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Life in the Tropics

September 1, 2014
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Marc and Eliana hike up one of the many refreshing streams on the Las Tangaras Reserve

Greetings! Saludos from a new duo of intrepid Las Tangaras managers, Marc Kramer & Eliana Ardila. To introduce ourselves, we hail from Miami, Florida (USA), though Eliana is a native Colombian (from Bucaramanga) and Marc is originally a New Yorker (Long Island). Our backgrounds lie in veterinary medicine, field ornithology, zoology, and nature appreciation in general. We’ve been together as a couple for 8 years and travel regularly in North, Central, and South America, wandering the globe with an insatiable appetite for experiencing new biomes, cultures, foods, landscapes, and adventures. Having a fervent love for the tropics and its avian fauna, we are also passionate birders and are greatly looking forward to the vast potential of the Ecuadorian cloud forest in turning up new birds for our life list and all manner of animals and plants.

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In front of the rustic Las Tangaras cabin

With two weeks behind us at Las Tangaras thus far, we can definitely say life in the tropics has been extremely busy. Outgoing managers, Jo and Hamish, overlapped with us for two days and gave us an intensive crash course on running the reserve. Not long after their departure, we quickly welcomed a myriad of enthusiastic new visitors. We had house guests from Belgium, England, France, Australia, and even an adventurous couple from French Polynesia (Tahiti).

While our new friends hiked the many reserve trails and spotted wildlife such as coatimundi, tayra, golden-headed quetzals, and Chocó toucans, we stayed hard at work in the kitchen cooking a cornucopia of flavorful homemade meals. Some of the favorites that will likely make a regular appearance on the 

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Empanada master Marc hard at work in the kitchen

Las Tangaras menu included vegetarian bean curry, meatless lentil burgers topped with fresh avocado, cloud forest pasta primavera, tropical Caribbean soup, quinoa bowl breakfast, and Colombian-style empanadas made from scratch!

When we weren’t creating culinary masterpieces, we kept our international company engaged in a number of other ways. Both of us guided early morning tours to the Andean Cock-of-the-Rock lek, where visitors can witness firsthand the rambunctious iconic bird of the South American cloud forest and its incredible courtship behavior. Hummingbird identification sessions on the front porch were a big hit and our guests left with a good grasp on discerning the 12 or more vibrant species regularly seen at the feeders.

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Purple-throated Wood-stars… Green-crowned Brilliants… Brown Violetears … the potpourri of colorful hummingbirds here is like a bowl of Lucky Charms!

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A female green-crowned brilliant eagerly awaits a meal of high-energy sucrose. Look closely to see her micro leg band.

We celebrated a birthday for one of our multi day visitors, Jane Hulland, and baked an amazing batch of birthday-candle-topped melt-in-your-mouth brownies for her using locally produced cocoa from Mindo’s El Quetzal Café. Que rico!

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One morning, three of us hiked the Patos and Colibri trails to the “Three Teacups” and delighted in a refreshing dip in the trinity of cool tropical pools.

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The edges of the nearby streams and the Nambillo River are teeming with fluttering butterflies of all colors and sizes, as they feed on salty stream residues and even the droppings of other animals. Frogs appreciate the watery environment as well and can be found in both adult and tadpole form in and around the streams.

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Pastures Rainfrog, Pristimantis achatinus

We’ve developed a particular fondness for the avian inhabitants that have an affinity for streams: the white-capped dipper, torrent tyrannulet, green-fronted lancebill and black phoebe — though we’re still holding out for our first torrent duck. Photographing these water-loving birds has been challenging and will hopefully be featured in a future blog post.

Despite the hard work involved, we really enjoyed our company from all over the world. We reveled in the opportunity to share our excitement and appreciation for the flora and fauna of the Neotropics and savored the challenge to cook three delicious meals a day for up to five people at a time. Best of all, we made some new friends!

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Marc & Eliana with Belgian visitors, Lore and Joost, and their South America touring camper van

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Eliana (middle), with Nicolas and Lea from Tahiti, excited after spotting a golden-headed quetzal on the trails

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Jane (England), Eliana, and Skye (Australia) catch a glimpse of morning sun — a precious commodity in the montane cloud forest!

It’s great to hear positive feedback on the reserve and that our efforts are really appreciated! A few recent quotes from the Las Tangaras guestbook:

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And now for some down time… Eliana has discovered her favorite place to relax and photograph — the bridge over the Nambillo River. Hasta luego!

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Marc & Eliana

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. September 1, 2014 1:39 pm

    Jealous, y’all! 🙂 Looks like a lot of fun!

  2. September 12, 2014 10:15 am

    I want that camera! Already bought binoculars btw, slightly cheaper than yours, but pretty good ones

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