Last Sunday I made the trip from Tortuguero back to San José. Now that I was familiar with the route things felt a lot more comfortable. (I also left some of my stuff at the CCC so my backpack was a bit lighter!) Then I took a cab to another bus station (again lucking out with an English-speaking cab driver, but I’m pretty sure he overcharged me) and met with Sara, a student in San Jose who is also taking the North American Bird Banding certification course. She and I then took another bus to the Madre Selva station, which is in the Cerro de la Muerta area.
Madre Selva is up at 2500 metres in the cloud forest, and as a result, it is a cloudy, foggy, rainy, chilly sort of place. The station is a house and we had it all to ourselves. It felt great to get to cook for a change! I also took full advantage of unlimited access to a kettle for making tea and a toaster that toasts at a normal rate (the CCC toaster is very finicky and takes forever!) It was also kind of nice to feel cold for a change– I enjoyed snuggling into my sleeping bag at night and getting the wood stove going.
It is on a mountain, though, so getting to the nets was a bit of a challenge– a lot of hiking up and down steep, slippery, muddy slopes! (It reminded me a bit of hiking in New Zealand, with all the rain and reddish-brown mud and steep inclines and ferns.) I was very glad to have my new rain pants to protect me from the rain and muck! We have three banding sites up there and have to carry the metal banding poles to each one, so it is quite the workout! (At Tortuguero we have cane poles that we leave in each net lane.)
Up there it is a totally new set of birds. Unfortunately, the weather wasn’t very cooperative, so I didn’t get to see many species– hopefully on another trip up there I’ll spy a Resplendent Quetzal. But we did catch a lot of neat birds.
Unfortunately, these guys are often trapped and sold as cage birds, because of their beautiful voices
Such a huge hummingbird!
One of the migrant warblers up there– we also caught a returning Wilson’s Warbler and a Black-throated Green Warbler
And for the pièce de résistance…
When it came time to leave, however, we had a bit of an ordeal. Apparently a big chunk of the Inter-American Highway had disappeared, so we weren’t even sure if buses were coming through. Plus when leaving Madre Selva we have to walk nearly 4 km (in the rain, of course!) to the restaurant where the buses make a rest stop between San Isidro and San Jose. As luck had it, we arrived just as the bus pulled away. No matter, we thought, there’d be another one in half an hour. But the schedule wasn’t as we expected it and we sat there, soaking wet and shivering, for an hour and a half before the next one came. It was dark by then and to avoid the giant hole in the road we had to take a longer, twisting, nauseating route. (Also, Tico drivers are a bit crazy– it felt like we had several close calls where we could have side-swiped some semis or other oncoming traffic!) But finally we made it to San Jose, and a took a (surprisingly reasonably priced) cab ride back to INBio. One thing I appreciate about Tico cab drivers is both times that I’ve been dropped off after dark they have waited to make sure things were okay before they left.
And here at INBio Morgan had arrived, my co-bander from North Carolina. It is a great relief that now we’ll be travelling and working together. (She also understands and speaks more Spanish than me, which is also a great help!) We are currently banding at INBio and will be heading back to Tortuguero on Sunday.
¡Hasta la vista!