Archive for August 14th, 2010

We wake up early to go one a bird walk. I have already seen many of the birds that we spot, like the Variable Seedeater, Kiskadee, and Grey Martin. However, some were new. I see a Rufus-tailed Hummingbird, Social Flycatcher, which looks like a smaller version of the Kiskadee, Masked Tityra, a white bird with a black crown, and a Bananaquit, a tiny bird with a yellow breast and striped head. Finally, Martin sees a Turquoise Cotinga. This is a beautiful bird with a turquoise blue body and bright purple belly. On our way back, we see a couple of Kiskadees bombarding a Roadside Hawk. The walk concludes with a Scarlet-rumped Tanager, named for the male’s bright red behind, which contrasts with his black body, performing a mating display to a plainly colored female. Many tanagers exhibit sexual dimorphism, which refers to different coloration of males and females. Usually the males are more colorful so as to attract mates, while females are drab to blend into the vegetation. The female Scarlet-rumped Tanager is no exception, as she is a dusty orange color with a blueish-grey beak.

Scarlet-rumped Tanager

Scarlet-rumped Tanager mooning us

After breakfast, we work on projects. We finish two sections of trail in three hours of work. The going is tough and I am quickly becoming dehydrated. Sarah notes that I have a case of the umbles: stumbling, fumbling, and mumbling, the first stage in dehydration.

Lunch concludes and we go to play soccer and jump in the swimming hole to cool off. Later still, I head out into the woods for a hike. I choose to take the waterfall trail. The trail begins without a hitch, but eventually closes in. I can understand why people are afraid of the rainforest. Every root is a fer-de-lance, and every rustle is a stalking jaguar. I finally see the waterfall. It is about 30 feet tall and a pleasant sight. It dawdle for quite some time before moving again. I return to the trail head and move up on our usual trail. The route is steep and it is exhausting to move. Despite the effort, I am not rewarded with any animal sightings in the plantation. However, as I move into the primary forest, I see a small anole (a lizard). On a nearby tree, there is another. The lower one puffs up, revealing his bright orange dewlap. This must be a male. The female hops up a bit higher. Perhaps she is not impressed. The male persists and puffs up several more times. He is rewarded after about ten minutes of courtship. They then part ways.

Male Anole displaying dewlap

Afterward...gotta keep it PG-13

My pace quickens, excited by the animal behavior I observed. A bit further, just before the bean field trail, I see rustling in the trees. I see the white faces of two Capuchin monkeys. They quickly scurry up a tree and out of sight. While looking for it, I spot what initially looks like a termite nest. Upon closer inspection, however, it is a three-toed sloth! A new find! Fortunately, its slow metabolism (resulting from being a foliovore, or leaf eating animal) allows me to observe it for some time. In the ten minutes I watched and photographed, it only turned its head slowly. I am nearly running down the trail now. I hope to continue to see mammals. While heading down, I do manage to see a variegated squirrel.

Three-toed Sloth

...some time later...

I make my turn around time and make it back in time for lecture…or so I thought. Unfortunately, lecture began at 4:00 and not 5:00. Nobody notified me. I finish copying the notes on soil structure. The soils here, as I mentioned, are very poor in nutrients. Their red coloration is a result of oxidation of FeO to Fe2O3. Clay is the main type of soil here. When it is first formed, it has an expanding lattice structure, which allows it to absorb water and nutrients very well. Over time, in old soils, like in the rainforest, the lattice structure breaks down. Eventually, it becomes hydrated and turns to amorphous clay, which does not hold nutrients or water well. Thus, tight nutrient cycling is very important here. After lecture, we go to sleep to the pitter-patter of rain.

Red Clay...not by Freddy Hubbard

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