Archive for August, 2012

Our first cabin…..done.

Sunday, August 26th, 2012

The end of a 15 month project. Our first cabin was built with local labor, wood harvested from our own forests, furniture and finished carpentry contracted and purchased from local sources with the exception of the couch and appliances.


View from corner of the loft with single bed down to the living room.


Kitchen with tempered glass windows and roof lighting. This was inspired by the cabin in Seattle where we lived for 5 years. Thank you Jerry.


First floor bedroom with queen bed.


View from first floor living room toward the first floor bedroom and loft.


Loft with 2 queen beds and divider for storing clothes, flashlights, binoculars field guides and butterfly nets!


Single bed in corner of loft accessed via narrow walkway.


Loft with bed and bathroom.


Looking down on living room from the loft


Downstairs bathroom with shower bath and skylight of tempered glass.


Custom designed bathtub. Hot water from the dump of the hydro plant will be pumped into this tub. Look for a future blog entry on this. Hot shower is working but this bath feature will have to wait a few additional improvements.


View of cabin from the next cabin site. The pine trees on the left and right are non native and planted in the mid 80’s. The trees on the left will be removed in the next couple of months and the timber used for tongue and groove interior walls of our next cabin.


Old stumps and fence posts are used in landscaping attaching orchids and bromeliads.


Cabin and main house with Mount Totumas at 2630m in the background.


The first guests staying in the new cabin where from the McGuire Research Institute of Gainsville Florida. They covered the deck with sheets and lights and where able to collect their specimens walking only 5 feet from the work station they set up on the dining room table!

Herpetology at MTCF revisited.

Saturday, August 18th, 2012

A casual observer cannot help but notice the dramatic epiphytes in myriad biodiversity draping the branches of the trees or the thunderous calls of howler monkeys here at MTCF. The cloud forest however yields many of its secrets only with the patience and persistance of the observer who reacquaints him or herself with the animal cunningness of the hunter gatherer. Those gems held within the forest tucked in the folds of heliconia leaves, under moss and stone and in the aquatic base of bromeliads.

A clue of this hidden diversity is revealed when visiting entomologists set up their lights and moths and beetles stream in through the night in a pagentry of colors, shapes and forms that awes and inspires. These artificial lights replace the stalking of the hunter and act like magic wands confusing these insects as they spiral toward the entomologists’ syringe and killing jars.

Todays blog however is about frogs, snakes and salamanders and equally about honoring the field work and stalking skills, both amateur and professional, required to reveal the presence of these herpatological wonders. We have a friend and volunteer at the moment, Kevin Moser, who is back for his second visit here at Mount Totumas Cloud Forest. Kevin is devoted to the preservation of frogs, many species currently in peril for reasons that are only partially understood. He is here to survey once again the presence or absence of frogs here at MTCF.

Kevin took under his wing another visitor, Shane Bender, a 17 year old from Switzerland who spent three weeks at MTCF this summer. The two of them spent many hours in the field at night. Imagine the challenge of hearing a tree frog high up in a tree laden with thousands of epiphytes. Getting a ladder, climbing the tree and spending up to 2 hours persistantly checking the base of bromeliads and honing in on the call until at last the hidden frog is revealed. The opening picture of this blog is a frog species that was found in just the way described. This was an exciting find because this frog is rarely heard here and we are not sure what species it belongs to or if it might even be a new subspecies. Our copy of Jay M Savage’s Amphibians and Reptiles of Costa Rica does not describe this frog and we are sending images to contacts who might help in identifying it.

Here are more images of frogs found during the past couple of weeks, many in some of the more remote upper reaches of MTCF and adjoining La Amistad NP.

To start with a few more images of this new discovery


The frog showed above was found at about 1400m near a stream on the 4WD road that leads up to MTCF


This frog with golden speckles was also found stream side at about 1400m on the road up to MTCF.


Same frog as above showing throat sac while calling.


Same frog as above.


This frog was found at 1400m and again at MTCF at 1900m.


Another individual of the same species as shown above?


This species was found in a spring seep, under a small branch in deep shade of the forest near a bog like habitat in La Amistad NP at around 2100m.


Another image of this forest ground dweller.


A close up view.


This salamander was found near the intake of our hydro plant at MTCF at 1940m.


A snake seen at forest edge at 1800m at MTCF.

We have not been able to positively identify any of these amphibians or reptiles. We are sharing these photos with experts in the hopes of identifying and building up an accurate species list of the Herpetology of MTCF

Here is a link to the image gallery of herpetology specimens photographed at MTCF since 2009.

Herpetology of MTCF

Bird Houses at MTCF

Tuesday, August 14th, 2012

7 Birdhouses made of sections of 4 inch PVC pipe went up around the cabin and main house at Mount Totumas Cloud Forest today.

We drilled 4 different diameter holes varying from 1.5 to 3 inches in size. There are several species of cavity nesters seen around the common area like Resplendent Quetzals, Orange Bellied and Collared Trogons, Emerald Toucanet, Blue Crowned Motmot, Elegant Euphonia.

Shane is painting the roof

Camouflage materials like sawdust, lichens, green and grey paint are added to blend the birdhouses into the environment.

Up they go into the cedro tree located right near the main house.

Tie wire from the construction supplies is used to fasten the birdhouses on to the trees. Grooves were sawed into the PVC to hold the wire firmly in place.

Bromeliads were stuffed around the outside edges to help further integrate the bird houses into the epiphyte rich habitat found on the trees. With time they should attach. The bottom of the birdhouse has a drainage and sawdust was used as a fill.

We’ll come back next spring during breeding season and report on the success or failure of these nest boxes in attracting some of our local species. Bare Shanked Screech Owl is another hopeful candidate that has been spotted recently attracted to the insects on the bug lights.