General update + camera trap flop

Sitting in hotel reception wondering if there's any coffee in this milk. Been suffering from caffeine withdrawal symptoms ever since crawling out of the jungle and into town. You'd think there'd be coffee in every eatery in South America (or I did) – not the case, unfortunately; not in Ecuador at least.



Tamara, Sue, Rachel, and I are currently in Coca (officially known as Puerto Francisco de Orellana), our hub of civilisation for the next 10 months, in mine and Tamara's case. It's an interesting town, large and relatively well stocked, in respect to what I had imagined in terms of supplies and services. Then again, my expectations were not particularly high.

Since being in Ecuador, I have occupied myself by studying on a field course and then helping out on another. In terms of field work, this has mostly involved looking for frogs, scurrying up and down the hills of the Bellavista Cloudforest Reserve, and climbing trees in the rainforest, collecting and counting the critters within bromeliads (more on that soon).

Recently I also set up some camera traps. One of the things I intend to do during my time in Payamino is monitor what mammals are present within the Sumaco Napo-Galeras reserve. The cameras that are out at the moment are on a test run, to see how they work. It would also just be cool to get some shots of mammals even if these preliminary pictures can't be used as project data – so we've left some bait out. In the cloudforest with the rest of the field course group, a park ranger showed us camera trap pictures of a puma and a spectacled Andean bear, which had been lured in by the smell of vanilla. So, Adam (PhD candidate and field course staff) soaked a pair of sponges in vanilla essence and mounted them on a stick. 

Unfortunately, the below image shows the only mammal caught close to the bait.



Somebody once told me that everything in the jungle loves peanut butter. So, given the popularity of the vanilla, I coated the sponges in crunchy peanut butter. Again, the only mammal the cameras photographed was human, when returning to recollect the SD cards.

At least we know the cameras work though! Currently writing-up the project design according to which I will use the cameras properly – no cheating with bait (not that that's been successful thus far). One would hope that will be more successful!

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