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Seasquirt

The adventures of Fe & Chris

Archive for July, 2007

Sightings and wanderings

Although I have now been doing the OpWall thing for a week and a half it seems like much longer in some ways, but time is also flying. The first week was nice as all the scientists were here so I got to know quite a few of them. Officially we’re not supposed to go out on our own without a guide, but Chris and I managed a a couple of small wanders around along some of the trails.

One morning I managed to get up in time to join in with the mist netting (Chris’s early starts are one thing I’m not missing now he’s elsewhere!). It was great as it I got to hold a Hummingbird - it was lovely and sat on my hand for a couple more minutes once I released it… so cute! We also caught a few other different species during the netting (including a Black-headed Saltator I think), as well as seeing a Highland Guan protecting her(?) nest - a Guan is a partridge-like bird and wakes me up most mornings with its call, which is quite melodic. My favourite song at the moment is the Solitaire, although apparently it’s quite a plain looking bird, its song is beautiful and makes a nice soundtrack to the forest. I have also seen a Trogon, a Quetzal flying far overhead, and today I saw two Emerald Toucanets. There is also a Hepatic Tanager which hangs around camp and is bright red! I’m sure Chris will have plenty more to add to this list when he returns…

As you can see from the newly added photo pages (they’re in alphabetical order, so make sure you check to see the new ones) there are quite a few creatures that can be found in the camp - including the tarantula that I actually found - I thought it was fake to start with! The little snake was also cool, although they wouldn’t let me keep it as a pet! The most common butterfly that can be seen on site (and hangs around the path to the urinals for some reason) is called the ‘88′ because of its marking. It’s very pretty as you can see from the photo below. It’s outer wing pattern is black with an irridescent blue rectangle in the top, but it rarely shows this when it is resting.

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Unfortunately most of my newly found friends have now headed off to other camps around the park and base camp is pretty empty, except for the occasional invasion of school children (16/17/18 yr olds). It’s kind of nice, but can be a bit lonely sometimes. I will have to go and visit some of the camps over the next few weeks, but Chris is currently unvisitable as he is on the ‘West side’ which is a day or two’s journey to get there, and not feasible except on moving days, so I won’t see him for another week or so :-(.

Over the last few days, whilst the power is off (the generator usually only runs between 1 and 10pm) I have managed to get out on a couple of the transects near base camp - these mainly follow the tracks that already exist so are not too hard going (or not as hard as other camps anyway) - they’re enough for me to get a wee bit sweaty though! The other day I went out with the small mammal team who set up traps overnight. They caught several mexican deer mice and spiny pocket mice, as well as a pregnant opossum - she was amazing - they are marsupials so their babies are in a pouch. She kept going in the traps - probably for food and protection - this time she was in a small trap so it was a bit cramped - they’re about the size of a small cat!

The other night I walked down to the nearest village, called Buenos Aires - this is another camp for OpWall and the staff usually get to stay in the ‘EcoLodge’ there - the views are amazing (although the walk up for breakfast is pretty steep!) it was nice to get out of camp and stay somewhere else for the night, although we didn’t get the ecolodge luxury (it was still a bed rather than thermarest so can’t complain too much). The hike back up the mountain was pretty tiring though, so when Chris is staying down there, I’m not sure how often I’ll manage the journey! I finished off the day with another, smaller, hike to a waterfall - it involved climbing over a few fallen trees and was definitely more of a jungle experience! The waterfall was pretty though, apparently there’s a more impressive one beyond BA which you can swim in, so once I’m superfit I might venture out that way!

Today I went on another transect with the small mammal team - it was definitely more strenuous than the other day’s transect - the poor team leader has to do it twice a day - glad I’m needed at the computer! Oh yes, so onto my work - after a slow start things are starting to progress and the database is nearly all up and running - I even have some data in there - so exciting!
Anyway, I think I have written far too much now. Hope it’s not too boring!

Forest facts

So, since we are going to be in the forest for the next few weeks, I thought it might be nice to provide you with some ‘interesting’ info about our current abode. The forest is Cusuco National Park and ‘cusuco’ means armadillo - I don’t think our science teams have found one yet, although they have apparently been seen in the nearby village being fattened up for dinner! The elevation of base camp - which is the entrance to the park - is at ~1500m - higher than the largest mountain in Britain, and yet still warmer! As Chris mentioned it rains almost every evening (not surprising since it is a cloud forest). It dries up pretty quickly through the day though (I will be able to tell you temperature when we collect the data logger, but it is probably about mid 20s).

On average the park has about 30-40 visitors a month, although there will soon be a new sparkly website (to be designed by yours truly) which is sure to attract more people!

In terms of species, there are lots… The park has many reptiles and amphibians including the fer de lance, jumping pit viper and coral snakes with at least 5 species being endemic to the park itself.

There are plenty of birds to keep Chris occupied including the resplendent quetzal, trogons, toucanets and other fancy things.

In terms of mammals, there are several large mammals - including tapir, coati, paca (a type of deer), red-tailed deer, 450 howler monkeys (yet to hear them) and a collection of cats including ocelot, jaguarundi and almost certainly a jaguar. The small mammals include the spiny pocket mouse (so called because it has two small pockets under its mouth where it stores food), mexican deer mouse, a new species of mouse, and opossums.

There are some beautiful butterflies around - including my fav the glasswing, marpesia marcella, the ‘88′ butterfly (see photos!), calligo uranus, morpho polyphemus and diethria ana - they’re all impressive - look them up for photos - they never stay still long enough for me to photograph them! There are also some huge hawk moths and other families as well as the funky jewel scarab beetles which are very pretty (one species is worth $250 per beetle!).

In addition the park has a new species of crab. Right, I’m sure that is enough to be getting on with - hopefully I’ve sold it well enough for you all to be dying to come and explore. Oh and it has an elfin forest which I’m looking forward to seeing at some point!

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