Our version of winter came early in 2013 and by the first week of March spring was obvious everywhere with green sprigs appearing on the few deciduous trees in our mostly evergreen cloud forest, Scaled Fruiteaters calling all around the guest houses clearly ready for courting and springtime nesting, Blue-and-white Swallows swooping and chattering cheerily overhead.Our one Tropical Kingbird that visits us from lower elevations came back to sit on his favorite perch, Green Violet-ears arrived back in large numbers for their summer nesting season as well as a handful of Brown Violet-ears and Purple-bibbed Whitetips and at least one White-tailed Hillstar at our feeders plus all the regular species including one Hoary Puffleg seen late in the day.Squeaky, one of our long-time resident Plate-billed Mountain-Toucans noticeable by his rather unmelodic call, was heard near the guest houses singing as though he could, in one of the five active territories of this endemic species recently documented within the central area of the reserve.The Golden-headed Quetzals and Toucan Barbets that had been silent while nesting began to heartily sing, including on 10 March the single call of Lonesome George, one of our resident male Toucan Barbets who has been here since 1998 and has never been seen or heard duetting with a mate. The warmer sunny mornings brought out our resident pair of Olive-crowned Yellowthroat as well as a pair of Rufous-crowned Tody-Flycatcher, the latter undoubtedly one of the cutest bird species in our area. We have found three active territories of the Chocó endemic Yellow-breasted Antpitta on opposite sides of the kitchen and between the guest houses, with males calling loudly and at least one female and a fledgling seen.A pair of Chestnut-capped Brush-Finch now scampers regularly along the walkways towards their favorite bird bath, while the haunting songs of the deep dark cloud forest denizens such as Tyrannine Woodcreeper and Slaty-backed Nightingale-Thrush have been vocal at dawn and dusk.A rather bedraggled Roadside Hawk was perched preening in the sun and continuously mobbed by an assortment of hummingbirds.Mottled Owl and Colombian Screech-Owl were heard on various nights. First of spring actinotes, satyrs and swallowtail butterflies made appearances and at least one beautiful bumblebee came along to quickly feed on the sunflowers ˇV all taking advantage of the post-full moon warm sunny mornings. Our increasing frog populations were busy singing and breeding, with many various clicks and trills heard from 6pm until 6am.Moths were found laying their amazingly colorful eggs around our buildings.Centipedes and millipedes emerged to enjoy the wet yet sunny weather.Birds stayed busy with their nesting routines. Normally hard-to-see orchids erupted in stunning bouquets of flowers. On 23 March a majestic Barred Hawk perched along Five Frog Creek.This rare species often flies over RLG on a sunny day but this is our first record of its using the reserve as a perching, hunting or nesting area.The end of March brought us sunny mornings often followed by typical spring-time thunderstorms that roared through the area from east to west down the Andes. Summer is just around the corner.
We have been busy with summer field projects and work on our SOS grant project.To date the field work for this project has produced some stunning results which we will be able to share once the project is completed. We now have 16 publications on our ˇ§Publicationsˇ¨ page. We hope you enjoy reading them! Thanks to volunteer Steve Waldron we are now on Facebook. Check us out at www.facebook.com/ReservaLasGralarias and ˇ§likeˇ¨ us!!Send us some photos too of your visit to RLG. We also have been interviewed by Mongabay.com, by the BBC World Service and by the Diario El Universo of Ecuador.Check those out too!
After a busy and exciting 2011, we were presented with a very amazing New Year´s gift!We have been awarded a multi-year grant from the Save Our Species (SOS) program of the IUCN-World Bank-Global Environment Facility!!!The grant was written by Dr. Elisa Bonaccorso of the Universidad Tecnológica Iberoamérica (UTI) in Quito, with input from Dr. Juan Guayasamin and Dr.Jane Lyons, and is focussed on practical in-situ field projects to monitor and enhance the habitat of the various endangered species of frogs and birds at Reserva Las Gralarias (RLG).It will include swabbing of 20 individuals of all frog species found at Las Gralarias for the chytrid fungus that has so decimated frog populations world-wide but which seems, so far, absent from RLG.In addition, the target species of frogs will be monitored, counted and their habitats analyzed. Photographs and data documentation will be maintained for the target species and their ˇ§favoriteˇ¨ host plants. Water quality in the rivers and creek will be analyzed and monitored and frog-friendly streamside vegetation will be enhanced.The list of frog species to be studied currently includes two Critically Endangered species, three Endangered Species and four Vulnerable species, plus at least three soon-to-be-described new species found at RLG.The bird species we will be working on is the Critically Endangered Black-breasted Puffleg, a species that has all but disappeared from its historic localities even with many years of substantial conservation work to protect it.There are very few records from the Mindo area and only one from Las Gralarias, but we hope to be able to add to those records.We will also be working with local schools and communities towards a comprehensive habitat and waterways conservation ethic which will, hopefully, help foster environmental conservation in the wider Mindo area.
The field work has already begun on this exciting project.The two frog field workers, Henry Imba who is now in his third season of frog work at RLG, and Italo Tapia have begun their frog counts and swabbing for chytrid.The remaining portions of the field work will be getting under way in the next weeks.We are eagerly looking forward to this exciting project and to results that will help, in a very practical way, conserve these numerous rare species.
We are also humbled that Reserva Las Gralarias has been recognized as a globally important site for frog and bird conservation.This makes us even more determined to continue to expand our efforts to protect this amazing Pacific slope cloud forest zone.Please join us!!
Springtime at Reserva Las Gralarias follows a fairly predictable pattern. It rains a lot. We quickly plant the seedling trees that we have been cultivating for the past few months so that they will have a long growing season with plenty of water. We are very busy with our birdwatching and other guests especially in January, February and March. We also have numerous student classes and field researchers who come to study the amazing diversity of life that erupts in our Pacific-slope Andean cloud forest as the rainy season gets underway.
Fortunately this year we were able to continue some previous field work with researchers from 2010 as well as to welcome new researchers. Intern Tim Kell and volunteer Vicki Liu continued Tim´s butterfly work from 2010 of identifying the species at RLG and also added some new components - rearing the eggs and larvae of about 80 different species of butterflies and moths, identifying their host plants and conducting butterfly transects. The results so far have been truly stunning.
We also hosted soon-to-be-graduate-student, Carl Hutter who continued our frog research. Working tirelessly for four months along with Henry Imba who assisted our 2010 frog researchers, Carl has made some impressive discoveries and documented never-before-seen behavior of a number of species of frogs. Under the supervision of Dr. Juan Guayasamin, LGF Board member and Professor at the Biodiversity and Climate Change Research Center of the Universidad Tecnológica Indoamérica, Carl and others have found (at least) 6-7 undescribed species of frog at Las Gralarias. We eagerly anticipate the results of their exciting work.
This spring for the first time we hosted two classes of botany students, one a class of basic botany and one a specialized course on ferns taught by professors from Quito´s Catholic University, the New York Botanical Garden and the Missouri Botanical Garden. We also hosted two study-abroad students from the University of Wisconsin who helped with our frog research.
So it has been a very busy and exciting time at Reserva Las Gralarias. The field research conducted will be analyzed, published and added to the much-needed database of information about the animals and plants that call the cloud forest their home. The more we know about our flora and fauna the better we can conserve them.
By April as the seasons begin to change and warmer weather tries to take over, we always experience some impressive thunderstorms. And finally, as spring gives way to summer and the rains subside, we are treated to some of the most spectacular sunsets.
However, as beautiful as summer is, I am always sad to see the springtime rainy season, with its nesting birds and singing frogs and blooming orchids, come to an end.
We are very proud of all the good work at Las Gralarias and on behalf of Las Gralarias and are delighted that our team includes the following stars:
Congratulations to Kathy Krynak, our LGF Secretary and Board Member, who was instrumental in launching the frog research at Las Gralarias. Kathy has been awarded a 3-year National Science Foundation grant and an EPA STAR Fellowship grant to conduct her PhD research in the USA and at Reserva Las Gralarias on the chytrid fungus that has decimated frog populations world-wide.
Congratulations to Tim Kell and Vicki Liu for graduating with their Masters of Science degrees with distinction and for the new species, range extensions and life ecology data they have recently collected at Las Gralarias which is currently being analyzed.
Congratulations to 2010 RLG field researcher Lizzie Noble, who also graduated with her MSc with distinction and who now is working in Colombia where she has recently re-discovered the Red-crested Tree Rat which had not been seen in 113 years!
Congratulations to biologist Carl Hutter who has been accepted to the graduate program at New York´s Stony Brook University to continue his work on frogs.
Congratulations to biologist Ana Salgado, our lead 2010 frog researcher, who graduated from the Catholic University in Quito.
Congratulations to 2010 volunteer Nicole Dautel who graduated from Duke University and has recently published a paper on the field work she and others did at Las Gralarias on the glassfrog Centrolene lynchi.
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