Panama Wildlife – Episode 7

Panama Wildlife Video

Wasps are insects that can bring mixed feelings, but having a close look at them, proves they are very interesting creatures. This video shows the way they take care of their offspring. By flapping their wings to reduce the temperature inside the nest, they protect the young inside the nest. Animals are not as dangerous as we night think. Respect and distance are the key to living in harmony with all the Earth’s creatures.

Birding Panama – Episode 10 – Berries

tanagerphotoDaniel collected a number of birds from Ramon & Natalia’s video collection that enjoy eating one specific berry.  Six species – one tree all within less than a minute.  We have planted many of these trees around Tranquilo Bay because the birds love them.  Enjoy.

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Women in Science

Gender bias?  Here in Panama, at Tranquilo Bay, not so much, but in many other parts of the world, yes.  When many people think of women in science they do not think of the same people who my daughter brings to her mind.  Why, well, we are blessed to live on a spot on this earth that brings many scientists to us.  And believe it or not, the majority of the scientists that we have met working here in Bocas del Toro, are women.

We welcome scientists from the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute out to our place to study whatever it is they are studying.  We figure it helps science, we learn something and our kids have an opportunity to meet new scientists on a regular basis.

We have naturalist guides who are on site to work with our guests who have both studied different sciences and who teach us about biology, nature and many different types of science on a daily basis.

We have group leaders who are scientists or naturalists of some form that visit us on a regular basis.

We have a family member who studied ecology and is working with TIDE so that she might become a marine biologist one day.

Why this conversation?  Well, one of the scientists we met in October 2015 is also a National Geographic Photographer.  Clare Fiesler contacted us to see about working with us on a kayak circumnavigation of Isla Bastimentos while she was studying at STRI.  She and her buddy, Becca Skinner, used two portable Orukayaks to complete this expedition.  They stayed the first night with us.  Both of them have shared some details about their adventure on Nat Geo’s blog and Instagram account.

Since then, Clare suggested that a group of students from UNC Chapel Hill spend some time documenting Bocas del Toro and she kindly gave them our name.  The result is this award-winning multimedia website created by the students under the supervision of a great group of professors and coaches.  Clare was one of the coaches.

Bocas del Toro Documentary

Several years ago, Clare worked on a  project:  “Outnumbered:  Portraits of Women Scientists.”  She explains a bit about the project in this video.  You can also get more information here:  http://college.unc.edu/2014/11/12/outnumbered/.

Most recently Clare used words to explain in An Ecologist’s Guide to Writing Obituaries about the “death” of the Great Barrier Reef as well as obituaries as a genre.  We take writing very seriously around here as part of our school curriculum so when we find people who are skilled with this craft, we learn whatever we can from them.

My children have met a number of female scientists and a number of people named Clare, but only one female scientist named Clare.  So when I tell them that Clare is in Bocas del Toro working on another research project they immediately know to ask, “Mom, are you talking about the Clare that did the kayak project?”  They do this because to them, Clare isn’t the only female scientist they know so they have learned to identify her in a different way.  I wish that more people had the same perspective on life – we can work towards whatever interests us and it doesn’t need to fit a specific mold.  We can make it into what works for us.  Clare’s camera and her words are some of the tools she uses to expand people’s horizons and help tell people’s stories.  Many of those stories touch science in one way or another.

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Three-wattled Bellbird Species Overview

Birding Panama

Let me introduce you to one of the most interesting birds of Bocas del Toro, Panama.

It´s name … Three- wattled Bellbird or, as we call it here, Campanero o Pájaro Campana (Procnias tricarunculata). This species is within the suboscine passerine family of Cotingas (Cotingidae). The English name comes from the three black skin wattles that the adult male has, one in the base of the upper mandible, the other two find on the corner of the gape. I guess the Spanish name is because the male Procnias produces one of the loudest of all animal vocalizations. Its main sound is a thunderous, electronic bell or gong-like note … so … “campanero” is a great name.

Three-wattled Bellbirds are only found from Southeastern Honduras, Nicaragua, and Costa Rica to Western Panamá. It has one of the most complex migration patterns registered for tropical species, including altitudinal movements. In Panama, from March to Mid-August, breeding season, it is found in the upper levels of the forest in the western foothills and highlands (from 3000 to 7000 feet). In nonbreeding season, September to February, it descends to the lowlands and foothills on the Western Caribbean Slope, which means you can enjoy them here at Tranquilo Bay Eco Adventure Lodge.

Bocas del Toro Birding

It is one of the biggest fruit-eating (frugivorous) birds in Central America. It feeds on stone fruits that all contain a relatively high percentage of protein and fat and not much water within the fruit’s flesh. A big percentage of them are Lauracea and Rutacea, but it also eats other fruits.

Unlike other birds of the suboscine division, the Three-wattled Bellbird is capable of vocal learning. Vocal learning was supposed to have evolved in three clades of birds: parrots, hummingbirds and oscine passerines; and three clades of mammals: whales, bats and primates. However, behavioral data indicates that the Three-wattled Bellbird is capable of vocal learning, This data, in the form of a genetic study carried out in Costa Rica and Nicaragua, shows that the weak genetic variation shown between the four populations is not congruent with variation in vocal behavior of the four.

Panama Birdwatching

Three-wattled Bellbirds have a very particular display practice. They always choose an exposed perch above the canopy or a special broken-off branch, or visiting perch, beneath the canopy. The special branch has to have particular aspects to qualify as a “visiting perch”. The ideal specifications for the branch are:

  • 10 to 22 meters above the ground
  • 25-50 mm in diameter
  • 45 to 60 cm of the broken-off branch must be uncluttered by side branches
  • grows upward at an angle of 10 to 15 degrees above horizontal

As you can see, it is a very particular animal. It is very special in it´s perch requirements which makes it a natural wonder. This makes us feel very lucky to enjoy it´s presence in this little corner of the Earth.

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Underwater Chorus

Snorkeling Bocas del ToroPhoto. Juvenile Caribbean Blue Tang (Acanthurus coeruleus)

Historically birds have surprised and filled the life of humans with their calls.  In the past, mostly as pets in cages, where some species were more desired than others because of their songs or the ability to speak.  Parrots are very well know for the last skill.

Caged Bird Graphic

Source: http://krutishah0703.blogspot.com/p/caged-bird.html

More recently people are interested in enjoying these melodious creatures in their natural habitat.  Bird watching is growing around the world, year by year.

Golden-collared Manakin

Photo. Male Golden-collar Manakin (Manacus vitellinus) displaying on its lek

We (humans) always have related the songs in nature to the birds. What if I tell you fish sing? A few days ago I was reading an article about singing fish.  They have proven that fish do sing.  It make sense, living creatures need to communicate, animals as different as insects, frogs, birds, whales … do it, so, why not fish?

This study occurred in Western Australia, and during a period of 18 months they recorded and identified seven different choruses, from different species of fish, happening at dawn and at dusk. Those choruses are used by the fishes to regroup, settle territorial disputes or find food.

If you want to read the full article, visit: https://www.newscientist.com/article/2106331-fish-recorded-singing-dawn-chorus-on-reefs-just-like-birds/

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A furry resident of the Tranquilo Bay grounds

Three-toed Sloth at Tranquilo BayOne of the most “desired” tropical species that everyone wants to see, when they visit the tropics, is the species I am going to talk about today.   It’s easy to understand why, the sweet face, the lazy and extremely slow reputation attracts everyone’s attention.  I am talking about the Three-toed Sloth (Bradypus variegatus).

The truth is that they are not as slow as most people think, and they do more, than most of us think they do. Some studies with animals in captivity show they can sleep an average about 16 hours a day, but studies with wild animals have shown they sleep about 9 and half hours, spending most of their time moving around looking for food, eating and scratching.

Three-toed sloths are found in Central and South America. At Tranquilo Bay this species is abundant and easy to find most of the year.  On site we also have the Two-toed Sloth (Choloepus hoffmanni), which is a nocturnal species. On an island of the Bocas del Toro archipelago, is possible to find another specie of sloth the Pygmy Three-toed Sloth (Bradypus pygmaeus), an endemic specie, found in one special location on Escudo de Veraguas Island.

Birding Panama Episode 8 Video

Birding Panama Episode 8Daniel pulled together a great collection of some of the birds you may see onsite at Tranquilo Bay.  Red-legged Honeycreeper, Blue Dacnis, Red-lored Amazon, and two Crowned Woodnymphs in all their glory.  Makes me want to pick up a pair of binoculars and go outside.   Come see for yourself as soon as you can!

 

Longsnout Seahorse

Snorkeling Bocas del Toro

One of the most intriguing, secretive and unknown species of the Bocatoranian marine wildlife is also one that occupies a privileged place in everyone’s personal wildlife universe: Seahorses. The Longsnout Seahorse, Hippocampus reidi is the species found in Bocas del Toro.

Many of us have enjoyed seahorse cartoon characters, bathroom stickers, pictures, and documentaries. We have seen them in aquariums or dried out in local market as souvenirs.   In some cultures they use them as a traditional medicine.

For many years I believed that they were just a Bocatoranian myth, but local neighbors remember the times where they were often seen under their docks or attached to sponges on the dock posts. I have never seen them on Isla Colon, yet I was lucky enough to find one some time ago. What makes it more incredible is that the one I found is within swimming distance of Tranquilo Bay’s dock.

In the very same area in which I found it, I continue to see it from time to time. One important thing that I have learned is that the times I have seen it are when I am choosing to have a very slow mode snorkeling experience. Because seahorses are not good swimmers they have an amazing camouflage system in the bony plates covering their bodies. This is their only defense against predators.

Panama Seahorse

There are many interesting facts about seahorses; I am just going to give you some of them that I believe curious enough to be shared.

Their unusual reproductive strategy is one of them, the males are the ones that will carry the eggs after the female lays them in a special abdominal pouch on the male (where they are fertilized). He will incubate them and 14 days later he will give birth by opening the pouch to the tiny (0.2 inches) young seahorses that are identical yet smaller than the adults.

They are generally believed to mate for life, but what scientist have confirmed through the data collected is that some seahorses do have monogamous relationships in which they stay together for several mating seasons in a row.

Seahorses are considered an important species in the aquarium trade. They are one of the most exported marine ornamental fish species in Brazil.

With all that interest and curiosity that seahorses awaken in the human mind, many sea horse populations are on the decline given that they have been collected as aquarium fishes, used in folk medicine, and sold as souvenirs.

Another important threat is that they are included in the by-catch of shrimp boats in the USA, Mexican and Central American ocean waters.

Even with all this pressure on seahorse populations, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) the species are considered “data deficient” so they are not included in the IUCN red list of endangered species.

The Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species of wild fauna and flora (C.I.T.E.S) includes our Longsnout Seahorse in their list as “Threatened”, in the Apendix II CITES 2004.

This is a good example of how important it is that scientists continue to study the Longsnout Seahorse in order todeterminewhether or not its population is stable and what conservation measures might need to be initiated. If we do not even know if there is a problem … how are we going to fix it?