Day 1 at Las Cuevas
After the early morning wake up and limited birding, I thoroughly enjoyed breakfast, assuming that it would be that last good meal I’ll eat for about a week. And it was damn good. I always forget how much I appreciate eating while traveling; being able to eat different flavors is always a treat. Before we left for the field station, we were able to take a longer look at the hotel and the local wildlife, including a male and female basilisk lizard and a variety of other tropical birds. Oh, and grackels. I travel to the tropics and I still can’t get away from those damn birds.
The drive wasn’t as bad as expected. It’s still the dry season, so I guess the roads were much more manageable than last year. On the way, we made a stop to take a small hike to see a teaser of what we’ll be able to see in Las Cuevas. This tiny excursion was exciting, because it only introduced the greater adventures that I anticipate.
The station itself is much more luxurious than I expected. I guess I had an even more basic image of field stations, and I was surprised to find how comfortable this seemed. Part of that may also be that the station itself went through a lot of renovation over the past year or so. The food that we’ve had is fantastic (I feel bad that I’ve brought up food in a tropical biology blog twice), and the house that I’m staying in even has its own shower and sink. I’m currently living with three archaeologists (well two and a geology undergrad), who are here to excavate some of the Mayan ruins hidden within the rainforest.
I’ve been pleasantly surprised with the extent of the archaeologists’ presence and interaction. Already, one has taken us thorugh a small tour of the close excavation sites, which are quite literally next to the field station. I was so enthralled and impressed by how much there was and to see such a historical gem entirely overtaken and hidden within the forest. I found it interesting to imagine the Maya living within the forest, but what exactly occurred and what still remains at this site still remains unknown.
After the archaeology lesson, we went on a little hike. As a caveat, my rainforest taxonomic specialization is in spiders, so expect to hear a bit about them at least for the next few posts. After seeing many small spiders among the leaf litter, I was at first intimidated and worried by the notion of me being able to identify them all. Also, there really are not too many resources at my disposal, so I ask you to stick with me through this process. I first noticed the same small species which was ridiculously common. Like really common. After the hike, I identified it as a wolf spider, and I anticipate to see a lot of it in the next week, if my glimpse into Belize’s biodiversity is at least fairly representative.
On the hike, we also found an incredibly large leaf cutter ant nest, and we were given a short in-the-field lecture about leaf cutter ants from Dr. Solomon. That-along with watching the response from our beating and antagonizing the colony-left me excited to excavating one of the nests later in the week.
That night, we were able to go on a night hike. Not going to lie, it’s pretty scary only being to see about a foot wide at all times, but it was also exciting to stare into the black with one measly light, searching for those two eyes of an animal to reflect back. There were a lot of spiders, and a lot of wolf spiders. We noticed that some were carrying their offspring on their back, as well.
After returning to my lodging and reflecting on the day, it honestly felt like multiple days all rolled into one, even given the substantial travel to the site. I’m exhausted, but excited, reagy to take out as much is possible from the experience, which includes waking up early tomorrow morning for bird watching… Wish me luck!