Buckeye Herps Blog

A photographic journal of the reptiles and amphibians of Ohio, Michigan and other places interesting wildlife call home.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Pura Vida: 2, La Selva Biological Station

I was a little bit nervous as it was my first time flying solo, but everything went smoothly. My first flight left Cleveland Hopkins airport at 5:30 AM on June 13. After a brief layover in Atlanta, I eventually arrived in San Jose, Costa Rica at 1:00 PM (the Central American time zone is two hours behind Eastern Time in the USA). After a lengthy wait in customs ("aduenas"), I met up with the REU program coordinator, Jenny Stynoski, and another REU, Ramiro Mata, who would become one of my good buddies for the summer. He is a Mexican-American from southern Texas, who attends Brown University. She took us to a hotel in SE San Jose, El Sesteo, where we spent the night before heading on to La Selva. The place was very nice, and I had a blast meeting some of the others in my group. Ramiro, Seth Thompson, and I quickly became fast friends, enjoying Imperials, “La Cerveza de Costa Rica,” and talking soccer.

A view of the mountains south of San Jose from our hotel.

The following day, we made a pit stop at the OTS Headquarters to grab some gear. Seth and I volunteered to carry a heavy chest down to the cars. Instead of going down stairs, we obviously decided to take the elevator – no brainer, right? Well, the elevator got stuck, and we were locked inside it for an hour in complete darkness. Pretty funny looking back, but at the time I was sweating some serious bullets.

Organization for Tropical Studies HQ

We made the 1.5 hour drive from San Jose to Puerto Viejo de Sarapiqui, the town located near LSBS. Here, we stopped at El Colono, the hardware shop, to purchase rubber boots for those who needed them. After this quick stop, we FINALLY made it to the station.

La Selva Biological Station is an amazing place. It has over 1000 hectares of old growth forest, an extensive set of trails, and a nifty grid system that makes it very difficult to become lost. More can be read about it here. Suffice to say, I was eager to explore my new home.

First, I took my gear to my room in the River Station. The River Station is the original building constructed by Lisa Holdridge when she founded La Selva. It is situated high between the Rio Puerto Viejo and a smaller tributary, surrounded by primary forest. Throughout the summer, I saw many frogs, lizards, snakes, mammals (howler monkeys, kinkajous, armadillo, possums, rodents, jaguarundi), and birds (toucans, owls, off the top of my head) while making the trip from the lab clearing to the River Station (or vice-versa).

After getting situated a bit, we quickly ate lunch and then split into groups to get our first taste of the forest. The guides at La Selva are all locals who know a staggering amount of information about the natural history of an incredibly diverse rainforest flora and fauna. On this first tour, I was excited to see a wide variety of animals, including anoles, strawberry dart frogs, night lizards, white-faced capuchins, toucans, bullet ants ("balas"), peccaries, green basilisks, iguanas, and white bats.

An adult iguana, a common sight in trees above the Rio Puerto Viejo.

White-collared peccary, a ubiquitous artiodactylid of LSBS.

White bats (Ectophylla alba) sleeping in a tent.

After dinner and a few talks, it was raining outside, and I was eager to explore some more. A few of us enthusiasts went and checked out the swamp near the river station, called the “cantarana.” Although I didn’t realize it at the time, we were fortunate to observe the explosive breeding event of the Parachuting red-eyed tree frog (Agalychnis saltator). We also saw many hylid species and our first snake of the trip (Sibon annulatus).

Tired, we decided to return to the River Station and retire for the night. On our way up the steps toward the station, I spotted my first venomous snake of the trip, a juvenile fer-de-lance (Bothrops atrox). I took the opportunity to show it to some other students in our group. They had been hearing a lot about this infamous venomous denizen of the rainforest and were surprised to find it so calm and un-intimidating. All said, it was a great first day to what would be a great summer.

Bothrops asper

In future posts, I plan to detail the animals I encountered in various groups. I’ll first discuss the swamp herpetofauna, and then I’ll talk about animals found in other places, such as leaf-litter, primary forest, or roads.

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