Cotinga and a Coffee — Part 2: Interview with Cholo

Interview with Cholo, owner of Mercado Viriteca, Sabalito

Written by Dr. Lilly Briggs

Cholo at work! Photo by Lilly Briggs.

1. When and why did you open Mercado Viriteca?
Four years ago, the existing business in this location was about to close because it wasn’t working with just the sale of fruits and vegetables. As the tenant, the owner of the building, Abinal Rojas, gave me the opportunity to take on the Mercado Viriteca project to reinvent it. My goal has been to create a place that benefits the community and the environment. I buy vegetables, fruits, cheeses, eggs and more from local producers, which also gives local consumers access to fresh produce without having to go to the supermarket. The creek out back was filled with garbage, so I committed to cleaning it. I’m still committed to maintaining it that way, which helps the environment and allows me to offer a relaxing space for clients who come to eat and drink coffee.

2. Where do you think your conservation ethic come from?
The previous generations, like that of my grandfather, were taught that land was more
valuable if it was cleared for raising more cattle or planting more coffee. But I saw the
beauty and the fun in Nature, and our collective responsibility to protect it. I also saw the
tangible benefits to protecting Nature; for example, there is a direct connection between
protecting an orange tree, and then having oranges to eat.

3. What have been some of the challenges since you opened?
We have faced a new and different challenge every year! Since we opened our doors in
2016, there has been Hurricane Nate, the nationwide teachers’ strike, and the introduction of the IVA and the factura digital. We were finally getting things going, and finding our rhythm. But then in 2020, as we all know, something very different happened: the Covid-19 global pandemic. It’s hard with a small business because the expenses are always going to be the same. We depend on our regular customers to earn a living. So when the rules are changing every day, like they have been during the pandemic, and we can’t open consistently, clients start to get frustrated.

4. And then along came the Cotinga! Tell us about this experience in the context of some of the previous comments you expressed about your conservation ethic and the challenges of running a small business during a pandemic.

Birders at the Mercado Viriteca in Sabilito. Photo by Lilly Briggs.

I hoped that by protecting the forest and creek out back we would attract birds for the clients to enjoy, and I was expecting birds like Trogons, which are much more common. When the Cotinga first showed up I didn’t even know what it was! So I sent a photo to Bley (one of the Pajareros del Sur), who asked if he could share the photo in birder WhatsApp groups. And suddenly so many people started coming to see this bird, not just from the local area but from as far away as San José! It has really helped save the business during such a difficult time economically.

5. Tell us about the kinds of comments and conversations the Turquoise Cotinga has inspired.  Some of my regular clients started asking me: “who are all of these people? They look like they are from National Geographic!” because of all the equipment—binoculars, telescopes, and cameras. It’s been exciting to see how people who might not have had any interest in birds before are asking lots of questions now. For example, one if the cheese vendors asked if I could show him the Cotinga. Some community members have commented that they used to see more Cotingas when there were more Aguacatillo trees because the Cotingas love their fruit. I’ve had an opportunity to talk to people of all different backgrounds about the connection between protecting the environment and supporting the local economy. There are some people I used to just say hi to casually, and now I’ve been able to connect to them on a deeper level through this experience. And I believe many people have changed their mind about the accessibility of birding as an activity that everyone can enjoy—you don’t necessarily have to go very far or have all the equipment that makes you look like a National Geographic explorer!

6. Do you have any final points you would like to make?
Money is important because we all need it to live, but for me it’s equally important that I
help leave the environment even better than I found it. I want the next generation to have the same opportunities to learn more about the wonders of Nature, including a bird as special as the Turquoise Cotinga. This is especially important among a younger
generation like today, which is very attached to the phone and social media. Meaningful
experiences with nature and its species can inspire them to take care of our planet.

Lilly Briggs, PhD, Director of Finca Cántaros Environmental Association

San Vito de Coto Brus, Costa Rica

Facebook and Instagram: Finca Cántaros

Two of the Country’s Five Jays Have Hit Our Patch!

Brown Jay, photo by Jo Davidson.

Suddenly we have two species of jays to be pursued in San Vito: the garrulous Brown Jay and the far more flamboyant Black-chested Jay.

Brown Jays have been with us for some time now – not in great numbers as in the rest of the country but every so often one or two pop up, giving their “piyah, piyah” call. This usually brings us up short and, as we struggle to place it, this unmistakeable fellow glides into view.  Traveling in “Boisterous parties” is how they are described in the second edition of The Birds of Costa Rica by Garrigues and Dean.

Black-chested Jay. Photo by Pepe Castiblanco.

Meanwhile, Black-chested Jays are far less common with a range formerly restricted to southern Caribbean lowlands. They have been seen sporadically over time in and around Coto Brus; for example near the Panama border at Canas Gordas.  In contrast to their brown cousins, they are described as “. . . a bit more furtive.” But now we have a small flock up in Concepcion, above the Wilson Botanical Garden/Las Cruces, that can often be seen in early morning near the open-on-weekends restaurant Los Jilgueros. In fact, Sr. Gamboa, the owner, is quite attuned to these handsome birds and can often point a hopeful birder in the right direction.

Jays fascinate us for many reasons. They are loud and have a big presence — when you are near a jay you know it. They have personalities with definite likes and dislikes, complex social systems, tight family bonds and some species are good mimics. They’re smart and can solve problems posed by researchers like their fellow corvids, crows and ravens. Often Costa Rican birders who visit the United States come back with the North American Blue Jay at the top of their Favorite Bird list.

Bird Walk Tomorrow: Sunday, October 27!

Northern Waterthrush: a migrant to watch for! Photo by Gail Hull

Please join us for a free Bird Walk at the Wilson Botanical Garden tomorrow morning, October 27, at 7:30 a.m.

As usual, we will meet at the Reception Building and have binoculars and bird guides to share.

Many migrants have arrived in the past several weeks so we will look for them as well as whatever other beauties we can find.

Look forward to seeing you there!

 

Tree Planting Photo Essay, June 30, Concepcion

Thanks to an army of volunteers last Sunday, the Restoration Project in Concepcion on the Gamboa Property was a huge success!

Rodrigo de Sousa organized this large group for a morning of grunt work that resulted in 450 new trees planted, new fencing installed to curtail bovine wandering and reforestation to benefit the community’s future.

Troops fanned out going out and around the pasture and watershed; a morning well spent.

Even the youngest members of this volunteer group worked all morning, digging holes, staking young trees and ensuring an enhanced habitat for wildlife. Special thanks to San Vito Bird Club stalwart supporter Terry Farling for these photos!

Please Join Us for 2019/Afiliarse con nosotros 2019!

Birding with the Pajareros Del Sur at the Wilson Botanical Garden. Photo by Jo Davidson

It is time to join the San Vito Bird Club for the first time OR to renew your membership for 2019!

Benefits of membership include bi-monthly Bird Walks at the Wilson Garden/OTS Las Cruces Biological Station, invites to the members-only Annual Meeting at Cascatas Del Bosque, day trips in and around the Coto Brus Valley and occasional overnight jaunts throughout Costa Rica in search of rarities like the Lanceolated Monklet. Plus your membership support helps us bring BirdSleuth-International, an environmental education program from the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology, to local schools as “Detectives de Aves”. Please read President Wendell’s post about the Detectives de Aves year 2018 here.

Detectives de Aves teachers Carla Azofeifa and Paula Mesen with SVBC President Peter Wendell. Photo by Alison Olivieri

Part of your membership dues will be donated to the Organization for Tropical Studies Las Cruces Biological Station that provides us with an exciting place to bird and free coffee and camaraderie after the walks.

We are keeping dues at 2018 rates: C11,000 or $20 per person for International Members and C14,000 or $25 per person for residents of Costa Rica. Family membership are priced for two people but always include children.

Without you, we are nothing so please join today! You can give your dues to Peter at the Bird Walk on December 9 or to Randall Bourbon Jimenez or to any other executive committee member: Greg Homer, Alison Olivieri or Harry Hull.

A New Bird Quiz: Let’s Go ‘Urban Birding’!

Quiz Bird #1

City parks are often sites of great birding adventures. In New York, Central Park is a famous spot with more than 230 documented species. It is particularly ‘hot’ during spring and fall migrations and is the subject of a wonderful documentary called ‘The Central Park Effect’. Likewise, Golden Gate Park in San Francisco is another birder’s dream and hosts 175 field trips per year for all birding skill levels. In Costa Rica, La Sabana Metropolitan Park has been reforested with native trees and now boasts about 200 species of birds.

Recently, in an enormous park in Mexico City – Parque Chapultepec  — we ventured out to bird one morning and took some amazingly not-great photos BUT they are good enough to make a new Quiz Bird post for you!

Quiz Bird #2 — just the families will win the game!

Just name the five families and the first person who figures them out correctly will win either 6 Currant Scones or a six-pack of Imperial, Costa Rica’s national beer (your choice). If you can name all five species, you’ll get an extra surprise. Send your answers to: eltangaral@gmail.com. If you live in San Vito, your prize will be delivered at our next Bird Walk on Sunday, November 4 at 7:30 a.m. at Las Cruces. If you live anywhere else, we’ll mail you a non-comestible prize.

Quiz bird #3

In Cornell University’s local environmental education program, Detectives de Aves or BirdSleuth-International, any of the students would ace this quiz. Lesson 7 features bird family silhouettes and these photos, although they appear to have been taken by our anti-photographer, are perfectly adequate for you to correctly identify these groups. All our Detectives de Aves students are eligible to win this contest but no beer for them; instead, a dozen homemade Chocolate Chip Cookies. Attention Detectives: please include your name, school and grade level for proper eligibility.

Quiz Bird #5 — and it’s a gimme!

Quiz Bird #4

 

Photo Fun from Annual Meeting 2016/Fotos Divertidas del Reunion Anual 2016

New Officers for 2016, elected February 13, 2016: President Greg Homer, Vice President Peter Wendell, Secretary Lydia Vogt and Treasurer Fred Schroeder. The following were named to serve by President Homer: Alison Olivieri, President Emeritus, and Harry Hull, Communications Chair. To view all the photos, just scroll on down:

Helen LeVasseur with her new Prez, photo by Jo Davidson

Helen LeVasseur with her new Prez, photo by Jo Davidson.

Peter Wendell, new Vice-Prez, photo by Jo Davidson

Peter Wendell, new Vice-Prez, photo by Jo Davidson.

Pablo Elizonda, Director of Costa Rican Bird Observatories. Photo by Gail Hull

Pablo Elizonda, Director of Costa Rican Bird Observatories. Photo by Gail Hull.

Liz Allen: photographer, author and designer of the new book Pura Mariposa, 88 Butterflies of Southern Costa Rica, photo by Jo Davidson.

Liz Allen: photographer, author and designer of the new book Pura Mariposa, 88 Butterflies of Southern Costa Rica, photo by Jo Davidson.

Communications Chairman Harry Hull, photo by Alison Olivieri.

Communications Chairman Harry Hull, photo by Alison Olivieri.

President Emeritus Alison Olivieri, photo by Harry Hull.

President Emeritus Alison Olivieri, photo by Harry Hull.

George Alcock, Greg Homer and Fred Schroeder, photo by Jean Schroeder.

George Alcock, Greg Homer and Fred Schroeder, photo by Jean Schroeder.

Secretary Lydia Vogt, hard at work, photo by Alison Olivieri.

Secretary Lydia Vogt, hard at work, photo by Alison Olivieri.

Photographer Jo Davidson and VP Peter Wendell, photo by Alison Olivieri.

Photographer Jo Davidson and VP Peter Wendell, photo by Alison Olivieri.

Quiz Bird #7 = Yellow Tyrannulet!/Mosquerito Amarillo!

Espanol sigue

Photographed in Linda Vista by Jo Davidson, here is our Yellow Tyrannulet

Photographed in Linda Vista by Jo Davidson, here is our Yellow Tyrannulet.

Congratulations to Mike Judd of North Carolina for promptly and correctly identifying our Yellow Tyrannulet. He will receive an original Liz Allen design greeting card in person in March when he arrives in San Vito!

Thanks to everyone for submitting their guesses: we received four this time of which three were correct.

 

 

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Felicidades a Mike Judd de el estado North Caroline por identificar de forma pronta y correcta nuestro Mosquerito Amarillo. El recibirá una tarjeta original diseñada por la miembro Liz Allen cuando llegará a San Vito en marzo.

Muchas gracias a todos por enviar sus estimaciones: Recibimos cuatro en esta ocasión, tres de las cuales fueron correctas.

 

 

Quiz Bird #7/Acertijo Aviario #7

Sigue en espanol

Mystery Bird photo by Jo Davidson

Mystery Bird photo by Jo Davidson

What bird is this? A resident bird of some difficulty, found on both Caribbean and Pacific slopes. Members of a large family with 78 representatives here, these charmers are excitable, often vocalizing, and prefer brushy understory.

The prize will be an arresting butterfly greeting card — one of member Liz Allen’s original designs — so send your answer pronto to: sanvitobirdclub@gmail.com.

Espanol aqui

 

Cual ave es? Un ave residente con cierta dificultad, que se encuentra tanto en la costa Pacífica como Caribe. Parte de una gran familia, de 78 miembros acá, estos encantos son nerviosos, frecuentemente vocalizando, y prefieren el sotobosque cubierto de maleza.

El premio será una llamativa tarjeta — uno de los diseños originales de la miembro Liz Allen – así que envíe pronto su respuesta a: sanvitobirdclub@gmail.com.

!Quiz Bird #5/Acertijo Aviario #5!

Sigue en espanol

This is a hard one, so get out your field guides!

Mystery Bird #5 (photo by Gail Hull)

Mystery Bird #5 (photo by Gail Hull)

Clue #1: This bird belongs to the most diverse (and some say most ‘difficult’) group in Costa Rica comprised of 78 species.

Clue #2: The photo was taken in April at the San Joaquin Wetlands just outside of San Vito on the road to Sabalito.

Clue #3: Our bird stays low in secondary growth and is often found near water.

The prize for this contest is a handy-dandy rain poncho – lightweight, compact and perfect to tuck into your pocket or birding pack — especially useful at this time of year.

Please note: if your initials are JD, JG, JR, JZ or LA you are not eligible for this game!

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Este es difícil, ¡Así que saquen sus guías de campo!

Pista #1: Esta ave pertenece al más diverso (y algunos dicen que al más “difícil”) grupo en Costa Rica compuesto por 78 especies.

Pista #2: La fotografía fue tomada en abril, en los humedales de San Joaquín, en las afueras de San Vito sobre la carretera a Sabalito.

Pista #3: Nuestra ave se mantiene en la parte baja del bosque secundario y se encuentra usualmente cerca de agua.

El premio para este concurso es un poncho conveniente para la lluvia – liviano, compacto y perfecto para meterlo en su bolsillo o mochila para pajarear (especialmente útil durante esta época del año).

Por favor tome en cuenta que: Si sus iniciales son JD, JG, JR, JZ o LA , ¡Usted no es elegible para este juego!