We’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 cemented 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-annual 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.
Anyways, 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.
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.