Archive for June, 2008

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Jungle diaries day 8 ish

June 10, 2008

The colpa was slightly disappointing on the macaw front but we saw a number of other birds. When we got back for breakfast one of the biology kids looked at me in utter pity and said ‘you had to go to the colpa again, how boring! You’ve already been twice…’ They have absolutely no idea at all how awesome this opportunity is!

Macaws

After breakfast I went with a group into the terra firme forest (the bit that doesn’t flood). We had 2 guides with us, one of the more experienced guides (Claudia) and another guide who has not worked on our school trip before. Once she had been shown the best part of the forest for the activity and the kids had started quadrating, Claudia and I went off on our own. It was FANTASTIC, we saw loads of birds, including 2 white throated jacamar, blue throated guan, flycatchers, a smooth billed anis, some song birds and a puff bird of some sort. The white throated Jacamar are only found in this area of peru and nowhere else in the whole world – how cool! We also got a SUPERB view of the macaws. We also saw some fresh Jaguar poo (there weren’t many dung beetles there yet…) and some rather nice fresh tapir footprints.

blue throated piping guan

Lunch was followed by an hours nap and another foray into the forest. I felt absolutely lousy after the short nap and really didn’t want to go out into the jungle with a bunch of noisy students, who argue with each other all the time, however I’m really glad I did! We saw a troop of spider monkeys go past – to see them in the wild is phenomenal – the grace and ease with which they move through the trees, using their tail as an extra limb and the speed is breathtaking. Add to that the cuteness of one of the females who was carrying a baby on her back, unbelievable!

The group were quite slow (and really inaccurate!) with their tree beating and quadrating and it was after dark when we headed back to the lodge. On our way we passed a tarantula nest and saw the babies and adults scuttling to safety – wow!

Tarantula

The night walk after dinner was good too, we saw a tree frog, a number of katydids, crickets, grasshoppers, wolf spiders and some kind of weird insecty/arachnidy type of thing that is not a true spider, but isn’t an insect either. There was also a salamander and no cayman. Iwent staright to bed, and quickly fell asleep, when we got back, fully contented with a sighting packed day!

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Jungle diaries days 4 – 7…

June 10, 2008

Much activity (and reading) has meant I neglected to keep my diary for a couple of days…

The transect activity was interesting, through the forest from the flood plain to the palm swamp looking at the distribution of 4 palm species. Quite a noisy activity so saw no wildlife apart from a pair of very surprised Spix’s guan (Penelope jacquacu) that stumbled into our path! We did get quite good at identifying palms though…

trees

Another good meal, an hour looking at insects, 5 hours sleep and a colpa later and I was back out into the jungle again, this time on the hunt for evidence of mammals. The forest was badly flooded about 2 weeks ago (as it does every 30 years or so) and so there was a fresh covering of mud everywhere making tracks really easy to see! Evidence of peccaries, paca, agouti, cayman (not a mammal), ocelot, tapir, capybara and coati (but no actual mammals) was abundant, and we got some VERY good casts of the prints using wax. We did eventually come across some live mammals – a group of red howler monkeys having a siesta! After lunch I fell asleep and woke up at dusk having missed an afternoon’s fishing.

Ocelot tracks

As I’d had a lazy afternoon I decided to go on the night walk. We wandered into the jungle armed only with our torches on the lookout for the telltale reflection of eyes. We saw a fair bit of stuff – wolf spiders, a tree frog, a wolf spider eating a tiny tree frog, some moths (attracted by our torchlight) and some bats (attracted by the moths) but nada mas.

The following morning I slept in until 5am when I got up to accompany the kids on the birds activity. We set 2 mist nets and waited, checking every 15 mins (the optimum balance between scaring the birds away and leaving them exposed to predators in the nets). At 0730 when we went in for breakfast we’d caught nada. After breakfast we did catch a male plain throated wren, measured him and then let him go. We then had quite a long break before going out to the palm swamp to measure the biodiversity of the various regions of the forest using the Simpsons biodiversity index. I’d never heard of it before so it was good for me to learn some new ecology stats!

netting birds

At the end of the walk was a 15m high scaff tower, built by the National Geographic to photograph the blue and yellow macaws that nest in the aguaje palms, which we climbed without harnesses or helmets – slightly different from UK health and safety. I only got half way up before I got too scared and had to stop. I’m not too good with heights! The walk back to the lodge was uneventful and after a good meal and a little time to read I went to bed happy that I was getting a lie in the next day.

the tower

The lie in was spoiled slightly by the amount of noise the kids made getting up for the colpa at 0430 but I dozed off again to the sounds of insects chirruping and birds starting their dawn chorus. I got up at 7 – what luxury! After breakfast Myself and Sandro were taken on a walk by Harry. We went to an area called ‘ the bowl’. It was fantastic! The scenery was amazing and the bowl was beautiful, a sort of swamp with quite unique ecosystem compared to the rest of the forest.

Harry in the bowl

We saw LOADS of dragon flies and damsel flies and other arthropods as well as getting very close to a rufescent tiger heron and a pair of razor billed curasow. Best of all we saw a lot of small (30 – 50 cm I’d guess) cayman in one of the pools. On the way back we saw a family of Taira (pole-cat family) making their way through the forest, que lindo, but also quite smelly (they are mustelids after all).

Cayman

After lunch there was a little time to rest before we went off for a ‘pechanga’ (that may not be the right way to spell it!) – a thank you football game with the local staff from the lodge. Despite being roughly half the height of the Markham lads, and playing barefoot (and despite 3 of the lads playing for national sports teams) they hosts won 8 – 1. To be fair to the kids the conditions of the pitch are not really what they are used to! Ankle deep clarty mud is not a common feature in Lima. Afterward, to get rid of the mud, we went for a mud-fight and swim in the river. Much fun was had by all…

Sunset on the river

After tea and thank yous the kids got stuck into the booklets that they should have been completing after each activity. By all accounts some of them were up VERY late, I’d gone to bed at 11 as by that point I wasn’t being much help!

Another lie in and then a struggle to get the kids to finish their booklets, get packed, tidy the rubbish out of their rooms etc. Then there was the shoe episode… but that’s another story entirely! The majority of the kids, Harry, 2 of the guides and Sandro went back towards Puerto Moldonado and I stayed with the kids that were fortunate enough to do geography as well! The seven of them (well 6 – 1 had his leg in plaster and couldn’t do the longer or wetter walks!) and 2 guides got a packed lunch and went for a walk to the bowl, where we hoped to catch cayman. We didn’t see any cayman at all this time, but we did see squirrel monkeys, a saddle backed tamarind, some stranded fish (the water level in the bowl had dropped a lot overnight!) and more curasows. We ate our pack-up (rice and chicken wrapped in leaves) on a bench overlooking the forest with pairs of macaws flying past – bliss! Back at the lodge we saw the taira again and an agouti 🙂 We got back in plenty of time to have a shower and a ‘rask’ (a Harry-ism. He’s an Aussie and often comes up with Spanglish slang, the derivatives of which are often a little risqué to use at school really, but he seems to get away with it! ‘Rasking’ comes from a Spanish term meaning to scratch one’s balls apparently, although most of the kids seemed to think it was an English word…) while we waited for the next group to arrive.

Squirrel monkey

The geographers are better behaved than the biology lot that have just gone, and Geoff has them well trained (and there are fewer of them which always helps!). Going to the colpa again tomorrow – can’t wait!

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Jungle diaries – Day 3 5th May

June 2, 2008

I didn’t feel too bad at 5 am as we started through the forest towards the boat. The sunrise was again beautiful! We travelled about 5 minutes upriver to the colpa (clay lick), disembarked and sat to watch. My first colpa was a little disappointing, not because of the birds, but because of the attitude of the kids.

Colpa

There weren’t too many birds at the colpa (it’s a friaje after all) but the noise and the colours were still awesome – macaws, parrots, parakeets, parrotlets and other birds all sitting in the trees or eating the clay. Without binoculars some of the detail was difficult to see, but the sight of the entire flock taking off when startled was stunning.

The kids were completely disinterested, which was a bit of a shame – maybe the higher group will be more enthusiastic next week! By then the friaje should be over and there should be more birds should be about.

Breakfast was VERY welcome after a long morning! So much so that I had double helpings (this is becoming a habit – the food is great and we’re busy all day so I’m always really hungry at mealtimes) There was some kind of banana-oat drink, scrambled egg cooked to perfection, 3 sorts of bread and jam.

Activity 1 was an ‘ecology’ walk through the jungle looking at examples of adaptation, competition etc. as well as looking for evidence of nutrient cyling. The guide was really knowledgeable and we saw LOADS of plants, including a strangler fig, the famous walking palm (that can move 2 – 5 cm/y) some saddlebacked tamarinds, army ants, leaf cutter ants, a bullet ant (so called because it’s bite is supposed to be as painful as being shot) and many tracks, such as ocelot, peckaries, armadillo, paca and coati. We also found and tasted termites. The sheer number of different species here is staggering!

Walking palm

Lunch was excellent, yet more tasty traditional peruvian food. The lodge displays the menu including the ingrediants, history of the dish and full instructions for making it. I may copy one or two out before I go! There had been enough time before lunch to have a shower (cold but very welcome) and a small nap on one of the hammocks! During lunch we saw 2 dusky titi monkeys in the trees outside the dining room. It’s not everyday that you get to watch wild monkeys while you eat. At the end of lunch we were visited by a cappuchin monkey eating fruit from the trees on the edge of the clearing. 3 species of monkey by lunchtime – great! After lunch there was just enough time to get back into my muddy clothes before going back out intot he forest to take a transect (or rather to watch the kids do it!)

Cappuchin monkey

I am loving it here, totally shattered, but such a nice change from the city!