Costa Rican sea turtles studied with drones

This video says about itself:

25 April 2017

While conducting a drone survey in front of Playa Cabuyal on the Pacific coast of Costa Rica, we encountered a male East Pacific green turtle. Surprisingly, we were also able to identify that this was a male turtle as made evident by the size of its tail.

From Duke University in the USA:

Drones confirm importance of Costa Rican waters for sea turtles

Study is first to use drones to count sea turtles in waters near nesting habitat

January 16, 2018

Summary: A new drone-enabled population survey — the first ever on sea turtles — shows that larger-than-anticipated numbers of turtles aggregate in waters off Costa Rica’s Ostional National Wildlife Refuge. Scientists estimate turtle densities may reach up to 2,086 animals per square kilometer. The study underscores the importance of the Ostional habitat; it also confirms that drones are a reliable tool for surveying sea turtle abundance.

Hundreds of thousands of sea turtles come ashore to lay their eggs during mass-nesting events at Ostional National Wildlife Refuge on Costa Rica’s Pacific coast, making it one of the most important nesting beaches in the world.

Now aerial drones are giving scientists deeper insights into just how important the beach and its nearshore waters are.

Using a fixed-wing drone to conduct aerial surveys of olive ridley sea turtles in waters off Ostional during four days in August 2015, scientists from Duke University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC-CH) estimate turtle densities there may reach as high as 2,086 animals per square kilometer during peak nesting season.

“These are extraordinary numbers, much higher than any of us anticipated,” said Seth Sykora-Bodie, a PhD student at Duke’s Nicholas School of the Environment, who co-led the study with Vanessa Bézy, a PhD candidate at UNC-CH.

“Our findings confirm drones can be used as a powerful tool to study sea turtle abundance at sea, and reveal incredible densities of turtles in Ostional’s nearshore habitat,” said Bézy. “The development of this methodology provides vital new insights for future conservation and research.”

Equipping the drone with a high-resolution digital camera with near-infrared vision and flying it just 90 meters above the ocean expanded the field of view and significantly increased image clarity, allowing the researchers to detect many turtles swimming just below the water’s surface. Observers relying only on visual sightings made from boats could easily miss these submerged animals because of their angle of view and the clarity of the water, Sykora-Bodie said.

The researchers published their peer-reviewed paper Dec. 18 in Scientific Reports. It is the first study to use unmanned aerial systems (UAS), or drones, to estimate the abundance of sea turtle populations.

Traditionally, scientists have collected this type of abundance data using mark-and-recapture studies, in-water surveys, and censuses of turtles observed on nesting beaches. These methods can be costly and time-consuming, incur potential risks to both the observers and the animals, and increase the likelihood that turtles may be missed or double-counted.

The new pilot study shows that using camera-equipped drones provides a safe, cost-effective and scientifically robust alternative.

“Because of the clarity of the images we can collect, and the greater flexibility we have in where, when and how we collect them, this approach provides us with better data for understanding population status and trends, which can then be used to inform management decisions and develop conservation measures tailored to individual populations, locations and time frames”, Sykora-Bodie said.

Olive ridleys are classified as vulnerable on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. One of the chief threats they face is being accidentally caught and killed by hooks and other fishing gear used by longline and trawl fisheries.

To conduct the newly published study, researchers from Duke’s Marine Robotics and Remote Sensing Labflew an eBee senseFly fixed-wing drone equipped with a near-infrared camera over a three-kilometer stretch of nearshore water twice daily — morning and evening — on four consecutive days during a mass-nesting event, or arribada, in August 2015. By analyzing the captured images, they identified 684 confirmed turtle sightings and 409 probable sightings.

Using methods that scientists regularly employ for estimating the population abundance of marine species based on surface sightings in traditional surveys, Sykora-Bodie and his colleagues then calculated a low-end daily estimate of up to 1,299 turtles per square kilometer in the surveyed area, and a high-end estimate of up to 2,086 turtles. Long-term surveys, coupled with further research on olive ridleys’ dive profile — how deep they dive, and how long they remain under water — will be needed to refine these estimates.


Costa Rica jungle video

This video says about itself:

30 December 2016

In the jungles of Costa Rica, you’re surrounded by three masters of disguise.

Can you spot them in this 360 film? This video has 360 spatial sound – so turn up the volume and try to zero in on the animals.

Planet Earth II is a BBC Studios Natural History Unit production, co-produced with BBC America, ZDF, Tencent and France Télévisions.

In the mid-1990s, 1,000 truckloads of orange peels and orange pulp were purposefully unloaded onto a barren pasture in a Costa Rican national park. Today, that area is covered in lush, vine-laden forest: here.

Seven endangered bird species

This video says about itself:

Bare-necked Umbrellabird. Monteverde, Costa Rica. 2011.

From BirdLife:

7 stunning forest birds we could soon lose forever

By Alex Dale, 14 Nov 2016

Deforestation, either to meet global demand for timber, or so land can be converted for agricultural use, is one of the biggest threats to bird biodiversity across the world. Over 60% of all bird species worldwide require forest habitats, and BirdLife estimates that figure includes some 76% of globally-threatened bird species.

BirdLife and its Partners are fighting to protect the world’s most endangered forests. You can read more about our work, and how you can help, by visiting our Emerald Forest campaign page.

If action isn’t taken, we could soon lose some of the world’s rarest and most beautiful birds forever. Below are just a handful of the vibrant, diverse species whose continued survival is threatened by the loss of their forest habitats.

Bare-necked Umbrellabird, Cephalopterus glabricollis

Where is it found?

Middle to upper levels of forests on the Caribbean side of Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Panama.

How many are left?


This curious-looking cotinga, one of Central America’s largest perching birds, has an equally curious mating display to match. When the time comes, the males form small groups and perch together to perform their unusual displays. First, they inflate a thin wattle that hangs from the bright red bald patch on their necks like a balloon. Then they lean forward and release a booming noise that sounds like a drum being hit, which resonates through the forest. Unfortunately, habitat loss, due to the expansion of cattle-ranches and logging, could see the already-scarce populations of Umbrellabird fold altogether.

Marvellous Spatuletail, Loddigesia mirabilis

This video says about itself:

Marvelous Spatuletail

The most beautiful hummingbird, endemic to Peru with a population and territory in the Valley of Uctubamba, rainforest, cloudy and very dense secondary forest in northern Peru, at an altitude of 2000 to 2900 meters above sea level, male from14 to 15 centimeter, females 9 to 10 centimeters long.

The BirdLife article continues:

Where is it found?

On the forest edges of a valley in remote northern Peru

How many are left?


This hummingbird’s puffed-up name in no way oversells the flamboyant tail feathers of the male – which consists of long, criss-crossing strands which flare out into brilliant violet-blue discs. These feathers are so cumbersome that the male can only stay airborne for a few seconds, but that’s long enough for it to perform its mesmerising courtship display, where it waves its tail around like a pair of racquets.

Unfortunately, the conspicuous dance makes males an easy target for hunters with slingshots, which may explain the uneven 5:1 female/male sex ratio. The main threat it faces however is the destruction of its habitat for marijuana and coffee cash-crops, although conservation work is underway to plant and manage new habitats so this showy species can continue to strut its stuff.

Rufous-headed Hornbill, Rhabdotorrhinus waldeni

Rufous-headed hornbill

Where is it found?

Historically endemic to the islands of Panay, Negros and Guimaras in the Philippines, although now only Panay holds a viable population.

How many are left?


Chronic deforestation has brought this spectacular hornbill to the brink; it is now believed extinct in Guimaras and functionally extinct in Negros, leaving the remaining population clinging to existence to the island of Panay, which now has just 6% forest cover. The Rufous-headed Hornbill is also threatened by hunting, and because the bird is slow to reproduce and requires large trees to nest in, it is struggling to survive these twin threats. Conservation efforts, including nest-wardening schemes, offer hope for the future, and the hope is captive-reared individuals can be reintroduced to Negros in the future.

Cerulean Paradise-flycatcher, Eutrichomyias rowleyi

Caerulean paradise flycatcher lateral view, photo Jon Riley

Where is it found?

Montane forest on the island of Sangihe, Indonesia

How many are left?


Cerulean Paradise-flycatcher? Cerulean Paradise-EYECATCHER, more like. Alas, we couldn’t find a photo that truly shows off its vivid blue plumage in all its glory, as it’s one of the rarest and most reclusive birds going. Indeed, it was once believed extinct and known with certainty only from a single specimen collected in 1873, until a small population was discovered in the south of the island in 1998. Its range is extremely small and the loss of forest to agriculture and non-native plant species continue to cast doubts on the species’ future. There is now a small bird tourism industry on the island, and the hope is that this will incentivise locals to conserve what forest remains.

Spix’s Macaw, Cyanopsitta spixii

This 30 June 2016 video is called Blue-Feathered Spix’s Macaw Spotted in Wild for First Time in 15 Years.

Where is it found?

Well. Until one was discovered and filmed in Bahia, Brazil on 18th June, it was widely believed to be extinct in the wild, persisting only as captive populations in Qatar and Tenerife.

How many are left?


The plight of this charismatic small blue macaw entered mainstream consciousness in 2011 with the children’s film Rio, in which the last remaining male Spix’s, Blu, is sent to Brazil to mate with the last remaining female, Jewel. The sequel, Rio 2, reveals there are actually other Spix’s hidden deep within the rainforest, but this is a notion that seems fanciful even following this summer’s stunning discovery. The individual filmed is likely an escapee from captivity, as the area it was discovered in is well-known to conservationists and any skulking Spix’s colonies would have surely been discovered by now. However, observing this lone bird’s behaviour could provide insight into the challenges that lie ahead in reintroducing this species back into the wild.

Madagascan Fish-Eagle, Haliaeetus vociferoides

This video is about a Madagascan Fish-Eagle.

Where is it found?

Dry, deciduous forests and mangroves across the northwest coast of Madagascar.

How many are left?


Even some of the largest and most powerful birds on the planet aren’t immune to the devastating effects of deforestation. This bulky bird of prey likes to set up camp on large trees adjacent to inland waterbodies. The on-going development of these wetland areas into rice paddles is resulting in the ,c loss of important nesting and foraging habitat. It’s also threatened by other factors, such as trapping, shooting and getting accidentally tangled in fishing nets. Conservation action, including captive-rearing programmes and improving local law enforcement, are helping to stabilise numbers of this rare raptor.

Seven-coloured Tanager, Tangara fastuosa

This is a seven-coloured tanager video.

Where is it found?

Small, fragmented remnants of the Atlantic rainforest in Eastern Brazil

How many are left?


This exceptional tanager seemingly faces as many threats as it has colours on its plumage; its vivid colours inevitably make it a target for the international trade industry, but it’s also facing huge, widescale habitat loss. Just two percent of Brazil’s Atlantic Forest remains standing as a result of logging and conversion into sugarcane plantations. The remaining Seven-coloured Tanager populations are now fragmented and few. And with the new roads being built in the area providing ever-easier access for poachers, the Seven-coloured Tanager is still in seven shades of trouble.

Birding, new world record

Arjan Dwarshuis in Costa Rica

This photo from Costa Rica shows, in the middle, Arjan Dwarshuis, the new birding world record holder.

Translated from Dutch NOS TV:

Dutchman breaks world birding record

Today, 13:17

Dutch Arjan Dwarshuis (30) broke the world bird watching record. He thus beat the record set last year. Then a US American spotted 6042 birds in one year. Arjan photographed yesterday bird number 6119: the Buffy-crowned Wood Partridge.

This video says about itself:

31 December 2015

Buffy-crowned wood partridge (Dendrortyx leucophrys) family in the highlands of Costa Rica, San Gerardo de Dota, 2600 mts.

The NOS article continues:

He is very proud, he says from a rainforest in Costa Rica. “I am here with three of my best friends. They travel along for a few days. They were there yesterday when I broke the world record. That was fantastic.”


For decades avid birders have been trying to break each others’ records. Participants go a year looking for as many different species as possible.

Arjan started on 1 January with bird watching. In the Netherlands he found 161 species and then he went abroad. Especially South America is full of different species of birds. In Brazil he spotted 552.


Since the beginning of his journey Arjan keeps track of where he spots the birds. The results he publishes on a website. Other birders also note on that website what animals they have seen.

“I try to document as much as possible with pictures and sound recordings. And there is always a local expert with me checking that I actually see all the birds.”


Spotting the birds is not just for fun. Arjan does what he does to draw attention to species that are threatened in their very existence. He gets money from sponsors, which goes to BirdLife International.

Arjan has reached his goal, but he is not going to come back to the Netherlands now already. He has one month and half time to get an even higher record still.

Abused toucan Grecia can sing, eat again

This video from Costa Rica says about itself:

One Brave Toucan

22 August 2016

The victim of extreme animal cruelty, Grecia the toucan arrived at the ZooAve Rescue Center without the top half of its beak. As his caregivers work to find a solution, they admire Grecia’s bravery throughout his ordeal.

ZooAve is in Alajuela. I was in Alajuela. Later, I also saw toucans in Costa Rica; both in the wild and in an another rescue center.

Grecia is a chestnut-mandibled toucan.

From NPR in the USA:

After Losing Half A Beak, Grecia The Toucan Becomes A Symbol Against Abuse

August 27, 201611:45 AM ET

Remember the toucan in Costa Rica who had its upper beak hacked off by a perpetrator who was never found?

Well, here’s an update to a story we first told you about last year. And, spoiler alert — it has a happy ending.

Local residents brought the bird to a nearby animal rescue center. And thanks to its dedicated workers, amazing doctors and engineers, the toucan now has a prosthetic beak.

That new beak and Grecia, as the bird’s called, went on public display just this last week at ZooAve, a private animal rescue center about 30 minutes outside Costa Rica’s capitol.

Nine-year-old Leonardo Jimenez was thrilled to finally see the bird.

“This is the third time I’ve tried to see Grecia,” he says.

Jimenez started following Grecia’s plight ever since the bird was brought here in January, 2015. Nearly its entire top beak was cut off.

“She was really bad off,” says ZooAve caretaker Ronald Sibaja. “All that was left of the top beak was a jagged bloody stump”.

Sibaja refers to Grecia as “she,” although no one knows its gender. It would have to take a blood test to determine its sex, an added stress Sibaja says the injured bird didn’t need.

“When the veterinarian did that first exam we all thought she would have to be euthanized,” says Sibaja.

Toucans need their beaks for everything from eating to regulating body temperature. But he says you could tell Grecia wanted to live. She sang as best she could and would try to eat.

Sibaja says he had read about eagles and ducks getting prosthetic beaks and suggested one for Grecia.

When the decision was made to get the bird a new beak, news of Grecia and her prosthesis campaign went viral. A 3-D printing company from the U.S. with partners in Costa Rica signed on to make the beak.

Filmmaker Paula Heredia documented Grecia’s year-long recovery for Discovery Channel’s Animal Planet.

“Everybody was working for free, all the group of scientists,” Heredia says, including a dentist, experts in nanotechnology and industrial designers.

In the end, Grecia was fitted with a synthetic beak, made of nylon assembled in a 3-D laser printer.

The beak was made in two parts. The top was glued to Grecia’s stump with a special epoxy, and the longer, second part is attached with a pin. That way the beak can be removed for periodic cleaning.

ZooAve caretakers decided to leave the synthetic beak white and not paint it. They say they didn’t want to cover up the abuse Grecia had suffered.

Filmmaker Heredia says Grecia’s rehabilitation was inspiring, but equally motivating was how this small bird sparked a national movement for animal rights. Under current Costa Rican law, there’s no punishment other than a minuscule fine to whoever brutalized the toucan.

“So when the case of Grecia happened and it went so viral around the world, Grecia became this icon for this changing in the law,” says Heredia.

Animal rights activist Juan Carlos Peralta says citizens had gotten a ban on hunting wild animals passed, but that a bill to protect and punish animal abusers had stalled over the last years in the legislature.

“Grecia motivated and moved our entire country to do more,” Peralta says.

Costa Ricans held rallies in support of the new anti-abuse bill. Just last Sunday, they held another march down the capital’s main street chanting “no to animal abuse.” And they gathered signatures to get the bill made into law.

ZooAve animal caretaker Ronald Sibaja is hopeful the bill will pass by the end of the year. He says he believes there’s a reason why things happen the way they do.

“What happened to Grecia was terrible,” he says. “But it brought awareness of animal abuse in our country,” says Sibaja.

Now he says he hopes something good will come out of something so ugly yet again.

Giro d’Italia cycling, from Costa Rican to Dutch victory

This 20 May 2016 video in Spanish shows Costa Rican cyclist Andrey Amador winning the leader’s pink jersey in the Giro d’Italia cycling race.

Andrey Amador was the first Costa Rican ever, and the first Central American cyclist ever, to wear the pink jersey.

However, that was yesterday.

Today was a very difficult mountain stage.

When Amador had difficulty following other favourites on a steep slope, a woman waving a Costa Rican flag started running besides him, encouraging him.

By going downhill fast after the mountain top, Amador managed to catch up with other favourites again.

However, then came another mountain, and still another one …

Amador lost his pink jersey to Dutchman Steven Kruijswijk.

This April 2016 video is called Kruijswijk aiming high at the Giro d’Italia.

This is a Dutch interview with Kruijswijk after winning the pink jersey today.

Tomorrow, there will be time trial stage up a mountain. Kruijswijk now has 41 seconds advantage on number two, Italian favourite Nibali.

Who will win?

Costa Rican bat news

This video says about itself:

16 December 2008

A Super Natural Adventure into the misunderstood world of the bat. Filmed on location at Tirimbina Rainforest Center in Costa Rica. Ryan Jacobus explains all about the jungle ecosystem and the bat’s amazing ability to use echo location to find its prey.

From The Costarican Times:

Christmas Bat Count Reveals New Bats in Costa Rica


Every year, on the 11th and 12th of December, people from Panama to Mexico go outside for a very different type of event, the Christmas Bat Count.

The event is organized by the Central American Strategy for Bat Conservation and the Latin American and Caribbean Network for the Conservation of Bats.

Over 60 participants came out in Costa Rica, including biologists, volunteer firefighters, students, and even a 7 year old child. SINAC, UCR, OTS and Bat Jungle Projects were involved in the effort.

The search for bat species occurred in Santa Rosa National Park, La Amistad International Park, Tirimbina Biological Reserve, Cabo Blanco Nature Reserve, Palo Verde National Park, Monteverde, Barva Volcano National Park, Diria National Park and the Barra Honda National Park. This allowed observers to work in three ecosystems; rainforest, cloud forest and dry forest.

A total of 61 species were seen. Seven hairy-legged vampire bats were observed, which are not common in the country. Another surprise was that the fruit bat, which is usually in middle lands, was spotted in Guanacaste.

Wildlife watching in Costa Rica: How to spot sloths, whales and birds. This Central American nation is one of the world’s most biodiverse, and it’s becoming even more accessible, thanks to new flights from the UK: here.