Saturday, September 26, 2009

Cloud Forest

We are in the cloud forest at Yanayacu again. Eric built a bat detector, and has brought a student from Catolica with him. Her name is Pamela, but she is called 'Guabita'. It comes from Guagua (which is Quichua for baby and the g is pronounced as a w), and because her little cousins could not pronounce the 'wawa' they called her 'Wabita' and thus her nickname evolved. She is doing her thesis on bats. Tom drove us in the 'camionetta' and I invited Amber, a student at Guayasamin Language school, who is trying to arrange a job guiding in an ecolodge. I thought she could make some contacts at Yanayacu, and may enjoy participating in the research, but the station turned out to be empty. All the volunteers and students and researchers were away for the weekend in Guayaquil. Harold is in the United States finishing up some work. Drew, his second in command is gone, and Jose, the next on the totem pole left for guiding work this evening ( although he did take us for a walk through the forest to show us where the plain tailed wrens are). The plan is to wake up early and catch some in nets, and record them as well.

So we are entirely alone at the research station. There are two men who may be paying attention to us, and the two dogs, Rain and Beans, are barking at anything that moves. It feels a little creepy to be the only researchers here, but it is also very peaceful and quiet and comfortable. We were moved up to the main building, where we have a room with a double bed and a smaller bed for Maya, which is a step up from last time we stayed. The kitchen was stocked this time with lots of fruits and vegetables. During our last visit, the cupboards were bare, and we scrambled to feed ourselves. Jose had just been to the market in Baeza this morning and was unloading the crates of produce just as we arrived. I had also raided our refridgerator before we left, and so we had more than enough to indulge in.

The bat detection project was not successful. Eric had worked all yesterday and most of the night to build an apparatus. But when setting it up here, he discovered that he was recording noises that most likely came from the generator, and could not find any bats when he chose a place near the caterpillar barn. Later Pamela and Amber encountered a bat at the back of the building and one recording was made, but I know Eric had hoped for much more than one recording. On the other hand, science is like that, much of the time experiments do not work as expected. We did hear the plain tailed wrens during our walk today, and Eric recorded them. The plan is to wake up very early in the morning and set up nets to catch them ( and kill them, look at their brains?) and record them singing. They are the birds which sing together, the male and female parts of the song so well blended that one cannot tell when the one ends and the other begins.
Jose is a birder, and so during our walk he was able to point out several birds. It is always amazing that the guides are able to see and identify birds and animals so well. There are birding ecolodges in the area (San Isidro and San Jorge) that are exclusively for birders. We saw a colourful tanager and a flycatcher. I saw a red breasted hawk, but no one else saw it so I am not sure that counts.

It feels good to be out of Quito for a few days. The air is clean and the sounds we hear are the songs of birds and dogs barking. The cloud forest is ethereal, magical, and very inviting.

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