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sábado, 22 de diciembre de 2012

The Cerrado by Jacqui Gunn

White sands dotted with patchy green islands of razor sharp bromeliads, fire proof trees and cacti as tall as a house - the cerrado, despite its hot dry aridness, has me entranced. At a glance it seems empty and devoid of wildlife, almost like the African Savannah without the herds of black and white stripes, but it only takes a few 5am bird mist netting sessions to appreciate that the wildlife is just very good at hiding. Like a fresh layer of snow, the sand after a heavy rain creates a fresh canvass for all who sneak in the darkness to be recognised. Hoof prints possibly from peccary or deer, mysterious burrows in the sand and scuttling amongst the dead leaves also indicates the presence of the illusive. A night time trek into the cerrado with a flash light would most likely reveal a pair of small haunting glowing spheres - the eyes of a bird belonging to the night jar family. Stunned by the lights you can get amazingly close before they flutter into the darkness. Bats are also busy in search of fruit and insects overhead. As the sun rises the dawn chorus begins, some of the more eager contenders get a tweet or a chirp in whilst the stars are still out. A distant knocking draws your eye to a dead tree protruding through its greener companions. The distinct hammer shaped head of a woodpecker can be seen as creeps up and down the trunk in search of grubs. Pairs of parakeets squawk noisily overhead in a flash of green, and higher still the turkey vultures wheel up high on thermals. Smaller perching birds flit from bush to bush being heard more than they are being seen. At a closer look amongst the green, you can find hidden treasures of bright pink and purple flowers. The cerrado wouldn't be the same place without the endless termite mounds and sandy trails of leaf cutter ants. The snipping can even be heard as the ants dismantle the leaves with their powerful jaws. Bullet ants are less organised but just as impressive, their size most appreciated when seen crossing the leaf cutter ant trails like a monster truck on a highway. Yesterday we had a very exciting delivery from a student who had visited Para la Tierra previously who had found a slightly unexpected house guest – a Southern naked tailed armadillo (Cabassous unicinctus). This is the first live specimen found in the country, a really important find for Laguna Blanca and for Paraguay. We jumped into the back of the Hilux and headed to the cerrado for some film making of the release. The volunteers and interns all got to hold it before we made a video for Para la Tierra, then released it into the cerrado. After everyone got their fill of photos the armadillo was placed on the ground and within seconds the armadillo dug its way into the sand and out of sight, leaving only a mound of disturbed sand as evidence. As the activities of the day come to an end, the cerrado puts on the most impressive encore. The burning orange and red skies amalgamate with the purple and blue until eventually the stars pierce through the blackness. Jacqui Gunn Para La Tierra Volunteer 2012

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