I am sitting at my dining room table in Cambridge writing this, and marveling how little anything changes when you leave for a year. I am really happy to be back here, and excited about living in Cambridge again, but am still feeling a bit alien. The weather is gorgeous (for October in the northeast) but still feels too cold for me if I’m not in the direct sun–I’m going to be trouble when it actually starts to get chilly. After a year and a half of hiking around the jungle on most days, I’m also feeling hugely under-exercised. I have this urge to walk that is making it difficult for me to sit still–so yesterday I exhaustively cleaned the kitchen as antidote–how weird.
I’m even beginning to miss watching the capuchin monkeys. Because I was working with so many monkeys in so many social groups, I don’t really have the sense of knowing individuals the way a lot of primate field people do, but capuchins have a certain mischievous air which is endearing, and very funny to observe. As boring as watching monkeys for 8 hours a day can be, I’m going to miss the lifestyle, and the very funny moments (like the juvenile capuchin swinging a baby coati by its tail) that make the long days worthwhile.
BCI was also a really exciting place to live if you like cool animals and plants–there was something new to be seen every day.
Christoph and an owl that got caught in his canopy mist-net.
A huge bug–I know, I should know the name, but. . . .
My alarm clock–I can’t really say I’ll miss them.
A cool moth outside my room.
Red-eyed tree frog
Isn’t this rhinoceros beetle amazing!
The webs of these Nephila (golden-orb weaver spiders) were so strong you practically bounced off them when you ran into one in the forest.
You’d think if you were a bird nesting on the ground, camouflaged eggs would be a better idea than bright blue eggs. With Tinamus, it is the male who sits on the eggs, and I wonder if the bright blue eggs aren’t a way for the female to coerce to male to stay put.
I think these vine snakes are so beautiful–although less so when they are stuffed with bird.
I managed to get through my time in Panama without being stung by a bullet ant. My friend who was stung described it as feeling like her hand was being slammed in a car door, every few seconds for about 6 hours. I only had one run in with Paraponera–I was watching capuchins, leaning against a tree, and started to hear this angry buzzing noise. I was looking around for a hornets nest, and when I looked down at my feet, realized I was standing in a Paraponera nest, and about 20 of these guys (the biggest ant in the world, about an inch long) were swarming up my boots. I squealed and went dashing off desperately trying to get them off my legs. No bites–thank god for knee high rubber boots.
Sloth–or lazy monkey in Spanish.
A baby turtle, with a huge tick.
My last week in Panama, I went mist netting with my friend Christoph who studies bats. He works insane hours–4 pm until 8 am. I don’t know how he does it–it ruined me for days. I had a great time though, and saw a lot of cool bats. Christoph also gave me some photos of other bats he has caught:
Diclidurus albus–the ghost bat.
This is Vampyrum spectrum–the falsevampire bat–not a bit scary looking!
and this boa wasn’t supposed to get caught in the net!
BCI was also a great place to learn about tropical forests. There are so many people working on different aspects of the forest on BCI, that you can find someone to answer almost any question.
As part of my project, I had to identify a lot of fruit
and was perpetually amazed that not matter what I brought him, Oswaldo Calderon could help me identify all of it. I feel very privileged to have had the opportunity to work with many of the people on BCI. This especially includes Vilma Fernandez:
Vilma on the right. (Ok–I’ve gotten a lot of emails correcting me on this. Robyn Hoing is on the right, Vilma is on the left. This is a manifestation of my left/right dyslexia, not my inability to recognize my friends).
Daniel Obando and Pablo Flores
I’m really going to miss everyone from BCI–We had a lot of really good times.
So, I’m done watching monkeys for the moment, and as a friend so helpfully pointed out “now all you have to do is write 200,000 words”–friends are such mixed blessings.