Thursday, October 27, 2011

High Water

For those of you that have seen Chan Chich Lodge's famous suspension bridge during the dry season, you may well have thought it was, well, a bit extravagant.  After all, Chan Chich creek is not very wide and ankle deep and here's this big bridge arcing over it.

That all changes during the rainy season!

Recent photos from our rainy season (above) show how much water is passing beneath it these days.  Since our area includes a vast drainage network, we can often have near flood conditions depending on what the rainfall has been in Guatemala.

And, while you may have thought the bridge is overkill, keep in mind that every few years it actually is under water!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Impressive Creepy-Crawly

Halloween is coming -- it's time for a creepy-crawly!  This large spider (genus Nephila) is a Golden Orb-Weaver, named for its web which often glints gold in the sunlight.  Its web is made of incredibly strong stuff and has been investigated for potential commercial use with regard to the compounds that comprise it and give it strength.  Genus Nephila is widespread in warm climates and, as you can see, in the case of females anyway, can be quite large.  So large that, in fact, there are reports of orb weavers that can entrap and consume small birds!    (Warning!  If you are an arachnophobe, you do not want to check out this link).

While no one wants to be bitten by a spider, the Golden Orb-Weaver is only mildly toxic and not a danger to humans (unless, of course, you were to have an allergic reaction).  With a little effort, you should be able to see this impressive spider at Chan Chich Lodge.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

It's a Violated Trogon!

"I saw a violated trogon!"

What a chuckle we got out of that when a beginning birder shared his excitement over seeing the Violaceous Trogon. Now there are no more Violaceous Trogons or Trogon violaceus at Chan Chich Lodge.  Oh the birds are still here, but now we must call them by their new official name: the "Gartered Trogon (Trogon caligatus)." 

Who comes up with these names?  Well, in the case of North, Central and South America, that would be the august members of the American Ornithologists' Union (AOU).  As science marches on, ornithologists are uncovering minute differences in some populations of species that had been lumped together as one.  Often these differences have been detectable via recent DNA studies and are thus responsible for some some populations being split off and renamed.  In the case of the attractive bird above, apparently there was a slight difference in the call of the Gartered v. the Violaceous trogon and a slight difference in color. So  "violated" no more, we now have added the Gartered Trogon to Chan Chich  list.


Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Horning In

It's that time of year ... when the rhinoceros beetles appear (family: Scarabaeidae).  And I don't mean just one or two.  No, multitudes of these giant -- and by that I mean fist-sized -- creatures congregate around the lights by the Gallon Jug Airstrip.  They move like wind-up toys and are relentless (and totally harmless to humans, it should be noted). 

It is always interesting to me that these giant beetles seem to spend a lot of time upside down, legs flailing in a vain effort to flip over.  Even with an assist, some seem doomed to upending again.  Is this evolutionarily "smart?"  Apparently, it works because they appear year after year.

My neighbor, Alan Jeal, snapped this series of images of a male rhino beetle -- note its impressive "rhinoceros horn" -- feasting on the newly planted elephant ears in Gallon Jug.  For size reference sake, well, they aren't called elephant ears for nothing -- they really are (almost) that big.  Thanks Alan!

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Seeing Red

Love the red eye on the Giant Cowbird (Molothrus oryzivorus) -- really stands out on this otherwise plain black bird. This is a male bird, who can be readily seen puffing up his chest and strutting his stuff to attract a female. Like most cowbirds, this one is a brood parasite, meaning it lays its eggs in other birds' nests, specifically, the Montezuma Oropendola (Psarocolius montezuma) who then raises the cowbird babies as its own.

It's said that the Giant Cowbird can be found in forests -- something I have not witnessed myself -- and that it prefers open areas. That is the case here where it can be readily seen on the Gallon Jug Farm. Birders from Chan Chich Lodge are known to make the 20 minute drive to the Farm in order to add it to their lists. The call of this bird can best be described as fairly irritating.