Sunday, April 13, 2008

Posted by Bejat

Guess what? It’s raining in the rain forest. Imagine that? The soft pitter-patter of rain soaking the vegetation, saturating the canopy until it reaches the ground, enhancing the myriad of colors. After it rains, I become that more infatuated with it and find myself taking photos endlessly. Water droplets on spider webs, leaves and every living thing are breathtaking sights. I cannot take my eyes, nor lens off of it, and before I know it I have shot 500 photos in a matter of hours and have only made it maybe 50 meters down the trail. I must admit I am hell to hike with because I am constantly checking out the minutest objects and documenting every little thing. I can’t help it because I am a macro-specialist.

Yesterday Shawn, Charne and Noah shot a line into a new tree to climb off the Chichico trail. It is a liana tangle mess out there and a little swampy in places. The tree is massive, possibly the tallest yet, we shall see when we measure it. When we were shooting the line we saw Tropiduras flaviceps (large dark colored lizards with fat tails). Hopefully, while Shawn is up in the tree, he will be able to catch one with a butterfly net, Dr. Dixon’s big rubber band or maybe just by hand. We shall see. Shooting the line was a little hectic since the fishing reel broke. We have this huge, and I mean monstrous, sling shot (called a “Big Shot”) that we use to shoot these shot bags full of metal pellets. The shot bags are connected to fishing line that is feed out through the fishing reel that we then reel in once the bag has descended. Fortunately, Shawn brought the fishing reel back to camp and was able to repair it, whew! He is amazing with everything he does. I just can’t get over what all he is capable of, and I feel so fortunate to be his wife.

I spent the morning in the lab photographing specimens and releasing them afterwards. That is my favorite part, letting them go free. We will only keep them for 2 days, at the most, in bags or tanks with leaf-litter or fresh leaves depending on the species of frog, lizard, gecko or skink. The snakes reside in cloth bags and hang in the room comfortably. Everyone gets a mist of fresh rainwater and fresh air every so often. We monitor them regularly and release them in the exact same location. Shawn takes blood or tissue and I take high-resolution photographs of each specimen’s dorsal, lateral and ventral (back, belly and side). I also prepare a forest setting in the lab to take what we call glamour shots. In the upper left hand corner you can see an example of these photographs. The treefrog you see is Hyla marmorata. The only time we take a specimen is when we are uncertain as to whether it is a new species. This is the only time it is necessary to take a specimen in order to describe the species and prove that it is a new species.

The afternoon was my time to paint and record frogs in the Harpia plot. It was a beautiful day and I was able to capture the most amazing lighting in my photographs as well as my painting. The frogs, however were a bit more difficult. I sat by a stream for hours waiting for Colostethus bocagei to call. They would call and I would get close enough and they would instantly stop. I would wait and they would not call, so I would leave and begin painting again. Sure enough, they would begin calling again. Finally, I decided to set the recorder above them. They never did call again. Tricky little frogs. That just gives me an excuse to go back and this little stream is heavenly. I was even witness to an Amazon Land Tortoise, at this location, walking down about and 70 degree incline to the muddy bank of the stream to eat mud, drink and then float down the stream for 20 meters or so before getting out and then walking up another steep incline. I was fascinated. I could have watched him or her for hours.

Yesterday afternoon Charne and Noah surveyed the Harpia plot after a quick dip in the Tiputini River. It was a hot day and the river is nice and cool. It’s a great way to cool off come mid-day. Shawn processed more specimens and released them later that afternoon. We all had a wonderfully productive day.

Today Shawn and I are catching up on our lab work while it rains. Charne and Noah are resting, it is their day off. They have the day off so they plan to go to the Harpia clay lick when the rain lets up. It should be a good day to do so if continues to be overcast. The animals will feel more confident to visit these sites because they can see better due to even light distribution. Therefore, it is less threatening because they are more likely to see predators, like a jaguar. There is some great film footage out there of animals visiting clay licks by the BBC, Andes to the Amazon. It was filmed here at TBS and within Yasuni National Park. I would highly recommend it to anyone who has not seen it. Not only does it give you wonderful insight to the workings of the rain forest and spectacular footage, but it also is delightfully hilarious at times. It has been re-released by the BBC and you can get it for about $20 US on It comes in a box set that contains the depiction of all the various ecosystems of Ecuador.

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