Notes from the Classroom


We have had a very busy, productive, and sometimes frustrating, year teaching Detectives de Aves here in Coto Brus. (For those of you who are unfamiliar with this program, you can learn all about it here This year instead of simply writing about how many schools we visited, how many kids we taught, etc., I would like to take some time to discuss what I see as the larger purpose of teaching Detectives de Aves to as many kids as we can, as best as we can. This post is a little long, but I hope you will find that it is worth your time.

It’s All About Making Connections
This year we have had the opportunity to make lots of connections.
In March two of our teachers, Carla Azofeifa-Rojas and Paula Mesén, and I had the opportunity to go to Guatemala to meet and collaborate with other teachers of Detectives and volunteers dedicated to providing essential educational opportunities to one of the most disadvantaged populations in Guatemala – Rural Indigenous Women.

This year we were also able to connect with a new teacher of Detectives, Marco Mora, who has been, and hopefully will continue to be, a valued colleague who has brought new energy and perspectives to the program. We also made connections with two new schools, Santa Rita and La Esmeralda, and reconnected with two schools we haven’t worked with in a while, La Lucha and Concepción. And finally, we connected with Pablo Elizondo to bring kids from three of our schools to Madre Selva, on the Cerro de la muerte, to connect with kids from the schools his organization, Costa Rica Bird Observatories, has been teaching this year.

Finally, we are ending this year making new connections with our neighbors, and fellow bird enthusiast (bird-lunatics?) the Pajareros del sur. Both groups hope that this collaboration will help both groups make connections with the greater community of Coto Brus, and with neighbors who haven’t known each other well enough up until now.

Now I want to spend a little time connecting with you all writing about these three, very important events.

To Guatemala, and back again
In March of this year Carla, Paula, and I had the great pleasure to visit Guatemala to meet and work with teachers and supporters of Detectives de Aves in Alta Verapaz, and to attend the Guatemala Bird Fair on lake Atitlan. This trip was made possible by a grant from the National Geographic Society obtained by the formidable Dr. Lilly Briggs, our close partner at the Cornell University Lab of Ornithology. We were also accompanied by Jennifer Sánchez, who has been teaching Detectives de Aves for years at the Parque de Libertad in Desemparados, San José during the school vacations. A rather impressive group of young, professional women.


The reason for the trip was two-fold: first an opportunity for people working on Detectives de Aves to meet and share experiences, and second to continue developing a survey to try to measure the effectiveness of Detectives de Aves in imparting knowledge and changing the attitudes and behavior of our students. You might be surprised by how difficult it is to develop such a survey, especially across linguistic and cultural norms. It looks easy at first but becomes very complicated as you dig into it. The survey is an important way to objectively measure the practical impact of the course on the kids, and is even more important when it comes to raising money and garnering Institutional support for the program. Those of us who have worked with the kids in the classroom know that it changes their attitudes and behaviors because they tell us stories about how they stopped killing birds with slingshots, or about how they protected a nest near their house, or about how beautiful the birds they see on their walk to school are, etc. We can tell they have learned to care by the passion they bring to the lessons. However, the surveys we had been using had not been very effective showing this, and scientists don’t care much for Anecdotal Evidence. So, Lilly hoped that by bringing our teachers together with those from Guatemala, they could work through the problems and come up with a unified instrument that would be able to objectively demonstrate the positive effects of the course on the kids, and that would work equally well in Costa Rica and Guatemala.

So, our first task was to travel to the Central Highlands to stay with Rob and Tara Cahill at their most impressive center in Alta Verapaz, to meet Vilma, Gilda, and Norma, three Q’eqchi’ women who have been teaching Detectives de Aves to the local kids. Rob and Tara are an extremely dedicated couple who have a genuine vocation to help the community in which they live, and particularly the women of that community. If you want to learn more about what they are doing, please go here: They will do great things with whatever support you want to provide.

The climate and ecosystem around Rob and Tara’s place is very much like Linda Vista or Paraguas here in Coto Brus. It is very rural, with a large indigenous population, lots of trees and wildlife, although less every year, and lots of birds and fog in the Winter. Unlike Coto Brus, however, Alta Verapaz, and particularly the Indigenous areas, have had very few resources and little government support over the decades, leading inevitably to high levels of poverty and a large percentage of families surviving through subsistence farming. Just to give you some idea of the effect that this has had, during the Civil War that only ended in 1996, there were no public schools in the area. None. Although now almost all the kids go to primary school, the majority of their parents remain illiterate. A lot of kids start dropping out of school after third grade to work, after all by that point they have already learned to read and write and have surpassed their parents. Maybe 50% of the kids finish primary school (6th grade), less than 5% high school, and virtually none attend university. It is even worse for girls. While still beautiful for now, the area is facing an impending environmental disaster. The population has been rising rapidly and the traditional way of feeding families by clearing old-growth forest to plant maize, has become unsustainable because growing maize quickly exhausts the soil and they are running out of forest to clear for more crops. In this context, education in general, and environmental education in particular, is critical to the medium and long-term survival of these communities, since it one of the only means through which families will be able to provide for themselves in the future without further, grave environmental damage.

Guatemala is not Costa Rica. This is obvious, but in a very important sense this is what we all learned in Alta Verapaz from Vilma, Gilda, Norma, Rob and Tara. We live in increasingly cynical, self-absorbed, and angry times in which the idea of the Common Good seems more and more like a sucker’s bet. However the very stark contrast between the resources and opportunities available to even the poorest and most isolated families in Costa Rica and the lack of the same in Guatemala is a clear demonstration of what 70 years of peace without an army, an unrelenting commitment to public education and health care, and an almost universally acknowledged duty to raise others from poverty and to provide opportunity to the disadvantaged can accomplish. I’m not saying this to lionize Costa Rica, which like all countries is far from perfect, nor to denigrate Guatemala, but to show one manner in which the trip to Guatemala was a way for Paula, Carla, and Jennifer to reconnect with what Costa Rica represents, and to appreciate the advantages they have gained by growing up here. More importantly, I believe that we all discovered a profound connection with Vilma, Gilda and Norma, and that we have a duty to help as we can out of respect for the obstacles that they have had to overcome to become the women they are, and with the humbleness that comes from realizing that we have not had to face the same challenges because of the sacrifices, work, and commitment of those who came before us. Oh, and also because Vilma, Gilda, and Norma are absolutely hilarious… I don’t think any of us will forget our experiences in Alta Verapaz, and I hope the memory will be a reminder that we have a duty to do what we can for our neighbors, even if they are 1.000 kilometers or more distant. As I said in the beginning, it’s all about the connections.

Neither birds, nor animals, nor the weather observe national boundaries. Rivers don’t stop at borders, nor does polluted air. Any environmental work is necessarily collaborative and international. It does little good to protect areas used by migrating birds in Costa Rica, if all of their habitat is destroyed in Guatemala, Honduras, or Mexico. This was brought home to all of us during the working sessions of the Guatemala Bird Fair. The chance to learn from the experiences of other academics and bird guides trying to change the ways both governments and local communities view their natural and living resources was invaluable. I found particularly impressive the presentation by Dr. Vincente Fernández on the community-based monitoring of birds on the Yucatan peninsula. He outlines many successful techniques that have been used to involve rural communities not only in the collection of valuable scientific data, but in gaining a much deeper appreciation of the wild creatures they share their lives with, and in learning to work with those creatures to improve their lives. I want to use some of his ideas and techniques to involve our Detectives graduates in citizen science down the road. Paula and Carla had the opportunity to connect with, and be inspired by, colleagues from Guatemala and other parts of North and Central America. They assisted Lilly teaching a super intense training session for Detectives, which was hugely popular. Oh, and I understand that there was some late-night dancing well – being old, I was already in bed.
If you want to see an excellent, short documentary of our trip to Alta Verapaz, please go here for Spanish, or here for English. I’m afraid there’s no dancing in the videos…

Also, a big Thank You to Dr. Lilly Briggs, Rob and Tara Cahill, the many supporters and members of the San Vito Bird Club, and the Cornell University Lab of Ornithology who made this all possible.

That’s all for now. Over the next couple of weeks, I’ll be writing more about our year in the classroom, and our collaborations with the Pajareros del sur. I think you’ll find that many of the same themes raised will return over and over again since they are an essential aspect of what we do and why.

Saludos desde Coto Brus,
Peter Wendell


Special Report: Birding in Southern Africa/Reporte Especial: Pajareando en África del Sur

African elephant. Locals call them "ellies". Photo by Alison Olivieri.

African elephant; locals call them “ellies”. Photo by Alison Olivieri.

Going to Africa is a lifelong dream for many who grew up looking at National Geographic magazines. So it was for us as we traveled recently to South Africa, Zimbabwe and Botswana for a three-week vacation.

It turns out Africa is as magical as we had hoped it would be – and more. It is ancient and majestic, savage and tender, thrilling and funny.  You can hardly stop looking at elephants as they eat their way across the savannahs and finish the day playing in any available water source. Plus your attention is constantly diverted by rhinoceros, lions, baboons, leopards, giraffes, zebra, Cape buffalo, hyenas, warthogs, jackals, honey badgers and five or six antelope species.

Could this get any better? Well, try the birds as many tourists do after about the third day of seeking the Big Five on game drives. The “Big Five” — a phrase from African big game hunters referring to the most difficult animals to hunt on foot and now used by safari operators as a marketing ploy — are African lion, African elephant, Cape buffalo, leopard and rhinoceros.

Jackass Penguins at Boulders Beach, South Africa. Photo by Alison Olivieri.

Jackass Penguins at Boulders Beach, South Africa. Photo by Alison Olivieri.

As to the birds, in addition to excellent wine and the stunning city of Cape Town, South Africa has penguins which are every bit as comical and endearing as you think. From the ridiculous to the sublime, all three countries have ostriches. Male ostriches are almost three meters tall and – get this – they have bright red shins in breeding season.

Everyone wants to see hornbills, resembling nothing more closely than our Costa Rican toucans. Most are cavity nesters and the females of some species are known for sealing themselves in the holes and depending on the males to feed them during incubation. Along the way, we saw four species, including the now rapidly declining Southern Ground Hornbills.

Exquisite Lilac-breasted Rollers, another highly desired quarry, are common residents with harsh rattling sounds and rolling displays, often seen perched and posing for photographs (see below).

Arrow-marked Babbler, after a dip in our plunge pool in the Manyeleti Reserve. Photo by Alison Olivieri.

Arrow-marked Babbler, after a dip in our plunge pool in the Manyeleti Reserve. Photo by Alison Olivieri.

Babblers, like rollers, are a group of Old World passerine birds not found in the Western Hemisphere. Of the five species in Southern Africa, we were lucky to see two, the Arrow-marked Babbler, and an endemic species, Southern Pied Babbler.

High on our ‘most desired’ list were mousebirds, a group endemic to Africa, that look like titmice with very long tails. They are found bush, scrub, forest edges and, luckily for us, suburbia where we found Speckled Mousebirds in our Johannes burg hotel garden!

Some years ago, landlocked Botswana became known as a hot birding destination due to the Okavango Delta, a huge, swampy inland delta with massive concentrations of animals including waterbirds. Maribou and Saddle-billed stork, Hamerkop, African Openbill, pelicans, herons, egrets, African Jacana, plovers, lapwings, vultures, raptors – it is enough to make you drop your binoculars as you pole through watery canals in a silent dugout canoe called a mokoro.

Cape Giraffe in Botswana, festooned with Red-billed Oxpeckers. Photo by Alison Olivieri.

Cape Giraffe in Botswana, festooned with Red-billed Oxpeckers. Photo by Alison Olivieri.

Near the Moremi Game Reserve, we witnessed an unusual and merciless assassination. Two Blacksmith Lapwings attacked and killed a Pied Kingfisher in about 5 seconds flat. Our guide who had not seen this before said, “Poor Mr. Kingfisher, he must have been too close to their nest”.

This report is all the better for photographs and far less text but unmentioned, yet outstanding, experiences included the Apartheid Museum in Johannesburg, Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe, sunset cruises, sundowners under a full moon in acacia scrub, bush walks and our tents with impressive plumbing, decks and plunge pools – all nearly indescribable. Between us we have more than 1,000 photos which we would be happy to show you anytime. And, if you’re going, we’ll lend you our bird book because you are going to need it.

This trip was flawlessly arranged by Julian Harrison, an African tour specialist, and his team at Premier Tours in Philadelphia, PA.

Espanol aqui

Leopard in the Manyeleti Reserve, South Africa. Foto de Alison Olivieri.

Leopardo en el Manyeleti Reserve, South Africa. Foto de Alison Olivieri.

Para muchos de quienes crecieron leyendo las revistas de National Geographic, ir a África es un sueño de toda la vida. Lo era también para nosotros, por lo que viajamos recientemente a África del Sur, Zimbabue y Botsuana para unas vacaciones de tres semanas.

Resulta que África es tan mágica como pensábamos que sería – más incluso. Es antigua y majestuosa, salvaje y delicada, emocionante y divertida. Difícilmente uno puede dejar de ver a los elefantes mientras se alimentan durante su viaje a través de las sabanas y terminan su día jugando en cualquier depósito de agua disponible. Llamaban nuestra atención constantemente los rinocerontes, leones, babuinos, leopardos, jirafas, cebras, Búfalos del Cabo, hienas, jabalíes, chacales, rateles, y cinco o seis especies de antílopes.

¿Podría ser mejor? Bueno, intente buscar las aves como tantos turistas hacen después del tercer día de buscar el Gran Cinco durante las travesías del juego. El “Gran Cinco” – una frase que los cazadores africanos utilizan para referirse a las cinco especies de animales más difíciles de cazar a pie y actualmente utilizada por los operadores de safaris como estrategia de mercadeo – son el león africano, el elefante africano, el Búfalo del Cabo, leopardos y rinocerontes.

Con respecto a los pájaros, bien, además del excelente vino y la impresionante Ciudad del Cabo, África del Sur tiene pingüinos; que son tan adorables y cómicos como usted se imagina. De lo ridículo a lo sublime, los tres países tienen avestruces. Los avestruces machos miden casi tres metros de altura y – ojo a esto – tienen canillas rojo brillante durante la temporada de apareamiento.

Southern Yellow-billed Hornbill, South Africa. Foto de Alison Olivieri.

Un bucero, South Africa. Foto de Alison Olivieri.

Todo el mundo quiere ver buceros, que se parecen como nada a los tucanes costarricenses. La mayoría anidan en hoyos y las hembras de algunas especies son conocidas por encerrarse en los hoteles y depender de los machos para alimentarse durante la incubación. Durante el camino, vimos cuatro especies, incluyendo al amenazado cálao terrestre sureño. [Bucorvus leadbeateri]

La hermosa carraca lila [Coracias caudata], otra búsqueda altamente deseada, es un residente común con sonidos severos y exhibiciones circulares, se observan con frecuencia paradas posando para los fotógrafos.

Lilac-breasted Roller in the Okavango Delta. Fofo de Alison Olivieri.

Carraca lila en el Delta del Okavango. Foto de Alison Olivieri.

Los turdoides, como la carraca, son un grupo de aves paseriformes del Viejo Mundo que no se encuentran en el Hemisferio Oeste. De las cinco especies que habitan en África del Sur, tuvimos la suerte de ver dos, el Turdoide de Jardine [Turdoides jardineii] y el Turdoide bicolor [Turdoides bicolor], una especie endémica.

Entre los primeros en nuestra lista de los “más deseados”, estaban los cólidos, un grupo endémico de África, parecidos a herrerillos con colas muy largas. Se encuentran en arbustos, maleza, el margen de los bosques y, para nuestra suerte, los suburbios – donde encontramos al pájaro ratón común [Colius striatus] ¡en el jardín de nuestro hotel en Johannesburgo!

Hace algunos años, el pais de Botsuana, se volvió un atractivo destino para los pajareros gracias al Delta del Okavango, un enorme delta terrestre con masivas concentraciones de animales, incluyendo aves acuáticas, marabúes africanos [Leptoptilos crumeniferus], avemartillos [Scopus umbretta], picotenazas africanos [Anastomus lamelligerus], pelícanos, ardeidas, grazas, jacanas africanas [Actophilornis africanus], caradrinos, vanelinos, buitres, rapaces – suficiente para hacer que uno baje los binoculares mientras atraviesa los canales inundados en una silenciosa canoa labrada conocida como “mokoro”.

Cerca de la Reserva Moremi, parte del Delta, fuimos testigos de un cruel e inusual asesinato. Dos avefrías armadas [Vanellus armatus] atacaron y mataron un martín pescador pío [Ceryle rudis] en alrededor de cinco segundos. Nuestro guía, quien no había visto esto antes, dijo: “Pobre Señor Martín Pescador, debe de haber estado demasiado cerca de su nido”.

Vervet Monkey at Tintswalo Lodge. Foto de Alison Olivieri.

Mono verde [Chlorocebus pygerythrus] de Tintswalo Lodge. Foto de Alison Olivieri.

 Este reporte es bastante para los fotógrafos y muy poco texto, pero hay experiencias sobresalientes no mencionadas como el Museo del Apartheid en Johannesburgo, las Cataratas Victoria, cruceros en el atardecer, puestas del sol bajo una luna llena en un matorral de acacia, caminatas entre los arbustos y nuestras tiendas con una plomería impresionante, piso y piscinas de inmersión – todos indescriptibles. Tenemos más de 1000 fotografías, que estaríamos felices de enseñarles en cualquier momento. Y, si usted va a viajar allá, le prestaremos nuestra guía de campo, porque la va a necesitar.

Este viaje fue perfectamente organizado por Julian Harrison, un especialista en tours africanos, y su equipo en Premier Tours en Filadelfia, Pensilvania.

Bird Walk Report: White-ruffed Manakin Lek

Looking for manakins. Photo by Harry Hull.

Looking for manakins. Photo by Harry Hull.

This story comes under the category of “Things That Go on While You’re Doing the Laundry” because we know now — thanks to Colleen Nell and Dave Janas — White-ruffed Manakins are dancing in a nearby forest! On Saturday, June 20, Colleen and Dave led us to a mossy log along the Rio Java Trail that these tiny black and white birds have chosen as a ‘lek’ in the OTS Las Cruces forest.

What, actually, is a lek? Well, it’s a little bit like a Single’s Bar but far more enchanting: leks are arenas where males display competitively to entice visiting females to have sex. (Several kinds of birds, including hermit hummingbirds, cock-of-the-rock, grouse, birds of paradise and pihas, as well as some fish, butterflies, moths and orchid bees use leks.)

We were not lucky enough to see the manakins do their thrilling displays but most of us saw them flying around and we saw two predators in the area — likely attracted by the goings-on — a Double-toothed Kite and a Roadside Hawk.

Thanks to the technical know-how of Harry Hull, you can see a short video of a full display from the Cornell Ornithology Lab’s Macaulay Library collection, by clicking here. This opens a video player in a separate tab/window in your browser where you can play the video by clicking on the “go” arrow. (Close that tab/window to return to this post.) In the clip, two males with bulging ruffs compete for the attention of a female. Both males do the “Butterfly Flight” that Colleen described as part of the display and then they dance in step on the log. Finally, as the female waits, both males, one after the other, do a stupendous aerial dive that ends with a flip and a loud mechanical wing flap!

Hiking the Rio Java Trail, Front left Dave Janas, Intern Norman Liu, Alison Olivieri. Photo by Harry Hull.

Hiking the Rio Java Trail. Front, from left, Dave Janas, Intern Norman Liu, Alison Olivieri. Photo by Harry Hull.

We are grateful to W. Alice Boyle who made this video (and more) in the course of her research on this species in Costa Rica in March 2009. Our guide Colleen worked as a field assistant for Megan Jones at Rara Avis on this very project. Colleen is currently at work on her PhD dissertation at the University of California Irvine. Dave Janas, well known to SVBC bird walk participants, will start working at Las Cruces/Wilson Botanical Garden as the staff horticulturist on July 1.

Trip to La Casona with Desafios Tours!/¡Viaje a la Casona con Desafíos Tours!

Sigue en espanol

Ancient petroglyph (photo by Monique Girard).

Ancient petroglyph (photo by Monique Girard).

On March 4 Henry Barrantes, owner of Desafios Tours, led the SVBC on a cultural visit to Reserva La Casona, home of the Ngabe-bugle Guaymi people. On the way into the reserve we stopped to view one of the area’s most beautiful petroglyphs that is fairly well hidden in a grove of vegetation. With Henry’s help, we were lucky to see this ancient artifact.

Accompanied by a local guide, we toured the village and were impressed with the new Ebais medical center buildings where we were fortunate, again, to have had a chance to speak with a traditional medical practitioner who works there in tandem with the Coto Brus regional health team.

Henry, Lydia and Jean hurry to join the dance (photo by Julie Girard).

Henry, Lydia and Jean hurry to join the dance (photo by Julie Girard).

Two traditional dances were performed, led by a village elder who is one of the last bastions of these events. The words to these dances are not exactly ‘song lyrics’ in our understanding of those words but speak more directly to and about the natural world of animals and plants in the surrounding forest.

After about a two-hour visit, we had much to think about. Henry explained the almost constant movement between Panama and southern Costa Rica of these indigenous people who are citizens of two countries and have special governmental status allowing them to move freely back and forth — unlike Costa Rican and Panamanian citizens or even tourists who are required to have passports, automobile documents, bus and plane tickets and proof of cash availability.

Participants included Monique Girard, Jean Schroeder, Lydia Vogt, Julie Girard, Alison Olivieri, Barbara Keeler-Barton, Judith and Joe Ippolito, Judy Richardson and Henry Barrantes.

Espanol aqui

El 4 marzo, el dueño de Desafíos Tours, Henry Barrantes, guió al SVBC en una visita cultural a la Reserva La Casona, hogar de las personas Ngabe-bugle Guaymi. De camino a la reserva, nos detuvimos para ver uno de los petroglifos más hermosos del área, que está bastante bien escondido en la vegetación. Con la ayuda de Henry, tuvimos suerte de ver este antiguo artefacto.

Anciano Ngabe dirigiendo el baile (Fotografía de Julie Girard).

Anciano Ngabe dirigiendo el baile (Fotografía de Julie Girard).

Acompañados por un guía local, recorrimos el poblado y nos impresionamos con los nuevos edificios del centro medico Ebais donde, nuevamente, fuimos afortunados de tener la oportunidad de hablar con un practicante de medicina tradicional que trabaja ahí en conjunto con el equipo de salud regional de Coto Brus.

Se realizaron dos bailes tradicionales, liderados por un anciano del pueblo quien es uno de los últimos bastiones de estos eventos. Las palabras para estos bailes no son exactamente “líricas” tal y como las entendemos. Estas palabras hablan más directamente al y sobre el mundo natural, los animales y las plantas del bosque circundante.

Estudiantes de La Casona (Fotografía de Monique Girard).

Estudiantes de La Casona (Fotografía de Monique Girard).

Después de una visita de cerca de dos horas, teníamos mucho en qué pensar. Henry nos explicó el movimiento casi constante, entre Panamá y el sur de Costa Rica, de estas personas indígenas; quienes poseen la ciudadanía de ambas naciones y un estatus gubernamental especial que les permite moverse libremente entre ambos países. Esto en contraposición con los ciudadanos costarricense o panameños, o incluso turistas, quienes están obligados a portar un pasaporte, documentos automovilísticos, pasajes de autobús o de avión y probar que disponen de efectivo.

Los participantes fueron Monique Girard, Jean Schroeder, Lydia Vogt, Julie Girard, Alison Olivieri, Barbara Keeler-Barton, Judith and Joe Ippolito, Judy Richardson y Henry Barrantes.

‘Butterflies and Spheres’ Trip Report

Written by Pat Morgan

Participants: Naturalist Guide Eugenio Garcia, Escort Guide Alison Olivieri, Judith and Joe Ippolito, Barbara Keeler and Wally Barton, Caroline Torres, Veronica Torres, Terry Farling, Pat Morgan and Steve Allen.

After a slightly disjointed start, with missed ‘rendezvouses’ in San Vito, our three­-car expedition finally met up at the Bomba in Palmar Norte. After filling up (on drinks and munchies), we set off for Big Wave Dave’s Butterfly Paradise in nearby Osa Mountain Village.  Getting there presented one minor obstacle for the Ippolito’s front­wheel drive van:  a mas empinada mountain road.  Spinning to a stop, unable to go further, passengers clambered into Wally’s truck and Alison’s SUV.  Not quite a Keystone Cops scene, but a little touch and go as we watched Wally “try” to slide into a ditch and then slip and slide back toward Alison’s car. He finally prevailed in moving uphill and forward without further incident and we sallied forth juntos.

Butterfly Paradise (Photo by Pat Morgan)

Butterfly Paradise (Photo by Pat Morgan)

Big Wave Dave, a transplant from Ocean City, Maryland, has built Butterfly Paradise “from scratch.”  He now has about 30 species of butterflies in his enclosure, fed and nurtured by specific plant species. A talkative chap, Dave gave an excellent presentation, moving throughout the enclosure, showing Morpho pupae at their dinner leaves, pupae emerging from cocoons, along with an abundance of information on butterfly diets, habitat in the wild, and life cycles.  Eugenio and others also provided tidbits of information, i.e., the fact that only one group of butterflies — “cracker” or “brush-footed butterflies” (all in in the genus Hamadryas) — can make a clicking sound used in territorial displays. Dave, using dead and dried butterflies, explained and demonstrated their flight mechanism while some of us, ears still listening, were chasing butterflies with our cameras.

Dave in the Orchid Enclosure (Photo by Pat Morgan)

Dave in the Orchid Enclosure (Photo by Pat Morgan)

Several Scarlet Macaws, high up in the flaming yellow Colorados that had showered us with a flower storm of yellow petals, squawked a farewell before we departed back down the mountain to enjoy an excellent lunch at the Heladeria Diquis in Palmar Norte.

Afterwards, having lost a bit more time to chasing butterflies than anticipated, we chose to go to the close-by Parque de Esferas in Palma Sur to view a collection of Stone Spheres (instead of journeying further to Finca Seis closer to Sierpe where the giant spheres are allegedly left in situ). Eugenio Garcia shared all his archeological knowledge and experience about these mysterious rocks, suggesting a future trip to Bolas near Buenas Aires where it is believed the granite from which these stones were hand-chiseled was quarried some 1500 years ago.

Pat's Healing Ceremony (Photo by Barbara Keeler Barton)

Pat’s Healing Ceremony (Photo by Barbara Keeler Barton)

Also, Eugenio facilitated a healing ceremony on one of the spheres, Pat Morgan being the recipient, after explaining it is believed the spheres hold and channel a lot of power.  Whether it was the power of suggestion or the power of the spheres, Pat felt a little less pain afterwards.

Hot and sweaty after being down at sea level, the expeditioners returned to the fresh air of San Vito, all in agreement that it was indeed a fun and informative day of learning and camaraderie.  Those who did not jump on the invitation to come missed out on a great trip.