Other Wildlife

Trip Start Jul 23, 2002
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28
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Trip End Jul 23, 2003


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Friday, March 28, 2003

Not all of the wildlife we saw at Bahuaja was mammalian or bird. One of the most common things we got to see where the insects, which were both constantly annoying (mosquitoes and sandflies) or amazing in their colours and diversity. The sizes of things was one thing that struck us, from tiny birds the size of your thumb, to huge butterflies, caterpillars, snails, etc that were much larger than what we were used to seeing. Some times they looked out of place, like snails bigger than coffee cups and spiders as big as plates (use your wellie to give pictures scale). That's one of the fascinating things about the forest, the diversity of life there, and how different things have become and unlike stuff elsewhere in the world. Every now and then we'd come across something new and it would be, come look at this, and then in some cases try and work out what it was, which could be a bit difficult with limited reference books.

The insects were in many cases some of the most interesting things we saw as they were common and came in a huge range of shapes, sizes and colours. There of course were lots and lots of mosquitoes that drove you mad at times when all you wanted to do was sit in the quiet and couldn't because you were constantly waving away mozzies. Along with the 1000's (literally) of bites accumulated over the 10 weeks that made you itch such that you didn't realise you were scratching after a while were 2 of the minor discomforts Bahuaja had as a balance to the beauty of the jungle.

Once you got looking past the mozzies, there were plenty of beautiful and interesting things to see, from the huge Morpho butterflies with their brilliant blues and purples, to insects that had withdrawable head and movements like caterpillars while not being one. And then there were the Rhino beetles that kept getting caught in the nets, as well as the iridescent beetles and flies, and the huge weevils. And of course there were the caterpillars with their fabulous colours and spines, with some interesting (huge) ones appearing on the beach one day. While we were there, a new project was starting up with INRENA looking at the butterfly diversity of the site and one of the Vols got to stay on for another phase to work on that - and hopefully her butterfly catching technique improved from the first mashed banana attempt which lost out to soap on the beach.

Then there were all the ants, from the Isula with their inch or more long bodies and painful bites, which Simon was unlucky enough to experience, to the leaf cutters. Sometimes you'd come across a leaf cutter trail and there'd be hundreds of metres of ants all carrying their piece of leaf back to the nest. Every now and then one of the ants will have bitten off more than it could carry and would be struggling along with this large piece (in comparison to ant size) of leaf which was falling over all the time. You'd see their trails heading up and down trees and along paths, and on one of the trails there was a nest which had grown from a single small opening to a 5m square area in a couple of years. Industrious animals that's for sure. Other times you'd come across ant trails which went to hundreds of metres, 5-10 ants wide meandering through the forest - quite often those ants would have orange or yellow bottoms making them a bit more obvious.

It wasn't all insects though with a fair share of snakes showing up, and I suspect a much larger number of them being walked right past without being noticed. The most obvious example of that was with a Fer-de-lance on the beach that we'd all walked past and been swimming a couple of metres away from until someone noticed it - and that was a snake that would cause a few complications out here, especially since the boat was up river. During our time there we came across snakes in various places, be it in the roof of the comedor, in Jose's bedroom, in the garden, on the beach, on the mirador as we were settling in there for work with bats, and just in the forest as we were walking around. They are such wonderful creatures for just disappearing into the forest, and the only ones we really saw were the ones who came into 'our' world for a visit.

And then of course there were the spiders, the most obvious ones being our tarantula friends. Baz was the resident in the comedor and he provided some entertainment with his odd emergence from behind the beam onto the roof itself. One night was spent watching his attempts to catch a moth, which he finally succeeded in, with some assistance from the spectators below. After directing the moth back in his direction, he stood out on a couple of his legs, grabbed it and then shortly afterwards dropped it too the floor - couldn't have tasted too good. In our bedroom we also had Woderick and Woderick Jr who would every now and then make an appearance into the bedroom proper before promptly disappearing from sight again (we hoped back into the roof). My most unexpected encounter with one of the Tarantulas happened in the bog in the middle of the night. Lifted up the roll of toilet paper, and out dropped a tarantula which wasn't quite what I was expected at that moment. Keeps things interesting though.

One of the least enjoyable encounters with the wildlife was with a wasp nest. We were clearing a bamboo plot and I swung the machete and cut through a piece of bamboo which then fell into the surrounding bush. Very shortly afterwards there was a buzzing around my head (not anything too unusual, but louder than normal). And then came the stings - I'd managed to disturb a big nest of rather large and angry wasps. After a bit of swearing and running around I got the one out of my shirt collar and got away from there with only four stings. After a bit of bite treatment the boys went back there and found that the area also had a scorpion and tarantula in it, and this was after almost putting a tree in an Isula ant nest. Within a half hour my neck had swollen and wouldn't move properly which limited the activities for the afternoon. And then a week later I got stung again after Simon disturbed a nest on the path. Not a bit fan of the wasps I've decided.
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