Entries in #survey (8)


Night Of The Turtles - Part  1

It was mid-January when I arrived in Costa Rica and it was only on my second day that I had that first fateful encounter with a sea turtle while on survey. Witnessing a nesting sea turtle is an experience of time travel, as these animals have existed unchanged for millions of years.

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An Interview With: Assistant research Officer, Rebecca

Read this interview with Assistant Research Officer Rebecca to find out what life is like working in Costa Rica and why she chose to go there:

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What We Have Been Up To In The Last 2 Weeks 

I can't believe I have already been in Costa Rica for two weeks, time flies here. I'm currently sitting in the camp's kitchen, which is a lodge made of wood that consists of a small kitchen and a big space with two big tables on which we eat. This is also the place where we usually hang out, especially after the surveys since it's very open and available for everyone.

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Not Taking Things For Granted 

During my first few weeks in the Osa peninsula, Costa Rica, everything amazes: lush jungle, being woken up by howler monkeys, the overwhelming diversity of flora and fauna. You always have to pinch yourself to make sure you are not dreaming and there is no need for someone to remind you how unique this place is.

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An Introduction to the Jungle

It was, with much huffing, a little puffing, and a lot of sweating, that I bundled onto the collectivo in Puerto Jiminez. My bag crashed to the floor as I, with an equal amount of force, crashed onto a little wooden bench which ran down the side of the van. No First Class this time. This was to be the final journey on the Central America trail, and I was about to become an ex-trail leader. Frontier Costa Rica’s jungle camp was beckoning me, but I had no idea what that would involve.

If I was apprehensive about it, which I can’t really remember now, then with two weeks of jungle life behind me I know that those would have been silly thoughts. As I write this I’m swinging in a hammock hanging from two trees which a few days ago had a group of monkeys swinging through them too. Around me people are laughing and chatting and there is talk of someone making a cake. The kitchen and dining area, which is always a hub of activity, has just produced another batch of jungle cuisine, and even a self-proclaimed meat fanatic  would love the meat-less food which this fridge-less camp produces.

I’ll admit it wasn’t all rosy to begin with, the 04.30am starts take a few days to adjust to, but once you’ve hit the road for surveys you’re good to go, even if you’ve only managed a mouthful of coffee and spoonful of porridge, a form of sustenance which has become a way of life for many in our little microcosm within the Carate Jungle. The mornings work could involve a number of things, hunting for mammal or turtle tracks, cracking your binoculars out and scoping for birds by the lagoon, or headings into the jungle to search out troops of primates, to name but a few.

Once your morning surveys are done you’ll arrive back, feast on jungle cuisine, and then get involved in something else. Organised debates occur (should we all be vegetarian? Should prisoners have the vote?), Spanish is taught, there is workout classes for the brave, and hammocks for the dozy. A new addition is sunset beach yoga, which I even tried my hand at because, well, why not?

So there we have it, a brief introduction to the jungle. From an ex-trail leader who likes to be on the move, I don’t think I’ll be complaining about sitting still for 3 and a half months while I’m on the Osa Peninsula.

By Alistair Ross - Ex Trail Leader & Field Communications Officer

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In Search Of The Elusive Ocelot

There’s so much more wildlife in Costa Rica than I could have ever imagined, from the monkeys to the frogs to the insects. But there was one type of species that I wanted to see more than any other, and this was any of the wildcats! In the Osa Peninsula there are 6 different wildcats; Oncilla, margay, ocelot, Jaguarundi, Puma and Jaguar. I was never too optimistic about seeing any of them, but as time went on I always thought maybe one day I may just stumble across one.

After seeing ocelot tracks on the trail just behind camp the optimism grew and grew and then one night whilst in the back of a truck on our way to the local bar I saw a flash of beautiful colours in the cars headlights run across the road. All I could do is shout at Kiefer who was in the back of the truck ‘THERES AN OCELOT!!’. Unfortunately he wasn’t able to turn round in time to see it. I had to control my breathing as I was freaking out a lot, almost to the point where I thought I may faint for the first time. It may have only been 2 seconds of visual contact as it scampered off but it was enough to give a childlike feeling of discovery again.

When some of the other volunteers and staff arrived back at camp the next day I couldn’t wait to tell them. No one could believe it and they were extremely jealous, especially the big boss Jenna.

A few days later some people came running into camp saying they had seen the ocelot again; we couldn’t believe it as it was the middle of the day. Kiefer was very distraught that he had once again missed it and started pacing around with a slight look of anger on his face. Then at dinner that night the people who saw the ocelot then revealed it was just a cruel joke to wind Kiefer up, a very harsh prank but one that would later come to bite them back!

A few days had past and then upon arriving back from a survey all I saw was Jenna, Kiefer and Nie with big grins and their hands up in the air. I knew they had seen something amazing I was just waiting for the words to come out their mouths, they then revealed they had seen the ocelot just walking through camp casually before trotting off into the jungle. Despite seeing the ocelot before I was very jealous as they had clearly had a much better view of it, in broad daylight as well.

Earlier that day I had seen tapir prints and faeces on the trail behind camp, so a bit later I went off by myself to see if I could find the tapir. After about 30 minutes of searching I hadn’t found him so I started to walk back towards camp when suddenly I looked up and just saw the ocelot about 5 metres away from me walking off into the jungle. I froze with disbelief before attempting to get my phone out to take a photo but it was too late. Once again I freaked out slightly and had to take 5 minutes to catch my breath and compose myself.

I started to walk back to camp when I bumped into Nie and Berglind, and with a massive smile on my face revealed that I had just seen the Ocelot up close and clear as day. Berglind was stunned and insisted we went back on the trail to look for it, which I was more than happy to do.

After walking for about 5 minutes I froze again and just pointed, Berglind and Nie both knew that I had spotted it and came rushing over. The Ocelot was about 10 metres away and was staring at us, after a 30 second staring contest that felt more like days, he started to walk off back into the jungle once more. We were all super elated and struggling to put words together of what just happened, Nie also managed to get a very good photo of the face!

To top it all off whilst the three of us walked back to camp we saw a Tayra plodding down the trail, another animal that is rarely seen, possibly the best 20 or so minutes of wildlife I have ever witnessed.

Getting back to camp people asked me how my tapir search had went in which I replied ‘no tapir but I saw something a lot better’ peoples faces started to drop when they realised what it had been and when I revealed it was an Ocelot they could not believe it, a few volunteers that had played the prank on Kiefer immediately went on the trail to look for it but had no luck.

Seeing all the different animals here is always going to be amazing no matter how big or small but to see such an elusive and magnificent animal like the Ocelot just sends shivers through your whole body that can’t compare to many other feelings.

With a lot of luck, optimism and hope maybe I will get to see the Jaguar one day!

By Joe Wilcox - Conservation volunteer

Photo Credit - Aneira Williams

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My Favourite Survey...

…Is definitely the lagoon birds survey. Getting up early, and then hanging out on the beach while the sun rises over the ocean. Then when it’s bright enough, you just start counting what you see. Simple! And if you’re really lucky, you get to see a roseate spoonbill. It’s a short and easy survey. But then again…

… I love the long surveys. The ones where we wander through a changing forest habitat, like Luna Ridge, where we see monkeys, a few birds, and my favourites, the reptiles and lizards. Yesterday we saw two different species of snakes there. A coral snake mimic species and a tiger rat snake. I can keep walking as long as the animals keep appearing, so yeah this is definitely my favourite survey!

Talking of my favourite survey… I loooove the night surveys! Walking along the path armed with just a head torch and a camera, we get to see all the creepy crawlies who hide during the day. You probably find this hard to imagine, but the invertebrates here come in all shapes and sizes. We see leaf-shaped katydids, click beetles who have two light spots on the back, that glow in the dark, snakes, tree frogs, and spider that are red, yellow, white, black and green.

…You know what else is green? The green sea turtle. Some nights we just go for a walk along the beach, looking for turtle tracks and nests and looking at nest predation. I haven’t seen a turtle yet (fingers crossed) but I love burying my feet in the sand while I admire the sound of the waves and the view of the moon. That has to be my favourite survey!

If I had to pick any other favourite surveys, it would have to be the river surveys of either birds or otter tracks. The river is so cool and beautiful, and it’s so much fun when you find different tracks, both trying to identify them and also seeing where they were going. I also love seeing the scarlet macaws flying high above the river.

All silliness put aside, I was really positively surprised by the variety of surveys here and all the animals we get to see. I expected that, being in the rainforest, we would be doing forest trails for all surveys, and that the animals would be hiding. Nevertheless, I never get bored of the view here and I keep seeing new amazing animals.

By Berglind Karlsdóttir

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7 Things You'll Learn In Your First Week In The Jungle 

1.    5am becomes a normal time to wake up. We’re early birds here on camp, and the surveys often kick off before the sun rises. The positives: watching the sun rise over the sea, spotting fresh turtle tracks on the beach, catching the four monkey species breakfasting in the treetops. (Besides, even if you’re not on a survey, the Howlers will wake you up around sunrise).

2.    Hammocks will become your closest friend. After a trial week, even the comfort of a four-poster king-size bed won’t compete with your very own polyester cocoon.

3.    You will be perpetually moist. It’s pretty hot and humid here in the jungle; you’ll be sweating a lot, it will be raining a lot. The result is damp clothing at all times of the day (and night), and you’ll be hard-pressed to stave off the mould without a liberal application of our patented lemony-salty anti-mould solution. Bring a lot of talcum powder!

4.    You’ll get irrationally excited over seeing a lump of poo. From an animal though, not a human. We do scat searches along the Río Piro for Otters and Big Cats, measuring their abundance and determining behavioural patterns. If this isn’t your thing, we are often lucky enough to spot tracks from cats, peccaries and raccoons on these walks, along with a wealth of birdlife!

5.    Walking everywhere in wellies will become second nature. Not only do wellies protect your feet from snakes and scorpions, they can also be surprising comfortable if you bring along long socks. Plus, once you’ve seen the sunset from Cerra Osa or Laguna Silvestre, all the blisters will be worth it.

6.    You won’t mind being a vegetarian (or you’ll love the fact you are one even more). We have no electricity on camp. And no electricity means no fridge, which means no meat. I was happily surprised, however, by the incredible quality of food on camp. When it’s your turn to cook, creative qualities and imaginations are awakened, and some amazing dishes are the result. In the last week alone we’ve had curry with homemade naans, fried bean and soy burgers, and the Costa Rican classic, Gallo Pinto.

7.    Camp isn’t just for people. We share our lives here with all the wildlife of the Osa Peninsula. Our breakfasts are shared with Howler Monkeys and Capuchins, our dinners with Anteaters and Pacas. Other than these guys, we’ve seen Coatis, Agoutis, Toucans, Turtles, hundreds of kinds of frogs, birds, insects, and, very occasionally, even big cats such as Ocelots and Puma.

By George Shankar - Field Communications Officer

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