Friday, November 16, 2012

Butterfly Tour

Me removing tree frog from the shower

Last night, Victor had the night off. So Kayla and I slept in the hatchery to ward off the dogs, while Hernaldo took 3 of the volunteers on a patrol. Being in the hatchery isn't too bad since the internet reaches most days and Netflix is full of new movies and shows, but having 2 people sharing a hammock makes it very hard to sleep.  Every time one of us would just about fall asleep, the other would re-position causing the hammock to swing. The lack of sleep is made up by the beautiful view of crashing waves and brilliant stars.
Tree frog that make its
 home in the shower

He looks so happy in his new home.
Sunset in Costa de Oro
At 5 in the morning, we moved inside and got another hour and a half  of sleep before needing to get up and get ready to go on Mike's butterfly tour.

Mike telling us about the tour.
At 8:30 the Pretoma truck pulled into the drive and we all loaded in to take the 20 minute drive to Pueblo Nuevo where Butterfly Jungle is located. When we got there Mike greeted us with cold water and promise of fresh honey.

We all gathered in the newly refurbished rancho, where Mike gave us a little synopsis of how he came to Costa Rica to become the owner of his own butterfly farm. After his brief history, we walked out to the sunny gardens to see some fast flying butterflies and bees. He taught us about mimicry that is present in some butterfly species, which makes species only distinguishable by counting veins in their wings.

Mike's butterfly collection.
Once we had seen all sorts of sun loving insects , we moved down to the river walk to find shade loving species. It was interesting because the insects moved much differently and actually floated instead of flying quickly. We were lucky enough to see and owl eye butterfly and 2 butterflies mating.
Mating butterflies

20 minutes later, we returned to the rancho to try honey and bee pollen. I always knew I liked honey, but this honey was something else. Don't worry mom and dad, I bought enough to bring home and if anyone else wants pure Costa Rican honey email me!

Fungi, I think.
More cool plants

Michelina, one of our volunteers,
enjoying a tree swing in the shade

A butterfly posed on Mikes shoulder.

Long nosed bats

Once we had all had samples of honey, we went to see some bats who had made home a beautiful tree with very exposed roots. The long- nosed bats didn't even seem phased by out paparazzi like photo taking.

We returned once again to the rancho for some more honey and with lots of questions about bees and honey. Mike knows a ton about bees and wasps and it was great to have all our questions answered. Since we all loved the honey so much, we each bought a jar or two before thanking Mike and loading back into the Pretoma truck.
Gift shop!

Kayla and I opted to pass the house and go straight to the town of Coyote for an amazing lunch of shrimp and steak at Loma Clara. Right as we were getting ready walk the 6 k back in the heat, Henner, the owner of Cristal Azul, pulls up and offered us a ride. So we hoped in his car and we were returned to our doorstep hot and ready to hop in the ocean for an afternoon swim.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

That Wild Migration- Beautiful Swimmers

Tons of turtle tracks
Yesterday I got to witness a phenomena that anyone who works with turtles dreams of see, an Arribada. Arribada means 'the arrival' in Spanish and is a mass nesting event that occurs in only Olive Ridleys and Kemp Ridleys.

Here is how it all began. I woke up early, at 5:30, to do a morning check of the beach followed by an exhumation for a couple visiting from Pennsylvania. When I got back into the house our German volunteers had made us German pancakes, which are pretty much crepes and nothing like The Original Pancake House's German pancakes, but delicious nonetheless.

Around 10AM Erik came to the house to tell us that they just found out that Corozalito had an Arribada and that we could all go. So 8 of us, plus the 6 other people they are already picked up, all pilled into the car and headed the 15 Km north to go see some sea turtles.

Me posing with a turtle.
When we got there, the beach was not full of turtles like I had expected, but there were still turtles nesting. The sand was so hot I was amazed the turtles could even walk on it, but they seemed to be still trying to nest. Then I looked out on the horizon , just past the breaking waves, and saw a ton more turtles waiting to come in. It seemed as though they were waiting until the sand cooled down before they nested.

Sea turtle nesting.
Another nesting turtle

After about an hour, the Pretoma truck was loaded and ready to return us all to our appropriate projects. But lucky for me, Alvaro showed up, which meant I had the opportunity to stay back and watch the turtles a little longer. The interesting thing was, right after the truck left the majority of the turtles stopped nesting and  were just coming up and  leaving. When they would reach the hot sand the would turn around and rest, holding their flippers out of the sand, like they were being burned. We even had to help a few because they not moving and just sitting on hot sand.

Another hour passed and it was time for me to head back and have a much needed lunch with some good girl friends  before heading back to Costa de Oro. As for the arribada, I still have high hopes to make another trip to Corozalito today!

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Trying to Reason With Hurricane Season

After our little run in with Hurricane Sandy, my dad sent this article to me from Fox News that I thought people may be interested in. It talks all about heavy rains' effect on sea turtle nests.

Sandy's surge disturbed baby sea turtle boom

By: Becky Oskin
Published November 08, 2012
| OurAmazingPlanet

As Hurricane Sandy roared up the East Coast, it threatened to disturb the best loggerhead turtle nesting season on record. Florida, South Carolina and Georgia all reported baby booms, with more nests than ever since the states began tracking turtles in the 1980s. North Carolina had its third highest year, and loggerhead turtles crawled ashore as far north as Maryland to lay eggs. The loggerhead turtle is a federally listed threatened species and is listed as an endangered species by some states.

Sandy's late-season arrival meant most of the tiny hatchlings emerged well before the storm hit. All of South Carolina's nests had hatched, said DuBose Griffin, sea turtle program coordinator for the state's Department of Natural Resources. A record number of sea turtle nests, 4,604, were laid (from all local species) this season on South Carolina beaches.However, other states had slowly developing or late-laid nests with eggs in the ground when Sandy's storm surge battered the coast.At Florida's Juno Beach, a nesting hotspot, about 50 endangered green turtle nests were destroyed.  In North Carolina, about 12 nests were destroyed, but nearly 50 hatchlings were rescued on the Outer Banks. In Berlin, Md., at the Assateague Island National Seashore, a planned excavation saved two hatchlings and eggs Oct. 26, just before the hurricane's approach. 

Storms part of natural cycle

Georgia state wildlife biologist Mark Dodd said the losses from Hurricane Sandy were part of the turtle's natural life cycle."Loggerheads and other sea turtle species have evolved nesting on dynamic beaches with periodic tropical events, so their reproductive strategy takes that into account," Dodd told OurAmazingPlanet. "They produce lots of eggs and hatchlings, which in the grand scheme of things aren't expected to survive very well. Ultimately, all they have to do is replace themselves." Dodd coordinates the state's sea turtle program for the Department of Natural Resources.
Loggerheads laid a record number of nests on Georgia beaches, 2,218, for a third summer in a row. The world's most endangered sea turtle, a Kemp's Ridley, also laid a nest in Georgia. The last hatchlings came out of the ground Oct. 22, Dodd said, well before Sandy's waves crashed into the state's beaches and barrier islands. Baby turtles can reach their crèche in the Gulf Stream seaweed beds after about four days of swimming.

Turtles don't nest every year, but when they do "crawl," females produce four to six nests in different spots, each with 100 to 125 eggs the size of ping-pong balls. The eggs hatch after 50 to 120 days, depending on temperatures at the nesting site. In the United States, hatchlings begin emerging in mid-July and can continue through November. During that time, storms can wash nests from beaches, drown them with seawater, bury them with sand, or expose their eggs to predators by washing sand away.

Surprise inside Maryland nest

As Hurricane Sandy approached the Assateague Island National Seashore, biologists from the National Aquarium in Baltimore evacuated an entire nest. The excavation had been planned before Hurricane Sandy emerged on the radar, to protect the loggerhead eggs from cold temperatures, said Kelly Taylor, a science communicator for the park.
To their surprise, two live hatchlings were in the nest. "When we excavated the nest, we didn't expect any viable turtles," Taylor told OurAmazingPlanet. One turtle died from a pre-existing infection and one survives, Taylor said. The remaining eggs are being incubated at the aquarium, and any surviving hatchlings will be released in spring.
In Florida, no loggerhead turtle nests were left at Juno Beach, said Kelly Martin, a biologist with the Loggerhead Marinelife Center there. The turtles laid 13,000 nests in the sand this season, and the majority of hatchlings were out to sea by the time the storm hit, she told OurAmazingPlanet. But Hurricane Sandy did destroy about 50 green turtle nests, Martin said. The green turtle is a federally endangered species.

This year, surveyors counted 58,172 loggerhead nests along nearly 250 miles of Florida's coastline, one of the highest nest counts since monitoring began in 1989, the state Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission said. Surveyors also counted 6,054 green turtle nests this year.Matt Godfrey, a biologist with the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission, said North Carolina lost about a dozen nests from erosion or overwash from Sandy. "It was not a major loss," he told OurAmazingPlanet.

Rescue on the Outer Banks

On Topsail Island along North Carolina's Outer Banks, volunteers kept a close eye on two of those nests. One began hatching during daytime just before Hurricane Sandy moved into the area, said Jean Beasley, executive director of the Karen Beasley Sea Turtle Rescue and Rehabilitation Center. "The surf was getting pretty angry; there were pretty high waves," Beasley said.

Hospital volunteers try not to interfere with turtle hatchings if possible. (Studies show turtles return within several miles of where they nested, so it's better to let them reach the sea on their own.) In the end, though, the hatchlings were washed back and exhausted, so about 30 were gathered up, to ride out the storm in plastic tubs. The turtle hospital also took in "Scott," a hatchling named in honor of the island resident who braved the height of Sandy's rage to rescue it at the island's northern end, Beasley said. "We don't know where it came from, because it was a larger hatchling than the ones from our nest," she said. [On the Ground: Hurricane Sandy in Images]
The Sea Turtle Rescue and Rehabilitation Center also took in 20 hatchlings from neighbors to the south, at Figure Eight Island. A rescue group grabbed eggs from a nest washed out by waves, and the eggs started hatching as they were hauled inside in a bucket, Beasley said. Once the weather calms, the rehabilitation group will catch a ride to a protected area in the Gulf and release the turtles. "Every turtle counts," she said.

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Thursday, November 1, 2012

The Skeletons are Dancing- Desperation Samba

Over the past couple days a lot has happened. We have put just under 20 nests in the hatchery. The children returned and painted sea turtles on their tie-dyed shirts and they have showed Kayla and I all about a local fruit called a limon dulce, sweet lemon. However, this fruit is not sweet, but rather un-flavorful and can't be used for lemonade and overall not that great. Nonetheless, it was fun to learn from them and see them excited to share their fruit tree with us.

Limon Dulce Tree

Colita with this carved coconut

Maria Fernada preparing a limon dulce

Just tasting the limon dulce.

Kayla and I also caught our turtle-loving dog breaking into the hatchery. Its was around 8 PM and out redneck alarm system started to clank. We looked at each other, then I ran out the door and Kayla grabbed a flashlight. When I reached the hatchery the dog was just slipping through a new hole in the hatchery and headed straight for a nest. By the time I got the door open the dog had already broke ground. Kayla and I must have spooked him because he looked up at us and realized we were blocking his exit. So like a scene out of a cartoon, the dog ran straight through the hatchery wall. With our culprit visually caught, we were on edge all night waiting for a possible return. Then the next morning I headed over to the owners house and asked for the dog to be tied up at night. They were very receptive, however we are still a little nervous that the dog may still break in again.

Yesterday we were able to celebrate Halloween with people from all the projects. Around noon, we were picked up by Pretoma and were taken up to Laguna Mar. We had a great day at the pool enjoying the sun, cocktails and fish tacos. We all had a fun swapping project and turtle stories.
Ingrid, our skeleton.

Team Costa de Oro

Fish Tacos

Ingrid, Me and Kayla enjoying margaritas in the pool

Sharing Halloween with the kids.
We headed back to the project just after 5 pm and Kayla and I went to the children's  house to share candy and treats with them. They loved the glow sticks my parents had sent me.
Luna dressed up for Halloween.