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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

Helen

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