Puma Food

Puma food

 

This brocket deer (Mazama sp) is acting very nervous. No wonder— it can probably smell the human scent on the camera, and it happens to be standing on the spot where a puma regularly marks its territory (see my previous post‘s video of the puma taken with this same camera at the same spot), and the tree trunk which the deer is smelling towards the end of the video is regularly scent-marked by a Spectacled Bear (again, see the video taken at this same spot in my previous post).  For a fragile little animal with a keen sense of smell, this must be a very frightening spot indeed.

 

We have more videos of prey items crossing this spot, but my internet connection is too bad right now to upload them. Hopefully I will be able to fix the connection problem in a few days.

 

Camera trap set up by Javier Robayo, Juan Pablo Reyes, and  Hector Yela. Camera courtesy University of Basel Botanical Garden.

 

Lou Jost

EcoMinga Foundation

Jaguarundi, Spectacled Bear, and Puma pass by our Dracula Reserve camera trap

In our Dracula Reserve in northwest Ecuador, Javier Robayo, Juan Pablo Reyes, and ranger Hector Yela set up a camera trap to monitor one of our trails. We left it there for two months. It was a well-chosen spot and several different species of mammals marked their territories right in front of the camera.

The most exciting for us was a fleeting glimpse of a slick, agile Jaguarundi (with the curious Latin name  Puma yagouaroundi). This was the first time our camera traps had recorded this species.

On another day a puma (Felis concolor) walks past the very same sot and marks his territory. A puma (the same one?) also passed here at night.

A Spectacled Bear (Tremarctos ornatus) also thought this same spot would be a good place to scent-mark his territory by rubbing his back against a special tree. We have often recorded this back-rubbing behavior in our reserves’ camera traps (see here and here for examples).

Finally a little antpitta of the genus Grallaria also comes down this same trail. I am not sure of the species. If any reader knows, please tell us in the comments.

Lou Jost, EcoMinga Foundation

 

Carnegie Airborne Observatory visits our area

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Carnegie Airborne Observatory image of rainforest trees; different colors represent different spectral fingerprints. Click picture to enlarge. Image: Carnegie Institution for Science.

The Carnegie Institution for Science is a unique private organization devoted to advanced study of the earth, life, and the universe. The pioneer cosmologist Edwin Hubble (“Hubble constant”), geologist Charles Richter (“Richter scale”), geneticist Barbara McClintock, and many Nobel laureates from several different disciplines are or were Carnegie investigators. The institution has instruments orbiting Mercury, is a lead partner in constructing the world’s biggest telescope in Chile, and has one of the world’s most sophisticated ecological monitoring devices, the Carnegie Aerial Observatory (CAO). This is a two-engine 20-passenger plane that Greg Asner and colleagues has fitted with millions of dollars worth of specially-designed lasers and spectrometers. It can sample hundreds of thousands of hectares of forest per day, using LIDAR to build a 3-dimensional model of the forest’s trees with 8 cm resolution. At the same time as it acquires LIDAR data, it also samples the spectral properties of light reflected from the vegetation, gathering reflectance information at hundreds of different wavelengths (colors). This spectral data gives information about the chemical and physical properties of the leaves, and also provides a spectral fingerprint that can later be matched to field-collected spectral fingerprints from known species of trees. Some  trees have such distinctive fingerprints that they can be identified to species with this data; more commonly, they can be identified to genus, though sometimes only to family. The detailed structural, chemical and taxonomic data acquired by the CAO would be impossible to gather at the landscape level by any other method, and Greg’s work is dramatically expanding the range of questions that ecologists can ask about forest ecosystems.

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Carnegie aerial observatory rainforest image: 3-D Lidar combined with spectral signal. Image: Carnegie Institution for Science.

Last year Greg had planned to use our mosaic of forests as reference sites for a study of Andean forests on different geological substrates and elevations.  Greg and his partner Robin Martin visited our Rio Zunac Reserve, his flight plans got approved by the Ecuadorian authorities, and everything seemed ready to go, but in the end he was not allowed to bring the plane into the country. This year, however, Greg was able to bring the plane in for a more modest ten-day study of Amazonia. The plane’s home for those ten days was the military base in Shell, a town in the upper Rio Pastaza watershed near our Rio Anzu Reserve. One of the CAO’s flight transects covered a two-kilometer wide strip from west to east (high to low) through our area, perhaps including parts of up to four of our reserves. This will be a very valuable data set that will teach us a great deal about the structure and diversity of these forests. However, it will take about a year to fully process the data, so we’ll have to be patient.

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The Carnegie Airborne Observatory parked at the Shell military base. Our reserves are in the mountains in the background. Click picture to enlarge. Photo: Matt Scott.

The president of the Carnegie Institution for Science, Matt Scott, is a well-known geneticist and serious photographer. He came t0 Ecuador last month to fly with Greg, but first he wanted to visit some of our reserves. Our endangered Black-and-chestnut Eagles (Spizaetus isidori) were nesting again in our Rio Zunac Reserve after last year’s tragic nest failure, so this was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to observe the species as it went about its business.

I picked him up in the Quito airport. The trip from Quito to Banos was picturesque as always. The glacier of Cotopaxi was covered in a layer of fresh volcanic ash, and small puffs of ash and vapor were still rising up from the crater as we drove past it.

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Cotopaxi’s glaciers covered in fresh ash. Click picture to enlarge. Photo: Matt Scott.

 

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Close to sunset as we neared Banos after passing through a rainstorm. Click picture to enlarge. Photo: Matt Scott.

The next day we had an appointment with the Black-and-chestnut Eagles at 10am-11am. Our guards told us the parents  usually brought prey to the baby at that time, but were otherwise rarely seen around the nest. The nest is about 3-4 hours away from the road, after a forty minute drive from Banos, so we had to get up early and rush out there. It was hard to keep up  a good pace, since beautiful things kept distracting us. Still, we managed to get to the nest observation spot at almost exactly 11:00, and sure enough, there was the adult in the nest, along with the chick and something dead. The adult flew off almost immediately but shortly returned to feed on the prey item while the sated chick slept. The other adult was also nearby and both called frequently. We spent an hour watching them. It was a wonderful thing to see.

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This was the view when Matt got to my house to start our trip to the Rio Zunac. Volcan Tungurahua with a lenticular cloud against a crystal sky, a great way to start the day. Click picture to enlarge. Photo: Matt Scott.

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Morning fog over the Rio Pastaza. Click picture to enlarge. Photo: Matt Scott.

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Black-and-chestnut Eagle (Spizaetus isidori) at its nest in our Rio Zunac Reserve. Photo: Matt Scott.

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We saw several Highland Motmots. Photo: Lou Jost/EcoMinga.

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Torrent Ducks on the Rio Zunac distracted us throughout the day. Click picture to enlarge. Photo: Matt Scott.

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We found this crazy katydid at the end of our walk. Click picture to enlarge. Photo: Lou Jost/EcoMinga.

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Butterflies and hesperids taking salts from the sand along the Rio Zunac. Photo: Lou Jost/EcoMinga.

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Matt chills out in the Rio Zunac after our hike. Click picture to enlarge. Photo: Lou Jost.

 

The next day we went to our Rio Anzu Reserve near the Shell airport and the CAO. That reserve is not very rich in big stuff, but there are so many interesting small things that it is hard to take ten steps without stopping for photos. We eventually got to the Rio Anzu river and the magnificent fossil-bearing limestone formations capped with ladyslipper orchids (Phragmipedium pearcei). Though it was getting late, Matt asked to stay longer. I always like to hear that from a visitor!!

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Matt photographing the limestone. Click picture to enlarge. Photo: Lou Jost/EcoMinga.

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The limestone formations along the Rio Anzu, covered with orchids. Click picture to enlarge. Photo: Matt Scott.

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Phragmipedium pearcei, a ladyslipper orchid, on the limestone. Click picture to enlarge. Photo: Matt Scott.

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Riodinid butterfly in the Rio Anzu Reserve. Click picture to enlarge. Photo: Matt Scott.

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Large hairy caterpillar. Click picture to enlarge. Photo: Matt Scott.

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Me in bamboo forest along the Rio Anzu. Click picture to enlarge. Photo: Matt Scott.

Then we went to the military base to see the CAO. Security was tight and the military were not eager to let a pair of muddy rubber-booted gringos walk through their installations. Nevertheless we were able to talk our way through the multiple layers of officials who scrutinized us. But we didn’t want to ruffle any feathers so when we finally got to the plane, we just took a quick look at it and went back (still under military escort, but actually a very friendly one).

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CAO at the military base. Click picture to enlarge. Photo: Matt Scott.

By the time we got to Greg and Robin’s hotel in nearby Puyo it was already dark. Greg was sitting at a table outside working on maps in his laptop, and he showed me the transects he had flown so far. I went back to Banos that night but Matt stayed and got to fly in the CAO over the following days. Lucky man!

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Matt (left) and Greg happy to be in the air. Click picture to enlarge. Photo: Matt Scott.

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The Rio Pastaza broadens and meanders as it leaves our mountains and enters Amazonia. Click picture to enlarge. Photo: Matt Scott.

 

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The Amazon basin from the CAO. Click picture to enlarge. Photo: Matt Scott.

 

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More of the Amazon basin from the CAO. Click picture to enlarge. Photo: Matt Scott.

Matt, thanks very much for your visit! It was an honor for us to show you our forests.

Lou Jost

Fundacion EcoMinga

 

 

Jaguar returns to our Manduriacu Reserve

Jaguar rear end as it walks past Sebastian Kohn’s camera trap last month.

A few months ago Sebastian Kohn’s camera trap at Manduriacu Reserve in western Ecuador had a close brush with a jaguar– so close that all we could see were some blurred black spots on a light background. It happened at night so there was no color either. Was this jaguar just passing through or was it a resident? Was it a healthy animal? We couldn’t tell. But this new video provides evidence that jaguars are regularly using the Manduriacu Reserve, and this one looks quite healthy. It is probably eating the Collared Peccaries that Sebastian has frequently recorded in his camera traps, such as these (which I’ve posted before):

 

Though jaguars have a wide distribution in Latin America and are not yet globally endangered, they are one of the first animals to disappear with human impacts. Jaguars are killed directly buy humans, but humans also hunt the jaguar’s prey species to local extinction. Large predators such as jaguars need very large home ranges, so they are also severely affected by habitat fragmentation, as deforestation leaves isolated forest patches that are too small to support viable populations of predator and prey.

In western Ecuador deforestation is extreme. We often drive for hours through endless banana and oil palm plantations without ever seeing a patch of native vegetation. Almost all of the lowland rainforest in western Ecuador is gone, and much of the foothill and cloud forest is also gone or severely fragmented. Based on satellite imagery, scientists now estimate that 90% of the original natural vegetation of western Ecuador has been removed. The effect of this is catastrophic for a large predator like a jaguar.

A recent study surveyed the Machalilla National Park in western Ecuador and concluded that the jaguar has been extirpated there. The four largest forest patches remaining in western Ecuador were also recently surveyed for jaguars and White-Lipped Peccary, by Zapata-Rios et al (2013). They used camera traps, field work, and interviews with local people.  They only found evidence of jaguars in one of those four patches, the  Cotocachi-Cayapas Ecological Reserve. The density of jaguars recorded was very low;hey only captured nine independent jaguar photos in 2500 trap-nights.  The authors conclude that “it appears both species [jaguars and White-lipped Peccaries] have been extirpated already in the other three large forest remnants in the region, and their long-term persistence depends on immediate conservation actions in the Cotocachi-Cayapas Ecological Reserve.” Our Manduriacu Reserve borders this national reserve, and acts as  a forested corridor between it and Los Cedros Reserve.

We still need help to buy the core lot in this reserve, which is also the only known site in the world for the Tandayapa Andean Toad Rhaebo olallai; please write me (loujost at yahoo com) for more info.

Lou Jost, EcoMinga Foundation

Galapagos trip to benefit EcoMinga


Credit: Creative Commons

It has been a while since I’ve written a post; I was away in the jungles of Peru for much of this time. We have a lot of catching up to do!

Today I’d like to announce a trip to the Galapagos organized by two of EcoMinga’s directors. Part of the proceeds will go towards the operating expenses of EcoMinga, so if any readers have been wanting to go to the Galapagos, here is your chance. There is an optional extension into the Ecuadorian Amazon where I used to live; this is as exciting as the Galapagos!

Here is the information I have received about the cruise and extension:

10 DAY GALAPAGOS AND ECUADOR TOUR: $2,895

•25% discount: Normal retail value of $3,860
•Special itinerary with over 12 Galapagos destinations*
•Seven days in Galapagos
First class yacht Galaven
•Excellent snorkel sites and preferred lands visits
•Airport transfers to and from Galapagos
•Three days in Quito
•Quito City Tour

Itinerary:
January 10 Late night arrival in Quito: Lodging at Boutique Hotel Casa Foch
January 11 Quito-Galapagos, Santa Cruz Highlands: Lodging at Hotel Mainao
January 12 Las Grietas / Darwin Station: Lodging at Hotel Mainao
January 13 Board Galaven Yacht: Santa Fe / Punta Carrión
January 14 Bartolome / Playa Bachas
January 15 Post Office Bay / Punta Cormorant / Devil’s Crown
January 16 Punta Suárez / Gardner Bay
January 17 Centro de Interpretación, San Cristobal
Galapagos-Quito: Lodging at Boutique Hotel Casa Foch
January 18 Quito City Tour: Lodging at Boutique Hotel Casa Foch
January 19 Departure

NOT INCLUDED:
Round trip airfare to Galapagos
Transit card to Galapagos
Galapagos National Park fee
Gratuities
Dinner on January 11, 12, 17 & 18
Lunch on January 12 & 18

•Itinerary subject to change according to the Galapagos National Park directives.

For more information contact Lori Espinoza, Academic Director of Andean Study Programs:
lori@andeanstudy.org
in Quito: 593-996-138742
593-22-891417

*15% DISCOUNTED AMAZON RAINFOREST 4 DAY ADD ON FROM JANUARY 6-9: $899


Photo credit: Sani Lodge website.

Exclusive offer with this Galapagos Tour only at Sani Lodge, named one of the best Amazon lodges in Ecuador by Trip Advisor. Sani Lodge is owned and run by Amazon Native Kichwa. All profits are directly invested in their own Sani community projects. Airfare Quito-Coca-Quito not included.


Credit: Sani Lodge website.




Bird photo credits: Sani Lodge website.