Thursday, November 18, 2010

Mammal Survey 17.11.10

The mammal survey team, consisting of Jon (Staff), Simon F, Reto and Simon H, left base at 5am heading down the North forest trail to the start of the mammal transect, at Mile 15. The purpose of this particular survey is to gather evidence in relation to mammal activity within this area of the National Park. This involves recording tracks and sightings along the 1km transect. The survey started promisingly with a sighting of a troop of White-throated Capuchin monkeys staring down at us from a tree above the trail. Sue to the lack of rain and the abundance of leaf litter, tracks were few and far between although four different mammal species were recorded (Red Brocket Deer, White-lipped Peccary, Central American Agouti, Common Opossum). Although the presence of tracks was limited, the walk was made memorable by other interesting and unusual sightings along the transect.
Earlier on in the walk a loud ‘aak’ was heard on the trail, the unmistakable call of the endangered Great Green Macaw. Considering there were thought to be only 35 breeding pairs in Costa Rica, this was a rare enough occurrence. So none of us were prepared for what happened next.
Having just passed a huge tree stretching high into the canopy, we again heard the calls and suddenly 9 Macaws flew over and landed in the very same tree. After watching for a while we thought we should carry on with the survey and continued up the trail after running the gauntlet of falling fruit dropped by the feeding Macaws. It was not long before we were stopped in our tracks (no pun intended!) by Jon. Our resident bird expert/nerd having heard an unusual call that even he was struggling to identify. As we scanned the canopy for the culprit, Jon suddenly exclaimed “That’s 396!” in reference to the number of bird species he has seen in Central America. The bird in question turned out to be a Broad-billed Motmot, not unknown to the area, but a new sighting for GVI Costa Rica (see photo below).

After finishing the survey, 4 ½ hours after leaving base, we began our long walk back looking forward to recounting the sightings for everyone else.
Despite our good fortune during the survey, we did not anticipate any more sightings so everyone was shocked when Simon F suddenly spotted something in a tree off to the side of the track. Originally thought to be a termite mound, then a Howler Monkey, it was finally identified as a Tayra. Only the second to be seen this phase and the first to be seen by all of us, including Jon (who has been at Jalova for almost a year!).
We finally arrived back at base 6 ½ hours after leaving and having missed lunch (don’t worry, some was saved), tired, but elated by our morning adventure.
written by Simon F, Simon H, Reto

Species Mentioned:
White-throated Capuchin Monkey – Cebus capucinus
Red Brocket Deer – Mazama americana
White-lipped Peccary – Tayassu pecari
Central American Agouti – Dasyprocta punctata
Common Opossum – Didelphis marsupialis
Great Green Macaw – Ara ambiguus
Broad-billed Motmot – Electron platyrhynchum
Tayra – Eira barbara