Monteverde Cloud Forest

Trip Start Dec 30, 2010
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of Costa Rica  , Province of Puntarenas,
Tuesday, March 1, 2011

The Monteverde Cloud Forest of Costa Rica is one of the crown jewels in all the world
because of the habitat that it maintains and even more impressive is the 22,000 acres
adjacent to it named the Eternal Forest Of The Children which was made possible by
contributions from school children from 44 countries around the world who spread the
word about this virgin forest and it's importance and then raised the funds to purchase
the land. Monteverde itself was bought by Quakers who left Alabama because of their
convictions as conscientious objectors in the 60's and they also saw the rapidly
diminishing forests and sought to preserve this important piece of the world.
Getting there is no simple matter however; as the last 15 miles is unpaved
washboard road with large rocks protruding through the dirt and the maximum speed
you can make if you want to keep your teeth is 10-12 miles an hour. We arrived just
after dark in the nearby town of St. Elena and after a quick meal, we called it a day
because we wanted to be at the reserve at dawn for the ranger led walk at 7:30. All
night long you could hear the wind howling over our cabana and the overhanging trees
scraping across the metal roof. As dawn approached, I looked outside and saw how
high up we were with a misty drizzle obscuring the more distant hills below us. Already
in our yard, I could see half a dozen good birds so I was more than ready to go into the
What we found there was a cloud forest aptly named; because the huge trees
seemed to disappear into the fog and mist. Even on a clear day, visibility would be
severely limited by the sheer numbers of overlapping trees, ferns, and tree-ferns. On
each tree were a myriad of bromeliads, orchids, and clumps of moss that made
camouflage for any animal a wonderfully simple matter so that combined with the wind
and the misty rain, we saw very few birds at all. The most famous bird here is the
Resplendent Quetzel, a large green bird with a red belly, a nice crest and an elegantly
long green tail, but they don't really get here until the 60 different kinds of avocado trees
begin to produce ripe fruit in late March and April so we had little chance of an
encounter. What we did see was a Black Guan, the Emerald Toucanet, and a wealth of
hummingbirds at the feeding stations near the headquarters. The hummers were so
accustomed to people photographing them at close range that they whizzed between us
with abandon and many times their wings actually brushed our faces and clothing. And
such colors!! My biggest problem in photographing them was the confusion in my
focusing mechanism created by the flurry of their wings as they hovered nearby; but I
hope we got enough good ones for you to enjoy. After that we visited a fascinating bat
"museum" where we learned about bats that drink nectar with tongues 1 1/2 times their
body lengths, bats that eat insects, birds, frogs, fruit, and even bats that catch and eat
fish. On a scale there, I learned that for my weight, I would have to eat 60 buckets of
insects a night if I were a bat. Inside the building they have built a room where dozens
of bats can be seen flying around as they visit nectar stations and bowls of fruit, then
hang upside down while they munch their bits of melon. Microphones amplify and
broadcast their sonic location calls to the visitors to complete the effect.
Finally, we went to the Eternal Forest at dusk for a night hike where we saw sleeping
Wood Thrushes, Mot-Mots , an Orange-Kneed Tarantula , a scorpion , and a bright green
ribbon snake waiting high above our heads for its nightly meal. This one isn't
poisonous; but many in Costa Rica are. We also saw trees with thorns the size of your
thumb that protect them from sloths and other leaf eating creatures, trees that smelled

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like citronella that fend off insects, and a hollow secropia tree that has colonies of Aztec
ants living inside of it that attack any animal that tries to climb it to eat it's foliage.
What an interesting day....I can't wait to see what tomorrow brings. A live volcano

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