Feeling the Guide Vibe

I’m headed back to the tropics. I love saying that.

And it’s different now, because, while I’m going to be working in a position nearly identical to that of this past year’s experience, I’m definitely undergoing a different kind of excitement leading up to it. I want to say that my emotions this time compared to how I felt in the weeks approaching last year’s departure to Costa Rica are somewhat muted, but not necessarily in a bad way. Ultimately, there’s a lot less unknown this time around and that in itself makes the greatest difference toward how I mentally approach the next experience. The excitement is still there, but this time it’s patiently simmering deep within and not constantly buzzing right at the surface. Maybe that buzz was tinged with a bit of anxiety: Am I made for this? Will I be able to give the guests an experience to remember? Or will they find out I’m a fraud? Honestly, a year later, I think the difference is simply this: Confidence.

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I love saying that because it’s true. I guide people into the forest, into the depths of the mysterious, verdant, dripping rainforest. I listen intently for my beloved tropical birds, identifying species as I hear them calling or singing among the leaves, knowing where to find different species based on their habits. Rustling branches high above immediately alert me as I alert my charges that we are in the presence of monkeys and I describe how the different species forage differently and how that affects their movements. Rustling in the underbrush and a fleeting, sharp mechanical bark as a shadow darts off into the thick cover causes guests eyes to grow wide and I assure them that the unknown isn’t nearly as scary once you can ID that distinctive sound as a large rodent called an agouti, something I like to describe as a groundhog on stilts.

I love to explain the fascinating symbiotic interactions between species and how this complex network of green is a system that functions more intricately than any human-made creation and offers ecological services, products and life-giving resources that humankind would not exist without and how we have so much more benefits to be uncovered as still so much is yet unknown.

Giving people an experience they didn’t expect, walking down a path where tiny brilliantly colored frogs hop to tell them that yes, the tropics are beyond beautiful, but that beauty is just the superficial. Underneath is where lies so much more to the story, a story that many might have no idea exists in the first place. That’s why I’m here, to help tell that story.

Okay, who turned up the buzz? …PANAMA!!!!!

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A Florida Stopover..

Just a throwback video that I thought I’d rehash while I’m back in Florida for a spell before heading back south to the tropics. I’m officially going to be working in the Bocas del Toro region of Panama at an ecolodge on a remote island on the archipelago. I’ll be guiding and interacting with guests, living in yet another tropical wonderland and thanking my lucky stars for this adventure of a life that I’m so fortunate to live.

Click on the image (or here!) to help support my work in sharing these experiences with all of you.

 

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Tropical Nature: A closeup view..

Stay tuned for what’s next, as I’ve got some irons in the fire! But for now, enjoy some sights and sounds of Costa Rica’s wild nature!

To keep updated on new videos and get exclusive sneak peeks of my work on future videos, become a Pura Vida Patron on my Patreon page. This will help support my creation of future videos which take a great deal of time and effort. By supporting my work for as little as $3 per video (or a greater amount of your choosing) I can keep up these efforts to share parts of the world with you from a naturalist’s perspective with ecology and conservation as the key focus. Head over to my page after watching this video to get more of an idea about becoming a patron and thanks for watching!

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Flying with the birds, stacebird style

IMG_0699.jpgWe’ve found ourselves in the low season here in Costa Rica, when tourism fizzles out and we’re left with verdant green forests as the afternoon rains take hold. With this lull, we have a chance to take a deep inhale after the intensity and nonstop movement of the high season has subsided and I am able look fondly back at my experience working at Saladero Ecolodge and all I’ve learned and shared about my most fervent passion: Tropical nature and its conservation.

While I always knew I’d live here in the tropics one day, these past six months have 29594912_681709258885_5757106878384585449_ncemented my confidence in maintaining a life here in Central America, because it is where I myself feel the most vibrant, engaged and at home. By living in a place where my passion is ignited, I’m able to reach others and pull them into a world that isn’t just pointing out a toucan, but watching how it interacts with its environment–an environment we share and depend upon as well as impact by our own actions. Thus we’re connected with these creatures. Identifying species isn’t the end of a bird guide’s job, but to take guests into this world, see what they’re doing, so we may learn more about them and see what needs they have that they are constantly working so emphatically to ensure are met so they might survive and bear young. If their needs are met, their environment is healthy. Their environment is the same that we rely upon to be healthy to make sure our own needs are met.

Survival is life and death, day by day. Seeing a bird flit by and saying “oh, that was a yellow warbler” and moving on, what are we getting out of this? Will we remember or care in ten minutes? Has this interaction been sufficient enough to allow us to move on in search of another species to tick off our Costa Rica bird list and feel like we’ve achieved something? Well, that little yellow bird may very well be in the midst of it’s twice-annualIMG_2892 journey between the temperate and tropic zones, following where the food is, where it can set up territory, attract a mate, raise and nourish young that will then grow up to find that the lives they look forward to include these massive annual spring and fall journeys north and south just for the sole need to survive and procreate. When that domestic or feral cat comes sauntering up to any (and every) porch with a struggling baby bird in its mouth, all that effort of the parent birds has been for nothing. Will they have time to re-nest before winter starts to creep in and the migratory birds have to retreat back southward? A year’s worth of energy lost in an effort to carry on the cycle when human influence has the final word.

27368477_678215670065_262448988082008438_oAnyways, for those of you who’ve been following my blog for awhile now know that I’m a bird myself (I’ve escaped the cats jaws here and there throughout my life..) and flit from one part of life to another. I’m always reaching up to hold that tail when the birds fly south. I’ve banded the same warblers and other migratory songbirds in Canada that I’ve shared a forest with down in Puerto Rico, Guatemala and here in Costa Rica. From here I’ve watched them gleaning tropical insects far from the cold northern winters that don’t provide the food our migratory birds depend on (hence, they migrate here to find it). The past months I’ve watched these birds have molted into beautiful new feathers fit for not just attracting a mate, but also to endure the long journey ahead. While I don’t have feathers, I do have a plane ticket north. I’m headed back to the States, to Florida, to see Grandy.

My father’s mother first brought me to Costa Rica in 2002, a shiny new high school graduate who was ready to dive into rich lush biodiversity and an shimmering abundance of birds unknown. I remember coming home from that journey, stars in my eyes, and telling my parents “I’m going to live there one day.”  Now I’m living here and, while the intention is just as resolute, my family needs me so I’m preparing to fly again. What’s nice is that coming back isn’t just an option, it’s a certainty.

 

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To maintain my connection with the Osa, the Golfo Dulce and the biological intensity of that part of the world that has captured my heart, I’m carrying on with Osa Birds: Research and Conservation. As a volunteer, I’ve started to write for director Karen Leavelle’s blog and hope to find funding in the future to help learn more about the critically endangered Yellow-billed Cotinga that exists here because of the fact that its habitats (something I’d even go as far as to say are also critically endangered) exist there. The more we can learn about this species, the more we can protect primary forests and primary mangrove habitat. The cotinga is not just a beautiful bird, but by learning more about it we can find a path toward protecting the habitats it uses that also nourish an incredibly enormous abundance of other species which in turn nourish our environment, which in turn nourishes our future. This is what drives me. This is why I won’t stop. This is why new generations give hope and old ones step back. We have the energy to keep the ball rolling and that’s exactly what I’m trying to do.

 

Check out my writing on Osa Bird’s blog and learn about what Karen is doing on the Osa through community involvement, education and research. 

 

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Click HERE to read more on Osa Birds: Research and Conservation’s blog..

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Osa Peninsula Sea Turtle Conservation

To help support my production of more educational videos like this one on birds, wildlife and conservation, feel free to visit my Patreon page and become a patron for as little as $3/video!

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The Mangroves of Rio Esquinas

Head upriver with me to explore the beautiful and complex mangrove ecosystem of Golfo Dulce’s Rio Esquinas to learn about the importance of these aquatic forests.

 

 

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Heading North!

Nope, not me! I have every plan to stay down here, provided I can make it financially possible (feel free to help by supporting my video creations at a mere $3 per creation, visit patreon.com/stacebird!).

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Baltimore Oriole

So who’s leaving? The answer: My beloved migratory birds! I’d say “..from up north” but they spend more time down in the tropics, side by side with parrots and toucans than they do up north among the chickadees and titmice. Some of these migrants have already arrived up in the states, perhaps even Canada, but there are still various species here yet. One who may have recently shown up in the temperate north and looks a lot more striking than this winter-plumage photo is the Baltimore Oriole. This is a photo I made at Saladero Ecolodge a couple months ago of a young male (unless it’s a female?) that might now be bedecked in bright, snappy orange contrasting against dark black and gleaming steaks of brilliant white.

“Our feathered migrant friends, like this Baltimore Oriole, fly over 5,000 miles annually to go between their nesting grounds and their winter territories”

This quote comes from Tropical Wings, an organization that works with Osa Birds: Research and Conservation in efforts to promote conservation of and education about migratory birds that rely on habitats based in both the United States and the Osa Peninsula. Through concentrated efforts, Tropical Wings is working to raise awareness in communities as well as funds to promote conservation of these birds and the important habitats they depend upon in both areas.

I just recently started collaborating with Karen Leavelle, founder and director of Osa Birds and will be taking charge of her blog and social media (stay tuned for my first post about a successful Bird-a-thon here in Puerto Jimenez with Tropical Wings!). Osa Birds is based out of Puerto Jimenez, where I am now and, with her strong background in avian ecology and Karen’s efforts here in the Osa have been monumental in providing and protecting habitat for endangered local birds (including the critically endangered Yellow-billed Cotinga) as well as those that migrate between the tropics down here and the temperate north.

By focusing on my passion, conserving and protecting wild birds, I feel whole. While I enjoyed working with Saladero, I didn’t feel like I was concentrating my efforts in what I care about most. What I’d also like to commit to is more local involvement in these precious resources that exist here. By sharing my passion with those who actually live here, I hope to help more people realize what steps we can take to help preserve this vastly, important, unique and fragile place. Tourists are great in helping the economy, but for long term improvement, we must include the local people.

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