College kids are known for their late nights- procrastinated papers, raucous parties, frats, beer pong… well, our FSP does involve the occasional game of ping-pong on the folding table outside the researcher’s lounge, some late-night paper revisions (though it would be essentially impossible to procrastinate here), and, well, bio-nerd’s dream parties: night walks through the jungle.
La Selva is known for great birding, and to the FSP program is known as a great place to take night walks. The paths are wide and clear, and there’s always something interesting to see, whether it be an ocelot, an armadillo, a bat, or the little glass frog who sits on her eggs by the bridge. But if we only looked down on our nighttime excursions (party, woo!) we’d miss out on some of the most impressive sights.
Those who know me will know all about my passion for owls- silent fliers, possessed of awesome eyes and wicked eyebrows, sharp hearing, powerful wings… owls are pretty sweet. So far in Costa Rica I haven’t managed to get any good pictures, but I’ve been surprised a few times by a sudden rush of air over my head followed by a ghostly set of wings.
But another bird might be overtaking (or at least coming close to) my favorite avian predators- the Great Potoo, a tropical bird that perches during the day on dead trees, sitting perfectly still and pretending to be a dead branch. During the night, this fairly large bird (about regular owl-sized, actually) shakes out its wings and yawns its massive beak before taking off into the sky and hunting down some big flying night bugs and sometimes even bats. (Can you imagine?)
As Tommy commented in a previous post, they have one of the most interesting and unsettling calls in the jungle- listen to the Cornell bird lab’s recording and imagine hearing that from out of the jungle as you walk alone through the dark:
Here’s my best Potoo picture- this one surprised me on the bridge over the river, and hung out for a few minutes to be admired.
These next guys are some members of the nightjar family, either nightjars or possibly pauraques- I spotted their eyeshine with my headlamp on the ground right outside of our cabin, and had to check them out. They didn’t seem to care about my approach at all until they took wing in unison, buzzed my head, and set back down to wait for more insect prey on the ground nearby. You never know about those tricky birds… they could be anywhere.
I probably ought to go to bed earlier than I do… but you know college kids, can’t miss out on that night life!