Well the day started off slow, with rain cancelling our planned canopy walk. After breakfast we saw our first snake—we still haven’t fully identified it, but we think it was a very young vine snake. It was pencil thin, and about 10-15 cm in length. David “herpetologist” Griggs spotted it on a large leaf while we waited for our professor, the esteemed Dr. Bynum. Nora was able to entertain us with a lecture about tropical plant phenology and the CICLOS project she worked on. During class two beautiful collared aracaris showed up outside our classroom windows, so the class did take a 5 minute break to watch them as they entertained us. These relatives of the toucans were absolutely beautiful and the first of their kind that most of us had ever seen. The class had a nice discussion about carbon cycling in certain plants at La Selva.
After the lecture some of us went for a nature walk. It was still raining a bit so we decided to bird watch right near the classroom. We spotted a black crowned oriole–or a Baltimore oriole—the jury is still out as well as a golden-hooded tanager with beautiful iridescent blue wings. We also spotted many flycatchers, kisskadees and some wrens and hummingbirds. After about 30 minutes we decided to brave the rain and hike through the forest—it really wasn’t raining that hard. We headed off to a frog meadow and we able to spot a number of blue jean poison dart frogs thanks to herpetologist Dave. When we arrived at the frog meadow, we found the bridge and trail flooded. Nora sent TA Meagan out to see how deep the water was—that is an official TA function after all (we do have pictures). We needless to say backtracked and took another route to the waterfall/rapids area. It was beautiful – one of Nora’s favorite spots at La Selva. We took a few pictures and headed back. On the way back we saw a HUGE mushroom—at least 1.5 feet across. David and I wanted to taste it, but decided against it. Identity of mushroom is still unknown.
We had a nice lunch and then headed to the boat trip with the class and Albert—a guide at La Selva. After a short drive we arrived at our yacht—actually a very nice boat—captained by Ronald we took off for our tour (we were going to start singing the theme from Gilligan’s Island—but decided against it). The tour took about 1 hour and we spotted many wonderful birds, a few iguanas and a few troops of both howler and spider monkeys, but the star attraction was the spectacled caiman we spotted (actually Ronald and Albert spotted it) lounging on the banks of the river.
After showering and changing our clothes we headed to a lecture given by Deedra McLaren, the director of La Selva. It was a wonderful lecture about the history of La Selva and the value of the research produced here. She really stressed the unique nature of La Selva –the 40-50 year history of data, the unique geopositioning information available to the scientists. The long term studies that can be performed at La Selva are unique and those opportunities cannot be duplicated at any tropical biology station in the world.
After the lecture we got on the bus and went into Puerto Viejo for a lovely dinner at Ara Ambigua. Deedra joined us and recommended wonderful dishes for us all to eat. We talked about Deedra’s lecture, her consulting opportunities in Botswana and solved all of life’s problems. Over dinner, I learned the most important lesson of the trip—just as you should never get between a hippo and the water; you should never get between Joe (or Meagan) and their salt.