Drive to Monteverde, Costa Rica: 10:00 p.m.
Weather: sunny and hot, little wind
At his point we were still rookies at packing the vans with the luggage and people. Because of this Dan, Mary and I were fit, just barely, into the front seat of the red van. Needless to say I was able to get to know the two (Mary was a very nice soft spoken person, while Dan was sarcastic and very outward- both would become good friends of mine). While on the Interamerican Highway we passed over a one-lane bridge, not that it was originally one lane, but since parts of it had fallen into the river below, it was now functionally only a one-lane bridge. Those with window seats were able to look through holes in the pavement to see the running water below.
When we left the Mesada Central there was a noticeable change in temperature. The temperature on the Mesada is very constant, nearly 70oF year round. The climate is very stable. There are only the wet and dry seasons while the temperature changes little here. It has been called the perfect environment for humans. When we left the Mesada and moved towards the Pacific coast the temperature increased drastically and it became much drier. This dry, hot environment is used heavily for cattle grazing; while one the mesade there is vegetable agriculture and coffee production. Both areas have been heavily deforested for the production of agricultural crops.
After leaving the Interamerican Highway, the road was all dirt and horribly bumpy. There were even some areas where it seemed like the road was becoming one with the cliff. The side of the road was no more than a 100ft drop-off. The dirt road up to the Monteverde region has been a topic of debate in the small communities of Monteverde and Santa Elena. The many ecolodge owners would like for the road to be paved. They believe this will bring more people to the Monteverde region. The Ticos who live in Monteverde and Santa Elena, along with conservationists, would like to see the road remain in its present state. The road acts as a type of filter; only those who are really into the ecology of this region will venture up it. The average tourist would never think of such a drive. Here they could see forests that, to them, are the same as ones elsewhere in Costa Rica (ones that could be reached more easily by car).
An often overlooked problem with the road is its health effects on the locals who live along it. Even though the road is not paved, more and more people are making the trip up to Monteverde (most by tourist buses). This increased traffic is causing more and more dirt to become airborne. As a result more and more of the locals are being diagnosed with Asthma. The new, dusty environment is causing a disruption in the health of the local people. There is really no safe side to take on this dispute. On the one hand, one would love the land to remain as pristine as possible. Therefore, you don’t want hundreds of people flocking to this area. Thus you decide you want the road to remain bumpy, treacherous and dusty. On the other hand, one would do anything to prevent the locals from becoming unnecessarily sick. These people are citizens, and their security should be considered when making infrastructure development decisions. After all these people are only trying to make a living and this situation is not helping them at all. Either way this drive was spectacular.
The drive up the mountain was an experience to remember (with Andrus), we saw so many new and exciting things:
Turkey and Black Vultures
Costa Rican Cattle
Living fences (i.e. Naked Indian Tree)
Coffee plantations (as we approached Monteverde)
The Vultures were circling overhead, and they were seen almost constantly throughout the drive. A Ctenosaur was spotted by Andrus on the road from CR 1 (The Interamerican Highway) to Monteverde. It was sitting motionless under a tree for shade from the hot afternoon sun.
The cattle are African cattle, with a hump just above their shoulders. These cattle are adapted to the tropics and are the most common type of cattle in Costa Rica, with some American cattle intermixed. The humps store fat, similar to functions of camel humps, which enable them to survive the prominent dry season of Western Costa Rica by converting the fat into water.
Deforestation dominated the landscape. There were many cattle farms along the roads (Interamerican Highway and the road leading to Monteverde); the first large patch of forest was not seen until we were approaching Monteverde itself.
Teak tree plantations lined the land along roadsides and are harvested for lumber. The ones we saw were along side the road from the highway to Monteverde. After 20 years the trees are approximately 14 in. in diameter, during which time they are harvested. These trees have large lobed leaves.
Causurina is an introduced angiosperm from Australia. The leaves of this plant are long and thin (like those of a pine), the common name is feathery pine. We saw more of these trees near the capital San José, and only a few as we approached Monteverde.
A Scissor-Tailed Flycatcher was spotted by Shep’s van, so we stopped to see this beautiful bird perched along side the road. For a large majority of us, this was our first look at an exotic, tropical bird. The tail is long, black and the tip is dissected once, giving the appearance of scissors.
The guanacaste trees are legumes with highly dissected leaves. These trees were common on the sides of the roads. Shortly after we stopped to look at the flycatcher we stopped again to take in the beautiful scenery. To the east we saw el Peninsula de Nicoya and el Golfo de Nicoya.
The living fences we commonly saw are a very intriguing story. I first noticed that a large majority of the fence posts were live trees. When I first noticed them I thought maybe the farmers used the trees that were on his property near where he wanted to build a fence, and then connected them with barb wire. But at the same time, I noticed that these fences seemed artificial, the trees were all the same height, and in such a perfect line. Just as these thoughts came to me, Andrus explained the living fence theory. At the beginning of the wet season a farmer takes freshly cut branches (the size of fence posts), drives them into the ground, and connects them with barbed wire (one of the Tico’s favorite materials, barb wire). But by the end of the wet season most of the posts have gotten a chance to root and produce leaves, creating a living fence. In a few years one can hardly notice that the trees were once cuttings. The most common tree used is a tree the locals call naked, Indian tree. The bark of this tree peals frequently, and when it is freshly pealed it is green and photosynthetic.
The major crop of the Monteverde and the Santa Elena area is coffee. This heavily over utilized and over exploited area produces some dairy products, but coffee is by far the major crop. The only primary forest left on the leeward side of Monteverde is on steep areas where pasturing and agriculture are impossible.
As we were leaving Alajuela Andrus informed us that sloths were seen most often in the Cecropia tree. The reason they were seen in this tree most often is because of the openness of the leaves and branches. From this point on, while driving and walking, every Cecropia was scanned by at least one person for signs of a sloth. These trees were common along roads and in pastures during the drive to Monteverde.
Arco Iris Ecolodge: 12:00 noon
Elevation: 4,525 ft.
Weather: warm and sunny
Shortly after we arrived at this beautiful ecolodge, we were greeted by the owner of Arco Iris, Himo. He handed out the keys and we found our rooms. We were four to a room, with two bunk beds. Rooming with me was Ryan, Argy, and Steve. After unpacking a bit, we met on the lawn to have our Squeaky cheese sandwich and fruit for lunch. Before most people arrived, a Keel Billed Toucan flew over us and landed in a nearby tree, as if to welcome us to Monteverde. It was a beautiful and majestic bird, my first Toucan.
Lunch was an experience. The cheese looked like Swiss, but tasted like, well lets just say I didn’t like the taste. But the fresh fruit, especially the pineapple was amazing, and the green oranges were a nice change from the navels I eat at home. It was great to sit outside in the sun, on the grass, as a group and eat.
Children’s Eternal Rain Forest (CRF), Bajo del Tigre: 2:00 p.m.
Elevation: 4,550 ft.
Weather: overcast, and slight-moderate rain
This forest was on the Pacific slope of the central mountain range, thus the forest type is that of a Dry Tropical Rain Forest. We saw…
Melastomataceae (Melastomes) many members
Rubiaceae (many members)
Orchids- the most diverse epiphyte world wide
We saw many members of the Melostomaceae, including some trees, but mostly shrubs. Members of this family are common in the tropical forests we visited, and birds often eat their colorful fruits. There were some vines in this forest. Shortly after germination the vines need to find an object on which to climb. To do this they utilize negative phototropism, this will eventually lead them to a large tree, which they will climb. Members of the family Rubiaceae have shinny, wrinkled, leathery, and opposite leaves. Coffee is a member of this family.
Strangler figs were seen throughout the walk. Most of the time these trees start from the base of the tree and work their way up, but they can also be hemiepiphytes. Hemiepiphytes start their lives as arboreal plants, and then find their way to the ground; after they establish themselves they strangle the tree.
Some of the trees in this forest, including the figs, show buttress roots, these are formed at the base of the tree, as if they were squeezed out of the trunk. They are a part of the tree that is used for support. They require this because in the tropics most trees have shallow roots.
There were some small, inconspicuous plants, which look to be colonial (clumped in discrete areas); they produce an odor similar to rotting meat. This plant is called a stink plant because it produces this rotting odor to attract insects, which then pollinate it.
Napoleon’s button is a common flowering plant in this forest. It resembles members of the Rubiaceae (i.e. it has shinny, wrinkled and leathery leaves). The major difference is its alternate branching. This plant produces cauliflorous flowers, meaning that the flowers are on the stems of the plant, not an uncommon character in the tropics. Common pollinators of this plant are mammals, which include bats and tree dwelling mammals. This type of flowering pattern therefore decreases when you get to the cloud forest (because the number of mammals also decreases).
The split-leaf palm is an interesting plant. It has a division of leaves that reminds me of the kelp Macrocystis. The leaves begin as a single mass. This mass then divides itself to produce many smaller leaves, as does Macrocystis.
The epiphytes in this area give many clues to the climate. We saw cacti epiphytes in the crotches of a few large strangler figs, and an abundance of Lichens. Because these organisms are very desiccation tolerant we can assume that this area goes through some long, substantial dry periods. The presence of moss, to a limited extent, and the absence of liverworts (desiccation intolerant plants) also tells us we are in an area of dryness (at least for prolonged periods). There were also vines and lianas in the Bajo del Tigre, both of which are adapted to dryness. Having roots in the ground (like vines and lianas) allows a plant to get moisture from the ground when needed. The bromeliads found here are able to collect water in specially designed cups, this allows them to survive in the periodic dry environment of the region.
This area is in the rain shadow of the northern central mountain range (Cordillera de Tilarán). By the time the humid air from the el Mar Caribe has reached the leeward side of the mountains all of the moisture has already fallen out, resulting in the dry tropical montain forest.
We saw a beautiful cryptic butterfly when sedentary, but when it took flight it was a beautiful orange. This ‘flash color’ morphology is a type of defense strategy against predators. When the predator sees the brilliant orange insect flying it has something visual to hone in on, but when the insect lands it completely disappears, it becomes one with the surrounding brown leaves. We also found an iridescent blue Rove beetle milling around a fallen log.
The forest understory was not very dense. This was kind of surprising, I have always thought of the jungle as impenetrable, because of the way rainforests (jungles) have been portrayed in entertainment (movies). As a matter of fact the understory here is no more (maybe even less) than the one you would find back in Binghamton during the summer. The impenetrable understory may compare more closely to the lowland rainforest, but the forest here does have a dry season, which may decrease the growth of the understory.
When Shep, Ryan, Steve and I finally found the overlook (it took longer than we thought) we were amazed by the beautiful scenery, which surrounded us. There were many birds flying from tree-top to tree-top (mostly Brown Jays in groups of 2-6 individuals). There were hawks soaring above the canopy and ravine. You could hear the water rushing in the canyon below, and the jays squawking as they flew by. This was my first bird’s-eye-view at what I would call a classic rainforest canopy. The foliage was breathtaking. It seemed to run forever in every direction, almost completely undisturbed. The heights of the trees were between 20-80 ft. Looking up and down the mountain face (on the other side of the canyon), one could see hundreds of trees threaded with vines, covered with bromeliads, and presumably flowering orchids. How beautiful could one place be? This was a day of many firsts, first time in a tropical forest, first time seeing such large trees, first time seeing buttresses, but perhaps the most memorable thing was my first look at the canopy. It was beautiful against the much lighter sky. So high above where we stood, so many processes taking place in the canopy (most of which are dependent on this unique environment).
As it was getting dark we decided to catch up with the rest of the group. When we returned we found half of the group waiting for us. Andrus had decided to leave early and head back to Arco Iris (when we got back we found that they had gotten stuck in the mud on their way back). When we caught up to them it was nearly dinnertime, and did we eat… We ate ‘till there was nothing left to eat (As we did for most of the rest of the trip).
That evening after dinner, we closed the dinning hall. We played hearts, and I got a chance to get aquatinted with Steve (who I had known somewhat before hand), Sharon, and Alyssa C (Mary and Alyssa N. played also). It was fun just to hang out.
January 6th 1999 (Day 3)
Outside Arco Ires: 5:30 a.m.
Weather: 59oF, very gusty winds, overcast
It was an amazingly windy morning, it seemed as if a monsoon had moved in overnight. I was expecting rain to be flooding the area, but when I got up there was no sign of rain, it was just the strong winds. Ryan and I were the first to gather for morning birding. When we were looking at the sunrise we saw a dog roaming the grounds (the dog that we were told looks like it would bite, did bite.) It looked a bit fearful. We didn’t know what to do, so we just stood there, and before too long Ryan noticed that it had a muzzle on. It was quite frightening, however this was minor compared to the experiences I found myself in the days to come.
We broke up into two groups, I went with Andrus to walk partway into town along the roads. It was windy, and this was why we only saw a limited number of birds. The winds were brutal. The tree tops were being pushed back and forth relentlessly. With all this working against us, we still managed to see.
Kiskadees were seen flying between wires and trees. This bird is a type of large flycatcher. The Blue-Gray Tanagers were found perched on the wires running between houses and business on the road leading to Monteverde. The Emerald Toucanet was my very first glance at one. It was beautiful, sitting on a tree 10m away. I found the Rufous-Tailed Hummingbird by following its lek song. Once I found it, it was directly above me, singing away.
Santa Elena Cloud Forest, S. Youth Challenge: 8:20 a.m.
Elevation: 5,606 ft.
Weather: 59oF light rain, overcast
When we first arrived we saw the large-leafed poor man’s umbrella, which seemed to line the walk way to the information center (Informacion). At the informacion there were a few (2 or 3) hummingbird feeders. The feeders were frequently visited by a few types of hummingbirds which included the Rufous-Tailed hummingbird. After paying a small entrance fee to the preserve we were able to hike for the entire day. The beginning of the trail was cut for pasture in 1977. It therefore became secondary forest.
This was our first look at a cloud forest. There were epiphytes everywhere, on the tree’s trunks (which were hardly visible) and even on other epiphytes (especially the vines and lianas). As we moved through the forest some things we saw were almost alien (Tank Bromeliads), while others were variations on temperate organisms (i.e. Tree Ferns). There was a constant dripping from the air, even when it was not raining. There are many filmy ferns and leafy liverworts found in this forest, and because they are among the least desiccation tolerant epiphytes (filmy ferns being completely desiccation intolerant), we know that this constant dripping is not a function of season, it’s always wet here (with little to no dry period). For being a forest in the clouds this is not surprising (50% of the moisture in this forest is a result of condensation, the forest surfaces are considered ‘cloud filters’). This cloud forest is actually a wet example of a tropical cloud forest.
The soil in this forest is very slow to decay. There is a large layer of partially decomposed litter on the ground. The reason that decay is such a slow process is the constant moisture and fairly low temperatures. When soil is wet, decay is very slow. It is not the moisture that directly affects the process it is also the lack of oxygen in the water. The bacteria and other organisms that break down organic matter require oxygen. Because water holds many times less oxygen than air, and the decomposers use all the available oxygen the anerobic organisms take over, and decay occurs at a very slow rate. The decrease in temperature also contributes to the speed at which organic material decays. As the temperature decreases the rate of decay also decreases. When these two factors occur (as it does in the cloud forest) it leads to an extremely slow rate of decay.
Here the vegetation differs from the CRF (Children’s Eternal Rain Forest) in a few ways (primarily due to the moisture differences). There is no leaf loss in the cloud forest, while there is some in the CRF. The epiphytes are more numerous in the cloud forest and those present are more desiccation intolerant than in the CRF. The leaf size in the understory is larger, while the leaf size in the canopy is smaller (this canopy difference is mostly a function of wind, at higher elevations you get higher winds). There are also more gaps in the canopy. This is because of the may tree falls in the cloud forest caused mainly by high winds.
When we entered the forest, the amount of green was among the first things that caught my eye (along with the constant dripping). Among the other things seen were…
Vines and Lianas
Liverworts (Leafy and Thallus)
Mixed Flock of birds
Tank Bromeliads (most as epiphytes, a large number of which had fallen to the ground)
Rubiaceae (littering the forest floor)
Spittle Bug Spit
Daddy Long Legs (with a fungus and a mite on it)
Bamboo (three types)
This forest was dominated by nearly everything imaginable. Perhaps the most interesting story involves mixed flock foraging. This is done by a few types of birds (usually one or two species dominate the flock) which forage together. It’s carried out for safety, the old adage- safety in numbers. The more members of a group, the more eyes on the look out for predators. The mixed flocks are much larger here in the cloud forest than in the low land forests. The two species we saw most frequently in mixed flocks were the Spangled-Cheeked Tanager, the Common Bush-Tanager, and to a lesser extent an unidentified Finch.
The tree ferns are among one of the most magnificent things in the cloud forest. I have never seen such large ferns. A fiddlehead fern on a tree! They dwarf all the ferns in the temperate climates many times over.
Calathea has a brilliant, yet simple, yellow flower that looked like it was made out of ripped yellow construction paper. The leaves were huge, and simple with opposite venation (they superficially resemble those of the banana tree).
Razisea is a plant that flowers in a trapline sequence. The individual flowers flower one at a time, in sequence. This allows the hummingbirds to follow a line of flowering plants to the end. When it returns back down the same line of plants, the next flower has bloomed. The hummingbird needs only to have a singe line of flowers from which it collects its nectar (and pollen); when it gets to the end of the line it just turns around and does it all over again, with fresh flowers in bloom each time.
Katydids are interesting insects. They have some of the morphological characters of a grasshopper, and some of a butterfly. The species I saw were cryptic (either a dead leaf mimic or a live leaf mimic). These seemingly mixed up creatures are wonderful and most challenging to find because of their cryptic morphology. They are a type of long-horned grasshopper.
The vine like epiphyte, with the tear drop leaf morphology, is Peperomia. This sleek plant has a thick, succulent leaf, and the petiole meets the leaf on the leaf’s underside (like the water lily). This is one of my favorite, and one of the most unmistakable epiphytes in the forest.
We found one of the most interesting little communities, on legs. A daddy long leg spider provided this community’s mode of transportation. The community consisted of the spider, a single red mite, and a fungus (visible as the grayish tint on the spider).
The Black Guan is not very high on the cutiness scale. It is a surprisingly large, all black (the biggest negative influence of its cutiness), cloud forest canopy bird. Researchers have found that this bird, if confronted with even a minor disturbance in the forest (a small pasture), will not cross it. This does not lend well for this bird in a very divided forest landscape. If this bird is cut off from a new secondary forest, it will not be able to colonize this new habitat readily.
Oreopanax. This is the same tree that consumed most of Steve’s (and Yanira’s) morning. This tree has a very similar leaf pattern to the Cecropia. The major difference is that the divided portions of the Oreopanax are completely divided, while those of the Cecropia are only divided 2/3 of the way. Steve noticed this, and then proceeded, for the next hour or so, to find what type of tree this was. Finally he came up with the answer, Oreopanax (I don’t know what book he used since we were on the trail, but he found it none the less).
Bamboo is a cloud forest plant. All of the three types of this plant found in Costa Rica are found in the Santa Elena Cloud Forest. This plant flowers very infrequently, VERY infrequently (like every 70 years or so!). Because these plants flower every 70 years, and because they don’t all flower at once (about one in 70 plants will be in flower each year), the birds that specialize on bamboo fruit must search the cloud forest for the vast minority that are in bloom that year.
Siparuna is the citronella plant. It has small, cherry sized, red fruits that hang from the tree. When cut open they give off the distinctive citronella smell. Its smell was very refreshing, reminding me of a warm weekend spent camping on Lake Ontario. It smelled like summer in my backyard in Buffalo, swimming at night in the warm August air. Now, citronella smells like the tropical forest of Costa Rica on a warm January afternoon.
Moving from secondary forest (at the beginning of the trail) to primary forest there was a noticeable increase in the tree size. When we first entered the forest the tree diameter was very small, you could hardly discern between the lianas and the tree trunks. When we moved into primary forest the diameter increased dramatically, it went from inches to feet.
As lunchtime neared, we had to pick up our slow, constantly observing pace (a pace we kept for most of the trip). On our way back we found an overlook with a view of Arenal. At this point it was cloud covered, but we got a glimpse of its base. This over look gave us the closest look to an elfin forest (high elevation forest) that we would get until our last day in Costa Rica (I will describe the forest type then). This elfin forest is a tree forest much smaller than those at a slightly lower elevation. We made it to the observation tower but there was not enough time to climb it before lunch (so if we wanted to, we would have to climb it during our free time after lunch). And at this point we ran into our first ants, army ants. Since we were standing in the middle of the colony we decided a quick exit would be out best mode of action. So we made our decent to the cafeteria.
Santa Elena Cloud Forest Information: 12:30 p.m.
Weather: things cleared up, and the sun began to come out, warmer
Workers in the Santa Elena Cloud Forest cafeteria made lunch for our group. I don’t remember what was for lunch, except that there was rice and beans, coffee, and tiger-nut milk. My coffee drinking habits have been changing; before this trip coffee was more of a special occasion drink, but ever since this lunch I have taken coffee into my daily routine. I love it. Gracias, Santa Elena, CR. I ate with Andrus and Alyssa N.
A group of us (Steve, Alyssa x 2, Teresa, Sharon, and a few others that fell behind early.) decided that we were going to go on our own. I think most of them came with me because Shep said that he saw monkeys on this trail a few years ago, but my reasoning was to get away from the large group and have a nice hike at my own pace.
Santa Elena Cloud Forest, Encantado (Trail): 2:00 p.m.
Weather: partly sunny
This trail had many ups and down. It was dubbed an ‘adventure trail.’ Along with the changes in elevation there were some water ways which we crossed (it was our first in Costa Rica). I noticed that as the elevation decreased as the thickness of the understory decreased, the number of vines decreased, and tree size decreased. Among the things we saw were…
Iridescent, turquoise beetle, with orange antennae
Hot Lips (Epiphytic)
Mixed Flock of birds
Spiders (on the leaf litter)
Sloanea ampla (Monkeys Comb)
The walk began with a large group because the trails we walked overlapped in the beginning. Once we separated it was not long until we found some running water. It was beautiful. The sound of water puts me in such a peaceful state of mind. The way the water runs through the dense green foliage of the understory and the canopy, created dark shadows and bright reflections.
After Lisa and a few others caught up I found a dead frog lying on a leaf, it was the first look I got at tropical frog. Lisa took it and put it in alcohol. We saw a mixed flock of birds moving from N to S. The first bird we spotted was the Yellow-Thighed Finch, and then the Collared Redstart in the same mixed flock. They moved through the forest at a rather quick pace. Within 5 min they were out of sight.
Monkey’s Comb is the fruit of the Sloanea ampla, a tree found in these forests. The leaves of this tree have alternate venation, and the fruit looked somewhat like a chestnut with many sharp bristles.
The view from the observation tower on top of the continental divide (Cordillera de Tilarán) was exhilarating. It was amazing to see both the Pacific slope (to the west) and the Atlantic slope (to the east). Windy only begins to describe the stiff breeze felt on the top of the tower. I am not afraid of heights, but when it is that windy and the prospect of being blown off the tower is not out of the realm of possibility, I will admit that I held on tightly to the railings.
On the way back to Information we ran across a small clump of Avocado seeds. They were very small compared to the Avocados found in the supermarkets, but they were unmistakably Avocados. There were also some beautiful views of the canopy on the way back to the information desk. The walk was brisk at points, to make sure that we had time to climb the observation tower, but overall it was a gentile walk, with much observation along the way. It was relaxing to get off the beaten path and away from the larger group. With all the benefits a large group has (the increased number of eyes, and joint knowledge) being in a small group, or alone is very desirable at times, and this was one of those times.
Arco Iris: Evening (dinner and afterward)
This evening we received a lecture on the happenings of the local ecotourism industry. It was informative. I became much more aware of the influence of tourism in this area, and also the drive for money some people have; how they will call anything ecotourism if they can make a quick buck.
Steve became the class clown. He was just hilarious, and he constantly left himself open for anyone to make fun of him. He did this so regularly that often no one had to say a thing, and the class would erupt in laughter. Example: he was going to bring a stove with propane (to boil his water), and speakers for his walkman. Why did he decide to leave these things at home? It was because he didn’t want Andrus to make fun of him. He said, “I packed so that Andrus could not make fun of me!” Like that was going to work.
Later that evening Ryan found a tick on his thigh area. Since he was the first to find one in the group to have a tick in him it was a little scary for him, but Shep was able to take care of it and set his mind at ease. It was the first of many tick bites on this trip.
January 7th 1999 (Day 4)
Arco Iris, the field behind the lodge: 6:00 a.m.
Weather: sunny, windy 60oF
We did not see any more birds than the previous day, but the beauty and size of the birds increased dramatically. The field was mostly open, on a rather steep incline. There were a few large trees on the edges, including a large fig tree near its low point; also there were small to moderate trees scattered through the field itself. Otherwise it was a field of waist-high grass. We saw…
Northern (Baltimore) Orioles (two)
One of the Orioles that I spotted flying overhead had an interesting flight pattern. The bird would flap its wings a few times followed by an equal time period where it kept its wings closed (in a bullet shape) and coast for a few seconds. It would then repeat the process. This may be a behavior that is adapted to flying in this high wind environment.
The Keel-Billed Toucan was found perched in a fig tree. Shortly after it was spotted it flew across an open area into a Cecropia tree then disappeared from view (before I could get a picture). In the same, previously mentioned study with the Black Guan and its low frequency of flying over the smallest gaps in the forest, the Toucan was found to fly across gaps of seemingly unlimited distance. This bird is not strictly a forest bird like the Black Guan.
Just before we had decided to head back for breakfast, Dan spotted an Orange-Bellied Targon. This bird was magnificent, easily one of the most beautiful birds I saw on the trip. When we first saw it, the bird was facing us directly, so we got a great look at the marvelous and vivid colors on the front of the bird and its tail. After a few minutes it flew into thicker foliage, but it was still visible, this time so we could see its profile. It was the most complete look at a bird I would get on the trip.
While waking to breakfast Shep pointed out a tree that had lost its leaves but was flowering. This tree waited until the dry season to bloom. The tree was a legume which is hummingbird pollinated, I could hear the hummingbirds from where we stood (20 m away).