Located in the westernmost foothills of the northwestern cordillera of the Andes some 200 kilometers above the Pacific Ocean, Reserva Las Gralarias sits just south of the equator, between 1790-2400 meters elevation. It is home to 24 of the 44 montane endemic bird species of the West Slope of the Andes and includes 12 of 19 bird species in this region considered to be at risk (p. 65-6, Birds of Ecuador).
We have recorded 25 species of hummingbirds, including rare and range-restricted species such as Black-breasted Puffleg, Hoary Puffleg, Gorgeted Sunangel, Empress Brilliant, Velvet-purple Coronet, White-tailed Hillstar and Wedge-billed Hummingbird. Other key attractions include Giant, Moustached, Yellow-breasted, Chestnut-crowned and Ochre-breasted Antpitta as well as breeding populations of Orange-breasted and Scaled Fruiteater. Additional bird species found at Reserva Las Gralarias include Cloud-forest Pygmy-Owl, Black-and-white Owl, Rufescent Screech-Owl, Dark-backed Wood-Quail, Sickle-winged Guan, Toucan Barbet, White-faced Nunbird, Plate-billed Mountain-Toucan, Golden-headed Quetzal, Crested Quetzal, Black-billed Peppershrike, Golden-winged Manakin, Club-winged Manakin, Olivaceous Piha, Beautiful Jay, Black Solitaire, Plushcap, Black-chinned Mountain-Tanager, and much more.
Mammal species so far encountered on the reserve include Spectacled Bear, Two-toed Sloth, Oncilla, Puma, Mountain Coati, Tayra, Red-brocket Deer, Nine-banded Armadillo, Kinkajou, Andean Weasel, Rothchild´s Porcupine, Agouti, Collared Peccary, various squirrels, opossums and bats. One nectarivorous bat species, Anoura fistulata, described only in 2005, has also been found on the reserve.
HABITAT CONSERVATION: Our conservation objective is to purchase and protect high quality habitat for rare, endemic and special species in the Mindo area. We have so far purchased, protected and restored 1063 acres (425 hectares) of key cloud forest habitat. We intend to expand our holdings in this beautiful area in order to help re-establish a habitat connection upslope that will provide a continuous protected habitat corridor from 1700 meters to 3300 meters elevation, along approximately 30 kilometers of the northwestern Andean slopes. Donors who are interested in helping fund this project are encouraged to contact the Las Gralarias Foundation at www.lasgralariasfoundation.org
Birds: For ten years we operated a bird banding project on the reserve in order to better understand the distribution and movements of the avifauna in this zone as well as to document individual characteristics of plumage and body measurements. In January 2009 the first-ever nest of the Chocó endemic Yellow-breasted Antpitta was found by Segundo Imba, caretaker at Las Gralarias, and was formally described by biologists Dr. Harold Greeney and Mery Juiña in January 2010. [See article at boc1294-091117-ind:BOC Bulletin.qxd Nest with two young Yellow- breasted Antpittas Grallaria flavotincta, Reserva Las Gralarias, north- west Ecuador, 14 February 2009] In June-July 2010 UK student Elizabeth Noble of Leeds University conducted her master´s research documenting hummingbird behavior on the reserve. In April 2011 researchers from Yale University studied the Purple-throated Woodstar at Las Gralarias in an attempt to decipher the sounds made during courtship.
In April 2012 a film and production crew of the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) spent three weeks filming at Las Gralarias for an upcoming nature and bird television series. We continue to regularly record bird activity, distribution and nesting behavior and keep ongoing documentation of bird observations on the reserve. Throughout the year we have visiting birders who contribute to our database of sightings and who are delighted by the species they find at our feeders as well as in the forest.
Mammals:In May 2008 we welcomed Suzanne Bartzke, a graduate student from Germany studying mammals and conservation at the University of Leeds in the UK. Suzanne conducted a survey of the mammals of Reserva Las Gralarias as part of her graduate degree in Conservation and Biology. Her camera traps photographed an interesting variety of mammals on the reserve. We maintain several trail cameras which continue to provide us with some astounding photos of the little-seen and little-known mammals who live on the reserve.
Plants:In 2001 a team from Ecuador's National Herbarium conducted an initial survey of the plant life at Reserva Las Gralarias. Collecting 82 species of plants considered important to birds, the team found 11 species that are endemic to Ecuador. Of these 11 endemics, 5 are classified as vulnerable, 3 are classified as near-threatened, 1 is considered endangered and 1 is considered critically endangered. The species considered critically endangered is Podandrogyne brevipedunculata of the family Capparaceae and is found in three separate sites on our reserve. We are currently trying to identify the butterfly species recently discovered pollinating this rare plant. We have also been able to identify numerous plants that are important as food sources for various frugivorous and nectarivorous bird species. Thanks to our plant surveys, we have been able to ensure adequate protection for these rare and important plants and the birds and other animals that depend on them. In March and May 2011 we hosted two different botany field courses from Quito´s Catholic University, the New York Botanical Garden and Missouri Botanical Garden with some 40 students who studied the myriad of plants found in the amazing Andean west slope cloud forest.
Butterflies, Skippers and Moths: In 2005 we invited U.S. scientists to conduct the first-ever moth and butterfly survey at the Reserve. The results were astounding, with over 450 speces of moths and butterflies found in two weeks. In addition, German moth researcher Volker Pelz has, to date, found two new species at Reserva Las Gralarias which they have named for the reserve and for the owner: Hynhamia lasgralariae and Dimorphopalpa lyonsae.
In 2009 entomologists found 30 species of skippers in the guest house gardens, including some quite rare species. From May-July 2010 Leeds University master´s student Tim Kell, in conjunction with Quito´s Catholic University and the McGuire Center at Florida State University, sampled butterflies on the reserve. The results of this work have been astounding according to tropical butterfly experts: one west Ecuadorian endemic butterfly with few knownspecimens;the first west Andean specimens of (probably) a new subspecies of butterfly; another rare species;and one species which seems to be a completely new taxon or at least a new record for Ecuador and extremely rare.Papers are currently in preparation detailing these discoveries.
Amphibians: In January 2006 the first-ever amphibian survey, sponsored by the Cleveland Zoo, U.S.A., was conducted at Reserva Las Gralarias. The survey, conducted by Kathy Duffey and Tim Krynak, included visual encounter and audio surveys, leaf litter plots and water quality analysis. The results were amazing. One species of frog, Pristimantis eugeniae, considered an endangered amphibian and on the IUCN’s Redlist, was found in relatively high abundance throughout the reserve. A Chocó endemic species, Pristimantis appendiculatus, was found only within primary forest, while along the Santa Rosa River was found the spectacular Red-spotted Glass Frog, Nymphargus grandiosonae. In addition, a Dendropsophus carnifex or "Pond Frog" breeding pool was found near the Santa Rosa River. This is another Chocó endemic species of frog.
RLG Frog Team
Photos by Jane Lyons
During the second amphibian survey in January 2007 Tim and Kathy found three species of frogs that are apparently new to science. Work continues on trying to identify these three species. In June 2008 our frog surveys continued with Tim and Kathy Krynak, from Cleveland, and Hannah Koppelberger, from Washington, D.C. These 2008 surveys discovered several additional species of frogs on the reserve, including another still unknown species of Pristimantis. In addition in June 2008 we were honored to host a team from National Geographic magazine at Reserva Las Gralarias. This world-famous magazine spotlighted the Global Amphibian Crisis in a recent issue and their visit to Las Gralarias was spent documenting our ongoing work to identify, monitor and conserve the amazing diversity of frogs and other amphibians found at the reserve. In March 2009 we hosted several research groups. Diego Almeida of Quito´s Catholic University joined Tim and Kathy Krynak´s frog survey team. Amazingly, they discovered at least 6 additional species of glass frog on the reserve! Two of the species are considered critically endangered and one species had not been seen since 1984. In fact these two critically endangered species of glass frog, Centrolene heloderma and Centrolene ballux, are now known only from Reserva Las Gralarias. This just shows one more time how important Reserva Las Gralarias is for biodiversity conservation. Also, thanks to Tim and Kathy´s efforts and many donations we were able to set up the first formal weather station at Las Gralarias. Data from this station - rainfall amounts, leaf litter moisture, temperature, etc. - will be an important component of our ongoing research on amphibians and other flora and fauna.
Golden-dusted Glass Frog
Centrolene ballux Photo by Tim Krynak
From December 2009 - March 2010 we hosted a team of frog researchers from the Catholic University in Quito. They studied 3 species of glass frog, with special emphasis on a species called Centrolene peristictum. The team gathered data on all aspects of the reproductive process of this frog, which lives at around 1800 meters elevation along the Reserve´s Lucy´s Creek, a clear, rushing year-round creek which has its origins on Las Gralarias. And also from this field work in June 2011 our researchers published a separate paper on Centrolene lynchi, another rare species found at Las Gralarias. See Dautel_et_al._2011._Phyllomedusa_10-1,_31-43.pdf In 2011 our frog research continued with students and graduates from the University of Wisconsin along with researchers from the Universidad Tecnológica Indoamérica and some of our 2010 frog workers. Their hard work resulted in some stunning discoveries and several new species of frogs including the Las Gralarias Glassfrog, Nymphargus lasgralarias, which is the world's 51st glassfrog species discovered and formally described in 2012 by Carl Hutter and Juan Guayasamin. Several other papers and reports are currently in press and in prep.
As a result of the findings of these various research teams, it has become evident that Las Gralarias is a very important site for frogs. In fact, according to Dr. Juan Guayasamin, one of the world´s foremost authorities on frogs, “Reserva Las Gralarias is the most important place in the Ecuadorian Andes for Glassfrog research and conservation. This may read as an exaggeration, but it is definitely true and particularly important for amphibian conservation. We know that amphibian extinctions have occurred around the world at a rate that exceeds those reported for any other taxon. The most recent global study on the conservation status of amphibians estimates that a third of the more than six thousand recognized species are endangered; no less than 500 species are probably beyond the point of no return. To combat this complex and grim scenario requires efforts from different perspectives but, without a doubt, habitat conservation is the most important. Las Gralarias has a unique combination of features (pristine habitat, high humidity, topographic complexity) that allows the coexistence of multiple species.”
Female Centrolene peristictum
Photo by Jane Lyons
Glass frog eggs
Photo by TIm Krynak
Nymphargus lasgralarias Photo by Tim Krynak ENVIRONMENTAL EDUCATION: In 2004 we sponsored the formation of the first-ever environmental education program and birdwatching club, "Los Exploradores", in the area near Reserva Las Gralarias, with donations from Tim Krynak of Cleveland, Ohio, U.S.A., Terry Moore of Leica Sports Optics, U.S.A., Jock and Samm McKay of Waterloo, Canada, and Shamus Terry and Sheltered Wings of Middletown, Wisconsin, U.S.A. During 2005-2012 our environmental education school programs continued and expanded under the leadership of Tim and Kathy Krynak. The U.S.-based Las Gralarias Foundation, Inc. also made donations of binoculars and school supplies to the elementary school near Canandé Reserve.
IF YOU WOULD LIKE TO HELP WITH ANY OF OUR PROJECTS, PLEASE CONTACT US!
*WE ARE CURRENTLY RAISING FUNDS TO HELP BUILD A SMALL FIELD STATION TO HOUSE THE MANY RESEARCHERS WHO WANT TO COME STUDY THE FLORA AND FAUNA OF LAS GRALARIAS.
*WE CONTINUE TO RAISE FUNDS TO PURCHASE
FOR OUR ENDANGERED BIRDS, FROGS AND PLANTS.
*AND WE CONTINUE TO OFFER ENVIRONMENTAL EDUCATION OPPORTUNITIES FOR LOCAL CHILDREN.