Tag Archives: hike

Day 5: creatures of the night

Today was night hike day.

One of the insane sunsets we saw.

After sunset (pictured above), we had an opportunity to go out into the rainforest, and this was quite the adventure. As you would imagine the rainforest is foreign and unforgiving already in the daytime, but in the nighttime it takes up a different sort of personality—a more threatening one, and for the first time I felt slightly un-safe while cruising the trails. My general disregard for the danger of animals helps me feel safe in the jungle when the sun’s out, but at night even I started feeling hints of fear.

We saw many spiders and many crickets. The crickets were plentiful. I saw at least four that were large, maybe 5 cm, with long antennae often the size of their body. They were shiny and easy to spot in the dark. I also saw a surprisingly large amount of monkey grasshoppers, five in total. This is surprising since grasshoppers tend to be diurnal. I also saw katydid nymphs with very strange morphology, longer-limbed than their adult sizes, pictured to the right next to a monkey grasshopper picture.

One of the many monkey grasshopper I saw on the night hike; note how it’s not as colorful as the ones I saw by day.
A katydid nymph with a very strange pronotum and very long legs and antennae.

Once again there was a moment of total darkness, as we all turned off our lights and stood in the rainforest. It was different from the cave—more alive. We stood in the darkness for a few minutes, and the stars  shone above a lot brighter than they ever are in Houston, or anywhere else. We spent the rest of the night watching the stars off the staircase of the station, talking and listening to the sounds of the rainforest.

Off Roading (Day 11)

Today was the day I was looking forward to the least out of this whole trip, the day where we set up the camera traps. I had read some of the blogs from last year, and they said they hiked thirteen miles. Luckily, we did not go that far

We decided to use the camera traps to test whether there was differences in the abundances of big cats and of big cats’ prey on the trails versus in the forest. We did this by placing three traps on the 50 Hectare Trail and four on the Monkey Tail Trail. Also, for each camera we placed on the trail, we placed another one 300ft into the forest for a total of fourteen camera traps. Scott Solomon did not tell us until we set the last trap that no group had ever used that many before.

One of the fourteen (!!) camera traps we set.

As we were finding our way out of the forest after setting the very last trap we got a little bit turned around, and dusk was just starting to fall. A large portion of the trek back to Las Cuevas was really dark. We saw a small tommygoff snake in the dark, which was a little spooky because I would have not noticed it had Damien not pointed it out, and it is the most dangerous snake in Belize.

Other things we saw on the hike were a Mexican Porcupine, Scorpion Eater Snake, Blue Morpho Butterflies, a mantis molt, a wheel bug, and a mammal skeleton. We also saw some cat scratch marks near where we set the traps, which seemed like a good sign.

A cool Wheel Bug we saw this morning.

I saw a few Orthoptera species today. One was the same Leaf Mimic Katydid that I’d already seen. The other hopped away too fast for me to identify it.

We are all tired and ridden with ticks from walking through the forest, so these traps best capture some really cool pictures. I want to see a tapir the most. Out of the cats, I’d like to see an ocelot the most, probably.

Final March of the Dive Booties (Day 10)

Today was the second to last travel day of our trip. We reached Las Cuevas and will stay here until the 30th when we’ll head back to the airport in Belize City.

The drive was mostly through the Pine Ridge Forest and the Chiquibul Rainforest. To break it up, we stopped in the Rio-On pools midmorning. This was for us to get an idea of the karstist geological features of Belize and to swim and enjoy ourselves.

At Rio-On, there were a lot of granite rocks with small pools and waterfalls between them. It was fun to scramble around on the rocks and try and slide down the waterfalls. We stayed there about twice as long as we were supposed to, but nobody seemed to mind.

Rio-On Springs. It was really fun to swim and climb around here.

When we got to Las Cuevas, we learned that the cave here is closed. The worst part of this is that we all brought caving helmets and we aren’t going to ever use them. At least we got to see the ATM cave already. We also learned that there isn’t Internet here, which is why all these posts are going to go up at once.

Shortly after arriving, we went on a short hike on a trail near the station. We saw ceiba, cedar, acacia, sapodilla, Gumbo-limbo, and prickly yellow trees. We also saw fish tail palms, a plant that is often illegally extracted by Guatemelons for the floral business.

I saw two species of Orthoptera, which surprised me. One I think was a species of Leaf-mimic katydid (Mimica spp.) The other one I couldn’t confidently identify yet but it might have been Amblytropidia trinitatis.

A Leaf-mimic Katydid.

Tomorrow we are forming a question that we are going to answer with camera traps, and we’re going to spend most of the day setting them up throughout the forest. I think it is going to involve a lot of walking, which I am not looking forward to because my foot still hurts from when I stepped on a conch.


Last day in the Chiquibul

We finished out the last day with another 13 mile hike to pick up all our camera traps. It took us about half the time it did on Thursday and I wasn’t nearly as tired. It’s amazing what your body can adjust to after just a few days. Even though I’m running on less sleep I feel great because of all the exercise and activity.

Checking the photos from camera traps was more exciting than you could possibly imagine. Most of it was nothing but when something popped up on screen we were elated. One of our cameras got a picture of a Tapir (!!!!) and another of an Ocelot (!!!!). Even though we only had a little taste of it I think I am starting to understand how difficult field work can be, but also how rewarding. I will miss the rainforest and all of its colors and scents and noises.

Even though we didn’t see many amphibians out here I didn’t feel too disappointed or bored because it meant I got to bounce around and look at everyone else’s taxonomic groups. The end of the dry season can be tough for herpetology but getting to watch birds, ants, mammals (I saw an agouti this morning), reptiles, and insects made up for it. Not to mention the plants! The diversity was incredible and I saw many more organisms than I was expecting.

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Sophia Streeter


Happy birthday Mom! You too Elena, sorry I missed them.

Day 3

Well we all died physically today. I believe that the final amount of miles hiked was a little bit above 13. My feet are destroyed. The back of my right knee feels like a pulled a muscle in it. I have a bug bite with dried blood on it and a bruise. But I don’t consider today a bad day by any stretch of the imagination. Why? Because I spotted on the orchids on my taxonomic ID sheet. (Oncidium altissimum) It was so so exciting, I can’t even put it elegantly into words. These are the moments when it becomes painfully obvious that I have to be an EBIO. The major is all that I am interested in. Of course, I also saw the large green bromeliad (as well as a couple other structurally similar bromeliads), further reminding me to look for a book in LCRS. I think what my new strategy is going to be is to try to assess my findings via my pictures after the day is done. Especially on today’s hike, we were moving so quickly that I couldn’t figure out my epiphytes in time.

As for our project, we decided to look at how man-made clearings and natural clearings compare. We picked quite the variety of sites, which is why we ended up walking so far during the day. It took us so long that when we got back the station, it had been dark for hours, (I think we all thanked the EBIO gods when Scott said that tomorrow wouldn’t be nearly as much walking.)

Tomorrow we focus on ants, having just listened to the taxonomic briefing on the topic. We don’t yet know what the two projects will be but they will be great. I have no doubt that this will get me even more excited to take insect biology in the fall with Dr. Solomon.