Archive for August 14th, 2015

29 July 2015

My last day of field work brought some new challenges and excitement. I got my annual snake scare by almost stepping on a coral snake, which is highly venomous. It was still dark in the forest as I went out to sample bird communities and I noticed a patch of red, black, and yellow stripes move amongst the leaves. I just barely managed to catch my foot before I stepped on it. I called out to Adolfo to let him know that there was a snake nearby. He came running back.  They will generally kill the snake regardless of the species or whether it is dangerous to them or not. One swift blow with a machete will remove any concern. The snake was gone by the time he arrived, but it was definitely a good quarter-size in diameter, which is large for a coral snake. I wonder how close he came to stepping on it himself.

Later that day, I was taking spherical densitometer measurements. This entails staring at a little mirror that has a grid etched onto it. By holding it so it faces the sky, one can count the number of squares occupied by canopy to measure percent canopy cover. However, this requires you to focus and prevents you from being at all aware of the world around you. As I did this, something began scampering up my leg and onto my belly. Uncertain of the species, genus, or even taxa of my attacker, I began swatting at it frantically. The whole thing happened so quickly that Adolfo and Stew, who were with me, had no idea what I was doing. My shouts quickly provided some insight and Adolfo grabbed the assailant: a basilisk lizard I had apparently spooked, by the crest. It took me a while to calm down to a point where I was able to think clearly again.



I go back to Adolfo’s house for lunch and Stew goes back to Vincente’s cabanas. As I wait for him to return, I visit Adolfo’s mother, who has been pounding Akun bark that one of her other sons had stripped yesterday. The Akun bark is extremely fibrous and can be pounded into flat and wide pieces of cloth-like material by hammering it with a meat-tenderizer-like hammer made of wood against a hard surface. I take a go at it and am amazed at her endurance. My shoulder tires within 15 minutes, but she has been going at it for several hours, flattening out five or six strips from 6 inches in width to nearly a meter.

Partway through the day, I noticed my right hand beginning to swell up. What began as a small bite soon ballooned in size to twice its normal size. I could not close my red, pudgy fingers due to the swelling. Adolfo claims that it was, “una hormiga brava” (a tough/aggressive ant). I later found a skeletal looking ant, its thin sandy brown body sharply segmented and mandibles long and cruel, sitting in my hammock. This may have been the culprit, or it may have been the ones that stung me on the legs the other day. Who knows. I take a Benadryl in an attempt to calm the swelling, but all it does is knock me out. I fall asleep to the thunderous rain drumming on the tin roof above me. It has not rained in a few days, so it is long overdue.

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