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sábado, 21 de abril de 2012

A new order of amphibian, a very smelly entrance and our youngest ever volunteer!

“I’m not sure what this is but it’s, long, slimy and looks like it’s got two heads”. Well that got my attention! “Don’t move and don’t let it escape, we’re on our way” I replied racing to the car. We arrived to find that Maria’s description wasn’t so far from the creature we were looking at. About half a meter long and looking like a huge black earthworm we were delighted to find our first caecilian in the reserve. If this means nothing to you don’t worry, caecilians are a little known fossorial amphibian that spend most of their time underground so are fairly understudied. If you can’t quite visualise it, check out the photos on This was a great find and a really interesting addition to the collection. Well done to Kjell who spotted it. Kjell was a volunteer from Belgium who joined us for 3 days with his mother Lieve, and sister Keri. It’s the first time we have had a family volunteer with us and it was great to be able to offer this opportunity for them to all do some fieldwork together. While they were here we had the traps running so they joined me in checking them and on their second morning they went to look for the capuchins – and stayed with the troupe for about an hour! Although they were the first family we’ve hosted, already they’re not the last! The day we dropped them off we collected a family of five. Mick and Kath joined us with Tilly (15), Ned (13) and Tristen (2). Hosting a family with under 18s was a real experiment for us because we’re not an ecotourism project and so we were a little concerned there wouldn’t be enough appropriate activities for them all to get involved in. However as soon as they arrived it was clear this wasn’t going to be a problem. These guys are amazing; by the end of day 2 we had already dug in a new pitfall trap line (in record time I might add!) and even little Tristen was put to work handing out pieces of string! And they enjoyed their stay with us so much they extended their visit and are now undertaking a mini project on bat roosting sites in the reserve. It has been great hosting both families here and we have been so impressed by how everyone has got really stuck in. In addition to our families, we are pleased to welcome 2 new interns to Laguna Blanca. Nick and Noah are from The Netherlands and will be with us for 3 months to undertake a research project on opossums (which as you may know is of particular interest to me). It has to be said they get the prize for the smelliest entrance. They arrived with a dead crab eating fox that they found on the road to Santa Rosa! Unfortunately the skin was too damaged to prepare as a specimen for the museum, however now that we have the beetles we can collect the bones and have a full skeleton for the collection. It is currently buried in the garden and in a few months time we’ll exhume it and feed the bones to our dermestid beetles who will clean them without causing any damage. Welcome Nick and Noah and thanks for that unusual present! For those of you who have been following this blog you will have heard about the burrowing owls. Well these guys are still about but we now also have a new neighbour. There is a beautiful American Kestrel that has taken up residency somewhere in the garden and doesn’t seem in the slightest perturbed by a house full of noisy volunteers! Another exciting bird that we are hoping will stick around is the Chestnut-eared Araçari. On two consecutive days last week we saw a group of three around the museum and volunteer house. These relatives of the toucan are a really spectacular sight and the fact that they are becoming more at ease with people could be a sign that the reserve is doing its job and that hunting pressure is being relieved. And finally some lovely news from the capuchin project, Maria was out with them in the morning and managed to get a really clear sighting of a female with a newborn. This is fantastic news as not only are they breeding in the reserve but they are also allowing our researchers to get close enough to see them - a great step forward in our habituation of the group. Thanks for reading folks, see you next time Helen

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