Costa Rican birds, bye-bye!


This video is called Amazing hummingbirdsCosta Rica.

31 March 2014.

After yesterday, today departure from Costa Rica.

To Panama and beyond.

Early in the morning on the bird table: clay-coloured thrush and blue-grey tanager.

Also buff-throated saltator and rufous-collared sparrow.

This video from Colombia is called Buff-throated Saltator, Silver-throated & Lemon-rumped Tanagers.

On our way to the airport: great-tailed grackles.

15:00, Panamanian time: a great-tailed grackle flies past a window at Panama City airport. Like when this journey began; closing the circle.

Howler monkeys and least grebes in Costa Rica


This video from Panama is called The Mantled Howler Monkey of Central America.

23 March 2014 in Costa Rica.

After yesterday, still near the Rio Tempisque.

A mantled howler monkey family with a youngster in the trees, early in the morning.

Four black-necked stilts near the lakelet. They drink.

Two least grebes swim.

A bare-throated tiger heron.

A flock of black vultures.

Near the next lakelet, a green heron on a tree.

A yellow-naped parrot.

Two great kiskadees, busy with nesting material in their bills.

A black-headed trogon in a tree.

A Hoffmann’s woodpecker.

A solitary sandpiper on a lake bank.

A blue-black grassquit in a tree.

A white-collared seedeater.

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To the wildlife in Costa Rica, 13 March


This music video from the USA is called Dionne WarwickDo You Know The Way To San Jose?

However, this blog post is about a different San Jose; the capital of Costa Rica.

Costa Rica is only 0,04% of the surface of planet Earth. However, 5% of all wildlife species can be seen there.

So, I went there on 13 March 2014.

Our plane departed; first, to Panama.

At the international airport of Panama, I saw my first Central American birds. Great-tailed grackles flying around.

This video is about a great-tailed grackle singing near an airport in California, USA.

Further away at Panama airport, birds of prey circling. Too far away to see what species exactly.

There, we transferred to Costa Rica.

This video is called Bird Photography Workshop – Costa Rica (With Wildlife Photographer Glenn Bartley).

Costa Rica 2014 presidential elections: here.

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Bat research in Panama


This video says about itself:

30 May 2010

“Bat Women of Panama” showcases a small group of female scientists who use reason, technology and even creativity to reveal the many mysteries of Central America’s amazing bats.

Set on the small island of Barro Colorado, in the Panama Canal, this film follows five research biologists through wet tropical forests as they encounter a variety of bat species with surprising physical and behavioral adaptations. Stunning scenes, fascinating biological wonders and the playful wit of the film narrator will keep students engaged as they learn about one of nature’s most misunderstood creatures.

From Smithsonian.com in the USA:

A Night in the Forest Capturing Bats

Our intrepid reporter joins tropical bat researchers in the field one night and gains some appreciation for their fangs

By Paul Bisceglio

January 30, 2014 2:00PM

Stefan Brändel lives on a big island in the middle of the Panama Canal and spends his nights catching bats. Part of a small group of German scientists studying disease transmission in tropical forests, he hikes deep into the island’s thick vegetation three to four evenings each week to collect data by snaring the creatures in long nets secured between trees. The work lasts until early morning, but Brändel, a doctoral student at the University of Ulm, is indefatigable—he really likes bats.

“I love diversity, and bats are a super diverse group of mammals, with a few thousand species worldwide, and 74 here on this island in the neotropics,” he told me a few months ago, when I visited the island, named Barro Colorado, to see one of the Smithsonian Tropical Research Center‘s research outposts, a cluster of labs and dorms on the forest’s edge where he stays with other scientists throughout the year to study the island’s protected flora and fauna.

“And they are cool animals,” he added. “That’s the most convincing part.” …

The data collection took about two hours. After processesing each bat, Brändel unpinched their wings to let them go. The final one he studied was a rare catch: Phylloderma stenops, known as the “pale-faced bat.” Its tan fur and pointed, ridgy ears were indeed attractive. Tschapka joined Brändel and Hiller to say goodbye to the creature, and they gently passed it around, each holding its puggish face close to his own for one last inspection. When they released it, the bat disappeared shrieking into the forest.

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Frogs mating, and the bats danger


This video says about itself:

Risky Ripples

23 Jan 2014

When a male túngara frog serenades female frogs from a pond, he creates watery ripples that make him easier to target by rivals and predators such as bats. A túngara frog will stop calling if it sees a bat overhead, but ripples continue moving for several seconds after the call ceases. In the study, published Jan. 23, 2014 in the journal Science, researchers found evidence that bats use echolocation — a natural form of sonar — to detect these ripples and home in on a frog. The discovery sheds light on an ongoing evolutionary arms race between frogs and bats. Video by Wouter Halfwerk.

From The Why Files:

Menacing mating game: Frogs fear bats!

23 January 2014

Like any foolish fellow, the túngara frog lives and loves dangerously. To those in the tropical-bio-biz, it’s old news that this resident of shallow ponds ranging from Venezuela to Central Mexico is prey to frog-eating bats.

That croaking mating call makes a great target for the flying mammals with an appetite for frogs’ legs. But now we hear another reason why life is hard for the feckless frog.

In a study released today, scientists revealed that the croaking frog sends two separate signals to the bats: First, the mating call, which deters competing males while attracting females — and those hungry bats.

But the frogs power their croak by inflating and deflating an enormous air sac, which forms ripples on the pond that survive even after the frog chokes off its croaks after seeing a bat against the night sky

To test the interaction between the bats and frogs, first author Wouter Halfwerk of Leiden University in The Netherlands set up an experiment in Panama, using artificial frogs to simulate the appropriate sound, with or without ripples

Halfwerk and co-author Michael Ryan, professor of zoology at the University of Texas, found that bats would attack in response to the mating call alone, but the attacks increased 36 percent when ripples accompanied the soundtrack.

Frogs croak, and then croak!

This makes life difficult for the frogs, Ryan notes. To reproduce, they must call. “The males can stop calling, but they can’t take these ripples back, so the danger of calling extends for a few seconds. It’s amazing that bats are able to figure this out.”

The tests were held in darkness, so the bats must have been using their sonar — echolocation — to find the pattern of ripples.

The mating call is primarily to attract females, but it also shouts “Keep away!” to other males, and the competition doubled their “I’m here too!” responses when ripples followed the croaks. “If you look when they are calling, the frogs are spaced out,” Ryan says. “If another male is too close, they start to make aggressive calls, and sometimes they fight; I have seen them kill each other.”

Ryan, who first noticed the frog-bat system as a graduate student in the 1980s studying with bat biologist Merlin Tuttle, notes, “We have known for a long time that the bats can find the frogs.” The new study, however, is the first to show how waves created when the frog sounds off affects bats — and other frogs.

Now that they know that competing males are more responsive when ripples are present, the researchers plan to see how females act with and without ripples.

Live to love, but love to live!

If the bats have “cracked the code” of the frogs behavior, turning a mating move into a death dance, that could be shaping frog behavior. “We know frogs prefer calling under cover, compared to out in the open,” says Ryan. Not only do bats have trouble flying to the sheltered frogs, but they may also have difficulty detecting ripples with echolocation in the brush.

We mused: the frogs, like certain guys we could name, allow mating to trump everything, even mortal danger. “Through the entire animal kingdom — there are exceptions — but most of the attributes that make an animal sexy or beautiful can be very costly. Men die before women in part because testosterone has a negative effect on the immune system.”

Every time an animal communicates, it creates a disturbance in the environment, and that’s especially true for the “look-at-me” mating messages. “The question I have,” Ryan adds, “is how many of these incidental things that we animals do become fodder for another animal that is looking to parasitize, to lay eggs” or grab dinner?

Do some showboating, and a biological big brother may be bugging your channel, Ryan says. “Males have to make themselves more conspicuous to females; to call louder, to wear brighter colors, do fancy dances. But all of this also makes them more conspicuous to predators.”

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Good bird news from Panama


This video is called Birding Panama – The Baths of Tranquilo Bay.

From BirdLife:

Panama Bay saved from destruction

By Martin Fowlie, Thu, 09/01/2014 – 09:26

There’s been a great start to 2014 for one of the most important sites for migratory waterbirds in the Americas.

The Panama Supreme Court has issued the long-awaited final decision on the The Bay of Panama, This ruling, on the legality of the administrative decision that created the wetland protected area, basically means a reprieve from destructive development. The Supreme Court has reinstated the protected status for the Bay of Panama wetlands, removing the temporary suspension it had placed on the protected area a year ago.

“Good use of environmental law and scientific studies, and the help of our local and international partners have influenced the final decision of the court”, said Rosabel Miró, Executive Director of Panama Audubon Society, the country’s BirdLife Partner.

“This court ruling will certainly help us to affect the proper implementation of environmental laws in other protected areas of the country that currently face similar to the Bay of Panama threats.”

The Bay of Panama is one of the five most important stopover and wintering areas for migratory shorebirds in the entire Americas, with more than 30% of the global population of Western Sandpiper and 22% of the global population of Whimbrel.

Its extensive mangrove forests play a vital role in supporting fisheries, filtering pollutants in urban and agricultural runoff, and protecting Panama City from floods. The Mangroves and wetlands of Panama Bay are also vital to other globally threatened wildlife including Jaguar, Tapir, Spider Monkey, American Crocodile, and Loggerhead Turtle.

“Panama Audubon Society spearheaded the public outcry against this decision, and working with local and international partners, successfully organised environmental, trade, business and community groups to collectively voice the importance of conserving the Bay’s wetlands”, said Dr Hazella Shokellu Thompson, BirdLife’s Director for Partnership, Capacity and Communities.

“Congratulations to Panama Audubon Society and all involved.”

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‘Extinct’ Costa Rican frog rediscovered


This video is called Panamanian Golden FrogAtelopus varius zeteki.

From Wildlife Extra:

Extinct Costa Rican frog rediscovered

Extinct frog makes a comeback

November 2013: According to a paper published in Amphibia-Reptilia, a critically endangered harlequin toad believed to be extinct has been found breeding in a tract of highland forest in Costa Rica. Atelopus varius, known as the ‘Halloween frog’ because of its striking orange and black markings, was once quite common from central Costa Rica to western Panama. However, the population began to collapse from the 1980s onwards – probably caused by the spread of the deadly chytrid fungus that has killed off many amphibians around the world.

Considered extinct by 1996, there was a brief flicker of hope for the Halloween frog in 2004, when a population was discovered in south western Costa Rica. However, subsequent studies failed to find any more. This time around, researchers have uncovered a significant population on a private reserve within the wider La Amistad Biosphere Reserve, located near the border with Panama. The authors of the paper, led by Jose F. Gonzalez-Maya of the Sierra to Sea Institute & ProCAT International in Mexico and the Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico, believe the find offers fresh hope for other species presumed to be extinct in Costa Rica.

See also here.

Crocodile, mammal fossil discoveries in Panama


A life reconstruction of Culebrasuchus mesoamericanus, one of two newly discovered species from the early Miocene in Panama / Danielle Byerley/ Florida Museum of Natural History

From the University of Florida in the USA:

Scientists Discover New Crocodilian, Hippo-Like Species From Panama

University of Florida paleontologists have discovered remarkably well-preserved fossils of two crocodilians and a mammal previously unknown to science during recent Panama Canal excavations that began in 2009.

The two new ancient extinct alligator-like animals and an extinct hippo-like species inhabited Central America during the Miocene about 20 million years ago. The research expands the range of ancient animals in the subtropics — some of the most diverse areas today about which little is known historically because lush vegetation prevents paleontological excavations — and may be used to better understand how climate change affects species dispersal today. The two studies appear online today in the same issue of the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology.

The fossils shed new light on scientists’ understanding of species distribution because they represent a time before the formation of the Isthmus of Panama, when the continents of North and South America were separated by oceanic waters.

“In part we are trying to understand how ecosystems have responded to animals moving long distances and across geographic barriers in the past,” said study co-author Jonathan Bloch, associate curator of vertebrate paleontology at the Florida Museum of Natural History on the UF campus. “It’s a testing ground for things like invasive species – if you have things that migrated from one place into another in the past, then potentially you have the ability to look at what impact a new species might have on an ecosystem in the future.”

The research was funded by the National Science Foundation Panama Canal Partnerships in International Research and Education project, which supports paleontological excavation of the canal during construction expected to continue through 2014.

“We’re very fortunate we could get the funding for PIRE to take advantage of this opportunity — we’re getting to sample these areas that are completely unsampled,” said Alex Hastings, lead author of the crocodilian study and a visiting instructor at Georgia Southern University who conducted the research for the project as a UF graduate student.

Researchers analyzed all known crocodilian fossils from the Panama Canal, including the oldest records of Central American caimans, which are cousins of alligators. The more primitive species, named Culebrasuchus mesoamericanus, may represent an evolutionary transition between caimans and alligators, Hastings said.

“You mix an alligator and one of the more primitive caimans and you end up with this caiman that has a much flatter snout, making it more like an alligator,” Hastings said. “Before this, there were no fossil crocodilian skulls known from Central America.”

Christopher Brochu, an assistant professor of vertebrate paleontology in the department of geoscience at the University of Iowa, said “the caiman fossil record is tantalizing,” and the new data shows there is still a long way to go before researchers understand the group.

“The fossils that are in this paper are from a later time period, but some of them appear to be earlier-branching groups, which could be very important,” said Brochu, who was not involved with the study. “The problem is, because we know so little about early caiman history, it’s very difficult to tell where these later forms actually go on the family tree.”

The new mammal species researchers described is an anthracothere, Arretotherium meridionale, an even-toed hooved mammal previously thought to be related to living hippos and intensively studied on the basis of its hypothetical relationship with whales. About the size of a cow, the mammal would have lived in a semi-aquatic environment in Central America, said lead author and UF graduate student Aldo Rincon.

“With the evolution of new terrestrial corridors like this peninsula connecting North America with Central America, this is one of the most amazing examples of the different kind of paths land animals can take,” Rincon said. “Somehow this anthracothere is similar to anthracotheres from other continents like northern Africa and northeastern Asia.”

Researchers also name a second crocodilian species, Centenariosuchus gilmorei, after Charles Gilmore, who first reported evidence of crocodilian fossils collected during construction of the canal 100 years ago. The genus is named in honor of the canal’s centennial in 2014.

Researchers will continue excavating deposits from the Panama Canal during construction to widen and straighten the channel and build new locks. The project is funded by a $3.8 million NSF grant to develop partnerships between the U.S. and Panama and engage the next generation of scientists in paleontological and geological discoveries along the canal.

Study co-authors include Bruce MacFadden of UF and Carlos Jaramillo of the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute.

Jaguar and ocelot in Arizona, USA


This video shows a jaguar swimming in water at Woodland Park Zoo in Seattle, WA, USA.

From Wildlife Extra:

Jaguar and ocelot photographed in southern Arizona

Jaguar seen previously in different mountain range

December 2012. An adult male jaguar and an adult male ocelot have been photographed in two separate southern Arizona mountain ranges by automated wildlife monitoring cameras. The images were collected as part of the Jaguar Survey and Monitoring Project led by the University of Arizona. Both animals appear to be in good health.

Jaguar photographed in 2011 & 2012 in different locations

In late November 2012, the UA project team downloaded photos from wildlife cameras set up as part of the research project and found new pictures of a jaguar in the Santa Rita Mountains. A total of ten jaguar photos were taken by three UA cameras and one Arizona Game and Fish Department camera. The cat’s unique spot pattern matched that of a male jaguar in the Whetstone Mountains photographed by a hunter in the fall of 2011, providing clear evidence that the big cats travel between southern Arizona’s “sky island” mountain ranges.

A September 2012 jaguar “tail” photo was previously reported by the Arizona Game and Fish Department from a hunter’s automated wildlife monitoring camera in the Santa Rita Mountains. None of the UA photos can be matched to this “tail” photo because, in the new photos, the tail is obscured or the opposite side of the jaguar was photographed. However, the jaguar is most likely the same individual.

Ocelot

In addition, a new ocelot photo was taken in the Huachuca Mountains west of Sierra Vista by one of the UA project cameras. Again, comparisons of the spot patterns revealed this to be the same male ocelot that has been reported by the Arizona Game and Fish Department and photographed in the Huachucas several times in 2011 and 2012. However, the UA photo was taken about 4 miles away from the previous photos, demonstrating that even the smaller cats move across the rugged Arizona landscape.

The purpose of the UA research project is to establish a non-invasive, hands-off system for detecting and monitoring jaguars and ocelots. The project is using motion-sensor-activated “trail” cameras placed in areas most likely to detect the spotted cats. Once fully operational, up to 240 paired cameras will be in place throughout the project area to capture images of both sides of detected animals.

Mexican jaguars

The University of Arizona is conducting this large-scale project to detect and monitor jaguars and ocelots along the northern boundary of the U.S.-Mexico international border, from the Baboquivari Mountains in Arizona to the south-western “boot heel” of New Mexico.

Dog search

The researchers are also employing a specially-trained scat detection dog to assist the team in collecting potential jaguar and ocelot scat in the areas where a jaguar or ocelot has been detected by camera. The UA Conservation Genetics lab under the leadership of Melanie Culver, U.S. Geological Survey geneticist in the UA School of Natural Resources and the Environment, will conduct genetic testing of the scat to verify species and possibly identify the individual cats.

The three-year study will be accomplished under a contract with funds provided by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The purpose of these funds is to address and mitigate environmental impacts of border-related enforcement activities.

The ocelot has been protected in the U.S. as endangered under the Endangered Species Act since 1982. The jaguar was listed in the U.S. in 1997.

Jaguar Threatens Open-pit Mine Plan in Southern Arizona: here.

July 2013. A significant victory has been achieved for the future of jaguars with the establishment of an historic conservation agreement by the government of Panama and Panthera, a global big cat conservation organization: here.

Fast Fact Attack: Endangered Species No. 93 – The Jaguar: here.

Jaguars in Argentine Chaco on verge of local extinction: here.

USA: Federal wildlife officials Tuesday set aside nearly 1,200 square miles along the U.S.-Mexico border as habitat essential for the conservation of the jaguar, a species that hasn’t been spotted in New Mexico in eight years and one that has made only fleeting appearances on wildlife cameras in Arizona’s Santa Rita Mountains: here.