Guest post by Richard V. Joyce
Laguna Escondida (or Hidden Lagoon) lies several kilometers north of Eladio’s Refuge in the Peñas Blancas Valley. Rugged terrain and multiple river crossings mean that it can take over three hours to hike there from Eladio’s cabin. Trail-crew members, researchers and biology students are among the few people to make the trip to this remote site.
Beginning in the mid 1980s, an aquatic plant called water lettuce (Pistia stratiotes) began to colonize the lagoon, eventually covering majority of its surface. Because Laguna Escondida is far from away from any waterway that contains Pistia, it is unclear how the plant originally arrived. Perhaps an aquatic bird such as a northern jacana, masked duck or great blue heron brought seeds stuck in its feathers to the pond.
On a hike to Laguna Escondida this May, a group of biology students saw a broad-billed motmot and heard crested guans. Guans are arboreal birds related to turkeys, whose large size and clumsy flying make them desirable to hunters. Important as seed dispersers, these birds are indicators of a robust ecosystem. As the students hiked, their rubber boots stepped next to the tracks of collared peccaries, another species that the CER protects from hunting.