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domingo, 23 de octubre de 2011

Moths and frogs and 40 Paraguayan students!

Hi everyone,

It’s been a long time since I last updated you but there are a couple of reasons for this. Firstly as some of you may be aware I have been on holiday in Brazil – a great place that I am really chuffed is one of our neighbouring countries and a definite must if you are planning a trip before or after you come to us! The second reason is that this is the first chance I’ve had to sit down and write to you as we have had so much exciting stuff going on!

Before I even got back to Laguna Blanca the pace sped up! On the road here (after a 36 hour bus journey I hasten to add) we found a dead snake that we have taken as a voucher specimen and although it was definitely dead the muscles in its body were still contracting, which was a bit freaky it has to be said. Once we got it back to camp and identified it we realised it was a Bothrops alternatus which is a new record for the zone – great news!

And since then the pace hasn’t lessened. As soon as I got back I was handed 3 bags containing moth eggs from the extremely important moth Catharisa cerina. This moth is virtually unknown and was last seen in the 1930s. Since then it was declared extinct until last year when Paul, our scientific co-ordinator found the first returnee here at Laguna Blanca. This year they were back and we finally managed to get a female to lay eggs for us and some male specimens (which have never ever been seen before!!!). We now have data on their life cycle up until the 1st instar level (newly hatched caterpillars) and know what the males look like too. What a great present to return home to.

I also have a couple of new volunteers, Mikey arrived a fortnight ago and is really enthusiastic about, well everything actually, but frogging in particular. So with an extra pair of hands and eyes available we have taken the opportunity to open up an area of flooded forest where we believe we are going to find some particularly interesting species. We are really going to town on the frogging there and have a nocturnal pitfall trap, a whole array of artificial refugia and some brilliant trails that we can use for our active searches. It won’t be too long before we get hold of some really cool frogs! We have also found a great pond in the local village that just happens to be over run with Phyllomedusa azurea a really funky tree frog with bright orange tiger striped legs. Not only is this a new species for this area it is also the first of the genus too. I can’t wait to get out there again to discover more exciting species (only 6 hours ‘till dark!).

Our second new volunteer is Suzie who arrived last night and will be looking at the flowers here at the reserve. She has come with a lot of knowledge and some great kit so we are looking forward to seeing her herbarium when it’s complete. That’s one of the great things about this place; we can happily find a variety of tasks for volunteers who just want to help out in general or we can assist people who have a project in mind but don’t have the time to do an internship.

Speaking of people coming to do their own projects last weekend we hosted a field trip of around 40 Paraguayan students from Asunción. Now I won’t pretend that it wasn’t extremely hard work and I did take multi-tasking to a whole new level. But what fun! It was so great to have so many enthusiastic and motivated students here all participating in different activities. In the morning there were bird surveys, mist netting and small mammal trapping, afternoons included butterfly surveys and evenings we were mist netting for bats and we had the moth light out (you never know we might get another C. cerina...). It was so lovely to have the place buzzing with people and as they were camping in front of the house it was a little bit like looking over a mini festival. A great few days with new friendships made!

Next week is going to be packed with more frogging so watch this space there is going to be some really cool stuff coming up, in fact better still get yourself out here and you can get involved too!

Until next time

Helen

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