Since we started this project in 2006, there has been an explosion of wildlife on our place. The property is a little less than 3 hectares, but most of it now is in reforestation, our intention originally being the protection of the quebrada, a forested gorge with a stream, that crosses our land on its way down to the lake. This was the only existing habitat for the howler monkeys when we moved here . . . and, in fact, was just about the only forest on the place. We would see the monkeys only occasionally, just one or two family groups, as they wandered up and down the quebrada in search of fresh leaves to eat.
Within three years our worker told us that he had counted 100 bird nests in the area you see in these photos. Suddenly we realized that we were creating a beautiful home for others as well as ourselves, and since then there has been an incredible increase in both the number of bird species and the size of the flocks. Now hundreds of oropéndulas hop across the property in their season, the quebrada is full of chachalacas, there are two types of toucans year round, the red-lored parrots and the little pericos are here whenever there are tasty seeds on the trees, and the gentle whoop, whoop of the motmots is now a regular sound in the pre-dawn light. Indeed, the symphony of birdsong in April when many are mating is a new delight.
Very quickly, too, we began to notice more animal life around; there is now more cover for the white-tailed deer, as well as many others. We rarely see them, but we do see their tracks. The other day, I saw an armadillo waddling across the yard. The most exciting development, though, was this year when we realized we had created a biological corridor from our quebrada to the next one down the road – a distance of 300 meters or so – that allows the monkeys to move from one to the other without touching the ground. From one or two families of howlers, there are now at least four, and we’re seeing them around the house all the time.
This is especially gratifying because we had read a while back that the howler population in Costa Rica had declined by half in just 15 years. Living in isolated patches of forest, their gene pool had shrunk, and more were vulnerable to disease and bad weather. What’s particularly interesting about our new families of monkeys is a genetic mutation that we are observing for the first time – blond fur on fore-and hind-legs, sometimes all four limbs, sometimes only one or two. This is clearly a result of genetic isolation, and it will be interesting to watch these families through several generations to see how these changes play out.
One other observation: we’re beginning to see bird species that are more common in the dry tropical forest of the Guanacaste lowlands – the squirrel cuckoo is a striking example – so it seems indeed that some species are moving uphill as the weather warms. What do they do when they reach “the top of the mountain”? One obvious solution: plant more trees! Every tree is not only habitat, but also an air conditioner.
Thanks for the inspiration of La Reserva!
** RWS – And thank you Sandy for this great inspiration. Come on everybody……….
LET’S GET PLANTING!