Monday, January 9, 2012

Incidental Animal Sightings Closing for the Year

A Rufous-tailed Hummingbird on base

We see a lot of animals on our various surveys, and exciting as it is, it’s to be expected because we’re out there looking for them. Fortunately, there are so many animals in Tortuguero National Park that we see them even when we’re not out on a survey. This is where our Incidentals project comes in. It answers the question: “What kinds of animals do we incidentally see in our everyday lives in Jalova?” It helps us to understand the abundance and diversity of the animals in the park because incidentals are recorded in various places including the beach, forest and on base, and are recorded at any time in the day.

Phase 114, the last phase of 2011, yielded some impressive results in our Incidentals database. This was fueled by the presence of volunteers and interns who were very passionate about learning as much as they could about the animals in the area and would use their spare time to ID birds or anoles or frogs. In this last phase alone we recorded 1,884 individuals split into 239 different species, quite a high number even for Costa Rica. In fact, this is even more species than what was recorded during our Biological Assessment Surveys, for understandable reasons described below.

Birds accounted for the majority of the incidentals, because of the fact that many different birds are visible from base, and are some of the most easily seen animals. If we sit and wait on our porch, various birds will come to feed on the plants that are nearby, whereas the amphibians and mammals are much more elusive. We counted 160 different species of bird, almost 4 times the number of the second place category: reptiles (at 42 species). Third was mammals at 21 species and last was amphibians at 16.

In addition to spotting these many different species, several species were recorded this phase for the first time this year. We were able to add various birds such as the Swainson’s Thrush, Crimson-fronted Parakeet, Gray Catbird, and Cinnamon Becard, as well as several mammals including the West Indian Manatee and Kinkajou, in addition to several reptiles including the Carpenter’s Anole and the Common Bluntheaded Snake.

Our Incidentals database will continue to grow as we live in the National Park, and this phase was definitely another strong step forward.
-Kevin, Expedition Field Staff