Notes from the field: Palo Verde – The last few weeks

I sip my morning coffee as I look out over the wetland in Parque Nacional Palo Verde.

Palo Verde rapidly drying
Palo Verde rapidly drying

Everyday I see the water line retreating, as much as a meter per day. This year in Palo Verde has been exceptionally dry and water has been extremely limited.The rainy season was short and light and many small water sources have dried months before they normally would.

Over these past weeks we have been traveling all over the park in search of water. With the help from my lovely field assistants we have been fairly successful in finding some great netting locations, given the circumstances.

Katherine looking for bats inside a cave nearby.
Katherine looking for bats inside a cave nearby.

We have been near and far, netting at a small (1 x 1m) concrete water hole near the comedor to netting inside of the wetland. We have been netting in bat caves and deep within the forest.

At first, the lack of water was discouraging as I was not catching as many bats as I had hoped and we almost felt like “what’s the point”. However, my first field assistant of the season, Alvaro, changed my attitude when he said to me  “The worst kind of try is to not try.” He was right and this situation was an ideal opportunity for us to try new netting techniques and explore the park! So, that has been our motto throughout this field season and has motivated us to conduct our research in many areas around the park and try some unconventional and sometimes “crazy” techniques, and sometimes it is has paid off. We have been lucky enough to catch one of my favorite bats, the Wrinkle-faced bat (Centurio senex) and film another very special bat Vampyrum spectrum feeding!

Centurio senex
Centurio senex

Every night we have been working hard mist-netting until about 10pm and then we will usually film until 2 or 3 in the morning. It has been exhausting, but rewarding and I wouldn’t have it any other way! I really have to thank all of the people at OTS (Organization for Tropical Studies) and the hard work of my field assistants for all of their help. My assistants, who would stay up with me until 2 am waiting for the katydids to emerge for the night so I could feed them to bats or who would spend days repairing (sewing) our mist-nets so we could keep catching bats every night. Without them I could not have kept going this hard for five weeks. Thank you Sergio Padilla Alvarez, Alvaro Cerdas Cedeño, Katherine Díaz and Luis Girón!!!

2 Replies to “Notes from the field: Palo Verde – The last few weeks”

  1. Is it hot there, Leith? As much as the California valley near Denair? Your childhood sure did prepare you for this adventure with farming silkworms and other critters. We city folk are impressed with your fortitude!
    Love, Aunt Ginny Ann

  2. It is interesting to learn about field work first hand. It looks to be exhausting, staying up all night to study animals in their natural settings. But even though bats are nocturnal, you don’t get to give up your day job either. Thank you for the hard work in helping us to better understand these fascinating animals and for sharing your experiences in the outback of Costa Rica. It’s good to have you back.

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