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sábado, 18 de febrero de 2012

Amphisbaenas bite! (Luckily the coral snake didn’t!)

Yes you guessed it guys, we caught another amphisbaena and yes it was me that got bitten! They look so docile with their little dog-like faces and tiny eyes, who would have thought that actually they have a very strong beak and aren’t afraid to use it? I now have two holes in one of my fingers where it drew blood. Actually it wasn’t very painful but was pretty amusing as it bit in and I couldn’t get it off. Being doubled over with laughter with a 40cm amphisbaena attached to your finger is not conducive to getting it photographed and back in the bag! Fortunately we know that they are not venomous but it was worth cleaning the wound with antiseptic once I finally managed to unhook it! (And yes typically I had an audience for the whole event!)

One thing I am really glad didn’t bite me was the coral snake JP found in the Atlantic forest. JP is a volunteer who joined us a week or so ago and shares my passion for herps. He is unstoppable and is always off hunting for snakes (or running around after butterflies – his other passion). Normally we don’t allow volunteers to go snake hunting on their own as it can be pretty difficult to identify a lot of them in the field. However JP has a vast amount of experience in snake surveying back home in South Africa and knows what to bag and what to leave well alone. So you are probably wondering why, if he is this experienced, he brought back one of the deadliest snakes we have in the reserve. The reason was that it wasn’t actually a coral snake. It was a mimic. The coral snakes we have here are a very brightly red with black and yellow stripes. The mimics are also these colours, but there are some subtle yet significant differences. The corals have virtually no neck and their head is not unlike a sausage, whereas the mimics have a clearly defined head and neck which makes them a touch prettier, (in my opinion at least). The markings are also much more fuzzy on the mimics where as the banding is clearly defined on the true corals. And, should you be confident enough to check their bellies (!) the bands stop on the underside of mimics whereas the true corals have complete banding across their ventral side. JP’s ability to correctly identify the snake he found meant that not only did he avoid handling an extremely venomous animal but he was also able to bring us another specimen for the museum. Good work JP.

This last fortnight has also been a sad one for us as we have had to say goodbye to two wonderful long term volunteers. Becky has now completed her research here and has left to spend a month exploring South America (very bravely on her own) and according to her last email she is currently freezing in Peru! Gemma our botany volunteer from Australia has also finished her work and is heading back to Australia in a few days time after taking in some of the museums and culture Asunción has to offer. It was great fun having them here and now they are gone the male to female ratio has switched and it’s just me and Augusta in the house with 3 boys!!! More girls please!

The burrowing owls are all doing well but are spending less and less time with us these days. We thought they had flown the nest (or burrow I should say) a few days ago but then they reappeared again. We are all bracing ourselves for the day they don’t return. However this is a happy/sad event. Happy, that all 5 have made it to adulthood and such a privilege for us to have them living so close to us, but obviously sad for us as we have become so attached to them. Good luck to the burrowing owls hopefully one will return with a mate next season to occupy the burrow again.

And finally if you want to see for yourself what Laguna Blanca looks like and who we are why not check out our new youtube channel http://www.youtube.com/user/ParaLaTierra. Admittedly most of the posts are of me getting very excited about the animals we catch here but I am trying to persuade more of the volunteers to get involved and talk about their projects on camera. They are still a little shy though! So apologies that it is a bit “Helen heavy” at the moment but I hope it will give you a taste of what we are up to and who knows might even persuade you to come out here and volunteer with us ;O)

Thanks for reading folks, until next time

Helen (aka the next David Attenborough!!!)

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