April 27, 2013

Happy World Tapir Day!

Image 1.1 - Tapir-themed jungle cake
The 27th of July is world tapir day. Last year I became aware of this event through a tapir-obsessed friend of mine, Michael Natt (who's birthday it also happens to be – hippy barfday!). Now that I am living in a place tapirs are native to, I thought it would be appropriate to celebrate this day here at the Timburi Cocha research station with a tapir-themed jungle cake (Image 1.1) and to dedicate these bizarre mammals a blogpost.

Image 1.2 - Quick world tapir card to celebrate the occasion. © X O'Reilly

April 18, 2013

Recession... In Timburi Cocha

I made the collage bellow in November when things weren't so good here in Timburi. The research station was suffering some funding issues, and all the consequences that entails.

We're fine now, but for a while things were pretty tight. However, I will admit that some of the statements in the collage are a wee bit exaggerated – but you get the picture!

April 10, 2013

Camtrapping: The jaguar and the anteater

When you are doing a camera trap project in the Neotropical rainforest, a part of you expects to get all sorts of exotic wildlife, like big cats and fancy herbivores. Really, what you more often end up with, is a lot of rodents and the same deer species, with some birds and the occasional carnivore.

After a while camera trapping in pre-determined random places (science, go figure), you still pray that you'll get something large, new, and exciting, but at the same time have resigned to expecting the same species over and over, hoping that you'll at least catch an agouti with a funny pose or a brocket deer pulling a face.

Nonetheless, it's always great to look through the latest catch my camtraps have to offer. The locals who work with me (and whoever they may have been talking to about the camera traps) are equally fascinated to see the pictures, even if the animals are more familiar to them than to I. I realise that this is usually because they realise where they can now hunt the animals.

Yesterday I retrieved the last of the data from the secondary forest grid of my project, and was more than thrilled to see the photos below. A jaguar (a fat one at that!), Panthera onca, and a giant anteater, Myrmecophaga tridactyla. Even some locals I spoke to had to see the jaguar photo to believe it was so close (to somebody's finca). I expected that if I were ever to catch a shot of one, it would be during the primary forest part of my project.

Now all I need are some tapir photos and my life will be complete. Although, finishing my data collection on time would be nice as well!

Image 1 - Jaguar, Panthera onca. Camera trap picture taken in Payamino transitional forest.

April 6, 2013

El momento más terrorífico de mi vida (y mi primer blog en español)

La semana pasada, tuve la experiencia más terrorífica que puedo recordar. Quizá leyendo esto parecerá que simplemente no he tenido ninguna ocasión incómoda en mi vida; si es así, si parece que nomás me hago la quejicas, es porqué mi vocabulario no alcanza hacerle justicia a la instancia.

Bueno, tampoco es cuestión de darle una introducción que tampoco se merece, por no acabar con un anticlímax.

April 3, 2013

Birds of Ecuador

As I mentioned in a previous post, I've never been that big on birds – except penguins, but subconsciously I think my brain does not want to acknowledge them as birds. I'm not sure why, especially given my obsession with dinosaurs, the only living representatives of which are the Aves of today.

In my second year of Zoology at the University of Manchester, I became extremely interested in bird physiology, especially their respiratory physiology, and the evolution of avian flight. And I've occasionally painted birds: they're pretty and they sell well.

Only recently (now that I live in an avian hotspot) have I started really started to appreciate their diversity and make a genuine effort to understand their taxonomy.

Here in the Ecuadorian Amazon I have been conducting a camera trap studies on mammals for several months now, and am considering switching the theme to medium-to-large terrestrial vertebrates, on account of the amount of bird species and individuals setting my cameras off.

Below are some of the images obtained with camera traps, as well as others I have taken with my normal digital camera. A lot of the identification I managed myself thanks to the excellent field guide "The Birds of Ecuador" (Ridgely and Greenfield), but only after my trusted birder-friend and fellow Payamino researcher Carly Aulicky identified about half my photographs and camera trap pictures! (Thank you Carlyta!)


Image 0 - White-throated toucan, Ramphastos tucanus – with nest!