Tag Archives: camera trap

Day 7: Upping the Ant-e; Las Cuevas Sends us Off in Style

Today was as crazy of a last day as we could’ve hoped for. I woke up at a luxurious 6:45 since I couldn’t do the bird tower hike with the rest of the gang because of my knee. Once they came back we ate dinner and reconvened to start picking up the camera traps we set out 4 days ago. We went along the Monkey Trail, Saffron Trail, San Pastor and 50 Hecatre plot to pick up our traps. Along the way, we saw a brown anole and a golden turtle beetle, both of which were really cool. I also saw a harvestman of the same round body species that I’ll have to look up and an unidentified species of orb weaver spider.

A Leaf Cutter Ant Queen

We came back, ate lunch, and spent a little time catching up on notebooks and listening to music on the deck. We met up with the group from Southern Mississippi to go on leaf cutter excavations, led by the one and only Scott Solomon. He led us into the Monkey Trail where we spent some time excavating the 1-year old nest. After digging around the hole for a while, we were able to see the fungus chamber and extract the fungus ball and the queen ant, which was enormous. We walked along saffron to the giant leaf cutter nest from before, where we spent a while excavating the side of the hill. The Southern Mississippi group left for dinner, but we continued excavating until we ran into the garbage disposal chamber and felt the heat from the decomposing trash they had left.

We came back, showered, and had dinner before heading to the activity we were the most excited about: checking the camera traps. Everyone tried to have low expectations, but it was obvious that we had high expectations. In the first camera traps alone, we spotted a tapir and a jaguar before coming across herds of peccaries, curassows, a 9-ringed armadillo, a coatimundi, two pumas, another jaguar, a rat, a snake, and a lot of photos of ourselves. I don’t think I’ve ever been more excited flipping through photos on a screen. All of us were extremely surprised and really excited about the results that we found, even though our initial hypothesis about off-trail sights being more rich, abundant, and diverse was incorrect. After that, we worked on our blogs and packed up to prepare for saying goodbye to Las Cuevas.

Arachnids found: Orb Weaver of an unidentified species on 50-hectare plot on a web with striped legs and a green back. Large wolf spider in the leaf litter that scurried around, looked like the Allocosa family. Florida Bark Scorpion, under the stairs of the lecture room with babies on her back. Another Florida Bark Scorpion on the deck of the dorms, froze when we got close.

All Bark No Bite

Day 3: We Got a Few Ticks Up Our Sleeves

I woke up bright and early at 5:15 to bird watch, where we saw oropendolas, a flock of Red Lore parrots, and a friendly bee that loved Elena’s hair. All these sightings were pretty expected but were really cool nonetheless. We ate a nice breakfast of eggs, beans, and journey cakes which I didn’t really eat because I’m still feeling a little queasy. We went up to the lecture hall and Scott gave us a briefing on Camera Traps. We had a quick discussion on some ideas for the traps and, after a long deliberation, we decided on testing how the presence of trails affects mammal presence and abundance.

An Orb Weaver Spider Web Chilling in The Trees

We set off on our hike at 9:30ish and headed down the Monkey Trail, up the Saffron Trail and then down the San Pastor road. Along the way, we ran into a boa constrictor chilling on the forest floor and a huge leafcutter nest, which gave all of us a jump. We came back for lunch, ate some rice and plantains, and headed back out on the 50-hectare plot. We set up our last two camera trap pairs and spotted a zombie ant on a fern. We came back, I showered quickly, then Rafael M. director of the FDC gave us a talk on the conservation efforts on the region, which was really fascinating. We ate dinner and headed to the lecture room for talks, which I gave on arachnids, Elena gave on ants, and Claire gave on the Paradox of Tropical Soils. Afterwards, we all headed to the dining room to work on these blogs!

Arachnids spotted: a wolf spider in the leaf litter of the Saffron Tree-unidentified species; Wolf spider mother on San Pastor Road, spotted by Adrienne with eggs on her back; Unidentified red mite on breakfast table; Many many chigger bites on Veronica, Jessica, and Adrienne (RIP); Almost everyone got a tick bite, including me, under my watch – they hurt; Red Rumps in the clearing by the lecture hall that scurried back into their holes after they saw us.

Can you spot the spider?

All of these are expected, unfortunately, but still really cool.


Day 7: Oh my gosh a cat

DSCN1887 DSCN1893

The people from the other school caught two birds in the morning. One was a Slaty Antwren and the other was possibly a Red Throated Ant-Tanager. Both were very pretty birds.

After breakfast we went out and collected our camera traps. We did the whole 13 mile hike again, and like Scott and Adrienne promised, the second time around was much easier. After lectures, we opened up our camera traps and looked at the images they captured. In the beginning, everyone was super hopeful. There was a small bird that appeared on two close locations. And a Great Curassow on another. Other than that we just caught a lot of pictures of the other group that is here. People. Some more people. We were becoming less and less optimistic. But alas, on one of the last few traps we managed to get a picture of Tapir, which is extremely rare and endangered. Scott seemed really happy. On the last trap, which was mine, there were pictures of an Agouti and an Ocelot. That was really awesome. Scott confessed that he didn’t think the spot I picked was going to yield any good pictures. So i was pretty happy to prove him wrong.

Almost forgot. On the way to collect the traps we actually caught a glimpse of a Great Curassow on the Monkey Tail Trail. it was a lot bigger than I was expecting. All in all, pretty awesome day. Saw some cool birds, got an elusive cat picture. And of course, we got a picture of an endangered animal. How great is that?!


Camera Traps

Our 13 mile hike in the rainforest, up and down hills, was the most physically exerting thing I’ve done in a long while, but it left me full of endorphins and with pleasantly sore muscles. We hiked all this way to set up 12 camera traps that will take pictures every time they detect movement over the next 5 days, until we collect them again. Hopefully this will let us see some of the more shy animals of the rainforest. We also found several interesting insects, spiders, and birds over the course of the day.

Amphibian update: we found some tadpoles in the muddy reservoir left by a car tire. Not an ideal spot but the dry season is coming to an end and there aren’t many options left for frogs and toads in the area, who need water to reproduce. More excitingly, I saw my first treefrog of the trip this afternoon. Adrienne masterfully caught it and held onto it long enough for me to snap a picture and identify it. After some consideration we positively identified it as a Common Mexican treefrog. It was large, at least 2.5 inches, and a shade of grey with green tinges. Once we were able to see its back, its species was obvious. It had the telltale darker splotches on a grey-brown body. At first its dark-eye patch threw me off but amphibians can be highly variable in coloration within a population and aren’t always a reliable form of identification.

Map of Las Cuevas

Mexican Treefrog

Sophia Streeter


Day 7: Collecting Camera Traps

Today we spent the day collecting the 12 camera traps that we placed on day 3. We got a much earlier start than we got when we were putting the traps up, which meant that we were able to collect them all before it got dark. We were done at 3:30pm and made it back before dark, unlike last time.

After we got back, we looked through all of the pictures that our cameras had gathered. Unfortunately one of our camera’s battery died soon after we placed it, and seven of our cameras didn’t get any pictures of wildlife (unless you count very tired and dirty humans). As we scrolled through picture after picture of leaves moving and humans crossing the camera, our hopes dwindled. Luckily we were able to catch some animals. Two of our cameras caught what seemed to be the same bird species, and maybe even the same individual. Another camera caught a curassow, which is a very large black bird. But by far our most exciting sights were a tapir, ocelot, and agouti. Knowing that these animals were so close to where we had walked and spent time is almost unreal. It is strange to think about how many animals are roaming the area right by where we are but always just out of sight.

Tree species that I noticed today were the bayleaf palm (Sabal mauritiiformis) and the bay cedar (Guazuma ulmifolia). I also noticed a branch and a seedpod on the ground that were covered in dense brown spines. Each spine was about half an inch long. Based on the resources that I have, my best guess is that the species was Bactris major, but I am not sure that my analysis of the species is correct.