Preserving the Three-Wattled Bellbird in MonteverdeApril 22nd, 2010
Bruce and I just returned from the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve, a deep green magical forest with tall old-growth trees that seem to be from another place and time. As we hiked for six hours along lush trails through mist that evaporates as sunlight streams down from the canopy, we were mesmerized by an eerie yet lovely soundtrack of high pitched “eeenk” sounds followed by what can only be described as a “metallic bonk,” like the amplified plunk of an out-of-tune piano key.
Following the “eeenk; bonk” sounds from one opening in the thick tropical forest to another, Bruce finally spotted the enthusiastic vocalist, a male Three-Wattled Bellbird! He is a beautiful creature with a ghostly white head, neck and shoulders, and a chestnut-brown torso, perched on the very tip of a craggy branch, not too high up in the trees, mouth gaping open to project his territorial call for up to two miles! We were enthralled and enchanted by this new animal sighting. And we felt a connection.
A couple of nights before, we had visited La Calandria Private Reserve and Lodge, where we heard a presentation by Debra Hamilton about the Three-Wattled Bellbird. Debra is a conservation biologist, a mom, a bird research specialist, owner and manager of a small bookstore and café, the director of the Costa Rican Conservation Foundation – and those are just a few of her titles. She has devoted her life to studying the rare and endangered bird species that make the mystical Monteverde Cloud Forest their home, and is heading up many projects to help save these hauntingly beautiful birds.
Debra, who has been working in the Monteverde area since 1992, explained that there are only a few Bellbirds still in existence in the very special humid forest habitats where their favorite food, the wild avocado, grows. This is because, sadly, much of the tropical forest containing the bird’s food supply has been cut down, in Costa Rica and in other Central American countries. What was once a large area of forest is now only in small fragmented pieces. Along with several other scientists, Debra has studied diversity of understory birds and the use of agricultural windbreaks as biological corridors for birds moving between forest fragments. She is currently involved in a long-term study of the Bellbird, including investigations of migratory patterns, population locations and sizes (which means taking a Bellbird census!), and the possible impact of climate change on Bellbird populations.
Debra and her colleagues know that in order to save the Bellbird from extinction, its remaining habitat must be preserved and protected. So they have begun to focus much of their energy on reforestation projects. Seascape wants to help. We’d like to hear from anyone who would be interested in a voluntourism experience staying in Monteverde at La Calandria Private Reserve and Lodge and visiting the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve. You could combine this trip with paddling on either coast of Costa Rica, or you could do it without a kayak component. You would join us in planting trees that will help expand and enrich habitat for the Bellbird so that its voice will always ring out over the cloud forest canopy.
Read more about the Bellbird and Debra Hamilton
Read more about La Calandria Private Reserve and Lodge