August 2013

Hello, again, from  the jungle of Ecuador!

Hello, again, from  the jungle of Ecuador!

We have had a few visitors this month – some human with some other vertebrate friends and a smattering of invertebrate and plant friends in attendance (understatement……………), also.

David Jackson, biologist, ecologist and Andean Spectacled Bear expert,  joined us earlier in the month. He opened (re-opened) some of the paths on and around the land – they grow over very rapidly in the heat and humidity around here –  in the process identifying another species of bird seen for the first time on the land – a Crimson Mantled Woodpecker. That brings to 107 the number of species of birds seen on, around and above the land.  The avifauna of Ecuador includes a total of 1663 species, of which 44 are endemic, 2 have been introduced by humans, and 19 are rare or accidental. 77 species are globally threatened.  This means that on our relatively small area we have seen around 6.43% of the bird species of Ecuador.

Dave has also been taking some geographical notes and estimates that the land extends from around 1200 metres above sea level to around 1500 metres. That means that we are based around the same height as the top of Ben Nevis (1344m) in Scotland – the highest mountain in the UK! As we face, with a fairly open aspect, East-South-East, we have a slightly higher temperature than some of the other valleys and hills around the Llanganates National Park zone. Congratulations to Dave on his very recent appointment as Executive Director of the Andean Bear Foundation  (www.facebook.com/AndeanBearFoundation and www.andeanbear.org ) .

While he was here, we heard a raucous sound overhead – to discover a flight of Green Military Macaws on fly-past. There were six and we were a little disappointed as, this time last year when they were in the area, a group of ten were seen. Later in the day, they flew over again on their way to roost with one of them flapping a little disconsolately behind.  However, two days later the group were overhead again – this time there were sixteen of them! – a brilliant sight to be able to see. Let’s hope that their numbers continue to grow……………

We at last managed to collect our donation of trees from the local Council (Consejo) and now have around 200 to plant in both open spaces and in whatever small clearings we can find within our jungle area. This has started. We have also collected a number of palm trees endemic to the area, many of which have disappeared, which have begun to be planted in appropriate spots, too. And we continue to collect plants from the roadside which would otherwise die – including orchids and bromeliads which we attach to the trees with string. Usually within a few weeks these have grown further rootings in order to reattach and then the string can be removed to prevent damage to the trees themselves.

We have had a number of snake visitors – the more dangerous of which we have taken farther away – back into the jungle. However, the last of which, a metre long fer-de-lance, was taken away only to be rediscovered later the same day heading back to the same spot we found it at in the first place – must like our company!

Hans Mackrodt, botanist and research scientist, currently based at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew in the UK, is in Ecuador undertaking a research project and has been helping to identify many of the plants around the site and giving lots of useful advice and information. Many thanks, Hans, for returning to help us.

At night, visits to “Prawn World” have been initiated……………..  In the small stream at the end of the excellent new path, there is a small pool in which it is possible to see small fish, tadpoles occasionally, a few freshwater crabs from time to time, and a colony of prawns/crayfish chasing each other and scrambling for scraps of food. A fun show last thing at night!

In conclusion, I am ‘borrowing’ a quote I came across recently which I reckon to be quite apt………………..

“Visit a rainforest and make it soon. It’s going fast and it’ll never be the same. When you go, be sure that while you are yearning for the big stuff, look for the little things, that’s where the real diversity lies”.

Bring a hand lens!