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Friday, December 31, 2010

Coop and Dan Arrive in the ACG

Steve and I arrived as the ”advance team” Thursday afternoon (January 30th), and found all arrangements done and everything set to go for the trip. For Dan, who has done research here for more than 15 years, it is a joy to be back and meet friends and colleagues again. This is Steve’s second visit, and he’s having fun recognizing so much from two years ago.
Suddenly, we had the afternoon of the 31st to photograph on our own. The site was a set of rapids called the Chorreras, on the grounds of the Hacienda Guachipelin, where we will spend the last night of the excursion. A good hike in and we were lucky enough to have almost the entire afternoon with no one else there except a friendly guard and his dog.

Beginning at the little waterfall,

Steve went up one split in the stream

and Dan the other.

After a couple of glorious hours we trucked back up the hill, caught the late afternoon light on Rincon de la Vieja, and headed out.

Back at Santa Rosa for dinner, we met Pablo Vasquez, a young guy who works with the educational program here in the Area de Conservacion Guanacaste (ACG). Pablo will accompany us during the excursion, providing invaluable knowledge the local flora and fauna, as well as information about the educational system in the ACG. He’ll also be taking advantage of the informal and formal photography sessions to enhance his own interests in that area.
We were a bit tired from the trip, so we didn’t venture far, but within 50 meters of the dorm, we managed to find 4 species of frogs – the little and ubiquitous Eleutherodactylus fitzingeri, a young Chauna marina (some of you know this as Bufo marinus, or the cane toad), the big tree frog Physalaemus pustulosus and, a great treat, a dry forest leopard frog, Rana cf. forreri. Having captured many frogs in the past for the inventory of their parasites, it was very satisfying for Dan to look at them and let them go on their way.
The dry season is just beginning, so there’s still a lot of leaves on the trees and bushes, and a number of species are in bloom. We're mapping out some interesting things for the group to photograph when they arrive Sunday.
After dinner, we found a column of army ants moving away from the dorms into the grass to bivouac for the night, just one of a multitude of ant species, including the little black ones that bit like crazy and managed to inflict...about 15 minutes of mild itching.  In and on the edges of the porch light were some large and luminous green katydids, the occasional bat, amazing spiders and one skunk just meandering around the bathroom/shower area of the other dorm block.
On our way to bed, we were saluted by the barking of the imported Japanese gecko, Hemidactylus frenatus, that hangs around human habitations - the same species figured as Gordon the gecko in Jostein Gaarder's novel Maya. Between the lizards and the frogs, we figured we were safe from marauding ants.
This morning by 5:30 (Friday, New Year’s Eve, so Happy New year to all readers), we awoke to the sounds of crested guans and parrots, then to the gently rising tide of birdcalls throughout the forest. No trogons or jays, though – we think the white-faced monkeys have wiped out the jays locally. They are communal nesters, and easy prey to clever little primates.
By 6:30, the little birds were chasing each other around noisily, the parrots are squawking, the sun has risen above the mountains to the east and the day begins. As Coop says, it’s wonderful to be in a place that is teeming with life.
We post this at about 9:15, having just met with Roger Blanco, Director of Research for the ACG and a long-time friend of Dan's. We now have information about where to find some trees in blossom, but we'll save that information for the excursionistas and tell the tale in a few days.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Prepping for Costa Rica 2011

In about 2.5 weeks BioPhoto Experience will be launching its first expedition and I'm psyched. Its going to be a great time for all and it will be nice to get away from work and winter back home. Even started packing my bags tonight in preparation for the trip. I know, kind of jumping the gun here, but I will be travelling for a couple weeks before the trip so I need to have everything ready to go soon. This also provides plenty of time to check out all the gear and make sure nothing needs replacement. I laid out all my gear for the trip and now I'm just trying to figure out how to get it all into my carry-on.
      The solar panel and battery backup should come in handy during those nights at Patilla and Nancite research stations where there is no electricity. Also, that little blue bag by the laptop holds a special treat - bat nets! I'm going to try and capture some bats for an up close and personal bat photography session. What other photo tour would provide that experience? We'll try our best to provide some other surprises as well.
      Well, better get it all packed up so I can get some shuteye, still lots of work to be done before I'm allowed to skip town. You can follow our Costa Rica  expedition through this blog January 2-9, 2011. We will update the blog all chances we have with photos and stories of events taking place on the trip. Enjoy the adventure and come join us on the next BioPhoto Experience. - Ashley