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Los Nuevos

June 7, 2014

Hi there! My name’s Hamish. Jo and I are from New Zealand and we’re managing Las Tangaras until late August. We first heard about the reserve around 18 months ago when we were in a tramping hut (that’s Kiwi for “trekking cabin”) in Arthur’s Pass in New Zealand’s South Island where we met Bex, who managed the reserve in 2011. It’s great to now be here ourselves!

Corey, Niki, Jo and Hamish

Corey, Niki, Jo and Hamish

We arrived to a warm welcome from Corey and Niki, who introduced us to some of their favourite locals, made us beds and dinner and showed us how things work around the reserve. They had recently re-named trails in the reserve at Dusti’s suggestion. Niki chose names from birds she had seen on each trail so we now have ‘Los Tucanes’, ‘Los Colibríes’, ‘Los Momotos’, ‘Los Patos’ and ‘Los Quetzales’. The ‘Bosque’ and ‘Gallo de la Peña’ trails remain unchanged. The day after we arrived Danielle also came to the reserve. She’s a Californian who has been studying in Quito for a semester and is staying with us for five weeks, doing research on hummingbird interactions, amongst other things, as part of her studies for her college in Maine.



For me, living here is a remarkable opportunity. Tropical forests with their enormous species richness continue to be cut and compromised all around the girth of our planet. As a global community we lose the contained biodiversity forever. I think part of the reason why tropical forests continue to be eroded so quickly is that most people have no way of relating with them or their inhabitants and therefore have little reason and unclear means to conserve them. Most of us don’t consider tropical forests in our day-to-day lives. So I’ve often wondered, what are valid ways for those of us who normally live in cities or closer to the poles to personally relate with tropical forests?

In flower

In flower

Jo and I are excited about our stay in the 50 hectare Reserva Las Tangaras on the edge of a 19 200 hectare forest reserve called Bosque Protector Mindo-Nambillo. Part of the excitement for me is getting to know a few of the animal and plant species in the brilliant display of life here. People attach names and therefore importance to the species they relate with. Reserva Las Tangaras has a small library of great guidebooks to the names and human uses for many plants and animals in South American topical forests. So we are reading and looking and learning every day.

Neglected 88

Neglected 88

Jo has taken a shine to the hummingbirds and has become the best at identifying them. About twelve species commonly visit the feeders at the front deck of the house we live in. Jo frequently informs them that “You are all beautiful!” Here in the cloud forest on the shoulder of the Andes there are much greater numbers and diversity of these stunning little birds than down in the rain forest of the Amazonian lowlands to the east.

Green-crowned woodnymph

Green-crowned wood nymph

I’m getting a handle on identifying plant families as we maintain trails around the reserve. I’m fascinated to learn how many members of these groups my community and I back in New Zealand use daily as food and medicine. Strange, beautiful insects and myriapods walk, eat, hunt and find mates all over the assorted foliage in the reserve and I have enjoyed photographing these over the last couple of weeks. For three months Jo and I get to relate closely with this patch of tropical forest as managers of the reserve. Maybe our new understanding of the inhabitants can also sustain a longer-term relationship with and appreciation for their home. Maybe our means to conservation from afar could be in supporting others who conserve reserves or in encouraging others to undertake eco-tourism in places like Mindo, Ecuador, so that locals more highly value the biodiversity on their doorsteps.



Bright-eyed orthopteran


Peppermint and bronze weevil with mauve dancing shoes





Gumboot-residing orthopteran

Gumboot-residing orthopteran

The sun has been sparkling through blue skies in the mornings here, almost, but not quite enough sun to dry the clothes and linen we wash by hand. The forest cloud and afternoon rain enable lush vegetation to grow outside the house and moulds to establish on neglected surfaces within. We carry machetes on every walk to clear vegetation from trails. On the steep, slippery parts of wet tracks we build steps from fallen logs and drift wood collected from the edge of the Nambillo River. The smaller tributary that is the source of our water is a beautiful series of cascades and pools that support dippers, insects and tiny, exquisite frogs. The stream also frequently rejects the water pipe that carries water to the house, thereby necessitating frequent admiring or disgruntled visits by the inhabitants of the house to re-establish the flow. In Ecuador this cloud forest to the west of the Andes is currently transitioning from the wet season to the dry, so we are seeing more and more sunshine as the days go by, making this is a great time to visit! There’s even a chance of spotting Ecuadorian white fronted capuchins – we’ve seen them twice near the house this week. The trees here are home and life for those primates so they don’t think about the validity of their relationships with tropical forest!

Red-spotted glass frog

Red-spotted glass frog

5 Comments leave one →
  1. June 8, 2014 9:48 am

    Looks like you guys are settling in and really absorbing the wonders of the tropics. Can’t wait to arrive in August!

  2. Tom Lord permalink
    June 17, 2014 1:53 am

    Hi guys, hope you have a great time at Las Tangaras.
    How is the orchard getting on? And have there been any developments in our understanding of the goings-on on at the ACOR lek?
    Be good to have some updates!

  3. Theodore (Ted) Cochrane permalink
    September 16, 2014 2:47 pm

    The June 7, 2014, blog shows a plant with orange-flowered racemes, labeled “In flower,” extending over a tributary (I assume of the Nambillo). The plant is Podandrogyne prominens Cochrane, a new species I’ve described but not yet published. I’d love to have more data, especially the name of the photographer (Hamish? Last name?!) and date the photo was taken. Any additional info would be most welcome – altitude, forest type, frequency (e.g., rare, only one seen, occasional, frequent, common), etc. Thanx much for any information someone is able to offer. – Ted C.

    • Hamish McWilliam permalink
      October 4, 2014 10:50 am

      Hi Ted. Jo and I have recently been alerted to your comment on the blog by the current managers of the reserve, Marc and Eliana. We’re excited that this plant is a newly recognised species and you’ve just described it! The photo was taken in June this year near the town of Mindo in cloud forest on a tributary of the Nambillo River adjacent to Reserva Las Tangaras at an altitude of around 1350 m asl. I don’t remember seeing any other plants of this species at the reserve during our time there. I took the photo. I’ll get back to you with a date for the photo and possibly a more closely estimated altitude and co-ordinates from nearby GPS readings. Cheers, Hamish McWilliam.

      • October 7, 2014 11:54 am

        Seeing that photo (what a pretty plant!) suddenly cleared up a headache, because I later I realized the plant is Podandrogyne flammea subsp. websteri, not P. prominens, as I told you. I jumped to the wrong conclusion, because it had been ten years since I’ve looked at websteri, another unpublished taxon, but only hours or days since I finished studying what little material I have of the Colombian P. prominens. They are similar.

        I knew the photo was from northwestern Ecuador, and my mind immediately went to Prov. Carchi. (I now know the photo is from Pichincha, not far from Nanegal, which will be the type location for websteri once published.) For years I was confused by the diverse assemblage of specimens I was keeping under P. flammea. Some of the trouble was solved when Xavier Cornejo and I realized there are characteristics by which subsp. websteri can be separated from subsp. flammea. Still, collections from Cerro Golondrinas, Prov. Carchi, were bothering me because so much variation occurs so close together, even along the same path. None of the specimens I have annotated as websteri mention scandent stems or hanging or upcurved inflorescences as is true of the plant in the photo, but I now think most if not all the Goldrinas material is probably websteri (still, some might be flammea in the narrow sense – in other words, they co-occur).

        The next thing I have to decide is what rank – subspecies or species – to use for P. websteri.

        Thank you for responding to my request for more information. Although specimens are much to be preferred, photos reveal characteristics of taxa I haven’t seen for myself.

        Best wishes. – Ted C.

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