Education Images/Universal Images Group/Getty Images
Thanks to the folks at Short Wave for this brief tutorial on backyard birding, featuring a scientist from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. For those fortunate enough to be able to use some of their time in recent months for this purpose, the tutorial may resonate. A total novice like me finds it useful so I recommend it to others.
I especially appreciated the advice of paying attention to the coffee that you purchase, because it can have significant impact on migratory birds. The new series of Organikos labels are almost ready for print-testing. One of the final decisions made in the last month was to let the label on the bag focus on the coffee and keep the bird-habitat mission messaging on the website and in places like this. A key part of that message is that the particular coffee offered matters most. We believe that if we start with the highest quality green beans, apply the perfect level of heat, and deliver them at the fairest price we will get what we need to plant more trees. So, the Tarrazu single estate is the second label I will share here. Along with the Hacienda la Amistad single estate organic, this is some of the most spectacular coffee grown in Costa Rica. And for every bag sold, the difference between what we pay to get this to you, and what you pay to Organikos, goes to bird habitat regeneration.
Our bee obsession on this platform has many explanations, but my personal motivation for following the science of bees goes back to a summer in the late 1970s when I worked for a beekeeper. I cleared brush and vines from the forest edge to make way for more bee-friendly plantings. I worked within sight of a dozen active bee colonies in boxes where I could see buzzing swarms constantly. I learned to be calm around them from the man who tended them. He used a poncho, a mask, and a smoker when opening the boxes to remove honey, but other times walked among them with no protective gear. To my surprise the resins from Toxicodendron radicans–poison ivy, poison oak and poison sumac–did more harm to me than the bees I worked around. In fact, I was never stung by those bees. Not once.
Which explains why when we finally had the chance to start our own bee colony I was all in. Above is a bee box, with found objects inside, above and below it. The bees inside had nested at the top of our house so we had a beekeeper extract them. He gave them this new home in a location where we have been clearing brush to make way for coffee planting. The old table had been in the chicken coop and the mysterious disk was on the roadside headed for recycling. One month later now, very happy bees.
Above is a small sampling of the vines and brush I have been clearing from the land near that hive. History may not repeat, but sometimes it rhymes. As it happens, on my arm I have some of the same toxins from vines like those 40 years ago. The clearing work started in March and is nearing completion to make way for several hundred shade trees and several thousand coffee plants.
One section of this clearing has already received twenty banana plants, based on the practice of our friends at Hacienda la Amistad. These make excellent companions to the coffee and are pollinated by bats, so provide another kind of ecological service too complex to discuss in a post primarily about bee surprises.
So, with all that in mind I was very happy to come across the story below by Cara Giaimo. Her work first appeared in our pages last October, then again a few months ago–both times related to birds. Somehow I missed this short article on bees from earlier this year, and I thank her for it now for making me laugh when there is not enough other news to laugh about:
Frank Bienewald/imageBROKER, via Alamy
Regurgitation is an important consideration when it comes to the process of pollination.
The bumblebee is a discerning nectar shopper. When choosing which flowers to gather the sticky substance from, it might consider a plant’s distance, the shape of the petals and how sugar-rich the nectar is. Continue reading
The image to the right is from twenty years ago, during my first foray into the world of coffee. It is not the most flattering photo, but it will do. I was eight, on location with my brother and parents at a worksite in Nicaragua. One part of the project was the development of a coffee tour, and my brother and I were tasked with testing how a young person might react to that experience. The expression on my face was, I suppose, a slightly embarrassed result of how little coffee I had managed to pick relative to the basket’s capacity. There was plenty of coffee to be picked, but these 20 years later I still remember how hard that work was.
The second foray was in 2011, back in the same region of Nicaragua, but as an intern documenting the coffee growing and maintenance process, as well as having the pleasure of zooming over a coffee plantation on a canopy tour zip line.
Just a year later, my third foray came when I spent the summer living on an organic farm freshly planted with coffee. What made it special, even spectacular, was that the farm was one of the rare private properties in the Galapagos Islands and was situated in the vicinity of the forests where the giant tortoises roam.
The fourth foray, which I wrote about in these pages, was between 2014 and 2016. I participated in each step from germination, to planting, harvesting, processing, roasting and cupping. I created a coffee tour on property that was an echo of the work done 15 years earlier in Nicaragua.
My fifth and most recent foray, over the last few years, has been the start up of Organikos. During the months leading up to starting graduate school I developed a plan with my parents to launch the coffee business as part of their Authentica venture. That brick and mortar retail approach worked out very well, until the world changed a few months ago. So now online and onward…
Microscopic plankton: they provide a food source for fish, seabirds and other marine life, as well as absorbing CO2 emissions
Although we’ve highlighted citizen science so many times on these pages, it never occurred to me that some of these projects have spanned nearly 9 decades.This particular project’s device is called a continuous plankton recorder (CPR). An apt acronym, indeed.
Since 1931 ‘citizen scientists’ on ships have enabled data collection on the tiny building blocks of the sea. Now this research could shape how we tackle the climate crisis
On a clear day, from their small, unassuming warehouse on the south Devon coast, Lance Gregory and Dave Wilson can see right across Plymouth Sound to the Eddystone lighthouse. Today, they’re watching a ferry from Brittany, the Armorique, pull into dock.
Behind it, the ferry is towing a one-metre-long device shaped like a torpedo. It doesn’t look like much, but it’s part of the planet’s longest-running global marine survey.
The device is called a continuous plankton recorder (CPR), and it’s one of 53 such devices that Gregory and Wilson manoeuvre using forklifts in their warehouse, surrounded by racks of distinctive yellow boxes and clipboards covered in spreadsheets.
They dispatch these CPRs in bright yellow boxes to “ships of opportunity” – ferries, cargo or container vessels that have agreed to volunteer for the mission. Once a ship leaves port, the crew attach the device to the stern using steel wire, then toss it overboard.
Trailing along behind the ship, it collects data for the CPR survey. The mission is vast but the subject is minuscule: plankton, the tiny organisms that drift in the ocean. Every marine ecosystem relies on plankton for its basic food source, and it generates half the oxygen we breathe. Perhaps more than any other organism, it is crucial to all life on our planet.
The CPR survey is the longest-running marine science project of its kind. It began in 1931 when the scientist Sir Alister Hardy investigated how herring were influenced by plankton in the North Sea. This month the distance surveyed will reach an impressive 7m nautical miles, equivalent to 320 circumnavigations of the Earth.
Since that first tow from Hull to Germany 89 years ago, the equipment has hardly changed. So far a quarter of a million samples have been analysed, representing a vast geographical spread over the course of the past century. The immense scope has allowed scientists to see dramatic patterns in ocean health, across both time and space, building a much clearer picture of how our marine environments are changing.
It is also, says Gregory, “one of the oldest citizen science projects in the world”. Continue reading
Osprey looking for alewives along the Sebasticook River in Maine. The removal of two dams has allowed migratory fish to return. Murray Carpenter
Migration, an ageless natural phenomenon, can be all the more spectacular when we remove its constraints:
Sea lamprey making a spawning nest in the Sebasticook. Murray Carpenter
Along central Maine’s Sebasticook River, the first thing you’ll notice are the birds. Eagles are everywhere, wading on gravel bars and chattering from the trees.
“A whole bunch of birds, they’re bald eagles, those are all bald eagles!” says conservationist Steve Brooke.
A recent count found nearly 200 bald eagles along the Sebasticook. This one has caught an alewife. Murray Carpenter
It’s a dramatic sight, as the bald eagles swoop to catch fish from the river. And it’s a sight that Brooke predicted for this region, more than 20 years ago. That’s when he began advocating for the removal of a large hydroelectric dam downstream, on the Kennebec River. The Edwards Dam came down in 1999 after the federal government ordered its removal, saying the ecological costs outweighed the benefit of the power it provided. Continue reading
Birders, in general, tend to be an enthusiastic bunch – and the constraints of the current circumstances actually added extra incentive to find creative problem solving solutions, in finding new birding locations or ways to be safely be in familiar ones.
The BirdsCaribbean Global Big Day video compilation provides proof positive. Enjoy!
At first glance, it looks like art. As most great nature photography, whether amateur or taken by professionals, often does. But this is tech-driven professional science. Thanks to the Great Barrier Reef Foundation for this primer:
So how do you count more than 64,000 turtles at once?
With drones – and now we have the science to prove it.
Our Raine Island Recovery Project researchers are investigating the best way to count all the turtles at the world’s largest green turtle nesting area. The highly respected PLOS ONE journal has just published their findings (see the paper). Continue reading
Friday, one of the hotels where we operate Authentica re-opened. With not much exaggeration I can say that for hotel staff, for Amie and me, and for the Costa Rican guests we interacted with, seeing tourism start up again after three months felt emotionally kind of like this, only with serious social distancing.
Yesterday, day 2 of this experiment in moving forward, before going to greet guests at the shops we began on the land. Above is the first of what we expect to be a larger set of honey bee colonies that will pollinate our coffee and fruit trees. Amie is in beekeeping tutorial mode and after a few weeks in place it seems to my untrained eye that the bees are happy with her progress. The land surrounding the hive, and other parts of the property, have been planted with beans common to the Costa Rica diet–mostly black and red–and some special varieties that we favor, such as white and butter varieties. Those we planted first, as you can see below, are already sprouting.
While we look forward to their eventual edible state, the primary purpose of these legumes is to fix nitrogen in the soil in advance of planting when our coffee seedlings are ready. Regeneration of the nutrients will allow the soil to host the coffee we are preparing for the microlot restoration project, planned long before current crises and to bear fruit some time after we have figured out how to move on with life. For now, seeing guests again, having beans sprout and bees buzzing is good enough.
A Miyawaki forest being planted on the outskirts of Paris, France. Photograph: Courtesy of Boomforest
We knew from a recent post about the importance of small tracts of tree cover, based on reporting in the USA. Here is more from Europe, and about the botanist inspiring an acceleration of planting:
© Alexis Rosenfeld
We’re a day behind on World Oceans Day, but John Tanzer’s words are lasting, despite the date.
By John Tanzer, Oceans Practice Leader, WWF International
It was early March when the realization hit. Our Year of Ocean Action wasn’t going to happen — at least not in the way so many had been planning. 2020 would be extraordinary, but for all the wrong reasons. Our Super Year was meant to be the launch platform for a decade of strong global efforts to restore the ocean. Clearly, the attention and resources we had hoped to harness have been in much demand elsewhere.
I was not looking for a “silver lining” to the suffering and loss caused by the coronavirus, but somewhere in the back of my mind was a quote about not letting a crisis go to waste. Was it Winston Churchill who said it? Or a contemporary politician?
It turns out, it was not Churchill, and it wasn’t even a politician. The line can be traced back at least as far as 1976, to M. F. Weiner’s article in the journal Medical Economics, “Don’t Waste a Crisis — Your Patient’s or Your Own.” Weiner apparently meant that a medical crisis can be used to improve all aspects of a patient’s well-being.
So, it wasn’t a callous sentiment about seizing the upper hand in a moment of chaos. It was an acknowledgement that a crisis may arise which so disrupts the norm that all preconceptions are set aside, and all solutions are on the table.
Michael Davoren with his cattle in the Burren, Co Clare. Photograph: Eamon Ward/Burrenbeo Trust
Thanks to Ella McSweeney for this story about a young academic’s hands on, entrepreneurial approach to solving problems caused by Ireland’s farmers, who had followed incentives to their economically logical but environmentally disastrous conclusions:
Rewarding positive environmental impact has revitalised an area of west Ireland. Is this a solution to the country’s ‘acute’ nature crisis?
In late spring, the Burren is transformed into an explosion of colour. Photograph: Burrenbeo Trust
Michael Davoren shudders when he thinks of the 1990s. He’d been in charge of his 80-hectare farm in the Burren, Co Clare, since the 1970s, and the place was in his blood. The Davorens had worked these hills for 400 years.
But growing intensification fuelled by European subsidies meant that most farmers in this part of Ireland were having to decide between getting big or getting out. Hundreds were choosing the latter.
Hundreds of farmers have signed up to a scheme that pays them to create healthier fields and clean waterways. Photograph: Burrenbeo Trust
Davoren followed the advice to specialise and chase the beef markets. “The more animals I kept, the more money I got,” he says. “I put more cattle out, bought fertiliser, made silage. Slurry run-off was killing fish. But if I kept fewer animals I’d be penalised 10% of my subsidy.”
The austere appearance of the Burren landscape belies its rich diversity. The thick rocks were laid down 300 million years ago when warm tropical seas covered the area, and the bodies of billions of marine creatures cascaded to the sea floor to form the Burren limestone. Continue reading
Another example of Costa Rican leadership and team action. The Virtual Ocean Dialogues, held by the World Economic Forum, “bring to light ambitious and inspiring solutions as well as tangible opportunities for positive change, and galvanize urgent global action for a healthy ocean. It will also spotlight some of the solutions that emerged as critical for the recovery from the COVID-19 crisis, including the role of the ocean in building the resilience that our economies and communities need to recover and eventually face other potential future shocks.”
The opening address by Costa Rica’s President Carlos Alvarado Quesada included statements about present and future actions.
“Costa Rica has historically been a leader in conservation,” Quesada says. It has doubled forest coverage in recent years and is aiming for a zero-emission economy by 2050.
Now it wants to turn its attentions to the sea. “We are working towards a sustainable approach for ocean management,” he says.
It is “committed to promoting a global blue economy transformation”, prioritizing mangrove forests, aquaculture and coastal biodiversity.
Alladale first came to my attention in 2017, several years after I had started reading about rewilding. It came to my attention because of an introduction, through a mutual friend, to the founder of Alladale. I recall finding his description of what he was doing as identical to our own work in entrepreneurial conservation. I cannot recall why we have only two prior links to Alladale in our pages, but here is one more, in the form of a 30 minute podcast and its descriptor page:
Listen to the latest episode of THE WILD with Chris Morgan!
Scottish cow at the Alladale Wilderness Reserve.
The wind is really ripping through this valley in the remote Scottish Highlands as I’m zipping along in an ATV. I’m with highlander Innes MacNeil. He’s showing me a few remaining big old trees in the area.
The trees appear like something from a Tolkien novel — remnants of a forgotten time, like a magical connection to the past. There used to be a lot more trees like these across the Highlands. These are anywhere from 250-400 years old — and many are too old to reproduce.
“So these, we would describe them as granny pines,” MacNeil says. “The ones down here in front of us are about 250 to 300 years old, just sat in the bottom of the glen.” Continue reading
Credit: Jimmy Simpson
We tend to be bird and bee centric on this site, but somehow we missed this lovely opinion piece–What the Honeybees Showed Me–by Helen Jukes in the NYTimes.
While many people look back to the basics of gardening and baking during the current crisis, beekeeping may be next on some wish lists.
When I first became keeper of a colony of honeybees, I was thinking more than anything of escape. I’d just turned 30 and had recently moved from Brighton to Oxford, having taken a job on a whim, again, moving out of one rented house in one city and into another as I had done throughout my 20s. But the new job was stressful. I spent long hours at the office in front of a screen. I was under pressure from company targets and deadlines, thrown into frenetic communications with colleagues who sounded as stretched as I felt, and disconnected from the world — the world! — I glimpsed as I cycled to and from work each day.
Our garden was little more than a slim patch of weeds within spitting distance of a busy road, but it was secluded enough that I could go there and remain hidden, and so I began imagining a hive out there; imagined myself finding some respite among the bees, away from the hecticness of the city.
Of course, things rarely turn out as we imagine them, and when later that year I was given a honeybee colony as a gift by a group of friends, it was not respite, and not quiet that I found at first. Quite suddenly I was made accountable to another creature, many of them, really — responsible for ensuring the bees were healthy, free from predators and disease. If all went well, I might take a little honey at the end of the season; but for the first few weeks, eyeing the hive at the end of the garden, I was more concerned that they’d either die or fly away.
The thing is that honeybees are so strange.
AVE CALVAR / QUANTA
At a time when microscopic phenomena are the cause of fear and loss, it is surprising and enlightening to read about microbial discoveries that could help answer some of the eternal questions about life, the universe, and everything.
Tamara and Steve Davey’s woodland, on the fringes of Dartmoor national park. Photograph: Courtesy of Woodland Wildlife
Thanks to the Guardian for this story about the contentments of ecosystem restoration:
[Photo: courtesy Flash Forest] One of Flash Forest’s prototype drones
And speaking of trees, here’s an example of small tech stepping in when political leadership wavers. The good news is there is ample room for both, and we hope that both systems receive the support they need.
Here’s to a billion trees!
The 12 selections of Organikos specialty coffees had enough time on display at the Authentica shops, prior to current circumstances in Costa Rica and everywhere else, to establish the organic selection as a top seller.
During those months–the shops fully opened in late November and until early March were nonstop full of guests–I had hundreds of conversations with travelers.
I got excellent feedback on our original coffee packaging. Briefly stated, the recurring message was that people wanted to “see more Costa Rica” on the package. They also wanted to know more about what our 100% Forward commitment meant. We have used the time since travel halted to work with our graphic designer to begin addressing that feedback.
We also have used this time to prepare a virtual approach to the business, focused on coffee at the outset. We will start with the organic, due to its performance during the shops’ peak operations. We will offer this for home delivery in the USA soon…
We don’t speak of bears or tigers murdering people. Why, suddenly, hornets? Photograph by Elaine Thompson / Pool / AFP / Getty
When we first linked to a story about this creature, we were sharing a familiar story of introduced and invasive species and a creative approach to controlling the spread. We have favored entrepreneurial approaches, so that culinary story from Japan fit perfectly in our pages. But we also have been equally attentive to word matters since we started on this platform. So Matthew Alt’s coverage of this story, demonstrating how much words matter, also fits perfectly in our pages:
Marco Umaña, Santiago Adaniz, Hugo Santa Cruz and Beto Guido (from left to right) / Birding Guides in Costa Rica
My name is Hugo Santa Cruz and I’m excited to write about the Macaw Lodge Global Big Day outcomes. As I’m new to the La Paz Group site, let me introduce myself. I’m a birdwatching and neotropical ecology guide in the Central Pacific of Costa Rica and Bolivia. I’m also a nature photographer and consultant for ecotourism projects and management of protected areas.
The Global Big Day is an initiative of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology that has been held since 2015, to raise awareness about the conservation of birds and their habitats. Birdwatchers and photographers from around the world contribute to the census of birds through the eBird platform; an increasingly popular citizen science management tool among birders.
Birders across the globe persisted with the Global Big Day despite the crisis caused by COVID-19, surveying birds either in literal “backyard birding“, or carefully enjoying the fresh air of parks and natural areas within access. This year’s event had record-breaking participation with more than 48,500 registrars and more than 15,000 submitted lists.
In this edition of the Global Big Day, Costa Rica registered 676 species, obtaining the seventh place worldwide among 172 participating countries. The Macaw Lodge Private Forest Reserve stood out among the best hotspots in the country, achieving the eighth place with 137 species of birds registered in a single day, inside our Ecological Sanctuary.
Our team of expert guides and birdwatchers began our Big Day census at 00:00 hrs., starting the first records with species of nocturnal birds. We then continued the count at dawn, moving through the different micro-ecosystems of Macaw Lodge. Continue reading