March 2012

The many changing colors and moods of a cloudforest make this a magical place.

Notes from visitors:

“Thank you for opening your beautiful reserve to wayfaring birdwatchers”                                                                                                                             Gwen Baluss

“Thank you very much for sharing your beautiful land.  May it always stay this way!”                                                                                                Kate & Vince

“Sigan adelante con la conservación.  Noble misión!”                                                                                                                                                                Juan Jose Solis y Walter Olio   

 

 

Documentary Film Making Project

Katie and Micheal are film makers from the UK who are travelling through Central America visiting places that provide opportunities for environmental volunteering.  The documentary they are producing will inform travellers of their choices for a volunteer experience of this nature. Here is their own description of the project and their experience  at the Cloudbridge Reserve:

“For the last 3 months Katie and I have been travelling Central America documenting volunteer efforts in a variety of different  conservation projects. By filming our own experiences and the experiences of others that we have met along the way, we hope to provide a valuable and informative resource for people interested in giving their time voluntarily for the good of the environment. The most recent of our filming escapades has led us here, to Cloudbridge, and the welcome we have received had been second
 to none!

 Under the capable wing of Adam Wicks-Arshack, and with the charming company of his sister Eliza, we’ve been shown the proverbial ropes of the place and have had a wealth of exciting activities to film. This includes a rare sighting of the elusive Resplendent Quetzal which can be viewed by following the link below. The volunteer residents here have been a joy to film with: Kat Selena has taken us through the ins and outs of her research with the reserve’s potable water system and Marloes Froling highlighted the issues that the reforestation project has to tackle regarding burdensome weeds.

 As our time here draws to a close, we grow assured that Cloudbridge has provided a valuable insight into voluntary reforestation and research projects. Indeed, we would love to return to conduct some further volunteer work of our own in the not-too-distant future.

 Unfortunately our full-length films will not be posted for some months,
 however a small snippet of our experience at Cloudbridge can be found on our
 website: http://valueofvolunteering.org/news/. If you are further
 interested in our project, please feel free to email me at
 michael@valueofvolunteering.org, or “like” our facebook page:
 http://www.facebook.com/valueofvolunteering. ”

Michael and Katie with volunteer researcher Kat

 

 

Docent position volunteer Drew Hart has sent his personal account of his time here in January and February 2012:

“It is an opal, idyllic predawn here at 5000-plus feet.  The sky is still a gaping black void riddled with pins of eons-old light, the deep and mesmerizing absence of perspective.  Further downslope, I know, whole towns are still in slumber, only a thin cotton sheet, a thicker sheet of zinc, a haze of ambient light, and the tepid air separating them from that endless expanse.  But somehow, up here, even under the pile of sheets guarding me from that crisp, biting mountain air, I feel pressed against the heavens, nearly swallowed by their infinity.  I breath in.  The chill ether invades the hollow of my chest.  I breath out.  My heat escapes, my moisture briefly condenses in the air before me, a barely discernible cumulonimbus the size of my face.  Entropy churns on.  The universe leaves me in awe.  Wordlessly, I am grateful.
 
Jumping stark naked out of bed and into my field clothes, I huff at the shock of the sudden chill.  Grab up my bag, my trusty nocs, and I am out the door, hushed, into the fluid black of the final chorus of the night.  Charles, in diagnostic fashion, is already blurrily awake, bumbling about the small, wooden kitchen, speaking in rapid and random series to me, to himself (in both the first and third persons), to the stove, the world, the coffee pot, to any of the other absent and still sleeping volunteers, and at times to no one or nothing at all.  He has already donned his field clothes, scrambled a handful of eggs, fried an unspeakably greasy pile of chorizo, toasted a small plateau of toast, changed his mind and switched his field clothes, brewed a pot of coffee so ungodly strong that, according to him, it could ¨curl your eyebrows¨, diluted it to 1/4 its original concentration (…thinking back, it was still the strongest coffee I had ever drunk. I twitched for hours…), served up breakfast, and retreated in the middle of eating to put on an extra jacket.  I sit quietly, hedonistically consuming my fare, mentally modeling the cholesterol and caffeine as it spikes in my bloodstream, smiling in engrossed gratitude and happiness. 
 
After licking our plates clean, and drinking goblets of water to ward off certain dehydration, we are headed out.  We are on an all-important search, and we know that somewhere out there, beginning to stir in the earliest, gray hint of dawn, is the creature we seek.  It is a mysterious, almost ephemeral soul, a dinosaur of most breathtaking elegance and most gaudy proportions, a denizen of only these cloud-shrouded forests of the Central American cordilleras.  This iridescent bird lives its tranquil, unassuming life migrating up and down the mountainsides year after year, in search of its favorite snacks, the fruits of the wild avocado.  It is an international symbol of liberty, given its knack for promptly and directly perishing whenever put into captivity.  Despite the bird´s exorbitant beauty, it is rare to catch a glimpse of the resplendent quetzal within its unique and majestic woodland home.  It has thus become a holy grail for birders, and a masthead of the Central American cloud forests.
 
I arrived at Cloudbridge 2 months ago as the resident docent intern, charged with a variety of tasks to help develop programming and education at the reserve.  I have done a variety of tasks and projects in my time at Cloudbridge, from email creation, to puma camera-trapping, to document drafting, to facilitation of student groups, to the creation of a welcome center.  However, in any and all free time I have made a thorough and continuous effort to become an unabashed bird nerd.   In my free time, whenever my face is not planted in a text or field guide, I walk the reserve, quietly, binoculars in hand, seeking every species I can possibly glimpse.  And always, always, straining to hear the inquisitive, melancholic two-note cry of the quetzal.  Always listening, and always without avail.
 
Thus you can imagine the elation, the unbridled and un-self-conscious fervor to which I was subjected, when on this last of my splendid mornings at the Cloudbridge Reserve, on my way back in from another fruitless quest for the quetzal, we heard it.  We were three at this point, and staring at each other blankly, not so much in disbelief as in sheer inability to believe.  Then, after a characteristic pause, we hear it again – kwoo-kwHOOoo!  We take off at a sprint, stopping periodically, hands at our ears, veering in both directions off of the trail, straining to hear another call through the early stirrings of the wind in the sunny valleys.  Finally we are able to hone in on the sound: it is down inside the ravine of the small creek that crosses the main trail just after Sendero Gavilán.  We arrive at the vertex of the ravine short of breath, eyes darting from limb to limb, ears twitching with every snapping twig and  every wisp of wind.  After 15 solid minutes of searching every limb and every leaf in sight, as we are convinced we have lost the chase, a conspicuously bouncing branch catches my eye and distracts my mind.  Scrutinizing it in binoculars, it takes a minute for my mind to clear and actually see that which I am looking at – directly to the right of the branch, in plain view, is the most dazzlingly, surreally beautiful bird I have ever set eyes upon, sittingly as calmly and unconcernedly as if it were a seagull on a lamppost at the beach.  Beset by a sudden sense of adoration, glory, and peace, I summon my friends, mere feet away, unnecessarily screaming, ¨holy _____ I can´t _______ believe it, there it is!!!¨ After an initial panic and obligatory fumbling of various pieces of equipment, books, and water bottles, all three of us manage to get binoculars on it, and we are beside ourselves with joy.  This is my first time ever tracking down a bird like this, and the elation is a payoff so worth the work.  In this moment I know, strangely, that somehow this smile on my face will never fade.  I have experienced something that somehow I know has changed me internally, permanently. Perhaps what I am feeling is the end of  one chapter, beginning of another, that this experience so clearly demarcates.  Perhaps it is the feeling of having finally fulfilled some unspoken promise, some unwritten duty, left in suspension ever since the untimely death of Nana, my childhood role model and nature teacher. Perhaps it is simply the first time I have felt so independently responsible for discovering something, finding something new (that it is not new to the world is irrelevant, for it is new to my world.)  Whatever it is, this feeling is nearly indescribable, but it is certainly, in some way I don´t claim to understand, a step – an unmistakable transition into a new phase, a new realm of life. 
 
My time at Cloudbridge has been so important for me, so positive.  The beauty of living and working every day in an environment so healthy and vivacious and magical, it has perfused my being.  The countless hours spent roaming and rummaging the forest, running and creeping trails as well-known to me now as any town in which I have lived, meeting and remeeting the incredibly varied and active members of my greater community, witnessing wordless miracles, small and large, in every minute of every day – this has all fundamentally altered my state of mind, my sense of relationship with the living world.  I remember as a child, despite my profound interest in and obsession with nature, standing in the forest and feeling at times as if I were standing in one big, green room, no different than the big, white room in our basement, only more boring because it had less different ¨stuff¨ in it.  Of course, this is not at all true, but is rather only a matter of acquaintance and perspective.  I see now that, as a child, my relationship with nature was heavily intellectual.  I read book after book about animals, but didn´t spend nearly enough time in the woods trying to find them.  I could stare for hours at nature photos in magazines, but would bore after five minutes when actually standing within them.  And I was one of the most nature-acquainted kids I knew!
 
When we meet a person, we inevitably harbor a judgment, or at least an unintended preception.  It takes us time to surmount this, really get to know the person in their whole, appreciate them as the fascinating and beautiful collection of impossibilities that they are.  This same goes for nature.  As humans, we are made to learn, to identify, to classify, to name and know the world.  It is how we have forever managed to live.  Today we have this ability no less than we ever have – just look at how quickly children learn to identify not just the form but the buried meaning, the essence of a corporate logo, a commercial jingle, a clothing style… a skin color or religion.  We are masters of knowledge, intrinsically.  We must only decide what it is we really want, need, to know.  I truly believe that it is only when we know that we will understand, only when we understand that we will care, and only when we care that we will take care.  In my time at Cloudbridge it has become blatantly clear to me why I must be an educator, and why the opportunities that we provide for our youth are the most important we can provide for all of us.  If we want to change the future, we must place it in the able hands of a well educated (not necessarily properly educated) youth.”

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       Drew Hart

 

Drew - always bird watching

                   The Water Quality study by Kat Taylor wrapped up with a very informative presentation.   She left us with ideas and strategies to ensure a continued safe water supply for our visitors and permanent residents.

Kat and Tom collecting a water sample

   

Weed Suppression study – This research is well underway with the difficult first steps of clearing the steep slopes along the Montana Trail by method of machete.  The former pasture  is covered with a thicket of ferns, shrubs, and agressive grasses.  Once the  area is cut plots will be laid out for tree planting accompanied by various methods of undergrowth suppression.  Our Dutch researcher Marloes has been working to identify this plant material that competes with the trees during our reforestation efforts.  This is important to futher understand the success or failure of each method of suppression.  We do know that trees growing under conditions with less competition from other plants (weeds) will have a higher success rate of establishment and a faster recovery of the forest.

sample of undergrowth that had to be cut

Ready for planting

Art based advocacy for trees

Linda has moved her art exhibition “Portraits of Survivors” from the National Gallery in San Jose to a second installation at the Los Altos Hotel at Manuel Antonio.  The project is meant to reach as many viewers as possible to generate thought and discussion about the significance of the old growth trees and protection of our forests.  The hotel will be a good venue for reaching the tourists who come to a country that has now reversed deforestation.  Costa Rica is setting a good example for other nations to follow.

Linda in the lobby of the Los Altos Hotel with her painting "The Sentinel"

 These paintings are accompanied by the original photo of each tree and a writing that describes the importance of tree preservation.

   New Cabinas

At the end of March we broke ground and began construction for the new cabinas that will provide more housing at Cloudbridge for researchers and volunteers.  The view for the people staying in them from the front deck will be spectacular…a full on view of Mount Uran and the valley surrounding it.

The site ready for construction.

  Future view from the cabinas.

 

 

Thank you Adam

Adam has finished his resident biologist term with Cloudbridge for another year and has returned to the state of Washington to begin the canoe season with his company “Voyages of Rediscovery”.  http://www.voyagesofrediscovery.com

 Before leaving he was visited by his family who spent some time here relaxing and checking out what Adam has been up to.  Adam and his sister Eliza ventured across the Talamanca mountain range (with an Indigenous guide) from the caribbean side, over Mount Uran and down the ridges to Cloudbridge.  About 70k in a few days. Kind of loco.  I guess it was his last adventure before leaving Costa Rica.We appreciate all of the work that he has done and hope he returns again next year.

Adam

Adam and Eliza

 Tom, Linda, Eliza, Adam and Kat

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