Matapalo Mayhem

   

The Migratory Patterns of Paradise

Andy Pruter

Andy is the owner operator of the tour outfitter Everyday Adventures.  You may reach him at trustyourguide@yahoo.com
 Vireo philadelphicus

Vireo philadelphicus

Time is nearing when resident species of the Osa Peninsula will begin to hear the “3-5 short notes in descending series, weeej weeejh weeejh weeejh.”  Of course, you say, the obvious call of the migratory Philadelphia Vireo (Vireo philadelphicus).  And you stand correct.  But, sharing the same habitat- transitional forested areas to medium sized trees, manicured yards and coastal zones up to 900 meters- is the commonly seen, Florida Surfer Dude (Homo olamicus).  Also a migrant, this specie’s vocalizations might include a… “Nah brah, that’s a red-breasted snatch thrasher” or, “Bro, Matapalo is going off! Get out there!”

Migration is a phenomenon in which  a population of organisms travel from one location to another to exploit a resource or escape unfavorable conditions.  Sadly, wars are resulting in human exodus from The Middle East and parts of Africa.  Weather extremes or cyclic food availability had nothing to do with the impetus to leave a functioning homeland built over thousands of years.  But barrel bombs, machete-wielding gangs and good ole genocide pushed the escape button for those unfortunate to be in the crosshairs of opposing political and ideological fanatics.

Sterna paradisaea

Sterna paradisaea

However, some of the longest migrations are seen within wildlife populations such as the stupefying 71,000 km journey of the Arctic Tern (Sterna paradisaea) which zigzags from its breeding grounds in Greenland to the rich waters of Antarctica.  And for a bird with a 30-year lifespan, that can translate to 2.4 million kilometers, the same as , three trips to the moon and back!  Other migrations of note are the mass herds of wildebeests (Connochaetes taurinus) which number 1.5 million strong as they stay ahead of the African dry season, traversing the Serengeti alongside other grass-eating hooved ungulates.  Or, the diminutive Monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus) which travels 5,000 km away from the winter freeze of northern latitudes to the declining pine forests of Mexico and the relative warmth of coastal California.

Interestingly enough, no individual butterfly completes the round trip as females lay eggs along the way and at least

Danaus plexippus

Danaus plexippus

5 generations are included in the annual cycle.

I can empathize with those milkweed-eating Lepidoptera.  Now that there is frost on the pumpkin in NorCal, my homing instincts are kicking in.  I see Canadian geese headed south and nearly start flapping my arms, yearning to join the end of their Vee.  Yes, climate change is real and it happens just after Halloween at 40 degrees North.  Snow birds begin buying plane tickets south and the airfare hike reflects that increase in volume.

 

Matapalo

Matapalo

But imagine not being able to book your flights on Travelocity to rely, instead, on the strength of your wings and navigation skills.  Neotropical migrant birds are remarkable travelers that bulkup on energy stores before embarking on their journeys.  And it’s not a random endeavor either.  On the way south, the increasing daily light creates abundant resources for a variety of foragers to exploit.  However, on the return north, there is a synchronicity that is brilliant.  The first to leave are the nectarivorous birds taking advantage of the spring bloom.  The floral abundance naturally attracts the pollinators which are then set upon by the insectivorous birds.  And, if these pollinators do their job well, plenty of seeds will supply the following wave of granivores which, in turn, are predated upon by the raptors. What beautiful symmetry! And it all attracts a broad spectrum of humanity to relish not only in the abundant fauna, warm climate, fun surf and high adventure but to take a break from the routine up north and set loose on this wonderful peninsula called, Osa.  Just be sure to re-up your passport if you stay past your allowed time!

Evryfkndy!

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