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Learning at Las Tangaras

July 13, 2019

When we applied to be managers at Las Tangaras we had to logically describe our previous work and research experience. In other words, like any other job, we had to say what we knew and why we were qualified to run a place like Las Tangaras. However confident we were, we had no idea how much we would learn in only three months. At Las Tangaras not only do you learn a lot, but you learn fast. And so, with our tenure coming to an end, here are just a few of the innumerable things we’ve learned:

You learn that the weather in Mindo is delightfully comfortable year-round, rarely dropping below 60 ºF or going above 80 ºF.

You learn that the rainy season is, well, rainy. It rains every single day in the afternoon. You’ve been warned.

You learn about “Ecuadorian time” and that the very concept of time is different here. 20 minutes will likely be an hour or two and “two days from now” really means “sometime in the next week”.

You learn that over 350 bird species have been seen at Las Tangaras. And you obsess about seeing them all.

 

You learn that Andean Cock-of-the-Rock males congregate in a specific location twice a day every day (a lek). And you learn that they are LOUD.

You learn to recognize the Chocó Toucan and the Yellow-throated Toucan by their calls. The Chocó toucan has a croaky call, giving a series of croaking “grrrack…grrrack….grrrack….grrrack”  calls. In contrast, the Yellow-throated Toucan yelps, a far-carrying “keyeeer, te-deo, te-deo” that sounds quite different. Easy, right?

You learn that different hummingbird species have very distinct behaviors and even individual personalities. Purple-throated woodstars are tiny, chubby, and adorable, while Brown violetears are aggressive, mean bullies that you want to shoo away. It’s very hard not to anthropomorphize them.

 

You learn how to do night hikes and find very cool nocturnal animals. They key is to walk slowly and look for the reflective eye-shine of insects, reptiles, and amphibians.

 

You learn that a sharp machetes is sharp and will cut through a whole lot easily, including your rubber boot and the water system hose.

You learn how to fix a gravity-only water system after you accidentally cut the rubber hose with your machete. Oops.

You learn how to cook and store food without electricity.

You learn how to make delicious Ecuadorian dishes like tigrillo and platanos fritos.

 

You learn how to harvest bananas! Did you know you cut the whole tree down?

You learn that getting birds to come eat the bananas you set out every day for them is pretty hard, but that bats and butterflies will find them immediately.

 

You learn that getting 8-9 hours of sleep with a rushing river as background noise feels amazing.

Finally, you learn that there’s no real way to list all the things you’ve learned in only three months and that an experience at Las Tangaras–be it one night or 90 nights–is one you’ll never forget.

 

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