Notes from the Field: Palo Verde – The first week

Life of Palo Verde: A few of the amazing species we have seen.

Hot. Dry. We are driving down a dirt and gravel road that leads deep into Palo Verde National Park. The dust is so thick that we slow to less than 15 kilometers per hour so we don’t hit anything.

These first few days in Costa Rica, in San Jose, have been stressful, but I let out a sigh of relief to know that at last I was on my way to my field site. I came to Palo Verde to investigate how bats use behavioral manipulation of their nose leaf (in Phyllostomidae) and ears to find prey items. I want to compare if different species use different behavioral movements of the nose leaf and ears when searching for prey. Once at Palo Verde Biological station we settled in and prepared for our first night of mist-netting.

Vampyrum spectrum
Holding Vampyrum spectrum

Palo Verde is a tropical dry forest on the Pacific side of Costa Rica. I first visited about a year ago when I took an OTS course and I knew I wanted to come back because the diversity of bats you can catch here is amazing.

On the first and second night out we were so lucky to have caught a False Vampire bat (Vampyrum spectrum) each night. This rare bat has a wing span of up to 2ft and feeds on insects and other vertebrates. While this species was particularly exciting to catch, we were also astounded to catch more than 15 different species in the first week.

For some individuals, we have been trying to record high-speed video from bats inside a flight enclosure. Like most live and wild animals they seldom behave how you would like them to. There have been many nights we have sat silently in the dark for hours waiting for that bat who will be our star pupil.

Protection from the mosquitoes
Protection from the mosquitoes

At times the field work can be extremely arduous and sometimes very uncomfortable. For example, at night it is 75 degrees with 75 % humidity and I have to bundle up from head to toe to protect myself from the mosquitoes. But, being able to see the biological diversity in this extreme habitat is really something wonderful.


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