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Rainy Seasoned

January 26, 2018

Hi! We’re Juliana and Jake, the first managers at Las Tangaras for the new year (2018). During our stay, we will regale y’all with tales from the trails on a regular basis. Here is the first installment:

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Before our baggage arrived, we used garbage bags. . . 

“It’ll be the rainy season,” we were told when we applied for this job. “Prepare to be wet all the time. Bring lots of desiccant!” And we did. We prepared by packing rain jackets, pants, ponchos, desiccant tins, Epsom salts to make desiccant, and plenty of plastic bags to protect our things. However, due to a delay in receiving our luggage, we sometimes, very rarely, had to make due with more rudimentary measures during our first week here….

But, for the first several days of our stay, the Cloud Forest was anything BUT rainy. The sun was shining, the ground was dry and sandy, we were sweaty every where we went. Heck, we could get our laundry to dry in a day or less in the warm sunshine and soft breezes.

Four days into our stay, though, and things changed dramatically.

During our third night here, it poured harder than I’ve (Juliana) ever experienced and I lived through a reported 1000 year rain! Have you ever felt like the river in your front yard was rerouted during the night to flow directly over the roof of your room? I have. It was loud, it was hard to sleep through, and by god, I don’t think there were any individual “drops” in that downpour. I think it was one massive wash of water.

The next morning, we checked our rain gauge. It’d rained over an inch in the night and would continue to rain over an inch during the day.

We also checked the river. It was now raging.

And our bridge, it was still standing (or..hanging). And our trails, they were…well..needed some work. Trees and plants are constantly falling here, it’s the way of the wood.

So what is the Cloud Forest anyway? And why is it so wet?

The Cloud Forest is exactly as it sounds, mountainous forest that is constantly enshrouded in clouds. The trees here harbor many mosses, epiphytes, and lichens due to the constantly moist nature of the air. Even when it’s not raining, you will hear water drip-dropping all the live-long day in the Cloud Forest. This is because the trees and their communities of flora collect the moisture from the air and reroute them to the ground in what we like to call “dew form”. You’ll often see leaves turning over from the weight of the water they hold and bugs hiding beneath the leaves to stay dry. The Cloud Forest isn’t always rainy, though. This depends on the seasons, of which there are only two: wet and dry.

Wet season occurs during the summer here (jan – may). There aren’t four seasons like we have back home, because the sun is directly overhead here at the equator, so the amount of sun received is relatively constant throughout the year. So instead of spring, summer, fall, winter, you get wet and dry. It all has to do with the relationship between land and sea and the wind created by this relationship. During the summer, the land heats up faster than the ocean, which means the cool air over the ocean blows landward, hits the mountains here (Andes), and is forced up. Once up in the mountains, all of the moisture collected along the way rains back down in the Cloud Forest (or drips, or torrents, whichever). The rain is relatively predictable, happening in the afternoon between 1 to 3 and usually dwindling by nightfall, but not always as the last few nights have seen.

During the day rains, we used feel trapped inside or to our porch. We’ve since adapted and can be found out an about, like the animals, during the rain. The animals don’t seem to mind the rain. We’ve seen Guans hiding under the massive leaves of the “Poor Man’s Umbrella Tree”. And the hummingbirds continue to visit our feeders as madly as ever. The nights, though. That’s when the getting is good for fauna during the rainy season.

Recently, most of our explorations happen after sunset, when the forest comes alive with different sounds: amphibians and bugs for days (or..nights?), y’all. Here are some of the buddies we’ve encountered during our night walks.

We’ve also had the good fortune of having not one, but two locally renowned herpetologists walk with us and show us the ropes of herping in the Cloud Forest: Jaime (a contributor to the actual book on herps of Mindo) and Eric (basically our neighbor!). Here is a smattering of the organisms we found while romping around with them:

Some learnings on Cloud Forest Frogs:

The most abundant group of amphibians in Ecuador (and subsequently night time noise makers) are rainfrogs. Yep, they are actually called “rainfrogs”. We have the privilege of hearing hundreds of the Pastures and Yellow-groined Rainfrogs outside our house every night. As we move up into the cloud forest via one of our trails (aptly named the Bosque Trail), higher in elevation, we can run into the rarer Bashful Rainfrog, Blue-thighed Rainfrog, and the Mindo Rainfrog— a recently described species appropriately named after this biodiverse region.

Unlike most other families of frogs, rainfrogs undergo direct development—they skip the tadpole phase. This definitely makes sense in a mountainous cloud forest where standing, still water is hard to come by. There are other unique development behaviors, such as that of the Darwin-wallace poison frog. We caught a glimpse of this frog hiking one of the reserve trails (Tres Tazas) and can hear bunches of them on the walk in. The adult females of this poison frog carry the tadpoles on their moist back until and drop them into a small, slow moving stream. Food can be scarce in these moving bodies of water, so these tadpoles have been known to be cannibalistic.

However, there are certainly frogs here who do adhere to the teachings of the United-statesinized science textbooks. Frogs who lay eggs on vegetation (leaves) next to rivers. The adults say, “Peace, babies! I’m out of here.” When the eggs hatch, the tadpoles fall into the river and find their way to the very bottom where the water moves slower. The tadpoles sit and eat other larvae they can find and, well… you know the rest. One of these frogs is the Emerald Glassfrog, a must see for us while in Ecuador. Knowing we wanted more than anything to gently squish their little, see-through (glass), froggy bellies, our herpetologist friends were able to show us right where to find them: next to the river, the one that sometimes reroutes to flow right above our heads.

 

Bonus Photo of Jake and Jaime (the herp guide) making froggy photo magic with our first guests:

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Taking photos of the Emerald Glassfrog. Jaime is in the gray shirt, Jake is taking photos. 

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