The first quarter here in beautiful Jalova is always full of surprises, from the sensationally beautiful breeding plumages of the dozens of rare, migratory birds we encounter at this time of year to those friendly snakes you find in your boots! Scientific research during this time is always essential to accurately assess this globally unique terroir and how the long-haul frequent flyers interact with their resident temporary neighbours.
Costa Rica is famous for its avian biodiversity, and at no other time of year is this better expressed than during the start. This is due to the large influx of migrant bird species, who fleetingly visit our small patch of paradise. They impose on us a sense of wonder with the idea of their monumental upcoming journeys and kaleidoscopic colours, and then before we’ve even arrived at a first name basis, they are out the door. This reputation among the birding world is no fluke as Costa Rica is situated along the Atlantic flyway, a vital migration route for birds. The field team here, along with the ever-inquisitive volunteers, work around the clock to monitor and assess the different species, rating them from quantitative values such as group size and sexual dimorphisms to less scientific ones like fluffiness, (granted, the latter is not encouraged to be discussed while on the survey!)
One such famous migrant, who must be clocking up those air-miles by now for a cheap holiday to Honolulu, is the Whimbrel. Every year, it makes the incredible journey from its breeding grounds in Alaska and Northern Canada down to Southern Brazil where it spends winter, a wise decision by anyone’s standards. Here in Jalova, we catch them on their two-week layover, which they spend lounging on the beach, sipping on mollusc martinis. The Whimbrel is joined during this time of year by thousands of Barn Swallows, who always look they whole-heartedly enjoy their ability to fly. Zipping over the surf, ducking through tree-trunks and diving-bombing aerodynamically to catch insects mid-air inspires any naturalist. In a single two-hour morning survey, 9000 were observed soaring through the sky, stained pink by the dawning sun, an experience which will live long in the memory of all who witnessed it. However, without proper management, this will not be around for upcoming generations.
Occurrences such as these amplify how vital this area of land is to the preservation of the natural world, as so many varied and special species call into this beach-front haven on their way to their breeding grounds. Tortuguero National Park (TNP) is a part of the crucial network of pit-stops, providing birds with a safe-haven, plentiful in resources, in which they can rest on their way from the Pantanal to Vancouver. The research occurring here brings into focus how the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals are being achieved. For these species to have a sanctuary is so essential to their life-cycles, but further research is required to fully comprehend the directions and an effective methodology for this conservation.
It takes resources and time to carry out the research to meet the standards set by the U.N. Goals (such as Life on Land) and ethical conservation. Over 1,000 surveys were done this quarter, clocking up an impressive 4,392 volunteer hours! Included in these hours was an incredible nation-wide assessment to investigate shorebird populations organised by our partner MINAET (Ministry for the Environment in Costa Rica). Every river mouth along the Caribbean coast of Costa Rica is surveyed at the same time with all data going directly to MINAET, in conjunction with a shorebird research centre. This is vitally important data to collect to ensure that the protected habitats continue to support key migratory species. The species themselves cross boundaries so the research must too. Research like this would be effectively impossible without the support of people from around the world and shows what can be achieved when we come together with a shared goal.
For the non-bird enthusiasts out there, plenty of other wonders occur. From the stubborn shuffling of our tree-dwelling hairy porcupines to the stealthy stalking of the ethereal jaguar, life continues in its cyclical fashion here in Tortuguero. Being the height of the dry season (dry being used in a relatively loose sense – it is the rain-forest!) means that food sources become scarcer. This leads to some of the more cryptic species giving us glimpses into their ambiguous lives. The sinisterly beautiful Halloween-snake made a rare appearance on our trails and some species were recorded for the first time ever in Jalova, including the Cope’s Bluntheaded snake and South American Racer! Jalova never fails to amaze and inspire and new species are constantly being recorded and put into our database, which has now been running for nearly ten years! Surprises like this are what keep conservation so exciting and engaging but it should not be forgotten that none of this would be possible without the support of people all around the world. From all of us here in Jalova, we appreciate everything and would like to point out how all contributions make a difference in preserving this world and its animals.
January, February, and March are times of great exchange here in Jalova, with avian migrations a key topic on everyone’s mind. We have spent resources investigating these patterns and intend to continue to monitor populations of all kinds of fauna throughout the year. We would like to thank every single individual who donated to this worthy cause and stress that none of this would be possible with your help. If we all work together, we are able to make a difference in this world,
Costa Rica, Conservation