February 2018

Emerald Toucanet                                                                           Photo courtesy of Laurie Allnatt


Research and volunteers:

This is the month for bird presentations as some of our researchers are wrapping up their time at Cloudbridge.


Roopak Bhatt completed his bird monitoring study this month.  From November through January he monitored the bird species for our reserve data base as well as adding to the online database eBird.  Cloudbridge is considered a hotspot in Costa Rica on this database   https://ebird.org/home

Arial view on bird point count stations at Cloudbridge

The results of the his surveys that included 208  bird point counts and 21 walking surveys is:

This resulted in a total of 6098 birds counted within this time period.



The new species for our data base were found within the reserve as well as some found just outside the reserve.


‘How has reforestation affected bird life in Cloudbridge’  was another study that was completed this month.  Laurie Allnatt will be going home to the England to a full time job as an ecologist.  He presented his research of three months along with some interesting stories and photos from his time here.

Black-faced Solitaire – A bird commonly heard at Cloudbridge but difficult to see. It has a distinctive song that can be heard when visiting wet montane forests.

The loss of forests from agriculture including cattle pastures has simplified the bird populations.  In these areas it seems that the species are generalists rather than the specialists who live in specific habitats such as forests, including specific types of forest.  However, reforestation in Costa Rica is occurring through expansion of park area and private nature reserves such as Cloudbridge and this is once again changing the dynamics of bird species.

Open areas due to agriculture.
Reforestation project


This research investigates two areas, the Cloudbridge valley (reforestation) and the Chispa valley (agricultural area).  The aim was to see how bird diversity, abundance and species compostion has been affected 16 years after the acquisition of property to develop the Cloudbridge Nature Reserve.

The Garden Emerald Hummingbird seems to prefer open areas of the Chispa Valley
Collared Trogan is found in middle areas of wet montane forests.

Laurie collected data from set point counts in both valleys at similar locations in elevation.  He also did walking surveys between his point counts.



The results:





Great Kiskadee
Tropical Kingbird



From August to November Olivia Hess from Michigan took part in our Bird Monitoring Study. Her final presentation this month included some interesting information about birds in Costa Rica.  Did you know that there are 918 species of birds in this country?  And there are 300 just in Cloudbridge!

Bird monitoring is a task that gets a person up very early in the morning. The monitoring team have to be up, have breakfast and out on the trail before 6:00 am.  At each bird point count they have to spend 20 minutes identifying the birds by sight or sound.  Additional information that is recorded includes nesting, age, sex, and breeding period.  There is so much to listen and watch for all at once. And birds are often so fast that it is a very difficult task to catch all of that information accurately.


Mixed-species flocks are something that is not widely known about and surprisingly it is a very interesting concept of participation and cooperation among different species. A mix of bird species travel together year round to forage for food and communicate danger as they move through the forest.  They seem to have an exclusive membership in which there are just a small number of  each individual species in the group. It seems a little clicky but that’s how it works.  The variety includes bark probers, terrestrial insectivores, dead leaf foragers etc.

Olivia suggested that further mixed-species flock studies could be done at Cloudbridge to explore species preferences, territory, behavior patterns, etc

Early morning bird watching in the clouds.

Olivia decided to stay a little longer at the reserve after her research ended.  She took on the role of resident biologist for a couple of months before returning to the US for another research project.


Carly Herndon

My name is Carly and I’m from Arizona. I’m here at Cloudbridge to volunteer. I recently graduated with my master’s in Geographic Information Systems, and my undergrad degree is in environmental science. I have always been interested in our environment and how humans are making an impact. I hope to learn about the ecology of the cloud forest and how reforestation is affecting local wildlife.


My name is Chiel van der Laan, 19 years old and I am from in The Netherlands. I’m a third year BSc student in International Forest and Nature Management with a specialization in Tropical Forestry. I have come to Cloudbridge to gain some fieldwork experience and to discover what it is like to live and work in a tropical country. I will be staying here for 5 months and during that time I will be working on forest assessment in different forest succession types. This involves measuring forest stand characteristics to be able to compare planted, naturally regenerated and old growth forest.


We have had some much needed help over the past month with volunteers sent by the organization Planet Conservation.  Peter, Johanna, Stephan, and Nicolas are all from Germany.  They have been helping with various work activities such as finishing the new public washroom, assisted in installing quetzal nesting boxes, painting walls and signs, assisting researchers, preparing the site for the new kitchen addition and working in the tree nursery.  We are very grateful to have them here to help with all of these projects.



Alena Frehner

My name is Alena and I am from Switzerland. My number 1 passion have always been animals and being out in nature is one of my favourite things. After volunteering at different places in the wildlife sector, my passion for animals developed into a great interest in wildlife and conservation. I am currently studying Animal Management in the Netherlands and this 5-month internship here at Cloudbridge is part of my education. I am involved in the camera trap project, monitoring mammals in the reserve. I have only been here just over 2 weeks and I am already gaining important knowledge and skills. I am very much looking forward to my remaining couple of months here at Cloudbridge Nature Reserve and hoping to obtain valuable experiences for my future work field.


We all volunteered for the community in San Gerardo de Rivas helping with preparations for the annual race up Chirripo mountain.

Cleaning banana leaves for tamales.



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