Weekend Snapshot: May 30-31

Rrip rrip rrip rrip. My eyes shoot upwards. Nothing.
Rrip rrip rrip rrip. The trees must be talking to me.

Just as I’m about to convince myself that I’ve officially lost my mind in Costa Rica, a flash of green flaps from one branch to the next.

Once you’ve learned the call of the emerald toucanet, Aulacorhynchus prasinus, the cloud forest reinvents itself into a game of hide and seek…though the way this game works, you are always the seeker. With its distinctive throaty call, the emerald toucanet will make your ears perk instantaneously. But its green breast and belly camouflages the bird into the equally emerald canopy, making it difficult to track down.

The emerald toucanet is among the smallest of toucans, the male weighing an average of 5.7 ounces and the female weighing about 5.3 ounces. Although males are typically a bit larger than females, the birds are monomorphic, meaning they are identical in coloration. With an average lifespan in the wild of 11 years, toucanets have a monogamous relationship and commonly nest in abandoned cavities, whose previous tenants were likely woodpeckers.

Fruits and insects are the main part of an emerald toucanet’s diet, hence why they are regarded as an important seed dispersal species. They are native to the higher elevation cloud forests of Mexico, Costa Rica, and Panama.

Blog post contribution by Alex Fylypovych, UGA Costa Rica Photojournalism Intern.

Weekend Snapshot: April 18-19

Shut your eyes for a moment and listen to the sounds around you. Music from your speakers? The hum of an air conditioner? A distant dog barking? Perhaps even wildlife chirping outside your window. That’s exactly our experience here on campus. One moment it’s the howling wind, the next it’s rustling branches or squeaking coatis. Concentrating on any one sound can be difficult – you can’t help but be overstimulated but the rich, lifting orchestra surrounding you. But each sound is incredibly melodic on it’s own, too. And we think each deserves a spotlight. This weekend we honed in on a particular sweet sound of the cloud forest and would like to share it with you!

Listen to the male and female calls of the Yellow-throated Euphonia, Euphonia hirundinacea who playfully fluttered around our grounds calling to one another. They are common in northern Pacific foothills and in northern central Caribbean lowlands, and inhabit forest edge and gardens.

Weekend Snapshot: April 10-12

To the disengaged eye, the verdant forest may appear to be an impenetrable, thick, woven blanket flapping in the wind. Here’s a classic line for ya’ll: don’t judge a book by its cover. Rather, peel away the layers leaf by leaf, tree by tree, one twisting trail after another. If you befriend the Monteverde Cloud Forest, it will share it’s hidden treasures – and we have proof.

Located outside of our resident naturalist office, this white board is used to record wildlife sightings found crawling, calling, slithering or singing on campus grounds. You can certainly expect to see some interesting findings from those who have peeked under the emerald forest blanketing UGA Costa Rica’s campus, and can even add a sighting of your own! Take a look at what guests and naturalists have spotted during the month of April.

Wildlife sightings

Blog post contribution by Alex Fylypovych, UGA Costa Rica Photojournalism Intern

Weekend Snapshot: Mar. 6-8

My brown paper lunch bag made more noise than me. It crinkled with each gust of cloud forest wind while the not-yet appetizing scent of peanut butter and jelly danced around my nose. At 5:45 am my eyes finally began to adjust to the sleepy dawn, and my ears perked as the grumpy hum of a morning taxi grew louder.

By 6:30 am seat no. 14 on a bus bound for Manuel Antonio was occupied and I was en route to the sight of beautiful beaches and a national park teeming with biodiversity. A number of times I dozed off, hypnotized by the synchronized undulating of everyone aboard, succumbing to the dips and bumps on the twisting mountain road. And of course, while munching on my PB&J sandwich along the way, cliché thoughts of coconut drinks and sand between my toes popped into my mind. But what I couldn’t have dreamed of was the sublime wildlife and flora I would encounter while spending a weekend exploring the rocky beaches and dense forests of Manuel Antonio National Park in Puntarenas, Costa Rica.

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Blog contribution by Alex Fylypovych, UGA Costa Rica Photojournalism Intern

Weekend Snapshot: Feb. 21-22

On Sunday, UGA Costa Rica interns played THINK Global students and staff in a futbol (soccer) game packed with friendly competition, goals, sweat, and most certainly, laughter.

A dramatic golden spotlight illuminated UGA Costa Rica’s futbol field, a small rectangle of thick bladed grass marked by two goals about 1/8 the size of standard stadium goals. Shadows grew and shrank as players raced up and down the field with bursts of wind cooling them down and bursts of laughter leaving them winded.
Blog contribution by Alex Fylypovych, UGA Costa Rica Photojournalism Intern

Weekend Snapshot: Feb. 14-15

This past Sunday, a little over half the TGS student body here at UGA Costa Rica went on a beach trip! We spent about two hours in the bus, rocking and swaying down the mountains, through the seemingly perpetual mist, till we reached sea level, where the temperature rose about 15 degrees. When we reached the beach, we were ecstatic and ran down to touch the rolling waves, burning our feet on the black sand. We spent the next four hours either being ridiculous in the ocean, throwing each other in and burning our throats from ingesting too much salt water from laughing, or eating seafood and drinking mango juice in the shade. On the road home, we chased a double rainbow, arching over the green cloud forest, all of us tired and content from the sun and salt.

Post contributed by Madeline Schwartz, THINK Global School student

Weekend Snapshot: Feb. 7-8

Hugging the top of an incredibly tall ficus tree with my entire body out of a beautiful combination of extreme happiness and terror is the newest addition to the list of things I never thought I would do. I am completely enamoured with rock climbing, but I have never been one to climb trees. People typically seem to get into that around age 6 or 7, and when I was that old, I was far too physically cautious to venture past the first couple branches.

Every time we go to Santa Elena, a town about a 30 minute drive from campus with a handful of restaurants and markets, the view out to the ocean miles and miles away is captivating, and I can’t help but stick my head out the window to feel the wind and to get as close to it as I can. On our second-to-last trip to town, my friend Alejandro and I met a couple of friendly, dreadlocked hippies selling beautiful stone, gem, and thread bracelets. One man, speaking in rapid Spanish, told Ale about a huge ficus tree which we could climb and see the entire area and out to the ocean from the top branches. Immediately after Ale told me what he had said, I became fixated on the idea.

On our last trip to town, after an essential coffee stop, we headed out to the tree with our South African friend Emma. We asked for directions two or three times, headed up huge hills and turned down a non-descript dirt pathway into what looked a little more like the forest than the town. When we finally came upon the tree, we realized that it didn’t have climbable branches — rather, it was adorned with a gigantic strangler fig that had grown and morphed into a natural ladder. We only needed to climb inside the strangler fig in order to access the path up to the top of the tree, and with careful movements, we placed our feet in the natural footholds and wrapped our arms around the branches, lifting ourselves up further and further towards the top of the tree. Looking through the holes of the strangler fig quickly became more and more exciting, and, simultaneously, anxiety-inducing. When we reached the top, the strangler fig was so narrow that we were crawling on our knees. Sticking my head out of the strangler fig, I was greeted by the uppermost branches of the tree, and after climbing out, the most spectacular view.

I breathed shakily, taking in the sheer insanity of being alive in this strange place, and feeling wonderfully insignificant.

Leaning against the tree, I was the happiest I’ve been in the longest time, feeling one with nature, despite the cliché. So often we forget that we are not separate from the natural world as humans, and climbing to the top of the tree reminded me, as so much has recently, to be grateful for our place on this beautiful Earth.

Post contributed by Madeline Schwartz, THINK Global School student

Weekend Snapshot: Jan. 31-Feb. 1

As part of their Environmental Science class, students from THINK Global School have the opportunity to experiment with growing crops in Costa Rican soil. This weekend, students wasted no time in getting to work on the campus garden.

Blog contribution by Alex Fylypovych, UGA Costa Rica Photojournalism Intern