It always surprises me how quickly things settle back to normal. Three weeks ago we had just arrived back in Glasgow, and a week before that was our first day out of the reserve. It’s almost disappointing how quickly you start taking electricity, running water and internet for granted again. Although I miss the savannah and Bolivia more than anything, my list of foods I missed that was created during the seven weeks of rice and lentils has been demolished and I have thoroughly appreciated flat pavements and walking without my face being draped in numerous spider webs.
Believe it or not, the hardest part of the expedition is yet to come. At the time, 5am starts and dragging yourself through 2m high grass feels like you deserve an olympic medal, but when you see your first black-masked finch or cock-tailed tyrant of the morning it makes it all worth it (well.. if you are me that is). Unfortunately entering the data into excel is not quite so exhilarating.
Although data entry is a tedious task it is encouraging to see the number of birds we have recorded. All four globally threatened passerines, wedge-tailed grass finch, black-masked finch, cock-tailed tyrant and sharp-tailed grass tyrant were recorded in the north of the reserve which has been protected from cattle grazing for four years now. All species except for the sharp-tailed grass tyrant were recorded for the first time in the east of the reserve, which is still a functioning cattle ranch. We even noticed especially high numbers of black-masked finch which is definitely encouraging.
Although my heart belongs to the grassland passerines I was amazed by the number of giant ant eater encounters, and was thoroughly amused by the resident tamandua in our camp. The dozy wee soul would amble from tree to tree casually raiding ants nest, unfortunately one night right above my tent. We all had a sneak preview of the camera trap footage from the office in Trinidad and the hostel in Santa Cruz and there was plenty of excitement there. We have at least two maned wolf individuals on the reserve and dozens of ocelot pictures. My favourite shot that I have seen so far though is a collared peccary thoroughly enjoying a motacu nut.
The motacu nut seems to be a vital part of many species diets. Howler monkeys, peccary, and of course the blue-throated macaw were observed feeding on the nuts and a few of us gave them a nibble to see what all the fuss was about. We have also carried out a survey in order to determine how cattle grazing is affecting the regeneration of these obviously vital motacu palms. Watch out for Chris’ blog post for some extremely exciting news from the blue-throated macaw project. There will also be updates coming soon from the caiman project, nightjar survey and the ever popular fire ecology project.
In our week between leaving the reserve and leaving Bolivia we were able to spend some time in Samaipata a small mountain town outside of Santa Cruz. There we were able to enjoy good food, good company and more importantly good cocktails. Day trips were made to pre-inca ruins and beautiful waterfalls where we all had some well deserved down time.
I would like to say thank you to all our funders and supporters who helped make this expedition succeed.
Keep an eye out for our next blog post, there is still so much to tell!