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La Selva Biological Station, Braulio Carrillo National Park and Cope’s Bird Feeders


Puerto Viejo River La Selva
La Selva Biological Station (Organization for Tropical Studies)

La Selva was established in 1954 by Dr. Leslie Holdridge as an experimentation site studying mixed tree plantations for the improvement of natural resources management standards. In 1968 the Organization for Tropical Studies bought the property and declared it a private biological reserve and research station. Today La Selva has become one of the most important sites in the world for the research of tropical rainforest and over 200 scientific papers are published every year.

Stone Bridge over Puerto Viejo River La Selva
La Selva Biological Station and Reserve is situated at the confluence of two major rivers in the Caribbean lowlands of northern Costa Rica, the Sarapiquí and Puerto Viejo Rivers. It comprises 1,600 hectares (3,900 acres) of tropical wet forests and disturbed lands and averages 4 meters (over 13 feet) of rainfall that is spread rather evenly throughout the year. The Station is bordered on the south by Braulio Carrillo National Park, which contains more than 46,000 hectares of forested land and it is the core conservation unit of 91,000 hectares encompassing the Central Volcanic Cordillera Biosphere Reserve.

Braulio Carrillo National Park extends down to La Selva through a forest corridor that descends in elevation from 2,906 meters at Volcán Barva to 35 meters above sea level at La Selva. This reserve, consisting of both La Selva’s protected habitats and the Park, has four major tropical life zones and includes more than 5,000 species of vascular plants, of which more than 700 species are trees.

Purple-throated Fruitcrow
The fauna is similarly diverse. Large predators include jaguars, pumas, ocelots, boas and bushmasters. Thousands of arthropod species are being currently recorded at La Selva, and more than 400 species of resident and migratory birds have been sighted in the reserve, representing almost half of Costa Rica’s bird species. Some of the bird species that inhabit La Selva are: Snowy Cotinga, occasionally its relative the Three-wattled Bellbird, Purple-throated Fruitcrow, Uniform Crake, Russet-naped Wood-Rail, Green Ibis, Sungrebe, Sunbittern, Great Green Macaw, Mealy Parrot, Olive-throated Parakeet, White-collared Manakin, Great Tinamou, Little Tinamou, Slaty-breasted Tinamou, Slaty-tailed Trogon, Black-throated Trogon, Gartered Trogon, Broad-billed Motmot, Rufous Motmot, Blue-chested Hummingbird, Bronze-tailed Plumeleteer, Black-capped Pygmy-Tyrant, Black-headed Tody-Flycatcher, White-ringed Flycatcher, Brown-capped Tyrannulet, Fasciated Antshrike, Great Antshrike, Dusky Antbird, Cinnamon Woodpecker, Chestnut-colored Woodpecker, Pale-billed Woodpecker, Olive-backed Quail-Dove, Great Curassow, Crested Guan, Pied Puffbird, White-necked Puffbird, White-fronted Nunbird, Black-throated Wren, Stripe-breasted Wren, Bay Wren, Canebrake Wren, Shining Honeycreeper, Crimson-collared Tanager, Plain-colored Tanager, Red-throated Ant-Tanager, Dusky-faced Tanager, Collared Forest-Falcon, King Vulture, Vermiculated Screech-Owl, Great Potoo, Spectacled Owl, Crested Owl, Black-and-White Owl, Short-tailed Nighthawk.

Vermiculated Screech-Owl
Building on a strong base of systematic biology and evolutionary biology, research at La Selva has diversified to include ecosystem-level projects, physiological ecology, soil science, and native tree forestry trials. These studies have resulted in the publication of more than 1,600 scientific articles, theses, and books and perhaps another 1,000 write-ups of course projects.

La Selva’s juxtaposition of protected ecosystems and state-of-the-art laboratory facilities is unique in the world’s wet tropics. An extensive trail system of more than 50 kilometers provides access to a wide range of terrestrial and aquatic habitats. The entire property has been topographically surveyed to a high degree of accuracy and 3,000 permanent posts mark the 50 x 100 meter grids.

Two well-equipped laboratories, including a large analytical lab, offer air-conditioned workspace, and house common-use equipment. Spatially referenced data are managed on the Geographic Information System (GIS) and the same workstations service the e-mail and Internet connections.

La Selva can sleep 80 people in comfortable six-person dormitory rooms and 8 double occupancy private cabins, large professor houses with two bedrooms and one bathroom can sometimes be booked if available, all offer hot water showers. A central dining hall accommodates more than 100 people for meals day in and day out, Wifi is available in the dining area and in most of the lodging facilities. These facilities, combined with the forest reserve and Braulio Carrillo National Park, make La Selva one of the world’s premier sites at which to conduct ecosystem research.

Braulio Carrillo National Park ­ Quebrada González Station

Braulio Carrillo National Park
The large size (44,098 ha / 108,970 acres) of Braulio Carrillo National Park and its altitudinal variations allow for diverse eco-zones. Ranging from high-altitude cloud forest to lowland tropical rainforest, it is one of the parks with the highest biodiversity in Costa Rica. Approximately 90% of the park is primary forest. About 600 species of trees are known from this area, 530 species of migrant and resident species of birds have been reported, and 135 species of mammals are present in the park.

Braulio Carrillo National Park can be visited when you are staying in La Selva Biological Station, with a 40 minutes drive you reach Quebrada González Station where two trails are open to the public. Bird life can be sometimes quite, as it appears to be in many middle elevation habitats, however activity is often restricted to mix species flocks that suddenly move in and provide the visitors with the bird activity and species they expected.

Some of the target birds of Braulio Carrillo include: Ocellated Antbird, Dull-mantled Antbird, Spotted Antbird, Zeledon’s Antbird, Bicolored Antbird, Tawny-capped Euphonia, Emerald Tanager, Rufous-winged Tanager, Bay-headed Tanager, Ash-throated Chlorospingus, Silver-throated Tanager, Tawny-crested Tanager, Black-and-Yellow Tanager, Blue-and-Gold Tanager, the rare Sharpbill, Spotted Barbtail, White-crowned Manakin, Scarlet-rumped Cacique, Green Hermit, Laceolated Monklet, White-fronted Nunbird, Rufous-vented Ground-Cuckoo, Lattice-tailed Trogon, Black-crowned Antpitta, Ochre-bellied Antpitta, Olive-backed Quail-Dove, Black-eared Wood-Quail, White-whiskered Puffbird, Ornate Hawk-Eagle, Black-and-White Hawk Eagle, Solitary Eagle, King Vulture.

A garden with Porter Weed bushes is located just outside of the park, it attracts similar mix flocks in the surrounding forest edge, offers good chances for Lattice-tailed Trogon and a great selection of hummingbirds: Violet-crowned Woodnymph, the famous Snowcap, Brown Violet-ear, Bronze-tailed Plumeleteer, sometimes the rare Blue-tailed Hummingbird, Black-crested Coquette, White-necked Jacobin, and Rufous-tailed Hummingbird.

Copeís Bird Feeders and Photo Set up

Cope’s Feeders are not far from La Selva Biological Station, just 2.5 Kilometers North from the intersection of Rëo Frío into Highway 32, near Guápiles. Besides being an extraordinary artist and naturalist, Cope takes wonderful photos, has incredible feeders and once in a while he can take you to close by spots where good bird species can be seen. His home is small delightful wooden house with an incredible miniature rainforest that he created by bringing in plants, definitely artistically achieved. The feeders attract a great selection of birds: White-necked Jacobin, Blue-chested Hummingbird, Bronze-tailed Plumeleteer, Stripe-throated Hermit, Long-billed Hermit, Violet-crowned Woodnymph, Crimson-collared Tanager, Passerini’s Tanager, Blue-grey Tanager, Collared Aracari, Russet-naped Wood-Rail to just mention a few. A couple of hours here can be very productive, and even better, enjoying a traditional Costa Rican lunch on his porch while you look at his beautiful nature drawings is even a better idea.





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