rain

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

A rainy inauguration

LagoonWe awoke this morning to heavy rain. Not a passing shower, but a uniform grey sky with flooded streets. Aside from a 20-minute squall while we were in the llanos, this is the first time it has rained on our expedition. By 11 am with no end of the rain it sight, we decided to write the day off and relax. I’m not opposed to working in the rain, but the bigger problem is that all of the streams and rivers have been converted into a slurry of mud, water, and debris. While having my coffee at the local corner store, I sat and watched the ongoing coverage of the inauguration. In fact, at least three of the places we stopped by today (the internet café, the hotel, etc.) all were tuned to inauguration coverage. To be honest, I don’t know if that was because all the channels were carrying it, or they chose to watch it. But in any event, when was the last time you tuned in to the live swearing in of Mexico’s president? So, we watched the whole thing live, dubbed over by a Spanish translator. Watching it also reminded me that it will be cold cold cold when I get back.

Friday, July 16, 2010

A Cold Journey From the Fieldstation

boat travels

My alarm clock sounded at 5 am. It was still dark, rainy and cold. After two days of extreme cold, we were not looking forward to the day ahead, especially to the 4-hour boat travel back to Laberinto as the start of a two-day journey back home. The station cooks kindly prepared breakfast for us, and then we formed a fire line to load gear onto the boat. Fortunately, we were leaving with less than we brought here as we stored two action-packs of field gear at the station for our next visit.

The boat ride is one we will never forget. It was completely surreal. I was laughing, perhaps hysterically– this was definitely Type II Fun (fun only in hindsight). We were clothed in 3-5 layers, huddling in wool blankets, heading into the wind and rain, and still cold.

Laberinto appeared a miserable town in the rain, mud everywhere. Fortunately our two immaculate white taxis were waiting to take us to lunch in Puerto Maldonado and then to the airport. The food was delicious: fried yucca, fries, steak, and grilled Amazon fishes. But how should I feel about the dosage of mercury that comes in these freshwater fish? 

—Caroline

Monday, July 16, 2012

Where once there were two

Frogs

Funny, just after I waxed cathartic about figuring out that one species was actually two, today I experienced a kind of reversal.  Shrub frogs of the genus Philautus in the Philippines are, in my opinion, nearly impossible to tell apart.  In my experience, unless you hear their mating calls, you don't stand much of a chance of being able to identify them‚ because they are so similar in physical appearance.  Then, to make matters worse, all their calls sound like "rattles‚" or "crunches."  Sometimes one species will go "Crunch!" and another will sound like "Cruuuunch," but they are  all variations on just a few themes.  It's all very confusing.

For the last several days it has been misty and wet, without steady rain.  We have encountered two apparent species of Philautus, one large and another small, with a pointy snout. I was pretty sure: the big "species," consistently has had a greenish color scheme and the little one yellow or brown. 

Anyway, today it rained.  Hard.  Everyone retreated to their tents and hunkered down for the afternoon, it poured and poured, the camp frothed up in chocolate brown mud and, as it got dark, I finally heard a new frog call nearby -- could it be one of the Philautus species?  I turned on my headlamp and crawled through the bushes behind my tent and was confronted with a pair of frogs in amplexus (the male grasping the female during mating) on the leaf of a shrub. In just a glance I realized my mistake the big frog‚ was the female and the small frog was the male and the two were actually the same species.

Sexual size dimorphism, or the discrepancy in body size between males and females, is near universal in frogs around the world.  In almost all anurans (frogs and toads), females are larger than males, sometimes strikingly so.  In a few very special groups, the males are larger than the females.  Sometimes the appearance between the sexes is so marked that even the experts get confused and name the male of a species one scientific name and the female another.  These shrub frogs fooled me for a week, but at least it finally rained and I didn't make that mistake.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Where once there were two

Philautus

Funny, just after I waxed cathartic about figuring out that one species was actually two, today I experienced a kind of reversal. Shrub frogs of the genus Philautu in the Philippines are, in my opinion, nearly impossible to tell apart. In my experience, unless you hear their mating calls, you don't stand much of a chance of being able to identify them‚ because they are so similar in physical appearance. Then, to make matters worse, all their calls sound like "rattles‚" or "crunches." Sometimes one species will go "Crunch!" and another will sound like "Cruuuunch," but they are all variations on just a few themes. It's all very confusing.

For the last several days it has been misty and wet, without steady rain. We have encountered two apparent species of Philautu, one large and another small, with a pointy snout. I was pretty sure: the big "species," consistently has had a greenish color scheme and the little one yellow or brown.

Anyway, today it rained. Hard. Everyone retreated to their tents and hunkered down for the afternoon, it poured and poured, the camp frothed up in chocolate brown mud and, as it got dark, I finally heard a new frog call nearby -- could it be one of the Philautu species? I turned on my headlamp and crawled through the bushes behind my tent and was confronted with a pair of frogs in amplexu (the male grasping the female during mating) on the leaf of a shrub. In just a glance I realized my mistake the big frog‚ was the female and the small frog was the male and the two were actually the same species.

Sexual size dimorphism, or the discrepancy in body size between males and females, is near universal in frogs around the world. In almost all anuran (frogs and toads), females are larger than males, sometimes strikingly so. In a few very special groups, the males are larger than the females. Sometimes the appearance between the sexes is so marked that even the experts get confused and name the male of a species one scientific name and the female another. These shrub frogs fooled me for a week, but at least it finally rained and I didn't make that mistake.