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Seasquirt

The adventures of Fe & Chris

Archive for Forest

The greatest bat show on Earth

We’ve just returned to Ayutthaya after lovely couple of days in Khao Yai national park. Inside a cave that also functioned as a Buddist temple, we saw thousands of bats of three different species from an enjoyably close proximity. I was quite happy with that but when treated with the spectacle of two million Wrinkled-nosed bats leaving their cave we were blown away. Pleasingly a few were knobbled by raptors on their way out to add to the fun.

Our tour group was an eclectic bunch. A perfectly pleasant couple from Bristol with humourous accents, an Israeli chap that had a comment on every topic imagineable, and a unusual Frenchman who was prone to inappropriate spontaneous outbursts of singing or wailing. Then there was us of course.

 Next morning we saw lovely White-handed Gibbons and Pig-tailed Macques along with numerous deer and copious elephant poo. Wild Dogs caused quite some excitement amongst our guides. The Bird of the Day award was a tricky choice between the monsterous Great Hornbill and the tiny Vernal Hanging Parrot.

Ican’ttellyouanymoreasthespacebaronthiskeyboarddoesnotwork. Itisdrivingmetodistraction. And we’ve got a train to catch…

Eyeshine, spiders and monkeys

We had a lovely couple of days around the Khao Sok National Park. We stayed in a lovely, and quite substantial shack, in a place that served up food in beautiful surroundings. For our breakfast viewing pleasure the staff hung up bananas to entice pretty birds to their flower clad dining area.

I was rather hoping to be able to provide you with a dramatic post - “A tiger chewed my leg off” or “An elephant sat on my sandwich” but the charismatic megafauna was not to be found. We did see some fluffy-headed White-crowned hornbills amongst other aves whilst Long-tailed macaques provided mammalian entertainment. We also saw more different, and impressive, species of butterfly than we have ever seen before.

After a lovely curry for tea we took a turn around some of the forest in the dark. We saw the eyes of a handful of mouse deer, chanced across a civet, some tree frogs and some very scary, but pretty, looking spiders.

At last…

After nearly two months of intermittent night-time wanderings we finally saw a wild kiwi. Several in fact, probably five. We’d heard one or two wild birds before, and seen captive birds at an excellent breeding facility in Rotorua and one lone beast in a less pleasing exhibit somewhere else (the names all disappear in a blur).

Our visit to Trounson forest was to be our last chance. Armed with red filters over our torches we entered the forest an hour after dark. Within 20 minutes we were listening to a beast snuffling and scratching just five metres from our path. After a suitably short pause to heighten excitement, a North Island Brown Kiwi popped out to say hello (well, it sniffed a little - a hello in kiwi-speak, I’m sure).

Over the next three hours we continued to explore the forest, enjoying brief glimpses of kiwi as they foraged. My particular favourite bird ran right past us as we were watching a scary looking short-finned eel and some crayfish in a stream. Quite brazen it was. Fast too, and with a comical looking rear end.

We decided to retire about 0100, and just as we were about to walk back through the gate to our conveniently located campsite two splendid kiwi decided to put on a proper performance - they strutted their stuff for a good twenty minutes in open view. Excellent stuff indeed.

Arthur’s Pass & glaciers

After spending a night in a very pleasant forested car park (the local camp site was another unpleasant car park) we opportunistically took the advice of a sign that directed us for a walk.

We started in beautiful mossy forest, passed through lovely dwarf forest, then up a cascading river which took us above the tree line. At the end of the path we found a small, snaking glacier which were most pleased to see (the day before we had run away from the Franz Josef Glacier on account of it crawling with queuing tourists). With a few slightly complex river crossings we were at its snout (the end bit) and enjoyed a fine exploration.

It was a lovely walk. It was raining, but it didn’t seem to matter. There were almost no other people on the hill for most of our walk, but the tourist sheep principle applied, and the car park was full on our return.

Australia

After a couple of long flights and several chapters of Harry Potter (yes, I have finally got hold of it, and no, I haven’t finished it yet, so no spoilers!), we finally touched down in Brisbane, Australia.

We spent our first day sorting our lives out in the big city (although still no hair cuts), and cuddling koala bears at Lone Pine Koala sanctuary - very cute. We also got to feed some Kangaroos and Wallabies.

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Our next stop was Binna Burra lodge in Lammington National Park south of Brisbane where we spent a lovely two and a half days bushwalking and learning the joys of BBQs. Chris saw lots of new birds, and even I took to a bit of bird watching. We stayed in a ‘Safari tent’ - a tent with double bed in it - a great idea!

The forest was lovely and there was a fantastic network of paths built so that you never have to walk up a steep gradient. It was cool (~14 degrees) - a very agreeable temperature - in the morning and evening we unpacked our hats and gloves for the first time! At night whilst we were barbecuing our tea, possums and bandicoots came and said hello.

We are now in the Top End of Australia - in Darwin. Tomorrow we pick up a camper van and head off to the middle of the country, so over the next few weeks we may only be occasionally in touch….

Monkeys tried to poo on us

We are currently back in Guatemala for a flying visit. Today we visited some more Mayan ruins (we seem to be doing this every other day at the moment) called Tikal. These ruins are set within a huge area of jungle and have some of the tallest structures of the Mayan world. The temples tower out of the trees and make an amazing sight once you have climbed up them to see the view - we have done a lot of climbing today - one set of steps were so steep it was practically a ladder - I tried my best not to be too scared!

Along with the amazing ruins, we also added a lot of animals to our tick list - we are being so lucky I know! As we arrived in the park we were greeted by some oscillated turkeys which are very colourful and pretty compared to the turkeys people eat at Christmas. A group of Coatis were also hanging around near the entrance and seemed fairly unperturbed by our presence. We also heard the sound of Howler monkeys for the first part of the monring (we arrived at 6.30am, urgh!). As we approached the tallest temple which we thought we should start with we got our best views of wild keel-billed (Guinness) toucans yet - they look so odd in flight!

As we were wondering through the jungle in search of some more ruins we came across both Howler and Spider monkeys, both of which seemed to enjoying trying to poo on our heads!! We managed to avoid the unpleasant bombs (although there may have been some wee at one point) and got some great views as they swung through the trees - some with babies attached - so cute. As we continued round the site we saw another couple of troops of spider monkeys - they´re so graceful and quiet compared to the noisy, and slightly clumsy howlers.

Having climbed our last (and scariest!) temple we headed back towards the exit and saw a Trogon (sp unknown as yet) and then a guide pointed us in the direction of a “muy grande aves”, thinking it was just the turkeys again we were a bit blase, but thought we should show some interest - the guide got frustrated with our inability to find the turkeys and pointed up at a tree where a Harpy eagle was cocking its head at us - this bird was indeed very big, and a bit scary looking, especially its huge talons. A local boy went past and obviously taunted the bird because as he walked across the road, the bird flew down and straight at the boy - needless to say he fell to the floor and then ran for cover - I don´t think these birds are to be messed with!

After such a long and exciting day, we have now headed back to our current place of stay, Flores, to investigate how to get across the Mexican border - sounds like it should be an interesting experience, so we shall keep you posted!

A surprising find

We stopped for a couple of nights at a very agreeable establishment called Trekstop which is close to the town of San Jose Succotz, next to the border with Guatemala. Our accomodation was a bit like a large garden shed in a forest, but with a composting toilet ensuite and a butterfly house in the garden.

There were plenty birdies about the site so I happiliy wandered down a track - at the end I looked behind me and was suprised by a huge Mayan construction dominating the skyline. Now, we knew it was nearby, but our guidebook had not alluded to the fact that it was so impressive.

To get to Xunantunich we crossed a river on a rickity, old, hand-cranked ferry (a truck wheel is an integral part of the mechanism). The ferry would take  one small car at a time, but nothing bigger for fear of the cables snapping as the river was in spate.

The ruins were great - small enough to get round in a relaxing hour or two, and impressive enough to amaze us. From the top of the temple on the skyline we could see for miles eastward though Belize and miles westwards into Guatemala.

On the way home we enjoyed a bunch of Collared Aracari´s - a type of toucan - eating fruit in a tree.

We lunched at the Xunantunich Inn and Fiona would like to commend them for their first-class veggie burritos and keeping us dry whilst it rained.

My Goretex is mouldy

After two months in the cloud forest my North Face Goretex jacket has gone mouldy on the inside. I have tried washing it in travel soap and a hot shower, but it didn´t help.

Can anyone suggest a suitable treatment, please?

El Paraiso

For our last week with OpWall we treated ourselves to a trip to the coast, staying in a very posh hotel that was taken over by us lot for the week - it was a lovely little place, newly done up, with swimming pool, idyllic Caribbean views and hanging beds in the garden (oh and hot showers and laundry). All was pretty much perfect, with the exception of having to entertain some spoilt, cotton-wool covered public school kids (who happily slated us staff in their reviews, so this is just revenge!). They weren´t even excited when Smammal Sarah caught an Opossum, or when Chris showed them some Hummingbirds and Woodpeckers, hrmph.

So, enough of them. The food was another change at this ´camp´ - it was delicious, although not very timely and in quite small quantities (didn´t bother me, but the others were left feeling unsatisfied). We managed to supplement the meagre portions with mangoes and coconuts that were kind enough to drop from nearby trees. We also made the very exciting discovery of chocobananas - frozen banana halves on a stick, covered in chocolate - delicious, satisfying, vaguely healthy and very cheap (1 Lempira each = 4p!!!). Will definitely have to give these a go on our return home.

Oh, and the other excitement of this ´paradise´was a long distance viewing of some Manatees that lazily surfaced every now and again from a distant shore. Lovely.

Unfortunately we had to return to base camp for a couple of days before finally leaving OpWall and the forest behind, although having said that it was kind of nice to be back for the last few days, even if database duties got a bit hectic towards the end…

From rain to sun

In Cusuco it ordinarily rains in the afternoons and a rainophobic bird person like me can easily avoid getting damp. Not so today.

I spent last night at Guanales and set off this morning for my last day of counting birds. At approximately 0732 I was on top of a ridge 700 metres above the camp, enjoying a Barred Forest Falcon, when it chucked it down. I got soaked, curtailed my counting activities and swung, monkey-like from tree to tree all the way down the hill.

Fe and I are off to the seaside tomorrow. We are going to a hotel on the Caribbean that Opwall run as a field site. There’s very little science to do - we just have to entertain some school kids. I’m looking forward to the pelicans, frigatebirds and sea whilst Fe is getting strangely excited about a rumoured washing machine.

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