Firstly we’ve had to say goodbye to Jess and Dave, our Australian volunteers who joined us for a week, but not before they worked wonders around the reserve. What with those two, the Irish girls and not to mention all of the other volunteers and interns we have here, we got a remarkable amount done in the space of just one week. Last week we; built a second compost bin for the garden, created a horse proof fence for one of my pitfall trap lines, repaired all of the damaged pitfall traps, gathered, cut and placed tins out for snake traps, wired up a booster so we now get the internet at the volunteer house, dug in traps for Augusta’s Clyomys project and all took a trip down memory lane with David Bowie’s Labyrinth! And this was on top of having two trapping arrays open and running and everyone else’s projects too. Ten points for effort to all of our wonderful volunteers!
Dropping off Jess and Dave in Santa Rosa didn’t mean we were two volunteers down though, on the contrary as soon as we said goodbye to them we immediately picked up three more! Davina and Scratch are from the UK and decided to join us for a week as part of their tour of South America (the third group of volunteers to do this in as many weeks - word is clearly getting out!). Declan, our third arrival, is also from the UK and is here for 3 months to do an internship. He probably has the sexiest project to date as he will be responsible for systematically camera trapping the reserve. (And yes it is ok to be green with envy – I am!). If that wasn’t enough not only does he have this fantastic project but in his pilot run he caught a small feline on one of his traps!!! This is a very significant find, as it proves there are still felines in the reserve and opens up numerous opportunities for further study.
Shortly after these volunteer’s arrival we collected Rich; another intern who will be with us for four months. Rich’s project is of particular interest to me as he undertaking a behavioural study on the Microteiid lizards I have been catching in my pitfall traps on a regular basis. I have been trying to get his project off the ground myself for about six months and intend it to be a long-term large-scale investigation, but I simply haven’t had the time to get it started. Rich is also pleased that his project is of such importance to PLT as his results should pave the way for further investigation into these lizards. A classic example of how important volunteers and interns are to PLT, we simply couldn’t do what we do without them!
Although we have been saying hello to all our new volunteers we have also had some farewells to say too. JP our amazing lepidoptera and herpetofauna volunteer has finished his stay here and is heading back to the UK this weekend. JP was an absolute star and a pleasure to have around the camp and we will certainly miss him coming running into the house with “something interesting” in his hand - an amphisbaena for example! JP did wonders with our herp and lepidoptera collection; he collected 16 specimens of reptiles and literally hundreds of butterflies and moths. I know that he won’t want to accept all the credit for this though as he had our three Irish volunteers, Emma, Laura and Yvonne helping him to set, catalogue and display all of the butterflies he collected. We would have had a real backlog of specimens in the freezer if it wasn’t for these three and their sheer determination to get this job done. Thank you so much to all four of them for the excellent work they did with this collection. And after a three week stay the girls left Laguna Blanca alongside JP – if you remember from last time they arrived only planning to stay for three 3 days!
Now, we had a very interesting report last weekend and we are tentatively optimistic that we may have anaconda in the reserve. An Australian tourist was out walking one of our trails Mboijagua (which actually means anaconda in Guaraní) when he saw an extremely large, yellow snake; in actual fact he saw two! If they were anaconda they would have been juveniles but based on his description there is no other snake it could have been. We can’t base too much on this at this stage but if they are there we feel it will only be a matter of time before someone sees them again. Cameras at the ready people!
And finally autumn is creeping in here at Laguna Blanca, the nights are getting cooler and the nocturnal noises are abating. The small mammals seem to be getting more active too which is making our surveys more interesting and I have been catching opossums on a daily basis in my traps. It will be interesting to see what else appears now the seasons are changing.
And I think that is all I have to tell you about this time, such an amazing fortnight with a great bunch of people. I wonder what the next 2 weeks will bring…