Mysteriet I Holk 37

/ 2013-02-27 / 01:15:11

With all these bad news I forgot to tell you the good one!
But first I need to add another downer. Last year they started to give the parakeets two color-rings instead of one, so one thinner one over the normal big one. This year when we started catching the groups we noticed that several of the birds have gotten problems from this, swollen feet and even some with wounds. So we're taking all of them off so that they have only one color-ring. But the first few groups that we caught still have theirs, so we have to catch them a second time.
So.
A few days ago we got up early to catch the group behind the house, which is the really big group that we caught first. To our surprise a flock of 8 birds came to a nearby tree when we started to take the birds out of the nest-box. It happens sometimes that some of the helpers start to sleep somewhere else when the chicks are getting bigger so this wasn't so much of a mystery. It was very tiring for us though since the whole purpose of our early stand-up was to catch the adults. The really perplexing part was that now we expected 6 chicks and 1 adult in the nest, but we found 8 birds! One extra chick! With no rings and no markings! It was ofc an already fledged chick that must come from a natural nest that we haven't noticed in the area. But what made him leave his own group to join this? And how come he was accepted? We gave him rings and markings and took blood- and feather-samples. It's going to be really interesting to see how closely related he is to the other birds. Maybe he's the grandchild of the breeding pair, they've been the same for several years.
Ofc he got the name Mr. X and just that marking on the head!


Big Brother Sees You

/ 2013-02-26 / 23:00:02

Hey everyone!
The sun is shining, but yet I bring you more bad news. Someone has stolen two of our chicks! Earlier we've encountered natural nest-predation before, two caught on tape.
The first one is a Spotted Woodcreeper stealing eggs. The clutching female leaves the nest for 10 minutes and when she gets back only 1 out of 5 eggs remain. The woodcreepers are quite common around here with several species breeding in our nest-boxes. The spotted one is the largest, but also the Plain Brown one would be able to steal eggs from the parakeets.
The other incident happened only two weeks ago. Some sort of rat sneakes into the nest while the parents are still sleeping and starts killing the chicks. The parents wake up from the commotion and panics and leaves the nest when they realize that there's a predator inside. The video is really horrible, but it's natural predation and nothing we can do anything about.
This third incident is something completely different. Michael and I came to measure the chicks and found the lock and some part of the door that it was attached to, lying on the ground beneath the tree. It had been ripped off somehow but the door was still closed. There were no signs of either chicks or predators, so we can be pretty sure that this was an act by people wanting to sell the birds. This has happened before, which is why we have the locks on the nest-boxes at all. This was a group which we weren't recording at the moment, which probably is a good thing. They could have gotten a lot more money for the system than for the parakeets. Fortunately the El Oro parakeets aren't popular to keep as pets, and therefore this kind of capturing isn't very common. Many other species aren't as lucky, and capturing for the pet-trade is one of the main reasons why parrots is the group of birds with the highest number of threatened species in the world.
Now we're just hoping that we won't loose any more chicks this season.


Sad News

Allmänt / 2013-02-24 / 00:03:49
Yesterday was a bit of a sad day. The day before one of the parakeets had injured it´s wing and couldn´t fly, so we brought it back with us to the house. The injury was in the shoulder, but I couldn´t feel that anything was broken so we hoped that it was just a sprain and that she would be able to fly again in a couple of days. Even though I didn´t think that the wing was broken, I taped it so that she wouldn´t make the injury worse by flapping around in the box. We went out and looked for fruit in the forest and found at least a little bit, we weren´t sure that all of it was part of the natural diet, but saw that other birds had eaten of it. The next morning she had eaten all of it and looked good, even though she still couldn´t use her wing, so we gave her more fruits and left her in the box for the day. But in the evening we found her dead. We don´t know why, was some of the fruit we gave her poisonous? Was it the stress?
Fortunately she (or he) was part of a large breeding group of 7 adults with only 3 chicks, so they will have no trouble bringing up the chicks without her. But it is very sad, and we were all feeling quite low last night.
 
Some more positive news is that the first chicks will fledge within the next few days, and we have only one more group that we have to catch next week. After that we´ll have at least two weeks without the alarm going off at 3:15!

Through The Glass

/ 2013-02-20 / 01:28:44

When I come home I'm going to be an expert at taking pictures through my binoculars! Anyone who has ever tried it can see why I'm proud of these, and I was standing up!

The first (if they come in order, but I doubt it) is of the Northern Crested Caracara. It's another of the birds of prey that we see quite often. Sometimes it sits on the road and it looks so hilarous when it runs a bit in front of the car! This one was sitting just outside our house for about 30 minutes.

The second picture is of the Red-masked Parakeet, it's the third of the parrots we see every day. Their call was the first that I learned when I got here, they sound just like ducks!
There's a few more parrot species occuring here in the reserve, but I haven't seen any of them good yet.

For those who feel like googling I'm gonna namedrop some of my favourites :)

Golden-headed Quetzal
Rufous Motmot
Flame-faced Tanager
Silver-throated Tanager
Olive-striped Flycatcher
Dusky-capped Flycatcher
Great Black Hawk
Collared Trogon
Crested Guan
Esmeraldas Antbird
Spotted Woodcreeper
Pale-mandibled Araçari

Hopefully I'll have pictures of them and a lot of others before I leave this place!


Through The Glass

/ 2013-02-20 / 01:17:39

When I come home I'm going to be an expert at taking pictures through my binoculars! Anyone who has ever tried it can see why I'm proud of these, and I was standing up!

The first (if they come in order, but I doubt it) is of the Northern Crested Caracara. It's another of the birds of prey that we see quite often. Sometimes it sits on the road and it looks so hilarous when it runs a bit in front of the car! This one was sitting just outside our house for about 30 minutes.

The second picture is of the Red-masked Parakeet, it's the third of the parrots we see every day. Their call was the first that I learned when I got here, they sound just like ducks!
There's a few more parrot species occuring here in the reserve, but I haven't seen any of them good yet.

For those who feel like googling I'm gonna namedrop some of my favourites :)

Golden-headed Quetzal
Rufous Motmot
Flame-faced Tanager
Silver-throated Tanager
Olive-striped Flycatcher
Dusky-capped Flycatcher
Great Black Hawk
Collared Trogon
Crested Guan
Esmeraldas Antbird
Spotted Woodcreeper
Pale-mandibled Araçari

Hopefully I'll have pictures of most of them and a lot of others before I leave this place!


Va e de där för jävla kajflock!?

/ 2013-02-20 / 00:21:45

The Bronze-winged Pionuses are the Jackdaws of Buenaventura. Flying around in huge noisy flocks, roosting together in the trees in the evening. I used to have a Blue-headed Pionus as a pet and especially the sound that the Bronze-wings make when they are getting ready for sleep is very comforting and reminds me of home :)

One of my favourite birds of prey is the Swallow-tailed Kite, and lucky me it's one of the most common in the area. It's gorgeous!


Hatching Egg

/ 2013-02-19 / 23:43:27

Trying to upload the picture of the egg alone :)

My plan was to write a second post about other birds that I see in the reserve, but we'll see how successful I am!


Glorious Morning

/ 2013-02-19 / 23:32:20

This morning was really beautiful. We got up at around 4 and left for one of the nests that are quite close, in an area that we call Guzman. In Guzman there's just a couple breeding, without helpers, but they are still managing to bring up 3 chicks! We weren't in a rush today, not only because of the small size of the group we caught, but also because we only had to go to one other nest for battery change. It was so nice to sit and watch the valley come to life as the sun rose. The picture doesn't come close to makeing the view justice, but ofc it never does.
I realised the other day that I haven't really explained why the catching gives us so much more work and why it's a problem that we need to catch most of the groups at the same time. I've mentioned that we give markings to both the adults and the chicks. This is because we want to see which chick gets fed most by which adult and if one adult maybe favour one of the chicks. We also install a scale outside the entrance hole and a camera above it so that we can see how much the adults weigh when then come to feed the chicks. As you can understand two cameras and a scale requires quite a lot more power than just one single camera, so to these nests we have to go every day. Which is the reason for the increased workload! We want to record the groups for at least one week and for the camera inside the nest it's important to have a continuous record. If the battery becomes empty and the camera stops recording for a couple of hours it means that we might miss several feedings, and the data gets harder to analyse. So, to the really big problem, we don't have enough camera systems, we have only three scales and we are not able to charge enough batteries! And ofc, we can't be everywhere at once. This results in a lot of the groups being caught much later than prefered and some of the groups get only recorded inside the nest in the beginning. The group in Guzman was the 8th that we've caught so far. Tomorrow we will do another one and then again some day next week, after that it calms down! We have three more nests with eggs, and in two of them the hatching has just begun. The other day I climbed up to one of them to measure the eggs, and on my way up i heard beeping so I realised immediately that the first chick had hatched. But when I got up the chick was still in the egg! You can see on the picture the big crack that it has struggled to make. This day was especially hard, we got up at 3:15 to catch a group that we had to walk for about 1.5 hours to get to, in the darkness. It was a big group we caught that morning, 7 adults and 4 chicks, so it took a long time. Then when we we're done we hade to do the monitoring of all the nests on the northern side! Of course none of us thought to bring food, so when i was climbing this last nest one my way home I hadn't eaten for 10 hours. But this little chick, fighting to get out of it's shell, totally made my day! It was so cool to hear it calling from inside :)

I've tried for an hour now to upload this post with pictures. I'm making one last attempt with only one picture..

Xx


Don´t let the bedbugs bite

Allmänt / 2013-02-17 / 01:00:48
Hey again everyone!
So, the last week we´ve had a bit of trouble, or quite a lot.
First of all I got bitten by something other than mosquitos, the entire back of my thighs and both my feet we´re covered in bites that itched so much I couldn´t sleep at night. Fortunately I got some nice gel at the pharmacy that helped, and since I sprayed my bed I haven´t got any new ones, even though I´m still covered in red marks. But forget what I said in the beginning about the mosquitos not liking me, they apparently changed their minds.
Then the car broke down. At the same time as we have to catch almost all of the groups of course. All the breeding groups have managed to sync, by eggs not hatching and chicks dying, so that all the youngest chicks are the same age in all the nests. We we´re without the car for one week, and had to walk and take the bus to all the breeding areas. You can imagine how keen the bus driver is to stop by the road to pick up three people covered in mud, in the pouring rain.
One night we had to sleep up in the forest, so that we could catch one of the groups in the morning. That was a lovely night, of course the one with the heaviest rainfall so far this season. We we´re kinda dry in our shelter though. But something the heavy rain brings is landslides, huge ones. Most of the time it´s in the same place by the main road, they get cleared away pretty fast since it´s so much traffic along that road. But this night there was one over the small gravel road that leads to where we lived, and that one took two days for them so clear. Which on the other hand didn´t really bother us since we didn´t have a car anyway.
 
I have loads of pictures I planned to post now, but there´s no USB-port so you´ll have to wait until tuesday, and then I´ll try to upload as much as I can! 
I hope you weren´t too worried when you didn´t get an update last tuesday, but we couldn´t go to the lodge both because of the car and also because we have so so much to do! My body is aching and I´m longing for a day off, maybe that´ll happen in March...
 
Kisses to all my loved ones <3

Uti vår hage

/ 2013-02-06 / 00:00:43

Yesterday we caught the first breeding-group and finally I got pictures of the parakeets! The whole group usually sleeps in the nestbox, including chicks, parents and all the helpers. This first group is the largest one with 9 adults and 6 chicks, so that's one crowded nest! The day before we catch a group we put up trap doors, so that we can close the entrances to the nest. The first group is really close to the house so after dark Michael went there and closed the doors.
At dawn the next morning we could just pick them all out of box one by one. I was about to write easily, but I think you all can understand that the parakeets are quite difficult to handle, they bite through the skin without even trying. Gloves are needed but make you kind of clumsy, Michael uses silvertape on the fingers that he holds around the head. Fortunately we are three, so one can hold the bird while a second person takes the samples and meassurements, and the third writes everything down. All the adult birds in the group we caught yesterday have been ringed already previous years, and several of them has already left DNA-samples. But for the ones who hadn't we took a small blood sample from the vein in the wing, and some feathers. Then we took all the morphometrical data (like length of wings, breadth of the bill and so on) and pictures of head, wings and belly. Before being released again all the adult birds got individual markings on the bill, with nailpolish, and cut markings in the tail feathers. This is so that we can see on the camera footage which bird feeds which chick the most. All the chicks got individual markings as well, with tipex on the head. All of these markings will only last for a few days, but hopefully we'll get enough data for a good analysis.
All the nestboxes are placed in pastures, some quite deep in the forest and some more out in the open. The cows combined with the rain is the reason for all the mud, they create paths everywhere, even in the most steep places. But they are really cute, and today very curious of us and all our equipment. According to Lena and Michael a cable to one of the cameras has "mysteriously" disappeared from one nest, which is why we now put the boxes with the batteries and DVRs high enough for the cows not to reach them.

Tomorrow we're going to catch the second group, which is one of the worst to reach. This means that today we had to go there to put up the trap doors and camera system. So much for that free day! But tomorrow, fortunately, we don't have that much else to do :)

And so, for the promised update about the food. When we got to the restaurant they actually offered something more than the usual: corn tortillas with meat! We thought that it was going to be similar to the ordinary dish but with tortillas instead of rice. Needless to say we got a bit disappointed when we got two tiny things each, apparently with the meat inside. Hungry fieldworkers like ourselves need a lot more than that, so we ordered two of the normal meat dishes to share between us. Something special that they cook a lot of here though is bananas. One my way here with the bus i barely saw more than banana plantations. The bananas that is used for cooking are really hard and needs to be cooked for a long time, then they are fried. I quite like it, the taste isn't at all the same as in normal bananas, which they also have here ofc.

Unfortunately there's no adress to where you can send me stuff here, so I'll just have to learn spanish and german so that I can read the other's stuff. Or stare into the wall ;)

Kisses to all my friends and family. I love you.


Natural Nest

Allmänt / 2013-02-02 / 23:39:23
Last week we went to a place quite far away from the reserve, two ecuadorian girls who work for the foundation (Fundación Jocotoco) thought that they had found a natural parakeet-nest. And they had! So here is the first picture I have of the parakeets, taken with my iphone through an old shitty telescope. On monday we´re going to catch the first of our breeding-groups to take blood and feather samples, meassurements and to band them. This we´re going to do with all of the groups, two weeks after the last egg has hatched in the nest. So, on tuesday when I go to the lodge I will hopefully have loads and loads of pictures of the parakeets and the chicks!
This natural nest is in a very tall tree, and really far up! On the other picture you can see Michael up at the entrance, from where I stood I couldn´t even see the bottom of the tree. Fortunately the parakeets are just as happy with the nestboxes at only 3-4 meters above the ground, I don´t think I would ever dare to climb that high!
 
Today has been a calm and soft day, we only had to go to two different nests to change batteries so we split up and worked really fast. So now we´ve had all afternoon in Piñas, it´s nice not to have to stress with the grocery-shopping, and also we had time to leave the car to be washed. I even got to buy a bra, haha, so you don´t need to send that! I will try to find out an adress to where you can send me books and so :) Last week when we were here I bought a towell from the store next to where we buy all the fruit and vegetables, and today he came up and spoke to me again. We´re obviously friends now, and my friends are also his friends, so Michael and Lena got a bit confused by how he greeted them. I really like the ecuadorians, except ofc for the sleezeballs who try to get your attention by whistling, calling after you or making disgusting kissing sounds. Urk. 
 
Now we´re going to go somewhere to eat here in Piñas, so maybe you´ll get an update next time about the food here. So far I´ve only eaten at a ecuadorian restaurant once, and they pretty much only had rice with meat and beans. From what Michael tells me, that´s what you can expect, not very exciting. But I don´t feel like cooking today, and it´s my turn. So, rice, meat and beans it is!

 





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