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Archive for April, 2009

Tracking

Tracking

I spent five days at the UNESCO world heritage site, Coiba Island National Park assisting with bird tracking research. The island is 46 miles offshore encompassing 150 miles of unspoiled beaches. It is the largest island in Central America, about the size of Barbados. Coiba island is also one of the last places in Central America where the Scarlet Macaw (Ara Macao) can be found in the wild and in large numbers. The sight of a flock of Macaws flying overhead was humbling, I was stunned, paralyzed and unfortunately was unable to fish out my camera fast enough. The island has three endemic subspecies, the Coiba Mantled Howler monkey (Alouatta Coibensis), the Coiba Agouti (Dasyprocta Coibae), a short tailed, plant eating large rodent, the size of a domestic cat. Finally, a bird species I helped the ornithologists to track, the Coiba SpineTail (Cranioleuca Dissita).

Greeting the morning sun from Coiba Island

Greeting the morning sun from Coiba Island

We woke up every morning at 5AM groggily fixing snacks and bottling cold water for our trip and arrived onshore  to meet a boat that took us to a remote area Coiba where we spent about 5 hours hiking through dense jungle along a marked transect.

Vine Portal

Vine Portal

The path was hacked with a machete through the vegetation, an almost impenetrable tangle of vines and bushes and marked with colored markers tied to small trees or branches. We walked steadily through the jungle, grabbing onto vines for hand holds, using roots, rocks, and small trees to steady us as we meandered up and down inclines following the Spinetail and Ruddybacked dove calls and searching for nests.

Knots

Knots

The ground was packed with leaves and rotting foliage in certain areas, careful not to slip, each step measured for reliability. It was intense, and I loved it. With each deep breath, I filled my lungs with a variety of smells, sweet and fragrant from the newly blossoming flowers, since the rains began just a day or two ago.

Hungry Honeybee

Hungry Honeybee

Yet, as the day progressed the humidity and heat rose so our clothes were drenched,we sweat as much as the water we drank. Invigorated as we neared the end of the transect we sat in a clear patch to eat a snack, comparing our observations.

I learned so much on this journey, met some brilliant ornithologists and feel closer to the natural world around me.

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