I sacrificed the sightings of toucans in order to get some rest in preparation for our first day and I am now happy that I did. The seven-hour hiking episode was quite a journey in which I became increasingly awake from the steep climbs and getting used to some blisters.
Our objective today was to set up various camera traps (AKA motion sensitive cameras tied to trees) around the Chiquibul in order to explore a purposed question. We specifically wanted to catch images of mammals as actual sightings of this taxonomic group are usually rare. Now…deciding what this question was and agreeing on methods was far from easy, so we had a bit of a late start.
I was on the trail committee and with my team, decided to set up two cameras on the Monkey Tail Trial. One was on an outwardly curving tree trunk that was in a great position for catching movement and the other was when two paths merged, which we hope will funnel mammals into an area where they will activate the camera.
The first trail we went on was a lot longer than the trail yesterday and had a wider and cleared path. I assume this is why I mostly saw saplings along the path and less diversity of tree species. Once we strayed from the path, I did notice that more developed trees were farther in. I was lucky enough to see a Bullhorn Acacia tree and we cut the thorn open, but were not greeted by any ant symbiodinium. However, a few hours later I happened upon Cockspur Acacia, which was populated by ant defenders. Another radiant encounter was when I found a Nargusta tree with buttress roots that were almost twice my height!
The Sycropia plant is the story behind the title of this blog. There I was, admiring trees whose identities are now second nature and BOOM! We are blasted backwards into the Jurassic period with these fern-like plants that were the height of a house! I secretly hoped a dinosaur would appear…
I also must mention the superstar of our hike- the Marlet’s tree frog. It was almost the most adorable little creature I have ever seen. I only wish I could upload a photo of its giant, innocuous eyes and its perch atop my safari hat. This frog was extremely mellow, falling asleep on the palms of our hands and even shoulders. Its second eyelid membrane would slowly appear and it would tuck its beautifully bright orange feet underneath his smooth body. I never expected an amphibian would steal my heart.
Our second half of the hike was not as strenuous, but we were granted a preliminary exploration of a couple of caves. Needless to say, they were massive and I cannot wait to return.
As a crazy cat lady, my dream remains that I will see (let’s be real- cuddle with) one, even if it is only a photograph.