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!

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

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

 

The Maiden Voyage

Every since the package arrived in the mail I have been really excited to try out this new form of transportation. Both Wendell and I recently invested in Packrafts to use for our upcoming summer journey into Montana’s backcountry. The small package, a mere five pounds, transforms into a cozy raft in six minutes. A whole new world is opened up when you can access stretches of rivers that are off the beaten path and away from roads. In July we will be reuniting with the Bob Marshall Wilderness in western Montana, where we plan on using the packrafts to paddle the untamed S. Fork of the Flathead River. The trip will be filled with amazing vistas, fly fishing and much more, which will all be compiled into an exciting film.

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Hitting the trail in downtown Huntingdon

I was finally able to get out on some water this weekend to test out my new gear. Since my car recently died, I was forced to set out from my dorm on foot, hiking a couple miles through town. A little urban hiking never hurts. Eventually I made it onto some back roads in the woods. After walking by some jagged rock cliffs hanging out over the road, I started uphill towards the Raystown Dam. While following a stream up the valley, I discovered an awesome little cabin that seemed like it came right out of a book. After admiring the cabin and taking some architectural notes for my future home, I continued on and finally reached the Raystown Lake overlook.

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Despite the violent wind and chilly air I was able to pick out a nice variety of birds. Bonaparte’s Gulls covered the waters, while 12 Common Loons rested nearby. A group of Long-tailed Ducks dove farther out and Horned Grebes were active in every corner. After I couldn’t take the wind any longer, I hiked down to the spillway where I prepared for the maiden voyage. The big plastic banana was soon ready to launch, and luckily she floated! I threw my pack in the front and I was off. As I started off downriver a Common or Forster’s Tern flew over me upriver with some minnows in its bill.

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I paddled about five miles, getting acquainted with the raft and exploring some unknown stretches of river. Wood Ducks are back in numbers, and there were at least 10 Bald Eagles flying overhead. The last exciting discovery of the day was a Louisiana Waterthrush that worked along the riverbank. This plain warbler arrives before most other warbler species, and sings its heart out all along forested waterways. Late in the afternoon I reached the ending point and I rolled up the packraft before hiking back towards town.

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The maiden voyage was a success, and I can’t wait for more adventures with the packraft. Stay tuned for more posts and get hyped for our Montana trip this summer!