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A Nature Walk Through Las Tangaras

May 20, 2016

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We would like to take you on a trek at Las Tangaras Reserve through one of our most popular trails: Sendero de Quetzales! The trail is 1.0 km in length climbing from 1330 m elevation to 1440 m along the ridge behind the lodge and through old growth forest. So put on your hiking boots and get ready to see some cool plants and animals.

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Right off the bat an agouti leads the way to the trailhead. Agoutis are some of the more commonly seen mammals on the reserve. By foraging for fruits and nuts, and sometimes burying their food for later, they serve as an important seed dispersal mechanism for native trees. This guy was in a hurry to get back under the cover of the understory!

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It’s easy to become overwhelmed by the enormous diversity of plant life in the tropics. Hiking through the cloud forest you’re surrounded by plants of every shape and size. In fact, there are so many plants and so little space that they often grow right on top of each other! Many plants, called epiphytes, are structural parasites that use the trunks of larger trees as a kind of ladder to climb up and reach a sunnier elevation than the forest floor. Often these epiphytes don’t directly hurt their host plant, but a branch (or even a whole tree) can become so heavy with them that it can break and fall.

The family Araceae are a large group of flowering plants with many representatives along this trail. Check out the “elephant’s ears” growing as epiphytes. These are common houseplants in temperate zones.

This next part of the trail leads us up to the highest point in our hike where we cross a small stream and have opportunities for views out and over the forest canopy so keep your eyes peeled for cool wildlife!

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Check steps and other trail features are maintained by managers to help reduce erosion and mark the trail. Make sure you stay on the trail to reduce your impact on the environment!

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Although not everybody’s idea of cool wildlife, insects abound in the leaf litter on the forest floor and along the trail. Millipedes in particular are important detritovores, helping break down organic material and return the nutrients to the soil.

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Look quickly before it flies away! Toucans such as this Choco Toucan and the nearly indistinguishable Chestnut-Mandibled Toucan are common on the reserve but don’t always stay still long enough for a picture. They use their large bills to reach fruit and seeds but have been known to predate eggs and nestlings of other birds, and even eat smaller adult birds if they happen to be in the same fruit tree!

Eyes back on the trail now or you might miss one of the most common types of plants we encounter on Reserva Las Tangaras: the fern! Ferns reach their height of biodiversity in the tropics. As a group they are characterized as vascular plants that reproduce by spores.

 

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You made it around the whole loop and back to the house, but the adventure isn’t over yet! Our yard creates an ideal habitat for a few small creatures you might not find under heavy canopy cover.

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A huge variety of grasshoppers can be found on a casual stroll through the yard. They, along with other insects, serve as an important food source for lots of cloud forest animals such as rain frogs which are abundant here too.

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Rainfrogs are the most diverse family of tropical frogs with over 900 species throughout the Americas with over 200 in Ecuador alone. Small rainfrogs such as this Pastures Rainfrog (Pristimantis achatinus) don’t require standing water in which to lay their eggs. Instead, they are deposited in moist soil under leaf litter and undergo direct development to emerge as miniature adults, skipping the tadpole stage we so commonly associate with frogs!

We hope you enjoyed your hike around Las Tangaras! There are many more species than we could fit in this one post, so you’ll just have to come out and see them for yourself!

 

*While it is possible and likely to see all of these species in one trek our photos represent a collection taken over a series of hikes*

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