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miércoles, 20 de octubre de 2010

Tracking Ourselves!

For a second I thought to say “Oh I hope the weather is good for Sundays BBQ” but then decided, nah sure we are in Paraguay not Ireland any more of course it will be a beautiful day! But no......why when things are planned does something go awry, I have woken up this morning with the rain pounding on the roof and the front garden turning into a second lake. But on the up side I can now get some serious work done on my tadpole project and of course the frogs are going to be out in force later tonight. It is definitely true that whenever something doesn’t work something else good will come from it so I can’t really complain!
Our volunteer Stuart has joined us now. So we figured it would be cool to introduce him to the joys of searching for butterflies! The plan was to stay relatively close to the back of the house but the butterflies didn’t follow our plan and in the excitement of the chase (oh yes you may laugh now but wait until you try it and the little guys keep taunting you fluttering by your face) we went way off track and got very disorientated in the grass and tree’s of the cerrado. We tried to do a Ray Mears and track our footsteps back to the track but after seeing the same tree for the second time we figured we’d been tracking our footsteps in a nice big circle. (Maybe we should have been paying more close attention rather than chatting about caterpillars). With the sun setting I looked to the sky! No not to pray.......but figured I could use the position of the setting sun to get a grasp on the direction of the house and it worked, we were back at the house in jig time! I recon Mr. Mears would be impressed!
The intern’s projects are at the fun stages where they are really settling into the field work and getting some awesome work done. The brain cells are definitely in over drive!
We “harvested” our first home grown squash from our vegetable patch last night......chicken and squash soup. It’s nice to eat something that you helped grow....even if it wasn’t as ripe as it should have been......well it was green, but it still tasted good!! Next step is to collect some horse manure to mix with the compost we are making and get some melons growing!


Hasta la Proxima!


Loraine Grant: MSc, BSc

jueves, 14 de octubre de 2010

180

Hmn to continue where I left off last time......Phew its hot!!!!! All of a sudden the temperature has done a complete 180 and is now 37°C. There is no such thing as a gradual change in temperature, oh no sure why would it do that! But I do prefer the hot to the cold without a doubt, even if it means all I have wanted to do today is sit in the bathroom since it seems to be the coolest place I can find, but some how I think people might begin to worry for my sanity!
We took a well deserved break in Asuncion this weekend. I didn’t get the chance to do the tourist type things when I first got here, so it was great to kick back and see a bit more of the country, or well the city at least. The bus ride from Santa Rosa to Asuncion was pure luxury....double decker, air con, snacks and coffee. Although I would caution any one who drinks the coffee on the buses here unless you like coffee with your sugar! The five hour journey across the flat vast country side doesn’t actually seem to take as long as it sounds but I suppose it does help when you have miles upon miles of beautiful scenery to admire. There are not many roads in Paraguay in fact there is pretty much one straight main road that goes through the country with the odd turn off’s here and there bringing you to main towns like Conception and Pedro Juan Caballero. On entering the city of Asuncion gone are the beautiful open fields filled with crops and birds, instead there is a concrete jungle with horns beeping and people juggling at traffic lights for some spare change. The taxi ride’s are always an experience, they are always in such a rush and seem to negotiate their way through the organised chaos of the streets. The roads have little or no markings and pedestrians beware because even though there may be zebra crossings it does not in any way mean that you have the right of way. I am not sure I even entirely trust the traffic lights and the meaning of red! It took me a little while to get used to the loud noises of the city, from the constant buzz of people chatting and cars whizzing past to the brass band and fire trucks that had some sort of display on in the park across the road from our hotel! We wondered the streets of Mcal, Estigrribia and Palma where all sorts from CD’s and hand made crafts to clothes and jewellery (I got roped into buying a pair of earrings, although they are very pretty). Some of the crafts, particularly the wood carvings, are stunning and you could only imagine the time and effort gone into each single piece. We made our way to the palace and then onto a tug boat across Asuncion bay. This cost about 2mil and took maybe half an hour. It was actually really cool, it allowed us to take a step back and view the city from a completely different angle. We putted and tutted across the bay in this little gas run water boat looking out at the people who live off of the land, water birds, small fishing boats which looked like they belonged in the Amazon, a massive rusted old ship wreck and an old fashioned cruise boat. All the high rise buildings of the city were the complete opposite of the piece of land we were left on, which consisted of a church, some houses and a rusty old tractor. We chillaxed at the waters edge with our bottle of coca-cola.....no matter where in the world you are a bottle of coca-cola will always be close to hand!
The rest of the day was spent trying to a pair of trousers that weren’t jeans or some stylish legging, as I have ripped my way through most of my trousers, but I have had to resort to asking my parents to post some out to me, since my patch work is not too great! So I foreworn everyone to bring plenty of trousers! We do a lot of walking, running, diving, jumping, climbing....the lot!
We have a new intern with us who is doing work on the different species of reptiles found in varying habitats. I am particularly excited with this since reptiles are my speciality! A new volunteer is joining us tomorrow. It is always exciting when a new person joins us, hearing their different stories and interests.
Just in from a kayak across the lake and it’s just in time by the sound of sound of the rumbling in the sky we will be having a whopper of a storm tonight!

Hasta la Proxima!

Loraine Grant: M.Sc., B.Sc.

lunes, 4 de octubre de 2010

Discovering & Recovering

It has been a cracker of a week!! The team here at Laguna Blanca have been discovering and recovering species left right and centre! The week kicked off with a new species of frog being discovered in the reed beds of the lake, not only that but a few day’s later two juveniles were found in the reeds right outside our house!!! I can’t tell you the excitement that zipped through our veins! This little guy has been living in secret and now he can finally be exposed to the scientific world! Amazing! But the excitement does not stop there, oh no!! Just 4 nights ago we were sitting on the porch having a chat with some tourists and flying around our heads was this pretty little yellow/light lime green moth.....nothing too amazing you might think but you couldn’t be more wrong as it’s none other than Catharisa cerina a moth that has not been seen since the 1930’s! Once in 2005 it was briefly spotted in Laguna Blanca but that is it. And to our absolute amazement we have seen them every night since fluttering around the moth light out the back of the house.....4 in total! This is a very special find not only because it has not been seen in all these years but there has only ever been 7 documented. We know nothing about its life cycle, habitat preferences (just to add to the confusion we have found them close to both the cerrado and Atlantic forest), its reproduction or what the male looks like! Nothing!!! Then just to round things off, another female moth, Titaea orsinome, was found last night, it has only been documented twice before in Paraguay and both were males. This is a beautiful and rare emperor moth of the cerrado....what U-turn that has been since starting my week with a scorpion taking a piece out of me!

A few days have passed since I began writing this blog and of course things have only got more exciting!!! I came back from frogging in a little spot we like to call frog paradise just 3 nights ago to find everyone surrounding the Catharisa cerina........they were laying eggs......I grabbed my camera super fast and got some cool footage of this amazing moment!! Fabulous! Nothing of this sort has ever been witnessed before; it is a special moment in history! We are now keeping a daily tabs on everything they are doing. The scientists of the moth world have been ecstatic and the internet and telephone lines have been hopping non-stop!
In just a few weeks the amount of different species of moths and frogs that have been found has almost surpassed what was found all winter, I guess spring is definitely the time everything comes to life! Discoveries and recoveries can only go up from here as we have more hands and eyes from the volunteers and interns joining us. This is by far the best place to be if you want to make a difference to science whether it be with moths, frogs, lizards, birds....what ever it all seems to be coming to life now!

To change topic.....it is freezing here at the moment! Being from Ireland I never thought I would say that 16°C is freezing since that’s considered a beautiful summer’s day back home. I’m wrapped up with so many layers that I can hardly sit down or stand up properly. Add that to the torrential rain that comes out of nowhere and sometimes I have to remember that it actually is spring here. Positive thing I guess is we don’t have to remember to water our vegetable garden and the regeneration in the cerrado and dry forest from the fires is increasing ten fold which is brilliant to see.

Hasta la Proxima!

viernes, 1 de octubre de 2010

Wake up call by a Scorpion!

Most people wake up to their alarm clocks buzzing but not for me....on this raining Sunday morning I had the pleasure of waking up to a scorpion nabbing me on my leg! Feeling the sudden sting and crazy intense burning I knew straight away what it was but prayed for the first time that it was a bug or mozzie or just anything else biting me! After shouting like a lunatic and waking everybody in the house we phoned Rosario (the guy who takes care of the reserve) who came to my rescue with cotton wool and ammonium to draw the venom out. The burning spread around the site with a type of rash and man did it burn! As you can imagine there were plenty of choose words said! Thank god Rosario didn’t seem to be too worried about it so I have just spent the day dabbing ammonium on this hole in my leg which has now come up into some lovely blisters! Ahh what a fantastic start to the week! As I have said before there is never a dull moment at Laguna Blanca!!! We haven’t seen this type of scorpion around the place so it’s in a bottle for the time being until we can put a name to it but personally I hope it stays there.....for a very long time! I suppose the good thing that came out of this is we have now swept the place top to bottom and I know for sure I’m going to swat up on scorpions because not knowing what it is that’s just injected you with god knows what is not very fun.

We are still experiencing the joys of living in a country which has frequent thunder and lightening storms cutting off the electricity sometimes for hours and sometimes just a few minutes....keeps you on your toes and I think my night vision is getting better, I only say that because I haven’t walked into any doors....yet! But it is definitely great weather for frogs! They love it; you can hear new frogs calling now, one which gives me the creeps, it reminds me of a screaming banshee! A little bit unsettling especially when you are in the middle of a reed bed with all sorts of spiders and snakes around you and there’s this banshee screaming from every direction! We have found some really interesting frogs, some with the most spectacular markings you have ever seen, just beautiful!

We had another visitor during the night the other night. Karina woke me at about 1am to tell me there was an owl in her room, ordinarily I would have thought she was going crazy but living here I have come to accept the weirdest of things. The burrowing owl that lives in front of the horse corral had some how got into our rafters. It swooped down at us so we were able to catch it at the end of the bed. It’s now back on its mound in front of the corral bombing Peluza (our dog) every time she comes to close! Very funny stuff!

Hasta la Proxima!

viernes, 24 de septiembre de 2010

The Meat Is Hissing At Me

Just a quick note to everyone at home - yes this is Loraine writing this blog!

A lot has happened since arriving here I am not sure where to begin exactly! I’ve been here about 2 and a half weeks and I can honestly say there has never been a dull moment and every day is different whether that be because our trusty jeep has decided to go on strike yet again leaving us stranded in the middle of the cerrado with a thunder storm on its way forcing us to wait, for what seems like an eternity, for the mechanic to help us two damsels in distress to walking through a maze of forests teeming with all sorts of birds, insects, butterflies and I’m sure plenty of other critters lying out of sight! But every day is definitely different!

Just last week we had two German tourists stay with us whilst on a birding tour with Paul (from faunaparaguay.com). It was cool, I had never gone birding before (maybe that’s because you have to get up at 5.30am!!!) so I went with and saw so much!! The place is literally teeming with every type of bird sound you can imagine so to actually put a name to the sound was kinda cool! We saw this crazy little bird called the cock-tailed tyrant (Alectrurus tricolor) whizzing around the place trying to impress its lady friend. It is really unusual because as it flies it flicks its tail up so it looks just like the tail of an aeroplane....really funny to watch! It was especially great to see though because with destruction of its natural habitat it is in serious trouble of being los! But the high light of my day by far was jumping off the back of the jeep and legging it after a black tegu (Tupinambis merianae), unfortunately it got away so that story is to be continued! It’s coming into the spring here (how one can call 38°C spring and not summer is beyond me!) so its a little early for the snakes and lizards to be out and about so seeing the tegu was extra exciting! We went back to the spot where the cock-tailed tyrant lives to find the white-winged night jar (Eleothreptus candicans). Now this little bird is awesome and is in serious need of help. With it being found in just three places (Laguna Blanca being one of them) in the world and with about 200 birds left this little guy is in serious trouble of extinction. But luckily enough we spotted a couple. I even got so up close and personal with one sitting on an ant mound......I got a smack square in the face when it took off! I’m guessing not many can say they nearly got a black eye by a bird that’s on its way out!

It is just Karina and I on site at the moment, so we have been keeping ourselves busy with exploring the reserve, keeping on top of the on-going Lepidoptera (butterfly and moth) study as well as the Clyomys (a medium sized rodent which burrows for roots in the cerrado) mark and re-capture study and setting arboreal traps.....we found an opossum in one trap which seems to be relatively common at Laguna Blanca, that we are hoping is either a subspecies to one found in Brazil or perhaps a new species to science, how awesome is that!!! Our nights are spent frogging and or setting up the moth light and watching as moths along with beetles and tiny flies flock to it! One moth that lives here is so dull in colouration until it reveals the entire universe under its wing, spectacular stuff I tells you!!

We have an intern coming next week who is hoping to do work on mapping leaf cutting ant trails. Should be very interesting, they are really cool little guys, looking at the ground you couldn’t imagine there is anything there at all until you see a leaf walk by you followed by another and another, they are comical!

Oh and if you are wondering what the title of this blog means that is all thanks to Karina....I recon it’ll be the quote of the week. Some how, hmn maybe I will not divulge how it happened Karina, but the pipes in the freezer were pierced leaking gas everywhere and of course the only logical explanation was “The Meat is Hissing at Me!!!”. I am not sure if it is a sane thing for me to admit that I actually did give what she said a second thought......it had been a long day! So since then we have been stuffing our faces with all sorts of weird and strange concoctions trying to eat everything before it goes off. But, last night I did manage to make a type of shepherd’s pie just minus the meat and pretty much every other ingredient that goes into a shepherd’s pie. We have named it “The Loraine Pie”, it was yummy if I do say so myself!

Hasta la Proxima!

jueves, 16 de septiembre de 2010

A New Adventure Begins!

Who could have thought that in the space of just two short weeks I would completely pack up my belongings and move half way across the world to Paraguay? And yet here I sit on a porch drinking terere with the most beautiful surroundings listening to a chorus of birds, crickets, frogs and heavens only knows what else!
It all kicked off when I was offered my dream job to work as a field biologist with an amazing organisation – Para la Tierra! Having spent my child hood years in South Africa where wildlife of every kind surrounded me I knew that all I wanted to do was work with animals, but in particular with reptiles!! So I completed my Bachelor Degree of Science in Zoology and did my Research Masters on “The Evolution of Reproductive Strategies in Reptiles”. So working with Para la Tierra in such an undiscovered part of the world was an amazing opportunity I would be crazy to turn down!
The journey to Paraguay was...ummm....“interesting” from the word go!! My Dublin flight was delayed which meant missing every connection flight and arriving half a day late which seemed a lot after 35hours of travelling. Looking out the window as we landed in Asuncion I slowly began to realise “wow this looks very different to the 40 shades of green I’m used to back home!”. My first couple of days in Asuncion went by in a whirlwind of new faces, customs, places and new food. Having just come out of vegetarianism I was thrown into a meaty diet of pork and beef and yes I even tried tongue on my first night, which is not that bad, a bit salty but surprisingly OK!!
When it was time to leave for Laguna Blanca, which was to become my new home, I hopped onto a coach with Karina (the principal scientist for Para la Tierra) and took a 5 hour coach ride to Santa Rosa. Luckily it was a brand new coach which made for an easy ride!  I loved the idea that people randomly hop on and off the bus selling you everything from DVD’s and combs to fruit and chipa (which is like a bagel made from corn, very tasty!!). Another hour by car and we are finally at Laguna Blanca which is such a hidden paradise I am not sure any words could do it justice!