Thursday, January 29, 2015

Exploring Costa Rica, Part 3 - Sustainability makes wildlife thrive

One thing I love about traveling is that I can learn a great deal of  that country and their culture. Touring Costa Rica the first time, I picked few top eco-friendly destinations.  La Fortuna was the first stop of my trip. It is a small rural city located just about 115 miles northwest of  San Jose, Costa Rica's capital city. I love rural because vast wildlife present with least amount of human disturbance.  The original name of La Fortuna was "El Borio" and it was changed to La Fortuna after the eruption of Volcan Arenal in 1968. The eruption destroyed two villages located to the west side of volcano and El Borio to the east side of Arenal, was luckily untouched so it was renamed to La Fortuna, means "the fortunate". Tourists visit this city for the beauty of the volcano and its famous hot springs. There are many hotels and backpackers hostels in town and for  my own purpose of "chasing birds", I chose a small, quiet, family-operated eco lodge just 5 kilometers outside the town.

The image below is borrowed from wikipedia. So you know this is a serious "live" volcano. During my three days stay, I was not able to get any volcano shots because the constant rain.

Continued from Part Two ... Who cares for volcano when you have these many colorful and cheerful birds and butterflies around you? I was "bombarded" by countless hummingbirds and I could not help but took this shot while sipping my coffee.

Rufous-tailed Hummingbird. Click image to enlarge

I love bananas and carry few of them with me in my car or my backpack whenever I am out for birding or photographing. Interestingly, Ticos don't sell bananas in bunch, they sell them by "each". First time I stopped at a small road side fruteria ( fruit store), bananas were arranged into three parts, the most yellow ones and they are ready to eat now, the hard yellow ones and these you can leave them out for few days for them to ripe and, the very green ones and they can last for a week at least. I found their "system" very unique and practical. Because why should I buy a whole bunch if I only want two or three and I want to eat them now and fresh? This way you will never waste any fruit. I also noticed some huge banana...I meant they looked like bananas but they are two or three times bigger then the banana, Ticos told me it's called "plantains". I will tell you about this plantain in my next blog :)

A Blue-gray Tanager eating a banana, click image to enlarge

So when I was scouting around Carlos's farm, I saw many banana plants, I asked Alan to take a photo for me. Carlos grows more than ten different types of banana on his farm. I asked Alan, "are they all edible?" He told me they only eat one type here, "We have plenty", Alan said, and "we leave the rest for birds and animals". Something more amazing I learned is that "banana" the edible fruit, is actually a berry from the banana plant. Most of us think banana is a tree, but they are actually a herbaceous flowing plant. After fruiting, the mother plant will die but the amazing thing is that she will leave many offshoots, which will continue to grow into many huge plants and produce many more bananas.  I really admire how a humble farmer like Carlos and his family understand "sustainability". They cultivate their land heartily and they consider their surrounding and environment as their #1 priority. This is something USA should learn and teach children at school.

Right before leaving Carlos's farm, I ran into a wild Red-lored Parrot. According to Alan's sister, this parrot fell from a nest few years ago, since they were not able to put this bird back to the tree its nesting hole, they kept her in a cage with no door under the carport. "No door?" you might ask. That's right, they removed the door so the bird could come in and out anytime as she wished. They told me sometimes, she will come home at night, sometimes she won't. But they will "call" her up by her name, lol, they called her "Barbara". It's funny to give a wildlife an American name. It suits her well because she "talks" a lot. I did not stay long enough to hear how she "talked". Alan tried to call this Barbara out for me but she never showed up until the day I was checking out. I love this photo of me and this "wild Barbara".  She left me a lot of "souvenirs"... many scratches on my left arm and shoulder, ouch! They really hurt when I took showers :) But it was total worthy!

Do you believe that I did not spread myself with any insect replant

So where are the mosquitoes? you might ask. Tropical rain forest country like Costa Rica with average yearly rainfall around 13 feet (yup, 156 inches or nearly 400 cm, OMG) must have a lot of mosquitoes. My friends back in the States reminded me to bring at least two big bottles of insect replant, the funny truth is that I have never used once during my trip. I eagerly wanted to find out where are those nuisance bugs to  satisfy my curiosity. I asked Alan "did you guys spread any pesticide or bug spread on your farm? Where are the mosquitoes?"  Alan told me " No, no, everything you see is all natural and organically grown. Yes, there are many insects, bugs and mosquitoes, but they got all eaten by birds, frogs and bats (Click this link to see the facts of amazing bats)!" Of  the approximate 1,100 species of bats in the world, tiny country Costa Rica has taken 10% of that! Do you know a small Brown Bat can eat up to 1000 mosquitoes in one hour! This is a great result of biological control and sustainability working together! Pura Vida Costa Rica!

To be continued ....

My other stories of Costa Rica
Exploring Costa Rica, Part 1 - Before the trip preparation, books, map, GPS, & car rental
Exploring Costa Rica, Part 2 - Arenal Volcano, La Fortuna
Exploring Costa Rica, Part 3 - Sustainability makes wildlife thrive

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