Today we did a total of four things, each one more exciting than the last.
In the early morning, we hiked up a very steep hill to the bird tower, a two-story wooden structure that looks out across a huge expanse of raw rainforest. The hike was difficult, but the view absolutely worth it, especially since it was morning and blue mist settled over an endless horizon of canopy. We stayed for a while, then hiked back, stopping at a small cave along the way.
In the late morning, we set out to collect our camera traps. Though the hike was long and strenuous, I found three hatched light-blue eggs under a tree slightly off-trail, which was new. Orhoptera wise, I didn’t see as much as I usually do, but I did see one very large and bright green grasshoppers at the base of the bird tower. Though I didn’t see its wings, I assumed it to be a red-winged grasshopper from the size.
In the afternoon, we went out to excavate leaf-cutter ant hills, led by Scott. The Mississippi group of college-age kids staying with us at Las Cuevas came with us, too. We all watched Scott as pulled out a queen from the heart of a one-year-old leaf cutter ant nest. It was a large and disturbing version of ant that I wasn’t used to, but the whole excavation process was really interesting. We also excavated a much larger (25 feet or so) ant nest, hit a dump tank, and instead got to touch warm, decomposing fungus. During this hike, I did in fact see an actual red-winged grasshopper very up close, since the guy I was walking with saw it and picked it up. It was huge–likely 10 cm across, and flew away almost as soon as it was picked up so I couldn’t get a picture.
In the evening, we finally checked our camera trap cards. Already on the first camera we found a Baird’s tapir, and then, amazingly, a jaguar. All of us collectively screamed at the sight of the rosette patterning. The unbelievable part came later, however, when we caught yet another jaguar on a separate camera trap. Both were absolutely stunning, and I think I screamed louder on the second than the first. We also found three pumas, an armadillo, a coral snake, curassows, and a variety of other animals we hadn’t seen yet. But the jaguars were really the crown jewel of the whole piece.