Saturday, January 30, 2010

Constant Vigilance

Be careful who you let in your bedroom, they might bite you.
When it comes to bedroom guests, looks can sometimes be deceiving. But sometimes, they are exactly who they look to be... for better or worse.

This needs no further proof when Scolopendra angulata is discovered beneath your resting laundry...

Thankfully, it was sufficiently ill to allow removal and, in turn... a full hour of prodding and photo-shooting before being chucked into the shrubbery.

Jaws of death. Or at least jaws of excruciating pain. The result of all this? Not a whole lot... just that I am a little less enthusiastic about walking to the potty in the pitch black.

In the words of Mad-Eye Moody... CONSTANT VIGILANCE.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Seed of Chucky

Thankfully, in the wilds of Puerto Rico there are fairly few life threatening creatures - there are no jaguars, there are no bushmasters, there are fairly few murderous fellows. Thus, when I am trodding through the forest on a daily basis, I can afford to be a bit more reckless. I can stick my foot behind a root or slide down a hill on my butt.... but I'm starting to learn that there are new perils, perils I had never ever considered. Yes. I have borne witness to a new and deadly foe.

And so the story begins...

A couple days ago I was going down a stream bed to a survey point with my field partner. We had passed under barbed wire fences and descended into relative remoteness, and as we did so I thought to myself that if I were anywhere else, I would be somewhat concerned for my life. Something might attack me. But nay... here there are no creatures in the woodland depths any larger than a rat. Nothing can surprise me. Or so I thought. As I came into a clearing by the streamside I came across a most startling discovery. It was this:

What the...? Okay, an abandoned house isn't that strange, but wait, there's something weird about these horses, besides the fact that they are approaching me rapidly. Let me look closer at that white one.

Uh. And this one t00?

At first I wasn't certain what was going on. Were these members of a rare, barbie race of forest pony? Had the Rastafarians crossed from Jamaica and infiltrated the equines?

Well... kind of! The truth is this. As one came to feed on my shirt, I got a close look at its perm. They had suffered from an attack of seed pods. Sticking their heads deep into the grasses, they had emerged worse for the wear.
I have grown accustomed to having a ton of seed pods clinging to my legs when I return to the house. I spend a few minutes using my humanoid fingers to pull them off... and by the end I'm even vaguely enjoying the whole process. But these horses, afflicted with the same plight, are unable to groom themselves and in turn have become ostracized hermits.

But, seriously, let's not be too hard on them. It looks pretty good doesn't it?

Monday, January 18, 2010

A Picture Says a Thousand Words

We should all bow to cliches.

But I often feel pressure to avoid them in conversation, knowing that I'll be scoffed at for being cliche. But then I realize that they are what they are for a reason... They have a reputation, an automatic reaction, because they always hit close to home. You know, if the shoe fits wear it! Where there's smoke, there's fire!

One such cliche is A picture says a thousand words. So, what can I do but prove it? Here are some Puerto Rican photos, with a few spare comments... you know, something to sink your teeth into. Remember that you can click on the photos to make them bigger!

The first two photos are from the back porch of our "research station." AKA, two apartments connected by a balcony in the town of Playa Santa. Anyways, this balcony is the icing on top of some terrific accomodations, full of wireless internet, showers, satellite TV, air-conditioning... things I usually only dream of while working jobs like these. Anyways, the balcony is perfect for birding, relaxation, work, whatever. But most importantly, a breeze and natural lighting.

We will continue the tour with some looks at the rest of the island... or at least what I have seen so far. The picture below is facing north, with the mountainous center of the island visible. There doesn't seem to be many flat spots in this place, its volcanic past has left it hilly and winding.

The final sequence of photographs will be from up in the mountains. Here, unlike in the dry forests of our home, there is often dense cloud cover and rain showers, and because of this... there is rain forest. The trees are full of color and fruit with coffee plantations scattered amongst them.

Below is the famous breadfruit, or pana... a staple of the tropical diet worldwide.

Oh... and don't forget the beaches.

So, that's it for now. We all know Rome wasn't built in a day! But don't fret there is more coming. You can count on it, lock stock and barrel.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Possessed As a Gun Charge

There has been a long break since I last posted and there are a few things you should know. First, you can kiss substitute teaching goodbye and can send all the Carolina muttering into the sunset. Second, it is a new year. Third, I'm still the same.

NEways...I am now operating in Puerto Rico. Before I begin the documentation, I better give U some backdrop, just in case u are clueless, as in, geographically challenged, as in... where is Puerto Rico? Thanks to Google and the South Plains Church of Christ missionary trips website, I found a map online to show you.

Here is a zoom in.

I am in the SW at the Guanica forest on the map. This side of the island is the dry side not the jungle side, due to the rain shadow caused by the central mountain ranges. Dryness is goodness when the days are upper 80s and sunny, and especially so while perched along the Caribbean shores. The hillsides are covered in dry forest, a conglomeration of prickles, pods, and compound leaves... The towns are filled with caramel skin, surf boards, and wandering dogs... The countryside full of cattle, bananas, and rusting history.

Now... the next question to be flushed out of the brush is this: What am I doing here? Well, technically, I am... working with birds. Shocker! But still not specific enough. The goal of our work is this: to assess the habitat viability in the area between Guanica and Susua Forests.. to see if there is movement of individuals between the forests, and to see if connecting the two through a corridor is possible, or if birds are already moving fluidly between them. So, we spend the mornings going to points in between the forests, counting what we hear or see. More or less. Later in the Spring I will be assisting with two other related projects, including using telemetry to track the movements of Puerto Rican Bullfinches in the area.

Soooooo, all this background stuff was just for the most inquisitive folk. My posts won't be all about the birds, they'll be about everything... that oddment in the grocery store, that peculiarity in the hills, that online meditation.

All I can promise is that you won't be waiting long.