Camp Galletas

My first two weeks in the jungle have been unreal. I’ve been staying at “Camp Galletas” way up the Las Piedras River, named for the the circular slices of logs that form our wood floors. The jungle is unlike anything else, with so many insects, snakes, frogs, birds, mammals and more. The first week was spent macheteing trails and areas for the new camp that is being built, but I’ve been able to have some great adventures along the way. Now there are around 30 workers, volunteers, and interns at the camp so it’s a busy place. I’m working as an intern for Fauna Forever, a nonprofit organization that seeks to survey and research the wildlife of the Amazon Rainforest to help preserve important areas and create sustainable ways to harvest resources. I have begun work with Alexis, the bird coordinator, doing mist netting and bird banding. I’m learning so much about this process and gaining a lot of experience. In the first three days of mist netting we captured 38 birds of about 30 species. I’ll let the photos do the rest of the talking. Expect another update in a few weeks!

Camp Galletas! Tucked into a small open patch in the jungle. It grows every day, with more beds and longer tables.
The galletas, or cookies that allow us to walk around in bare feet or sandals, which is a great relief from rubber boots!
Harry took me out on a night walk the first day and we found some incredible insects!
The Las Piedras River at sunset.
The boat ride upriver offered some great opportunities to find birds, like this Capped Heron
On my first morning I woke early and found this amazing view into the canopy.
A cooperative Vine Snake that the Herp Team caught on a night walk.
Even the trees are out to get you in the rainforest.
Black-fronted Nunbirds are a common site near camp
We hiked up a giant clay cliff one day and had this spectacular view across the untouched jungle.
More snakes!
Lucerna, a tiny village along the river is our launching point for getting to camp.
The Lucerna locals invited us to play a game of soccer. It was dreadfully hot but we only lost 3-2.
Holding a tamed Yellow-crowned Parrot in Lucerna!
Scarlet Macaws and other species fly over the clay lick along the river.


Alexis and I prepare the mist nets for a good day of banding!
One of 3 Pectoral Sparrow (Arremon taciturnus) that were captured
We caught a couple of the tiny Golden-crowned Spadebill (Platyrinchus coronatus)
We caught many birds that follow army ant colonies around such as this Stipple-throated Antbird
We are only visitors to this wild jungle.


Peruvian Beginnings

It’s my second day in Peru and I already experienced so much. My flight from Lima to Puerto Maldonado offered amazing views of the Andes mountains and eventually the Amazon Rainforest. Upon landing, I met with Chris, the Fauna Forever leader and he showed me around the main Fauna Forever site. We then went into town to meet other members of the crew. The main house is near town but tucked back in a small forest. In addition to people, it hosts several Tarantulas, bats, Tamarin Monkeys, and a bunch of birds.

The Andes near Cusco: Barren and steep, yet quite beautiful!
The main location of Fauna Forever before it moves to a new location nearby

We are planning on heading out into the field tomorrow, where we will be traveling up the Las Piedras River to a new campsite that Fauna Forever and Arc Amazon are working on. I think I’ll be spending most of my time there, although I will probably come back in town for wifi and some good food occasionally. I’m going to be taking general photos along with specific birds photos, as well as helping with the bird research near the campsite. A lot of the details are still unknown so I’m just going with the flow! I’ll leave you with these photos until next time!

The road into the Fauna Forever house….looking like a jungle already!
Lots of mud on the back roads….but not difficult for the thousands of motorbikes.
Looking out the back door of the Fauna Forever house.



A view of the giant Rio Madre De Dios
The plaza in Puerto Maldonado with massive mango trees
Everybody rides a motorbike, even the taxis seen wearing yellow.
The Fauna Forever crew spends lots of time in three main restaurants, including El Asadazo, where wifi and good food are shared around the table.

November Gold

The colors have vanished with the fallen leaves, the birds have moved south, and the cold is here. It’s so easy to stay inside watching Netflix all day during this seemingly¬†dull time of year. Fortunately I’ve had enough motivation to bundle up and do some exploring during November. After successfully chasing Maryland’s first sighting of Couch’s Kingbird, I traveled down several Huntingdon dirt roads, leading me to some golden moments.

A winding road south of the Mason Dixon Line
The rare Couch’s Kingbird from Texas was seen for several days along the banks of this pond in Allegany County, Maryland

Since nearly all migrant birds have passed through, November is a good month for studying common species that stick around through the winter. Several chickadees and sparrows landed within 4 feet of me.

A curious Black-capped Chickadee

Yellow-rumped Warblers (Top Left) are some of the last warblers to frequent Pennsylvania in the fall. The colorful Fox Sparrow (Top Right) is always exciting to see as they arrive during November. Several duck species can be found in November, including the aptly named Northern Shoveler pictured below.


Most of the valley in Huntingdon County is a dead zone for cell service. Without my iPhone for navigation, I often venture down random roads in search of my destination. One of these “wrong turns” lead me to this scene below.

Did I say that the colors are gone? November is full of Gold!
This Red-tailed Hawk put on a show for me


After a good hike on the Mid State Trail, a couple friends and I made a spontaneous decision to spend the night in a cave we found. We arrived just in time to build a fire before a soft rain serenaded us to sleep. With two hammocks hung and a warm fire, the cave quickly felt like home. The excitement of the wild came to a halt early in the morning when we traded our camping gear for books and schoolwork.

The fire was a warm welcome to any weary traveler, caveman or black bear
The s’mortilla. A wonderful camping dessert


I wish everyone a Happy (white?) Thanksgiving! There’s golden moments in every month so get outside and enjoy this beautiful creation!