Monday, April 19, 2010

Big numbers

I’m sure you’ve heard it all before on public TV: the tropics are home to tremendous diversity. Still, it’s just kind of cool to know that sixty-plus species of bats are in the small area where we live (within 10 kilometers or so) even if I rarely see any. I know the number because today when I picked up my weekly bag of vegetables I saw Richard LaVal, renowned local bat expert. His wife owns an organic veggies-by-subscription business and sometimes when I pick up my bag I see Richard and get to ask him something. It may be about the number of bat species, or it may be if he has change for a 5000 colones bill so I can pay for my veggies. Costa Rica has 0.03% of the world’s land surface and 12% of all it’s bat species. Visitors to Monteverde can learn more about bats at Richard's very well done and entertaining exhibit, the Bat Jungle.
The veggies, by the way, are excellent and it’s always fun to open the bag and see what we got. 

A friend recently suggested I learn about the ferns in Costa Rica. I just can’t get my head around the fact that there are over 1100 species of them and some 350 species in my immediate surroundings. Somehow I feel too intimidated to begin. But I do enjoy the towering tree ferns.

I also find charming the idea that there just in the Monteverde area there are over 500 species of orchids, even if most of them are tiny and up so high in the trees one only sees most of them if a branch they are living on falls down. We tend to concentrate on the big showy ones.
Our friend Lelo has this magnificent collection of Costa Rica's national orchid, the Guaria morada (Guarianthe skinneri) legally moved from various trees on his own farm. Each flower is up to 11 cm. in diameter, or more than 4 inches.
 Or there is this common terrestrial orchid called Bandera española (Epidendrum radicans) which grows on dry sunny hillsides.
 Also in the reserve are over 100 species of  amphibians and reptiles, and tens of thousands of plant species.  All of this diversity draws a host of students and researchers that adds to the wonderful diversity of our human community.
We’ve seen 469 species in Costa Rica. It’s getting harder and harder to do add a bird to our Costa Rican list without traveling elsewhere in the country but I managed to do just that yesterday when a guide friend pointed out an Ornate Hawk-Eagle soaring high overhead. Now we have to find it again so we have hawk-eagle parity. (We’ve both seen up close elsewhere though, so I guess it didn’t hurt quite as bad...) Because there are over 400 species of birds in the Monteverde reserve we sometimes don’t see a particular species for years; there’s a lot of species but not necessarily a lot of individuals. And there are all those leaves getting in the way.
Here's a White-throated Robin. We're seeing a lot of them right now but sometimes they're hard to find.


Trudy said...

Carol - this was a fun read - and the fiesta's post as well. Your authorial voice is quite clear - and very refreshing. But when I try to sign on to your blog through the web, rather than the message on facebook, all I get is an offer to start my own blog. Really, really, really, I'd rather read your! Any tips on easing my access?

Thanks...We had a 5 day trip to DC with azaleas all over the place and singing white throated sparrows but no white throated robins. I heard the Carolina Chickadee and could not figure out what it was...until my sister said chickadee...and then I remembered. Do you hear much bird song?

rududu said...

Sorry about that. I don't know why it happens, but if you enter the following link in your browser, it will take you right there:

It's also possible to subscribe to the RSS feed by clicking on the subscribe thingie on the bottom of the blog. Thanks for you continued interest.
And yes, we hear a lot of bird songs. Recently we are hearing a lot of Swainson's thrushes that are heading north--toward you!