LAST Week Four: Finding Our Rhythm

So I’ve been here for a month now, and as usual the time has flown by and is only getting faster, with just another six weeks to go on the project, which means I’m halfway through my total time in Costa Rica.

On Friday we were out monitoring the mangrove plots, which are remeasured one, two, three, six, twelve, eighteen and twenty-four months after they’re first planted. This creates quite a lot of work, and we couldn’t do much because we were limited by the tides and the times we had to cross the river. In the afternoon we returned to the mangrove nursery to plant some propagules we’d picked up and do some maintenance, while the biologist stayed back to write us a to do list as she had to be away for a few days.

Red-lored parrot in the garden

So we were left to our own devices! We had to untangle the nets, remeasure more of the mangroves, get a lift to the nearest ‘town’ to pick up a shipment of food from San Jose, finish planting, and enter all the data from the plots we had remeasured. This all went smoothly, and took us to our first unsupervised ocean day.

We had a new volunteer arrive in the morning, just in time to join us on the boat. She had just come from three weeks on the nesting beach project in Pacuare. By all accounts this is a pretty hardcore project, so we were all suitably impressed that she still had a big smile on her face. We had a little bit of trouble putting the nets out and had to spend some time detangling them in the water. I volunteered to stay on the boat during the day to pull the turtles out of the net, but despite watching their heads popping up around the net all day, only one got caught. It would be a massive black turtle, of course, but thankfully I had the help of the captain to get her up into the boat. After we’d worked and released her she managed to swim straight into the net again, but luckily it was quick to detangle her and send her on her way.

Monday was our day off, C and I headed to Matapalo, which is at the most southern tip of the Osa Peninsula. It is incredibly remote there, with even less to it than we were imagining (and our expectations weren’t exactly high) but with incredible beaches and amazing wildlife. We were there early in the morning, and were lucky enough to see a turtle nest hatching on the beach (or at least the stragglers from it) and the baby turtles running off into the sea. There were also hundreds of birds and the trees were full of squirrel monkeys and spider monkeys (meaning I’ve now seen all four monkey species Costa Rica has to offer). Although it was a bit of an adventure to get there and back (and I would recommend packing food if you do go, as I had to pay for a pretty expensive breakfast in one of the eco-lodges), I’m really glad we went as it is a very special place.

Spot the squirrel monkey

On Tuesday the boss was back, and it was ocean day again. We’d kind of been banking that it wouldn’t be, as we’d only untangled one of the nets. This meant an early start for us to finish the job, but it was all worth it as the moment we dropped the nets, we caught three turtles – two hawksbills and a black! I was glad I’d had the experience of being on the boat the time before, as I was able to actually feel useful and help get the turtles out of the nets. Working them filled the first 45 minutes of the morning and went pretty smoothly – later on the biologist said it was good to see we had found our routine, which was nice. Of course there was nothing for the rest of the day… until we were picking up the nets, and another black turtle got caught. So it was a pretty fun ocean day for me. I’m also loving our current volunteer, who is very quick and helpful and on board with everything.

The next day was out to crack on with the mangrove remeasuring, and we got all of it done except the six plots we couldn’t find. Then it was a chill afternoon of coffee and data entry, one of the least active days here that somehow managed to leave me absolutely exhausted. While at the mangrove nursery we noticed the high tides and storms had filled a lot of the plant beds and the mud pit with rocks, so that set up our work for the following day…

…which was digging rocks, and there is very little to say about that except my arms are going to be a lot stronger by the end of this trip.

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