Housesitting in the jungle, especially after evicting the bat, has its rewards.A few weeks ago I noted I would not leave Costa Rica until I saw wild monkeys. I knew what howler monkeys sounded like from a visit to Lynn and Todd’s jungle retreat.
About 6 AM, just starting to become light, I heard their distinctive sounds close to the house we were in. Grabbing a camera and binoculars, I put on my boots and walked as quietly as possible on path that had been cut through the jungle by our hosts. By then the howling had stopped but I sensed the monkeys or “monos” in Spanish, were close by. I looked up into the dense canopy of trees listening. Except for an occasional bird sound, the leaves above were still. It was a windless morning, warm and so humid that the only other sounds were pats of water as the leaves condensed the jungle air into small drops. In the jungle there always seem to be leaves falling here and there – but mostly dry leaves. I waited for fresh leaves or sticks to fall from above and listened for rustling sounds.
In about 5 minutes I saw my first howler monkey in the wild. He had moved a few leaves directly overhead and was hanging upside down staring at me from near the top of a 60 foot tree. I slowly pointed my binoculars at him and stared back. He had a bland expression like he had seen people before and was casually tallying up another visitor to his part of the forest. After a few minutes he move to other branches, plucking and chewing leaves along the way.
I walked on looking for more when I was surprised by what looked to be a small group close together. When I trained the binoculars on the patches of moving fur high in the tree tops I saw a mother with two babies relaxing at the far end of one tree limb as one of her babies swung (carefully it seemed to me) close to her and grabbed on to her body where the other baby clung. None of them even glanced at me. The mother was busy with one baby and reaching and guiding the other. She was on her back and probably nursing the first while tending to the second. Each baby was less than a third the size of the mother who probably was about average in size or between two and three feet long with a tail about the same size.
I was not able to get good pictures.
I learned a bit about Howlers. Here are some useful links: