|Posted on August 28, 2018 at 10:20 AM|
Whales and Dolphins
The waters surrounding the Osa Peninsula are recognized as the only locale in the world where humpback whales from the North Pacific and Southern Ocean geographically overlap and Golfo Dulce appears to serve as a calving ground and nursery.
Humpback whales are an endangered species with international government-protected status. They are easy to see since they live at the ocean’s surface. They swim slowly and are known as the “acrobats of the sea” for their aerial frolicking. Humpbacks also are known for their “songs” – long, varied, and complex sequences of squeaks, grunts and other sounds. Only males have been recorded singing and they seem to produce the complex songs only in warm waters – thought by scientists, therefore, to be mating calls.
Golfo Dulce also is home to important resident and migratory communities of Bottlenose Dolphins, Spotted Dolphins, Spinner Dolphins, and the occasionally seen False Killer Whales.
Four species of the family Cheloniidae are known to utilize Golfo Dulce: the Pacific green sea turtle, the olive ridley sea turtle, the hawksbill sea turtle and the near-extinct Pacific leatherback sea turtle. A large population of the Pacific green sea turtle may be found year round in the upper embayment including individuals originally tagged in the Galapagos.
Other interesting creatures of the Golfo Dulce
Whale sharks aggregate inside Golfo Dulce with historical sightings of more than twenty sharks at a time. The embayment also acts a nursery for scalloped hammerhead sharks, two species of needlefish—a key food source for the local Bottlenose dolphins—are known to spawn inside Golfo Dulce every month directly in front of Saladero Ecolodge.
Eight-two species of fish were described in just one Golfo Dulce estuary. There are other sharks and rays and an abundance of small species specific to the coral reefs.
The Yellow SeaSnake of the Golfo Dulce
We enjoyed having Brooke Bessesen stay at Saladero Ecolodge while completing her study of this endemic species.
Hydrophis platurus xanthos, or yellow sea snake, is separated from its conspecifics by a gap of about 22 kilometers—restricted to the inner basin of Golfo Dulce where the waters are warmer, often turbulent, and occasionally anoxic. This extremely rare subspecies is characterized by smaller body size, canary-colored skin and distinctive behaviors. Most remarkably, it feeds at night, assuming a peculiar sinusoidal ambush posture (Bessesen & Galbreath 2017).
Many thanks to golfodulce.org for providing information about the marine ecosystems of the Golfo Dulce. This is a web site that organizes links to many references concerning scientific studies made regarding the Golfo Dulce.
Quote from the Homepage:
"Golfo Dulce is a Costa Rican treasure. As a marine bio-gem, it is one of Central America's preeminent riches. Critically endangered sea turtles rest, feed, mate and nest in the Gulf. A unique xanthic colony of pelagic sea snakes resides in the inner basin. Humpback whales from both northern and southern hemispheres enter the inlet to give birth and possibly provide sanctuary for young calves. Two resident species of dolphins breed and raise offspring in Golfo Dulce. Whale sharks aggregate there, scalloped hammerhead sharks are born and needlefish spawn. It is a vibrant bionetwork, essential to the welfare of the East Pacific ecology.
Access to peer-reviewed data is vital for officials who must evaluate and determine conservation policies. Escalating pressure on the marine ecosystem has increased vulnerability of biodiversity in Golfo Dulce and overall wildlife populations seem to be in decline. Only through sound research and protective strategies may Golfo Dulce continue to be one of Costa Rica's most important and vibrant marine habitats."
|Posted on March 27, 2018 at 5:55 PM|
Among the 450 acres of primary rainforest and 30 acres of tropical gardens that make up our property, we are often visited by arboreal mammals that carry out their lives high in the trees.
In the primary forest at Saladero Ecolodge, we often have great sightings of three of the four different species of monkeys that exist in Costa Rica: the Mantled Howler Monkey, the White-headed Capuchin (formally known as White-faced) and the Geoffroy’s Spider Monkey.
Whether they’re near or far, we always know where the howlers are (“Congos” in Spanish) each morning as soon as they burst forth into their impressive, otherworldly bellows before the sun has properly risen. We like to call them our battery-free Costa Rican alarm clock.
Male howlers can be heard up to 3 miles away thanks to an enlarged hyoid bone in their throat which helps amplify the call, making them the second loudest mammal in the world. Only the monstrously huge blue whale is louder. The howlers will often call at sunrise or sunset as a means to communicate within the troop. The function of howling is thought to relate to intergroup spacing and territory protection, as well as possibly to mate-guarding
Howler monkeys are folivores, meaning they eat primarily leaves, but they will also forage upon fruits and flowers on occasion, depending on the season. When the fig trees are fruiting, these monkeys can be seen eating both the leaves and fruits at the same time in a single fig tree.
Over millennia, through the process of natural selection, plants have evolved the means to produce a vast and complicated array of chemical compounds in order to deter herbivores and insects. For this reason, monkeys cannot consume one tree’s leaves exclusively as it may be harmful to them.
Therefore, while foraging, you might observe them moving from tree to tree, stopping to munch for awhile before carrying on
to another tree species. The howler monkeys make a special effort to hone in on the younger, more supple and nutrient-rich leaves over the harder to digest mature leaves. Nonetheless, this primarily leaf-based diet results in the need to rest and digest a good part of the day in order for their metabolism to break down the tough leaf fibers.
Another of our furry friends from above include the Capuchin monkeys, known as “Cariblancas” (white face) in Spanish. Capuchins are omnivores, meaning they live on a much more nutrient-rich diet of fruit, nuts, insects and crustaceans (we’ve even seen them on our kayak tour searching for crabs on the prop roots of the red mangroves!). They’ll also eat bird eggs and small mammals. If you come across a troop, you’ll notice how curious they are, as they stare down at you with furrowed brows reminiscent of an tiny, angry old man. They have even been known to throw seeds and even limbs at our guests.
Capuchins range quite high in intelligence among the New World monkeys, as demonstrated by their use of tools. They’ve been known to rub millipedes, which emit cyanide as a defense mechanism, onto their fur, perhaps using it as an insect repellent. They’ve been documented using hard surfaces to break open mollusks and sticks to explore cavities for food.
The Geoffroy’s Spider Monkeys that live in our forest were in decline likely due to poaching. We are thrilled to discover this species is becoming more plentiful. A local biologist who is doing her PhD on spider monkeys, Jenna Griffiths, has stated this species has been absent from this area of Piedras Blancas National Park in the past. She is very interested in and excited about these sightings. Some of our recent guests were even fortunate enough to see the mega-troop of some fifty individuals. These troops break up into smaller groups during the day to spread out and forage for food.
Spider monkeys are aptly named for their elongated appendages. They actively swing through the high branches and forage mainly on fruit but will add young leaves and seeds to their diet to obtain sufficient protein. Watching these monkeys swing their way from one branch to another is always a delight, especially knowing you’re observing an endangered species who’s populations have suffered from deforestation and poaching. While we’re enamored with these charismatic creatures, they definitely have a flare for letting their own opinion of humans known. When one of us is staring up at it from below, these monkeys will not hesitate to grab a branch with every appendage (including that long tail) and shake everything in their reach with gusto, as if to let you know who’s boss. If I were an endangered animal looking down at the species most responsible, I would likely do the same!
Everyone wants to see the beloved Three-toed Sloth. They make up about 80% of the mammal mass in the forest but finding them can be really hard. We sometimes see them in one of the big cecropia trees at the edge of our garden.
Sloths seem to have a preference for these trees, and since the leaves of the cecropia are a mild narcotic, that might explain not just their common presence in these trees in general, but likely adds to their very slothfulness! To learn more about the amazing natural ecosystem sloths harbor in their pelt, check out our previous blogpost on this fascinating, arboreal and simply adorable creature!
Some other interesting arboreal mammals harboring in the treetops of the forest include the margay, a small spotted wild cat that has a tail nearly as long as it’s body. This aids in balancing as it walks along the branches above. The margay prefers life in the trees, hunting birds and monkeys. It has the unique ability to twist its ankles to aid in its head-first descent to the forest floor as it moves to different hunting grounds. This forest cat is highly agile and is able to jump up to four meters horizontally and 2.5 meters vertically.
A very unusual creature of the treetops is the Kinkajou. This unique-looking creature is in fact related to raccoons. Similar to the margay, the kinkajou also has the ability to turn it’s feet widely in either direction to aid in its movement through the trees. The kinkajou’s tail is prehensile and used just as often as its other appendages as it travels from branch to branch. It will use it as a furry pillow to curl up with to sleep. These fascinating mammals also go by the moniker “honey bear” for their inclination to raid beehives for their honey. We have some honey bears here at Saladero that like to make their presence known by dropping seeds onto the roof of our Treehouse cabin. But with that adorable face and huge, liquid black eyes, who could chastise them?
|Posted on January 25, 2018 at 1:55 AM|
What a season it’s been! We’re well into the high season at Saladero and it’s warm, sunny and the sparkling blue waters of Golfo Dulce are luscious and inviting.
We’ve had just absolutely delightful guests hailing from all corners of the planet, making for fascinating and lively conversation around the table at meal times. Countries represented thus far include Germany, Ukraine, Scotland, Ireland, Malta, the UK, Canada, South Korea, Holland and plenty of folks from the Pacific Northwest and east coast of the United States. Many new friendships have formed in this beautiful paradise set on the edge of Piedras Blancas National Park overlooking the rich Golfo Dulce.
Some of the fun bird and wildlife sightings we’ve had of late include the critically endangered Yellow-billed Cotinga (of which there are only between 250 and 1000 birds remaining, see our post here!) as well as many close encounters from the kayak, stand-up paddleboard and even snorkeling with the Pacific Green Sea Turtle as we came into the height of their breeding season.
We’ve also sightings of the tamandua (a large species of anteater) that walked right by us sitting out one evening on the Beach House patio and a family of guests watched in awe as one climbed up a tree in the back corner of the garden. The Scarlet Macaws, which were reintroduced by Zoo Ave to Piedras Blancas after becoming locally extinct in this area, have provided a welcomingly colorful spectacle along the forest edges as well as lovely views of them and our iconic Chestnu-mandibled Toucan from the Tree House balcony.
A beautiful and harmless Neotropical Bird Snake gave us some closeup views in the grass behind the kitchen. We’ve had plenty of monkey sightings, the cheeky White-faced Capuchins drinking water from coconuts by the Rancho picnic and camping area, Mantled Howler Monkeys also come through on occasion and are heard roaring from the forest. We’ve even had some special sightings of the much more rarely seen Spider Monkeys which have experienced reductions in populations in Piedras Blancas in previous years.
A Tayra, a larger member in the weasel family, was seen walking in the garden above the Glamping Cabins and Collared Peccaries (wild pigs) that are an important food source for the bigger cats have made their presence known in the back gardens. Speaking of peccaries, we’ve recently retrieved the data cards from our camera traps and they were well represented on Trail One and the Puma Trail. Video was captured of groups moving across the stream on various occasions, once with even a tiny piglet in tow! Also in the cameras we had many Agoutis and a spotted Paca (similar to groundhogs with long legs, both in the rodent family).
The Three-wattled Bellbird has also come to town, making it’s annual latitudinal migratory descent from the upper mountains to the lowland primary rainforest to forage on fruiting trees while belting out it’s strange “bonk!” from the treetops.
In the Golfo Dulce, our snorkelers have enjoyed watching a managerie of fish species including parrotfish, rays, triggerfish, moray eels, butterfly fish, angelfish, jacks, golden travale and sargent majors. A frequent guest, Rob, is a scuba diver and fisherman extraordinaire. Rob has been coming to Saladero on a annual basis since the lodge first opened. Him and his brother-in-law Kurt practice catch and release but when begged, managed to have a few "keepers" for dinner. Rob taught our Ukranian guest Leon some great skills in the ways of fishing and we enjoyed one of Leon’s triggerfish in a fresh ceviche appetizer the morning he left.
The fresh sea breeze off the Golfo Dulce in the afternoons is the perfect way to wind down the day and the sunsets over the Osa Peninsula have been just phenomenal and aptly timed for our happy hour vista. Pure Vida! Pure Life, indeed!
|Posted on January 9, 2018 at 9:00 AM|
Exciting news this morning! Our resident biologist and naturalist guide Stacey Hollis spotted a group of highly endangered YELLOW-BILLED COTINGA, this being the second sighting here at the ecolodge after last year's first in February '17.
These birds are highly endangered. Their population is estimated to range between 250 and 999 individuals remaining, according to Cornell Lab of Ornithology's Neotropical Birds website. This is attributed to deforestation of rainforest and mangrove ecosystems, both of which these birds rely upon. This rare species is endemic (existing locally) only to the Pacific coast of Costa Rica, including tucked here into our beautiful corner of the rich Golfo Dulce, as well as ranging slightly into the extreme western corner of Panama.
We're happy to report that this sighting was shared with Andy Whitworth of Osa Conservation (Conservación Osa), Gary Strehlow and Terri Peterson of Nueva Tierra de Osa as well as a lovely family of guests staying here with us at the ecolodge.
From the wild nutmeg tree, the birds most enjoy the aril (inside the seed casing the nutmeg nut is covered by the aril, which is another of our kitchen spices, called mace.) The aril is a bright reddish pink and looks like an octopus hugging the nut.While the white faced capuchins crack open the seed, discard the spicy mace and eat the nutmeg nut. The cotingas, which aren't bothered by the spice, enjoy it tremendously!
Their presence speaks highly of the health and functionally of these intact local ecosystems that we help protect. We are happy to be able to share these beautiful natural spaces and rare sightings with our guests while informing them of the importance of maintaining and protecting these natural habitats. This is in keeping with our education-based tourism ethos and we love to share this never to be forgotten experience, this incredibly rare, beautiful, snow-white bird.
|Posted on December 23, 2017 at 2:00 PM|
There is much more going on here than can be seen watching a lazy perezoso long-settled in the crook of a cecropia from a bipedal’s vantage point far below. In fact, a panoply of interactions are happening that we’d need a lot of patience, perhaps an extending ladder and certainly a microscope to bear witness to, that of the oh, so fascinatingly complex life history of the three-toed sloth..
A low-energy diet of slow-to-metabolize leaves, which also happen to contain a mild narcotic, are both to blame for the eternal dawdling of this beloved and unique icon of the tropics. Nevertheless, its sluggish pace provides plenty opportunity for an entire ecosystem to set up shop all throughout the pelt of this slothfully sedate soul.
Algae finds an easy substrate to grow within the grooved strands of fur which from this furry perch provides nutrients to an array of both microorganisms and invertebrates, including the various species of “sloth moths” which call this (and only this) slow-moving terrain of a mammal home. The symbiotic relationship that provides a substrate upon which the algae can grow reciprocally acts as effective camouflage for this creature that can’t make a hasty escape when predators are near.
Female sloth moths take advantage of the perezoso’s weekly defecatory descent (aka pit stop) to lay her moth eggs in the feces the sloth deposits at the bottom of the tree. When the hatching moths emerge, they fly upwards to spend their lives nestled in the perezoso’s fur, feeding on the algae and nutrients from the sloths’s skin secretions as well as adding their own defecations to the system all while awaiting their next reproduction cycle on the mating grounds that is this very mammal’s own fur.
But that’s not all folks! So when the perezoso makes its laborious and energy-intensive descent, it is making itself perilously vulnerable to predation. So why go through all that trouble to carefully deposit one’s droppings and (perhaps almost reverently) bury it underground at the foot of the tree? Scientists have long debated this and the possible hidden benefits of this arduous journey just to go poo. What this all revolves back around to is the micro-ecosystem within the fur of this fascinatingly complex creature and the algae that grows upon it. The algae itself is rich in nutrients and the sloth in fact feeds upon its own body’s edible garden, which thus provides the animal with nutrients otherwise lacking in a diet solely of leaves.
Whew, I can hardly keep up! But can you even imagine how this rich interaction of species in such a micro environment evolved? It’s an complex interconnection of relationships that has in fact persisted for millions of years. And just think how much research (and patience!) it must have taken to figure all this out? And yet even within this micro-ecosystem, there’s still even more to learn in regard to energy input & output and how these vulnerable appearing animals have persisted throughout time. The secrets of the rainforest are infinite and every step we take to learn more about it not only benefits the species we’re learning about but perhaps has the possibility of benefitting the planet and we bipeds who inhabit it as well.
|Posted on December 16, 2017 at 9:20 AM|
Welcome to Saladero Ecolodge's blog where I invite you to join me for an in-depth experience of all the goings on here in our little corner of paradise!