M a r t y ’ s   J o u r n a l s

Tuesday, April 14
For the first time today, our students experienced true tropical forest. The slopes of the active volcano, Rincon de la Vieja, are carpeted with dense tropical forest except where recent volcanic action has stripped off vegetation and deposited boulders with burn holes in them over the landscape. We’re staying at a fairly rustic lodge in the shadow of the volcano. Strong breezes cool things off and we’re at 800 meters elevation, which makes the temperature quite pleasant.

We left our lodge for the trail around 7:30 this morning. Almost immediately, we found ourselves in dense wet forest. Some of the trees were very large with huge buttress roots, like those you can see elsewhere on this web site. The students were much impressed with the strangler figs on many of the medium- to large-size trees. These figs sprout in the canopy and send roots down to the ground on several sides of the tree. Eventually the roots competely surround the original tree, strangling it out of existence. This is a spectacular sight to see! It’s debatable whether this is “parasitism” or just competition for light and space. I think of it as parasitism since the original tree is eventually killed. Marcos Soto, our naturalist guide, believes it’s simply competition for light and space. Perhaps it really is just a semantic argument, or maybe not.

Besides the trees, we saw a number of interesting organisms. First, there was a whole family of coatimundis. These racoon-like animals, about as large as medium-sized dogs, have a long tail and are quite comfortable both in the trees and on the ground. We saw a whole family troop of about 8-10 animals come down off a large tree and cross a stream right next to us.

Then later on the hike, we saw several birds of considerable interest since they are migrants who winter here in Costa Rica and then travel to New Jersey and other northeastern states for the summer. One of the most beautiful was the scarlet tanager. We were able to see both the yellow female and the scarlet colored male. In addition there was a black-throated green warbler and blackburnian warbler and a Swainson’s thrush. These birds make the annual migration back north about this time. They should be leaving around the same time as us, but I don’t think they will get “Frequent Flier” miles!

So here’s a question for all who are reading this: Why do these birds fly north? Why don’t they simply stay here where it’s warm all year? I’ll post some answers on DISCUSS.

-Marty Stickle.

Marty’s Journals
  April 10, 1998
  April 11, 1998
  April 14, 1998
  April 15, 1998
  April 17, 1998
Student Journals
  Gwen R.
  Martha B.
  Brian D.
  Sarah F.
  Doug W.
  Allison T.
  Becky H.
  Sarah F.
  Tim B.