May 22, 2014
Our friends Adam Hannuksela and Sallie Herman came to visit us again this month. They are two biologists from the U.S. who last worked on the Northern Jaguar Reserve in September. Once again, I had the opportunity to accompany them and learn more about the bird and plant species on the reserve. It is amazing to see the sheer quantity of species recorded, and the health of these populations at the reserve. Not that long ago, in June 2013, there was a small wildfire at Babisal near the reserve’s perimeter. Adam, Sallie, and I went to the site last fall, and we visited it again on this trip. We realized that the recuperation process has proceeded swiftly. The whole area is covered with grasses and new plants sprouting up, particularly hopbush (Dodonaea viscosa) – a plant that has a role in the restoration of degraded land. We expected to see this plant return, as it grows in the area where the fire took place.
During one of our mornings spent recording bird species, we observed a peregrine falcon (Falco peregrinus) at La Ventana. This area is perfect for nest building, and it is possible that the falcon was making a nest on the rock cliffs behind the ranch house. One of the most colorful birds coming to the reserve right now is the hooded oriole (Icterus cucullatus), which we could see flying from branch to branch and hear singing its song.
Not every day on the reserve is made up strictly of work. There are days when we work especially hard to finish quickly in order to go to the Río Aros. This river is an excellent place for swimming, and its clear water runs throughout the year. On this trip, after checking the motion-triggered cameras at Dubaral and El Carricito, we went to the river to take a dip in its cool water. This helped us relieve stress and enjoy having contact with nature. Such tranquil places, such as the Río Aros with its incredible beauty, are the best part of working on the reserve.
After Adam and Sallie left, our new guardian Saúl and I checked cameras on the neighboring Viviendo con Felinos ranches. During our trip to El Sapo, we saw a dead cow close to the pond at the El Mezquite site. We believe the cow died of a disease, because it was not thin from hunger nor did it have any injuries to its body. Later that same day, there was a small amount of precipitation – although not enough to dampen the soil. We watched as both plant and animal life took advantage of this early rain on the reserve and ranches.
On this month’s trip, we had a few sightings of white-tailed deer. One ranch where we almost always see deer is Los Alisos, and this time we saw four close to the ranch entrance. We also saw some turkeys nearby. Fortunately, Los Alisos is in good condition to provide enough food for the owner’s cattle as well as wildlife. There is plenty of grass and a type of oak that we have not seen at any other ranch or on the reserve. This is the blue oak (Quercus oblongifolia), which is found on the north face of the highest hills at Los Alisos.
Jaguars continue to appear on the reserve and neighboring ranches. At Bábaco, we retrieved a photo of “Osman,” a male jaguar that was first seen in November. He was at the same location where we have seen many individual jaguars using this area as a passage zone over the last several years. We also had a new photo of the jaguar “Caliente,” who was seen for the first time in December at Dubaral. We did not have time this month to check the same number of cameras on the reserve that we would normally check, and for that reason, we did not have as many jaguar sightings for this period. We are certain that on our next trip there will be more jaguar photographs, and we hope more examples of jaguars who have made their home here on the reserve.
Until next time,
Javier Valenzuela Amarillas has worked on the Northern Jaguar Reserve and Viviendo con Felinos ranches since 2012. As a jaguar guardian, he helps maintain an extensive network of motion-triggered cameras, inventory the ecological health of the land and water, and work with ranchers to support local wildlife.