Saturday, January 31, 2009

Sunny January

January has been a whirlwind of a month, with visitors from cold Canada to being busy keeping up on locating the harpies, its been great. So here's a little update. Encounters with finding the harpies has been going well, and they are all doing quite well. Since its the dry season they are moving around more which makes it a little challenging to keep up on where they are moving to, but we re-find them at some point. Seeing them is still as exciting as the first day, and its nice to look out for them and make sure they are doing ok. Even more exciting is finding them with food, because by the time we see them we are usually at close range and they usually end up surprising us! So far I've seen them eating Two-toed Sloths, Three-toed Sloths, Northern Tamanduas and White-throated Capuchin monkeys. They will also prey on Howler monkeys and coatis and other mid-sized mammals.

The harpy eagles are quite curious birds so they tend to stick around when we find them, checking us out and doing their typical harpy eagle daily routine, not too bothered by our presence. When we find one, we look at their overall physical condition, whether there is prey present (either feeding or in the vicinity), species, age and gender of prey, whether there are mutes present, crop size, and feet colour. We also note their perch location and height, and the weather. We also take their UTM position as their dispersal and movements are being analyzed as well. A couple of the birds tend to stay in a particular area of Soberania and moving minimally, but there are a couple eagles that are quite 'nomadic' and move all over the place within the park. Keeping tabs on those eagles can be challenging!

We still continue to see the coolest things out in the rainforest... the other day while waiting on an eagle a Tarantula Wasp flew by, this huge wasp pretty much made our jaws drop. They hunt tarantulas, paralyze them, lay their eggs on the tarantula then when the eggs hatch the young aquire their nutrients from the tarantula, eventually killing it. Crazy! There is a species of cicada here that sounds like a little chainsaw or electric drill working up in the trees, and lately its started to become a little annoying! We unfortunately found a dead White Hawk on Pipeline Road that appeared to have been eaten by some mammal... it was missing its head and breast muscle, basically just wings and feet were remaining. Not just wild animal life either, its amazing what your coworkers will do, one day Rigoberto climbed a tall tree barefoot, very impressive! I wish I had a photo...

I took a day off and went out to Santa Clara Beach and El Valle with my mom while she was visiting, and what a great day trip it was. The beach was beautiful - white sand, warm Pacific Ocean water, and since we went during the week, it was quiet. Couldn't beat the weather either - sunny and hot with the right amount of cloud to cool you down periodically while laying on the beach. After the beach we took a stop in El Valle, which is a little town situated in the crater of an extinct volcano. A great area for birding, but unfortunately didn't have time for that on this trip. We did visit the marketplace, which has a little artesania section to buy Panamanian souvenirs and jewelry, and a fresh fruits and vegetables stand.

Here's a bit of a road block we experienced last week...

... this tree had fallen along Pipeline road, preventing us from getting to three of the eagles. Luckily, it was cleared within a few days. Check out the size of those epiphytes!

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