more water in the bromeliads in the Elfin forest at the Continental Divide in Monteverde than there is in the primary forest which is at a lower elevation in Monteverde.

The Morphospecies Moss Group: There was no significant correlation found in the amount of epiphytic moss on the Pacific versus Caribbean sides of trees at the continental divide in Monteverde.

The Hummingbird Group: Angry Birds: The violet sabrewing was by far the most aggressive hummingbird at the Hummingbird Gallery at Monteverde and many of the other species of hummingbirds show aggressive behavior.

The winner is... All of us for doing awesome projects! We all get A's!

And last but not least, we have a gem of a photo taken while we were eating lunch by our very own Nick Kyratzis

                                                          #classicbill #maybewewon'tgetA's

Lots of love from Costa Rica!

Friday, January 4, 2013

Day Six: Day Six

Hi everyone! Tonight I, Emily Dieter from St. Charles, Illinois, will be filling you in about our day. Short story: Every day around lunch time, Professor Bill Lewis asks us who wants to write the blog for the day. Today I volunteered because no one else was, and I felt bad for him. Spoiler alert: OUR DAY WAS AWESOME.

After a restful night spent listening to some fuzzy friends scuttling around on the roof, we woke up for breakfast at 7:30. The girls (myself included) had a rude awakening when we found that our new friends from Wisconsin woke up earlier than us, and had taken over the bathroom. Luckily, we practiced our coexisting skills, and I'm happy to say we are now all getting along. For breakfast, we had a buffet, which was nice because we had gone an entire day without rice and beans. Even though Inez did not serve us, Nick managed to make it look just as good (Notice how all his food is bathed in green sauce... we're not really sure what it is but we love it.)

Last night, Team Awesome decided to hike the monkey trail in the hopes of seeing some monkeys on our way to the site where we were measuring bromeliads. Although we did not see any monkeys, we saw a waterfall, the boys on their hike, a pack of coatis, and the butt of an agouti (witnessed by Kelsey). At the top of the continental divide, we measured our bromeliads. We missed the sun that had been shining so brightly for the past few days, but the wind and the clouds helped us to work extremely efficiently.

The Man Team hiked around all morning since they had collected all their data yesterday afternoon, and saw a black lizard. When they returned to the lodge, they worked on analyzing the data they had collected.

Team Hummingbird hung out at the hummingbird house and collected data for their project.

Today we also had a number of celebrity sightings. At lunch, we (especially Steph) were super excited when a man walked in holding a baby sloth. Turns out, he had found it abandoned on the side of the road (Apparently baby sloths fall out of the trees, but the mothers do not go down to pick them up) and was raising it in his house. Little did we know that this man was the son of the Wildford Guidon, the man who started the reserve we are staying. And today he was visiting the reserve with his wife. Celebrity sighting #1.

Then, a few of us girls went down to the research station at Monteverde to see the track collection, the insect collection, and some footage from the cameras in the parks (we saw pumas walking on the same paths we've been going on, right across from our lodge...) There we had celebrity sighting #2: J. Allen Pounds, a resident scientist who has been published numerous times for his research on the disappearance of frogs in the forest. We had been tipped off by the boys, because in a #classicbill moment,  they asked him who he was and what he studied, and he was a bit surprised when they didn't recognize his name... whoops. But for anyone that was wondering, he has two gorgeous dogs that hang out with the lab, one is a husky mix and the other was the fluffiest golden retriever mix I have ever seen. (Can you tell that petting the dogs was one of my highlights?)

After lunch, we contemplated going into town, but the group collectively decided to stay on the reserve and explore some more. Although we started together, we quickly split into smaller groups in the hopes of seeing more mammals, but in a stroke of fate, we all came together on a path where MONKEYS WERE PLAYING ON THE TREES RIGHT ABOVE US. We have determined they were Panama spider monkeys, the same type the boys saw battling yesterday. We snapped some great pics of the monkeys swinging, a mother helping its child get from tree to tree, and them just playing around.  Then, on our way back to the lodge, we spotted a quetzal just hanging out. Notice the long blue tail, which tells us that he is a male.

For dinner, we journeyed to Tiramonti, and had our last supper. The pizza made a surprise reappearance, and we had some delicious ice cream cake for dessert. Afterwards, we continued to work on our independent projects and crashed. Tomorrow (which is now today) we journey to Selva Verde as our adventures continue (Insert corny sentimental statement here about how awesome our trip is and I can't wait for whatever comes in the days ahead.)

Don't worry mom, we are all safe and happy! Talk to you soon!