Cloud Forest
by David L. Ross, Jr.

Hey, you got clouds in my forest! Now you just hold on there buddy, you got forest in my clouds! While the forest of course does not grow on the clouds, it would not be "Cloud Forest" without the moisture which clouds bring to them. It is this water rich air, this bath of condensation that results in a forest where life grows on life, where virtually every surface is covered with something, green. It is a place where plants grow upon the leaves, vines and trunks of other plants. Such plants growing on other plants are referred to as epiphytes, or sometimes as "air plants".

This continuous, dependable source of air borne moisture, of fine drizzle or mist from clouds, results in a mossy forest, with leaves, branches, and trunks covered with mosses, lichens, ferns, bromeliads, orchids and even epiphytic cacti.

Cloud Forest can be thought of as a general, but special type of forest, or rainforest. There are several forest classification schemes addressing latitude, mean temperature and rainfall, which omit any reference to the word cloud, but what most "cloud forests' have in common, is a cooler mountain climate, where moisture laden winds and air masses contact the forested slopes and canopy.

The Resplendent Quetzal (depicted to the right) is perhaps the most famous denizen of the cloud forests of Central America. While perhaps more renowned in Guatemala as the sacred bird of the Maya, where it is also the national bird, and the name of the Guatemalan "dollar", the most famous cloud forest of all is with little contest, in the Cordillera de Tilaran in Costa Rica. It is the Monteverde Cloud Forest Preserve.

This is the cloud forest of personal experience, the place of ringing plaintive cricket choruses in warm misty nights. It is a world of trade winds "wushing" the canopies and of much dripping, of sounds unique and beautiful, with more elegant songsters per hectare, than any other habitat these ears have been in. Nightingale-thrushes, wood-wrens, solitaires, and grosbeaks, yodeling barbets, croaking totally green toucanets, and reverberating, bonking bellbirds all pour their voices into this damp, cloud-grayed and wet carpeted realm..

To know the sound of such a cloud forest, to know "the voices of the cloud forest" is to know the cloud forest. --perhaps a shameless plug, perhaps a truth worthy of a listen. So go to the intersection of the Chomogo Trail, and the Pantanosa Trail, in the pre-dawn of a windless May morning and sit, and listen, let your mind smile, you will never forget.

The Resplendent Quetzal (Pharomachrus mocinno), referred to as the most beautiful bird in the world by some, is a member of the trogon family. This bird while commonly associated with the cloud forest, is an altitudinal migrant, moving up and down the slope with changing seasons and the availability of its favorite food source, the wild avocado.
Slaty-backed Nightingale-Thrush (Catharus fuscater) Photo left, and the voice on the embedded mp3 file which loads with this page. This understory and forest floor dweller has one of the most beautiful forest voices. Uttering fluid flute like phrases as they hop across mossy logs and wet leaf litter in search of insects.