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domingo, 29 de enero de 2012

A new wave of volunteers, fantastic foxes, a giant snake and an opossumarama!

Hi everyone,

It’s been all go here for the last couple of weeks; we have had a wave of new volunteers join us at Laguna Blanca. Augusta, Jonny and Marcela all arrived on the same day – the same bus in fact which is pretty impressive considering they were coming from the UK, Buenos Aires and Asunción! In the same week we also had a couple come all the way from the Czech Republic, Andrej and Katerina came for 5 days as part of their 2 week annual holiday. Needless to say they wanted to cram in as much as possible so we used their stay as a great opportunity for everyone to have a go at surveying as many taxa as possible. In those 5 days we went bird watching, smammal (small mammal) and reptile trapping, frogging and camera trapping. I think everyone’s highlight was frogging and it was great for me to have such a big group of interested people to show some of our amazing amphibians to.

Jonny, Augusta and Marcela are all here to volunteer on specific projects, Jonny will be taking the lead on our new capuchin project. Augusta is working on our long term study of Clyomys sp. out in the cerrado and Marcela is working on our Lepidoptera inventory. We were also fortunate enough to have Sergio with us to help get Marcela’s work off the ground. Sergio is an expert on Lepidoptera despite being only 22!

We have been having so much fun with our camera trap recently. One of the ways we are being most successful is by collecting all of our cooked kitchen scraps – that don’t go on the compost (the garden is coming along great by the way) and waiting a few days for it to get really smelly and then using it as bait. Not the most pleasant job it has to be admitted but very effective. We have some lovely shots of seriemas (an extremely elusive bird species that are similar to secretary birds from Africa), some great close ups of agoutis (like guinea pigs on stilts!) and most recently and most exciting a pair of crab eating foxes that you would almost think were showing off for the camera! We are placing it in a new location later today and we have some new ideas up our sleeves – I’ll let you know if they are a success...!

Do you ever have one of those moments when you do some thing really well and there is no one around to notice? Exactly that happened to me the other day when a massive black snake was in our kitchen. I wasn’t at all sure what it was but it couldn’t stay hiding behind the cereal cupboard so I decided to have a go at catching it in the hope that at best it would escape outside. However I managed to bag it straight away without any hassle or bother and was there anyone around to witness this amazing Steve Irwin moment? No of course not! Once I had a chance to cool it down a bit I got some photos and sent them over to Paul our scientific co-ordinator. Turns out it was a Hydrodynastes gigas, or false water cobra, a non-venomous but highly aggressive species. I wonder if I would have been so confident if I had known this before I tried to catch it!! It was however a new species for our inventory and so we took it as a specimen for the museum – when I eventually found something big enough to put it in!

And finally I am back out every morning checking my traps. This time however the target isn’t reptiles and amphibians it’s opossums. Because I keep finding new and exciting species for the reserve in my pitfall traps we have decided to step up the search and see if we can create a really comprehensive list of opossum species we have here. Therefore my trapping arrays have evolved from simple bucket traps to Sherman traps too. It’s a lot of work but I can’t pretend I don’t enjoy it and love being back out there at the crack of dawn! More more more!!!

And I think that is everything I had to tell you this time so until February

Hasta Luego


sábado, 7 de enero de 2012

Large Animal Releases!

Hello folks,

Let me start by wishing you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. The end of 2011 really went out with a bang for us here at Laguna Blanca as we had an influx of large animals to add to our species inventory.

I think it is safe to say that the most exciting find for December was a southern tamandua (an arboreal anteater) we helped to rescue a few weeks ago. Karina and Jorge, one of our forest guards, were called to a local house where the family had it in their shed. They had caught it as it was up a tree looking lost and a bit distressed and they asked us to come and collect it. Needless to say we were more than happy to oblige and after a few false starts Karina and Jorge managed to get it secured in a sack and into the back of the car. We then took it out into an area of cerrado that borders the transitional forest and let it go. It was a little bewildered when we let it out of the bag but soon realised it could make a bid for freedom and off it went. If you would like to see a short film of the release you can watch it on you tube at:

But the anteater wasn’t the only large animal to add to our list, whilst out driving in the cerrado recently Karina managed to photograph 2 lesser grisons (a black and white mustelid that look similar to honey badgers in Africa). We caught an agouti on our camera trap and on New Years Eve I got a call from one of the forest guards to come and get a snake. This wasn’t that unusual as I often get called out for snakes, however I don’t usually have a 1.72m long boa constrictor to contend with! Actually this one was the model capture, slow and not even slightly aggressive it was easy to handle and get into a sack (which was lucky as I had an audience of about 10 people!). We released it that afternoon after finding a set of scales big enough to weigh it first (2.5kilos by the way)!

The animal releases didn’t end just because the year did. On the morning of New Years Day a fisherman appeared on the doorstep with a water bird for me. He was actually trying to sell it to me but when I explained that it would not be possible for me to give him any money for it because we don’t want to encourage people to catch animals in the reserve he was quite happy to give it to me anyway. We took some photographs and measured it and Paul our scientific co-ordinator identified it as a Pied Billed Grebe. Then later that day when the weather had cooled down a bit we took it to a nice sheltered spot by the lake and released it – but not before it gave Becky an indignant peck!

And finally, speaking of pecking (ok this is a really tenuous link) our burrowing owls are all doing really well. They have all mastered the art of flying and are really very tame, allowing us to get within about 2 meters and occasionally joining us on the porch of the volunteer house! Whilst this is lovely they have also discovered they can get an easy meal by steeling the moths from our moth light sheet, something they are not so welcome to do!

OK guys that’s all for this time and think, if you haven’t made a New Year’s Resolution yet maybe it should be to come and volunteer with us here in paradise!