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plein air painting, mythological and allegorical paintings
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The Arribata -- Costa Rica
We recently returned from Nosara, Costa Rica -- one of our favorite places to commune with nature. We had the awesome experience of observing a Lora Sea Turtle (also known as an Olive Ridley) lay her eggs on the beach. Adrian, a volunteer with a local rescue group thankfully helped to control the scene and protect the turtle and her eggs from the curious tourists. She had been laying her eggs in the same spot where she herself had been hatched an estimated 65 years ago.

It was just down the dirt road from the small hotel where we usually stay, and far from being private. In fact, we had just been swimming in the water during the time in which the turtle made her approach not very far from us. It took her 15 minutes to push up to the top of the slope just above the high tide line. For some reason, we had lingered trying to decide whether we should leave or go back into the water. It was thundering and a storm appeared to be approaching. The whole day had been very humid and overcast. As we had nothing but time on our hands, we were in no hurry. A small group of tourists were chatting with a surfer, a local, who was talking on his cell phone. His name was Adrian, and he was taking care of the turtle.

As we walked past, someone said, "Hey, did you see the sea turtle?" The growing crowd respectfully watched this rare occurrence. Many sea turtles are hatched in Ostional, a protected beach area near Nosara. This was the first turtle to arrive on the beach to lay her eggs, marking the beginning of the arribata. With the rainy (green) season upon us, there would soon be no way to reach this beach as the roads become washed out. There was a full moon approaching, and the sea turtles know that this is their time to lay their eggs.

We were instructed to stand behind the turtle where she could not see us while she laid her eggs. If she was interrupted, she would return to the sea. It took her less than hour to lay her eggs. She then covered her eggs and packed down the sand to discourage predators from finding her clutch. As she rolled from side to side she made a loud cupping sound. She moved a few more feet and stirred up some sand, another evasive move, before making a slow turn towards the water. In just a few minutes she had disappeared back into the surf from which she came.

It was a surprise and a joy to see this rare display of nature. You would not have expected much on this cloudy day in the late afternoon. The same day we saw a coati walk across the road on our way to town. I had also had never seen one these beautiful animals in its environment. It had a long tail like a monkey, and reminded me of our native raccoons. We had heard the howler monkeys roar, but did not spot any this day.

The next day we walked back to the nesting spot which had been marked with sticks arranged vertically in a circle. There were no sticks today, and we hoped that someone with the rescue organization had either disguised or moved the nest. The latter may have been best because dogs or other animals might dig them out to eat them, or someone might accidently step on the site and crush them. Either way, its a high traffic area, relatively speaking, and a relocation might be preferable.

I am back in my studio -- refreshed and inspired -- creating more art. I am working on a painting featuring the Lora. I will soon be posting plein air paintings I completed as well.


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Jeffrey Brailas

Houston, Texas
  Worldwide Nature Artists Group
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