Today was a long day. We did two research projects, hiked to the Bird Tower, and night hiked (back from the Bird Tower). Most importantly, we saw snakes!
The first research project had to do with the effect that hurricane disturbance has on plant diversity. Hurricanes, which are common in tropical places like Belize, cause treefall and canopy gaps that allow fast-growing/good-dispersing “pioneer species” to grow. We used a method I’ve never done before, the line-intersect transect method, to count individual plants for 22 sample sites across disturbed and undisturbed places along the Bird Tower Shortcut trail, ultimately finding a difference not in diversity but in community composition. The second project has to do with the relationship between Azteca Ants and Cecropia trees, but we haven’t finished that one yet.
It was while sampling the Cecropia trees that we found our first reptiles of the day. Dr. Solomon almost caught a yet-to-be-identified Teiid lizard (I’m pretty sure based on head size/shape) that had a beautiful blue underside. Then we saw a teeny tiny beige snake curled up in the dirt/root tangle of a tree that had been knocked down. Apparently there was also a black snake with yellow stripes earlier on the hike, but I didn’t see it.
Late in the day we hiked to a place called the Bird Tower. The hike was pretty long and steep for most of the way, so frankly it wasn’t my favorite. The view from the tower was cool though: high above the canopy you could see mist over the mountains in the distance and the tops of all of the trees mingling together. The walk back from the tower was a night hike, so also steep but now dark and going downhill this time. On the hike back we saw a super small Jumping Viper (Atropoides mexicanus) in the leaf litter that half our group accidentally stepped over without even noticing.
Get excited! Tomorrow we’re going to collect all of the camera traps from our first day in the rainforest and see what they’ve been capturing while we’ve been adventuring.
UPDATE: Based on the field guides, we’re pretty sure the Teiid lizard we saw was a Middle American Ameiva (Ameiva festiva), based on general description and known range, and the small balled-up beige snake was a False Lancehead (Xenodon rabdocephalus), based on size and color pattern (5/20/19).