Sunday, March 18, 2012

Costa Rica - a green place

lowland rainforest

I am back home after a week in Costa Rica, where I spent gorgeous times in rainforests, tropical beaches, mangrove swamps and star-filled nights.  Here are some of the things I saw at the La Selva Research Station, northeast of San Jose in the sloping foothills(click on photo for larger pictures):

Heliconia wagneriana bractsHeliconia (rostrata?) inflorescence

The colorful bracts of Heliconias always fascinate me. The flowers are hidden inside, and only extend when they are flowering, a few at the time. Hummingbirds are the pollinators.

leaf-cutter antsleaf-cutter ants leaf-cutter ants leaf-cutter ants

Lots of leaf-cutter ants, carrying leaves of the Costa Rican guava called 'cas', which makes great juice (the guava fruits, I mean!). These ants work 24 hours a day, so when you are out walking at night they are still there, toiling away in the dark. Their nests are in the ground, and they enter them through big openings. It is easy to find the nests since their trails are all cleared from any vegetation. The ants carrying the leaves are bigger, and then there are small ants sitting on the leaves, protecting the carrying ant from parasitic flies, which tries to lay its eggs in the head of the carrying ant. Evolution is really fascinating, indeed. Underground the leaves are then chewed and become part of big chewed-leaf-fungus gardens.

2-toed sloth with baby

Two-toed sloth with a baby. These move really slow. A friend told me that once a sloth gripped his arm, and he thought he would loose his arm, the grip was that strong, and the sloth would not let loose. No wonder, if you spend your life in a tree, you better not fall down, ever.

Montezuma oropendula nests on the tips of the palm leaves
The Montezuma oropendula birds (one of the weirdest birds I have seen, they sit and fall downwards on their branches on purpose; video here), are now making their nests at the tips of long palm-leaves. Poor chicks, they were being bounced around in the wind all the time. (I can't figure out if it should be oropendula or oropendola... both spellings are used.)

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