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The Buzz on Hummingbirds

March 26, 2019

As some of you may know, one of our favorite books at Reserva Las Tangaras is Neotropical Companion by John Kricher. I, fortunately, picked this book up before my travels to Ecuador and I am constantly intrigued by Kricher’s educational and witty writing. This blog post is dedicated to sharing some of the interesting things that Kricher provides within the text about hummingbird species.

First, hummingbirds have mites. It may be hard to believe that a parasite can inhabit the feathers of a creature with such fast speeds and fighter jet agility, but the mites have discovered a dispersal mechanism to conquer even the fastest hummingbirds. To disperse themselves, the mites jump off the hummingbird they are currently inhabiting, scamper into a flower, and wait for another hummingbird or flowerpiercer to stop by. Once the next bird visits the flower, the mites scamper up the nostrils of the unfortunate creature. Talk about a tickle in the nose!

Some plants have evolved to encourage more cross-pollination from hummingbird species. Various species of Heliconia, two example photos included for reference, produce different levels of nectar within their flowers, in a system called “bonanza-blank.” Some flowers, the “bonanzas,” produce lots of nectar, and other flowers, the ”blanks,” produce a few drops. This process not only conserves energy for the plant, but it also ensures that multiple visits will occur among its flowers. These plants inhabit Reserva Las Tangaras, and often white-whiskered hermits (Phaethornis yaruqui) and tawny-bellied hermits (Phaethornis syrmatophorus) are seen visiting them with their long, curved beaks.

This next concept contains complex themes not destined for the minds of young naturalists. Kricher describes a study that was completed by Jerry Wolf in 1975 that discusses a hummingbird species native to the Caribbean, the purple-throated caribs (Eulampis jugularis). The males of this species are incredibly territorial, and they defend their flowers diligently, even against females of their own species. Females, sometimes hungry and desperate to get nectar, court males to gain access to their flowers. They do this even during times of the year when they cannot be impregnated! The full report and its juicy title can be found at this link: https://sora.unm.edu/sites/default/files/journals/condor/v077n02/p0140-p0144.pdf.

This is just a taste of some of the themes and topics that John Kricher describes in Neotropical Companion and hopefully, it has encouraged you to pick up a copy. Kricher, an ornithologist by training, is a well-rounded naturalist at heart and sheds light on nearly any subject you would like to learn about. Before visiting us, we recommend that you pick up a copy of this text and read along as you explore.

Currently, at Reserva Las Tangaras, we are watching an average of ten hummingbird species buzz by our feeders daily. We consistently see three other species visiting flowers within the woods and semi-open areas. As we watch, we cannot help but imagine the crazy things that are yet to be discovered — and also the feeling of mites crawling in your nostrils.

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Herping Finds

March 17, 2019

On a rare clear night in the cloud forest during the rainy season, our local herpetologist, Eric Osterman, and I decided to go out for a night walk. We estimated that we had anywhere between a few minutes and a few hours before the rain would start again, so we quickly scrambled up the Bosque Trail into the vast primary forest. As Eric informed me, the best time to see amphibians and reptiles in the cloud forest is right after a hard rain, and right before the inevitable next rain showers. While frogs and some reptiles are asleep, they purposefully position themselves on leaves to sense vibrations of potential predators scrambling up the stems of the plants they are situated upon. Raindrops falling onto leaves mimic these vibrations, forcing these species to find new hiding places.
On this particular night, I was on the lookout to see more species of rainfrogs. Rainfrogs are found in southern Central America and northern South America and are especially common in the Andean foothills of Ecuador, Colombia, and Peru. These frogs are unique because they have incomplete metamorphosis; they grow directly from eggs into adults. The genus that encompasses all rainfrog species, Pristimantis, is believed to be the largest genus of vertebrates with over 400 species identified and counting. Not only are their songs peaceful in the evenings, but each species is so unique that once you find one, you cannot stop looking for more!
Eric and I were in luck! We chose the perfect evening to see four species of Pristimantis. We saw the yellow-groin rainfrog (Pristimantis luteolateralis), Pasture’s rainfrog (Pristimantis achatinus), red-groin rainfrog (Pristimantis verecundus), and my personal favorite, the blue-thighed rainfrog (Pristimantis crucifer). This species is categorized as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List, and we found five individuals along the property, a good sign that the habitat being preserved is conducive to the success of the species. The blue-thighed rainfrog is easily identified by blue marks along the inside of the thighs. At first glance, this frog looks bumpy and rough to the touch, but if it is touched by a potential predator, its skin changes to a smooth texture to facilitate an easy escape. I bore witness to this process, and indeed the frog easily slipped out of my hand!
At the end of February, herpetologists released a paper describing a new species of glassfrog, Nymphargus manduriacu, roughly 40 kilometers north of Reserva Las Tangaras. This species was discovered at population levels so low that it is already characterized as Critically Endangered by the IUCN. Nymphargus manduriacu was encountered on an ecological reserve similar to Reserva Las Tangaras and therefore sheds light on the importance of dedicating land to conservation.

 

Link to the publication on Nymphargus manduriacu can be found at: https://peerj.com/articles/6400/?fbclid=IwAR1Dh5T3yILN1SNT073fAdxXw6vyDHJNoc1rbJ9u5d1XvvMRhAUfDvsiUEM.

More information about the IUCN Red List can be found here: https://www.iucnredlist.org/.

More information on Eric Osterman and his great herping skills can be found at: http://www.ecuadorreptileadventures.com/

3 New Species Added to Reserve List

January 28, 2019

We wrapped up 2018 with a thrilling bird monitoring season including finding 125 different bird species on and close to the reserve during the Mindo Christmas Bird Count.  It’s taken a while to get down to blogging (a euphemism for bragging) about it.  The Life Net Nature bird banding volunteer team found 3 new species for the Las Tangaras Checklist: Choco Warbler, White-sided Flowerpiercer, and Black-tailed Trainbearer (the latter two usually at higher elevations).  Go team!

Every avian monitoring session at Reserva Las Tangaras is exciting and unique, and Life Net is now recruiting volunteers for 2019.  Banders highly skilled and knowledgeable about Ecuadorian birds will be hosting 2 teams: August 4-17, 2019 and December 2-15, 2019.  After reviewing information about the volunteer positions at the Texas A&M Wildlife Job Board, you can email Dr. Dusti Becker at dustizuni@yahoo.com to apply.

Here are some photos from the December 2018 bird monitoring effort at Reserva Las Tangaras.  Enjoy!

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Choco Warbler – newly recorded at Reserva Las Tangaras during mist netting

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White-sided Flowerpiercer – another new record

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Most members of the December 2018 Life Net Nature Avian Monitoring Team – Ecuador

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Broad-billed Motmot – aka. “eye candy”

Searching for the Swainson’s Thrush and the Andean Solitaire

November 10, 2018

Since September, a task was given to us, search for two particular species of birds to find out if there is a relationship between them.

One of them is the Swainson’s Thrush which is a bird that migrates to Ecuador since September, and it is possible that with its arrival it displaces the Andean Solitaire which is the other specie we have to find, and it is a native specie of the Andes.

Our task consist on walking all the trails of the Reserve looking for any sign, either hearing the sing or sighting them, and during these two months of research we have found amazing animals, here we leave photos of some of them.

 

The singing of Andean Solitaire is incredibly beautiful, and we were fortunate to hear it very close, but we have never seen it (here a link with the sing  https://www.xeno-canto.org/205565)

This week for the first time we finally observed the Swainson’s Thrush!

 

Wild neighbors

October 9, 2018

In the Reserve it is possible to find a lot of wild animals , so in order to know them we ​​use trap cameras.

The cameras have capture a nine barred armadillo, a brocket deer, an opossum, an agouti, a paca and a tayra.
We have placed the cameras where we have found traces, and surprisingly , most of the animals were captured in the front yard of the cabin.

 

 

The babies of August

October 9, 2018

August brought a very pleasant surprise to the Reserve, we found under the cabin a small nest of hummingbirds.

We were lucky to witness their development from small eggs until they left the nest, this happened in a period of five weeks.

We believe that the little ones were Green – Fronted Lancebill (Doryfera ludovicae),
What do you think?

Hello from Las Tangaras!!

August 7, 2018

We are Pablo and Daniela, the new stewards of Reserva Las Tangaras.

We are from Ecuador, so sorry our english is not the best, but we try the best we can!

This month in Reserva Las Tangaras has been overwhelming because living in the Reserve has nothing to do with what one gets used to in the city, and that is the reason why we choose to do this work.

The most charming part of living in the Reserve is being part of the cloud forest and being able to live with countless birds and have the opportunity to observe beautiful mammals in your yard, and hundreds of insects with shapes and colors out of this world, that make you realize the forest is a magical place where life expresses itself in wonderful ways, and how powerful nature is.

There have also been challenges and to overcome them we had to strengthen our body and our mind, such as not having electricity or internet or having to walk an hour and a half to get your food, which makes you appreciate even more the simple things of life.

Here we leave some pictures of our “neighbors” and our new home.